Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kinky Boots


“Never let them tell you who you ought to be
Just be.  With dignity.
Celebrate your life triumphantly.”
         “Raise You Up / Just Be,” from “Kinky Boots”
works by Corey Hagelberg and Laurie Marie Panozzo


At the Gardner Center exhibit “Saving the Dunes: Artists’ Paths” Corey Hagelberg’s impressive woodcuts took up the entire south wall.  The other two artists, Laura Marie Panozzo and Lora Fosberg, also displayed excellent works.   Curating the show were Miller Beach Arts and Creative District board members Rachel Weiss and Kay Rosen and Nicole Baker, executive director of Save the Dunes Council.  George Rogge and Sue Rutsen have six of Corey’s art pieces, two more than us.  I talked with Bill Carey about gardening and making homemade beer and with Meg Demakas about her daughters buying Anne Balay’s house.  Realtor Gene Ayers said my name came up at the closing; I had attended the wedding of parents Meg and Al Renslow 40 years ago at Club SAR, founded by Gary Democratic boss George Chacharis.

Saturday we drove through a thunderstorm to attend Marianne Brush’s picnic.  After the rains let up, Dave and Missy performed a variety of fun songs, my son wearing a Voodoo Chili shirt, Marianne’s daughter in boots that made her appear to be as tall as me. Mike Heckler requested “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a Voodoo Chili favorite when Missy’s dad, Tim, the late, great “Big Voodoo Daddy,” was lead guitarist.  Heckler’s cool parents were there; he’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan; she plays with the orchestra formerly known as Rusty Pipes.  Before we left, Becca performed the Daughter song “Youth” with Dave backing her up.
above, Missy and Tyler; below, Dave and Becca
Kyle Taylor Parker as Lola

With a Tony-winning score by Cyndi Lauper and a rousing performance by Kyle Taylor Parker as charismatic drag queen Lola,  “Kinky Boots” at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theater was fabulous.  Based on the true story of a family-run English shoe company that survived by marketing men’s fetish footwear, the musical has the owner teaming up with transvestite Lola and her entourage of “Queens” (I first thought they were women).  My favorite song, “Sex Is in the Heel,” has Lola singing, “Jack it up ‘cause I’m no flat tire, mack it up six inches higher.”  We had excellent tenth row seats in the ornate 90 year-old playhouse even though a tall guy sat directly in front of me.  On the opposite end of the stage were two people signing, which I’d think would distract folks on that side.

After “Kinky Boots” we walked to Petterino’s.  Dick Hagelberg had made use their 14-dollar valet parking prior to the play, so it was very convenient.  Named for Arturo Petterino, maître d’ at Chicago’s Ambassador East’s famed Pump Room three generations ago, the restaurant featured delicious food (in my case, Maryland crab cakes) and caricatures of famous celebrities, including Jeff Garland from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” David Schwimmer from “Friends” and one autographed by Barack Obama.  Petterino’s is adjacent to Goodman Theater, and in a collage of Goodman notables I recognized Frank Galati.

The Cuban flag flew at that country’s D.C. embassy for the first time since 1961.  An overwhelming majority of Americans approve of President Obama’s Cuban initiative and desire normalization of relations with Iran rather than another Mideast war, but leading Republicans vow to torpedo it.  What bastards.  In ten years if Iran starts building a nuclear bomb, Israel can deal with it.
Edwina Whitlock in her 30s and 80s

Thanks to Edwin Whitlock, I learned about Edward Ball’s “The Sweet Hell Inside,” which traces the family history of Edwin’s mother, Edwina, a descendent of slave owner William Harleston and black concubine Kate Wilson.  In 1945 29 year-old Edwina married 30 year-old Henry Whitlock, editor of the Gary American, a weekly founded in 1927 by Henry’s father. A. B. Whitlock.  Interviewed by Ball, Edwina recalled:
  Henry was the only person I met who could sit down and write an editorial at the linotype machine, where you couldn’t correct your mistakes.  I would write some of the front-page headlines and captions.
  My husband was very much of a fighter.  The American was a local paper, and we fought to get black bus drivers in Gary when there were none.  We fought the electric utility to hire black women because they didn’t have any.  Henry’s father was on the board of the Urban league and tried to get certain jobs in the steel mills opened to Negroes because not all of them were.  All our circle of friends belonged to the NAACP and attended the annual meetings.

Edwina wrote a social column for The American called “First Person Singular.”  Many items came from gossip gleaned at the beauty parlor.  She and Henry belonged to a group of 12 couples nicknamed the Curl Club.  Edward Ball wrote:
  Six times a year, the Curl Club assembled at a member’s house to cook chitterlings, or chitlins, an old fixture in the diet of black Southerners.  Chitlins were the cut-up intestines of hogs, a slice of flesh that was straight when it went into the pot but which curled as it cooked.  While growing up in Charleston, Edwina thought chitlins tasted awful and were even beneath her, but living in Gary, she missed the South, and pig intestines became a nostalgic symbol of what she had left behind.
The Curl Club came to an end after several years because the men started dying.  Two or three members were buried within a year, and those left disbanded, joking that the Curl Club was the reason, and that they didn’t want to die.

