[Nelson Algren Birthday Party 1991]

Nelson Algren's birthday party held by the Nelson Algren Committee at the Bop Shop, Chicago, March 22, 1991. The emcee is Warren Leming.

00:00Copy video clip URL Saxophonist Richard Theodore and bassist Louis Varro, on a small stage at the Bop Shop, finish one instrumental jazz piece and fall into a second. The performance features a bass solo by Varro. Camera stays in a fixed position in the front row. Lighting is very low.

08:09Copy video clip URL The jazz duo finishes. Audience applauds.

08:22Copy video clip URL A man at the podium addresses the audience, but it is recorded over by a man off to the side of the stage, in the shadows, introducing a scene from the Man with the Golden Arm which, he explains, is opening at Synergy Theater on April 28. He mentions the history of the production and explains the cast has had only 2-days to learn their parts. He tells the audience they will just be presenting one scene tonight.

09:39Copy video clip URL A scene from the play begins. Male and female actors playing suspects come up as though in a police line up. A man called Captain Bender of the Division Street Station directs them to show a right profile then a left profile. Bender tells the audience to look at those in the line up carefully and report people you recognize to a police officer. The first suspect, Thomas Reilly, introduces himself and when questioned answers that he was arrested for not paying a cab driver. The others introduce themselves in turn: Julius Applebomb, a hustler who hustles school boys out of their lunch money playing craps. Bender tells him he will give him back his gun with an extra box of shells if he promises not to sue the city. Betty Lou Coleman, a hustler who picks up married men. She says she picks on married men because they don’t file complaints. John Francis McTee, a preacher who’s been de-frocked. He cashes phony checks. His defense is that he believes “we are all members of one another.” Francois Matchnick is accused of robbing jewelry. He banters with Bender feigning innocence. Bender tries to pin a murder wrap on him. Bender tells Francois that Mr. Gold does not identify him, so he’s free to go. Next in the line up is an unidentified man denies any involvement with drugs and shooting up a nineteen year old girl. Bender talks to another police officer, Al, who escorted Francois out. Bender asks how was he acting when he was leaving. Al answers, “kind of nervous.” Bender orders the officer to follow him. The next man in the line up steps up to the microphone. Theodore Conkite was arrested for “annoying a ten-year-old boy.” He exits the stage. The play ends. The audience applauds.

19:43Copy video clip URL The emcee, Warren Leming, introduces the next performer, Darrel Warren, who will read from Conversations with Algren. Warren enters and reads an essay Nelson Algren wrote on creativity and conformity in American culture called A Walk on the Wild Side part of which, Warren adds, Algren delivered at a University of Missouri writer’s conference in June 1952. The essay comments on how America hides a cultural suffering from itself. He comments on the American disease and how the country leads the world in alcoholism, psycho-analysis, cancer, homicide, and in perversion. He warns of the country’s psychological disorder, setting a moral code so rigidly yet applying it so flexibly.

24:57Copy video clip URL Warren finishes. Leming introduces poet, playwright and friend of Nelson Algren’s, Stu McCarrell, who reads the first two short introduction scenes from his play “Nelson & Simone” about the relationship between the two writers.

41:33Copy video clip URL The reading ends. Leming thanks various organizations that helped make tonight’s event, a celebration of Nelson Algren on his birthday, March 22, possible. He thanks for tech crew working the event, and introduces Jim Tomasello.

43:00Copy video clip URL Camera pans across the audience. Very low light. Everyone is in darkness.

43:13Copy video clip URL Jim Tomasello performs a song on guitar based on one of Algren’s poems.

47:43Copy video clip URL The song ends. The videographer stops and starts recording. Leming, the emcee, appears in the middle of his intro to Bob Rudnick who reads “The Arnold Stang Trilogy.”

51:46Copy video clip URL The videographer stops and restarts shooting. Rudnick is in the middle of reading a poem.

52:58Copy video clip URL Rudnick starts a third poem, one inspired by Comiskey Park.

56:58Copy video clip URL Rudnick finishes. Leming announces that the poet Ron Miles is coming up next. He thanks everyone who made tonight’s tribute to Algren’s birthday possible. The videographer stop shooting in the middle of the emcee’s announcements.

58:08Copy video clip URL END



  1. Bruce Miller says:

    For what it’s worth, I ewould definitely vote for digitizing this video and making it available!

  2. roman orlov says:

    Tomasello on guitar, Richard Theodore, Leming, Rudnick, Stu McCarrell…the unsung and unwritten history of Chicago in a single event…Miss you Rudnick…now and forever.

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