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Archive for May, 2008

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Student Bars in Chicago

University Tavern

It was past 1 a.m., November 3, 1948 when Severn Darden in his black opera cape sidled by my seat in University Tavern, then the favorite bar for U. of Chicago students. The place was packed – we were all there because UT was one of the few places in those days with a television set and we were all anxiously watching the election returns, which came in much slower then and were indeterminate at that late hour. We kept hearing H. V. Kaltenborn’s assurances, which Truman gleefully imitated later, that Dewey would win when the downstate vote came in. I was getting anxious about the time because the bar had to close at 2 a.m. and it appeared we would not have a decision by then, so I asked Severn if he had the time. He fumbled around under his cape, tugged at a chain and produced a goose-egg watch. I don’t know whether this was the real thing or some sort of replica but knowing Severn, I would guess it was a genuine, rare and valuable antique. He said, “This damned thing always says 4:30”, pocketed the watch and left without answering my question – typical Darden wit. I am ashamed to admit it took me two days to remember the Mad Hatter and the reason for his perpetual tea party.

(There is an amusing “sidebar” to the above ’48 election story. A rumor rapidly went around a day or two after the election about a young instructor in economics who concluded that the polls were badly done. His estimate was that the error was sufficient for Truman to win. He made bets with a lot of the faculty at very favorable odds and cleaned up.

His name was Milton Friedman.

This story may be apocryphal but I am inclined to believe it because it is so characteristic of Friedman.)

The Woodlawn Tap

Very soon after that UT’s very popular bartender, Jimmy Wilson, opened his own place a couple of blocks away, the Woodlawn Tap. A large part of my time – and education – took place in Jimmy’s bar and I became good friends with him and his principal bartender, Tom Claridge. (Over the next six years or so, bars played a big part in my life – too big a part, if you take my meaning.) Jimmy bought a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and installed it on the back bar to try to settle the many disputes that arose amongst the patrons.  The shot from Google’s Street View reveals that the place is unchanged from sixty years ago …

(There are some better pictures at www.josephsittler.org/jimmys/  and www.aklehr.com/chicagohood2.html)

I was often there with members of a clique of sorts that included Fritz Weaver and his girlfriend at the time, Annie Norris, a resident of Kelly Hall where my girlfriend, Terry Flambert also resided. Fritz had a creamy baritone voice and Annie a creditable mezzo so I would often cajole them into singing the seduction scene from Don Giovanni – one of the few pieces of classical music I am capable of enjoying. Another occasional member of the group was Ned Polsky, the most insane Joyce fanatic I have ever encountered – he could declaim yards and yards of Finnegan’s Wake from memory, for instance. Ned and I would often play Botticelli, the only game better designed to induce violence than Bridge.

Botticelli is “Twenty Questions” with strategy. It is played this way: one player thinks of a “famous” person (who could be well known only in some very limited area); the questioner has to earn the right to ask a general question (such as “Is it male?” or “Is she living?”) by stumping the answerer with a very specific question which is to be answered by a name (such as “Is this the person who coined the word ‘physicist’?”); now here’s the weenie, the joker in the deck: the specific question has to be within all the classes established by the answers to the general questions. So, for instance if it had been established that the subject the answerer is thinking of is a living female then the above specific question could not be asked because it is about a dead male (Samuel Taylor Coleridge). To play the game well you must be very careful not to take away your area of expertise too early. I knew a lot of obscure mathematicians or obscure facts about mathematicians so I would never ask a question about the subject’s trade, (“was he a poet?”) which could deprive me of my best specific questions (i.e., if the answer was ‘Yes’). Ned and I would often play this game until someone broke us up as our egos got more and more involved and our hostility was spoiling other people’s evening. (I have appended an obituary for Ned at the end of this post.)

