Saturday, May 29, 2004

Best of Royko

Review of For The Love of Mike: More of the Best of Mike Royko.

I searched through my Royko books a while back and finally got around to ordering one of his books from the library. Royko was unpredictable compared to most columnists. He could go from left to right without warning but was more entertaining than anybody around today. One of the funniest columns is about a young punk he worked with by the name of Roger Ebert. Ebert apparently didn't take it personally—he wrote the foreword to the collection.

Some other columns that stuck with me:

Vegas in Akron: A column from March 13, 1980 hit George H.W. Bush's failed campaign slogan "We can turn this country around." (Obviously he couldn't use it again in 1988 without hinting that Reagan was anything but perfect.) Royko took this literally and turned the country so that Minnesota bordered with Mexico, California was on the Atlantic, and San Franscisco was where Washington D.C. Royko hated Bush with a passion bordering on insanity and wrote about him for decades...then voted for him in 1992 because he hated Clinton even more.

A Devilish Night for Oral Roberts.
Just before the last cicada invasion, Oral Roberts lost what was left of his mind. After he met the 900-foot Jesus in the desert, during the period that God told him if he didn't raise $8,000,000, He'd call him home, the devil attacked poor Oral in his bedroom. Fortunately Mrs. Roberts chased Satan away. Readers responded to Royko's snide remarks about the good reverend with indignity. One asked him "If you were at the gates of Heaven and were asked why you should be allowed in, what would you say?" Royko responded with "Do you think if I said ‘Candy-gram,' they might fall for it?"

Fascism Isn't Accidental. A column about how students at Lane Tech High School attacked a long-haired college professor from Northwestern because he sat on a park bench near their school. "If and when it disappears, it won't be stolen by big government, the tax collector, or the Supreme Court. Fascism will be the people's choice. It usually is. We've managed to avoid it so far only because nobody nutty enough to give the people what they want has come along. Yet."

A Law City Should Keep. In 1973, the Chicago City Council acted to repeal the municipal ordinance that said, "No person who is diseased, maimed, mutiliated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or an improper person [is] to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places, [or] shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense." The ordinance was passed in 1939 but with no clear indication for its cause.
Royko didn't mention it in his column but it's probably related to the Urbana Monster Ordinance (sorry, dead link--there's a pseudo-urban legend that says that Urbana, Illinois has a law banning monsters from its city limits. Actually, it's about freak shows. Carnivals used to display people with tumors, disfiguring injuries, and even those in iron lungs for rubes to gawk at. The Urbana, Chicago, and several other municipalities that banned monsters and ugly people were probably referring to side-shows. The Straight Dope ran a column on it once but it's not on the web yet.)

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