If you can't say anything nice about someone ...
you might be the mayor of Chicago
2-2-2023 (issue No. 73)
Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above.
Land of Linkin’ — Where I tell readers where to go
Mary Schmich — on the death of her doctor
Re:Tweets — featuring the winner of the visual tweets poll and this week’s finalists
Tune of the Week — “That Lonesome Train That Took My Baby Away.”
Last week’s winning tweets
The winner of the dad-tweets division was the oft-stolen joke that a better name for stepfather is “faux pa.”
Lightfoot fails the Chris Kennedy test and other stray thoughts on the mayor’s race
At the Jan. 26 mayoral forum, the candidates were asked to say what they admired about the candidate standing next to them. A debate cliche? Yes, but a healthy question nevertheless, one designed to elicit an antidote to the rhetorical poison of these events and allow the candidates to show their more gracious sides.
Grace, after all, is an important asset for an elected leader, particularly an executive who is going to have to reconcile and accommodate opposing fiery factions. Portraying your foes as irredeemable cartoon villains is no way to get anything done, as we so often see.
Five years ago, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy did a faceplant on the debate stage when asked to say something nice about JB Pritzker.
Kennedy looked down at his lectern in silence for a five full seconds. “I mean,” he stammered at last, “I’m challenged in this election, because I think that as Democrats, we believe government can be our ally. And when JB emerges as the poster child of all that’s wrong with the corrupt system in our state, it’s difficult for me to heap praise on him. And that’s where I unfortunately need to end it.”
And Lightfoot’s response when challenged to come up with something nice to say about challenger Brandon Johnson was not only graceless, but also snarky. “He spins a good story,” Lightfoot said. “You can tell he was the son of a preacher.”
I still don’t know the cause being advanced by the hecklers who pestered Johnson during Tuesday night’s mayoral debate. Their chanting and shouting were unintelligible on TV and even reporters in the hall didn’t seem to understand what they were about.
(Capitol Fax video excerpt)
Whatever their beef with Johnson — his $1 billion “tax-the-rich plan to bankroll social services” is aggressively liberal, but it would be rare for liberals to be heckled in Chicago — all that their shouting accomplished was to give Johnson’s profile a bit of a boost.
“I don’t respond to kids,” said candidate Willie Wilson, 74, brushing off a pointed barb thrown by Ja’Mal Green, 27, the youngest candidate on the stage.
Green argued that Wilson’s earlier comments expressing enthusiasm for hunting down criminals like rabbits reflected a mindset that too often results in police violence (See “What were those Memphis cops thinking?” in Tuesday’s Picayune Sentinel.)
“(Wilson) should know what that means and know how it feels,” said Green. “And when you have that mentality that Willie Wilson has, you have Tyre Nichols, you have George Floyd, you have Anjanette Young. We cannot have that in this city.”
Asked for a response, the unreflective Wilson managed only a cheap shot at Green’s age.
Green is young, true. But he’s a political talent. As others have observed, it’s a mark of Lightfoot’s clumsy political instincts that she didn’t form alliances with Green and Wilson — perhaps bringing them into her administration.
I’d be slightly more impressed with outgoing 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney’s endorsement Wednesday of former schools CEO Paul Vallas if Tunney hadn’t endorsed disgraced former Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno in his bid for political resurrection. Yet I do think some voters in Tunney’s North Side ward will give Vallas a second look based on Tunney’s say-so.
“While it is tough to pick a winner,” said NBC-5 political reporter Mary Ann Ahern at the close of her report on Tuesday’s debate, “tonight Ald. Sophia King showed her confidence.” (Or maybe Ahern said “competence,” I couldn’t quite tell). And on Twitter, Ahern wondered if she had just witnessed King’s “breakout moment.”
I, too, was impressed with King’s presentation. I remain one of the many still-undecided voters.
News & Views
News: Robert Crimo Jr., the father of alleged Highland Park parade killer Robert Crimo III, is charged in Lake County with reckless conduct causing great bodily harm for helping his son obtain a firearm owner’s identification card before he turned 21.