I stayed in Chicago one of the summers (probably 1949) but was not in school. It was terribly hot all summer so I got into a pattern of staying up late, closing the bar each night and then sleeping until 2 in the afternoon to avoid being active in the heat. One night Jimmy and Tom decided they would go to an illegal after-hours joint after closing the bar and asked me if I wanted to go with them. Of course I did. I have no real recollection of where this place was, can’t remember if we walked there or went in Jimmy’s car. It was a large wooden house, three main floors of railroad flats and a ground-level flat. We walked down a breezeway on the right side of the house to about the middle of the building where there was a doorway with a brass peephole nearly six feet up. Tom rang some sort of doorbell, the slide in the peephole went to one side and an eye appeared in it – it was all so corny I almost laughed (which would not have been a good thing to do). The door opened and a six foot five hairy ape stared at me with suspicion if not disapproval. Tom said, “He’s OK. He’s with us.” and I was grudgingly granted admission.

Inside was a single very large room with a bar running along the left half of the entryway wall and an over-under table in the middle of the room. There was a craps table and other gambling going on as well. Over-under is a game where you bet either that a roll of two dice will come up less than seven, more than seven or exactly seven. The table has a felt top divided in half by painted lines with a lozenge-shaped space intruding equally into the two halves, which is the exactly-seven space. You bet by throwing some money in one of the spaces. There were some tables and chairs scattered about. The bar and tables were being worked by some dreary looking whores; various illegal transactions were being conducted everywhere in the room; there were several rough looking bouncers who, Tom told me, were detectives from the local precinct (not surprising in ‘40s Chicago). At the over-under table was a short Italian gangster with a roll of hundred dollar bills in his left hand so big he couldn’t get his pudgy fingers all the way around it – he stood there peeling off hundreds and flipping them indiscriminately on the table.

We had a couple of drinks and left – but the scene is indelibly imprinted on my memory.

There was a guy who was hanging out at the UT where he was becoming famous for a stunt he performed regularly. If you bought him a bottle of beer, he would place it on a table, bend over and pick it up with his teeth, and without using his hands, raise it over his head and drain it in a gulp or two without spilling a drop. He did this to get the free beers until he became too drunk to do the stunt. His name was Ralph Winder and he was a Marine veteran who had served almost the entire second war in the South Pacific, operating a flame thrower for some part of that time. If there ever was a case of PTSD, he was it. I never saw him perform his trick at Jimmy’s but he must have done it there on occasion. Jimmy hired him as a part-time fill-in bartender, I think as one of his reclamation projects. Ralph did a good job, was on his best behavior (when at work) and was well liked by the patrons. He became my third behind-the-bar friend as well. Eventually Ralph found a nice middle everything girl, married her and had a daughter. His level headed wife got him on his feet, got him going – he was hired for a very good job doing public relations for a downtown nightclub (the Chez Paree, I believe). He liked the job, was good at it and was earning a good income.

Not long after Christmas 1950, when Terry and I were living in New York, we received a Christmas card from Tom. Inside was a note that went something like this: “Ralph was called up again by the Marines. After about a week of preparation he was sent to Korea and was in the Chosin Reservoir slaughter. He is now in the mental ward of a hospital in Hawaii. Merry Christmas!” The whole process, from the States to Hawaii to Korea and back to Hawaii, took about six weeks.

That was the last I ever heard of Ralph and the last I ever heard from Tom.

*****

The Beehive

There was another bar in Hyde Park, on 53d street I think, that was very popular with both U of C students and staff, especially on Sunday afternoons, called the Beehive. It featured Dixieland during the week nights but on Sunday afternoon it was a place where musicians congregated for socializing among themselves and holding impromptu jam sessions which was free to the ordinary patrons. Some big names showed up – I remember that Armstrong and Bechet were said to be there one Sunday.

I went there only once, not on a Sunday, with Terry, in the middle of the day and the middle of the week. I remember the day as being very sunny, so in all likelihood, it was a hot summer day and we retreated into the bar for the air conditioning. There were three other patrons, two men and a woman, already there. Suddenly there was a big uproar, with the woman screaming and shrieking as she attempted to tug one of the men out a side door half way down the room. The men were snarling at each other. Then the bartender, a pretty big guy, cart-wheeled over the bar – literally cart-wheeled, feet over his head and all the rest. He immediately got between the two men, gently pushed them away from each other by putting a hand on each one’s chest. The woman succeeded in dragging her guy out the side door and the other guy left by way of the front door a minute or two later.

