We sure don't like our wrinkles! After the on anti-aging goos, readers want to join the conversation. Thanks for your suggestions on other things to try (or reject). In the interest of all of us who want to remain young, here you go: Anna Gunter Kaplan, Rockford, Ill.: I enjoyed your column as I've been searching for new products this past year as my skin has become dry and those signs of aging, fine lines and creases have increased. I have auburn hair and pale, easily irritated skin. I'm a basic soap-water-go person so I wasn't enthusiastic approaching the too many products on the shop shelves. These were my experiences, much like your intrepid team. I tried L'Oreal Revitalift at night. There was some skin irritation and temporary tightening. I finished the bottle and haven't replaced it. Olay Total Effects 7 Signs Serum: it temporarily smoothed fine lines (2-3 hours). I finished the bottle and haven't replaced it. Strivectin: A friend tried it and saw no difference. I thought her under-eye skin looked much firmer but she disagreed. ... And friendship is more important. There were other products like those above I also tried and saw no difference, i.e. I spent too much money this past year trying new products and none seemed to actually change the skin. Thus far, for maintaining skin my best combination for simply looking better is: Wash skin with Cetaphil, nothing else. Olay Daily Regenerating Serum, Fragrance-free: I apply liberally after each face washing and reapply it if I'm outdoors. My skin absorbs it no matter how much I apply which is a little scary as I wonder what's going on inside my skin. :) It provides a smooth skin base for applying my make-up. Revlon Age-Defying Makeup: This I endorse as it applies smoothly and lightly to dry skin and I found a shade that matches my complexion. It temporarily masks fine lines. So ... if I removed and reapplied make-up at the morning and afternoon coffee break, I'd look "smoother" most of the workday. That's far too much maintenance effort for my taste. To reduce dryness, at night I apply KY Jelly to my skin around my mouth, chin, and around my eyes. The gel holds water against the skin and the skin absorbs it and it's completely non-irritating. Yes, it looks odd but who cares at night. If this idea seems wacko, it was told to me by a hospital dietician; I never would have thought of it myself! For overall dry skin, Avon Silicon Cream is the most effective and soothing cream I've found. And I try to drink lots of water. After this year of experimentation: my skin is softer, more moisturized but lines and creases are still present! As Spring begins, I need to find a high SPF lotion that is non-gooey and non-irritating. I may have to call a dermatologist for that info. If you consider non-surgical medical dermatology procedures, write a column about your team's experiences. Hope your intrepid team of explorers finds at least a small, trickling fountain of youth. Let us know if you do!
Patrice Carden: I read your article "Fountain of Truth" in yesterday's paper and am compelled to write to you because I've been in the same boat where "nothing works" %u2013 no matter how much you spend %u2013 and feel as if I could have written the article myself with the money I've wasted on bad products. I'm a legal secretary in the Loop and have no affiliation with skin care companies. I'm 47 and have been buying literally everything new in the department stores for years, trying to find skin care that makes a difference. I'm providing you and your lady testers the name of the best product line I've found: "Juvenesse by Elaine Gayle". I have been using her skin care for the past five years and, believe me, I wouldn't be going back to her if she didn't mean business. My skin looks better than it did 10 years ago. She is located on North Michigan Avenue and does not sell in the department stores, but does have a large clientele of dermatologists, and is very successful, I believe, in China. Her products range from about $40 to $70, but she does not advertise so your money is all in the product. When I run out of something, after two days I notice a considerable change in my skin's appearance and have to buy her products again %u2013 they are the best. You will not be sorry with the results. If you're interested, her number is 800-949-1211. I have numerous friends who now use her line, and have a relative in Florida who actually calls Chicago for her products. I think I'd like to give up my day job and get into her business because she makes a great product. She has a huge selection of things, but I personally like these the best. 1. XL firming serum (goes on like a liquid and totally firms and tightens your skin in minutes -- the stuff is great) 2. XL co-Q10 wrinkle serum (lightweight cream %u2013 smooths out skin noticeably) 3. Creme de le Creme (great lightweight moisturizer, non-greasy, quick-absorbing, works great) 4. Microdermabrasion scrub (the BEST one-step scrub I've tried anywhere -- non-irritating %u2013 skin will look wonderful when you're finished %u2013 I've tried lots and lots of scrubs similar to this) 5. Gelee (undereye gel that tightens and lifts) I hope I've contributed something worthwhile to your study and hope you'll try these products. Would like to hear back from you ! (P.S. On another note, Estee Lauder's mascara "primer" I've just discovered, and it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Never thought I'd want to do TWO steps for mascara, but makes a huge difference, and you spend half the time actually applying your mascara (use "More than Mascara" with it)! The primer makes the mascara just glide on beautifully and your lashes are literally twice as long! Trust me on this one too.) (P.S. Maybe we can get those cellulite creams to work now - eh???)
Mary: Just wondering if you've checked out Ahava's Timeline line of products -- these are made with the Dead Sea minerals and salts. I love the face moisturizer and the eye moisturizer. I can tell you that some eye creams definitely, absolutely work to keep the eye area moisturized while others do not. I actually started getting cracked skin under my eyes when using products I had used for a long time, like Aveda's eye cream. Clinique's moisture surge eye gel was the only thing I found for a long time that prevented that cracking. I think this is unusual . . . I don't know why this happens to me, but the Ahava eye cream also works well for me and I like it better. My skin is actually very wrinkle free and youthful at 52 -- which I think is genes, not necessarily creams, but I've always moisturized well and stay out of the sun, never smoked, etc. But these Dead Sea products are really different, and they really do have therapeutic results for people with eczema and other skin disorders. I think only time will tell with some of these products if they make a difference. But the minerals and salts are unique and medicinal . . . so I think there may be something really genuinely good here. What do you think? You can even smell the sea in the face moisturizer. I'd like to know what people think about Ahava or similar products with Dead Sea salts and minerals. A
Alice Alekman, Inverness, Ill.: I read your column today with a bit of interest. I have used Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv and also Perfectionist, both quite expensive, but I went back to -- and stayed with -- Olay total effects 7x. But I don't use the serum. What I use is just called "visible anti-aging vitamin complex" -- it's a creamy liquid that comes in a squat bottle, rather than the tall serum bottle pictured. It's the same 1.7 fluid ounces, though, and while it seems to be "officially" priced at $18.99 (I think), it's often sold for a dollar or two off at CVS, Walgreens, and sometimes the supermarket. It certainly doesn't feel "too thick," or make my face feel "weighted down," as Cassandra West said in your article. And - here's the best part for you & your concerns -- it contains "broad spectrum UA/UVB sunscreen." I don't recall ever seeing the serum. Maybe it's only sold at Wal-Marts and I don't shop there.
Leslie Hilmer, Stevensville, Ill.: I really enjoyed your page in the paper today. (Especially that you got Phil to participate!) If you want to see a nice difference in the looks of your skin I can recommend a few easy products that you didn't try. First Joey NY Collagen Boosting Moisturizer (there are day and night formulas) give that a couple of minutes to be absorbed. Follow with Joey Line Up. You just need a little bit dotted on your lines and give that a few minutes, too. Then, use some I.D. Bare Minerals make up. Just buff it on and your skin will look fab! Only takes about 5 to 10 minutes total. I am 51 and these three products have made an enormous difference. You can get them at Ulta.
Lauret MacLennan: Dear Wrinkleless Ellen
(From Ellen: I wish) To look younger I date very old men. It's less expensive than the products and they pay for dinner.
Leon Greenberg, Chicago: As a man, I really don't pay much attention to all the junk women insist on putting on their faces. However, after looking at the prices of these anti-aging wonder products, I must say women are absolutely nuts! $285 for a little bottle f face cream? I think you'd be better off spending that on a massage and facial. Also, just wondering if (Tribune restaurant critic Phil) Vettel was tasting the samples or wearing them?
Baiba Kahn, Vernon Hills, Ill.: I read with interest your testing of the various products for anti-aging. I've tried a lot of them over the course of my life, but my all time favorite, and the one that I return to year after year for at least 15 years now, has been the AVON line called "Anew". It is truly a miracle in a jar. I am 61 years old and my face is quite smooth and wrinkle free. Of course you can tell that I am an older person. When I first started using it years ago, even my husband noticed a difference after about a week or so of my using the products. He is not very observant like that. Anyway, I thought you might like to know.
Candy Renwall: LOVED your article in the Trib today (especially Phil V. as resident male tester) and ran to the computer to share my thoughts before my biz day got away from me. Timing of your article just had to be fate because yesterday I got an email from a colleague of mine who pitched me on an idea she has for a new business called "The Makeover Store" : A one-stop shop location providing "vendor neutral" recommendations/guidance on the hundreds of products being marketed for skin and hair (a take off on Sephora's concept but with professionally trained staff and no cosmetics for sale). What obviously is driving the venture is without a doubt the biggest challenge these days for women young and old, and just what your article drilled down to: Wading thru the massive onslaught of new miracle claims for anti-aging, trying to figure out a) what the ingredients are; b) what the ingredients do/don't do; c) what they'll do to your skin; and d) all of the above%u2026and then some. InStyle's annual best beauty products hit the newsstands yesterday so that might be worth looking at for a follow up article. Another source that would be worth looking at would be Paula Begoin, the so-called "Beauty Cop". She wrote the book called "Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me"%u2026 it was great but she lost a bit of her "neutrality" when she later came out with her own cosmetics product line. Nevertheless, her online newsletter still gives in-depth, biting analysis of what products will and won't do for women. Worth a look!
Inez Yablong, Wilmette: I have something that will work. My dermatologist recommended ROC which I buy at Walgreens and I love it. My grandson said, "Grammy you used ot have 1,00 wrinkles and now you only have 900." I do not have as many deep wrinkles on my forehead. Tell your readers about this. Also, just wondering if (Tribune restaurant critic Phil) Vettel was tasting the samples or wearing them?
Cherre Neitzka: I did not see that you rated University Medical's Freeze Cream. This product's advertising indicates that it works in minutes. I was intrigued that they would claim this so I tried it. Yes, it works in minutes. My 60 year old face with lines and creases experienced major improvement in minutes. My co-workers did double-takes. They were amazed. I am amazed and still use the product. It can be found in most Wal-Mart stores for $18.00.
Thea Potanos, Oak Park, Ill.: Fun column, but you didn't test some of the anti-aging products that DO work - Retin A and antioxidants like Prevage (prescription strength, not the stuff Estee Lauder sells) and Skinceuticals Vit C AHA serum. Generally I don't waste my money on pricey (over the counter) OTC stuff after trying La Mer, which I found out is just a really nice, expensive moisturizer, nothing more. Instead, I go to a cosmetic dermatologist. No Botox yet. I use a prescription skincare line called Obagi NuDerm which incorporates Retin A, and for me it has worked wonders. Generally it takes about 6 months before you see maximum improvement with stuff like Retin A, Obagi and good anti-oxidants. Another good (pricey and SMELLY) product that works is TNS recovery complex.
JC, Chicago: Contrary to your findings, I've used StiVectin for 2-3 yrs and it DOES work for me.
Cynthia Pike-Fuentes: I LOVED your article today and it could not have been more timely. Just this morning, I was wondering if the $100 bottle of Skinceuticals firming cream really did more than the Olay Regenerist or the Revlon with botafirm or the Roc "serious wrinkle" cream (not that any of them did much). A couple of months ago, Fox Chicago did a comparison between Roc and La Prarie (about $200) and two out of the three testimonials said La Prairie did a better job (and it sure looked that way on camera!) So I suppose I'll keep trying. Like you, being an "aging" (and I can barely admit that) Baby Boomer in a youth obsessed culture is quite a challenge. I am 46 and have two children, ages five and three. And I will NOT allow anyone to think that I am a young grandmother! So the quest in haircolor, anti-aging serums and a good diet and exercise program continues. I look forward to your future columns.
Ann Baker: I enjoy you column - you remind me of one of my high school friends - a compliment! Anyhow, this week's was very interesting. Women of all generations have spent inordinate amounts of money and time fighting the natural aging process. There is so much money to be made with the "I deserve to have it all" Baby Boomers it is frightening. I was blessed to have grown up knowing my grandmother and mother who both embraced aging as a god-given, hard earned time to reap the benefits of a life well lived. Neither wore makeup except on special occasions, both lived the "everything in moderation" credo, and used common sense for every decision. They were spiritual, funny and lots of interests to keep them busy. Everyone commented on how beautiful they were - their inner beauty radiating. Granted, I wish my mother was a little better about explaining some things (shaving legs, tampons, etc) but I realize as I head into my 42nd year (and am struggling with the hair coloring decision) and my shelves are not lined with age-defying lies that hopefully I will slip through middle age and beyond eating right, doing yoga, enjoying life and hope for the best! PS. I was carded at Dominick's a few weeks ago! - although my husband, always the skeptic, questioned the IQ and visual abilities of the person.
Eric Smith, Chicago: I use Iman skin care products daily to maintain my youthful look. She has a multi-step program that includes a soap, toner and moisturizer. And I have to say, it keeps me looking 7-10 younger than the rest!
From Ellen: I usually don't post obviously commercial pitches but thought these two were worth telling readers about in case they want to branch out in your search for the Fountain of Youth.
Linda M. Davis: Wheaton, Ill. Found your article on age-defying products very informative. Seems to be all the rage lately. I am a Skin Care Consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics and wondered if you have had the pleasure of experiencing our age-defying skin care products? The Mary Kay experience is designed for each product to work together with each other. Reasonably priced, our program is a PH-balanced one that is quick and easy with wonderful results. Of course, consistency is necessary. Even the overnight miracles need to be repeated every day! Once in the habit of the Mary Kay routine, you will be very pleased. We can say that because if you are not completely satisfied, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee. I am trying to make this short...I am sure you are receiving lots of e-mails. I would like to add that I am 53 years old and have used Mary Kay Cosmetics since I was 28! People have never guessed my age correctly. I am faithful to my program and because of that I feel I am fighting the aging process every inch of the way! If you are have tried Mary Kay in the past, but just wasn't completely convinced, please give it another chance. Our program has changed dramatically in the past few years. Our products are better than ever and easier to apply. Whether is be wrinkles, or just needing a special 'glow', we have something for everyone. My daughters are ages 24 and 11 and they are both Mary Kay girls with beautiful complexions. My website: www.marykay.com/lindadavis
Lynn Quinn: Good morning Ellen- I enjoy reading your column. I especially enjoyed todays column on miracle anti-aging products.... I have to share a secret with you.....Arbonne International is the way to turn back time!!! You should try it. I swear by it, as do my customers. The NutriminC RE9 contains antioxidants like Vitamin C. It also has Alpha Lipoic Acid, Kojic Acid, Copper, Peptides, Alpha And Beta Hydroxy acids. Ingredients that work and you can visibly see a difference. It is also reasonably priced, botanically based, with a nice smell of Vitamin C...no fragrance or chemicals! Consultant, Arbonne International, 630-961-1622, www.Arbonne.com
Shop Happy! EW
March 20, 2006 12:41 PM CST: What's Cookin? Lovin' it! Thanks to all of you readers who are picking up on my passion for saving money. Responding to the on shopping for cooking gear with Scylla restaurant's chef /owner Stephanie Izard, I got some good tips on bargain shopping. Plus...other kitchen tips. Read on:
Toni Vacca: We have a great le creuset outlet store here in Wisconsin at Prime Outlets (not very far from Chicago). They have seconds as well as first quality goods, with an extra discount if you buy 5 or more pieces (they count a lid as a seperate piece). I got a wonderful dutch oven there for a great price. Added bonus; they sell the best cork screws I've ever used. I get them as an add on present to a bottle of wine. For more info check out this cookware outlet website.
