Chicago Politics: A Theatre Of Power

Collection of revealing scenes of various Chicago politicians. The film focuses mainly on mayors and mayoral candidates of the 1980s including Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak, and Thomas Hynes. In true Chicago style, the looming presence of long-time, now late, mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley makes an appearance. Includes some invaluable footage, especially of when Harold Washington's many speeches. Particularly revealing are scenes of racial upheaval during the time surrounding Harold Washington's election and mayorship.

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1:40Copy video clip URL Opening title. In a series of film clips, Mayor Richard J. Daley comments on a BBC film critical of Chicago and on his controversial decision to level an Italian-American neighborhood to build the University of Illinois’ Circle Campus in Chicago.

00:03:29Copy video clip URL Writer and Chicago radio personality Studs Terkel tells anecdotes about Daley, who he says once urged Chicago to aspire to “higher and higher platitudes” during a speech. He tells another story about Daley raging “like a house on fire” against an alderman who objected to Daley’s use of nepotism. “It was a great moment, I think, in American theater,” Terkel says wryly.

00:05:41Copy video clip URL Segment begins about a 1982 protest of Chicagofest by Chicago’s black community (led by Rev. Jesse Jackson) to protest Mayor Jane Byrne’s policies toward blacks. Counter-protesters and black community activist Bob Lucas weigh in through interviews. “When [Byrne] was elected,” Lucas says, “she talked a great deal about ‘one Chicago.’ Now the woman has inadvertently, or advertently, polarized the city.”

00:06:57Copy video clip URL As the camera pans over the new Chicago Children’s Fountain in front of 55 E Wacker, Jay McMullen praises the fountain’s planner—his wife, Mayor Jane Byrne. Audio clip of Richard M. Daley announcing his bid for mayor while Chicago workers assemble a podium. Surprise cameo by a merman.

00:09:13Copy video clip URL Black and white TV footage finds a young Richard M. Daley saying, “I make no apology for my name. I am proud of my family name. I am proud of my mother and father. It was from them that I learned my love for our city. … I look back to my father’s life with pride.” Also included is footage of Richard Nixon calling the elder Daley “tough” but “fair,” and saying, “I can understand why in the minds of many, he is Mr. Chicago.”

00:09:53Copy video clip URL Audio of Harold Washington declaring, “There are no good qualities of past mayors to be had! … None! … I have no regrets about [Late Mayor Richard J. Daley] leaving. He was a racist from the core, head to toe and hip to hip!” His speech continues, likening Daley’s oppression of blacks to the days of slavery and saying of the man’s son, “If his name were anything other than Daley, his campaign would be a joke.” He concludes with optimism, calling for redemption and to “give the best that we have to our society.” Scenes of Chicago paying respect to the late Richard J. Daley, plus images of Richard M. campaigning, fill the screen during his speech.

00:13:32Copy video clip URL Several shots of an unidentified parade in downtown Chicago (most likely a Christmas parade). Mayor Jane Byrne looks on and even urges the crowd to sing along with her to “Silent Night.”

00:15:41Copy video clip URL Shot of an elevated train (the “L”) moving on a bridge across the Chicago River.

00:15:52Copy video clip URL Studs Terkel gives “a capsule history in two minutes of Chicago politics,” poking fun at the legacies of Chicago’s mayors since his boyhood. “Chicago, where Jane Addams had a dream of equity, defiled by the shallow women who run now in Chicago in nominating [then Mayor] Jane Byrne. They have demeaned, they have trivialized the feminist [movement],” he says.

00:17:52Copy video clip URL Footage of a man campaigning via loudspeaker for Richard M. Daley’s mayoral bid, followed by a clip of a man singing in front of a gigantic poster of Jane Byrne.

00:19:04Copy video clip URL Segment on Cabrini-Green, a Chicago housing project. In an audio clip, Mayor Jane Byrne talks about the violence facing the neighborhood and her “consistent” dedication to improve conditions there. Marion Stamps, a black  aldermanic candidate then speaks at Cabrini-Green, saying, “White folks are the ones who are racist, not us. … There ain’t nothin’ in my heart but love.” Several kids begin to shout: “We want Washington! We don’t want no honky! We don’t want no honky! We don’t want no honky!…” Cuts back to man singing at Byrne’s fundraiser.

00:23:13Copy video clip URL Mayoral candidate Harold Washington speaks in Daley Plaza, accusing City Council President Edward Vrdolyak of fomenting racism. “He has lowered this campaign to a base level which is insulting to the people,” Washington says. Random footage of Edward Vrdolyak and Harold Washington follow.

00:26:45Copy video clip URL The Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses a fired-up crowd at a campaign stop for Harold Washington. Jackson says, “We built the city on our shoulders. … We paid our taxes and couldn’t get represented, and yet we would not bow. And in your own time you raised up a man with the integrity, the intelligence, the drive.” Washington then announces his victory in the Democratic primary for the 1983 mayoral race. “To those who have opposed us, we open our arms and offer to join our movement,” he says in his acceptance speech.