The bartender came over and said, “It’s a good thing I got between those guys. I felt their chests as I leaned on them – this guy had a cannon in there.” Terry and I figured if there had been any shooting, it would have been through us.

*****

The Kentucky Tavern

Another popular student bar, on the east side of Hyde Park, was called Ken and Jock’s Kentucky Tavern. We went there because they served a passable pizza (!). On one Sunday evening (when the dormitory didn’t serve dinner) there was a large group of us, four or five males, Kelly Hall lounge lizards, and seven or eight females from Kelly Hall.  The waitress was having a difficult time getting the group to pay attention to the business of ordering. One of the Kelly Hall women, Heather Axelrod (known as Heemer – some sort of low feminine humor arising from a menstrual event) loudly commanded, “Order now or forever hold your pizza!”

On another occasion there I got a nasty lesson in practical sociology. It was a Friday evening. There were five or six steel mill workers, most likely from Gary, Indiana, sitting at the bar. At least a couple of them were pretty drunk. I arrived with Terry and another good looking college girl (can’t remember who – I keep thinking it might have been Lucy Prinz,  Joachim Prinz’ daughter) and found a couple of familiar guys at a table. One of them was Shag Donohoe, a local book-store owner in his thirties, one of those people who can never get off a university tit, who apparently had been exchanging unpleasantries with one or more of the mill hands. As soon as we arrived he got up and left as did the one or two others who were there with him.  Thereafter, one of the drunks at the bar kept glaring at us or, rather, me. We became uncomfortable enough to decide to leave and even take a cab (unusual for impecunious college kids). While I was in the process of trying to hail a taxi the same guy comes out, with one or two others in his wake, rambles on in an incoherent manner and then says something about shaking hands. As I extended my hand he unleashed a powerful blow to my face. My nose and one front tooth were broken. The sober one of the group rushed out of the bar, apologizing and begging, “No cops, please, please, no cops”.

I had ticket selling duties the following week for the upcoming University Theatre play and was in the very public cage in the hallway outside Ida Noyes. I got damned sick of explaining my two black eyes and other facial damage to everyone who came up. I did not report the matter to the police. It would have been a waste of time in any case.

*****

Bars in New York

The Golden Eagle in the Village

Our favorite hangout for a couple of years was the Golden Eagle on Ninth Street just east of Sixth Avenue in an English basement. It was owned by Amedeo X (I have been probing and prodding my memory but just can’t come up with his last name – it may be that I never knew it). The bar was served by Jimmy Y (Irish last name – ditto) and the few meals were prepared by Mario Z and served by his daughter Tessie. Mario filled in at the bar when the occasion required it. It was just a neighborhood bar with a set of regulars who showed up several nights a week thus becoming a sort of extended family. The only “notable” I remember was John Carradine who showed up one night, very drunk, with two very drunk younger women. He was, loud, obnoxious and arrogant, offending everyone in the place. When he was offered a police escort he left and never came back.

Amedeo was not your usual village Italian bar/restaurant owner – he was very refined, a gentleman in any setting. He had owned an elegant restaurant in the ‘20s on Thompson or Sullivan Street between Houston and 3d named L’Aiglon D’Or, (which had been the name of a Parisian restaurant of note) hence the name of the 9th street place. L’Aiglon D’Or was not just an expensive dining room it was also a speakeasy, patronized by the likes of Jimmy Walker and many of his Tammany underlings. Across the street was an elegant bordello run by a beautiful Creole woman from New Orleans with some sort of nom de madame such as Lola or Rose followed by a French last name. Amedeo said she had introduced him to the pleasures of the boudoir – he would get a sort of dreamy look, as though in a reverie, when he talked of her.

After a couple of years the lease on the Ninth street location was ended, perhaps for the building to be reconfigured and remodeled, and Amedeo sold the business to Jimmy and Mario who moved into new quarters on 11th, again just east of 6th Avenue.  Mario owned a deodorized skunk named Sweetpea which lived in the tunnel created by the wooden box footrest for the stools, which ran the length of the bar. Sweetpea would emerge from his cave just before closing every night so that Mario could feed him Italian rum cake, his favorite food. We occasionally would win free drinks making bets with newcomers about the existence of a skunk in the footrest.

