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Great Fictional Chicago Politicians

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Great Fictional Chicago Politicians

Judge Dennis P. Gorman, the Studs Lonigan trilogy, by James T. Farrell: “Dinny” Gorman is the political patron of the Lonigan family, South Side Irish Catholics and (of course) devoted Democrats. As Samuel G. Freedman wrote in The New York Times, Studs’s father “Patrick Lonigan depends on his political connections for his painting jobs. So accustomed is Studs to patronage as the way of doing business that, in a scene that is both pathetic and grimly absurd, he lists a city judge as a reference when he applies for a job at a gas station.” No aldermen appear in the book, but Studs and his pals are familiar with the type. They call a protruding belly an “alderman.”

 
Alderman Fred C. Davis, Good Times: As public housing dwellers in Chicago, it was inevitable that the Evans family would come into contact with their ward’s machine. The Evans revile their slick, bespectacled, three-piece-suited alderman, who forces them to buy tickets to his fundraiser dinner, and asks son J.J. to give a speech in his honor. When the family say no, Davis threatens to evict them from their apartment. 
 

 
Alderman Yablonowitz, Continental Divide: In this 1981 movie, John Belushi plays Ernie Souchak, a Chicago newspaperman based on Mike Royko (a real-life friend of Belushi’s parents, who ran a diner where Royko worked as a young newspaperman). When Souchak begins writing exposes on Yablonowitz, the corrupt alderman sends two thugs to beat his ass. Souchak’s editor tells him to lie low for awhile, so heads to the Rocky Mountains, where he meets -- and falls in love with -- naturalist Blair Brown. 
 

 
Alderman Ronan Gibbons, The Chicago Code: Played with sinister flair by Delroy Lindo, Gibbons shoots a 15-year-old boy who tries to assassinate him in a barbershop, then kills the gangbanger who ordered the hit. It was a member of Two Corner Hustlers, who were jealous of Gibbons’s protection of the Irish Mob. Gibbons operates out of an office as ornate as Ed Burke’s, and seems to represent a ward that covers half of Chicago, from Cabrini Green to Chinatown.
 

 
Mayor Tom Kane, Boss: In the short-lived Starz series Boss, Kelsey Grammer played a Chicago mayor who concealed a degenerative brain disease from all those around him. It was probably the least accurate portrayal of a Chicago politician ever put on film. Kane held a secret vote in the City Council by banning the press and forcing reporters to turn in their Blackberrys. (Hadn’t he heard of the Open Meetings Act?) When an underling embarrassed him, his ears were cut off and delivered to the mayor, who tossed them down his garbage disposal.
 

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