Council #4, Despres #1, #2, City Hall, Ward Ext. This pastiche of a tape begins with a casual conversation in Alderman Vito Marzullo's office at City Hall before switching to an interview with Alderman Leon Despres, a critic of Marzullo and his practices. A wayward fragment of a black-and-white film cuts into the interview, and after it ends, the crew shoots B-roll footage of City Hall and Ward Office exteriors.
00:00Copy video clip URL The crew chats with Marzullo in his City Hall office, briefly discussing his personal life and family. The alderman also complains about the lawlessness of young people, including a young woman who arrived drunk for her first day of work—a job that Marzullo had procured for her. The footage abruptly ends at 04:47.
06:00Copy video clip URL Footage resumes in the middle of a conversation between director Tom Weinberg and Alderman Leon Despres, a critic of the Democratic “Machine” and opponent of Marzullo. Despres reads from a stinging press release that Marzullo circulated about him after a disagreement, in which Marzullo calls him a
“nitwit” and a “vicious person.”
08:20Copy video clip URL Weinberg shares some strong personal opinions about Marzullo before asking Despres for his views on the man. “I’ve never known him to make a disclosure, or full disclosure, or anything resembling it, of either his assets or his income,” Despres says, adding that Marzullo “has been turned into a kind of folk hero,” though undeservedly. Mentioning Marzullo’s many guest lectures at universities, Despres says Marzullo spouts half-truths, even though “he gives the appearance of talking frankly and openly.”
12:50Copy video clip URL Turning to Marzullo’s political life, Despres dubs him a “dominator of his ward and the people who work for him,” and explains the tight-knit nature of the political machine. “He used to thunder against people who tried to eliminate discrimination and segregation. That was his pet subject,” Despres says, calling Marzullo a typical “machine man” who didn’t promote progressive city policies.
14:48Copy video clip URL Despres explains the roots of the longstanding feud between him and Marzullo, then Chairman of the Committee on Local Transportation. “If you mention my name to Marzullo, he becomes livid. Today—I haven’t been to the city council since 1975—he becomes livid.”
16:43Copy video clip URL Despres relates another run-in with Marzullo in which his political group, the Independent Voters of Illinois, challenged Marzullo’s authority and sponsored their own candidate for alderman, hoping to clean up the then-unsavory reputation of the 25th Ward. Despres claims that despite being pushed off the ballot and losing, Marzullo still carried a grudge against the one precinct who didn’t vote for him.
18:40Copy video clip URL Weinberg shares his own observations of Marzullo’s “authoritarian” style of governance. Despres responds, “The lash of patronage is the destruction of livelihood. That’s the power of patronage, that’s what makes an organization authoritarian. You go to the ward meeting of an authoritarian committeeman, and you don’t hear any discussion of democratic principles. You hear a completely authoritarian, Hitler-style tirade.” Despres talks at length about the patronage system in Chicago under Mayor Richard J. Daley.
21:56Copy video clip URL Weinberg shows the 25th Ward Democratic Committee ad book, which earned a gross take of $60,000, to Despres. Chuckling as he thumbs through the pages, Despres comments, “It allows businesses to pay money to a ward organization, and in reality what is a political contribution, but is allowed as a business deduction for advertising. Of course, the advertising value is zero.”
23:52Copy video clip URL Weinberg asks about the political connections represented in the advertisements. Despres explains the nature of the Democratic “machine” in response. “The Chicago political machine is an aggregation of about 35,000 people… mostly men—in all the high positions, only men—who make a living off politics.” He details how machine politicians make money (both legally and illegally) and accuses Mayor Daley of using the machine system to funnel money to friends and family. He explains that many business under pressure from machine politics, like the ones in the book, place advertisements to curry favor with the “machine.”
27:35Copy video clip URL After a pause, the interview resumes. Despres continues criticizing Marzullo’s votes in the city council and his “backwards transportation policy.” Despres also explains how the patronage system functions in Marzullo’s Committee on Local Transportation, and accuses it of squandering taxpayer money. “It’s an abuse of democracy,” he says.
33:10Copy video clip URL They discuss Marzullo’s persona, hostile to outsiders but revered within his ward. Weinberg also asks about organized crime in Chicago politics. “We know that organized crime has infiltrated the political machine,” Despres says, stopping short of specific accusations. A newspaper article from the time estimated that five of Chicago’s 50 wards maintained ties to organized crime.
38:18Copy video clip URL The interview abruptly ends and the picture switches to a remnant left on the tape of a black-and-white film. Continues until 47:33.
47:38Copy video clip URL The film crew shoots B-roll footage of Chicago exteriors, including City Hall and Alderman Marzullo’s headquarters in the 25th Ward. Continues until tape ends.