A few years after Richard Michael Daley was married, when he was still heir to his father's business of running Chicago and Cook County, he came down with a terrible fever and flu.
His voice was a raspy croak over the phone.
"Honey, I'm sick," he told his wife from his law office phone. "I'm going home."
His young wife, Maggie Daley, rushed home herself, to the couple's converted two-flat in the family's Bridgeport neighborhood of bungalows, two-flats and patronage workers.
Running up the front steps, opening the door, she called his name. He wasn't on the couch in the living room. He wasn't in the bedroom. She raced to the bathroom-not there either. Worried, she got back into the car and drove the few blocks to her in-laws' house, the police squadrol out front marking the home of Mayor and Mrs. Richard J. Daley.
"Where's Rich?" Maggie breathlessly asked her mother-in-law. "Downstairs," Eleanor "Sis" Daley replied.
There was a cup of soup on the night stand. And there in his old bed, smelling faintly of Vicks VapoRub, in the childhood room where he had once dreamed of being a cowboy, was the 33-year-old future president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and host of the 1996 Democratic National Convention.
"Hi, honey," he whispered as his head sank back into the pillows. Maggie stood in the doorway, hands on hips, shaking her head.
Her husband was sick. He was in his father's house. He was home.
The story always gets a laugh from the mayor's friends, especially when he tells it himself at the dinner table, his face twisted in pantomime as he acts out the parts.
But ask him about it for public consumption and he stiffens like a fish, cautious and afraid, as if he were revealing an exploitable weakness. The reaction is key to understanding the personality of Chicago's mayor.
"Yeah, the Vicks, yeah, that happened," he shrugs, dismissing an innocuous story that puts some flesh and blood into the official image of Daley as Chicago's meticulous bookkeeper.
The eyelids droop and cover. His face becomes a warning sign to aides that someone has stepped into dangerous territory. Walking east on Washington Street toward City Hall, he orders his people back. His palms are at his sides as he moves forward; he pushes his hands back, rapidly, repeatedly, as if he were trying to dog-paddle out of danger.
"Yeah, I went to my dad's, but I don't like to talk about that stuff," he says, his sentence trailing off, trying to change the subject, pointing to a curb he wants fixed, a wastebasket overflowing with hamburger wrappers, the mess he wants to sweep away. Then he gives up, confounded, and bites his lip.
Pedestrians coming across LaSalle Street recognize him, smile, as Daley stands alone on the corner, without bodyguards, a seemingly anonymous man enjoying a warm summer day.
He cuts across LaSalle Street toward the sanctuary of City Hall. To Daley, who grew up shielded, personal means vulnerable, and vulnerable is what gets isolated, attacked and crushed in a city of potential enemies.
He explains that it was driven into him from an early age that people would press those personal buttons to get close, to leverage his name, his father, their politics.
"I'm mayor on the job. At home I'm husband and father. At home I'm myself. You gotta keep things separate; otherwise you'd go crazy, to be very frank."
In public, at the news conferences, in the editorial boardrooms, stuffed like a trophy into President Clinton's box at the State of the Union speeches, Daley often seems overwhelmed, desperate, sometimes struck by stage fright and fully conscious of the public relations limitations that nervously propel him into Daleyspeak-the collection of fits, starts, unconnected monologues, clumsy parallels that become ridiculous, radio-taped non sequiturs. Example: "What am I supposed to do, get a priest?" he says, when asked if his desire to appease the Polish vote caused to him keep a corrupt city clerk on his re-election ticket. "What am I supposed to do? Call a priest? Call a priest?"
But that awkward, giggling fellow disappears in private, where he's low-key, cunning, the acknowledged master of political calculus, doing more for his city than any mayor since his father, and risking more than Richard J. ever did.
Richard M. proved it by taking over control of the city's failed public school system, which Richard J. helped drive into decay.
He put himself directly at odds with the local Democratic Party's key constituencies-teachers' unions, middle-class bureaucrats and politically connected contractors-in an Olympian effort to improve public schools and keep middle-class families from fleeing Chicago.
He is politically conservative, blunt, a devoted family man (though undemonstrative with those he loves), devoutly Roman Catholic and personally opposed to abortion. He will not tolerate drug use or extramarital sex by his aides. Any moral indiscretion-even by his closest advisers-results in a one way ticket out of City Hall.
No admirer of liberal federal judges and a supporter of the death penalty, Daley, 54, is highly critical of wasteful federal bureaucracies. He disapproves of the old liberal Democratic Congress as represented by Congressmen Richard Gephardt and David Bonior, and he is by deed and belief, if not by public word, a Republican.
Trained from birth to assume the mayor's job, he enjoys the support of a business community and a bungalow belt that likes things the way they are and doesn't want to see a black mayor in City Hall.
He also knows where all the small, sharp bones are buried in his city, the knowledge needed to govern effectively. He can tell you which precinct captain is a mob muscleman, where the crack houses are, which minister should get the no-interest building loan, what lawyers get the downtown development deals, which friends have brothers appointed to key city jobs.
And for all the talk about how Daley differs from his father, the son is just as isolated, stoical-Irish and clannish. In his circle are his wife and three children; his mother; the other Daleys-brothers John, Michael and William and sisters Mary Carol, Patricia and Eleanor; Daley spouses; then cousins and a few close friends, such as developers Oscar De Angelo and Tom Rosenberg, former law partner Jack George, Waste Management CEO Philip Rooney, La Preferida Foods Chairman Ralph Steinbarth, shopping mall developer Michael Marchese, Bridgeport neighborhood pal and Marina Cartage trucking contractor Mike Tadin, their wives and bachelor lawyer Terry E. Newman, the court jester of the group.