*******

Reddington’s

About two blocks northwest of Village Square (actually a triangle formed by 6th Ave, Christopher and Greenwich Ave.) on Greenwich Avenue was a wonderful place called Reddington’s that we would go to a few times a year. Someone associated with the place had been a farrier or blacksmith for harness racing horses, probably the owner or his father. There were sulky wheels and bits and bridles and jockeys’ shirts with racing colors decorating the barroom in the front of the establishment. In the back were dining tables where they served rather good American fare and a grand piano on a dais about six inches high. These were for the use of a rather large group of old-time vaudevillians who congregated there, especially on Friday evenings, putting on impromptu performances of song and dance. They were absolutely wonderful. It was a veritable orgy of sweet nostalgia.

*****

Bleeck’s

Around 1951 Terry took a job as one the secretaries to Eleanor Herrick, Personnel Director for the New York Herald Tribune. This introduced us to the Artists and Writers Club, commonly just called Bleeck’s, a bar right next to the Trib building and a well used hangout for their staff, especially the reporters.

Eleanor Herrick was a powerful figure in more ways than one (somebody once described her as looking like George Washington in drag). It is my understanding that she was a friend of both Frances Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt and that she had been on the short list of candidates for Secretary of Labor in FDR’s first term, which was filled by Perkins. (It appears, from an item in Google Books, “Out of the Sweatshop”, that she had been a labor reporter at the Herald Tribune before being made a director of personnel.) There was a main secretary, named Jean something and Terry and a young black woman named Rita reported to Jean. (Once, Rita was given the task of taking some papers to Mrs. Herrick at her home on Park Avenue. The doorman told her to go around to the service entry in the back. Rita refused, demanded that the doorman call Herrick on the house intercom. After Herrick got through with him he ushered Rita to the front elevator.)

The publisher of the Herald-Tribune was Helen Rogers Reid, the widow of previous publisher Ogden Mills Reid (who was the son of Whitelaw Reid who took over the Tribune after Horace Greeley). She had two sons Whitelaw and Ogden Rogers (there doesn’t seem to be much variety or originality in the Reid men’s names). Mrs. Reid was always called just that, Mrs. Reid. Whitelaw was the day-to-day operations boss (Managing Editor?) and was known as Whitey, so, of course, the twelve-years-younger brother, who joined the staff as a novice reporter while Terry was working there, was called Brownie.

Bleeck’s (pronounced Blake’s – the name is German) had a history as old and as revered as the Herald-Tribune itself. During the twenties it was a speakeasy like many another respected drinking establishment. It was, as I have said, virtually an adjunct to the offices of many of the Trib’s reporters – when an editor couldn’t locate one of his crew one of the first places he would call was the phone behind the bar in Bleeck’s.

One of Jean’s good friends was a well known and respected reporter named Bob Bird. I believe he was a Pulitzer recipient. Since we often went to Bleeck’s with Jean, we got to know Bob too. At just about the time we became acquainted Mrs. Reid pulled Bob out of the cold, off the road, and appointed him an editorial writer. It had to do with his difficulty managing his drinking while away from home. I remember one evening with him and Jean where he was consoling himself with many drinks. It seems that when he left home in a Westchester suburb that morning he backed his car over his wife’s cat – and was afraid to go home.

For a time the constant occupant of the seat at the far end of the bar was John Crosby the well known TV reviewer. He wrote very witty and very acidic reviews. He was married to a woman who called herself Merrie Crosby in her cutesy wootsie children’s afternoon TV show (this one would have made Dorothy Parker really fwow up). Apparently their marriage was foundering and John consoled himself in the classic manner. I note in the obituary that they didn’t divorce until about eight years later so that must have been a passing storm.