Diane Minarik : I love your weekly adventure; I learn something new all the time. You also perform a real service for those of us who enjoy shopping at "non-chain" stores. Concerning hot-air popcorn poppers: Jewel food stores also carried them as recently as two years ago when my sister and I purchased them. (They may still carry them, but then again, I'm not on the lookout for them now). If I'm too lazy to pull out the popper, I've found a quarter cup of popcorn in a brown paper "lunch" size bag, in the microwave on "high" setting for about 3 minutes (you must watch it like a hawk) will also produce pretty good results. Shop Happy! EW
February 27, 2006 3:04 PM CST: Shop 'til you drop Readers who--like me--had shopped for bargain caskets responded to my column on with suggestions of their own. Here goes:
Diana Gadek : I purchased a beautiful cherry-wood casket from Monastery Caskets, located in Bridgeport (Chicago). I found their site on-line. Their showroom is at the monastery, their delivery is free and it was delivered to the funeral home within 2 hours of purchase. One of the delivery persons was a Benedictine monk! The best part was the wonderful experience my sister and I had purchasing the casket for our deceased mother. Also, the monks sent us a sympathy card and will pray for our mom. The caskets are hand-made by the monks and are available in various woods and stain.
Connie Witkowski: In your search for caskets, you may wish to consider a Trappist casket made at the New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa. The high quality caskets are made out of wood in walnut, oak or pine. http://trappistcaskets.com/products.asp and http://www.newmelleray.org/ are the sites to look on. We have been to the Abbey, discovering it once while going on an adventure and also recommend a visit there. Shop Happy! EW
February 16, 2006 10:07 AM CST: Valentine's Gift Ideas Stir Readers' Ire When i was writing about , it never crossed my mind that readers would take me to task on the subject of adultery. I was suggesting presents for a whole range of Valentine's--somebody you're about to dump, a longtime honey, a mistress or paramour, etc. This prompted a good-natured exchange with
Millicent Millner who wrote, "You might not be endorsing adultery, but to suggest spending $59 for the bargain price on your lifelong partner and $1200 on your mistress?? Ouch!" She's absolutely right. I suggested sale-priced cashmere sweaters for your squeeze of many years and absurdly ovepriced overnight bags from Louis Vuitton for the trysters. So, let's hear it for fidelity! And, I wholeheartedly endorse lavish spending--Tiffany's anyone?--on the man or woman who has stood by you through the years. Then came this
e-mail spanking from
Pat Sirchio: "Ellen, enjoyed reading your article this morning 'How do I woo thee?' until I got to the part 'for mistresses and paramours.' Yes, I know they exist but did you have to put suggestions for jerks who play around? Have you any idea how hurtful infidelity is? I have witnessed my friends marriages and families breaking up over unfaithful husbands, leaving them with the kids and bills while they spent so much money on the girlfriend. I know you meant it light heartedly, but I fail to see any humor in it at all. By the way, where was any reference to wives? Oh, I guess it's on page 6, just above romantic suicide. How about next time giving spouses ideas to warm up the old flame, like kindnesses, and little sweet efforts to show how much love their still is in their marriage?" In my defense, I also suggested that you buy your longtime partner an iPod and download some really wonderful romantic tunes. My choices (thanks to my spouse who knows his love songs!) featured Chicago artists singing world-class melodies: /i> How Deep is the Ocean? ( Irving Berlin) Artist: Audrey Morris, acc. by Joe Vito, from "Round About" (Fancy Faire) The Very Thought of You (Ray Noble) Artist: Kurt Elling, from "This Time It's Love" (Blue Note) Lucky To Be Me ( Betty Comden- Adolph Green- Leonard Bernstein) Artist: Jackie Allen, from "Never Let Me Go" (Lake Shore Jazz) Two Sleepy People (Frank Loesser- Hoagy Carmichael) Artist: Frank D'Rone, from "After the Ball" (Verve) And one more recommendation that I should have put in the paper for your long-suffering spouse: A sweet, handwritten note telling your beloved why you still adore him/her is the best present of all. And it doesn't cost a thing. Shop Happy! EW
February 1, 2006 12:03 PM CST: Skin dry as the Sahara?
Man is there a lot of scaly Komodo dragon skin out there in the world! And lots of good reader suggestions for other things to try to ease dry skin--beyond those I wrote about in my recent of lotions and potions. Glad to pass along a whole slew of good ideas. Jo-Ann Jahant, Winnetka: I read every word of your article from Jan. 26. An interesting observation: My husband (86 years old) has terrible excema and I have been trying different lotions over the past few years. This year is particularly bad and it's curious as it has not been a cold winter. I have been using the Eucerin you picked as Best Bet on his legs and arms. I looked on the ingredients listing and it does not contain percatolatum that Dr. Sharma recommends. So I'm switching to Vaseline Intensive Care Fragrance Free and will see if that helps my husband. I also have excema but not quite as bad as he does. I've been using Vaseline Intensive Care Fragrance Free and it's been keeping my scratching at bay. An additional question: I'm allergic to all fragrances (with the exception of Carmex which I love). Does the Heel Rescue, Superior Moisturizing Foot Cream that you recommend as Best Bet for Feet have a fragrance? I've spent so much money on foot creams that I can't use because of the smell. I have to buy them to open the package. Thanks. P.S. Pretty Feet is still the Best Bet for me. It's a great sloughing agent and the smell is not attrocious. Jo-Ann Jahant Winnetka, IL Starwhite2@aol.com Barbara Porter: Great topic! And much needed! I thought, perhaps, however, that you had the experience I have had of looking for things at Walgreens. I find so many private label creams and lotions it is difficult to find what I am most pleased with: Vaseline in a tube and Vaseline "Deep Moisture" Creamy Formula. The first is Vaseline that is easy to use since it comes from a tube. It can be used without digging fingernails into it -- great for bedtime or for putting on feet, or anywhere. It's not at all like digging into a jar! The second is white and creamy and seems to do a very good job -- good for daytime (or bedtime). It "heals severely dry skin, gives 18 hour moisturization, is fragrance free, and has Vitamin E". These are both inexpensive and seem to do a great job. I don't have any interest in this company, just thought you might like to look them over. Thanks for the interesting column! Paul Woelbing, Carma Laboratories, Inc.: Thanks very much for the nice mention. In addition to thanking you I wanted to let you know that we also make two stick forms of Carmex with SPF. The first has an SPF of 15 and the second has a peppermint flavor and SPF 30. My grandfather was the inventor of Carmex. One of the things that he stressed was the importance of answering every letter that we receive which I do personally. For a number of years we had been receiving two requests %u2013 one for the addition of sun screen and the other for a stick so we combined the two and came up with what we call the click-stick. The reason that we call it this is because we noticed that in other stick products a tendency for the product to inadvertently "screw up" and stick in the cap when carried in a pocket. To correct this we have added a "click" or detente to prevent any unwanted movement. Walgreens Drug Stores which is one of our oldest business partners carries all four forms of Carmex: original jars, squeeze tubes, click sticks with SPF 15 and the peppermint flavored sticks with SPF 30. Noelle Snow, Deerfield, Ill.: Having super dry skin myself I found this week's column especially interesting (I burst out laughing about the Bag Balm). My baby has inherited my very dry skin and so far we have used Eucerin (works OK), Aquafor (does work really well at night but it is the consistency of Vaseline and feels icky on your hands after applying it) and now our pediatrician has recommended Vanicream (1 lb jar is $12). She says it's behind the counter at the pharmacy, not on the shelf... not sure why. We haven't tried it yet, but the price doesn't seem too bad. I also noticed they carry a lip balm - Vanicream Lip Protectant SPH 30 $4.49. Personally I have been really happy with Blistex Complete Moisture with also has a SPH - 15 I believe. Margaret Bassett: I enjoy your Thursday shopping features. I like to use cocoa butter and my children seem to tolerate it(no alcohol sting). I was also a big fan of Burt's Bees lip balm, until I realized it had comfrey as an ingredient. (I even called corporate headquarters, and they were rather glib about it.) I have switched to Aveeno positively radiant lip enhancer. It does a good job of moisturizing, I'm not sure about "enhancing." Jahn Andrews: Hi Ellen! I work for Beiersdorf, the makers of Eucerin and Aquaphor. If you enjoy the Eucerin Plus lotion, you might like to try the Eucerin Plus hand creme and foot creme. They all contain sodium lactate to exfoliate and urea to moisturize. The composition is different for each to enhance the body part that they affect. We also make an ointment called Aquaphor that is fabulous for dry lips, minor cuts and burns, diaper rash and any cracked skin. Love hearing about your shopping expeditions. I am an avid shopper and look forward to your column each week. Janice Sachen: Read your article in the paper and want to tell you about a great product that you overlooked. I have very sensitive skin. A friend turned me on to Udderly Smooth, similar to udder balm (Bagbalm) but not as greasy. It comes in lotion and cream form. It has a light fragrance, goes on smoothly and is readily absorbed without leaving your skin greasy. I first bought it at Walgreens in a 2 oz tube for $4.00 (it comes in spotted cow packaging just like Gateway computer packages) and found it in the body lotions section. Then I found it at -- of all places --Menards Hardware in both the lotion and cream version, larger versions for less money. Seems as though contractors like it too because it works well and doesn't have a strong fragrance. You can also purchase it on-line. I keep the lotion in the kitchen and the cream in my bathroom and in the bedroom. It even works wonders on my exzema since one of the primary treatments is to keep the skin moisturized. It's great! Jim Wilson, Chicago: I was just wondering if you considered Archipelago Botanicals' Soy Lotion Milk when doing your piece for Thursday's Trib? If you haven't tried it, it's available at Mertz Apothecaries on Lincoln, or in the Mertz section of the downtown Marshall Field's. It feels wonderful, and leaves no residue on the skin at all. The aroma is pleasant and unobtrusive. Barring evidence to the contrary, I know of no better hand lotion, and I know people who use it as a whole-body lotion. Shop Happy! EW January 26, 2006 5:52 PM CST: Readers fave products for dry skin Gretchen Patti: $75 for a bottle of "hydrating" olive oil?? Please. The best moisturizer I ever tried is plain old olive oil. As long as it's nice & fresh, the scent is wonderful. Pour a little into your palm and smooth it on - face, hands, wherever. The texture is silky & luxurious, and the price is right! Of course, you'll want to tissue off the excess... For the very best results, slather it on at night after a nice warm shower, massage it in, and then go to bed all slippery. In the A.M., the slipperiness is gone, and you'll be astonished at the supple, velvety texture of your skin! Here's a kicker - King David commended olive oil as a cosmetic! Psalm 104, verse 15: "...olive oil to make the face shine..." Now THAT'S product placement.
