BREAKING: in a landmark 6-3 decision the Supreme Court has ruled Americans can eat shit and die— ben wasserman (@benwassertweet) June 30, 2022
Musings, observations, and written works from the publisher of Eckhartz Press, the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer, co-host of Minutia Men, Minutia Men Celebrity Interview and Free Kicks, and the author of "Back in the D.D.R", "EveryCubEver", "The Living Wills", "$everance," "Father Knows Nothing," "The Radio Producer's Handbook," "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", and "Gruen Weiss Vor".
Friday, July 01, 2022
The Supreme Court
Prohibition and the Cubs
From the Just One Bad Century website...
July 1, 1919
This is the way the beginning of Prohibition was described in the excellent Richard Lindberg book “Chicago Ragtime”…
Prohibition started in Chicago on July 1, 1919. People in Chicago really didn’t think it would last. Alderman Cermak (who later became the Mayor) said: “It may last two months, but no longer.”
Prohibition meant the loss of hotel revenues, jobs, and a source of entertainment for thousands. The Hotel Sherman raised room rates from 50 cents to a dollar to make up for the losses.
“We’ll reopen after July 2” a sign over one Chicago saloon read. Another said: “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we dry up.”
U.S. Attorney Charles Clyne vowed to support the Volstead Act (which is what it was called then). Speakers at Bughouse Square lamented “the end of our liberties.” Cars raced down Madison Street. Besotted revelers punched holes in straw boaters (hats)—as if it was New Years Eve.
State Street was a trail of broken bottles the next day. At Hinky Dink’s Workingman’s Exchange, men gathered to mourn the loss of the world’s biggest schooner. Bartenders lined up looking for work at the US Employment Service at 116 N. Dearborn.
Most bars didn’t close, they started serving other things. The Lasalle Hotel bar served a buttermilk frappe. Other bars introduced “Loganberry highballs,” phosphates and ice cream sundaes. It took 60-75 pounds of ice to freeze one gallon of ice cream, and Chicago consumed 5000 gallons of ice cream that summer—creating an ice shortage in a very hot summer. (It had already been a small harvest of ice the previous winter, and many warehouses were empty).
On July 6th, bars opened on Sunday for the first time in many years. Ladies who had never entered these bars before showed up and ordered the new sensation on the menu…sundaes. Of course, Prohibition ushered in the beginning of the Roaring 20s in Chicago; a time of unprecedented crime and vice. The people that pushed Prohibition through (while many of the young men that would have voted against it were serving overseas in World War I) never would have envisioned the detrimental toll it took on the country, and the city of Chicago in particular.
Al Capone became a celebrity in Chicago. Yes, he was a thug and a murderer, but he supplied the liquor to a town that had been one of the beer capitals of America. When Al attended a few games at Wrigley Field during Prohibition he was cheered.
Prohibition lasted for 13 years, and during those years the Cubs led the league in drunks. Rabbit Maranville, the manager of the Cubs for part of the 1925 season, played with a flask of whiskey in his pants. Pat Malone & Hack Wilson were wild partiers that were arrested after creating several disturbances. Both men died young thanks to the ravages of alcohol. Grover Cleveland Alexander actually passed out drunk in the Cubs dugout during a game. Catcher Rollie Hemsley was arrested for public drunkenness.
Ironically, Prohibition didn’t have much of an effect at Wrigley Field. The Cubs didn’t sell beer at Wrigley before Prohibition. Some of their biggest seasons at the box office were during the Prohibition years. They drew more than a million fans during a few of those seasons, something unheard of in the pre-night game era. It wasn’t until after Prohibition was repealed that they began selling beer.
They may still sell a pint or two to this day.
Robert Feder Steps Down
This is a seismic story in the Chicago media community. Daily Herald media columnist Robert Feder has stepped down effective today. Here's a portion of his column explaining it...
After 42 years of reporting on Chicago media, I’m stepping away from the beat. My website at RobertFeder.com will continue online, but effective today, I’m concluding the run of my daily column and wrapping up my tenure with the Daily Herald.