"The people didn't elect me to be their friend and come into their living room," Daley says. "They elected me to manage the city. They've got their lives to live and I've got mine."
On the sidewalk in front of City Hall, the cops snap to attention, the aides assume their position at Daley's elbow, the word goes out that The Boss is back.
Only when the elevator doors open on the fifth floor at City Hall do the shoulders relax.
Avoiding the formal mayoral office doorway and the formal lobby where the petitioners sit, Daley strides down the hallway and past the water fountain, entering an unmarked door as the bodyguards fade away.
He nods at the secretaries as he walks across the ratty red carpet that would be replaced before the Democratic Convention, and begins slipping out of his suit coat, turning from the inner lobby toward his large and dark formal office.
Watching his back as he walks through the doorway is a bronze bust of his father, the legendary Richard J.
The sculpture-a gift to the Daley family-is particularly benign. It looks nothing like the Old Man, but instead resembles Captain Kangaroo without the mustache and bangs, some weakling fed entirely on boiled potatoes and fatty sausage.
It does not look like the tough last boss of the last machine, the man who successfully balanced the power interests that run Chicago: the bankers, the brokers, organized crime, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, organized labor and old-line Protestants..
It does not resemble the man who crushed his enemies, the shoot-to-kill mayor, the mayor who yelled across the Chicago convention floor in 1968, the mayor who unleashed his cops, their sticks making perfect arcs in the night air, to crack the heads of protesters-still visible in the videotape archives sure to be reintroduced this week-behavior that still nags his son like unabsolved sins.
Richard M. Daley, now at work in his formal office, is smaller, slighter than the father. They share the same small dancer's feet, but where Richard J. used to glide like Jackie Gleason, Richard M. walks on his heels across the dark parquet floor.
The Old Man's desk is there, too, a heavy block of mahogany fit for a railroad baron. On it rest replicas of the funeral mass cards for Richard J. and for Kevin Daley, Richard M.'s youngest son, who died of complications from spina bifida at the age of 21Z2 in 1981. The cards face everyone who sits before the mayor on official business.
Behind the desk is the door to his real office, a space the size of a small bedroom. It holds a couch, a coffee table, a small desk, a few chairs.
Daley plops down on the couch, grabs a dark maduro cigar that he will chew but not light, and a small grin begins to replace that frozen face he wears in public.
This is where this mayor shows his strengths-out of the public eye, away from people, a manager with his reports and his documents and his telephone.
He plucks a folder from a stack on the coffee table, scans crime statistics for the North Side's 20th Police District; peruses a sales pitch for wrought-iron fences (he wants to put such fences around every park, street parking lot, home and neighborhood in the city); studies notes on a cabinet shuffle; checks a report on convention wastebaskets; scans another on an afternoon dedication of a cancer survivors park.
He picks up the pen and begins scribbling. His sleeves are rolled up. The cigar starts bobbing in his mouth. He's finally happy.
"This is where I work," Daley says, comfortable in the isolated cubbyhole from which he controls the 40,000-person city work force, the Cook County Board, the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Housing Authority, the city's Department of Buildings and all the other bureaus and offices that are either officially or unofficially attached, through the beige telephone, to his ear.
It is through that telephone that he also controls the Chicago Board of Elections, which helps make all the rest possible.
"This is what I do," Daley says. "This is me."
Unlike former Mayors Michael Bilandic, Jane Byrne, Harold Washington and Eugene Sawyer, he has no powerful enemies out there, gathering political forces, preparing to strike.
The Chicago City Council, only 10 years ago a collection of loud and forceful political warriors, has been transformed into 50 eager puppies willing to roll on their backs when Daley snaps his fingers.
The city's African-American politicians are either in his pocket begging development deal scraps or tearing at each other in a debilitating ritual in which they accuse one another of selling out to the white mayor, preventing the kind of multiracial coalition that would threaten City Hall.
The Old Man's divide-and-conquer strategy, perfected more than 30 years ago, still works today.
The liberals have been marginalized; Chicago's lakefront is now Republican territory. The Hispanics, particularly Roman Catholic Mexican-Americans-dynamic, struggling, bumping their way into the middle class like the Poles and Italians and Irish before them-are the future of Chicago's dying, white-dominated Regular Democratic organization.
There are a few more things convention delegates should know before genuflecting to the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization and the wondrous miracles it performed in Richard J. Daley's time, like padding ballot boxes with enough extra votes in 1960 to make a president of John F. Kennedy.
First and foremost, the local Democrats care more about recapturing the state legislature from the Republicans than they care about President Clinton's reelection.
This Mayor Daley, though he calls himself a Democrat, is much more comfortable with the conservative themes of the new Republicans than the liberal notions of Washington Democrats and White House advisers, whom he says have lost touch with the voters.
To Daley, the Democrats in Washington have represented "the pro-tax party, the pro-liberal party, the pro-special interest and bureaucracy party."
Even as the White House courts him, he has not spared its inhabitants, accusing Clinton of flip-flopping on politics and policy and berating presidential advisor Harold Ickes as an unrealistic liberal who despises conservative Democrats, such as those who work in Chicago's City Hall.
Recently, however, as the convention approached, the mayor modified his tune. It was no longer, "Harold Ickes? Harold Ickes? Who the hell is Harold Ickes?" Instead, the mayor began applauding the president for abandoning Bonior and Gephardt, and congratulating Ickes for returning phone calls.
