Going Around in Art Circles
"How do you do, my darling?"
Tricia Klinkhamer greeted her guests--mostly artists and poets--at the Avalon Niteclub last week. It was the first in a series of parties she's planned for the Chicago Artists Pulse, Klinkhamer's newspaper due out in September.
"That's why I'm having these parties; I want to build my circle, so to speak," said Klinkhamer, who pulled together a show of dancing, poetry reading, and art on the walls. She's shooting for a free weekly newspaper distributed in cafes, art supply stores, and schools. "Kind of like the Reader, but not in Osco."
The Pulse won't be filled with arts criticism; rather the artists will be speaking for themselves. They'll write their own essays, or be interviewed--"whatever they wish," says Klinkhamer.
"I'm not against other people talking about the artist. What I'm interested in is sitting down and having coffee with the artist--so I can know what they're thinking, what their life is about, what their plans are. I'm giving them a place to show their work and a soapbox to stand on."
There won't be an editor; decisions will be made by a board. "That's sort of more democratic, a collective editorship," said Alex Scott, an English major about to graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Literary tastes are so personal--who's to say who sets the standard? We want to hear from a lot of different people, and we're not going to reject people because they're not saying what we want to hear."
Klinkhamer, 25, also studied at Circle, first electrical engineering, then the arts. Born in Berrien Springs, Michigan, she was out and about the world at age 16--Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Rome, London--"all the biggies," she says. Her widowed mother "does something with a computer and reads the Wall Street Journal every day." We wondered if she was an heiress. "I think money's pretty gross, and the discussion thereof is pretty gross, too," said Klinkhamer.
We asked if any of her pals are biggies. "You wanna hear names like Sugar Rautbord? Forget it, I'm a bum," she answered.
"And you," she said to us, "need an education." She pulled us by the hand to the exhibits in the Avalon. There were very good paintings by Marie Tomasula, stunning photographs by Pamela Bannos, and playful sculptures by Marko Markewycz. "I'm a tasteful girl," she told us.
We had never seen their work before.
"Way back, there were movements--Dada, sur realism, expressionism. "There's no movements. There's no nothing going on. What happened after Jackson Pollock? Did everybody fall asleep? I never really did find them. That's why I'm starting a newspaper. Hopefully, if I put out the call . . . "
The next day, we spoke with poet David Hernandez, who couldn't make it to the party because his dog, Lumpen Proletariat, was ill. "It's one of the best things to hit this city," said Hernandez. "I've been here 22 years. It's almost a dream come true. It's giving exposure to a lot of poets and artists that have been out there a long time. It's an equal opportunity newspaper--from Lake Shore Drive to Madison dive."
Hernandez told us that Pulse would not belong to any one artsy clique--it would "go beyond those lines of turf."
Later that day, Klinkhamer telephoned and ordered us to the Betsy Rosenfield Gallery Friday night for a further education. Performance artist Joel Klaff was showing his "couture collection"--a suit made from Alpo dog food bags, a gown made of red cellophane, an outfit made of mattresses. The gallery was packed; another 50 or so people mingled out on the sidewalk. Klaff was wearing a bronzed suit and shoes.
Afterward, we went to Klaff's party with a couple of reporters (the invitations said bring a guest). We approached Klaff's gate in Bucktown and a woman sneered, "Did Joel invite you?" Something cliqued. It was time to call a taxi. We asked if we could use the telephone. "Is it a local call?" the woman sneered again.
"How do you do, my darling?" Klinkhamer appeared. She mingled with everybody. We left her at the party, thinking we'd much rather have read about it in her newspaper.
Is Yesterday a Thing of the Past?
The Chicago Sun-Times has abolished "yesterday." Reporters there are under orders to keep the word out of the leads of their stories.
Reporters we know think the month-old edict's pretty silly. They may forget that yesterday, although it got a new lease on life during the reign of Rupert Murdock, an old-fashioned newspaperman, has been losing ground at the dailies for years.
TV made it obsolete. Yesterday was no longer just when important things happened. It was when things that you'd already heard about on last night's ten o'clock news happened. The new policy at the Sun-Times, which is only slightly more extreme about yesterday than newspapers are generally, is to fuzz times and dates and go whenever possible with the angle of what comes next.
After all, TV's one huge disadvantage, given its dependency on visual images, is its difficulty in covering news that hasn't even happened yet. Here are the leads to both page-one stories of a randomly chosen recent issue of the Sun-Times:
"Pope John Paul II is restoring full power today to beleaguered Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle . . ."
"Three or four well-dressed young adults are together in an elevator, lobby or department store when one suddenly becomes ill and falls to the floor . . ." (This event is timeless because it's hypothetical; it's a report on a new pickpocketing ploy.)
Page one used to be different. Each day's newspaper was a kind of homage to the day before. Wishing to pay our last respects, we visited the central library, where famous front pages hang on the walls in frames.
We found yesterday here in all its lost glory:
"More than six hundred men, women and children met a fearful death at the new Iroquois Theater yesterday afternoon."
"More than 1,500 persons, passengers and crew, perished yesterday when the 'unsinkable' Titanic, the $10,000,000 White Star liner, went to the bottom of the sea."
We considered how that story would begin today:
"More than 1,500 persons, passengers and crew, lie dead today at the bottom of the North Sea, entombed in the 'unsinkable' Titanic, the $10,000,000 White Star liner."
This lead may strike you as little different from the original. In fact, it has two major advantages. It tells you absolutely nothing the original didn't but it sounds up-to-date. Secondly, while the original lead was serviceable on only one day in human history, April 16, 1912, the new lead remains just as true today as it was then. This puts it at an enormous advantage at newspapers that do not believe in rushing news into print.
As a Sun-Times editor was heard to exclaim: "That's the beauty of nonbreaking news leads. Stories stay fresh for days!"
The problem with "yesterday" is that it is inconveniently specific. We have broken with the values of olden days, when specificity was a means of engaging disaster with a certain solemn grace. Consider this May 7, 1937, report:
"LAKEHURST, May 6--The airship Hindenburg exploded in mid-air here at 7:23 tonight as she was nosing in for a landing at the naval air field."
A copy editor who let that "7:23" see print today would be thrown out on his ear. Why dwell on the regrettable detail that the dirigible went down in time for Bill and Walter?
We got to thinking of perhaps the most famous "yesterday" story of all time. It would be the account of President Roosevelt's speech of December 8, 1941. How differently that would be reported in the new modular journalism!
"Spurred by 'a day that will live in infamy,' FDR today is leading a nation at war."
Elegant, no? A story beginning that way stays good as gold for years. The first edition that catches you without an exclusive feature to put on page one, you can go ahead and fill up the news hole with it.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.