View: It was clearly spectacularly, recklessly bad parenting for Crimo to help his son buy guns.
Authorities have previously said the accused shooter, Robert Crimo III, attempted suicide by machete in April 2019 and in September 2019 was accused by a family member of making threats to "kill everyone." Both those reports came months before Crimo Jr. sponsored his son's application in December 2019. (Associated Press)
But the murders Crimo III allegedly committed when he opened fire on the Highland Park Independence Day parade occurred nine months after his 21st birthday, nine months after he would not have needed any parental OK to purchase the Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle he allegedly used.
The charges against his father, which advanced in a preliminary hearing last week, look like an expression of the anger, dismay and contempt we feel toward him, but they don’t look legally sound.
View: I get it. Password sharing on Netflix costs the company big bucks — 100 million freeloaders worldwide, according to some estimates. But this looks like a major pain in the ass crackdown that will make it difficult to watch while traveling and will block family members from sharing accounts, which will in turn inspire a considerable number of defections.
To ensure that your devices are associated with your primary location, Netflix is now asking users to connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days. … Signing into Netflix outside of your home may lead to the device in use being blocked from Netflix. This could prevent you from signing into new devices while traveling, but … traveling users who want to use Netflix on a hotel smart TV, company laptop, etc. can request a temporary code from the service when signing in. This will give them access to their account for seven consecutive days.
Hundreds of comments under this tweet are not sympathetic.
News: Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announces she is dropping sex abuse charges against R. Kelly
View: Though some alleged victims and their allies complained bitterly about the decision, it made perfect sense for Foxx to decide not to devote scarce to resources pursuing charges against a man already convicted, already in the federal dock again and unlikely ever to walk free.
At a news conference, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx explained her office is no longer pursuing four sex abuse indictments against Kelly, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison last year after being found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking following a trial in New York.
"While today's cases are no longer being pursued, we believe that justice has been served in the sentences that have already been handed down to Mr. Kelly, as well as the sentence that will come down next month," the state's attorney said. "... I want to make unequivocally clear that we take allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault seriously..." (NBC-5)
But it makes no sense to announce it. Just put the case on the back burner and say nothing while awaiting the outcomes of federal trials and appeals. Foxx’s political instincts have failed her again.
Jimmy Kimmel’s troublingly good deepfake
The Kimmel-on-Kimmel conversation was created via a special variation of deepfake technology created specifically for the show, a spokesperson for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” told IndieWire, although they did not elaborate on the methods used for the segment. Deepfakes in general have grown steadily more common on TV and film as a way of imitating celebrities for comedic purposes.
I think this belongs up there with the recently published collection, “20 of the best deepfake examples that terrified and amused the internet.”
As I wrote in “9 things that are keeping me up at night,” a 2019 column, “It’s not overstating the case to say that democracy itself depends on the ability of the people to discern truth from lies, fact from fiction. Propaganda has weakened that ability, and deepfakes threaten to all but destroy it.”
MIT, along with many other sources, reports that there are now techniques for identifying deepfakes, but I’m not confident in mass discernment or in the ability of electronic sleuths to keep up with advances by the hoaxsters.
Land of Linkin’
“Who makes the best marinara sauce? We tested 12 supermarket options.” (The Washington Post) The top finishers: 3. Bertolli Traditional Marinara 2. Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce. 1. Rao’s Homemade Marinara. Rao’s is more than four times as expensive as the Trader Joe’s product and more than three times as expensive as Bertolli, if you happen to be price-sensitive.
“Full List of Texas Pastors Charged With Abusing Children This Year.” (Newsweek) There are 10. But let’s fret some more about drag queens, shall we?
“Tipping — is it getting out of control? Many consumers say yes,” (Chicago Sun-Times) “As more businesses adopt digital payment methods, customers are automatically being prompted to leave a gratuity — many times as high as 30% — at places they normally wouldn’t. And some say it has become more frustrating as the price of items has skyrocketed due to inflation, which eased to 6.5% in December but still remains painfully high.”