The editorial staff of the paper was divided into two camps by the rivalry between Homer Bigart and Marguerite Higgins. Most of them were in the Bigart camp partly because he was a more established member of the paper’s club and partly because Maggie was routinely referred to as a “pushy bitch” (a familiar MCP refrain but it was also said by women). Here is an account published in the American Journalism Review, November 1991, By Karen Rothmyer on the occasion of Bigart’s death:

“A few years after World War II came Korea, where Bigart had his own battle to fight with fellow Herald Tribune reporter Marguerite Higgins. At a time when women war correspondents were virtually unheard of, Higgins displayed a fearlessness and ferocious competitiveness that, according to Bigart, threatened to get both of them killed. ‘She was a real trial to me,’ Bigart recalled. ‘When I came out I thought I was the premier war correspondent and I thought that she, being the Tokyo correspondent, ought to be back in Toyko. But she didn’t see things that way. She was a very brave person, foolishly brave. As a result, I felt as though I had to go out and get shot at occasionally myself. So I resented that.’ Higgins, Bigart and four other correspondents shared a 1951 Pulitzer Prize for their coverage.”

As Bigart was returning to New York following a stint in Korea, Truman fired MacArthur. Telegrams were quickly sent to Bigart in San Francisco telling him to stay there and cover MacArthur’s return (there were all sorts of humorous speculations circulating as to whether the Generalissimo would wade ashore at Ocean Beach or the municipal beach on the bay at Aquatic Park). A day or so later The Return took place but there was nothing from Bigart, so the Trib was the only paper in the world that had no eyewitness account of the event. Mrs. Reid was furious and ordered other San Francisco based staff to find Homer. A few days later he was found in a south-of-Market flop-house. When he returned to New York he was ordered to take a couple of weeks off and was sent to Florida. When he showed up in Bleeck’s I got my first glimpse of the great reporter. His face was bright red which was due to all the sun he was exposed to – I thought. However, several weeks later his face was still bright red.

Brownie Reid the novice reporter was the source for all sorts of entertaining foolishness. This was the McCarthy era, remember, and he was deep into the business of ferreting out commies. His desk was in a large open room along with a number of other junior reporters. He subscribed to several Communist publications, The Daily Worker, The New Masses, things of that stripe, which were delivered to his desk by a copy boy. One day he very publicly chewed out the copy boy for leaving his subversive literature out in full view and instructed him to place them face down with other papers from the desk top covering them. I guess that way he wouldn’t attract suspicion from the FBI.

One day the big front page item, above the fold, with a screaming headline was a story by Brownie about how communist spies were transmitting microdots (little round microfilms), containing all sorts of American top secret information about A-bombs and so forth in cans of Norwegian sardines. There, right in the middle of the page, was a large photograph of a can of sardines, with the lid rolled half way back. The photographer tapped to create this revealing image was Fendl Yerksa, an editor for the week-end magazine who was mercilessly derided for his effort. In Bleeck’s at the end of that day, Yerksa sought anonymity at the far end of the bar when in walked Tex Riley, a leading space salesman, who yelled, “Hey, Fen, how do you tell boy sardines from girl sardines?” Yerksa clutched his head with both hands and tried to hide his face in the bar top – “Watch ‘em coming out of the can!”

(A footnote: More than twenty-five years after this I arrived in Seattle on a Sunday afternoon for one of my customary week-long business trips and, as I always did, turned on the local TV news. It is a great way to get the flavor of an unfamiliar town quickly. There was Fendl, a member of the week-end anchoring crew on the ABC outlet.)

The last time I was in the neighborhood, it must have been eight or ten years ago, I went to see what had become of the old place. The half a block’s worth of structures had been leveled, leaving a bare lot, except for the Bleeck’s building, two stories of old brick bowing down waiting for the executioner’s swinging ball.

*****

San Francisco

Hanno’s

When I first got to San Francisco in 1954 I started looking for work. Since I had no particular experience and no idea what I wanted to do, it was a painful search. I had a reference from one of the Golden Eagle denizens, Johnny Gale, to an army buddy, Mike Harris, a reporter on The Chronicle. When I called he directed me to meet him at a bar across an alley from the Chronicle’s office at Fifth and Mission, called Hanno’s. We met and he quickly let me know that he couldn’t do anything for me so we spent a half an hour or so just socializing. There was a well known woman columnist there (9/5/08 – just remembered her name: Adeline Daley; she went to Hawaii after retiring) knocking back several in the middle of the afternoon. ( Added 4/9/09 – I  met one of Adeline Daley’s daughters today in a local store, another resident of our small town, Patrice Daley, who corrected me about the Hawaiin retirement. Adeline Daley never left her San Mateo home where she died  May , 1984, aet. 62. I can’t remember where I got the misinformation.)  ( Added 4/10/09 – Correction to the correction: In the conversation with Patrice Daley yesterday I gave an incorrect description of her mother. It occurred to me that I must be remembering the wrong woman and then another name popped into my remembrance, Marjorie Trumbull.)    Also there was a reporter who was having a private celebration of his 30th birthday (which would make the date June 14, 1955) and getting a new job on Collier’s Magazine named Pierre Salinger. Collier’s closed down about a year later. When I heard that Salinger had joined the Kennedy campaign in 1960 I remember thinking “poor Pierre joining another losing cause”.

