Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Mike Royko: Not Singing the National Anthem…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Bewilderment,Conspiracy Theories,Cops,Gritty Katzman Chicago Stories,Life & Death,Politics — Bob at 8:12 am on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Copyright September 26, 2017

 

A close friend, Helene Santoro, sent me a long column written by Mike Royko, (1932-1997) a once famous Pulitzer-Prize winning Chicago columnist for the Chicago Daily News (which I sold at my several Bob’s Newsstands from 1965 to 1978) about a cerebral and essentially quietly patriotic person who wouldn’t sing the “Star Spangled Banner” before a football game’s kick-off and who was subsequently arrested for disorderly conduct.

The same situation happened again even though the guy changed his behavior completely and by scene three in Royko’s story, he was completely defeated and blended in with the mass behavior with the mob in the stadium.

He had learned his lesson. Be careful what you believe in. Be careful how you express it. Drunken violence, outrage, condemnation, police arrest, judges and convictions can follow the independent thinker.I interviewed Mike Royko in 1967 when I was on the school newspaper, The Midway, in a journalism class at the University of Chicago Laboratory High School in Chicago’s Hyde Park, or less embarrassing known as “Lab School”.

I think he was about 35. I was 17. He was in a little glass cubicle with papers all over his desk and sat back in his chair with his feet up on his desk. Barely had room to do that and I sat outside of the doorway to his small space.

He hadn’t published “Boss” yet, a future 1971 American bestselling book about the infamous Richard  J. Daley’s political machine in Chicago, which sort of ironically, I ended up selling in one of my bookstores. Life can be like a loop, endlessly twisting and spinning.

We talked for a long time, he was very nice and patient, let me take his picture with the school’s clunky 35mm camera, and I left with his autograph, never dreaming that nearly 40 years later, people would ask for my autograph in my own books, too.  He would become one of the most famous columnists in America and he was a great guy.

Many years later for him, but still long ago today, his wife Carol’s death from cancer devastated him and he stopped writing for a year. The Chicago Sun-Times published his last column about her several months after her death at age 44 on September 19, 1979 .

Today, I would venture to say that despite the small grove of trees planted on the north side of the Chicago River as it flowed into Lake Michigan, and named after him, it is likely he has been forgotten. It would be better if Mike Royko was remembered and our present leadership forgotten as soon as the next election. Even earlier.

More strangely, here I am, writing a column about a columnist fifty years after the one time I met him.

But the foul odor of the bad guys lingers and the memory of the good guys just floats away over the horizon. Nearing 70 now, and long after the man’s death, I still have the small roll of 35mm film negatives I developed in the high school photography class from which one picture of Mike Royko was selected and printed with my story about him.

Well, I remember him. Gone 20 years now, Royko was really Somebody.

New Addition to my story!!  As of February 3, 2018:

I am honored to add these correction to my story by David Royko, son of royalty, or Mike, because all us writers wanna get the story right! Right?  His letter is not edited so whatever he says is what happened.

My appreciation to him and I hope you enjoy the ongoing story, too:

Hi Robert,
Somehow I’d missed your column about Dad this past September, which I just read and enjoyed. It was just posted today to the “Mike Royko is God” Facebook page by Gail Dean Cotton.
A few comments/corrections:
Regarding the particulars of Mom’s death: it wasn’t cancer, but a shocking healthy-today-dead-tomorrow-aneurysm when she was 44, on September 19, 1979 — which also was Dad’s 47th birthday.
You’re right — it did devastate him — but he didn’t stop writing the column for a year. He wrote a short one (I’ve pasted it below) three weeks after Mom died. I don’t remember exactly when he returned to his usual schedule (5 a week) but it was only a matter of weeks after that. That column that you cite about her, a brilliant classic, running (as you cite) on 11/22/79,
(A November Farewell http://www.davidroyko.com/ anovemberfarewell.htm), was not several months after she died, but only about 2 months, and it wasn’t just the “last” column he ever wrote about her but the only column he ever wrote about her, and it was after he was already back to writing the column. And, he wrote that column, as usual, the day before it ran, which, significantly, would have been Mom’s 45th birthday (a sort of tribute to her, and which he didn’t say in that in the column — only he and we knew “why” he wrote it that day, and I didn’t know it was coming until I opened the paper).
Hope you have a fine Saturday.
David Royko

 

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9 Comments »

Comment by H

September 26, 2017 @ 8:32 am

http://michaelsherwood.com/RoykoNovember.html

Brings tears every time.

The closest Ive ever come to a writer of his caliber is you.

H

Comment by b matteson

September 26, 2017 @ 9:05 am

Royko was immortalized in film, his name emblazoned accross a chicago bus in the John Belushi film “Continental Divide” great story Mr. Katzman!

Comment by veenk

September 26, 2017 @ 10:17 am

Great recollection, Bob. We used to turn to him first every day. Often saw him in the Billy Goat but only spoke with him once, sadly. That was in Sayat Nova, where you and I met frequently. You were a witness to Chicago History, and often a player, without intending to be! Never stop.

Comment by Brad Dechter

September 26, 2017 @ 10:56 am

Nice Bob- thanks for sharing! I still sing it- it’s not the flag that requires destruction or disrespect because it serves as a symbol of our national greatness, it’s the politicians.
Leave the flags and national anthems alone- pelt the politicians with tomatoes and soft fluffy pancakes!
Trump is ruining what was a great nation.

Comment by Patrick Vandenberg

September 27, 2017 @ 12:25 pm

Just met you today, intrigued by your manner, I investigated your website. Yes, how delightfully entertaining your stories well told. You’ve awakened the pleasure of the simple read. Thanks Pat

Comment by Rick

October 9, 2017 @ 11:05 pm

Just a test

Comment by Marjorie

November 24, 2017 @ 2:24 pm

I really enjoy your writing style and am always touched by your life story and experiences. I went to high school with your sister Bonnie. Although our paths never crossed, I enjoy seeing Chicago through your eyes, and the way you describe life through the lens of maturity.

Comment by H

February 3, 2018 @ 2:25 pm

Son of Royalty, for sure. Thanks for sharing David’s clarifications.

Comment by scott

February 3, 2018 @ 2:57 pm

Bob-Thanks for the story behind the story I found it interesting and liked your intro and his data.-Scott

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