Please enjoy Tony Goldmark’s blistering response to a reporter from the right-wing Daily Wire who contacted him in his capacity as the host of a podcast that analyzes Disney fare. She wanted to quote his opinion on the theme change to the Splash Mountain attraction. His demurral includes this: “You know your audience will angrily froth at the mouth and reward you with clicks at anything that threatens the comfy status quo even slightly, even over something as ultimately trivial as a flume ride for children. And your unceasing pandering to that stupid, stupidly, regressive, white-hot rage, never fails to sicken me.”
“Tiktok's enshittification” is a long, fascinating read by Cory Doctorow that introduces a new term to describe how web platforms devolve: “First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.” (Via Chicago Public Square)
The Tribune’s Chicago Boundaries Map “allows users to search by location to find what neighborhood, community area, ward, ZIP code, police district and police beat an address is located in.”
The Picayune Sentinel preview: Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. I talk with WGN-AM 720 host John Williams about what’s making news and likely to be grist for the PS mill. The WGN listen-live link is here.
A fourth and final ‘hasta’ to Jay Marvin
Tuesday morning, Jay Marvin’s wife, Mary, posted to Facebook that he had just died.
He was 70 and in poor health. I’ve been unable to find any other information about his death.
Former local media columnist Robert Feder tweeted in tribute that Marvin was “a singular radio talent with a heart of gold.”
That he was.
Now once again I’m bidding farewell to a passionate, caring, complicated broadcaster. Here are the previous times:
Aug. 22, 1983: Frisco’s KSAN to let caged ‘Byrd’ sing (On the radio column)
Is there one among us who, at some time in the dim, unspecified past, has not sat in front of the record player on a boring afternoon and played disc jockey with all of our favorite records?
Hey, hey! Comin’ at ya’ Hey, hey, hey!
This fantasy must be at least as common — and just as quixotic — as the sports daydreaming every male indulges in throughout his life. (“Reggie Theus is out with an injury, and the Bulls have elected to start … Eric Zorn!)
For every Wolfman Jack — who started jiving with a turntable in his folks’ basement and became one of the richest guys ever to spin wax — there are millions of schlubs adrift on a sea of dreams, scanning their shelves for records and announcing song titles into the void as if something, anything, depended on it.
By rights, Marvin Yust would have turned out to be just one of those schlubs. A rich Jewish kid who grew up in Beverly Hills in the 1960s, Yust had a taste for pretend radio that was aggressively unstylish. While his contemporaries rocked and bopped to Jan and Dean and the Beatles, he industriously played country and blues music on his very own science-project AM station that had just enough power to reach to the end of the block.
Not many people , if any listened to young Yust’s nightly broadcasts from the family garage, but his devotion to country and the blues did not flag. He wanted to become a real deejay, and a real deejay he became: Jay “Byrd” Marvin, among the most respected young talents in country music radio and the closest thing Chicago had to its own good ol’ boy of the airwaves.
Most announcers on music stations are passingly familiar with the tunes they play. Some are genuine music buffs from way back — Dick Bartley (WFYR-FM) Eddie Hubbard (WAIT-AM) Terri Hemmert (WRT) and virtually the entire staff at WFMT-FM come immediately to mind — but many others, especially in areas such as country pop, aren't a whole lot more than guys with a nice set of vocal cords who read the time off digital clocks
What makes a guy like Jay “Byrd” Marvin — now heard weekdays 3- 7pm on WJEZ-FM — stand out is his love for and deep understanding of modern country music and its multifaceted heritage. He writes articles for country music magazines, emcees concerts — including the yearly Jimmie Rodgers Memorial festival in Mississippi — and travels great distances to associate with other jocks interested in old time country.
Local country record promoters, journalists who cover the field and those active on the national scene acknowledge his expertise.
“He is one of the bright students of country music,” says Charlie Douglas of the Music Country Radio Network in Nashville, several-time winner of the Country Music Association's Deejay of the Year award. “I'd match Jay’s ability and knowledge with almost anyone's.”
And yes, Marvin, at 30, has the perfect rambling background to go with his other credentials: After dropping out of junior college, he hitchhiked around the country and ended up back in southern California in broadcasting school. In 1971 He took a job at country station KWMC in Del Rio, Tex. for $90 a week. There he was given the “Byrd” sobriquet that has stuck ever since.