00:28:03Copy video clip URL Clips follow of Jane Byrne, defeated by Washington in the Democratic primary, and Bernard Epton, Republican candidate for mayor in 1983. Other clips follow, including one of Neo-Nazis in Chicago.

00:28:55Copy video clip URL Columnist Irv Kupcinet comments on a mayoral debate between Washington and Epton, calling it more “theatrical” than political. “Good theater is good anywhere; it’s particularly good in politics if you can bring it off.”

00:29:45Copy video clip URL Footage from Mayor-elect Harold Washington’s 1983 victory rally. An unidentified benediction follows, over to shots of the city. More footage of Washington being sworn in as Mayor follows that. The benediction, filled with themes of Chicago’s greatness, continues.

00:32:28Copy video clip URL Aaron Freeman, political satirist, performs about the “dark side of the clout.” Washington plays at a softball game and later addresses his critic Edward Vrdolyak.

00:34:00Copy video clip URL An overhead shot of a boat carrying out the Chicago tradition of dying the Chicago River green in preparation for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Footage of a 4th of July Parade follows, as do images of children holding signs supporting Washington. A man standing on Michigan Avenue sings. More Harold Washington and Edward Vrdolyak footage follows.

00:37:34Copy video clip URL Film jumps to the summer of 1985 to find former Mayor Jane Byrne beginning her re-election campaign for Mayor in 1987. Illinois governor James Thompson appears at Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The governor later meets with workers on strike possibly at yet another parade.

00:39:57Copy video clip URL Gubernatorial candidate Adalai Stevenson speaks at a Chicago-area Oak Park-River Forest High School. A Lyndon LaRouche devotee orates in downtown Chicago.

00:43:17Copy video clip URL Various shots of Neo-Nazi demonstrators, their supporters, and counter demonstrators in Marquette Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side. White power signs, swastikas, and chants of “KKK all the way” fill the frame. “Marquette Park must be free,” cries a counter-protester.

00:46:36Copy video clip URL Harold Washington talks about his commitment to pass a gay rights ordinance in the City Council. Art Jones (aldermanic candidate and KKK member) later refers to Harold Washington as “our black faggot communist mayor.” “We call on white people, even black people, to oppose any candidate if they come out in favor of homosexual rights.”

00:50:38Copy video clip URL Harold Washington speaks to a crowd: “No one in this city … is free from the fairness of our administration! … We’ll find you and be fair to you no matter where you are!” He also takes photos with supporters.

00:52:46Copy video clip URL More campaign footage. Jane Byrne, candidate for Mayor, meets a group of supports. Republican Mayoral Candidate Don Haider reads to a group of children. Various activists spread their message on Chicago streets, including Republican mayoral candidates. One (a former Democrat) even rides an elephant in a publicity stunt for the GOP.

00:58:48Copy video clip URL Speaking to a gaggle of reporters, Harold Washington sends holiday blessings to everyone but his opponents in the next mayoral election, telling them instead to “drop dead.” Later footage shows him preparing to lead a group photo in front of the Picasso Sculpture in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.

01:01:25Copy video clip URL Clips of Jane Byrne campaigning, starting at churches and later continuing to Chicago’s famous hot dog stand, Demon Dogs. She greets people, but makes sure to ask younger-looking people first whether they are old enough to vote. “There will be opportunities for the young to go to work in this city and not see the suburbs growing, growing, growing while Chicago shrinks and fights,” Byrne says. “This will be a city again.” She later gets jeered at her own rally.

01:13:47Copy video clip URL A group of screaming teenage girls fawns over Thomas Hynes, mayoral candidate for the Chicago First Party, like he were the fifth Beatle. Other mayoral candidates campaign for the 1987 race, including Mayor Washington with his shillelagh in hand at an Irish parade. The race seems very racially and ethnically divided. The major candidates (Hynes, Washington, and Vrdolyak) fling criticisms as election day nears and the battle heats up. “Harold doesn’t have a clue,” Vrdolyak says.

01:25:53Copy video clip URL A victorious Harold Washington, Rev. Jesse Jackson by his side, addresses an exuberant crowd who shouts, “How’s Harold?” Cuts back to footage of Washington at the Irish parade. “Do you feel the spirit of St. Daley upon you?” a reporter asks sarcastically. “Always, yes, yes. Particularly with this shillelagh in my hand, it feels comforting. If you can’t have Daley’s clout, get a shillelagh,” Washington replies.

01:27:17Copy video clip URL The documentary closes with footage of a grumpy Mayor Richard J. Daley no comment-ing and shoving his way through a crowd of reporters. Audio of other politicians complaining about camera crews play while the end credits roll.

01:28:19Copy video clip URL “To the best of my knowledge none of the above behavior was scripted or rehearsed, nor are any of the candidates members of the screen actors guild.”–Bill Stamets, 1987.

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