Mike Harris and I crossed paths again around 1973 when we were both on a citizens’ advisory committee to the Board of Tamalpais Union High School District. Mike had been active in community affairs for some years by that point, having joined Mel Wax in overthrowing the insiders club that had run Sausalito for some years (Mel became mayor). By then I was living in Bolinas and my son was entering Tam High. One amusing incident came out of this part of my life. In 1973 we had both the gas crisis and a drought in California. At one meeting I said “Don’t throw the bathwater out with the baby – hot water is too hard to come by these days”. Some years later when there was another drought and, I think another fuel crisis, Herb Caen printed my quip in his popular column, with the correct attribution, correctly spelled. It took me a couple of days to remember Mike and that virtually the entire Chronicle staff fed items to Caen.

North Beach and Beat Hangouts

I never did much bar hopping in San Francisco from the time of arriving in 1954 until 1958 when my second wife, Barbara and I went a few times to Beat bars in North Beach. Prior to our acquaintance friends like Malcolm Bissell (yes, of the carpet sweeper Bissells) and some of the doctors at Mount Zion hospital, where she worked, would take her to places like the Iron Pot and Vesuvio’s and a couple of the waiters and bartenders became her friends.

One of those was an Austrian Jew named Leo Something (can’t remember – again!). I first met him when he was working as an assistant in a fancy (read expensive) pet store on Maiden Lane, across from the Frank Lloyd Wright designed store. Later, we became his customers when he was bartending at the Coffee Gallery. Later, he became the owner. The Coffee Gallery was one of the central gathering spots for the Beats, right up there with the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Miss Smith’s Tearoom.

Another of Barbara’s friends was Specs Simmons who had been a bartender at Henri Lenoir’s Vesuvio. In the early sixties we took a flat at 1941 Lyon Street, between Sacramento and Clay streets (at the time Bert and Diane Feinstein lived two blocks uphill from us – but that’s another story). Specs and Sonia Simmons lived around the corner of the same block, on Sacramento, next door to the Vogue movie theater. Specs was working as a welder for outfits that built custom kitchen equipment for hotels and restaurants such as Dohrman Hotel Supply. He worked with sheet stainless steel, a very tricky material that takes superior skill to work. I believe Specs told me he had learned metal working from his father who was a gold smith.

Specs played a passable guitar and sang some folk songs and the like. In his youth he was a leftist and an activist (as they say nowadays) and he put his guitar to use in political causes. In 1948 he and a young woman colleague wrote a song to support the campaign of a Wallace Progressive named Murphy running for mayor of Boston, using the subway system (MTA) there as a sort of political football (a common practice in Boston and New York in those days).  At issue was a surcharge for transfers (I think) so a poor guy named Charlie gets on the MTA and can’t get off. At the time Specs was living around the corner, the rising-in-popularity Kingston Trio made a hit out of the Charlie on the MTA song and out of the blue he started getting royalty checks. At one of Sonia’s annual latke parties (she made the real thing) I went into their bathroom and there over the toilet was a framed check for one dollar – the first royalty check.

Across Columbus Avenue from Vesuvio’s (and Ferlinghetti’s City Lights) was a bar called 12 Adler Place. When Barbara and I first went there it was a belly-dancing night club owned by a UC student named Naji Baba. Naji’s wife was a professional performer of near-eastern dances and taught a number of local women. The show consisted of her and her disciples performing belly dances. Barbara got a huge kick out of it – she loved the thumping dumbek and all of the music. In time, the belly dancing fad faded and Naji sold the place to Specs. He still has it and it is a very popular bohemian hangout.