He went from there to country jock jobs in Lynchburg, Va. (“I was the only Jew in the city; worst experience of my life”) and El Paso, Tex. Then he went back to Del Rio, on to Amarillo (a rock station, his only one), up to Charlotte, N.C., down to Memphis and, at last, in 1980, to WJEZ in Chicago
He switched to AM sister station WJJD, then a country outlet, about a year later and became that station’s music director, afternoon drive host and central personality. He had his own Saturday afternoon country oldies show that allowed him the opportunity to indulge his passion for Hank Williams, Bob Wills and other classic country artists who seldom show up on “countrypolitan” stations up north.
When WJJD switched to big band and pop oldies early last year, Marvin jumped back to WJEZ, which was just starting who-can-sound-more-bland? country music war with upstart WUSN-FM. Both stations took the wall-to-wall music approach and mixed in a heavy dose of pop crossover artists. Both WUSN and WJEZ had a lot of just-vocal-cords deejays on staff. Or so it seemed . But you never know, because a deliberately bland radio station can make even a jock such as the highly acclaimed, well traveled Jay “Byrd” sound like just-vocal-cords most of the time.
The story of the dreamer who rose from his parents' garage to the big-city studios turned bittersweet. Marvin became a modest success in this market but he had the distinction of being one of the most underutilized radio resources in Chicago. The grim irony was that he languished in a job at a station that really needed his talents but seem disinclined to take full advantage of them.
“Most of the management people who get into this business don't know anything about country music,” said John David Spangler, the former program director at WJEZ who is now program director at KSAN, San Francisco's top country music station. “They use the same plan that pop-adult stations use and it doesn't work. There's a feeling that's missing in country radio in Chicago. No one is speaking the language. No one is talking to the country listener.
“Jay ‘Byrd’s’ knowledge is incredible, and WJEZ doesn't allow him the freedom to give information that he knows. He ought to be talking at least three times an hour for 30 seconds or a minute about the songs and the artist, but the station shackles him. There's no one in Chicago with the courage to turn someone like Jay ‘Byrd’ loose on the air. He is so talented that you think they just have to make an exception for him. But they don't.”
Spangler said this in an interview last Wednesday.
On Friday, he hired Marvin to take over the late evening shift at KSAN. Marvin will remain on the air WJEZ for the next two weeks. He told WJEZ he was leaving to be closer to his family on the West Coast and to pursue the writing career. He never complained about his limited role as a deejay and said he got out his personality and knowledge in little comments, one an hour or so.
But the fact remains that Marvin was usually constrained by the format and did little other on the air than reading station slogans ( “WJEZ, where the music does the talking” ). Her seldom back-announced the songs he played and only rarely let on that he had more than a superficial knowledge of country music.
He still managed to be quite good and extremely popular with fans at public appearances, where he showed up in jeans driving his pickup. But even they must have known his was a waste of great talent and a symbol for what is wrong with much of music radio today: It won't allow itself any smarts
That this should be true in country music is especially sad. Country has by far the longest and richest history of any genre in American popular music and benefits most on the radio from the sense of perspective that well-informed hosts can supply.
Jay Marvin, even though he is a child of Hollywood, really does have the requisite soul. He knows country's roots as the white man's blues, a segment of popular culture that grew out of historical ballads, back porch laments, love songs and hometowns; a musical style that addresses itself to everyday people and their problems .
He's also a student of the Black man's blues.. He listens to WXOL-AM when he drives to work and has learned to do a devastatingly accurate impression of that station’s Purvis Spann (“your all-day, all-night-long blues man”)
Talking with Marvin off the air for five minutes about the subjects that matter to him gives you a better sense of his warmth, knowledge and good humor than listening to a four-hour program of WJEZ for five days.
“We give the listeners exactly what they want,” he said stoutly. “If we didn't, we'd be out of business.”