"I stayed where I am politically all these years. I didn't leave the party, but they left me. Now they realize what happened to them in 1994. Now they're coming back and that's good," Daley says.
In 1993 he publicly accused President Clinton of betrayal for ignoring his choice for U.S. attorney of the Northern District. Daley wanted ally Richard Devine, but Clinton went with Jim Burns, who was backed by outgoing U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill).
Now Daley praises Clinton as a thoughtful man.
"He's a good man. He's got morality. He's got character, no matter what they say; I know him," Daley says.
Though loyal to the party of his heritage, over the years Daley has been unable to refrain from attacking important Democratic Party constituencies. Targets have included Big Labor, the trial lawyers and environmentalists who thwart his aims for redeveloping abandoned city factory districts.
Also, convention delegates should know, the Democratic machine collapsed on Dec. 20, 1976, when the Old Man died. The organization took a stake in the heart when federal courts soon after that prohibited political hiring and firing. And it was ground to dust by the late Harold Washington, who, ironically, obliterated the black ward organizations to such a degree that many black party leaders, including mayoral candidates and the Chicago Urban League have openly courted the city's street gangs for election-day troops and new blood.
Daley chuckles at the desire of some visitors to cling to political clichs.
"The networks and press come in, asking, 'Machine, machine?' " Daley says. "You almost hurt their feelings when you tell them, there's-what?-maybe six wards that can do anything. There's no machine. There's nothing."
Not quite. What remains is a two-party town in a city that divides almost everything by race. There is the Black Party, waiting its chance, weakened further by Daley's 1991 remapping of the city's 50 wards, limiting black political clout.
And there is the White Ethnic-Latino Party, gathering the middle class along the lakefront, and a Hyde Park constituency weary of black political anti-semitism.
This is the Daley Party.
While the mayor's office has lost leverage in statewide political matters-the state's Republicans have won the key suburban battleground-Daley is still duke of his own domain.
His opponents see their friends co-opted with grants and cash, watch his popularity increase among blacks, Latinos and Asians, until they, too, ask for an invitation to come inside and promise fealty.
And those who don't can expect to learn how Daley dishes out revenge.
Example: One of the casualties is Cook County Commissioner Ted Lechowicz, who for years represented the city's large Polish vote, the vote that topped off the fuel tank for Chicago's Irish mayors.
Lechowicz made the mistake of openly suggesting that he, rather than the mayor's younger brother John Daley, should be made the county board's finance chairman.
In the remapping of wards, Daley already had combined Lechowicz's ward (35th) and another Polish ward (30th) into the new 30th, proving that blacks weren't the only remap victims.
In the 1995 elections, the mayor threw his support behind Michael Wojcik (35th), whose last stop before politics had been working the docks at the South Water Market. Wojcik went on to defeat Lechowicz's candidate, Ald. Carole Bialczak (30th).
Then with Daley's backing, Wojcik opposed Lechowicz for the Democratic Party post of ward committeeman. City Hall positioned Wojcik as an anti-gang crusader. The politicians understood, and Lechowicz was finished.
A week after the March primary, Lechowicz was walking through City Hall, pale and stiff, looking as if he had spent a month in a meat locker.
But Daley spotted him that morning, and instead of ignoring him, quickened his stride toward the aging Polish war horse. Though sometimes awkward at ceremonial events, away from the spotlight the mayor has a quick wit.
"Hi, Ted," Daley chirped, locking eyes, then speaking without looking back as he passed his victim. "You OK?"
Lechowicz narrowed his eyes, smirked, nodded and started a salute, as if he were a military casualty and not a tired guy in a loud sport coat with a "Kick Me" sign on his back. Some aides walking with the mayor giggled.
Still striding, some 30 feet farther on, the mayor spoke out of the side of his mouth.
"I bet he's just standing there, right?"
And there was Lechowicz, trying to stare a hole in the back of the mayor's balding head, the lobby filling with city workers, the ex-ward boss being left behind, swallowed up by the crowd as the political workers and the civilians pushed toward the elevators.
As he entered his own elevator, Daley was asked if the victory remark may have been a touch too cold.
"No," he snapped. "That's politics. You win or you lose."
Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak, former chairman of the Cook County Democrats, failed mayoral candidate, current Republican and Clinton basher, his most recent orations heard via talk radio, has used at least part of his airtime to poke fun at the little guy he despises.
He forgives Daley's habit of doling out city contracts to associates, from downtown legal business to former law partner and pal Jack George, chunks of multi-million-dollar, no-bid airport concession contracts to friends of his wife and to his old campaign manager, Jeremiah Joyce.
But the costly 911 system doesn't work, Vrdolyak declares, recounting dozens of complaints he aired on his show- the robbery victim who had to wait two hours for a cop, the cops themselves who called in and complained.
And he hits at the Daley administration's paralysis during last summer's killer heat wave. Hundreds of bodies overflowed the morgue, while the mayor's government spent its energies trying to stop kids from opening fire hydrants.
Vrdolyak makes no secret of his dislike for Daley, whom he calls alternately "Mayor Rain Man," after the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie, or "Elmer Fudd," the cartoon antagonist to Bugs Bunny.
"This town goes for him because he's 'Mayor Go-Along,' but if his name was 'Joe Schmo,' he'd be nobody, nowhere, pumping gas," Vrdolyak says.
It still burns the former 10th Ward alderman that Daley is the mayor. He was even more bitter in 1983, in his office as then Cook County Democratic Party chairman, when Richard J.'s son came in third in a three-way race, splitting the white vote, costing incumbent Jane Byrne her re-election and ushering Harold Washington into City Hall.
