I wanna be like that great guy that came through every day for years and years performing at a level no one else could. I want to produce the stuff that hundreds of thousands of people in the city would say your name over and over and talk about for days. To do things that opened peoples' eyes and made them say...”Wow...that was unbelievably fantastic.”
No, not that basketball player guy, but Mike Royko. He was a master of the written word.
Mike Royko started out as a weekly contributor to the Chicago Daily News covering Cook County political issues. It wasn't until 1964 that he started a regular daily column. His flair for being witty, humorous, and razor sharp in his writing created a huge following hungry for his views. I bought the paper just to read his column. His continual hard work and success as a writer earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.
When the Daily News shut down, he moved over to the Chicago Sun-Times. Later, Robert Murdoch bought the paper and turned it into a daily rag.
Mike once said that"No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper. “[H]is goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power".
Mike then left and went to the Chicago Tribune, a paper he previously said that he would never work for years earlier. He wrote there until his unfortunate death of a brain aneurysm in 1997.
To me, Mike Royko was the blue collar champion. He wrote articles exposing the politicians' shenanigans. He questioned policy, challenged the status quo, and constantly put out articles that drew readers in daily. He did not pull any punches.
He does have a short list of books he put together. One of them, “Boss” is a scathing work about Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley. It became a best-seller and is still highly sought after today. I am amazed he wasn't found rolled up in a carpet in a dumpster or given a pair of concrete shoes to go swimming with the fishes. (A couple of Chicago weekend fun things to do)
He was not afraid to put out powder-keg pieces. In 1976, a Royko column criticized the Chicago Police Department for providing an around-the-clock guard for Frank Sinatra. Sinatra responded with a letter calling Royko a "pimp," which Royko then published in his column. Sinatra's letter is now valued at $15,000.
Mike was not just a writer exposing the cities ruthlessness, but he also wrote pieces that addressed the political turmoil (whining liberals) of that era, about playing the man's game of 16” softball (with no gloves), and about the characters he hung out with at the local tavern, The Billy Goat, located on Lower Wacker in Chicago.
Some of his writings were so colorful in his choice of words that they would never be written these days for fear of people being offended so easily.
One such article comes to mind in his book, "One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko," titled "A Poll Cut on the Bias" which starts out with "The national polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose admitting any Cuban refugees into this country." He then goes on to write about a supposed conversation with Phil T. Slobb who lists off character defects of just about every ethnic person in the world, yet when told, it sounds like he likes nobody. Phil responds with..."I like Americans." What kind? "The kind that are already here. Like me."
How many of today's writers would think of putting something like that to paper fearing the repercussions that would follow? Yet, someone, like myself, loves that type of writing, because it is colorful, emotional, and controversial, and there is an additional, underlying message in it.
Now, as a new writer myself, I am finding that I want to stay out of the political arena of Trump reporting, and concentrate on the lesser known issues and stories that are part of the life of the common animal, child, woman, and man.
I'm enjoying writing sarcastic, emotional, deep thinking pieces that are part of everyday life.
I wanna be like Mike-- caring, kind, devoted, and yet have the sarcastic & humor sharpness of a finely honed Japanese ninja sword.
While the Pulitzer Prize may never be mine, I can still try. So far, I've pissed off a Village President, been chased of out of one town, and exposed a County Assessor taking excessive breaks and not assessing properties. (There is now a rumor he was asked to resign.)
So, while the Pulitzer may never have my name next to it, I will still leave behind a collection of articles I can be proud of.
(Thanks to the Editors)