Yes, but … WJEZ is the number three country station in a city that clearly can't support three garden-variety country music stations. WUSN has out Velveeta’d WJEZ by passing it in the ratings (probably because of WUSN’s middle dial position and more aggressive promotions; both stations sound more or less the same) and WMAQ-AM succeeds because it is an excellent full-service station that carries those red hot White Sox.
WJEZ is going to have to offer something extra if it wants to survive.
“To win and radio you gotta play all your cards,” said Spangler, who made no effort to hide his contempt WJEZ management. “They're throwing in Jay ‘Byrd’s’ hand it's hard to believe, isn't it?
Sept. 12, 1996: Say what you will about Jay Marvin, he filled a void.
Good news for the right wing: Jay Marvin is outta here as of Friday, off the air, bound for a better time slot in a sunnier climate.
For three years he has challenged you, railed at you and mocked you. If you were a listener, he has also surprised you, offended you and occasionally grossed you out. He's been virtually a one-man antidote to the brash conservatism and obsequious liberalism that passes for balance in the world of mainstream talk radio--an unpredictable well of indignation and passion fighting extremism with extremism.
Marvin, 43, has asked for his release from the contract that would have kept him on the 10 p.m. shift at WLS-AM 890 until June in order to take a more prestigious afternoon-drive slot in a distant market where he believes the weather will be better for his health. The station has not named his replacement, but Marvin's departure is likely to leave the same ideological void he filled upon his arrival here in 1993.
Talk radio, in case you've missed the hype, is a predominantly conservative medium. The best air shifts and the biggest syndication deals consistently go to those with right-of-center views (who, with no sense of irony whatsoever, proceed to bleat about "the liberal media"), a trend that Steven Rendall, an analyst for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), says dates back to at least the 1960s.
"Talk radio as we know it was born in backlash," Rendall said. "White guys railing against civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the women's movement. Not much has changed since."
"Progressives got caught up in the glamor of national crusades, television and speaking in general terms," said Jim Hightower, the Texas-based populist who was once touted as the Left's answer to Rush Limbaugh but lost his syndication deal with ABC Radio last year. "We forgot about the importance of speaking specifically and communicating locally to ordinary Americans. And that's what radio does best."
The tradition has created an audience, and the audience, generally 30-and-older listeners who have grown more conservative as they have drifted away from music radio, has bolstered the tradition. It's a bit circular, but not a conspiracy. And some would even argue that the strident conservative biases of talk radio provide needed counterpoint to the more subtle liberal biases in other media.
But the larger conservative take on this issue has been that liberals just don't have the knack for talk radio--they are too mealy-mouthed and concerned with portraying an image of sensitivity and tolerance to mix it up, call names and make the entertainingly nasty generalizations that add zest to the format. This was the rap on both Hightower and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a sterling liberal orator who recently bombed as a talk host.
Jay Marvin shatters those stereotypes. He'd left Chicago radio in 1983 a disillusioned country-music jock and returned an iconoclastic chatterbox who freely discussed his battle against manic-depression, advocated socialism and mixed infantile humor with discussions of politics, culture, religion and social philosophy that were almost always punctuated by shouting matches and insults.
"We've been thrilled to have him," said WLS General Manager Zemira Jones. "He's done extremely well for us (in the Arbitron ratings, where his numbers were among the highest at the station). He shows that it's not politics that matters in talk radio, it's entertainment."
They say this in the radio industry so often I'm tempted to think they believe it. Only their programming gives them away.
Still, there are signs that left-wing talk is holding its own. Hightower came back on Labor Day to begin syndicating a daily, two-hour program to more than 100 small stations around the country; his replacement on ABC, Bernie Ward, is now on 150 stations (including WLS, noon Saturdays); Boulder, Colo.-based lefty Aaron Harber claims 40 stations in 26 states after two years in syndication; and the eclectic gabfest hosted by Tom Leykis, who doesn't claim to be a liberal, just "not a right-wing wacko," is now on 200 stations (including WJJD-AM 1160, 9 p.m. weeknights), up from 25 in 1994, according to his syndicate.