Ellen replies:Although my husband makes huge jest of it, I use extra virgin olive oil on my dry, curly hair. It helps and the price is right! My spouse says,"Why don't you throw a few croutons in there?" But seriously, I have heard it does great things for the skin too and that Mediterranean women have know this for ever....Ditto, apparently King David. The olive oil smell does bug me and I buy concentrated scent (Tatine on West Division St. has a good selection) and throw a little in the bottle or the Misto (a oil sprayer customarily for salads but I use it on my hair...buy them at Bed Bath & Beyond etc.) and its great. Thanks for writing. EW Lisa Cepolski : After reading your article on saving winter skin this morning, I had to drop a note about my favorite body moisturizer. I can't remember if you are a chocolate fan or not but I found a shea butter concoction that smells like chocolate/cappucino/vanilla/Christmas holiday scent. It's Tree Hut Brazilian Nut Shea Body Butter, found at Ulta. It's the thickest I've found and it works great on hands and feet. It's a very unique scent that I can't quite describe and its about $7.00 for a 7 oz tub. It also comes in Coconut Lime and Mango scent but the Brazilian Nut is my favorite. My hands still smell like it the next morning! Also love the basic Ulta lip balm that's about $2.00, lasts a long time but no sunscreen! It came in Hot Cocoa and Peppermint scent over the holidays, of course loved the Hot Cocoa! No, I don't work for Ulta! , as a SAHM of 2 boys I've got to do all my "beauty shopping" at one place and Ulta is very convenient for me. By the way, love your shopping column every Thursday! It's a great coffee companion before the kids get up! Lee Katman: the BEST lip balm is Karite Lips Available at Whole Foods (and other places I am sure) Cheryl Dohrmann: My skin is extremely dry and I have 2 products to recommend. Years ago my dermatologist said Cetaphil was great for dry skin. He was absolutely right. I buy it at Cosco for about $12 for 20oz. and my husband and I can use it for months before we run out of product. It goes on lightly and there is no fragrance. The second product I use for my feet. It is Burt's Bees Foot Cream. Right after I take a bath I scrub my heels with an emery file and then apply the cream. It really helps. I thought the article was really informative. David Andrews: %u2026 I had always suffered from itchy skin from allergies and sun exposure until about 20 years ago when I found the Kiss My Face line of products (available at Whole Foods)-- using the Olive Oil soap and the Olive & Aloe moisturizer, I can abuse my skin (I live on Gages Lake in Lake County and spend lots of free time on the lake or in my yard lawn tending) with NO ill effects at all. (I am 74.) Camille Blachowicz: Ellen,Ellen,Ellen, I enjoy your column but you really missed the best for dry skin, Neutrogena Body Oil. This oil (non scented or lightly scented) goes on after bath or shower and is somehow NOT greasy. You can also put it in tub water and I also put it on at night before I go to bed and give it a little buff before slipping into the sheets. I am a woman of a certain age and am continually told by massage therapists, doctors, chiropractors, etc (not to mention my hubby) that I have the skin of a much younger woman. they are all converted!! It's also very inexpensive. Give it a try. Nicole Eagen, Blistex, Co.: Hi Ellen, You may want to work on your journalistic skills. Blistex, a Chicago based company wasn't included in your article 'Saving your winter skin.' Karin Matusiak, LaGrange, Ill.: Good morning, I just read your article about moisturizers and wanted to drop you a line. A month or so ago I came across a cream that is like nothing I (or my skeptical husband!) had ever thought existed. He has had a extremely itchy back for years and we have tried many different products in a many different price ranges and nothing seemed to work until now. The product that I am referring to is RevitaDerm. I was getting a manicure at my local salon and my manicurist was chatting about how they cannot keep the product in stock. Of course, I was skeptical but thought I'd give it a shot for my dry legs and my husbands back. After two days of using it neither one of us could believe the difference. My husband is not constantly itchy in the dry weather (we haven't used it during the summer yet) and my legs no longer feel the like sand paper. I haven't used it for over two weeks and the results are still amazing. I am not sure how to purchase this product other than through the business I did it through, however, if you are interested, I would be happy to pass on their information. I enjoy reading your column. Keep up the good work! Judy Frank: As I shrivel up like a prune in the winter and slather on too much goo (that doesn't work too well), I loved your article today. I do plan on purchasing the "best bet" products. However, you left out the face and hands. Mine could use help too. I am sure I am spending much too much on Georgette Klinger's products at around $50. I would love to find a cheaper product that does the trick, so maybe you could address this problem at another time. I would certainly appreciate it as I am sure your many readers would. Love your column. Judi M., Chicago: As far as lips go, Neosporin Lip Treatment. is the best for cracked and really terrible chapping. It does not contain an antibiotic---has vitamin E. olive oil, petroleum, cottonsead oil...has no smell, no taste and cleared my problem in a day. Rosemarie Getty, Libertyville, Ill.: Two years ago I bought a wonderful lip balm at the Museum Gift Shop in Olympic Village, Salt Lake City. I haven't found it in drug stores or sporting shops in the Chicago area,. It's called Pedro's LIP SCHIT - a sunscreen lip balm SPF 15. I have tried Burt's Bees & ChapStick, but LIP SCHIT is the best. I order the citrus flavor, which is not strong. At night I use Vaseline Advanced Formula Lip Therapy, which is slightly greasy, but feels great. Sandra Romashko, Wheaton, Ill.: I read with interest you article on dry skin creams in today's Trib. I have had dry skin all my life with complications from eczema as a child, and psoriasis in later life. So I have virtually tried almost everything that claimed to solve the problem. After much experimentation, I have found an inexpensive solution that really works, for me. I mix a jar of Vaseline (13 oz) with a tube of zinc oxide (2 oz). I do this in half batches, starting with a half full Vaseline jar in which I mix and store the concoction. An old table knife works extremely well for mixing the salve. This mixture is not as greasy as it sounds, and is quickly absorbed by the skin. I use it on my entire body except for my face and have no problems with chapped heels and elbows, my skin is smooth and most of my psoriasis is gone. I use it every night and after my morning shower when I am just going to knock around in jeans or sweats. If I plan to wear dressier clothes, I use Vaseline body oil after the shower. And by the way, I lived in Miami, Florida for 30 years and the sun, salt water, and salt air really make your skin dry. Laurie Drew: Love your articles (the shoes!) and you really got the dry skin lotions correct. Wanted to let you know Eucerin also makes another product (an ointment rather than lotion, so maybe that is why it did not get a mention) called Aquaphor Healing Ointment. Some might think it on the 'thick' side, but on your feet, overnight (socks recommended) it's works wonders. Auqaphor has no fragrance, so even my husband and son use it! I also love Neutrogena Body Oil, the original light sesame formula. Right out of the shower, your skin will feel like silk and smell delicious. I even like this one in the summer. Looking forward to next week - Ed, Southern Ill.: Thanks for the tips. I get a terrible *ankle/lower calf itch*. I try to find things with Aloe in it. Walgreen's Vitamin E with Aloe Vera Skin Oil works for me. A little dab'a do ya. One thing you probably should have mentioned. Humidity.......I have an analog and digital humidity indicator in the house. The digital has a little smiley face/frownie face that trips to frown at anything below 45%. I use a water humidifier (24/7) from Sears in the center of the house in addition to the one built in the furnace. The one in the furnace (and its a quality unit) just will not keep the humidity above 45%. If the outside temp gets above 50 I also open the house briefly and dump all that stale air through an attic fan. It is a real hassle but those are things that can be showstoppers for dry skin itch. By and large it seems like Walgreen's carries some good products. Felice Shiroma, Chicago, Ill.: Thanks for the article on keeping yr skin moisturized. I highly recommend Lotil cream for those painful skin cracks you get around your fingernails. (available from Vermont country store catalog). Barbara Jarrett: I went through the great hunt myself a couple of years ago. I noticed my choice wasn't on your list at all. I use Gold Bond Ultimate. It's the best stuff I've found and at around 10:00 a bottle is worth every penny. It's great! And it never leaves my skin feeling greasy. I swear by this stuff and I tried most of the so-called best ones out there on the advice of my doctor. Eucerin...*ewww* and *yuk*. That was on my doctor's advice. That stuff was flat out nasty and left me feeling sticky and greasy. It was also very difficult to apply even to wet skin. I had to rub so hard it was causing additional irritation. I also like Wal Mart's brand that's equivalent to Lubriderm. Not for the hands though except at night as it is a bit greasy. But it's ok for skin that isn't in dire shape. But I swear by the Gold Bond. It works and works for a long time. You're not constantly reapplying it. Most moisture treatments leave me feeling dry again after several hours, especially my legs right after shaving. But the Gold Bond stays there and stays working. It's great! Jane M. Kaup: Ellen: just read your article on Saving Your Winter Skin and felt I must tell you the best way to have smooth, silky, shiny skin. I had dry (pale Irish) skin for years until I discovered Cetaphil Moisturing Cream in the white and green plastic jar. It works miracles and all my friends have become addicted to it as have I. You must put it on immediately after you jump out of the shower and towel dry. The best deal on it is at Costco for I think $9.99 for a 20oz jar. It is not greasy, does not leave a film, is fragrance free and your legs in particular will be silky and shiny. When I went for my annual physical in the middle of Winter my doctor was so impressed with my moisturized skin that he now keeps a jar of Cetaphil in his office to suggest it to patients who complain about dry skin. My nail technician swears by Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Foot Cream so I started using that at night and sometimes in the morning if I am wearing trouser socks. My feet are like satin. Same for you hands at nite - the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. Hope this helps in your search for smooth skin products. Oh, and the best cure for those cracks in your fingers - Super Glue! Works like a charm.
December 23, 2005 4:57 PM CST:
Wake planned for New Year's Eve as reporters mourn the death of Chicago's fabled City News Bureau
THIS JUST IN... Services for Chicago's City News Bureau, the 115-year-old wire service that was the starting point for hundreds of American journalists, will be held New Year's Eve in the Billy Goat Tavern, lower Michigan Avenue and Hubbard Street. The wake begins at 8 p.m. Arrangements are being handled by Paul Zimbrakos, CNB editor; Sam Sianis, Billy Goat propietor,and Bernard Judge, former City News editor. All present and former CNB staffers are welcome, along with spouses and friends. First drink is on the house for those who can prove they were part of the finest journalistic training ground ever devised. CNB ceases operation at 12:01 a.m. January 1, 2006. If you need more information--really, the above is everything you need to know-- you can call Bernie Judge at 312-644-7006.
December 16, 2005 2:39 PM CST:
Remembering City News
Here's a sample of the recollections from across the land from alums and friends of the City News Bureau of Chicago. Keep them coming to email@example.com and I'll post them as they come in. Kelly Scala Langan , Pursuit Manager ,Marketing & Business Development - Midwest Deloitte Services LP, Chicago, CNB 1994-1998: There were so many great memories at City News Bureau, it's hard to pick just one. Here are a few greatest hits: 1. I was covering a serious fire in Rogers Park and the Fire Department spokesman on hand told me that one of the victims was "Code Black" - aka dead. I later found out from the hospital that the victim had, in fact, improved from dead to "fair condition." 2. While working the second shift at 11th and State, I was phoning in reports about a fatal fire in a small south suburban town with a volunteer fire department. Dan Haar was managing the desk at the time and commanded me to ask the head of the volunteer group "if they even tried to save the victims." I was panicked, but still asked the question. 3. I covered the Betty Loren Maltese primary campaign victory and requested an interview with the incumbent Town President. I was told to hold on and that I would be notified whether my request would be granted. Later, a large gentleman let me know that I was in luck and escorted me to the coat closet at the banquet hall - a fully made-up Betty was waiting for me inside. I wasn't sure whether I was going to be let out of the closet after the interview.
Barry Felcher, Michigan City, Ind.: Of all the coroner cases I worked on at City News during 1966 and 1967, one stands out. The case was given to me by Dornie as female baby, fall. He added the address on the North side. I called the mother from the East Chicago Av. police station. She explained that she had left her baby on the upper floor back porch, then went into the kitchen to cook. The baby then managed to crawl through the wooden slats in the porch and fall t her death. The story doesn't have any unusual twist or kicker. After all these years I can still remember the family's name and how the mother sounded on the phone. I remember saying to myself, 'What am I doing in this business.'
December 12, 2005 2:58 PM CST:
Deborah Lowe, Professor of Marketing, San Francisco State University: I started at City News Bureau in 1968, out of college with a year TV experience, but nothing prepares you for the first months doing police reporting out of 18th district. We were paid 90 dollars a week to not only cover murders, rapes and robberies but also courts. The first day on the job, the person who trained me taught me to get to the court shortly before noon so the Judge in charge would buy any reporter there a sandwich. We were so poor, all of us lived for ways to make ends meet. After covering 18th district for three months, the cops discovered I waited for the bus to take me down to 188 W. Randolph street in the morning and they would stop and pick me up and take me down there saving me a quarter for the bus ride. After arriving in a paddy wagon one morning, when I got upstairs, Larry Mulay said, "are we not paying you enough money to take public transportation? I saw you getting out of a paddy wagon?" I told him that "no, he wasn't paying me enough money." So he told me he would give me a ten dollar raise if I would stop using police cars like a taxi. I took it, but then had to stop the cops from waiting outside to give me a ride back. Mulay said it gave the wrong image for city news. It was fourth area homicide that was the real lesson in reporting. Dornie had me go in to get a story from an old homicide detective that hated city news reporters. The detective literally threw me out of his office three times. I finally called Dornie and he told me to go back in and tell the detective we would do an empty chair interview. That is where we put a chair in front of the person's door and then ask the chair questions that do not get answered but make the person look bad. The detective caved and I got the story. City News Bureau was an education. The cops would try to lure you out with fake stories. One favorite was to let the "new" city news reporter overhead a story about a head that was found with no body. I didn't fall for it but a lot of people did. It was the best reporting experience that prepared you for almost any story. I went on to become Westinghouse Broadcasting's first woman anchor at WOWO radio, and a national correspondent for them for the Patricia Hearst trial in San Francisco. At that trial I met an old city news reporter who was working for a wire service. I said to him, "still using that fake police badge?" He grinned and said, "yeah and you are the only one crossing my path getting the same information." We both did very well with what we learned at City News. It helped get me promoted. In the following years as I moved from reporter to anchor to news director. I was news director at KYA and the ABC owned and operated station KSFX in San Francisco. I went on to get a doctorate in business and now teach graduate Internet Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations at San Francisco State University. Although I changed fields, I do not regret a moment of a 15-year career in journalism and broadcasting that I would not have had without the training I got during the year I spent at City News Bureau. The news of it being closed down gave me a feeling of profound sorrow and regret that other people will not get the chance to learn how "real" hard news is covered%u2026I often thought we should have paid them to do it after I got into education. Maybe that's what they should do in the next incarnation. Open it up as a reporting school and charge money to have people do the same thing.
December 8, 2005 5:57 PM CST:
Jim Ascher, CNB 1955-56: I was at City News 1955-56, which I left to join ABC-TV. I went on to the Foreign Service (USIA) in 1962 (quite willingly seduced by the then irresistible Kenney edy/Murrow combination), had two initial assignments in Vietnam (Hue/Saigon) then numerous others overseas and in Washington DC before retiring in 1982. I then went to law school and have been practicing law in Washington State ever since. My City News experience was pivotal (hired by the legendary Issac (Ike) Gershman), at a time when I didn't know what to do with my life. My City News experience both decided me and well prepared me for what came after. What a pleasure it is to read all the recollections of so many who served long after my time.
Kareesa Wilson, New City News, 1999-2001: Nothing could have prepared me for city news. I reported for my first day of work with only two years at a very small Wisconsin daily under my belt, no college education. I'd grown up in a town of less than 10,000 and made the leap to Chicago to work for city news. Talk about trial by fire. It poured rain my first day of work, I didn't know where to park, so I wound up walking blocks in the rain, arriving soaked. It didn't faze Paul Zimbrakos, or Woody Hoffmann. I don't think anything would have fazed them. Paul just looked up, a little amused, his mustached twitched, he gave me directions to police headquarters at 11th and State, and sent me on my way. I hated city news for months, then thrived on it. It was either sink or swim.... no sliding by, no excuses. The "Desk" did not suffer fools, or incompetents, gladly. City news was my education. Better than college. I learned .... do it right the first time, flowery writing belongs in a garden, today's triumphs are forgotten tomorrow, work hard, live poor, laugh a lot, hang up the phone without saying goodbye, the morgue guys are the best show in town at around 5 a.m. (as long as you bring them donuts), doing the Daybook puts Dante's "Inferno" to shame, and city news reporters don't get sick. City news was one of the few places left where a person like me with no college education had a chance to learn on the job. At city news, a college education was an accessory, not a necessary. It was a level playing field: everyone started a rookie, left a veteran. Thanks for everything.
December 8, 2005 11:47 AM CST:
Jason R. Meisner, New City News reporter, 2002 - "the end": I knew I was in for it during my second interview with (Bureau Chief) Paul Zimbrakos, when he looked up from my resume, crooked an eyebrow, and said, "So, you've never covered any hard news?" I was a bit flabbergasted, since my resume detailed my experience as a grad student covering hearings at 26th and California, the transportation beat, and Jesse White's victory in the 1998 primary for secretary of state. I pointed all of this out to Paul, only to have him chuckle and say, "That's not hard news." I thought he was wrong, but accepted the job when he offered. Less than a month later, there I was on my first big scene as a City News reporter, snot streaming from my nose, my hair whipped into a ridiculous poof, clutching a notebook in freezing fingers and trying to gather information about a 30-foot stretch of scaffolding that had blown off the Hancock Tower and crushed several cars on Michigan Avenue. Three women were dead. The wind was blowing 70 mph-plus and the temperature was dropping by the second. Thousands of people were watching as firefighters cut the victims from the flattened cars and 60 floors up the remnants of the scaffold were still twisting and smashing out windows. I guess I learned that day what hard news really is. Where else but City News could I have been working as overnight editor when a tip came in that construction equipment was moving on Meigs Field? I'll never forget taking the dictation from my reporter, Peter Beller, who had scaled a fence at Monroe Harbor and was screaming into his cell, "I see backhoes and bulldozers%u2026They're tearing up the runway!" The stories and experiences are gold. My thanks to Paul, (City Editor) Woody Hoffman, Wayne Klatt, Gary Meacham, and every other City Newser who taught me what I could never have learned in J-school.
