State Sen. Rickey Hendon, who announced his campaign for mayor this week, is nicknamed “Hollywood” for two reasons. Before getting into politics, as an alderman, Hendon was an independent film producer, releasing a comedy called Butterscotch and Chocolate.
The other reason: Hendon looooves the spotlight. He’s already declared himself “the black Sarah Palin” for his allegedly ability to stir up the grass roots.
Hendon, who represents the West Side, was one of Barack Obama’s chief tormentors during Obama’s early years in Springfield. Hendon had been close to Obama’s predecessor, Alice Palmer, and resented the upstart young senator for knocking Palmer off the ballot in 1996. It’s normal for a freshman senator to receive a good natured hazing when he introduces his first bill. Hendon welcomed Obama to the chamber by mocking his difficult-to-pronounce name and asking whether any “1-800 sex numbers” would be included in the directory of community college graduates Obama was proposing.
As an ambitious young black senator, Hendon couldn’t help but notice that Obama was a pet of Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones. For years, he ragged Obama about his Ivy League education and his multi-racial background. The tension between the two senators finally erupted in a shoving match on the senate floor. After Hendon called out Obama for voting to close a DCFS office on the West Side, Obama confronted him, promising to “kick your ass right now.” Hendon, who wasn’t going to back down from a fight with a Hyde Parker, said, “O.K. Let’s go.” The two men took it into the telephone area, where they went at it until state Sen. Donne Trotter broke them up.
Hendon had to be persuaded to support Obama’s U.S. Senate bid by Emil Jones. He finally got on board during a rally at a West Side church at which Michelle Obama promised “I’ve got him.” Once it became evident that Obama was going all the way to the top, Hendon jumped on the bandwagon. He even published a presidential campaign diary, Black Enough/White Enough: The Obama Dilemma, in which he confessed his early skepticism of Obama, but wrote, “I have concluded that the only hope left for Black people in America is an Obama victory.”
You may remember that Hendon also ran for lieutenant governor this year. His intent was to undermine the candidacy of state Rep. Art Turner, the party favorite and a West Side rival. Hendon succeeded. He and Turner split the black vote, allowing Scott Lee Cohen to win the nomination. Hendon’s campaign did produce this unforgettable radio ad:
Rickey Hendon may not be the next mayor of Chicago. But “Hollywood” will make the mayor’s race more entertaining. If he wins, he’ll make the city more entertaining, too: he’s promised to reopen Meigs Field and bring a casino downtown.