At that, it's possible Jay Marvin himself will return here someday via syndication, thus diluting today's good news for the Right. For now, though, listeners on the left send him off with his own signature farewell:
Jan 3. 2005: Jay, walking
A coda in my life as a journalist has been saying goodbye to radio personality Jay Marvin .
First time was in 1983 when he was a sharp but disillusioned country music jock bounced from the unendurably bland WJEZ-FM.
The next time was in 1996 when he left WLS-AM (890) after three years there as the resident liberal firebrand talk-show host and took a higher-profile gig in Denver.
Marvin, now 52, returned to the station in 1999 as a more reflective, measured and libertarian voice, still by far the most left-wing of the daily hosts on the increasingly right-wing talk superstation.
Now he's out the door again.
He says he's happy to be gone from the station, where he was never particularly appreciated or beloved either by management or the listeners.
This is not merely brave posturing on his part.
Jay and I are professional friends, I guess is how you'd describe it, and we've spoken about his frustrations frequently over the years, as well as his desire to move on.
My role in these discussions has always been to urge him to stay and continue to provide counterpoint to the station that, in recent years, has bounced liberals Mike Malloy, Nancy Skinner and Ski Anderson and reduced the role of the iconoclastically progressive newsman Bill Cameron.
It was also to remind him not to take the partisan skirmishes and vicious callers too seriously; to remember that talk-radio is show biz and, at his best, he was a great showman.
But Jay is a restless and politically serious man, and I believe him when he says he's greatly relieved to be gone from the station, which in recent years had paired him with conservative Eileen Byrne in a match that had more on-air chemistry than he seemed to think.
It shocked and pleased me this morning to hear Byrne offer a classy farewell (shocked because once personalities leave WLS, the usual custom is never to mention their names on the air again):
I just want to say a word about my friend and former partner Jay Marvin. If you didn't already hear the news, Jay Marvin is no longer with the station. I enjoyed working with him very much.
But I knew that he was not happy and I did not know how to help him. You know we. this is our first election that we'd gone through. He took the debate very personally. I didn't know how to help him be more positive about what we were doing.
But let me say this as we go forward. That I loved his different perspective. And as we go forward, I'm always going to think of him and look at things from beyond my own eyes and ears and treat everybody who disagrees with respect.
I did talk to Jay, he was going on vacation, he was on his way to Phoenix, and he sounded happier than he did in a very long time. So certainly I wish him all the best.
I do, too. And I suspect that, as before, we haven't heard the last of Jay Marvin.
He went on to write and paint, and the few times we were in touch over the years he sounded alternately discouraged and determined.
Cisco Cotto, Marvin’s former news announcer on WLS-AM 890, wrote on Facebook that “everyone who ever spent time in Jay’s orbit came away a better person.”
What an epitaph. What a legacy.
So one last time: So long, Jay.
There is not a category for longest newsletter, or I’d be a shoo-in
My vote for best clickbait is the Chicago Reader’s annual Best of Chicago polls. That said, I urge you to open up the City Life ballot and vote for the Picayune Sentinel under best newsletter and best blog, vote for “The Mincing Rascals” as best podcast and vote for Brandon Pope, a member of the Rascals podcast team, for best beard. You have until Feb. 15.
Mary Schmich: Goodbye, Dr. Roguska
My former colleague Mary Schmich posts occasional column-like entries on Facebook. Here, reprinted with permission, is her most recent offering:
I got a call the other night telling me Dr. Roguska had died. Dr. Roguska was 90, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But the death of someone who cared for you is always startling, an electrical shock, like a plug pulled, and I’ve been thinking about her ever since.
Jadwiga Roguska-Kyts was a pioneer, a woman who came to the U.S. from Poland to practice medicine, and made a name for herself not just as a doctor but as the nicest damn doctor you would ever meet. She took care of a lot of Chicago Tribune people, including former business columnist Carol Kleiman.
That’s Carol with Dr. Roguska in the photo above, in 2017. Carol and I had taken her to lunch because we missed her and thought she might miss seeing her patients.
When I let Carol know Dr. Roguska was gone, she emailed this brief eulogy: "Dr. Roguska was a wonderful woman. A Wonder Woman. She was my doctor and my friend. A good person, wise, perceptive, kind and generous. I loved her.”
