unPHILtered – Phil Ponce's Blog

A Big Birthday for Chicago Tonight!

30 years ago tonight, on April 24, 1984, Chicago Tonight went on the air for the very first time.

The host was someone who later became my friend and mentor, the late John Callaway.  The first guest was none other than Mayor Harold Washington.

Those of you who were around will remember that this was the time of “Council Wars” and the “Vrdolyak 29″ when Chicago’s internal political strife made the city “Beirut-on-the-lake.”  Chicago was hungry for context and analysis of what was unfolding in the city council.  That’s how the idea for Chicago Tonight germinated.

Since then Chicago Tonight has aired 7,800 shows.

We have many people to thank for this record, a diverse group of people whose support has been crucial.  But it’s you, the viewer, to whom we are most grateful.  If you didn’t watch, care about and support this program, too, we would have no reason for being.  And for that, all of us at Chicago Tonight extend to you our heartfelt thanks!

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The Sound of Music

If you are a viewer of a certain age, you probably remember when a major movie could be a national cultural event.  In my mind The Sound of Music was one of them.

Lyric Opera is currently mounting what appears to be a top-tier  production of The Sound of Music.  The other night the singer who plays the Mother Abess, Christine Brewer, performed the song Climb Every Mountain on our show.  I thought it was a stunning performance.  Check out the clip below.

And by the way, I was somewhat irritated when I saw an interview with Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp in the movie, when he dismissively referred to the movie as The Sound of Mucous.  Really, Christopher?

 

 

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The Kennedys and J.Crew

The clothing company J.Crew was once known for its preppy Nantucket origins and it still has an upper crust nautical patina as part of its branding.

Interestingly, the Kennedy family was very aware of branding and what a nautical image could do for its political fortunes.  That’s according to James Graham, author of a new book, Victura: The Kennedys, a Sailboat, and the Sea.  One of the points Graham makes is that the Kennedys knew that images of them sailing would accomplish several things:  make them look outdoorsy, full of “vigor,” and give them a touch of elegance and Madison Avenue appeal.  In other words, images of Kennedys sailing would enhance their brand.

But more important than the public relations value of pictures of the Kennedys in a sailboat, the author says sailing underscored the family’s unity and competitive spirit — traits that served them well; it was a metaphor for the challenges the family faced.  That little sailboat, Graham writes, accomplished a lot more than just memorable photos of a beautiful couple.

Even so, those pictures of JFK and Jackie on that sailboat are singular pieces of iconography that few ad agencies can possibly match.  Here’s a link to the interview with Graham, which includes many of those famous images.

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Why Does Jeff Garlin Walk Around In His Underwear?

I first got to know about Jeff Garlin through his work on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I find him hilarious playing Larry David’s morally challenged agent — who pays for his ethical shortcomings by being married to the most foul-mouthed Gorgon in television history.

Jeff was born in Chicago and was raised in Morton Grove.  His career is going great guns, and he currently stars as the dad in the TV sitcom The Goldbergs.

He’s in town to hone his standup routine for a fall special, and to do something that seems counterintuitive:  promoting a film he helped produce on the recently discovered, increasingly acclaimed (but now deceased) street photographer, Vivian Maier.  The film is drawing rave reviews and premieres in Chicago this weekend.

He acknowledged that he got the idea for the documentary by watching Jay Shefsky’s piece about Maier several years ago on Chicago Tonight!

I asked him about his Goldbergs’ character’s habit of walking around in his tighty-whities at home.  And I was surprised to hear it’s something Garlin actually does in real life. Catch up with Garlin (and hear why he sheds his pants at home) by watching this clip!

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Whatever Happened to Channel 2′s Jeannie Morris?

I worked alongside Jeannie Morris back in the day when both of us were at Channel 2 during the Don Craig/Walter Jacobson/Bill Kurtis days.

She worked in sports alongside then-husband, Johnny Morris, and I was a general assignment street reporter, thus our paths didn’t cross very often.

We did have one ”joint assignment” and it was a fun one.  In August 1986, the Bears played the Cowboys in London’s Wembley Stadium, the first-ever so-called “American Bowl.”  It was sponsored by the NFL to attract fans in other countries.  Jeannie was assigned to cover the sports angle; I was assigned to do sidebars, including features on Chicagoans living in London.

Sharing a crew and coordinating schedules for about a week gave me the chance to confirm what I already thought about her:  she was smart, great at her job, and had a natural elegance and likability.

