Performing Arts

'Hizzoner' Recalls the Reign of Mayor Daley

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For 21 years, Mayor Richard Joseph Daley ruled Chicago with a firm hand and a tangled tongue. He died 30 years ago this month. Actor Neil Giuntoli channels Mayor Daley in Hizzoner.


This month marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Richard J. Daley, often known as the last of the big city bosses. Mayor Daley presided over Chicago for 21 years. He was acclaimed as a planner and a builder who reached for the sky and made Chicago vigorous and robust, as so many other great American cities declined, and denounced as a boss and a bully who tolerated corruption and bigotry.

He was adored by the Kennedys, abhorred by Jesse Jackson, and often fought the English language to a standstill. Here he is in 1968, speaking to reporters after the Chicago police ran roughshod over demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago that year.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Mayor RICHARD DALEY: Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all. The policeman isn't there to create disorder. The policemen is there to preserve disorder.

SIMON: Neil Giuntoli has written and stars in "Hizzoner," a show about the late mayor that's been running since spring at Chicago's Prop Theater. Here's an excerpt from the show, with Mr. Giuntoli as Mayor Daley on the last day of his life, reflecting on that year, 1968, and his true feelings about the war in Vietnam.

(Soundbite of "Hizzoner")

Mr. NEIL GUINTOLI (Author and Actor): (As Mayor Richard Daley) Right from the start it went bad. The Tet Offensive. Billy, I always used to go to peoples' funerals. I'd go to their wakes, because you'd show respect to them and you'd show respect to the families. But then in the mid-60's I began to see young men killed in Vietnam, good boys, Chicago boys. No parent should have to burry their child, that's wrong.

One day I was in the White House and I just came right out and I said to him, I said, Mr. President, in all due respect, in cards, when I have a losing hand, I fold. Fold, get out of Vietnam, and don't even think twice about it. And you would have thought that I hit LBL with a (unintelligible) the way he got up out of that chair and came around that desk, and I'm telling you, Billy, this was a big man and he had his big hands and he just whisked me right over to a topographical map that they used to keep of Vietnam in the Oval Office in those days, and this thing had mountains, unit identification flags, and he starts into a whole thing. They're coming from here. We'll interdict them from there, fact after fact after fact. And I'm thinking to myself, my God, this man has intelligence agencies, he's got the CIA, he's go the whole infrastructure of Pentagon. They're feeding him information. He gets the whole picture, and who am I? I am the mayor of a city, nothing more than that. The thing has got out of my control. External things from outside descended upon my city.

SIMON: Neil Guintoli as the late mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley. His show, "Hizzoner," continues at Chicago's Prop Theatre.

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