Love. It’s not too strong a word for how many of Dr. Roguska’s patients felt.
On the day Carol and I took her to lunch, Dr. Roguska was as lively and curious as ever, though her short-term memory was failing. We walked her back to her downtown condo, where she was living with a caretaker, and as I watched her small body disappear into the lobby I remember thinking: I hope she knows how much she is loved by the people she has cared for.
She had an astonishing life, which I recounted in abridged form in the Tribune when she retired in 2014. Pasting it below, with the story of how she saved me from the February blues.
Some years ago, in the black hole of a Chicago February, I went to see my primary care physician, Dr. Jadwiga Roguska-Kyts. I told her I'd been strangely tired, feeling blue, and I wondered, reluctantly, if I might need a pharmaceutical lift.
Dr. Roguska listened for a while. Looked thoughtful. And, finally, with a Polish lilt, dispensed her diagnosis:
The miracle cure of perspective.
I left her office feeling as bright as a July morning.
Most of Dr. Roguska's patients, it seems, have a similar story, of her common sense and uncommon willingness to listen, which is why when she mailed out a retirement letter not long ago, many patients felt as if a bomb had landed in the mailbox.
It shouldn't have been a shock. As the letter pointed out, she has been practicing medicine for 56 years.
But where would her patients find another doctor who routinely picked up her own phone? At 8 a.m.? Who said, "Can you come over now?"
"I've never had somebody who was that invested in my good health," Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick said Monday at a gathering in her honor, noting that since he doesn't have insurance, he pays her in art.
It was late afternoon in a conference room at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, and in the crowd of patients, doctors and friends who had come to say so long and thank you, there were many stories.
Stories about the academic brilliance of the timid but driven young woman from Poland, about her role as a female trailblazer in the fiercely male field of medicine.
Stories of how she routinely referred patients to a specialist by picking up the phone right then and there, getting the specialist on the line and saying, "I have a very special patient for you."
Stories, above all, of her wide heart.
Shirley Brown, a retired juvenile probation officer, testified to the times she arrived at the doctor's office still rattled by the day. Dr. Roguska always sat her down in a chair and let her talk before putting on the blood pressure cuff.
"I've had a lot of doctors in my lifetime," Brown told Dr. Roguska, "but I was never able to talk to them the way I talk to you."
It's hard to imagine that when Dr. Roguska arrived in Chicago, in her mid-20s, she spoke little English. And yet there remains something about her — her reserve, her common sense — that seems rooted in a different place and time, Poland in the first half of the 20th century.
In that place and time, she recently told me, meat was scarce and tough and so she was astonished by how much meat Americans devoured.
Through the years, her patients were likely to glean a few details of her life: She loves to walk and to read, especially The New Yorker, and she adored her husband.
Patients were less likely to know that when Robert Kyts died, in 1998, he left her, to her surprise, a wealthy woman.
"She didn't want to buy a car, a vacation, a great house," attorney Joanna Dobecka Lembert told the gathering Monday.
Instead, Dr. Roguska started a foundation to finance projects in Poland. One involved replacing a school's outhouses with toilets. Recently, she funded construction of a day care center for Alzheimer's patients in her hometown of Poznan.
It's tempting to call Dr. Roguska old-fashioned. Small, white-haired, modest (but prone to a chuckle that shakes her whole body), she has been known to instruct a patient in exactly how to eat an apple, meaning everything but the seeds and stem.
That patient tells this story:
"My very first physical with her was really extensive. We went over my entire family's medical history. It's a big family, and there's a lot of stuff. Diabetes, very early heart trouble, cancer, alcoholism and way more than our share of bipolar. Were my parents still alive? How old were they? How old was I when I had my baby, etc.? Some of that information led her to do certain tests on me. My new doctor didn't ask me any of that stuff. Maybe it doesn't matter. It was nice to think it did."
Old-fashioned? You could say that.