(There is an incident involving Sonia that is burned into my memory. Sonia had called for a little neighborhood meeting with several other parents. I think the issue was the behavior of one black girl, about twelve or thirteen years old, who was bullying the little white kids – or something like that. We were in a meeting room provided by the branch library a block to the east on Sacramento waiting for the others when the librarian walked in and told us Martin Luther King had been murdered.)

*****
Jimmy Wilson’s Obituary

from University of Chicago Magazine   April 1999
Chicago Journal

Jimmy of Jimmy’s dies at age 86

James (“Jimmy”) Wilson, owner of Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap on 55th Street, died of heart failure February 22 at age 86.
Known for good beer, burgers, and most of all, conversation, Jimmy’s has been a part of the University community for more than 50 years. The owner was as beloved as his bar.

The late Francis Kinahan spoke for many in a 1984 citation—the “Cointreau Award”—he wrote for the Alumni Association to present to Wilson. It read in part: “The University gave us the Life of the Mind, but the man we honor tonight gave us the Life of the Spirits.…Others have educated; Jimmy has stimulated. There are people here who will swear they learned more at the Woodlawn Tap than they did in the Common Core.”

Wilson started bartending in Hyde Park at the old University Tavern in 1940. Eight years later he bought the Woodlawn Tap.

Wilson is survived by two daughters, a son, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, a brother, and a sister.—K.S.

*****

Ned Polsky’s Obituary
from Footnotes, newsletter of the American Sociological Association.

Robert Kahn, University of Michigan (emeritus)

 Ned Polsky   (1928-2000)

Ned Polsky, who died suddenly and unexpectedly this past June 13, is best known and will no doubt be remembered by sociologists for his ventures into the field of deviance. The five essays that make up his book Hustlers, Beats and Others, recently republished in an updated edition by Lyons Press, are both sociological and literary masterpieces indicative of the author’s ambitions and perspectives

Ned himself was a deviant in many ways. He surely did not fit into the conventional mold of a sociologist, which is exactly what endeared him to his many friends inside and outside our discipline. He loved books, of which he was an avid collector, had a passion for literature and the arts, had tried his hand at writing a serious novel, played pool well enough to have participated in several tournaments and to have qualified as a referee in the International 3-Cushion Billiards Tournament in Las Vegas in 1999, a sign of recognition he valued as much as praise from his sociological colleagues. He was a high-brow but hardly a prig. One conversed easily with him on just about any subject. Once he surprised me with his encyclopedic knowledge of wild mushrooms, of which he had not previously spoken.

Not surprisingly, Ned roved almost as widely in his professional activities as in his conversations. Having graduated from the Bronx High School of Science at the tender age of 16, he studied linguistics and literature at the University of Wisconsin, followed by graduate study in sociology at the University of Chicago, which he left without a degree. During his career, he was in and out of publishing, was the editor of several prestigious magazines, became professor at SUNY-Stony Brook and, after retiring, opened and ultimately sold an antiquarian book business specializing in biographies.

Although intellectually a cosmopolitan, Ned joined the world only as it suited him. He learned to drive rather late in life and, as far as I know, never made any serious attempt to exploit the capabilities of the computer for his sociological work. Information on events, persons, and works in all of the humanities, a mammoth project on which he had been working — on and off — for over thirty years, was kept on literally tens of thousands of 8 by 11 file cards. These files, so he hoped, would ultimately help scholars to develop and check interesting propositions about peaks and troughs of cultural achievement. One cannot help but wonder what will happen to the material he so painstakingly put together.

Most appreciated by those who knew him best was his cool judgment on just about everything and his warm personality. His often sharp criticisms were typically in a soft voice and he was always generous with help and advice. Above all, he was a friend on whose loyalty one could count when things got rough. He is survived by his adored and talented daughter Claudia, a very young granddaughter, both of Berkeley, California, and his companion, Sarah White, a recently retired college language teacher, of New York. A memorial was held for him on October 27 at the Ethical Culture Society in New York City.

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