That night, Vrdolyak took the phone call. "You did what you thought you had to do, kid," Vrdolyak says he told Bill Daley, the younger brother. "Forget it. It's over."
But Vrdolyak couldn't let it go and continued: "I'm sure Harold Washington will take care of Bridgeport from now on, and when he does, you know who you'll be calling? Right? Right? The city thanks you."
The phone had clicked off before he could finish. Now, 13 years later, Vrdolyak is gray, a grandfather several times over.
But when pressed, even after all these years, anger still spills out of him.
"You've got to understand something about the Irish, the Daley Irish," Vrdolyak says, the grandfather in him fading, the Fast Eddie coming out. "It's the Irish first, and everybody else is a Polack. Everybody. I'm Croatian, and to them I was a Polack. The blacks are Polacks. Latinos, everybody, Lechowicz and Wojcik are Polacks. That's how they are.
"The Irish are a minority, but they have all the jobs, the political jobs, the political spots. Why? They play divide-and-conquer. It's smart politics. But it's more than that with them. They're the Daleys, inside, and everybody else is outside, all Polacks."
At dinner later that night, at a new favorite Daley restaurant, Santorini in Greek Town, the mayor orders quickly, appetizer of grilled octopus, fresh tomatoes, boiled rapini in lemon and olive oil, black sea bass.
He's working out again religiously, spending late afternoons on the Stair Master at a health club near the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, staying off the red meat in favor of pasta with oil and garlic.
Here he orders a drink, an Old-Fashioned. As he starts on Vrdolyak, he waves his hands as if shooing a fly:
"He's crazy. He's bitter. Who listens to him? Who cares? Who listens to him?" the mayor grumbles, jumping from one enemy to another, applying his diagnosis equally to former Mayor Byrne, former Judge R. Eugene Pincham, other enemies.
Still, there is a nugget in what Vrdolyak says. Nominal Democrat Daley runs his own party from City Hall, helping some Democrats only when it suits him.
The late Cecil Partee, former Cook County state's attorney, was on the phone from his car a week before he would lose his 1990 election to Republican Jack O'Malley, begging Daley for money to get commercials on television.
Partee, a crafty and courtly politico and survivor, one of Richard J.'s loyal agents, hung up his car phone. He was so far behind that Daley didn't want to throw good money after bad.
"They're offering me $5,000," Partee told a reporter sitting next to him. "Five thousand. You know what that means? I'm dead. You know what $5,000 means? It means, `---- you very much,' 5,000 times."
Daley's drink arrives. He is not thinking about Partee, but about the Democrats, about political parties.
"Parties aren't what they used to be," Daley says. "People don't vote for parties. They vote for the person. It's all television money and polling now. It's not parades. It's not torchlights and songs."
During a Chicago City Council meeting, in the dark-paneled annex behind the council chambers where the winks and nods are exchanged beside paintings showing Chicago's settlers killing the Indians, a group of petitioners stands waiting for the mayor .
Near the door are the minor lobbyists, developers, salesmen with three different business cards, young men on the way up, old men yearning for a mayoral pat on the head and a chance to tell Daley that they loyally served his father.
Tom Lyons, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, is there, sharing carpet space with the commoners. Daley ignores them as he comes out of the council meeting to pose for a quick picture with a Catholic school girls' volleyball team.
The rest of the characters in the room-the aldermen, aides, committeemen, other Democrats-talk among themselves, smoke, eat Italian beef sandwiches and fried chicken, always watching who gets closest to the throne.
Daley re-enters the annex from the washroom and motions his top aide, Ald. Patrick Huels (11th), to stand close.
Lyons, on his toes, looks across the room, his eyebrows raised hopefully. Huels looks back, shakes his head slowly and raises his palms in a gesture that says, "Sorry, Tom, not today." Lyons shrugs, walks out.
"I guess he can't see me right now," says Lyons, chairman of the same Cook County Democratic Party that will be applauded during the convention week. "I'll have to catch up with him later."
At Santorini, Daley shrugs it off, says he likes Lyons but couldn't squeeze him in for the kind of serious talk they needed. He takes his drink and pokes at the orange slice, drowning it in the bourbon. His face is pink from exercise.
Then he starts talking about his 1980 campaign for Cook County state's attorney. It was the one he marks as the crossroads of his political life, when almost the entire regular Democratic organization his father had built came out to destroy him, if it could, and finally break the control the Daley clique had over the county's politics.
This is how Richard M. Daley admits things, even to himself-not directly but through a story about how Byrne, Vrdolyak and the rest of his father's old crew went against him. They backed the candidacy of Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who, long ago, rode with Richard M. Daley to Loyola University each morning.
Only a few stayed loyal, including Lyons; Tom Hynes of the 19th Ward, now Cook County assessor; John Stroger of the 8th ward, now president of the Cook County Board.
Also loyal was a North Side lawyer, Neil Hartigan, who 10 years later would run for governor and never could understand how he could do so poorly in Cook County if the mayor really wanted him in Springfield.
"What am I supposed to do, take my pants off?" Daley remarked about such criticism after the Hartigan loss. "I worked for him. I raised money for him."
At dinner, telling his story, chewing orange pulp, Daley's eyes focus on the past. He remembers the 1980 campaign as the worst of his life-enemies all around him, his young son dying, his political future in serious doubt.
The man telling the story is not the nervous fellow of the press conferences, nor is he the person who seems intimidated by crowds.
This is the guy who has the city in his pocket, the guy who manages Chicago from that small office at City Hall. And if he has developed a healthy paranoia and a strong vengeance streak, it seems the natural consequence of a life in Chicago politics.