Or you could say that for 56 years Dr. Roguska accomplished the most advanced of all medical feats: She made her patients feel she cared. — Mary Schmich
Do you owe it to yourself to watch the videos of the ghastly police battery on Tyre Nichols? Austin Berg says no, don’t watch. I say you must. Brandon Pope and John Williams have more nuanced views, as you will hear on this week’s episode of “The Mincing Rascals.” We also discuss the race for mayor and Netflix’s looming crackdown on password sharing. Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page. If you’re not a podcast listener, you can now hear an edited version of the show at 8 p.m. most Saturday evenings on WGN-AM 720.
In Tuesday’s paid-subscriber editions, I present my favorite tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the classic Tweet of the Week contest in which the template for the poll does not allow the use of images. Subscribers vote for their favorite, and I post the winner here every Thursday:
The new nominees for Tweet of the Week:
My therapist: And what do we say when we’re sad? Me: Add to cart? My therapist: No. — @EwdatsGROSS
“Cheers” overly romanticized dive bars. I’ve never once been in one and thought, “I wish everyone here knew my name.” — @benedictsred
The idea of a fight club with rules is ridiculous. My fight club can’t even keep track of the snack chart. — @capnwatsisname
It’s OK to eat junk food in the car on road trips because calories don’t count at highway speed. I don’t have time to explain the science behind this, but it’s sound. — @JohnLyonTweets
Always hold the door open for your date because if there’s a killer hiding in the dark they’ll kill them first. — @dakarrier
Don’t cry because it’s over. Cry before it’s over. Make crying the reason it’s over. — @SortaBad
Unplugged the church organ to charge my phone, and I'm kind of shocked by all the cursing. — @WilliamAder
Let's all agree to resist consensus. — @wildethingy
When aliens finally show up I'll bet they'll be kinda pissed about how flippantly we've been using the word "universal." — @MelvinofYork
Perfect one night stand: Amish person. No internet access. No phones. In the heat of passion they'll whisper the secret to apple butter. — @SondraDeeMe
Tune of the Week
Jonas Friddle is a compelling local singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, teacher and performer. His new album “Jug Band Happy Hour” features “That Lonesome Train That Took My Baby Away.” Here is a subset of his band playing it last summer at Fitzgerald’s American Music Festival in Berwyn. That’s Anna Jacobson of the Songs of Good Cheer ensemble on the trumpet.
Anna’s husband, Evan, is on trombone. Gerald Dowd is on drums, and Andrew Wilkins is on bass.
The song was written in 1930 by “Papa” Charlie McCoy (1909-1940). A 2010 Chicago Reader article reported:
(Charlie and his brother Joe) were major figures in prewar African-American popular music, helping link rural and vernacular styles to more cosmopolitan genres. The music they played combined the good-timey sounds of 1920s southern string bands and jug bands (which themselves had absorbed traditional folk and blues) with contemporary pop and early jazz from New Orleans and Chicago. The jug-band style matured in cities like Louisville and Memphis, then evolved and spread as the Great Migration brought musicians and their audiences north to the industrial midwest. And it remained influential, albeit in increasingly urbane hybrid forms, until the eve of the postwar blues and R&B explosion of the late 40s. But today it’s all but forgotten. The rambunctious pop-tinged music the McCoys often played sounds trite to audiences who think of “real” blues as a deep dark cry of the soul. It resists romanticization and makes poor fodder for authenticity fetishists, and that’s doomed it—and the McCoys—to obscurity.
The McCoy brothers moved to Chicago in the mid-1930s and are buried in Restvale Cemetery in suburban Alsip.
Friddle has”received The John Lennon Songwriting Award, (won) first place in the Great American Song Contest and (earned) a nomination for Album of the Year in the Independent Music Awards.”
More performance videos are here. My favorite is “Under the Weather,” composed and recorded quite inventively during the COVID-19 lockdowns. But I will not argue with those who prefer “Belle de Louisville,” Friddle’s Lennon-award-winning song.
The Jug Band Happy Hour album release show Sunday at 7 p.m. at SPACE in Evanston has only standing-room tickets left last I looked, and his backing band will also feature esteemed Songs of Good Cheer alum Chris Walz.
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