John Schmid, Economics Writer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CNB 1985-1988: Many of these names are familiar, their sentiments, too. My feelings echo Adam Weintraub, who I knew from the CNB graveyard shift, who wrote: "I still use what I learned at City News every single day." It's not only the skills I learned but the love of the trade.
December 7, 2005 12:26 PM CST:
Bob Roberts, of WBBM Newsradio, Chicago, known as Bob Rodenkirk at City News, 1974-1977: How many broadcasters do you know who ask the spellings of names, who need to know whether that address is a street or avenue, or who try to find out what a crime victim's parents did? It's part of my mantra, and it's my City News training. It was two years, nine months and two weeks of occasional joy, great coworkers (heck, Maury Possley was one of my editors!) and almost constant terror interspersed by moments when I thought maybe Dad was right and that I should have tried law school despite a sheer loathing for the clerking I'd done at times during college. Today, I wouldn't trade my City News experience for anything. I was the last City News reporter to be hired by Larry Mulay and the first to start working under Jim Peneff. The first week, when they took me around and showed me the beats to which I could aspire before relegating me to midwatch police duty, was actually fun. Mike Powers was the criminal courts reporter, and he had me sit in with him on a hearing in which the defense attorney (I believe it was Rick Halprin) argued that his client was subjected during questioning to cruel and inhumane treatment, and was even denied food. An officer took the stand and testified that he had personally given the prisoner White Castle hamburgers. By the time it was done, Chief Judge Richard Fitzgerald had ruled that "sliders" did not constitute food. I thought I was going to love the job. Then, in the first hour of my first day going solo, a police officer was gunned down on my beat. His name was Robert Strugala. It was a Sunday in June of '74. The gunman killed Strugala and wounded his partner before officers who heard the gunfire and saw the partner fall onto the street came to their aid. He'd only been on the job for a year. I remember dashing down the stairs from the license unit at Maxwell Street station and heading to the scene with a grinding feeling in my stomach. I must have looked like a cop, because I actually made it into the crime scene and talked with a witness before someone figured out I was a reporter and threw me out. That was fortunate, because no one else wanted to talk with me the rest of the day. My initial flush of success turned to frustration as the day wore on. Sure enough, the next day, I heard from Paul Zimbrakos for the first time, "But Bob..." I had come to City News with several professional journalism awards, won while working for the Daily Student and student radio at Indiana University, but by the end of my second day at City News going solo I wondered if I was really cut out for the job. Such was the frustration of breaking in at City News then, and I suspect, even today. It took me a month to not feel overwhelmed and three months to feel comfortable. By the six-month mark, I felt I had mastered the art. Many times since, I have counseled brand-new City News reporters to stick it out, no matter what, for at least six months, because it would be worth the questions and tirades from Paul. Many did. Some didn't. I certainly learned resourcefulness. There was the time that I ducked out early for lunch on one particularly slow night working the "Hyde Park" (south) police beat out of the Brighton Park station at Pershing and California when I walked over to the McDonald's on Archer for a burger, and spotted a tower of smoke as I came out with my bag of burgers. It was a two-alarm fire just off Archer. I grabbed the notebook out of my back pocket, found the battalion chief, and learned that he had just called in a 2-11 alarm. I dashed for the pay phone at the McDonald's and called the office immediately, in mortal fear that I'd be discovered. Midwatch editor Wayne Klatt was on the other end of the phone. He'd put out the bulletin five minutes earlier, chewed me out because I hadn't answered my phone in the license unit, and hung up -- before I could sputter anything about the details. I had to call him back (in that era, I was paid $120 a week and we only received $2 of expense money per day, so I tried to avoid using the pay phones) to let him know I had the story. Only after I gave him the facts did he reconsider having chewed me out. I told him I saw the smoke at Area 3 and dashed out the door. He told me to call before leaving next time. That was close. I remember watching President Nixon's resignation speech on the TV while working midwatch Central in the press room at 11th and State. The Trib's crusty police reporter, Joe ("I'm a personal friend of Clayton Kirkpatrick") Morang, proclaimed, "Those idiot liberals have just cost us the best President we've ever had, and one of these days they'll realize it." Sure enough, Wayne Klatt had me call around to police stations to see if any officers would comment on Nixon's resignation. Joe would buy us sandwiches from a bar on Wabash each night, so long as we picked up his sandwich as well. I never quite understood how Joe could call on the press room PAX line, pose as a police officer, pull it off and get a story when I'd call saying I was from City News and they'd say the detectives weren't back yet. I figured then that when I became experienced enough that I, too, would be able to use that charade. It certainly wasn't what I learned in journalism classes at Indiana and Northwestern. There were some who tried to hide the fact they could type from Paul so that they'd avoid teletype duty. After a gaffe on the radio desk, when I mixed up a defendant and a witness in one of my summaries, and had to put out a dreaded "City News regrets the error" three hours later after the threat of a lawsuit, I found myself on teletype for three weeks before Paul would trust me to work as a nightside cops reporter again. Those piano lessons as a kid saved my job. In the end, all was forgiven. I was given the job of midnight shift editor, which only proved one thing: I could type fast enough to do both my own rewrite and teletype, if necessary. And, as luck would have it, that's what happened. I was saddled with an overnight Central reporter who was also a full-time student and slept most of his shift. I knew it because we were getting scooped and I was catching hell again from Paul. I had worked hard to get back to the editor's desk after that demotion and I wasn't going to let it happen again. So, I deployed my rewrite guys, Kevin Boyd (he later won a Pulitzer in Florida, I think) and Michael Harrington (later a community activist), to rat the guy out. It took three weeks, but Paul eventually noticed that virtually all the overnight copy had Boyd and Harrington's names at the top of the page, and not the Central guy's. The Central guy had to find another place to sleep for pay. I see that another of my Central beat reporters, John Fennell, now has an endowed chair at Missouri. It's a great school, but I still say City News was the best journalism school you'll ever find. And you were paid, to boot -- just enough for beer after work, but that made what now seems strangely romantic to be tolerable. I was honored to be in the City News office at 35 E. Wacker Dr. when the last dispatch was sent early March 1, 1999, admitted because I was an alumnus. I'd lost my partner of 15 years to cancer six weeks earlier, and I wasn't sure which I would miss more. The "New" City News allowed broadcast newsrooms a false sense of security. Now we really will have to do it ourselves. Can those of us who once heard the mantra, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out!" teach it to others? Perhaps, but it won't be the same. Maybe Paul will retire. Maybe, if some newsroom is lucky, he'll go to work somewhere else. I'll hate having to compete against that newsroom. That will be the newsroom to watch. December 6, 2005 5:23 PM CST:
And these recollections...
Mike Kennedy, CNB 1979-83: Random CNB tidbits --My first week began with a visit to the Morris Fishbein Institute of Forensic Medicine, aka the morgue, and the smell lingers with me 25 years later. The week included a 30-minute conversation with a man who described in detail how his wife died of a drug overdose earlier that day, (The desk's reaction: "Cheap it out." Click.) and a debriefing with a group of homicide detectives who shared with me their rankings (and detailed rationale) of the various female City News cop reporters, including the one who was training me that day. The week ended on Navy Pier as a crush of reporters tried to listen to Bill and Walter interview former Mayor Mike Bilandic while Koko Taylor sang "The Thrill is Gone" a few hundred feet away on the ChicagoFest Blues stage. --My first weekend shift soloing as editor. Nothing much had happened overnight, so nearly two hours had gone by and I hadn't moved any copy. I was beginning to doubt whether I had what it takes to be an editor (copy, as it turns out). Finally the Central cops reporter calls in a pending ME case. (Can you tell the age of a CNB alum by whether they call them ME cases or coroner cases?) I think a guy died falling down the stairs The kind of story I cheaped out dozens of time during the week. But not that day. I told the rewrite that not every story is a blockbuster, and I really really would like a story before he went home. He wrote a six-line beauty (one of which was "The body was taken to the Fishbein Institute") and I was officially an editor. --Another weekend editing adventure: Persuading one of Chicago's Finest not to lock up one of my reporters. No Judith Miller/First Amendment battles; just a guy who was out at lunch and got too lippy with a cop after being pulled over for running a light. The reporter was looking at an afternoon in the 18th district lockup and I was imagining an uncomfortable call to Paul about bail money, but I talked the cop into putting the reporter on the phone, and summoning all the fake supervisory skills I had as a 22-year-old, scolded the reporter and made him apologize to the officer, who was listening on the extension. --True or not? Didn't happen to me, but an editor too eager to pass on chatter from the police radio, hops on the phone with this urgent information for the police reporter: "Dogs in the alley--no address." --One Saturday night I got a call from the guy working the midwatch desk He must have been too freaked out to call Paul, so he called me first. Mayor Byrne--he was pretty sure it was her, but this was so bizarre--she just called and said she is going to move into Cabrini-Green. Should we run it? I don't remember what I told him (probably something along the lines of "you better be sure that's it's really her"), but later that night driving (to a City News party), I had WBBM radio on waiting to hear something. Normally, City News gets no credit or mention for the hundreds of stories that were read on that and other broadcast outlets, but this one started: "Here's a strange story that the City News Bureau is reporting..." Well, they got that right. But it was accurate. --An accounting temp who did the CNB books for a while embezzled something like $30,000 and was charged in federal court. The guy pleaded guilty and at the sentencing, the judge took the opportunity to rip into City News for sloppy business operations. As I remember it, there were only two spectators in the courtroom--me and Bernie Judge, who was running CNB at the time. We went back to the press room, and as I dictated a story, Bernie paced in front of my desk, periodically interrupting, "You're putting that in?" To his credit, he let the judge's tongue lashing stay in ----I detected some coldness on the part of some of the rewrites those first few weeks. I initially attributed it to the gruff, boot-camp reputation I had heard about. Eventually one of them asked me the question: "Are you one of them?" One of whom? "The Kennedys." No, not those Kennedys. "Sorry. We thought you might have been." They still had a bad taste in their mouth from Bobby Shriver, who was one of those Kennedys and worked for City News for a suspiciously short time before the(Chicago) Daily News hired him (at a time when a direct pathway from CNB to the city's newspapers had mostly dried up). It was a good example of the chip on the shoulder that City News folks wore as a badge of honor--we got little pay, very few "attaboys, "no respect from cops, government officials, other reporters (except the few alums who knew what we did), but if you needed to find something out quickly and accurately, we were the ones who did it. A few years later, I was covering a mob trial in the federal court, and during jury deliberations, the New York Times guy, sounding like he had slept in, called in to the press room. Mike, what's going on?" Wouldn't you like to know? Some people never will.
December 6, 2005 10:38 AM CST:
Lee Vivanco, Reporter, San Bernardino Sun. New CNS 2000-2003: When I first heard about City News closing, my heart sank. Right above the computer screen in California where I read the news on-line was the famous City News mantra taped to my monitor: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Where else could a 23-year-old cover a presidential visit, talk about the Sox with Mayor Daley in the press room before a council meeting and rush to a 3-alarm fire all in the same week in her first job out of college? City News helped me discover how much I love being a city reporter. Editors Paul Zimbrakos and Woody Hoffman have molded me into the reporter I am today. Whenever I ask city officials now "How much will that cost?" and "How are you going to pay for it?" it's because that was pounded into my brain the first week I covered Chicago City Hall. I had that beat for two years and loved every minute of it. I felt honored to learn how to be an aggressive reporter from the Tribune's Gary Washburn, Sun-Times Fran Spielman, WBBM Bob Crawford, and WLS Bill Cameron. As a City Newser, you were prepared to write about anything and everything and go anywhere to get the story - that meant all over the city and at all hours. I'm privileged to have worked there and I still miss it.
Maurice Possley, Reporter, Chicago Tribune, CNB 1972-76: I echo all the comments about what a place it was to learn so much about how to report the news. My first story ever was on my first day on the job and I got the dregs from the reporter I was training with--Bob Margolis. It was a burglary in which a perpetrator had been caught walking out of a building with a tv in his arms. Of course, I thought it was pretty cool that the cops caught someone in the act and was revved up. Wayne Klatt told me to turn in my notes to Tony Campbell on rewrite. I was so proud of this story. It was August and the CNB offices at 188 W. Randolph St. were not air-conditioned. Campbell was working past his shift--without pay, I am sure. I could hear the typewriter keys clicking as I began to unload my notes. Then there was silence. I stopped and waited. Finally, an extremely agitated Campbell said in a voice so intimidating that I involuntarily leaned back from the phone in the pressroom at police headquarters, "So this is just a cheap burglary, right?" I gulped. "I guess so," I said. "But they caught the guy. In the act!" Campbell then unleashed a torrent of curse words that I could not have imagined and hung up. I was afraid to go home. CNB was the place where I called on a coroner case--a teenager whose body was found on one of the lower roof levels of the Conrad Hilton Hotel. It appeared to be a suicide. But I had to call just in case he was the son or relative of somebody important. I criss-crossed the address, got a phone number and called. A woman answered. "I am a reporter for City News Bureau and I am trying to get some information on (put a name here)," I said. "Oh," she said. "I am his mother. He's not home from school yet. Can he call you back?" I hung up the phone, preferring not to be the one to break the news. But this was the place where you figured out if you had the guts to ask questions that weren't going to be well-received and if you couldn't do it, well, then time to figure out another career. Two weeks later, another coroner case, this one a 40ish woman with a natural cause of death, but listed as an Italian restaurant on the South Side. I was on the mid-watch and I couldn't go home until I cleared this case with the desk. Kept calling and calling and finally, someone answers at the home of the dead woman. "Hang on a minute," a man said. A few seconds later, a man picks up the phone and identifies himself as the woman's husband. "I work for City News Bureau and I am looking for some information about what happened," I said. Long pause."She was a middle-aged housewife who dropped dead waiting in line for a pizza?" the man snarled. "Are you satisfied?" I, too, dreaded the scoop spike on the edge of Paul Zimbrakos's desk--the stories clipped out and pasted into one long stream with little red X-marks covering information that the competition had gotten that were not in my stories. And worse, then trying to figure out a way to do a second-day story to recover the information, some of it so seemingly so inane that I wanted to tear my hair out. CNB was where I misspelled the name of the wife of a Chicago Daily News editor when I wrote her obit. I thought Zimbrakos's eyes were going to bulge out of his head. It was where I learned that I had a heretofore hidden talent--I could run the teletype machine with very few errors. As a result, I spent nine months on the overnight shift and also learned the real meaning of the saying: "Never do a bad job well." I learned how to discipline myself, patience, and the art of dealing with cops, public officials, mourning relatives--the gamut. I learned to listen. There were exciting times. There was covering the federal court beat when there were three simultaneous trials--Tom Keane and Paul Wigoda, two of the elder Mayor Daley's pals, and Earl Bush, the mayor's press secretaary. There was covering a mob trial in which one of the defendants was Tony Spilotro (who with his brother, Michael, would later be murdered and buried in a cornfield in Indiana) and coming home from the trial after having moved to Oak Park and finding Spilotro sitting in one of my neighbor's back yard along with Joey "The Clown" Lombardo. I made friends for life. I learned I loved the business. There is hardly a day that goes by that something I learned at City News isn't put into play somehow in my work. Last year, my daughter, Maura, got hired at City News. I had encouraged her to apply, but said nothing to Paul. Sometime later, he stopped by my desk at the Tribune and said, "I am going to offer your daughter a job. But I want you to know you had nothing to do with it," he said. "And she is going to have to work nights.""I wouldn't want it any other way," I said. "I had to do it. Why shouldn't she?" I looked in the eye of the man I once feared like no other--a man I have come to love and respect, not for just what he did for me, but for all those who passed by his desk--and said, "Geez, Paul, I thought you were old when you hired ME."