But Jeannie left Channel 2 in 1990 and I lost track of her.  So it was a real kick to have her on the show the other night.  She was back in town to receive the prestigious Ring Lardner award for sports reporting –the first woman to be so honored.  If you, too, were a fan of her work, here’s a clip that brings you up to date on a person whose work was so widely admired and respected.

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An Englishman Abroad

As the late Mayor Harold Washington used to say, “Politics ain’t beanbag.”  And he was right.  Here in Illinois, it can be a blood sport; nationally too.

But most of the time family members are on the same side:  the Daleys back a Daley, the Madigans back a Madigan, a Berrios backs a Berrios (not always successfully, in that case.)

Imagine, though, if you had reached one of the highest levels of national government and you were on your way to becoming the top political dog in the country.  The very highest.  Then, all of a sudden you are challenged and displaced by your younger brother!

Would Bill have ever challenged Richie?  Would Bobby have ever challenged Jack?  Would Anthony ever challenge Dan???!!!

But that’s exactly what happened to a guest we had on last night.  And things got so awkward for him, he had to leave the country.  If you missed it, check out the Cain and Abel story involving former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.  It’s fascinating.

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Doctors and the Anti-Vaccination Movement

The anti-vaccination movement  came back into the news recently when Jay Cutler’s pregnant wife, reality star Kristin Cavallari, said she and her husband had decided not to vaccinate their son (and their son-to-be).  Cavallari’s viewpoint echoes that of former Playboy bunny, Jenny McCarthy, who has been a prominent and outspoken opponent of vaccinations.

We had two doctors on the show last night who made the following points:

  • The 1998 British article linking vaccinations to autism has been universally refuted.
  • Subsequent studies since then show no such linkage.
  • Parents who choose not to vaccinate not only risk their children’s health, but the health of other children too young for a vaccination.
  • Recent upticks in cases of measles show that the dangers of non-vaccination are not just theoretical.
  • Children actually die without vaccinations.

After the segment, I spoke briefly with the doctors who acknowledged this issue is intensely emotional and that emotions can get in the way of rational discussion.  A committed anti-vaxxer would probably not be persuaded by the above points.  Check out the segment and see what you think, and read thoughts from moms on the topic here.

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Does ADHD Really Exist?

No, says the author of a new book, Dr. Richard Saul.  Saul has spent five decades working with thousands of patients diagnosed with ADHD.  While he says that attention deficit and hyperactivity really exist, they are not a diagnosis, but symptoms.  And these symptoms, he argues, are often the result of about twenty different conditions and disorders that can be treated–often without medication.

Some of those symptoms and disorders include vision problems, sleep disorders, learning disabilities, OCD — or something as simple as a bright child who’s bored at school.

He says manys doctors find it much less time-consuming and easier to make a diagnosis of ADHD than to explore what else might be going on.

In the meantime, the millions of false diagnoses, he argues, result in unncecessary prescriptions and a delay in finding the root cause of the problem.  Bottom line:  he says only about 5% of the people diagnosed with ADHD actually warrant medication.

Saul’s book is provocative.  Any parent of a child who’s been diagnosed with ADHD might want to read it.  Watch the interview below and read an excerpt from the book here.

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Still Time to Enter the Tribune/Ponce Cartoon Caption Contest!

Phil Ponce cartoon 021714

What is one rat saying to the other in this Chicago alley?  You decide!

If you haven’t already entered the Chicago Tribune caption contest for the cartoon that Tribune editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis asked me to come up with, there is still time.

You can go to www.chicagotribune.com/caption and click on the email link and leave a caption as a comment. Or you can email directly to the contest at: ctc-captions@tribune.com.

The deadline is tomorrow, Friday, March 21 at noon.  So, don’t dally.

And remember, the winner will be acknowledged on the air next week on Chicago Tonight.  So, submit your caption and get a chance to achieve glory on your Window to the World!

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Tribune Cartoon Caption Contest With Guest Artist Phil Ponce

Phil Ponce cartoon 021714

Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis invited me to be a guest artist this week, so I came up with the above cartoon (I did the drawing, Scott masterfully added the color and the shading.)

What could one rat be saying to the other in this Chicago alley?  I haven’t a clue, but you might!

So log onto this Tribune link, follow the easy-to-follow instructions, and BAM, you are a part of Chicago history.  (The cartoon will also come out in Wednesday’s Tribune print version.)

Grand WTTW prize?  It’s a doozy.  The winner’s name will be announced next week on Chicago Tonight.  So enter a caption and be in the running to achieve Chicago Tonight glory!

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