The first time I met Ald. Sandi Jackson, she took me for a ride around the old U.S. Steel site in her SUV. I can’t remember the make and model, but the vehicle was big, black and brand new. During the trip, she drove me past the family home, at the corner of 71st Street and South Shore Avenue, within view of Lake Michigan.
“Dang,” I thought. “These people are living well.”
It was very different from the ride I’d taken around Uptown in Ald. Helen Shiller’s cluttered subcompact. Shiller didn’t drive me past her apartment, but I knew she rented, in spite of her six-figure salary.
Vanity is not one of the seven deadly sins (pride perhaps comes closest), but it is a deadly sin in politics, and it’s a sin of which both Jacksons were guilty. They’re so vain, I’ll bet they think this blog post is about them. Jesse Jr. even had gastric bypass surgery to mold his body into a more senatorial figure. You dress for -- and eat for -- the job you want, not the job you have. And apparently, you also collect Bruce Lee and Eddie Van Halen memorabilia for the job you want, too.
Here’s a list of the vainest and least vain politicians I have met.
Vain: Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich was so proud of his full head of hair he dyed it Serbian black to make himself look even more youthful. Blago was desperate for money because he and his wife spent $400,000 on clothes between 2001 and 2008, including custom made Oxxford suits for him.
Not vain: Barack Obama. Obama was once accused of wearing a $1,000 overcoat. In fact, the overcoat he wore as a state senator had a torn lining. He’s just the kind of guy who can make an overcoat look as though it costs $1,000. As his first biographer, David Mendell, noted, he could have been a Gap model -- for clothes the Gap stopped making five years ago. Also drove a Dodge Neon back and forth from Springfield. The Men’s Vogue cover was a detour into vanity, though.
Vain: Ed Burke. Burke still insists on traveling with bodyguards, because he was threatened with death for his opposition to Mayor Harold Washington, who died 26 years ago. He wears cufflinks and serves coffee on saucers emblazoned with the initials “EMB,” in Celtic script.
Not vain: Sheila Simon. Is anti-vanity a sin? If so, the lieutenant governor is guilty. Her hair looks as though she goes to SuperCuts and asks for the number 3. She sews her own clothes, and the result makes Holly Hobby look preppy. Plays the banjo.
Vain: Aaron Schock. Wouldn’t you, too, be a little full of yourself if you were elected to Congress at 27? Schock’s youthful success has put him in the unusual position of being able to afford designer fashion while it still looks good on him. Did a GQ photo shoot in Brooks Brothers, Polo and Calvin Klein. Does PX90 every morning with Rep. Paul Ryan to make sure he can fit into his clothes, and showed off the results by baring his abs for Men’s Fitness.
Not vain: Richard M. Daley. Short, sweaty, balding, and portly, Daley could not have been vain even if he tried, so he always looked like a guy who’d picked his Men’s Wearhouse suit out of the hamper that morning.