December 5, 2005 11:36 AM CST:
Mike Furlong, CNB 1997-1998: I just learned about the death of the final incarnation of City News. My uncle Jim copied me on his e-mail to you recounting his experiences as a cub reporter at CNB in 1958%u2026 For me, CNB is a part of my family myth. It was the place that my grandfather started as a young man. My dad and his brothers all worked there. My parents met while working there. When I met a woman and followed her to Chicago, I went to work there -- by the way, she is now my wife. We now have two young children. I have to admit, it saddens me to think that a fourth generation of Furlongs won't gain the invaluable City News education. None of this is meant to imply that my sense of loss is unique. City News has been a unifying force in Chicago for a long time. Before the internet, City News made all of the information flying around the city digestible. In fact, it's ironic that the internet is even facilitating this cyber-reunion, because word on the street is that it killed CNB. Okay . . . enough of that. Here's my most vivid CNB story. I was working overnights at police headquarters on 11th and State. I lived up in Lakeview in a roach infested studio on Surf. I woke up and left for 35 E. Wacker about 11 p.m. As I walked out of my studio, I stepped across a pool of what appeared to be chocolate syrup. Thinking nothing of it, I eventually made my way to the press room at police headquarters. An hour or so later, I went down to check the dep sheet and noticed that a pizza delivery man had been attacked in my neighborhood. Upon closer inspection I realized the guy had been stabbed in my building . . . right outside my studio door. Despite having covered countless murders and seeing bodies being hauled into the Medical Examiner's office in the morning as I picked up the ME's report, the thought of this guy being stabbed right outside my door really creeped me out. I immediately felt a connection with him and anxiously called the hospital to check on his condition. Turns out he was fine. He drove his car back to the pizza store and called the ambulance himself. It was so cheap, I couldn't even get the night desk to run that story at 1:30 am. I thought the guy deserved at least one paragraph. Guess that's why I'm a lawyer now.
Jim Fisher, Palatine, Ill.: As one who was bitten by the journalism bug early in high school, but whose career took a very different path, a note of thank you is in order for your compilation of bits and bites regarding the now defunct CNB. As an early 'hanger on" at the old and now defunct Miami News (Cox), the reminiscences of the "Chicago's kids" closely shadowed my own memories and triggered a wonderful shot of nostalgia for the old joint back home.
Rob Furlong: I've been copied on numerous emails relating to the passing of CNB and am feeling a little like someone at a funeral who feels the call to jump up and say a few words after the formal eulogies. My "best" CNB war story is already documented -- by you in the Trib's 50th anniversary story. It was about having to go back to find out the name of the dog the young boy was chasing when hit and killed by a car on the near westside. The boy's family didn't have a phone so I had had to use the cross-reference to find a neighbor who would walk over and get the mother to the phone, from a block or so away. After losing an argument with the desk about the relevancy of the dog's name, and anguishing not a small amount, I finally just invented a dog's name. I couldn't take it anymore. I am sure that reporters who handled such stories fearlessly went on to become war correspondents. Mostly, I was terrified at city news. Terrified I wouldn't see the story, get the facts right, explain them very well, et al. opening the envelope of clips before heading over to city hall was as anxiety-producing as anything I have had to do on this earth. I finally bought a tape recorder and started recording the front page of the Trib every night in preparation for what I thought would be an easier way to exist in the world of news -- broadcasting. It worked and I got a job in radio news in Iowa. and I was correct -- the standards were precipitously lower than in print journalism -- and, I discovered I could say it a lot easier than I could write it. That leads me back to City Hall and having to dictate the daily story to the desk, often to a rewrite person named Sandy Dabovich, whom I later married and who endearingly called me "Furlong." She would often tell me to hurry up with my admittedly slow dictation, and then switch to the headphones on the desk behind her to take another story during my long pauses. Really boosted my confidence.
Alexandra 'Sandy' Dabovich Furlong, CNB 1968-69: I started at City News in April, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated and West side neighborhoods were in flames. I was making $75 a week. I sat at the copy boy's desk behind the pillar where the police radios squawked constantly. Jensen faced north with his back to the door, the PR department, and (top boss) Larry Mulay's office. Zimbrakos faced south with his back to the pillar, me and the sports department. I jumped every time someone yelled "copy!" I ran to pick up the book and deliver it to the desk. When the desk yelled "copy," I ran again, pulled the book apart, delivered the various copies to the radio desk, teletype, and the waiting places for the morgue copy and the beat reporter's copy for the next day. I ran for coffee. I was always frightened. I remember being in an elevator in the Civic Center building with Sheriff Joseph I. Woods and Royko's leg man, whose name I can't remember or never knew. Woods didn't like what Royko had written in his most recent column and told Royko's man he'd break both of his legs. I gasped and Royko's man laughed. Other things that frightened me: The federal building press room and Max Sonderby's absolutely inscrutable face; Harry Golden Jr. shouting at Jay McMullen in the City Hall press room because Jay had scooped him the day before; the AP and UPI reporter racing for the telephone during a break in the Chicago 7 trial - the UPI guy lost the race and broke his ankle. Sharon Illoway broke me in on the criminal court beat. She was showing me around the building and introducing me to people. After introducing me to the bailiff outside the grand jury room, he told her what the grand jury was working on. She went to a pay phone in a far corner of the building and called in the story. By the time we walked back to the press room, the story had gone out over the wire, crossed the Trib's city desk, and resulted in a tongue lashing for Bernie Judge, the Trib's criminal court reporter. He was furious with Sharon and let her know - in no uncertain terms. Sharon laughed and I gasped . Now I was even more frightened. At the end of the day, I got on a city bus near 26th and California and tried to pay my fare with a ten dollar bill. The driver looked at me like I was an idiot and told me he couldn't make change for a ten. I had to get off the bus and wander around 26th and California until I could find someone to make change for me, then catch another bus. Now I was really, really frightened. I went into Larry Mulay's office the next morning and asked him to put me on rewrite and leave me there. I loved being on rewrite. No matter how crazy the office got or how far behind I was, it wasn't as scary as being on the street. Well... it was scary to have Dornie call me to the desk by thundering "LADY!" because I knew I'd really messed up on something like spelling "paraphernalia" without that stupid "r" in the middle. Even so, it was never as scary as being on the street. I was pretty sure Dornie wasn't going to slug me, even if it sometimes looked like it. On the street, you were never really sure.... Pam Zekman once told me she couldn't see how I could stand working in the office. But I couldn't see how she could stand working in the Federal building, trying to figure out if Max Sonderby was about to scoop her. I remember Pam's calling in a story that she knew was full of holes. She asked me to hold onto it until Jensen went to lunch, which I did, and it slipped through. Other memories: going to Leo's Stage Door restaurant on Wells street after work to re-hash the day; getting a floor pass to the 1968 Democratic National Convention so I could get a close up look at Paul Newman; the way Gladys "Ruby Ryan" Wherity covered the mouthpiece of her headset when she called whoever she called to tell them the breaking news; Lynn Golden's coaching me to say I couldn't type, so I didn't get stuck on teletype, like she did; the story about the poor clown who cheaped out a coroner case years ago, only to find out the next day that the dead man had been on the infamous Black Sox team; having to take press releases from Leonard Sengali, the Blackstone Rangers PR guy, and sweating bullets to understand his ghetto accent; mob guys nick names (Tony 'Big Tuna' Acardo) and middle initials ( Richard J. Daley; Edward V. Hanrahan; Judge Julius J. Hoffman); the story about Vince Giorno impersonating an FBI agent to find out from the Secret Service when Lyndon Johnson was coming to town. I recently told the Vince Giorno story to a lady friend, who is on the bench in Tucson. She looked alarmed and said, "Isn't that unethical for a journalist to do that?" I paused, turned that over in my mind, and replied, "Geez, Sharon, I think it's a federal offense." I often think about City News because what I learned there has served me so well in everything I've done since. I'm a psychologist and used to do a wide variety of psychological evaluations in private practice. Now, I'm an itinerant rural school psychologist. I have a 'beat.' I drive around to all my little schools, where I've come to know all the players and the politics between them. I listen carefully. People come to trust me. When I need to find out information, I know how to generate and run down leads. I know how to call government offices and other agencies and keep going until I find the right person. I know how to chat with the person until I get what I need. I know how to interview, how to ferret out more information and check the details. I don't really believe anything anyone tells me. I always check it out. I know how to take the test data I've collected and weave it together with the interview data to write a 'psych report,' which is really the story of that person's life. I know how to write 'on deadline.' That always helps when the crunch comes. I can type like lightening with the thumb and first two fingers on each hand. I never write anything I can't support with hard data and/or two other sources. Everything I write has to pass the 'desk cross examination' test in my head. I know how to review, edit and rewrite my reports before I sign them. Mr. Jensen is right there in my head, telling me what doesn't read smoothly, what needs further explanation, and when a word isn't the right one. I've had people compliment me on my psych reports because they are clear and complete. At staffings, I know how to listen to what everyone has said, take notes, then generate a concise and accurate written summary, right on the spot. Everything I needed to know, I learned at City News Bureau. When Mike went to work at City News, Rob and I told him, "If you learn to do this job, everything else you ever do will seem easier." I am truly sorry that the next generation of Furlongs will not get to cut their working world teeth at City News. That is a huge loss. So, now, here's what I really want to know...did Vince Giorno really successfully impersonate an FBI agent, get Johnson's arrival information, and escape prosecution? Or is that an urban myth?
Ray Cortopassi, Anchor/Reporter, WRTV-TV, ndianapolis, CNB Reporter/Weekend Broadcast Editor 1993-94: Landing a job at City News was a plum, and every serious journalism student in Chicago knew it. Having the CNB stripe on your shoulder meant you were at least reliable in the trenches. Those of us lucky enough to get our start there were in for an education most of us hadn't bargained for. Some Things I Learned at City News (not all of them journalistically nutritional): *How to travel below! the city using Lower Wacker Drive. *To always bring an extra shirt in my car -- or alternately if I forgot one -- how to finish my shift covering a 3-alarm fire smelling like a boyscout on his third night of a campout. *How to organize my notes to minimize eardrum damage. *How to find a peaceful dignity on a police bench sitting next to a drunk who just relieved himself without bothering to get up. *How to roast hot dogs on a small charcoal grill delicately balanced on the grates of a fire escape -- and then how to discreetly dispose of the ashes (Had to work as a rewrite on Labor Day that year). *How to take criticism from an editor after crafting an expertly-written piece on Dan Rostenkowski that didn't have a quote until the eleventh paragraph. *How to make friends with cops. *How to understand the importance of a news story; its impact on the reader and the person you're writing about. *How to pop the clutch in moderate traffic after leaving the lights on! my car while parked at 11th & State. *The joy of hearing the story you just wrote, read word-for-word on news radio on the drive home. *How to appreciate the value of knowing nothing until you learned it at City News. Good night for the second time, City News. May you sleep well, knowing that to the generations of journalists you sent into the world, your death was not cheap.
December 2, 2005 6:55 PM CST :
Kevin Smith, CNB Feb. 1996 to May 1999: I spent almost three years as a Chicago Police officer, hearing gunfire and even squeezing off a few rounds myself, but I still think my most dangerous instant came carrying a City News notebook. Ronnie Fields, a high school guard who in 1996 had been compared to Michael Jordan in leaping ability and was considered the likely next preps-to-pro basketball player, had been involved in a car accident that left him wearing a halo to prevent movement to his fractured neck. The quirk here was that he was driving a car rented by a Farragut assistant coach and was apparently coming from the coach's suburban apartment, where he allegedly had been living. As the dayside north reporter, I was sent to the address the school board had for Fields, hoping to determine whether he really lived there or just had someone collecting his mail there so he could attend the same school that sent Kevin Garnett to the NBA the year before. I knocked on a few doors, getting nothing too interesting, and then stopped to chat with a couple of high school students shooting at a basketball hoop set up in the street. I was talking to one of them when a Pontiac Bonneville pulled up. In the back, a man in a red satin Budweiser jacket rolled down the window and, without glancing at me at all, asked the teenager, "Who's this?" As the words went through my ears, the thought that went through my head was very, very specific: I was going to be able to write a story about what it felt like when the bullet entered my side. I never felt scared, never had time to feel scared in fact. The teenager told the man in the red satin jacket that I was a reporter asking about Ronnie and the man swung his eyes to me for the first time. Concluding that only a reporter would be dumb enough to walk around the West Side in a white dress shirt and tie with nothing more dangerous than a pen and a pager, he nodded to the driver and Pontiac pulled away. I pulled away shortly afterward, going to Area Four headquarters and filing what I had. I was always amused by that brief thought process, one that associated a gunshot wound not with pain or fear, but with a journalistic opportunity. But then, that's really what City News Bureau was: A place that made you so scared of being wrong, being late or facing the question "Did you ask? that you never even considered being scared of anything else. PS - Ellen: Like you, I met my spouse in the CNB newsroom.
Todd Wilkinson, Bozeman, Montana, CNB 1985-1986: It is almost too daunting to write anything meaningful about a force that looms as large in your life as City News still does for me, without somehow trivializing the experience. Who among us wasn't profoundly affected? How could we not be?%u2026 I am in Montana now, still in the business, and I hope you don't mind me using this space to send along a hi-ya to my beloved colleagues who were at CNB during the mid 1980s, including the legendary scrivener-editor Paul Zimbrakos. Not long ago, a couple of us alums got together for beers in Bozeman and dreamed that another reunion might be held. Now that the demise is official, I hope that one last wake can be planned and include all of us. In the meantime, my thoughts of CNB will be dwelling in the memories of those many gatherings of colleagues at the Old Town Ale House, at 2:30 a.m., after midwatch ended, being joined by the aspiring Second City-ers, and staying there until dawn when someone put a quarter in the jukebox and Peggy Lee crooned "Is That All There Is?"