He remembers Ed Quigley, his father's sewer commissioner and West Side ward boss, standing before other committeemen during the slating for that 1980 election. Quigley told them to forget the kid, to quit being sentimental and support Burke.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this isn't a matter of loyalty and friendship," Quigley told them. "This is a matter of big business."
Daley grabs his drink, swirls the ice, crushes some in his mouth.
"They were my father's business friends-his people. I knew them all my life," Daley says. "But when I made my move for state's attorney, they wanted to kill me. They wanted to stamp me out. And after I beat Burke in the primary, they went over to the Republican (incumbent Bernard Carey) to beat me.
"I won that second one by 15,000 votes. You know how close that is countywide? They were all against me."
He watches the waiters fillet the fish at tableside, the bones neatly piled and dripping lemon juice and olive oil. He's asked whether, in a city of changing political alliances, he has been able to forgive. He keeps looking at the waiters, at the surgery they perform on the fish.
"Now I say it's just politics. You move on; you do the city's business," Daley says. "The people care about crime, about their schools. But you don't forget who was with you and who was against you. Me? I don't forget. Would you?"
Byrne had long been an enemy by then, but others had turned against the Daleys as well. One was George Dunne, the 42nd Ward committeeman, rich insurance executive and president, at the time, of the county board.
Another was Michael Madigan. As a young lawyer, he had met the son and used that friendship to leverage the father's support for committeeman of the Southwest Side's 13th Ward. It was the first step in Madigan's own climb to political power in the state legislature.
Also on Burke's side was U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, now an admitted and imprisoned crook, but then a Northwest Side ward boss with seniority in Washington.
The Daleys do make allowances for some. Rostenkowski, who became House Ways and Means Committee chairman, was excused his indiscretions because of the power he wielded in Washington.
The old pols and businessmen from the party glory days still have trouble connecting with the Daley brothers. Others, like 47th Ward Committeeman Ed Kelly, acknowledge the natural resentment of sons who saw their father's liege-men make new arrangements after his death.
"I think when the Mayor died, the boys were still young and they didn't really realize that people would make their own moves. Everybody was making a move. You had to, to survive in this game," says Kelly.
"I know they understood with their heads. They're political. They knew what was going on. But I don't think you can ever understand with your heart. I think it's always been there, in their hearts, in the mayor's heart, and I understand that."
When Richard J. died, the son was a state senator, unloved and without respect from the rest of his colleagues, Democratic and Republican, in Springfield. He was considered a backbiter and a tattletale, and was named by Chicago magazine as one of the 10 worst legislators in the state.
Tagged with the nickname "Dirty Little Richie" by then State Sen. Dawn Clark Netsch, the leading liberal Democrat, he was marginalized and resented. And with his father no longer able to protect him, it was widely believed he would be pecked to death in the legislative barnyard.
At City Hall, the 11th Ward kept the mayoralty when Ald. Michael Bilandic was selected successor to Richard J. Daley. The Daley brothers were kept at arm's length from the political circles their father had built. Richard M. Daley was forced to grow up.
"I think it's a wake-up call when your father dies, for everybody, and we're no different," says Bill Daley, a rainmaker lawyer with Mayer, Brown & Platt.
Still in the state senate, flying back to Chicago every evening to be with his son Kevin, Rich Daley, the prince in exile, was not even welcome in the building his father had ruled.
His first break came with the 1977 battle between the Chicago and Downstate Democrats for the presidency of the state senate. After more than 186 ballots, close ally Hynes prevailed, and threw a protecting arm around the shoulder of the late mayor's son.
Without Hynes, the enemies Daley had made along the way would have consumed him. He licked his wounds and watched as Bilandic tried to hold on to the mayoralty.
But in 1979, after a series of blunders by Bilandic and a record snow-fall, Byrne defeated the organization and took out after Daley as well, viewing him as a threat to her power. Shortly after her election, the Daleys paid her a visit.
"They came in and demanded things. They had this little chart of theirs, with their little marks and names of people who would get what jobs, that sort of thing," Byrne said at City Hall during her last mayoral campaign in 1991.
"And I tossed them out. They were unbelievable in their arrogance. They thought they were the mayor."
Meanwhile, anxious to break out of the "Dirty Little Richie" persona, Daley needed Netsch to formally cleanse him. So he supported her in opposing a state sales tax on food and medicine, gathering with him blacks, labor and the political left.
"That was the key to the whole Rich Daley coalition you see now," says Bill Daley. "People came with him who didn't like him before-minorities, Dawn Netsch. He was different. He had changed."
Daley had changed little but what is important for a politician in trouble: his positioning.
Although Richard Daley hasn't forgiven his trespassers, he still
works with them. Burke, for example, is chairman of the City Council Finance Committee and helps run the council floor for the mayor.
Burke is every inch the image of the successful big city Irish pol. He is the last of his breed-Jesuit-trained, white hair, dark suits and gold-rimmed glasses. Even enemies like his style, especially when, red-faced and bellowing in debate, he quotes British statesman Edmund Burke to aldermen who can barely read.
Burke also runs a formidable intelligence network, and he has spies in almost every government office in Illinois. Daley may not like him, but he doesn't have to.
"I think we have a good relationship now. We don't chitchat every morning, but we work together," Burke says. "I'm not anxious to get anything he's got, and I don't think he covets any thing I've got. We've reached dtente."
When Burke started in politics, the 14th Ward was at 55th and Halsted Streets, but with each census, Burke has moved the boundaries west via remapping until now, there is no place for him to run. Burke is now learning to speak Spanish.
