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It’s been fun, but I have to say Audi-os

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

Bobs Column - The B SideAudi 5000.
The name of the 1980s luxury car morphed into a slang phrase to describe leaving a particular place after the car was plagued with a problem characterized by unintended acceleration.
Drivers complained that the car would lurch forward while their foot was on the brake. It turned out that the accelerator and brake pedals were unusually close together. But the slang stuck. “This party is boring. I’m Audi 5000.”
You don’t hear the term much anymore. Today, people “bounce” when they depart.
Times change and so does the lingo. But I’m writing this column—one of my favorite tasks each week—to tell you that I am Audi 5000.
About 18 months after joining the Reporter, I’ve decided to take another position in the publishing industry. This is my last issue. I have no doubt I’ll miss the work because nothing is quite like community journalism.
Want proof? I’ve come back to it twice after my full-time first stint in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’ve also free-lanced for local newspapers throughout much of my career, and I’m likely to do it again. Don’t be surprised if you see my byline in this newspaper now and again—I figure to be available to pinch hit here and there if needed.
And, my agent and editor Jeff Vorva are negotiating a deal to keep the B-Side going in some form or fashion. So look for more of my thoughts and musings in this publication down the road.
I thought I’d use this column to thank or recognize several folks who made the job easier and more fun. Many of them I’ve known long before I started at the Reporter in August 2013, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have a column at other points in my career.
So, since I mentioned Vorva first, why not start with him.
I’m a better writer and reporter because him. I say that about few other people in this business. Jeff had an influence not only on me but on the paper as well. We started at the Reporter at about the same time, and I’m proud of our body of work.


Many people have told me how much they enjoy the paper’s new look. For that you can thank Jeff. He’s a great headline writer and a pretty creative dude as well. Oh yeah, he has some pretty good photography skills to boot.
Jeff knows how to sell a story, grab your attention. He works his tail off and would lean on me when I slacked off or procrastinated a bit on a story—I tend to do that sometimes. Then again, he trusted me to do my thing, work my beats, go to my sources for the latest news. That’s what good editors do.
I’ll miss the jukebox game that Jeff and I perfected. The game is rather simple. If anyone in the office said something that included words that are included in the title or lyrics of a song, we sang the first part of the song. Annoying to some, but we loved it. I’ll miss it.
Finally, Jeff has countless good stories to tell, many from his years as the Cubs beat reporter. He loved telling them and I loved listening.
I’ll also miss Tim Hadac, the reporter for the Regional, our sister publication. Tim has a wonderfully dry sense of humor and is a great writer. He could arrive at an event that was cancelled and still come away with a solid story. Tim’s a city guy and has a great knowledge of parishes and politics. I learned a lot from him.
There are countless people I’ve met on my beats that I’d like to thank and I know I won’t remember everyone. But I’ll take my best shot.
First off, let me say thanks to the village clerks I counted on for all sorts of information. Jane Quinlan in Oak Lawn, Cathy Aparo in Evergreen Park, D’Lorah Catizone in Hickory Hills, George Scyleyer in Chicago Ridge and Worth’s Bonnie Price. Rarely did I need a quick piece of information that these folks could not deliver. Clerks do the heavy lifting their communities and deserve all the praise they receive.
Of course, what’s a reporter without the mayors and trustees—often the key sources for stories.
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton and I go back three decades—to my college days when I was doing any newspaper writing I could to build a portfolio. He was always available, great for a quote and is a genuine, likeable guy.
Mayor Chuck Tokar in Chicago Ridge is one my favorites guys in the six towns we cover. He’s got a great sense of humor, put up with all my sarcasm and is the only mayor who ever called me out for a mistake in the middle of a board meeting. He was serious, but he wasn’t genuinely mad. Chicago Ridge meetings aren’t especially formal. When I responded to the mayor, I made some semi-sarcastic remark, and I don’t recall being gaveled out of order. That would not happen in some other communities.
As long as I’m talking about Chicago Ridge, the trustees are a great group of people. Somewhere along the way, Trustee Bruce Quintos took to calling me “Uncle Bob.” I don’t know why. But I’ll miss the relationship we had. Quintos once sent me a photo of his motorcycle club cut. He was impressed I knew it was call a cut and not a vest. But I watch “Sons of Anarchy” so I know my biker stuff.
I did not get off the to best start with Worth Mayor Mary Werner, and I regret that. Over the years, I’ve covered countless meetings and hearings that featured angry residents or parents complaining about one thing or another. But nothing topped the raw emotion and rage that was unleashed when the family and friends of Brittany Wawrzyniak attended a Worth village board meeting in April 2014.
Werner held her own during that meeting, but it couldn’t have been easy. I wrote columns during that time that sympathized with the family. I’m proud of my work, but maybe I didn’t do all I could to get the village’s side of the story.
Still, I appreciated getting to know Brittany’s family and telling the story of their loss and the fight to find out what truly happened to their daughter. The stories were some of the most important I’ve written in my career.
Werner, I’ve come to realize, is a good mayor with a great passion for her town.
While I’m focused on Worth, it’s time to give my Sharp Dressed Man Award to Trustee Tedd Muersch.
I covered Palos Hills city council meeting years ago for the Daily Southtown. A lot has changed since then, but there are a few constants. Among them: Mayor Gerald Bennett, Trustees Pauline Stratton and Marty Kleefisch and Bennett’s secretary Marge Hodek. Seems like these folks have around forever.
Hodek is one of those people any reporter should get to know. She knows a lot and is a funny, sardonic, opinioned, extremely honest woman who always made me laugh.
I’ve been going to village board meetings in Oak Lawn—my hometown—since I was in journalism school. It’s never boring nor are they players, most who were happy to answer my phone calls and questions.
Perhaps the conversations I’ll miss most are not with a village official, but with Andy Skoundrianos, resident gadfly—and I use that term with the greatest respect. Andy is…well…Andy. People like him, others not so much. But he’s grown on me over the years, and more times than not he had some interesting nugget to share. He’s remembers a lot about Oak Lawn’s past, especially the political landscape. Stay in touch, sir.
There are plenty of other readers and residents I’ve gotten to know during my time who aren’t mentioned here. But I enjoyed chatting, getting to know you (queue the aforementioned jukebox game) working with you on a story. You folks are the backbone of your towns, a big part of what makes community journalism interesting.
Thanks to everyone, it’s been fun.