Mark Sokolowski, Asst. Mgr., AT&T Government Relations, CNB 1984-86: It was 1986 and I was on the "garbage" beat, named by my predecessor Corky Siemaszko who was the first City News reporter to cover the beat that included the RTA, CTA, Metra, PACE, the airports, the Water Reclamation District, Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Park District. I was stationed outside of Soldier Field interviewing fans of Bruce Springsteen who were waiting to get into the old stadium for his sold out show that night. It was also the last day before my two week vacation began and I was going to be driving all night to the east coast that night, so, naturally, I wanted to leave early from work to be rested. It was a hot, sweltering day when Lake Michigan refused to send any cool breezes toward the city. And so all the fans trying to get into Soldier Field had Styrofoam coolers. These coolers would be the reason why I wouldn't be allowed to head back to my desk at the State of Illinois Center. After calling in some quotes from the people I'd interviewed, I asked "the Chief" -- Paul Zimbrakos -- if I could retire to my air conditioned office. "Stick around. We hear the park district isn't letting anyone in with their coolers. Check it out." Crap, I thought. Before heading to the park district's headquarters, at the north end of Soldier Field, I stopped by a Channel 7 truck to talk with a reporter. While we were chatting, the police scanner in the TV truck announced an accident on Lake Shore Drive. "Ah, I'll let the office handle it," I thought to myself. But then the radio chattered that there were two dead. I decided to head to the accident site. It was at least two blocks away and by the time I got there a crowd surrounded the crash. A CTA bus had climbed on top of a Cadillac that had cut in front of the bus. The car was filled with five kids from Rockford heading to the concert and was in the wrong lane when the driver realized he had to get over to the left to get into the parking lot%u2026After surveying the scene, and taking notes of what I saw, I headed to the nearest building to phone in my story since this was before cell phones were common place. McCormick Place was about a block away. I ran all the way there, the coins I needed to use pay phones jingling in my suit coat pockets. I found an open door and a phone and phoned in my report. I then ran back, took more notes, ran back to the phone. I did this again. By this time enough facts had been collected by other reporters that I was told I could leave for my office. I sat down and under the payphone, throat hoarse from running, dripping with sweat. A security guard came up and gave me a glass of water. "Were you in the accident?" he asked. No journalism school could give you a better education. It's too bad more journalists didn't get a degree from City News.
December 2, 2005 3:43 PM CST:
More tales from the City News trenches
Bern Colleran, CNB 1969-72: I was lucky enough to join City News in 1969, in time to endure the tough wisdom of two "old time" editors, "Dornie" Dornfeld and Clarence Jensen just before they hung up their sleeve garters. Millions of words have been written about the grouchily affable Dornie. I'll leave him to others. Jensen was less colorful, a dour looking guy of few words who reminded you of the long-suffering winter dwellers of those Ingmar Bergman movies popular at the time. After two days of intense on-the-job training at Police Central and City Hall, and a few surprises, including being groped by one of the "older" women reporters in that greasy spoon near Police HQ, I was penciled in for rewrite duty in the office. Here, of course, I knew I would shine. Like many City News hires, I had no journalistic experience, had never written a single news story. Nevertheless, I was supremely confident, with my degree in English Lit and a couple of short stories well received by the reading public in my household. I propped myself up in front of the battered Royal FP, fingers twitching. "Colleran, call Fox Furs on North State. Ask them if they just got robbed." That was Jensen and destiny beckoned. On the second ring an old lady's voice croaked hello and, before some cop in the background told her not to talk to reporters, she'd given me a breathless account of being chained to a radiator while the thugs scooped mink stoles, full-length sables and the like into shopping bags and ran. "Got it," I shouted to Jensen. "Good story." "Okay," he said, without turning. "Gimme a Bulletin and Lead, maybe a few graphs." I banged away on that Royal's keys, quickly crafting a four-graph first take I modestly regarded as pretty brilliant, striving for the understatement I'd always considered my strength, shaping my phrases subtly, just hinting at those classical allusions I'd let the reader inject for himself, while little Pulitzer fairies danced in the corner of my brain. Ripping the paper from the roller, I strode to the Desk. Jensen grabbed the paper, his pen poised above it ready to write the story number and maybe make a small edit or two. After a few seconds he went stiff. It's the only way to describe it. The pen dropped from his hand to the desk. Paul Zimbrakos looked up from the other side of the desk, then reading Jensen's expression, looked quickly down. Jensen's eyes lifted off the page and stared straight ahead for about five eternal seconds, before he swiveled toward me, handed me the paper and said in that flat north-of-the-Baltic way, "Colleran...." "Yes," I replied, and the Pulitzer fairies weren't dancing anymore. "Colleran," he repeated, "Take this back to your desk and try to make it sound like something happened today at Fox Furs." Such was the clarity of that instruction, such was the terror Jensen produced, and such are the efforts that terror can induce, that by the end of my first rewrite shift that day I was a news writer. CNB 1969-72
Dave Gilbert, David R. Gilbert & Associates, Ltd., Deerfield, Ill.: (Mid-watch editor) A. A. (Dornie) Dornfeld fired my a--one night when I had been scooped by The Chicago Daily News on an education story that I knew nothing about! I was filling in at the Civic Center, didn't know the beat, sitting on a desk in the press room after just being screamed at and fired by Dornfeld. I saw my journalistic career flying out the window. If the window could have opened I would have flown after it. Then the phone rang, I answered, and it was Dornfeld. "Now look, Chum, here's what I want you to do," he said as he explained how I could recover the story and keep my job at the same time. What a man, what a place. Chicago won't be the same without a City News Kid bugging somebody.
John Fennell, Associate Professor, Meredith Chair, University of Missouri School of Journalism: Sad. Sad. Sad. I clearly remember driving home in the early morning hours after working the midnight shift, flipping on the radio and hearing word for word the lead of the story I had written the hour before. What power. It was probably the worst job I ever had and the one that opened up door after door in my career, from legman to Royko to editor of Milwaukee Magazine. Petrified, bored, awed, intimidated, proud -- it was a roller coaster of a ride that never let up. I still smell the cigarette smoke and see those overflowing tin ashtrays spilling butts and gray dust across the desk. I can still feel my stomach churning at making yet another 2 a. m. crib death call. I am eternally grateful to be a CNB vet, but I am not sure I wish the experience on anyone.
Paul Russell Fine: I worked at City News Bureau in 1995 while a sophomore journalism student. It was hard work, and I often worked the mid-watch shift hanging out at police stations around the city. But it was one of the most remarkable jobs I ever had. Working with the cops and firemen, interviewing people all over the city, and trying to pry intelligible quotes from Mayor Daley were all exciting on-the-job occurrences I now fondly recall. I remember on one story on far west Grand Avenue, I was at a pay phone calling in a story and two guys grabbed my beeper and tried to mug me -- all while I was still holding the phone. I laugh when I remember how my editor told me to put the phone down and get my beeper back! %u2026
Gerry Czerak, Business Manager, St.Thomas the Apostle Catholic Parish, Naperville, Ill.: I worked at City News for only three months, between graduating from DePaul as an English major and quitting to attend Northwestern's Medill for graduate school, but it was the Summer of 1966! What an experience... Richard Speck captured in a flophouse and arraigned at Criminal Court, Dr. King threatening to march in Cicero, staking out the negotiations between Dr. King and Mayor Richard J. Daley at the Episcopal church and then sweating to try to make rapid sense of their agreement under deadline pressure while on the phone to the desk. The adrenaline flows just recalling it. It was former Trib columnist Michael Kilian who taught me how to "cheap it out" in my first days, but I admit I was never really comfortable with the idea. Idealist, I guess. The papers -- there were still four dailies -- were doing a lot of hiring that summer. So I was lucky enough to move from the police beat hanging out at the old precinct station on Maxwell Street, through the County building and sheriff's office beat, to the City Hall beat all in such a short time. I never stayed in newspaper journalism and went to work in PR at a college, but that was a summer I'll never forget -- especially Ruby (Ryan) (real name: Gladys Wherity) the day operator who took our phone calls.
James Scalzitti, Associate Editor, Schofield Media, Chicago: Being a City News reporter was much more than just a job -- it became part of who I am, and City News will always be a part of me. Every time I ask someone to spell an otherwise common-sounding name, that is City News. Every time I hear a reporter, whether it is one I know or one on TV, say they don't know the answer to a question, and I want to say "Did you ask?" that is City News. Every time, wherever I've worked, I see someone come in late or leave early and I give them the (Bureau Chief Paul) Zimbrakos-style raised eyebrow or I tap my fingers, that is City News. Every time I face an otherwise insurmountable amount or nature of work, I think it's not impossible to get through, because I've been through City News. My experiences may pale in comparison to some, but some things stand out. On one of my first days on my own, after a week of shadowing more experienced reporters (ones who had been at City News for weeks or even a month or two!) Paul paged me on my way in to 35 E. Wacker on an October morning. I pulled into a gas station off the Kennedy Expressway and phoned the office (this was a little before cell phones). He told me to turn around and head to Fox River Grove, because a train had run into a school bus on the tracks. I got there, filed what seemed like handfuls of stories (some as short as a couple sentences) throughout the day and into the evening -- from the scene of the accident to the hospitals and the schools where the victims were students. Throughout my time at City News, I was driven as much by fear of my editors than by a desire to get the story. This is why, fearing I was on thin ice reporting-wise, I braved the wrath of police officers trying to keep order in Des Plaines one day at a double homicide. I managed to get through the barricades, to the small car that the couple was shot to death in, and phoned in all the details of the bits of bone and brain and blood that splattered the car's windows and soaked its seats, to my re-write, Lisa Donovan. Managing to do this, please the desk and not get arrested in the process led me to believe maybe I could be a reporter after all. For as long as he is a public person, I will remember and tell people about covering the first congressional campaign of Jesse Jackson Jr.-- standing out on traffic islands with him as he shook the hands of motorists, and especially him correcting my grammar, publicly, outside a campaign appearance, when I began a question with the word "irrespective." City News gave me access to people other beginning reporters could only dream about -- I was there, right alongside the well-known and experienced TV, radio and newspaper reporters, covering Mayor Daley, Govs. Edgar and Ryan, Sens. Durbin and Fitzgerald, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. Sometimes I shock normal -- non-City News alums -- people when I tell them that the first time I ever used a cell phone was at a hostage situation in an otherwise nice neighborhood on the South Side. Since we didn't have cell phones, I would have to go to the nearest pay phone and give updates to the desk every so often. A plainclothes officer saw me on one of these phones as he drove back to the scene after a break, and later chastised me for unknowingly using a phone that was popular with drug dealers and the like and which could have gotten me harmed by one of them who needed to use the phone for a business transaction. He let me use his phone, from the scene, for the rest of the standoff. I imagine there will be people who will be happy about the demise of City News -- they are the politicians, the well-paid flaks and anyone else in the news who won't have to answer as many hard questions, who won't be bothered outside of regular business hours. The public will notice, too, any time the above persons get to deliver their messages without having to account for what they're saying, whenever a reporter calls a street an avenue, whenever news happens in the middle of the night and no radio or TV stations report on it until the middle of the next day, after they've read the papers, whose stories, as well, will not be as good as they could have been. The loss of City News will be felt immediately after Paul turns out the lights. Who will be there right after midnight on Jan. 1, 2006 to definitively tell the city who is the new year's first baby born and first person murdered? We already know that the final death to be reported in 2005 will that of City News.
Dan Fields, Editor, The Sanford (N.C.) Herald: While on summer break from Eastern Illinois University in 1996, I was fortunate enough to intern at City News. I'm not only grateful for the opportunity, but have never forgotten that Paul Zimbrakos and other editors treated everyone the same. Yes, that sink-or-swim mentality was not discriminatory, especially when it came to age. Paul hammered home the point that reporters had to have a reliable mode of transportation. I had my parents' 1990 Buick and it never had any problems. Of course, a few weeks into the job, the alternator went out before my afternoon shift started. The phone call I didn't want to make had to be made. As expected, I got a pretty good chewing out by Paul. Since I didn't have a car, my shift that night was in the press room with the Sun-Times' Jim Casey at the old Chicago police headquarters (at 11th and State). "Make sure that car's fixed by tomorrow." Those were Paul's final words, before he abruptly hung up. Fortunately, the car was fixed in the morning. I phoned Paul to let him know and he told me to head straight out to the military base at O'Hare ... to cover President Clinton arriving into town. City News offered many opportunities for similar reporters to begin their careers with journalistic street smarts not taught in any classroom. I'll never forget those lessons.
Peter D. Waldstein, Chief Operating Officer, Hilco Receivables, LLC , Northbrook, Ill.: City News in 1984-1985, spending nine of my 12 months on the midnight shift, before moving to Crain's Chicago Business and later into several positions in business. Several great memories: First, I remember interviewing for the job with Bernie Judge, who put me through my paces and later offered me the job, and then left to join the Sun-Times in the two weeks before I started. I remember being on the desk and writing a story about some poor guy who got beaten to death by his friend with a ballpeen hammer on the friend's porch over some silly argument. The friend then went back inside to finish watching TV, where the cops found him and arrested him. Meanwhile, a college friend of mine who was a medical resident in anesthesiology provided the anesthetic to the victim on the operating table at Christ Hospital, where the victim was taken by the ambulance. The victim died, but my friend and I ended up sharing our respective sides of the story at a Super Bowl party a few days later and having a great laugh.... I remember being on the desk at the end of a midnight shift when a 3-alarm fire broke out at a warehouse on the West Side. Several firefighters tragically lost their lives when the roof collapsed. I remember having just enough time, under intense pressure from Paul Zimbrakos to keep the copy moving, to cobble together a decent first sentence. "Nice lead," Paul said above the clatter of the desk as he issued the bulletin--perhaps the nicest compliment I've ever received for anything I've ever written.