Meanwhile, the politicians set their children up in business, in the law, away from politics, as the organizations that were the heart of the old machine grow feeble.
Even Daley acknowledges the inevitable demographic shifts, and shrugs in grudging acceptance of the political facts of life for the old, white ethnic Southwest Side.
"The heart of the old Southwest Side used to be at 63d and Halsted, by Burke," he says. "But now, it's at 159th and LaGrange (in Southwest Suburban Orland Park). Things change. Nothing is what it used to be."
Daley and his family left Bridgeport three years ago, a symbolic abandonment of the old city and his father's people for the new: an urban village fashioned from an area in the old South Loop.
Central Station, where the mayor lives, is a community of upper incomes, guarded and all but gated-the modern medieval urban keep designed to thwart casual strangers.
The urban village concept is part of the vision Daley has for the future of Chicago, a smaller, more easily managed city of middle-class workers sending their children to new public schools-the schools and the neighborhoods and the parks and the homes protected with cul-de-sacs, one-way streets, and, of course, wrought-iron gates.
He's repelled by chaos, by uncontrolled dynamism, by the mess left over from the old Maxwell Street market he destroyed, unable to see anything but dirt and grease and problems.
Despite the new gated communities, however, his black, white, Asian and Latino middle-class continues to leave.
Daley is the boy with his finger in the dike. As the city's face changes day by day, the children of the mayor's urban dream do, too. They grow, trade their trikes for two-wheelers, get ready for 1st grade. And that's when the moving vans pull up to the curb.
"Tell me about it. I just told you: Things change," Daley says.
Old Bridgeport, like the old city, was the neighborhood he had run through playing cowboys-and-Indians and superheroes; later skipping out of grade school early, grabbing a pepper-and-egg sandwich, shoving it warm under his arm and running through the alley to catch the last three innings of a White Sox game at the old Comiskey Park. (He doesn't watch much baseball now.)
Years later, in the same alley, after tomcatting on Rush Street until dawn, thinking he was sneaking past the police detail, creeping down the gangway, he quietly climbed up through the kitchen window, only to find his father there, angry, with a cup of coffee, shouting: "Where do you think you are? In a hotel? It's Sunday morning, for God's sake! Go back to where you came from!" Shamed, the son backed outside into the early summer morning, the streets blue-black in the dawn, the neighbors pretending not to notice on their way to early Mass.
On Halsted Street, Rich Daley was treated by the payrollers and the shopkeepers for what he was: the young heir, expected always in the pre-Vatican II neighborhood of fish on Friday and Saturday afternoon confession to take his father's job some day.
At De LaSalle High School, he proved to be an average student and an intense, if untalented, basketball player on the lightweight, short team. He had a nickname already chosen for him: Mayor.
Bridgeport defended the family when blacks and white liberals led open-housing marches in the segregated neighborhood. They defended the Daleys when family members were embarrassed after receiving deathbed bequests from former Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn; when Richard J. dropped $1 million of city insurance business into the insurance office run by his sons. The Daleys belonged to Bridgeport. And Bridgeport lived on the Daleys.
The people helped when Byrne upset the old order. They spied on her every move, the clerks and the truck drivers knocking respectfully on the door of the 11th Ward office, bringing information: Who met with whom. What documents went where. Who would get the towing contracts. Who was bringing in the money.
"People used to come into the ward office all the time," says Bill Daley. "The top people. The working people. They'd tell Rich what she was doing. So when he made a statement, he was on target; he was working from facts, and she hated that."
But things changed in 1983, when Daley split the white mayoral vote and made history for Washington. Bridgeport's shock at the prospect of a black mayor in the Old Man's chair-blacks were still being beaten by toughs if caught in the neighborhood after dark-proved greater than its support for the son.
Still grieving with Maggie over the loss of Kevin, humiliated by the election defeat, by his own dismal, inarticulate performance in the mayoral debate, Rich was eyed by the neighborhood, for the first time, with suspicion.
Considered a pariah by white ethnic Chicago, he adopted a low profile.
As the 1984 state's attorney campaign neared, Daley was vulnerable to the same kind of vote splitting he had performed on Byrne.
A Washington ally, R. Eugene Pincham, was considering a campaign against Daley, ready to use the 11th Ward membership in the white opposition bloc as proof of Daley's feelings about black Chicago.
"I was still (Democratic Party) chairman then, and he called me, begging me, desperate that I do something about Pincham," Vrdolyak recalls. "He was begging me. Well, Pincham came into my office a candidate for state's attorney. He left it a justice of the appellate court. I told the Daleys that it was taken care of.
"But you know something? I never got a call back from Richie. Never a thank you, nothing. I told you, that's the way he is. Not one call since he asked for the favor. I told you, to him, we're all Polacks."
The mayor grimaces, won't dignify the question, changes the subject. But later, Bill Daley, in his own law office, offers another analysis.
"We always thought Gene Pincham wanted to be a judge," Bill Daley says. "And Harold wasn't interested in a fight; he was trying to put together a council majority. Remember, Washington endorsed Rich for re-election (for state's attorney) on his Dream Ticket."
When Washington died in 1987, a black political civil war ensued. With the black vote divided, Daley filled the power vacuum in 1989.
And Chicago, after a brief period of free political expression and all the nastiness such freedom brings, was ready again for a benign dictator.
Once in the mayor's office, Daley moved quickly to bring the council to heel. He had white aldermanic support, whether they liked it or not, so he concentrated on his opposition.
