News & Politics » Chicago Reader at Forty

1994

The year in Chicago history via the pages of the Reader

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Breaking up the Bulls

Jordan's absence was as integral to this season's Bulls as his presence was to the Bulls of the previous nine years. So with Cartwright and Paxson retiring and Grant and Williams set to leave as free agents, the Jordan era came to a close. It was the greatest sports team this city has seen since the original Monsters of the Midway, the Bears of the 30s and 40s, and more than likely the Bulls were unequaled even by that bunch. . . . Like the Chicago Stadium that housed them, we won't see their kind again anytime soon. —A tribute by Alan Boomer (aka Ted Cox) in the Sports Section, May 26, 1994





The Hardy Boys and the case of the Chicago Tabloid

It was the year Conrad Black and David Radler bought the Sun-Times. Hot Type introduced them to Chicago.

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Even in the early days Black practiced a brand of frontier management. He recalls 1969, when he, Radler, and a third partner bought a tiny, hideously unprofitable paper in Quebec, the Sherbrooke Record. They immediately fired 40 percent of the staff . . .

Black acknowledges he and his partners "fiercely overmanaged" the Record. "When one reporter marched into David's office to present a petition of grievances, David fined him two cents, deducted from his weekly pay cheque, for wasting a sheet of paper."

Black goes on, "One scheme I struck upon for reducing salaries with an impeccable cover of good intentions was to hire a convict under a federal government bonded rehabilitation service, at a modest salary." The scheme didn't work because the new employee began kiting checks and soon lit out for New Brunswick. Further economies sprang from Black's "elastic compensation system," which involved sitting down with the reporters at the end of the week and discussing what they'd actually earned. "It was an outrageous system, of course," Black concedes, but whenever a reporter felt ready for greener pastures (a move that surely couldn't come too soon) "David and I gave them some of our stationery and told them to forge our names to any commendation they wanted to compose."

The result of these measures was "astronomical profits."

After a series of further adventures, 14 years later both Black and Radler were in prison.

A contrary opinion

In your rush to pat these three pandering sluts on the heinie, you miss what has been obvious to the "bullshit" crowd all along: These are not "alternative" artists any more than their historical precursors. They are by, of and for the mainstream. Liz Phair is Rickie Lee Jones (more talked about than heard, a persona completely unrooted in substance, and a fucking chore to listen to), Smashing Pumpkins are REO Speedwagon (stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant) and Urge Overkill are Oingo Boingo (Weiners in suits playing frat party rock, trying to tap a goofy trend that doesn't even exist). You only think they are noteworthy now because some paid publicist has told you they are, and you, fulfilling your obligation as part of the publicity engine that drives the music industry, spurt about them on cue. —Steve Albini, in an open letter to Reader critic Bill Wyman, Jan. 27, 1994

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