December 2, 2005 11:27 AM CST:
Jim Furlong: I worked for the CNB as a reporter in 1958, just after graduating from Brown University as a rather other-worldly English major. The plunge into Chicago's underside was shocking and baffling. Among other things, I didn't know a stakeout from a cookout, and because of my ignorance wound up ruining one police stakeout that CNB had been tipped to, but that's another story. The Cook County Coroner's Office constantly fed the CNB names of people who had died from as yet not established causes. We reporters checked out these "coroner's cases" for possible stories. One day I got the name of a farm worker who had died while laboring in a field. I made some calls but could reach only one person somewhat familiar with the details. That person said the cause apparently was a heart attack. Though in retrospect a number of stories were possible, I needed to move on to the next item on my work list, so I called the CNB desk with the idea of "cheaping it out." That meant convincing the desk the case wasn't worth more than a paragraph or so. My rewrite man -- a sleepy and rather depressive fellow who still was more amiable than most people on the desk -- asked for details. I ran through what I knew, which was very little, fearing that I was going to be sent back on a long and fruitless search for more information. I ended my report with the rather literary remark that the departed was just a "Man with a Hoe," a reference to a work by the American poet Edwin Markham. I assumed the reference would pass over the desk's head. Without missing a beat, the rewrite man asked, "Was he bowed by the weight of centuries"? That was most of the opening line of Markham's poem. Then paraphrasing, he asked, "Was he leaning upon his hoe and gazing on the ground?" Flustered, I could only say, "I don't know." "OK, I guess we don't need that," I seem to remember him saying with irony. This at-sea English major then went on to the next task -- well and truly humbled.
Dean Schott: Good piece on CNB. The mantra, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out," has an addendum. It comes from B.B. King: "Nobody loves me, and my mother could be jiving me too."
Scotty Ballard, Associate Editor, Jet Magazine, Chicago: For me my favorite memory was an evening (I forget the date, year...of the Pullman fire) when Paul (Zimbrakos, City News Bureau Chief) allowed me to leave work early because of a dental emergency after I got a splintered toothpick wedged between my tooth and a live nerve deep beneath my gums (the pain was exquisitely mind-altering to say the least). I left to go see a dentist who shot me with so much Novocain, that by the time he dug the bullet of pain from my jaw he thought I was a pain freak. It wasn't too long after that that I got home to the call from CNB of a 3-alarm fire around 111th and Cottage grove, this would grow to 5-alarm with two specials (a memorable sight, let me tell you. My advice: throw away your clothes afterwards), and they asked me if I would go since I stayed close by... So, I get there at the height of the drama where the flames have created this surreal sight of walls collapsing, furiously bright orange and white flames, an eerie glow of dozens of fire trucks reflecting the blaze and white ash falling like snow on everything. So, after witnessing the organized chaos of hundreds of firefighters battling the blaze and how quickly the fire was growing, (through my pain-medicated and Novocain haze) I tried to relay everything I had seen to (hornet's nest of night editors including) Ann Weiler, etc., to which (I'm so sure) I came across as a drooling idiot both to the people at the bureau and to the patrons of the nearby lounge where I used the pay phone. The editors (God love 'em) demanded that I speak clearly and describe every iota of detail that went into the fire. ...Oh, and the expression on the battalion chief's face as I tried to ask follow-up questions while numbed by Novocain, priceless. It was the best of times, blah, blah, blah...I'll always cherish my boot camp experience there.
Adam Weintraub, Managing Editor, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento: It was on a sleepy overnight shift that we heard a police radio call that, it gradually became clear, marked the ambush murder of flamboyant Flukey Stokes, who buried his son in a Cadillac coffin and was gunned down after his "bodyguard" tipped the shooters that the coast was clear. I was running late for a standard seasonal assignment on the day shift -- the Hilton was sending off some holiday turkey, when (Bureau Chief Paul )Zimbrakos called me back to the office. "We think the mayor died. Come on back." I spent the next 10 or 12 or 14 hours at a tube in the newsroom, taking calls from reporters at City Hall and Northwestern Memorial and assembling the pieces of write-through on the last day of Harold Washington. And it was after the original City News closed down that my father, a Sun-Times reporter for more than 30 years, passed away. I called the new version. (Midwatch editor) Wayne Klatt answered the phone, did a little catching up, offered his condolences. I told him I thought there might be some interest in an obit. "Do you want to dictate it?" So I did. I still use what I learned at City News every single day. CNB 1985-1988
Jay Branegan, Chicago Today-Chicago Tribune-Time-Northwestern/Medill-US Senate: Never let's forget the many prosecutors, cops, city hall flunkies who would call down to their relevant press rooms, get a reporter on the line, ask who's this, be told it was the City News guy, and say, "Let me talk to a real reporter." Don Hamilton, Columbian, Vancouver, Wash., City News 1978-79 (With Bob Rowley, Suzie Kuzka, Sid Smith et al.) : Here's one of the many rich memories I have of CNB. I got to choose the year's first baby born in Chicago. On New Year's Eve 1978 I was the overnight shift editor and the first baby would be my first duty that night. The copy books had all been typed up in advance with blanks to fill in when we got the baby's name and the hospital. Sounds simple, right? Well, I managed to make it complicated. Midnight comes and within only five minutes a hospital calls. We've got the first baby, she says. Born exactly at midnight. Not so fast. See, I'd checked this out in the AP Stylebook. Midnight, I told her, is part of the previous day. (Yeah, I know, but that's what they say.) Your baby was born in 1978. She sounded confused but hung up. A minute later a second hospital calls with the same story. Exactly at midnight. No dice, I tell them. Then a third and a fourth and a fifth. I'm trying them down right and left. I bite my lip. This isn't going well. What have I done? It's 20 minutes after midnight and the announcement still hasn't gone out. The Sun-Times city desk called. Where the first baby? We have deadlines. I tell them it will be right along. Just then the first hospital called back. I checked with the doctor, she said, and found out the baby was born at two seconds after midnight. Two seconds. Yeah, right. I'm trying to decide whether I should call her a liar or ask how they can determine the exact second of birth when she hit me with the payoff. It was the first of a set of twins! Ding ding ding ding! We have a winner. I got the announcement out. There's an odd footnote to this story. In the middle of all that millennium Y2K hoopla at the end of 1999, I wrote a commentary for Morning Edition telling this story. The Sun-Times photographer on duty that night, by then retired, heard it, dug into into his files and emailed me the picture he'd taken of the twins. It's truly an e-world.
Nancy Ryan: I feel like getting drunk and singing "Those were the days my friend. We thought they'd never end........." Buck Taylor, clinic director,Gallatin Community Clinic, Bozeman, Montana: I was there for a year in 1991. Just reading it brought back floods of memories %u2013 most of them fond: -Certainly (Bureau Chief) Paul (Zimbrakos) coming in every morning and scaring (or waking up) the overnight re-write desk. I remember sleeping on top of the re-write desk at 3 am, hoping the phone from the overnight police beat reporter would wake me up if needed. -I was fortunate enough to be one of the first reporters on scene at the Palatine Brown's Chicken story. I recall when witnesses and even suspects were being thrown about we would find their addresses and show up to interview them. -Being on scene at the Paxton Hotel fire on North LaSalle Street and watching cranes sift through wreckage, finally and accidentally lifting a body by the leg out from beneath the rubble. Since CNB was too cheap to have more than one cellphone, we had to run all over looking for a payphone to call in to rewrite trying to beat the competition. -Lastly, the overnight police beat at the former police headquarters on South State Street. The newsroom with its cigarette stained windows and multiple phones and scanners. Knowing you were the only reporter on duty in the city from midnight until 6 am was an awesome responsibility. Visiting the snarling and bored cops in the "First Dep's" office one floor down trying to coax any information out of them as keepers of the sheet was often a lesson in total futility. Thanks for providing a place for us to mourn.
December 1, 2005 3:56 PM CST:
Journo bootcamp really dead this time It's like a death in the family. But, this time, the corpse won't revive. Back in 1998 I wrote the for City News Bureau of Chicago, the legendary bootcamp for generations of Chicago journalists. Including me. That obituary was the kiss of%u2026life. The Chicago Tribune saved City News at the last minute and it continued in a smaller, leaner version until now. The Trib announced today that it is shutting New City News Service (as it was renamed) at the end of the year--bringing to a close 124 years of storied newsgathering and shared suffering for generations of famed and infamous journalists. City News was known for low pay, long hours and a reputation for taking a chance on eager, undereducated young men (and much later, women) who wanted on-the-job training. For many of us, City News was more than just a place to work. It was, indeed, family--dysfunctional, maddening, scary. We worked Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve together and then spent much of our off-duty time together too, often drinking too much, chain smoking and complaining about%u2026City News. Just as war creates foxhole buddies for life, so also are the relationships of City News. I met my husband, Wade Nelson, tthere. And the best man at our wedding (Tony Campbell) and the godfathers of both of our sons ( Mike Royko and Bern Colleran) were City News alums. Many of my best friends today--decades after I left my $100-a-week job at City news--are from those rollicking days. One of them is Tom Furlong who e-mailed this note to City News boss Paul Zimbrakos (another legend) after I told Tom that City News is R.I.P: "It broke my heart to hear the news of the final demise of CNB this morning. Multiple generations of Furlongs mourn that announcement... My first 14 months in journalism was the news equivalent of the Marine Corps basic training. With you as the drill sargeant, it prepared me for everything to come and allowed me to enter a proud and selective fraternity. I shall never forget that. " Furlong, deputy national editor of the Los Angeles Times, is one of six members and three generations of his family to "graduate " from City News. The first was his late dad, also Tom, who was there in 1928. The late great Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago columnist Royko worked at City News some 50 years ago and had a soft spot for City News until the day he died in 1997. Other alumni--who made good in other lines of work--include author Kurt Vonnegut, actor Melvyn Douglas, sculptor Claes Oldenburg and Charles MacArthur, author of "The Front Page." Most civilians have never heard of City News. In fact, many of the younger reporters at the Tribune have no idea of the history of the place or its motto, "
If your mother says she loves you, check it out." The news business is changing (don't get me started) and the editors and reporters who work in it are changing too. For all of us who fell in love with the news business there, the death of this wonderful institution is heartbreaking--a little like learning your mother didn't love you after all. If you're a City News alum, e-mail me your recollections to
firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll post some of them here.
April 19, 2005 1:00 PM CDT: Bush's Abe Joke SPRINGFIELD--It was a good laugh line and President Bush got appreciative chuckles from the crowd. But it wasn't exactly true. Speaking at the Abe Lincoln Museum dedication today, Bush declared, "Most of y'all know that the First Lady was a librarian. Any time she can get me into a library, it's a pretty good deal as far as she's concerned." But, Bush wasn't in the Abe Lincoln Library Tuesday. He toured the new museum but never got into the separate library building that is across the street and that has been open since last fall.
ANOTHER DUMB POL JOKE: Gov. Blagojevich told this one on himself. At the dedication, high school student Mihan Lee read her prize-winning Lincoln essay. After that, the Blagojevich let the audience in on his own unimpressive score on the ACT college entrance exam: 18. "If I can be governor of Illinois, Mihan, you can be president of the United States!"
YOU, TOO? Bush and Blago laughed and chatted through much of the hour-long dedication. Maybe they were bonding over their academic mediocrity. Bush was a lousy student, too.
April 19, 2005 12:12 PM CDT: Honest Abe's day
'WHEN YOU'RE OUT, YOU'RE OUT!' That's what former Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan told me. And that's what she tells her husband, the indicted former governor. Mrs. Ryan arrived at the ceremony without her husband. "George is still trying to find a place to park," she said. Really. He was. And, he did manage to find a spot--in plenty of time to take his place next to his wife in the third row. Just before things got underway, Mrs. Ryan rubbed her husband's large bald spot, not for luck (although he could use it). She was smearing on sunscreen for him. Ryan's federal trial on corruption charges is set to begin in Chicago this fall. Illustrating the truth of Mrs. Ryan's quote at the top of this dispatch, Ryan and the Mrs. drove here Sunday from their Kankakee home and have been overnighting, she said, at the "Motel 66." Investigative reporting reveals that she meant the Route 66 Hotel, which offers "free parking with RV or truck." Also, "hot cars, cool music and great food" at the Filling Station Bar and Grill. "He's doing good," Mrs. Ryan said of her husband. Sporting a pretty new pink suit (St. John knit), pink Ferragamo purse and cream-colored Chanel flats, Mrs. Ryan said, "We are living our life. He's retired now" and is buoyed by the many speeches he gives around the country on death penalty reform.
AIN'T ARTIFICE GREAT? As in front of the yellow limestone Lincoln Museum, the big dark letters on the building left no doubt where he was speaking.
"ABRAHAM LINCOLN PRESIDENTIAL MUSEUM ," it said. But it's not etched in stone. Not yet, anyhow. That'll have to come later. The letters spelling out the building's name are stick 'n peel. I saw the sign company adjusting them Monday night.
STILL STEAMED. Museum executive director Richard Norton Smith clearly does NOT appreciate critics who have carped about the Museum's lifelike Lincoln statues. It's a "manufactured non-existent controversy," he told me. "Real people don't talk about 'rubber Lincolns.' No one on the street talks about 'rubber Lincolns.' No one gives a s--- about 'rubber Lincolns.'" Meanwhile, before the opening ceremony Tuesday, Norton was channeling his inner Brad Pitt, working the crowds like a movie star. Citizens without tickets were lined up a dozen deep in some places and those near the front were asking Smith to sign their dedication programs. It's got to be one of the rare times in history when a scholar gets to play like it's Hollywood. Or Disneyland.
WHERE'S THE JOHN? They might have both been on the stage for the big Lincoln Museum opening but let's just say there's no love lost between Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Republican U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, who is thinking about running for governor. When I asked LaHood if he'd give me a tour of the governor's mansion if he wins, he took a shot at Blago, who spends as little time as possible in Springfield. "The current guy couldn't," said LaHood, of Peoria, suggesting that the Chicago gov doesn't even know his way around his own house.
TAKE THAT BRIAN LAMB. The first dignitary to speak at the official museum opening was U.S Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and for the backstory, scroll ever downward to the stuff headlined, "Where's Dick?"
CRACKDOWN. Blago would be shocked, SHOCKED, do you hear, if state workers showed up at the museum opening without taking a vacation day! The Blagojevich administration sent out a memo Monday to local state employees that they're expected to be at their desks today: Here you go: Subject: Lincoln library dedication "This memorandum is being distributed to avoid any further confusion or rumors regarding the work status of state employees who work for agencies located in downtown Springfield. All employees scheduled to work in downtown Springfield are to be present for work during their regularly scheduled work hours at their normal work locations on April 19, 2005." A few cynics might suggest that the gov might not be so %u2026 rigid ... if a DEMOCRATIC president were coming to town.
DA PLANE. DA PLANE. Meanwhile, one local airline pilot kept his son out of school Tuesday to take him and his baby sister to the landing strip NOT to see the president but to see his airplane. As I write this, they're waiting for the crowd gathered for the Bush motorcade to disperse so they can get a better look at Air Force One at Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport.
TELLTALE SIGN. In the days leading up to , Bush's attendance here was a poorly kept secret. But one way you could tell he'd be here was the pre-printed schedule of events that listed "prohibited items" because of security. These included food, drinks and umbrellas. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous, sunny day -- in the sharpest of contrasts with the last presidential library opening. (Bill Clinton, Little Rock, last November, Biblical deluge.) Furthermore my contraband apple was NOT confiscated in Springfield, despite the clear and present danger it created for the President and the free world.
YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE. If you watched the museum dedication on TV, you probably saw some cheesy black top hats in the crowd. Close scrutiny revealed that they advertised Motorola, one of the main sponsors of all the hoo-ha. And on that snarky note -- brought to you courtesy of the Chicago Tribune and chicagotribune.com -- until next time, EW
April 19, 2005 8:33 AM CDT Booze, guns, sex. Who'd have thought those three topics would spring to mind in the hours before President Bush was to arrive to officially open the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum today? But, a quick stroll through the museum shop got me thinking about all of those subjectsnot commonly associated with the nation's 16th president. For that matter, you probably wouldn't expect Illinois' new rock star senator, Democrat Barack Obama, to be asking, "Who's Abe and the Babe?" in a Springfield hotel lobby. I'd better explain. First, the Senator. (Scroll down if you want to skip straight to sex, liquor and firearms.)
NOTHING DOING. PERIOD: I'd been telling Obama's trusty aide about this couple from Wheaton, Ill.Max and Donna DanielsI'd met as they lingered (for pay) around the Lincoln festivities, dressed up to look like Abe and his lovely wife, Mary. For the past few days, this town has been crawling with Lincoln look-alikes (its scary, truly). This couple, however, stood outin part because of their memorable Web site name. At the very moment that Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and I were jabbering about this, who should join us in the Renaissance Hotel lobby but Obama himself. After some three hours, he was making an "early" getaway from a $500-a-plate dinner that was threatening to last as long as the Lincoln administration. Since a group of us had been talking about these costumed look-alikesand since the town is awash in people dressed like they were living in the Civil War erasomeone (emphatically NOT me) asked Obama whether he'd considered period dress to mark the occasion of the opening of the Great Emancipator's museum. "That was the WRONG period for me," said Obama, the U.S. Senate's only African-American.
ASKED AND ANSWERED: Quickly moving the conversation along, Gibbs and I were laughing about the couple's catchy Website name, AbeandtheBabe.com. This is what prompted Obama's question about who they were. Right then, as if on cue, Abe and the BabeMax and Donna Daniels, now in jeans and T-shirts (the shirts said, "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Abe") appeared in the lobby. They stopped to get a picture taken with Obama, then headed toward the elevator to get some shut eye before another day of playing Lincoln and his wife at the museum opening.
ONE MORE THING: Don't call them Lincoln impersonators. They're "Lincoln Presenters" and they have an association and a Web site. There you'll learn there are 124 member Abes; 34 Mary Todd Lincolns and 17 Abe-and-Mary couples all of whom, the directory suggests, are married in real life. Their motto: "We are Ready Willing and ABE-L."
SEX AND THE PRESIDENT: I looked in vain in the huge and well-stocked museum gift store for the controversial new book that suggests that Abe Lincoln was gay, or bisexual. C.A. Tripp's "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln" was not on sale there nor was the issue of his sexuality addressed in the 99,800-square foot museum, the institution's executive director, congenial Richard Norton Smith, told me. But, said Smith, there was "a very heated discussion" on the topic this past weekend when Lincoln scholars examined many aspects of the Lincoln presidency in a two-day conference here.
GUNPLAY FOR YOUNG AND OLD: The museum gift shop also offers a large selection of fake guns. There's the collection of five miniature civil war firearmstwo muskets, two carbines and a revolver ($14.99). Also, a life-size musket ($19.99) and flintlock pistol ($9.99). The Civil War Rifle Pen is a relative bargain at $5.99. And if guns aren't your weapon of choice, perhaps a sword-in-a-scabbard letter opener imported from Spain at $19.99 will appeal.
AND FINALLY%u2026BOOZE: There are three different models of Abe Lincoln shot glasses ($5.99 and $6.99) and another small glass that looks like it's designed to hold a couple ounces of ice cold Vodka. Other, non-alcoholic themed items include a "Talking Action Lincoln" which, for $34.99, says 25 phrases when you punch Action Abe in the chest. Example: "A man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am." You can buy a set of three golf balls with a reproduction of that familiar A. Lincoln autograph for $9.99 and a necklace, ring and bracelet made out of miniature (lead-free) Lincoln-head pennies ($3.99 to $9.99). My personal favorite is the small "Abe's Log Cabin" in a small pickle jar: Fifty wooden pieces ($6.99) that will enable you to replicate (vaguely) Abe's original Indiana cabin. Made in China.
NOT WORTH A CENT: I read in my colleague Pat Reardon's fine guide to the museum in last Tuesday's Tribune that there were two pennies embedded in the floor. I just didn't read very carefully where these pennies were located. As I approached a statue of Lincoln, Mary and their son near the Old State Capitol I thought I spotted one of the Lincoln-head pennies only to bend down and seeit was a perfectly circular piece of dirty old gum.
WHERES DICK? C-SPAN took out a quarter-page ad in Monday's Washington Post heralding its live coverage of today's official opening. I know this because Tribune Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny brought the paper with him on the plane from D.C. The ad promises that C-SPAN will bring you "Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Senator Barack Obama, and other national leaders." No mention of Illinois' Senior Senator, Democrat Dick Durbin. When I told executive director Smith about the oversight he declared that Durbin was the public official most responsible for making the museum a reality and the one least likely to demand credit for his efforts. I found Smith walking down Sixth Street near the Museum, patting his thin red hair as it blew in the warm breeze. If Durbin was the least likely to demand credit, who was the politician MOST likely to demand credit, I asked Smith. His yellow Nautica tie flapped as he spun around and headed for cover, answering the question only with a hearty red-faced laugh. More Lincoln lore as the day unfolds, EW
Mother Nature rains on Bill Clinton's parade
November 18, 2004 3:45 PM CST: LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Excuse me while I wring out my notes. At least Barbra Streisand had the good sense to wear a hat to the Bill Clinton library deluge. But most people were way under-prepared for the downpour, their $500 Manolos sinking into the mud as they waited to pass through security. Nobody was allowed to bring an umbrella to the big dedication ceremony herefor security reasons, the Secret Service said. But unlike the commoners who attended and were consigned to the bleachers, major donors and other VIPs received ponchos and umbrellaswith the $3 price tags still on themonce they passed through the magnetometers. I know this because I sneaked in to the special Purple Passes tent to see how the other half lives. It was pretty amusing to see a bunch of really rich people wrestling their Chanels and Armanis into what was a glorified trash bag with a hood. Volunteers passed through the crowd with boxes of white towels so that ticketholders could mop off their seats, but there's no other way to say it: This was a disaster. As for the poor drenched masses in the bleachers--well no wonder about half of them left before the program got underway. Without rain gear you had to be a really, really devoted Friend of Bill to stay in the cold heavy rain.
BLAME IT ON BUSH. Given Bill Clinton's vaunted luck, I was sure the clouds would disappear, the sun would come out and birds would chirp just as the ceremony started. "I think Bush had a hand in this. He talks to God," joked Frank Dirado, a Clinton booster from New York who came to the opening with his wife, Eila and their daughter Sofia, 3. "They said, 'This storm is coming from Texas.' As soon as I heard that, I said Bush had a hand in it. He wanted it to rain on Clinton's parade," he said. As I'm typing this, I don't have a TV nearby but I'm guessing that Dirado is not the only guy who used that line today.
NO WHINING. Despite the miseryand the huge bus chaos and jam up afterwardsattendees I talked to seemed to be in a darned good mood. And they wouldn't have missed this even though they looked like drowned razorbackswhatever they are. "We just kept saying, 'This is history. This is history, '" said Lakewood Elementary School principal Beverly Kelso, who accompanied a group of students from their nearby school. "I'm sure that some day we'll look on this with fond memories. But, it'll take awhile," said a cheery Kelso. For some of us, it will take a REALLY long while.
Posted: November 18, 2004 6:38 AM CST
BYE-BYE TO BILL'S BAGS. With something like 1,000 journalists in town for the Bill Clinton library dedication Thursday, you don't need a very vivid imagination to re-create the X-rated jokes about what's not on display here. But there's something else missing from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center that I can reveal here for the first time: The bags under Bill Clinton's eyes. Nope. No Extreme Makeover. The former president hasn't had a lift or a tuck. At least not that I know of. However, the Friends of Bill making the picks of the Clinton photos on display throughout the library, were careful to reject the ones where the President is not looking his best. Bruce Lindsey, a top White House Clinton aide and now general counsel to the Clinton Foundation, was much involved in the exhibits in the library and he told me that he and others making the photo choices told the exhibit designers, "The bags under his eyes are too pronounced. Go back and find a different picture."
MORE NEWS HERE. So, the bags under Bill Clinton's eyes are history. But the former president has made some history here this week too. He was ON TIME for his first event in this week of celebration--this one Monday at Central High School that was integrated under federal order in 1957. But wait. There's more. During his White House years, Clinton was notoriously late--for everything. Way late. Hours and hours late. But, he was--brace yourself--20 minutes early for his speech to the Chamber of Commerce after the Central High. This was so noteworthy that his ex-staffers who flooded into town for the dedication couldn't stop talking about it.
TWO ARCHITECTS WALK INTO A BAR... It makes for a good story, and there is even evidence to back it up. But, alas, the Clinton library was not designed on a White House cocktail napkin. "That is an architect myth. There are a lot of napkin sketches, but it didn't come quite that simply," says James Polshek, who designed the Clinton Center with partner Richard Olcott. In fact, a picture of the White House napkin with a sketch that looks eerily like the actual building, appeared last Sunday in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette without much explanation. Asked to amplify, Polshek explains that while Clinton was still in office and early discussions for the library were underway, Olcott "swiped a napkin from the White House." The partners used the golden presidential seal on the napkin to sketch the design and that round seal on the napkin ultimately became "Celebration Circle" outside the library.
SHOW ME THE MONEY. I ran into Polshek, paying full retail price ($65) for his own new architecture book, "Polshek Partnership," at the Clinton library gift shop. Out on the street--President Clinton Ave., natch-- Polshek lovingly paged through the volume and said, "It's absolutely gorgeous." The Clinton library project is in the book "only a little bit" because it was not completed when the volume went to the printer. As he put his credit card back in his wallet, Polshek told the cashier this was the only store that carried his book. He'd had them shipped there especially for the opening extravaganza. "I hope you sell a lot," the architect said.
(ALMOST) NAKED IN LITTLE ROCK. There's not much racy in the museum store unless you count the paper doll book ($5.95) that shows Bill and Hill in their underwear. The president is wearing a white t-shirt and plaid boxers. Hillary is shown in a full slip. One of the hottest items in the store this week is the presidential seal mouse pad ($7.95).
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. Clinton likes to tell you that he's a uniter not a divider and that's even true at the gift store, where you can buy a baby t-shirt that says, "Future Republican/ William J. Clinton Presidential Center."
THIS AIN'T WALL STREET. The Arkansas state capital is a small town and if you stand in one place long enough you'll see everybody you're looking for. I found Andy Kessel, the Clinton Foundation's chief financial officer, outside the museum store, fielding questions on his cell phone about how to locate 50 more Clinton library T-shirts. "I seem to be more involved in this vending operation that I would have liked," he said. Kessel, who left Wall Street to move to Little Rock, was wearing tassel loafers and a pricey Patek Philippe watch with his business attire but he said the livin' is easy here. When I asked him how often he suits up these days, he said "probably once a month. It's a pretty casual town." Later in the day, I spotted Kessel, still in his suit, hauling a large computer that looked like it might land on the pavement, it was teetering so in his arms. This heavy lifting supports his contention that "the event gypsies" were "running my butt off" with last minute chores.
OLD HOME WEEK. It's been part family reunion and part group therapy for all the Clinton White House staffers who have come back here to work on the library opening. "Emotionally this has been just fantastic," says Laura Schwartz, who worked in the Clinton White House social office and, most recently, was the trip director for Teresa Heinz Kerry. "After this election, I've had this pit in my stomach. I asked 'Mama T' (Heinz Kerry), 'How do I get rid of this pit?' "The entire (Clinton) social office is here. You worked with these people for eight years. That's as long as you're in grammar school. It's a positive, positive thing."
FINISHING THE CONVERSATION. Clinton White House photographer Sharon Farmer said that she's picking up where she left off with all her buds at the White House. Farmer, who recently finished a gig as staff photographer for the John Kerry campaign, is running the photo operation for the opening here with 10 shooters taking pictures of the events. She's still wild about Bill: "He's like a person who knows your cousin around the corner, down the block. He can relate. He can touch! %u2026He's a Bad Dude. That's a capital B, three As and Four Ds. That's a Baaadddd boy."
NO MORE 'MRS.' CLINTON. Former Clinton White House Social Secretary Capricia Marshall was back on the job, running that end of things for the library opening and declaring, "For me, there is only one president!" Darting off to walk through the library with Bill Clinton, Marshall made a reference to former First Lady Hillary Clinton. "I have to constantly remind myself she's a Senator now!"
THIS JUST IN. The local television coverage of the many events surrounding the library opening has been, to put it mildly, enthusiastic. Exclusive interviews have included ABC 's Peter Jennings telling a Little Rock TV reporter, "What a beautiful state!" and the Rev. Jesse Jackson is introduced by a news reader as, "One of the biggest civil rights activists there is!" "It's exciting to be back in Arkansas," Jackson told the TV reporter. Never one to miss an opportunity for a little publicity, Jackson is popping up at media venues all over town--including a drop by at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
DIVERSIONS. I took a quick and memorable trip through the Central National High School Historic Site, a museum in a refurbished 1920s gas station across from the high school that made history in 1957. This is a must-see reminder of the nine black students who integrated the school after President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Arkansas to protect them. When one loud museum-goer got into an argument with her companion, the Park Service woman supervising the souvenir counter smiled amiably and, with irony intended, told the loud mouth, "This is a non-violent facility."
THE DOCTOR IS IN. Sure CNN sent an army here to cover the story. But what was senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta doing cooling his heels at the library site? Besides, of course, providing a much needed eye candy element. Gupta, who recently married--sorry, ladies--told me he came in for the day from his Atlanta base after getting Clinton to agree to an interview for a special Gupta is doing on HIV/AIDS. In a previous life, Gupta was a writer on health issues for the Clinton White House so it was old home week for him too. Incidentally, he says that people stop him on the street to seek his medical advice. "It's one thing about being a doctor on television. People think they know you." His producer, Chicago native Rachel Ruff, told me that Gupta's diagnosis of her leg problem "was better than my orthopedic surgeon." Joked Gupta, "What she didn't mention is that I just touched her and she healed."
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST.U2'sBono has written a special song he was rehearsing on the outdoor library stage Wednesday night to debut at the opening during his five-minute performance slot.
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