I especially appreciate the support of my great colleagues at the Daily Herald, who’ve made the last five years a highlight of my career. I am pleased that the archive of my columns will continue to be accessible through the Daily Herald’s website.
*On this day in 2017, we released the book Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars by Bill Paige. We didn't realize it at the time, but it was also the birthday of the lady on the cover with Bill, Debby Harry.
*On this day in 2019, the Eckhartz Press book ICU Copper by Deb Tokarz was released. It's still available at Eckhartz Press.
*On this day in 2014, Eckhartz Press author Bruce Bohrer (Best Seat in the House) appeared on WGN Radio to talk about his book. You can listen to that here.
Thursday, June 30, 2022
Cubs Tweet of the Week
June 29, 1967. Joe Niekro and the Cubs beat the Pirates 4-3 at Wrigley Field. Ernie Banks homers in the game. Top story in the news that day: Actress Jayne Mansfield dies in a car crash. pic.twitter.com/LNVVYPXBag— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) June 29, 2022
*On this day in 2016, as the Cubs were heading toward their championship, Eckhartz Press author Bruce Bohrer (Best Seat in the House) was featured in the Daily Herald. You can read that here.
*On this day in 2021, Eckhartz Press author Margaret Larkin got the first copy of her novel Wicker Park Wishes.We snapped a picture of her in that moment...
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Every week I send my Minutia Men Co-Host Dave Stern a list from our audio archives for this week's Studio Walls feature. We missed last week because Dave contracted Covid. If he's well enough to do it this week, these are the possibilities. Which one will he choose?
*June 26, 1981, the movie Stripes debuts. We talked to Tommy Chong about that movie. He and Cheech had it offered to them first. (Listen to the entire interview here). We also have audio from the man who eventually did co-star in it, Harold Ramis. He did a promo for our ad agency. (AUDIO)
*June 26 is Bobby Holland Hatton's birthday. We talked to the busiest stuntman in the world a few years ago. (Click here for entire interview)
*June 27 is author/humorist/parent James Breakwell's birthday. We talked to him about his best-selling book X-ploding Unicorn a few years ago. (Listen to it here)
*June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield's ear. Naturally, I wrote a parody song about that for the John Landecker show (AUDIO)
*June 28, 1970 was the first official Gay Pride Day. I spoke to actor Dan Butler (Frasier) about that and his activism for LGBTQ causes. (Full interview is here)
*June 30, 1959, the Cubs had one of the strangest plays in baseball history when two balls were in play at the same time. (We have the audio of the PBP)
*July 1, 2019, William Dameron released his best selling book "The Lie". We had him on the podcast to talk about it. (Listen to that interview here)
*July 1 is Canada Day. We talked to Zero from The Kings about their Canadian smash hit The Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide. (You can listen to that here)
*On this day in 1978, John Landecker was featured on NPR.
In the book “Records Truly Is My Middle Name”, John explains that all of his father’s professor friends heard this segment, and inundated professor Werner Landecker will calls of praise and support. After that, Werner looked at John’s career choice a little differently. The clip, by the way, features a classic Boogie Check. You can listen to it here.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
From the Writing Archives--Respect the Useless
This article I wrote for Shore Magazine goes back 15 years, to this day in 2007. It was the early days of smart phones, but I correctly predicted my eventual demise as a conversationalist. It appeared on the last page of the magazine as my regular column "A Fine Mess"...
I’ve always prided myself in my encyclopedic knowledge of useless information. It was acquired through years of grueling research—watching hours upon hours of mindless television, listening to hours upon hours of unsubstantial radio, and reading an untold number of articles and books filled to the brim with completely meaningless facts.
Sure, I could have mastered accounting methods, or become an expert in the law, or better yet, studied medicine. All of those would have earned me a better living, and made me a more productive member of society.