He relied on a strategy used by white Democrats across the U.S. He courted the black ministers. Washington had ignored and despised many of them. But Daley needed them and they figured he would pay.
While the black clergy's influence on voters from their pulpits is marginal, their symbolic value on television is worth the political money, particularly to a white mayor facing black challengers.
Daley started giving the ministers vacant lots for $1 apiece, and once Clinton took office, federal money for low-interest and no-interest housing development loans to the ministers-and their corporations and their developers-became a multi-million-dollar river.
But Daley offered consideration, as well. To ministers who had been ignored by Washington, he offered his ear.
The mayor's affirmative-action set-aside contract ordinance got points from liberals, but it also made the middle-class black and Hispanic contractors happy with a piece of the pie. With those elements satisfied, the aldermen who relied on the developers and the contractors for political money also came into the Daley fold.
Aldermen Dorothy Tillman and Allan Streeter stopped describing him as a bigot who allowed his cops to beat black children.
Instead, they got cozy.
Tillman (3rd), in fact, now hugs the mayor, teases and jokes with him in the council annex.
Shortly before Daley's 1995 reelection, he had the ministers endorse him at a South Side church. The Rev. Wilbur Daniel, pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church-and future recipient of low-interest city hall development loans for himself and his son-paraphrased the Lord's Prayer as he had done years before for Richard J.
"Give us this day, our Daley, Daley, Daley, Daley, our Richard Daley bread!" he yelled from the stage. Daley blushed.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush is one of the few African-American politicians to maintain real, as opposed to merely rhetorical, independence of the Daley Party.
But the mayor is picking away at Rush's South Side sphere, luring Tillman and Rush's own former aide, Ald. Madeline Haithcock.
Daley also has begun courting Rev. Jesse Jackson and his son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the freshman congressman from the 2nd District who was a school kid in Washington when his father and Rush were shouting "Dump Dumb Daley!" to black crowds. City Hall is clearly seeking a dtente with the Jacksons. And that strategy seems to be working.
"I think you have to give this mayor high marks; he's trying to reach out to all communities," the young Jackson says. "Mayor Daley has supported affirmative action while others have opposed it for years. For this mayor to be so progressive is to his infinite credit."
Hispanics have enjoyed numerous perks under the mayor, from top cabinet positions, including those of Matt Rodriguez, police chief; Raymond Orozco, fire chief; and Ben Reyes, chief operating officer for the public schools.
And what about Daley's white ethnic core of firefighters, police officers and city workers, disturbed by his flip-flopping on affirmative action and his hands-off position on scattered-site public housing now being pushed into the white bungalow belts?
"The people in the neighborhoods know where he's coming from," says Huels. "He can't fight Washington. He doesn't appoint the federal judges. But everyone knows he cares about the neighborhoods."
While the white city workers and others opposed to city affirmative action policy and scattered-site housing may resent Daley's courting of minority support at their expense, they have few options.
"Where are they gonna go?," asks another Daley operative. "Bobby Rush? Gene Pincham?"
Daley is riding in a van through the North Side's 20th Police District with Cmdr. Andrew Martorano. He likes Martorano, listens, takes names, scribbles notes.
"What about the whorehouses?" Daley asks, and they drive along North Lincoln Avenue past the seedy motels that serve prostitutes. Martorano suggests that names of the patrons be given out to the news media to shame them away. Daley likes the idea.
"We could even send the (police arrest) reports to their suburban papers, where they live," he giggles.
Three weeks later, the policy and program would be announced in a mayoral press conference.
It's when he sees the wrought-iron fences that he gets excited. He hasn't stopped talking about wrought iron for days, and back at his offices, he has already talked about installing it at senior citizen homes citywide.
"See that?" Daley asks, pointing to a stretch of homes, a single wrought-iron fence wrapping them like a gift. "That's what I'm talking about."
"You like that wrought iron, huh, Mayor?" Martorano asks.
"I love it," the mayor replies.
The attention to small details, to the iron fences and the flowers and the potholes is in marked contrast to his early mayoral years, when he wanted to be the Master Builder and Great Visionary.
Then it was more than $10 billion for a Lake Calumet Airport; $500 million for a downtown casino complex, with a Disney-like theme park for the kids; another billion for a downtown trolley system.
All fizzled. The airport plan collapsed because it would have meant the destruction of the Southwest Side's Midway Airport and the immediate disintegration of his remaining political base. The casino plan never progressed because Daley wanted the city to get a larger piece of the take. The trolley died because he couldn't persuade local real estate powers to support the project.
As the Master Builder persona began to fade, his own city government allowed a crack in a tunnel to become a disaster-the great Chicago Tunnel Flood of April 13, 1992. And his bitter, often unnecessary feuding with Republicans in Springfield worsened.
A family problem also had added to the mayor's burdens. The previous month, his eldest son, Patrick, had become involved in an ugly and violent underage beer brawl at the Daley summer home in Grand Beach, Mich. At a news conference the next day, the mayor broke down in real tears, winning him even more support from sympathetic parents throughout the city.
That warm-hearted reaction helped persuade the beleaguered mayor to give up thoughts of resigning.
But since then, he has changed his strategy and altered his sights, becoming the pothole mayor, the wrought- iron fence mayor, the education mayor, the detail man.
"People care about what they see out their front windows," Daley says, still on tour in the van. "The big projects always have the same players; you either get them done or you don't because of politics and money. But the detail work, the wrought iron, the streets, crime, the schools. That's what you do."
While Daley takes time off occasionally-a trip to a Western dude ranch where he wears cowboy clothes and rides a horse; lounging on a boat with his brothers off the Florida coast; 20-mile bike rides at his summer home; a half day on Fridays and sometimes on Mondays-the mayor never stops working.
