From the Vault of Art Shay: Hizzoner

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 9, 2011 5:00PM

About a decade ago I realized that I'd been shooting pictures of Mayor Richard J. Daley since 125,179 Chicagoans - including unions like the janitors who contributed $215,000 in cash - elected Da Mare in 1955. His Excellency used the number (the people, not the cash) on his license plate until he died in 1976.

It was impossible not to like the scalawag, our resident Mayor Malaprop. What other Mare could ad lib, "Together we must rise to ever higher platitudes," "It's amazing what they'll be able to do once they get the atom harassed," and "I resent the insinuendos." It wasn't the money alone that assured his replacing colorless Martin Kennelly. He took the trouble to make deals with some 48 of the 50 City Council members. He didn't even bother to campaign against the intellectual and well-qualified Republican Robert Merriam. "I'm not better'n anybody else," Daley assured one and all. "I don't wanna look like a fellow who tells other people what to do." When I shot him for a Time cover, he said, "Make me look tough, like Chicago."

So there I was amassing many of my Daley pictures and favorite quotes- to do a stage comedy - when the Trib's drama critic, Chris Jones, attending my "Where Have You Gone, Jimmy Stewart" opening at the ATC Theater, said, "If you're planning a Daley play, there's a big fat actor you oughtta sign up- Neil Giuntuli - looks just like Daley."

Long story longer- it turned out that Neil had just finished writing his own Hizzoner - it was much better than my Report to Da Council - spot on with all the Catholic stuff and political swapmeets- not as funny as mine- but a three year hit with my new friend, Neil, playing his own lead. Giuntuli ended up using 25 of my Daley photos for the play.

So now, while patiently awaiting the promised call from Johnny Depp on a movie about Algren's affair with Simone de Beauvoir, I occasionally say ,"Yeah, that was in..." when my archivist Erica turns up another batch of Daley pictures. So here's a partial screening for those of you not completely suffused with the minor league shenanigans that have just passed for some vigorously contested political hardball. As my favorite author, Nabokov, once said, echoing the hawkers of tsotshkas on the NY subway, "Let me pass out a few cards."

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.