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Archive Dive

Monday, December 10, 2018

Archive dive: How Soul Train, the show that put black music on TVs across America, got its start in Chicago

Posted By on 12.10.18 at 01:37 PM

COURTESY WCIU-TV
  • courtesy WCIU-TV

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

It's been nearly 13 years since the final episode of Soul Train aired, and right around the time the long-running series ended, Chris Lehman published A Critical History of Soul Train on Television. Among other things, the book looks at Soul Train's Chicago roots, including a local version of the show that continued to exist after it hit big in Los Angeles.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Archive dive: Revisiting the canal that made Chicago what it is today

Posted By on 12.03.18 at 01:32 PM

U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION
  • U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

On July 4, 1836, while the United States was celebrating 60 years of independence, Chicagoans were preparing to dig a ditch that would change the course of the city forever. In 1987, Peter Friederici looked back on that day in his piece "The ditch that made Chicago happen."

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Archive dive: how grassroots groups around Chicago put police abolitionist ideas into practice

Posted By on 11.26.18 at 10:56 AM

Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.” - DANIELLE A. SCRUGGS
  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • Jessica Disu didn’t always consider herself a police abolitionist, but an appearance on Fox News in 2016 made her the face of the movement. In a Reader article that same year she said, “our police is not working—we need to replace it with something new.”

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Is a Chicago without police a possibility? In the 2016 article "Abolish the police? Organizers say it's less crazy than it sounds." Reader staff writer Maya Dukmasova explored the history of abolitionism, spoke with local activists fighting for change, and reported the Chicago Police Department's response (or lack thereof) to the movement.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Archive dive: A report from Morton, Illinois, the self-declared pumpkin capital of the world

Posted By on 11.19.18 at 11:00 AM

JAMES H.
  • JAMES H.

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every week in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Sure, your aunt may say she made that Thanksgiving pumpkin pie all on her own, but how much does she know about the people who picked and packed the pumpkins before the can of pie filling entered her kitchen? In the 2006 Reader article "Hecho en Illinois," Linda Lutton and Catrin Einhorn explored Morton, Illinois, which at the time produced as much as 90 percent of all canned pumpkin consumed in the United States. And the majority of those who made it possible traveled from a small town in Michoacan, Mexico.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Former Chicago Bulls guard Craig Hodges was dropped in 1992 for suspicious reasons

Posted By on 06.04.18 at 06:00 AM

Members of the 1990-’91 Chicago Bulls celebrate the 20th anniversary of their championship season during halftime of a March 2011 game. Hodges, center, holds the trophy. - AP PHOTO/CHARLES REX ARBOGAST
  • AP PHOTO/CHARLES REX ARBOGAST
  • Members of the 1990-’91 Chicago Bulls celebrate the 20th anniversary of their championship season during halftime of a March 2011 game. Hodges, center, holds the trophy.

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. In Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

The NBA finals have begun, pitting the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors—or, to put it another way, LeBron versus Curry. Sure, the mania is exciting, but nothing will compare to the electricity permeating Chicago when the Bulls began the first of their championship runs in 1991. The team remains a legend: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, and coach Phil Jackson. There was much dunking.

Far beyond the paint stood Craig Hodges, a guard boasting an impressive number of three-pointers; he sunk 19 shots at the league's annual three-point shootout in 1991. Despite his uncanny long range accuracy, Hodges found himself canned by the Bulls in 1992 for unknown reasons.

In a 2016 profile of Hodges, Hodges reveals what may have happened: he was blacklisted for his outspoken political beliefs. Ben Joravsky sets the scene.

Among his teammates, Hodges earned a reputation for having informed opinions on virtually any subject. He frequently disarmed coaches and teammates by initiating conversations about religion and politics—topics rarely tackled in the locker room. In 1991, he was one of the few Bulls players to publicly oppose the gulf war (on that issue, he saw eye to eye with Phil Jackson). And he urged his teammates to invest their millions in businesses that would create jobs in poor black communities.

During the 1991 NBA finals against the Lakers, Hodges approached Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson to suggest a walkout. "I wanted to stand in solidarity with the black community and call out racism and inequity," Hodges told Joravsky. "It would be a united front with the whole world watching."

