Book Trailer For Madam President

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sally Rand was the #1 Money Maker at the Worlds Fair

She did it all with her clothes off. She came from a small town in the Ozarks. Her real name was Harriet Beck. She wanted to be a dancer and follow the sun to Hollywood. She ran away when she was twelve and of course she ran to the circus. Her parents brought her back but she ran away again. She learned the trapeze and found she was very athletic. She was barely five feet tall and compact. This time she made it the coast and began to get big parts. Cecil B. Demills noticed her and asked Harriet her name. He frowned and looked around and saw an Atlas. Your name is Sally Rand he pronounced.

Sally Rand did well in the silent movies. She was a WAMPAS Baby Star which was basically a whos who of up and coming actresses. Everything was going fine until sound came along. Her screen test was a disaster. Sally Rand had a bad lisp that ended her Hollywood aspirations. Demills showed her the door and she ended up taking a bus to Chicago to look for work. She found it at the Paramount when she showed up with two giant Ostrich feathers and took off her clothes. Her dance was a hit and in three years the Worlds Fair was going to open.

Sally Rand crashed the opening ceremonies on the back of a white horse. She was naked of course and the people thought she was part of the fair. She was hired and quickly her fan dance became the number one draw. The fair had to hire extra accountants to take in all the money. Her fame lasted but the money did not. She had to go on the road and never got off. Sally Rand died penniless and obscure, only to live on in Youtube videos and rare 1933 Worlds Fair viewers.  Her dressing room was bought by a millionaire on the North Shore. Irony upon irony.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

The Devil in the White City and the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933

The two fairs were forty years apart. The fair made famous by Eric Larson's book Devil in the White City was to show that Chicago had arrived and was a world city like Paris or New York. Daniel Burnham and his architects had this in mind when they designed the neo classical buildings of the White City. It was a celebration of culture in a city that was the slaughter house for the world. The Ferris Wheel made its debut along with Cracker Jacks and the first Hootchie Koo dance. People came away from the fair amazed that such a world existed in the rough and tumble coal burning city that at times smelled so bad people would not go out doors.

The 1933 fair was entirely different. Officially it was to celebrate the incorporation of Chicago but that didn't seem enough so it was changed to A Century of Progress. Technology and industrial might became the themes in a fair held in the worst year of the Great Depression. The fair quickly became a quest against the naysayers who pointed out that Chicago was broke and nobody would come during a Depression where a third of the banks had failed and a quarter of the work force was unemployed. The fair would be built on gold notes and corporate funds. No public funds would be used.

The Ferris Wheel became the Sky Ride, a cable car that went over the lake to Northerly Island 625 feet up. For people who had never been in a plane this was amazing. Television and long distance phone calls made their debut. An unknown young girl named Judy Garland sang and another unknown named Sally Rand danced behind two ostrich feathers. It was not white but multi colored earning it the name The Rainbow City.  It was the first disposal fair and was torn down a year and a half later.

People could watch peas get canned and cars get built. There was no Dr. Holmes but there was Al Capone. How Chicago got rid of Al Capone is a whole another story. President Roosevelt asked that the fair stay open an extra year. It was the only bright spot in a very dark world.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Great Booklist Review of Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Booklist Reviews 2017 September #1
In the years leading up to 1933, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two rich Chicago kids, murdered another boy for fun; the U.S. was mired in the Great Depression; Charles Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped and murdered; Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany; and Al Capone, who had used Prohibition as a way to expand his criminal empire, was the de facto mayor of Chicago, even though he was, technically, a prison inmate.

 Amid all this turmoil, the Chicago political powers that be thought it would be a great idea to throw a World’s Fair. But how do you fund a $20 million extravaganza when the city is broke? How do you keep the gangsters from running rampant? The fair’s planner promised the people of the city that gangsters “will be gone” by the time of the fair, but how could he possibly follow through? 

Enter the Secret Six, a group of businessmen who joined forces for a most dangerous mission: to eradicate organized crime in Chicago by the time the fair opened. This is a thrilling and frequently surprising story about larger-than-life people and their larger-than-life ambitions. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Maybe Trump is like Teddy Roosevelt

Maybe Trump is like Teddy Roosevelt. When he told the Republicans he was cutting a deal with the Democrats and going his own way it was a Teddy move. TR was a pragmatist who wanted to get things done and would do whatever he had to to achieve his ends. In 1912 he told his own party he had enough when they wouldn't give him the nomination and gave it to Taft instead. TR then formed the Bull Moose Party had a convention at the Congress Hotel and took 27 percent of the vote. Woodrow Wilson won with the Republican Party split down the middle.

