Image Union: Municipal Mirth

An episode of the independent film and video showcase, Image Union, featuring a videotape on Chicago's neighborhood festival program in the summer of 1979.

0:00Copy video clip URL Weather report.

0:27Copy video clip URL Image Union opening.

1:00Copy video clip URL Municipal Mirth by Nick Despota, Scott Jacobs, and John Mabey. The tape documents Mayor Jane Byrne’s Summertime Chicago program, which sponsored street festivals in Chicago’s neighborhoods during the summer of 1979. The videomakers visit six of these festivals in neighborhoods across the city.

1:18Copy video clip URL South Shore. At the South Shore Country Club (now the South Shore Cultural Center) on 71st street, there are mimes, live music by Corky Siegel, a rodeo, dancing, and a festive atmosphere on the beach.

2:04Copy video clip URL Interview with Rosa Moore, one of the event planners. She describes her emphasis on choosing a diverse mix of music for the event, because she wanted to draw people from all over the city and “hopefully create another Ravinia on the South Side.” As she talks, the video cuts to a beautiful moving shot of the entrance to the South Shore Country Club, recently purchased by the city of Chicago. “This is a historical building, and the community worked very hard [to save it]. … And we want people from all over the city to come to this building, not just people in South Shore. … We consider the country club a major anchor to the community, and especially to 71st Street.”

3:27Copy video clip URL Video cuts to a Mexican rodeo as the voiceover from Moore continues. The Orchestra Conquistadora plays mariachi music, while women in traditional costume dance, and cowboys ride horses and compete in rope-twirling and other contests. There is a brief interview with police officer Jackson, who describes the food (chicken teriyaki) and asks Mayor Byrne for a raise if she is watching. The music of Faith Pillow closes out the segment.

5:25Copy video clip URL Interview with Karen Conner at The Mayor’s Office of Special Events. Conner describes the city’s philosophy of community self-planning in the organization of the summer festivals. She says that the city helps with practical details, such as stages, sound equipment, etc, but the festival should be determined by the community’s needs, creating “a sense of pride that this is our neighborhood.”

7:16Copy video clip URL Englewood. Streets and Sanitation is on the scene setting things up for the event. Scott Jacobs interviews a snazzily-dressed young man in cowboy attire and “Rudolph Valentino shoes,” Jesse James, who is planning on running the road race later in the day. Jacobs asks him how expects to fare in the race. “Oh I’m going to be number one. I’m going to be the greatest. I’m going to be in the top ten, that’s realistic. I predicts things before it happen.” Squire Lance, of the Englewood Businessmen’s Association, announces the race rules to the competitors and gives an interview about his hopes for the neighborhood. “Very often people have the sense that what happens is that areas die, and that’s just not true. All neighborhoods go through a decline and a rejuvenation cycle. … Englewood is a working class neighborhood. Its income will stand up against the income of almost any other black neighborhood in the city of Chicago.” The race begins and a small group of about a dozen men head off down the street. Footage cuts back to the festival, where there are puppet shows, a live turtle, and a strongman – Mr. Illinois, Charles Toliver. Squire drives around the neighborhood explaining, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but what I’m trying to point out is, not only are the structures here, but so are the people. … We have the base to build on.” He drives past nice-looking houses and crumbling commercial buildings, and says that the Byrne administration has given his neighborhood great hope that the city is working with them.

10:57Copy video clip URL Cut to Mayor Jane Byrne speaking to the crowd at the Englewood festival. She claims that in following years, the event will grow, and there will be “a lot more prizes and a lot more presents” for the kids. She commends the neighborhood for its “friendly faces” and for voting her in to office, promising more to come over the next four years. The audience cheers, and then the road race awards are presented. The video crew returns to Jesse James for the inside scoop on his poor showing in the race. “The reason why I gave up–we were spozed to go around four laps–on the last lap I gave up because I was smokin’ too much reefer, and smokin’ too much cigarettes, and drinkin’. And all that collapsed on me.” The interviewer presses further, saying, “We can accept that, but me and my buddy here, we both saw you get on the bus for part of the course, from here all the way down there. Why?” “Well, the reason I got on the bus was I was so exhausted and I had to rest. … I was too embarrassed to go back and show the public. They had too much confidence in me.” The interviewer concludes, “I think we’ve seen a very rare moment of truth here today.” Tape cuts over to the Dynamic Christian Souls gospel choir performing onstage.

14:24Copy video clip URL Beverly Hills. Spike Bones performs a duet of mutton bone and “vegetarian bone,” singing children’s music with a bluegrass band. Bones talks with the crew about his craft, the relaxed crowd dances to the music, Jane Byrne passes through the crowd, and the Lyric Opera Ballet performs.

17:42Copy video clip URL Cabrini Green. The festival honors Elax Taylor, resident and founder of the 911 Teen Club. Elax explains the ways his program helps keep kids safe and gives them positive ways to spend their time. He claims that Mayor Byrne is the first mayor to show initiative toward Chicago’s communities. The Future Women of Cabrini, a group of young girls, performs dances onstage while a woman reads an empowering speech: “What’d we want? We want a chance to be free. … We want to stand tall. Because we are the future women of Cabrini.”

21:55Copy video clip URL Chinatown. Entertainment coordinator Celia Chung explains her goals for the event. Her focus was on presenting Chinese culture to the outside world, which is evident in the multicultural crowd she was able to attract, dancing and having a party in the streets. The Haines School Chinese Folk Dancers, The Roberto Clemente Steel Drum Band, and The Chinese Dragon Athletic Association perform in a parade.

24:18Copy video clip URL The North Lincoln Ave Neighborhood Fest is announced from the top of a local bank. There are a variety of entertainers, including dancing clowns, Eddy Clearwater (blues), and Whitey O’Day (Irish music). The Jesse White Gymnastic Team performs stunts to a chorus of “Whoa!” A woman tells the camera that she has never found the community feeling that she finds in Chicago in other cities. Will Soto juggles a lighted torch, a machete, and an apple, managing to eat the apple during the course of the routine.

28:07Copy video clip URL A band plays African music and dances under the credits.



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