Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Alexi Giannoulias, Mark Kirk, and The Fonzie Syndrome

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Alexi Giannoulias, Mark Kirk, and The Fonzie Syndrome
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It’s the Fonzie Syndrome.

Arthur Fonzarelli, the Italian greaser on Happy Days, was supposed to be from Milwaukee -- but actor Henry Winkler didn’t even bother to change the accent he’d used for another Italian greaser in The Lords of Flatbush. As a result, the Fonz was the only guy in Wisconsin who talked like he was from Brooklyn.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has a new ad linking Alexi Giannoulias to the mob. As born and bred East Coasters, they hired a narrator with a faux-New Jersey accent. Hey listen, first off, there are plenty of Chicago actors who’ve been out of work since Tony and Tina’s Wedding closed.

But besides the obvious and offensive ethnic stereotyping, the ad is as cluelessly out-of-touch with Chicago culture as any of John McCain’s broadsides against the Chicago Machine. In fact, the Chicagoans it’s obviously aimed at may not even get it.

“You all remember my associate Alexi Giannoulias, yes?” asks the narrator. “He’s been a great banker for the mob, for The Borgata. Shady loans to Tony Rezko and “Jaws” Giorango.”

First of all, in Chicago, we don’t call it the mob. We call it The Outfit. Second of all, The Borgata? The Atlantic City casino? Where the mob allegedly ran an illegal gambling ring out of the poker room? If that's what you mean, Chicagoans don’t go to Atlantic City. O’Hare has direct flights to Las Vegas. And there's that demilitarized zone we fondly refer to the Horsehoe Casino, too.

But apparently, according to a source at the NRSC, the commercial uses “borgata” in the Italian, as in mafia family. Ok. Well, we don't use that word here either.

This is one of the few attempts at capturing Chicago culture that would have been improved by guys in double-breasted pinstriped suits, toting violin cases. The thing is, this commercial plays to a) people who are already Republican in Illinois, b) Republicans in the rest of the United States, and c) East Coasters who like to think they're smarter or know more about Chicago than Chicagoans.

It makes me long to hear Jay Leno making stale jokes about deep-dish pizza and the Cubs. At least those things actually exist here.

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