So now Trump has gone TR. He doesn't care about the Republicans. He cares about getting some thing done and will use whatever party suits him. And he is not done yet. He played the Republican Party and everyone knows it to get him to the White House. Teddy finally was done with the Two party system when he realized they would never change and come around to his thinking. Maybe that is what happened with Trump on the debt ceiling.

Taking on Standard Oil, building the Panama Canal, taking on the Trusts, Teddy saw himself free to pursue what he saw as his just causes. Donald Trump now can come out from the shadows and free himself of the cover of the Republicans and pursue his just causes. Maybe his next convention will be at the Congress Hotel. The Bull Trump Party.

Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Sad End of Sally Rand

She came to fame during the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933 after she rode a white horse naked into the opening ceremonies when she could find no other way to be part of the fair. The horse reared at the moment the photographers snapped her picture and people thought she was part of the fair. From that moment on she was. Sallly Rand took her two ostrich feathers and became the number one draw of the Chicago Worlds Fair. They had to hire extra accountants to keep track of all the money. Her name became associated with The Century of Progress forever.

But then the fair ended and Sally Rand enjoyed a brief stint in Hollywood before returning to the circuit and there she stayed doing her feather dance coast to coast.  Many husbands and many divorces and lawsuits later found her at seventy still performing her feather dance. If you watch the movie The Right Stuff then you will remember at the end the woman on the stage dancing behind the feathers and that is Sally Rand. It was her last bit of fame before obscurity swallowed her up forever. She would die broke and alone and forgotten.

But Sally Rand does live on...on Youtube. You can watch her 1933 Worlds Fair dance that tantalized thousands during the worst years of the Great Depression. When you talk to people who went to the fair they always bring up Sally Rand. As one man told me. I went and saw Sally Rand, but I was just a kid and never told my mother. She would have wore me out with a switch. And there is a Sally Rand viewer. I have never seen one but I am told this souvenir exists where you can watch the feather dance over and over.

The cost of this bit of history...priceless.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Last Interview at WGN

I just finished up my last interview at WGN in the Chicago Tribune tower.  The revered station is moving across the river to 303 E Wacker and this would be it. It was the last time I would wait in the lobby of the Tribune building with the quotes from Presidents, poets, philosophers carved into the granite walls. The last time to go up to the seventh floor with WGN on the wall and walk past pictures of greats past and present. This last time was on Labor Day and the lights were off which made the old black and white photos more of their time.

I sat in the green room and waited once again listening to Rick Kogans interview before I went on. I held my book Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair and readied myself. It is a ritual that I had followed many times going  back to my novel Rocket Man. Kogan is one of the few men who still read books in Chicago and then have authors on his show.  He is one of the greats of Chicago journalism and harkens back to a time when writers and reporters all gathered at Billy Goats tavern on lower Wacker.

And then I am in the studio looking out the window at the Wrigley building and Michigan Avenue below. The gargoyles sit on the ledges and the speaker warns us we have thirty seconds. Rick and I make small talk and then we are on and for next thirty minutes we talk about the book like two old friends. And then it is over and I'm back out on Michigan Avenue. It is raining and I walk over the bridge and look down on the Chicago river and then over at the Tribune building.

Time passes.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Interview with Rick Kogan WGN

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Those Confederate Monuments...and Arthur Ashe

When I was a boy in Richmond Virginia they were there. Lee was on his horse and further down Monument Avenue was Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart and then later Arthur Ashe. Arthur was added in  1995. He was from Richmond and after much controversy he made it onto Monument Avenue with the bearded generals. But as a boy I was in awe of the Generals on their horses. Southern boys saw the Civil War as little gray soldiers that were lined up against little blue soldiers. My great grandmother lived on Monument Avenue and I remember going to her dark and brooding grey-stone that felt like 1865 and then going to see Gone with the Wind. I saw that movie probably a hundred time with different relatives. It was the living bible for many Southerners and I probably read the book fifty times.

But then my family moved North to Chicago and it wouldn't be until a book tour for my book Tobacco Sticks  that I saw the generals again. They were there tarnished and old and now facing a revered tennis player. I didn't give it much thought then. I had written a novel about a young black woman wrongly accused in 1945 and I had studied race relations in the South for a long time. The South belonged to the past and the statues belonged to the past. F Scott Fitzgerald famously said "poetry is a Northern mans dream of the South." He had married a Southern girl and would write "Last of the Belles" and try and get his arms around these fleeting images of a world gone by.

So today, Arthur Ashe still faces the generals on Monument Avenue with his racket at the ready as if to say, my game, would you like to go for a set general? It was his game and now he might be the only one left standing.

Books by William Hazelgrove