But the knowledge I acquired over a lifetime of wasting time did lead to a moderately lucrative career. I was an invaluable member of several high profile radio shows in Chicago, largely on the basis of my useless knowledge. There was no need to look up what year Foreigner’s first album came out when you could just ask Rick. If you were having a discussion and suddenly needed to know the name of the actress who played Mrs. Roper in Three’s Company, I was your man. Who was the last president to sport a mustache? Let’s get Rick in here to answer the question.
I didn’t just parlay that useless knowledge into a career. I turned it into a social life.
There used to be nothing more valuable at a cocktail party than somebody who could engage in entertaining small talk while avoiding substantial topics like politics, religion or science. My wife and I were invited to many cocktail parties, and I usually ended up holding court, having in-depth discussions about important subjects like “guys named Mick”. If someone suggested we play a trivia game, the other guests would fight over who got me on their team.
People really began to count on me. I got regular phone calls from family members and friends who were on the road. Sometimes they would hold up the phone to the radio and ask “Who does this song?” or they’d start the call with a sentence like: “Settle an argument for us.”
Of course, those were golden days of entertainment, in the pre-smart phone era, the days when I could find a way to make use of the useless. All of that has changed drastically over the last five years.
What good is it to have Rick on staff coming up with trivia questions, when the answer to even the most useless question is right at everyone’s fingertips? Do you even care that I didn’t have to look up the name of the actor who played Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show (Richard Deacon), or that I knew he also played Lumpy Rutherford’s dad on Leave it to Beaver?
Of course you don’t. You want to know why?
Because we know who that man is behind the curtain now, that’s why!
(It’s actor Frank Morgan, who also played the fortune teller, the doorman at the Emerald City, the guard at the Wizard’s castle, and the coachman in the 1939 version of “The Wizard of Oz”.)
If someone needs to find out Billy Williams’ 1970 batting average, they can just ask their phone. If they want to know which artist is singing a particular song, they merely need to hold their phone in the air to get a written answer…directly on their phone. Who needs to talk to the guy who can effortlessly tick off a list of seventeen bogus balding “cures” when a simple Google search will net you fifty?
I know technology cannot be stopped, but how ‘bout a little consideration for the useless? Aren’t we people too? If you take away our employment opportunities (I’m just waiting for the “write a funny article app”), how can we feed our families? If you take away our “court-holding” abilities, what are we good for at a cocktail party except for drinking all your booze? And if you take away our free booze, you might as well take away our souls.
I’m positively parched over here.
I sure hope you enjoy your stupid little phones.
*Today is Mel Brooks' birthday. There are a few great stories about Mel in John Landecker's Eckhartz Press book Records Truly Is My Middle Name. One from the 70s, one from the 90s, and one from the 00s.
*It's also John Elway's birthday. Elway makes an appearance in Randy Merkin's book Behind the Glass.
*On this day in 1997, Mike Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a fight. Chet Coppock was there for that fight, and tells the story in his book Your Dime, My Dance Floor.
Monday, June 27, 2022
Bridget and I went to three concerts this past weekend. I can't remember the last time we did that. We saw the great Russian group Leonid and Friends on Friday night, and then The Rubber Soul show (with Todd Rundgren, Denny Laine, Christopher Cross, and Joey Molland from Badfinger) on Saturday night. Both shows were at the Des Plaines theater.
Then, because we loved that second show so much, and they just happened to be playing again the next night in St. Charles at the Arcada Theater, we took the boys to the show there. They loved it as much as we did. (Photos: the family on Sunday, Denny Laine singing "Go Now" on Saturday, Christopher Cross singing "Sailing" on Sunday, Todd Rundgren singing "Drive My Car" on Sunday, and Leonid and Friends singing the 'We Can Make it Happen' chorus of "Dialogs I & II" on Friday)
*On this day in 2019, I appeared on stage in the play "Miracle", the musical about the Cubs finally winning the World Series. My job was to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." What a fun experience. (That's Tammi Manton in the picture with me. She was doing group sales/publicity for the play)