From the back of his chauffeured car, whether with aides or with his wife, he looks out the window, searching for trouble.
Always there is the folder and the pencil, the mayor making notes. If he sees something he doesn't like, which is always, his people hear about it.
The names of Daley aides who have temporarily displeased him can often be heard shouted with curses through the walls of his conference room. His temper has cooked his employees and stuck them, starchy and wet, onto the walls of the room called the Woodshed.
"I'm not going to say he's the easiest guy to work for, because he's not, but that's because he wants things done yesterday for his city," says Ed Bedore, a longtime Daley family retainer, the budget wizard who served both father and son. "You don't want a mayor who doesn't care."
It is a hot Saturday morning on the 1800 block of West Polk Street, near Cook County Hospital. Hundreds of children in new baseball uniforms are waiting for Daley to open their season.
Jim Williams, the mayor's press secretary, has pleased photographers with this chance to take a picture of the mayor in something other than a suit, in the middle of green grass, a baseball game and a multiracial crowd of children.
But Williams won't bet on whether the mayor will wear a tie, even though the temperature hovers near 90. "He might come casual, but I'm not betting."
And Daley is casual, for him. Heavy oxblood wingtips, blue shirt, rep tie, slacks, navy blazer. "I don't work in shorts," he wisecracks.
The kids want to play ball and there are clouds gathering, but the adults have to lecture them first, about drugs, about the wonderful racial diversity they represent in a city blessed by God, and so on. The kids rub their new mitts; they kick the grass, tortured.
Daley keeps his remarks short, talks about his wonderful multicultural city, then trots to the mound where he throws a fair imitation of a fastball. The kids beg for autographs.
Byrne would have been running the bases. Washington would be picking the kids up, playing catch or trying to hit one over the fence, sweating through his suit, laughing.
Daley signs his name but doesn't embrace the children, to the disappointment of the television crews.
Back in the car, the mayor takes an alcohol wipe from the seat pouch. He cleans his hands, a common private ritual for politicians after public contact. He balks when asked why he didn't satisfy the photographers by playing with the kids.
"I'm not going to pick kids up for pictures," he says. "I just don't go for that sort of thing. I'm a father. I love children-all the kids in this city. But I'm not pulling that PR b.s. Let somebody else do it. It's not me."
The next stop-not on his public agenda-is in the far West Side ghetto, the Harrison police district, the highest crime area in the city.
The neighborhood people move cautiously at first, but after a few minutes the crowd of women and children flock to him, shaking his hands, telling him eagerly about the drug dealers they want arrested, how they want cul-de-sacs, wrought-iron fences.
"See? What'd I tell you?" Daley quips, as they plant flowers, scrub sidewalks and haul debris. They thank the mayor for adding extra police, for clearing and fencing in the vacant lots on each corner that had become gang hangouts.
Then it's time to put on his game face and head downtown, where Richard Bloch, co-founder of the H&R Block tax preparation chain, is about to dedicate the cancer survivors park for which Bloch, a cancer survivor himself, paid $1.5 million.
From the dilapidated West Side-junk cars, women in their housecoats doing what they can with brooms and petunias-the mayoral car heads east to Grant Park.
The 100-foot-tall Greek columns, rescued from the old federal courthouse and post office downtown, mark the entrance to the new park east of Columbus Drive off Randolph Street Street.
The casual upper-middle-class ride $1,000 bicycles, wear waterproof Gortex against the coming rain. They and their impeccable children look as if they have stepped out of a catalog. Daley and Richard Bloch stand on the stairs together, as a violin quartet plays Mozart.
What is supposed to be a simple affair, however, turns ugly.
Bloch had wanted a large sign commemorating the Bloch park, and a sculpture he had chosen, but he didn't get them. His blue eyes fix Daley as he uses the microphone to insult the mayor.
"It's as if we had a beautiful book, wonderful binding, perfect art and illustrations, with writers and editors working overtime, but then we have the little printer here," Bloch says. "And the little printer decides not to put in any ink!"
The Daley scowl begins; he grinds his teeth as the father becomes visible in the son. The violinists don't need an invitation to leave and Park District Gen. Supt. Forrest Claypool immediately concludes the program.
For a minute, the two groups stand near each other-the Blochs and their friends only a foot or two away from Daley and his horrified aides.
Then Mrs. Bloch reaches over and grabs Daley's elbow with her thumb and forefinger, as if she were telling the mayoral busboy to fetch her some iced tea.
"Just put up our sign and the sculpture," Annette Bloch orders him, smiling, "We'll write you the check. Just put it up, OK? We'll write you the check."
Daley stares at her as if he doesn't believe she exists. He glares at her fingers on his arm until she releases.
"There's no sign-forget it," he snaps. "This isn't Kansas City. We're not in Miami, in Palm Beach. This is Chicago. Where do you think you are, anyway?"
Daley storms away, wishing he could rip up the new sod, the little inspirational plaques set in the stone, the bushes, everything; sell it and give the cash to the West Siders he had just left.
"That's it. I'm done for today."
Just like that, he has stopped working. But there is one last stop to make before he goes to his new house.
The car passes the tony part of the South Loop and heads south on State Street, southwest on Archer, away from the open space, the Mozart and people in Banana Republic clothes. The rain begins to fall on Chinatown, and to the West are the stumpy two-flats of Bridgeport.
He is heading back south, to have lunch with his mother on a Saturday afternoon, in Bridgeport. To his father's house. He is going home.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times