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Reel Life: ballpark for the common man

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"I have never objected to being called 'vulgar,'" proclaimed Bill Veeck in his autobiography Veeck--as in Wreck. The late baseball impresario pointed out that the insult's Latin origin referred to "common people," the sort he tried to please with giveaways, exploding scoreboards, and such gimmicks as midget batters and 1979's backfiring "Disco Demolition." Documentary filmmaker Tom Palazzolo, another connoisseur of the "vulgar," celebrates the circus atmosphere of Bill Veeck's old stadium in Bleach Yr Old Sox: Comiskey Park Revisited.

Scavenged from Palazzolo's collection of 16-mm footage, this quirky pastiche slights the stats and celebs in favor of a more personal form of nostalgia. Running just under a half hour, Palazzolo's take on Comiskey's past features a contest for stacking cases of Hamm's beer--scheduled between games of a 1976 doubleheader--and dwells on ballpark regulars like Andy the Clown. Bleach Yr Old Sox shows no pitches, catches, or hits, but it does detail Palazzolo's travails exiting the parking lot. There are also shots of other far-flung Chicago spectacles, like a float of bathing beauties at a parade on State Street, a daredevil engulfed in flames taking a high dive off Navy Pier, a ticker tape parade for the Apollo astronauts, and a 1966 hippie gathering in Lincoln Park.

Attending the first game in the new Comiskey Park, Palazzolo focuses on a family posing for a video with the old ballpark under demolition in the background. "This is the first time I'm ending up on video," says the 56-year-old filmmaker, who digitally transferred his vintage film footage to magnetic tape. But bowing to progress doesn't mean he has to like it. "Video is seamless and has no scratches," he says. "My film stock is all beat up. Film has charm like an old ballpark because of its imperfections--at least the way I shot it."

Palazzolo will premiere Bleach Yr Old Sox: Comiskey Park Revisited at 8 PM this Saturday at the Kino-Eye Cinema of Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. It plays in a doubleheader with I Married a Munchkin, his 1994 portrait of Mary Ellen St. Aubin, who owned the Midget Club bar at 63rd and Pulaski. Tickets cost $5. Call 384-5533 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Maurice Dickenson.

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