Jordan and Johnson quickly brushed him off. This did not deter Hodges:

The Bulls went on to win the series and capture their first championship. In October, they were invited to the White House to be congratulated by President George H.W. Bush. Hodges showed up to the ceremony wearing a full-length dashiki and bearing an eight-page letter that he intended to hand to Bush. "The purpose of this note is to speak on behalf of the poor people, Native Americans, homeless and, most specifically, the African Americans, who are not able to come to this great edifice and meet the leader of the nation where they live," his letter began. "This letter is not begging for anything, but 300 years of free slave labor has left the African American community destroyed. It is time for a comprehensive plan for change. Hopefully, this letter will help become a boost in the unification of inner-city youth and these issues will be brought to the forefront of the domestic agenda."

Shortly after the 1992 season wrapped—another trophy for the Bulls—Hodges was unceremoniously let go by general manager Jerry Krause. The timing was suspicious. When the finals had just begun, Hodges spoke with the New York Times and scolded Jordan for not doing more to call out racial injustice. "The poverty in the city is so hellish, just look across the street [from Chicago Stadium]," Hodges told the columnist. "Then you have us playing in here—how much money did we make here last night? How many lives will it change?"

The blackball began, and included a ban from the three-point championship Hodges had dominated three years running:

When the 1992-'93 season began, Hodges was still without a team. In December '92, league officials told him they wouldn't allow him to defend his three-point championship at the All-Star Game in February. "They said they have a policy where you can't participate in an all-star event unless you're on a roster," Hodges says.

But that's not true. In 1989, the NBA allowed Rimas Kurtinaitis, a player for the Soviet national team, to participate in the three-point contest—and he never played in the NBA. Sam Smith wrote a column in the Tribune about the matter, blasting league officials for their hypocrisy. "The NBA sends out a lot of messages: Stay in School. Don't Use Drugs," Smith wrote. "Perhaps it's time for one that goes something like this: 'Keep your mouth shut and behave like people feel you should unless you can make them a lot of money or are too famous for them to silence.' "

After Smith's column was published, the NBA reversed its position and invited Hodges to participate. He finished third.

The writing on the wall flashed neon; Hodges became suspicious that there was far more to his unemployment than diminishing skill:

The list of his infractions is long. It wasn't just the dashiki at the White House or the letter to Bush or his admiration for Farrakhan or his criticism of Jordan or his position on the players' pension—it was all of those things together that made Hodges untouchable. "The biggest way to blacklist someone is to make him invisible," Hodges says. "Why do you think they didn't want to invite me to that three-point contest? Think about it. How would it look if I won? Someone might ask, 'Why's this guy, who's good enough to win the three-point championship, not good enough to play in the league?' So they pretend like I don't exist."

All's well that ends well. Today Hodges coaches basketball at Rich East High School in Park Forest, and reflects on his time in the NBA with zero regrets.

There's a difference between me as a competitor on the court and me as an educated black man speaking my mind. I won't take one if it means giving up the other."

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Friday, May 25, 2018

That time a Cook County judge ruled on the case of a man he himself put in prison when he was still a prosecutor

Posted By on 05.25.18 at 06:00 AM

A courtroom sketch of Judge Nicholas Ford presiding over bond court in 2002 - AP PHOTO/CAROL RENAUD
  • AP Photo/Carol Renaud
  • A courtroom sketch of Judge Nicholas Ford presiding over bond court in 2002

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Who are our judges? Supposedly impartial, neutral third parties, making unbiased decisions about matters both grave and frivolous. We imagine them to be even-keeled individuals, perhaps with some personal quirks, who keep their biases out of the cases they rule on. But that's just fantasy. The judges who staff our criminal and civil courts are elected by voters who usually pick them based on nothing more than the sound of their names. Or they're appointed by their colleagues. And those who ascend to the Cook County bench are lawyers who often have long histories as prosecutors or defense attorneys. Before that they may have been cops.

