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December 2006 Archives

Gerald Ford's Good Life

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7:00 p.m. Dec. 27
The two-day "Humor and the Presidency" symposium was held in 1986 at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich.---a nice clean town filled with lots of serious Dutch people named Hoekstra.
This was the best joke I heard:
Gov. Adlai Stevenson was addressing a Houston Baptist convention in his campaign against Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower. Stevenson was introduced in this fashion: "Gov. Stevenson, we want to make it clear you are here as a courtesy, because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has instructed us to vote for your opponent." Stevenson strolled to the microphone and said, 'Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealling and the Apostle Peale appalling."
Ford, who died yesterday in California, was 73 at the time. He hosted the affair that also featured columnist Art Buchwald, comics Robert Klein, Mort Sahl and Chevy Chase. This was a memorable road trip on a few levels: 1.] I cannot imagine current or future presidents hosting a self-effacing event like this in an era of such carefully crafted images, 2.] I had a beer with Chase, who complained about his slipped disc due to his many Ford pratfalls on "Saturday Night Live," 3.] It was the only time I ever peed next to a standing president.............

James Brown's Cape

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7:00 p.m. Dec. 25
James Brown checked out on Christmas Day, when silence blankets American cities.
But in Chicago, the Golden Apple was open. The hardest working Greek diner near Wrigley Field never closes. The owners brag how they don't have keys for their front door. The last entertainer who was audacious enough to die on Christmas was Dean Martin. That night I went to Jilly's on Rush Street.
This night I thought about J.B. while driving to the Apple for a spaghetti dinner. I was alone. I was tired and a bit hung over. I wondered what happens to a cape without the soul of a man.
Danny Ray spent at least 30 years as James Brown's emcee. He was best known for draping the lavender cape over a worn-out Brown at the close of a concert. In the fall of 1984 I caught up with Ray after the Godfather of Soul appeared at Cabaret Metro in Chicago............

Its Over For the Under

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7:20 p.m. Dec. 20
Chicagoans are still upset about Marshall Field's becoming Macy's. Around Thanksgiving, a group of shoppers actually protested in front of the department store.
I'm glad that's all that's wrong with the world.
And locals continue to lament the closing of the Berghoff (in what really was a union busting move with the restaurant's storied waiters--the Berghoff reopened as a small cafe.)
But here's something to really get your undies in a bunch.
Frederick's of Hollywood has closed its Lingerie Museum.
Growing up as a flatlander, I always wanted to visit vivacious Los Angeles. My first trip to L.A. was in 1976. I stayed in a seedy hotel on Alvarado Street, maybe because Warren Zevon sang about it. I didn't know a soul in Los Angeles and there were rusty burglar bars on windows all along Alvarado. I headed to Hollywood Boulevard where I ate at Musso & Frank's---the kindred spirit to the Berghoff---and I saw Frederick's of Hollywood (founded in 1946 by Frederick Mellinger).
I was 21 years old.

South Before Kanye West

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1:30 p.m. Dec. 16
Long before house music, R. Kelly and rap there was "The Chicago Sound."
Carl Davis was the architect.
He produced 1960s classics like "The Monkey Time" by Major Lance, "Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson and "Turn Back The Hands of Time" by Tyrone Davis (no relation). Davis and jazz bass player/arranger Johnny Pate employed a brass section that was centered around trombones and a baritone sax that put cool icing over warm vocals. Curtis Mayfield was Davis's right hand man, assisting with production, songwriting and celestial guitar. This formula is why these songs endure, especially in the Beach Music scene of the Carolinas.
It has been declared "Dreamgirls Week" at my newspaper.
I will be wearing a black wig all week.
The 1981 "Dreamgirls" musical and now the movie spin off the story of The Supremes. I wanted to find Chicago's Supremes. They were the Opals, a quartet from East Chicago, Ind. In the mid-1960s the Opals cut a few singles of their own and sang behind Major Lance, Gene Chandler and Walter Jackson.
Rosie "Tootsie" Addison is the only Opal still living in Chicago. Last week we took a road trip to Davis's home in south suburban Homewood. She had not seen Davis in more than a decade. As the late Tyrone Davis sang, we did "turn back the hands of time......."

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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