Jon Burge is somewhere in Florida, enjoying his boat and CPD pension as the city continues to pay out multimillion dollar settlements to his victims. But some of the Cook County prosecutors who convicted people based on confessions he and his buddies tortured out of them are still around. Some of them are judges now.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A look back at a punk club doorman and his buffet of food offerings

Posted By on 05.23.18 at 06:00 AM

Exit at its current location on North Avenue - STRAIGHTEDGE217 VIA FLICKR
  • Straightedge217 via Flickr
  • Exit at its current location on North Avenue

The
Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Remember clubbing? Before there were cell phones? When you could go out for the night and no one would bother you and you could utterly humiliate yourself on the dance floor or show your boobs to a bouncer and no one would ever know because people didn't carry cameras with them every damned place they went? OK, maybe you don't. Or if you do, you're at that point where you're just happy you managed to drag your creaking old bones through the week as far as Wednesday.

But here, behold this blast from the past—1988, to be precise—a profile of Steve Silver, the weekend doorman at the punk club Exit, then located on Wells Street just north of North. (It's entirely possible that the people who hung out at Exit in those days are still there. The world has changed a lot since 1988.) The piece is called "At the Entrance of the Exit" and it has the completely endearing subhed "Everybody knows Steve. Hey, Steve, have a burrito."

The writer, Greg Beaubien, didn't do the Serious Profile thing of plumbing the depths of Steve Silver's soul. We learn nothing about his hopes or dreams or tortured childhood or even what he does when he's not manning the front door of Exit. Instead Beaubien spends a summer night watching him ply his trade.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

A note from the harsh macho underground

Posted By on 05.21.18 at 06:00 AM

Weasel Walter in 1998 - ROBERT A. DAVIS
  • Robert A. Davis
  • Weasel Walter in 1998

The
Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

There was a time when Reader readers engaged with reporters and editors by sitting down and writing letters to the editor and mailing them in to the newspaper. People had a lot more spare time in those days. Or maybe it's that they used the time they put into social media now into writing letters to the editor.

Anyway, we got some interesting letters. It's already been noted that Studs Terkel was a frequent correspondent and that letter writers teamed up to write what turned out to be a fascinating feature story about how the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim tortured his young patients. But there are plenty of others that are directly representative of the time at which they were written. I noticed this one a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about the response to Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville when it first came out 25 years ago. I was drawn to it by the byline, which was Weasel Walter, who Peter Margasak later called "a splinter lodged beneath the fingernail of a generally peaceable and cooperative Chicago music scene for more than a decade." It was dated February 10, 1994, and it was addressed to Reader music critic Bill Wyman. It began:

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

How Mordecai chef-owner Matthias Merges helped transform modern fine dining

Posted By on 05.17.18 at 06:00 AM

Matthias Merges - COURTESY FOLKART MANAGEMENT
  • Courtesy Folkart Management
  • Matthias Merges

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

This week Mike Sula reviews Mordecai, the new fine-dining restaurant that has joined Big Star and Smoke Daddy in the Hotel Zachary, across from Wrigley Field. According to Sula, it's another hit from chef Matthias Merges and his hospitality company, Folkart Management. Merges has been busy lately—it's just six months ago that he and celebrity chef Graham Elliot (Top Chef, MasterChef, et al) opened the Randolph Street spot Gideon Sweet. But Merges, who for many years was Charlie Trotter's right-hand man, has long been an entrepreneurial sort. In fact, as recounted in Sula's 2014 feature "What happens when all-star chefs get in bed with Big Food," he's partly responsible for the popularization of one of the techniques that have come to epitomize modern fine dining: sous vide cooking.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Remembering Glenn Branca, or at least his sound

Posted By on 05.16.18 at 06:00 AM

Steve Krakow in 2007 - SUN-TIMES MEDIA
  • Sun-Times media
  • Steve Krakow in 2007

The
Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

The avant-garde guitarist Glenn Branca died on Monday. Branca didn't play Chicago much, though Reader music writers like to use him as an example of radical musical experimentation. Probably the weirdest time his name has been taken in vain was Miles Raymer's account of the Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra, an event organized by Plastic Crimewave, aka the musician, illustrator, writer, and historian Steve Krakow, to "perform a sonic exorcism on the evil that rules this land." Branca himself appears never to have organized mass acts of chaos magick, but he did get 100 guitarists to assemble and play together at the foot of the World Trade Center towers in 2001, just a few months before they fell.

Anyway. Raymer and about 5o other guitarists assembled at the Empty Bottle one night in March, armed with their instruments and their amps. There were also 150 spectators.

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