After suffering three miscarriages, Edwina gave birth to Henry, Jr., in 1949, Sylvia in 1950, Mae in 1951, and Edwin in 1953.  Pauline, a black housekeeper, helped clean and prepare meals.  The Whitlocks bought a summer home in Idlewild, Michigan, near the town of South Haven.  Henry hoped to become justice of the peace, but opponent Nicholas Scharilli had the backing of the Democratic machine.  Henry believed the outcome was rigged against him and died not long afterwards at age 45 from a heart attack, collapsing while imitating catcher Roy Campanella squatting.  Within two years Edwina moved to Los Angeles with her four children.  She recalled:
  We had been married 15 years, and when Henry died [on May 5, 1960], he left me knee-deep in debt.  I ran the newspaper by myself for about a year, but it was too much for me.  On top of that, my husband’s friends were trying to console me, I mean sleep with me, and their wives thought I was letting them.  It was a mess.
  Several of my in-laws thought I was crazy – I couldn’t get along with some of them – and I knew I had to get out of there.  It was six months before I was able to train a young woman to take over the printing equipment.
John-Paul and Dawn Simmons

Edward Ball also wrote “Peninsula of Lies: A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love” about transsexual Dawn Langley Simmons, born the son of English servants.  After inheriting millions from artist Isabel Whitney, Simmons moved to Charleston, underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1968 at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and wed John-Paul Simmons, a black mechanic.  It was the first legal interracial marriage in South Carolina.  A bomb threat caused the ceremony to be moved to Dawn’s estate.  Upon the eccentric transsexual pioneer’s death at age 77, the New York Times noted that Simmons was a person around whom legends swirled, adding: “She lived in a grand house filled with antiques and with a hidden garden.  She was said to have had a coming-out party for two of her dogs, who were displayed on velvet cushions in he living room, dressed in chenille, long gloves, and pearls.”

A Rolling Stone article on Bernie Sanders described the Presidential candidate’s voice as a dead ringer for Larry David when he played George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld.  I agree.

Nephew Bob reported that the final Grateful Dead concert at Soldier Field was “a truly spiritual experience.”  Taylor Swift performed there this past weekend.
above, Alissa and Joss; below, Cheryl Scott

Granddaughter Alissa and Josh Leffingwell got engaged while at New York City’s Central Park.  Beforehand, she said, he had been acting strange, searching for the optimum time and place to pop the question. Channel 7’s “Eyewitness news” meteorologist Cheryl Scott reminds me of Alissa.  Several Post-Tribune “Quickly” contributors slammed Scott as being mere “eye candy” who’d caused a more competent man his job.  She is certainly pleasing to the eye but not in a lustful way.

Robert Blaszkiewicz posted: “Listening to the new Wilco record ‘Star Wars’ as I compose cover letters.  Good start to a new week.”  The Times’ loss will be another institution’s gain.  One track on “Star Wars” is “Where Do I Begin.”  It contains the line, “I’ll Never Fall Apart Like That Again.”


One usually associates the word “kinky” with weird, bizarre, unconventional sexual preferences but it also can mean having hair that is tightly twisted or curled, like in the award-winning children’s book “Nappy Hair” (whose mention by Anne Balay in a Children’s Literature class allegedly offended a couple students and Anne’s troglodyte boss).  Richard “Kinky” Friedman, “the Texas Jewboy,” got the nickname because of his frizzy hair.  Once, running for governor on a lark, Kinky Friedman quipped: “I have a better head of hair than Rick Perry; it’s just not in a place I can show you.”

At duplicate bridge Tom Wade and I finished fifth, good enough for a fraction of a master point.  We bid and I made a small slam.  In the one hand I’d like to play over, I stopped at two no trump, garnered the first seven tricks, and decided to cash the eighth, making my bid, rather than risk getting set if a finesse failed.  Had I been in three no trump I’d have taken the chance, and it would have succeeded.  Tom had two Uber fares the previous day, including Michigan State students on their way to Thailand and someone going to Dunes State Park on a mission to travel to all 50 states.

Back home, I discovered that the Cubs and Reds were still playing, tied in the eleventh because rookie sensation Kyle Schwarber had blasted a two-run homer in the ninth.  In the thirteenth inning he once again “went yard” with the game winner.  The former IU All-American ended the night 4 for 7.


When we moved to Edgewater 40 years ago after buying a house on Maple Place from two former nuns, about half the homeowners on our block had already reached agreements with the Park Service and relocated.  Neighbors across the street would soon follow.  When son Phil rummaged through their trash, as was his wont, at age nine, he found Christmas tree lights and a Ku Klux Klan robe and pin.  Our neighbors Dean and Joanell Bottorff used the money from their settlement to buy property in rural Valpo, where they raised goats and honeybees and remained our good friends.  The Bernstens next door made major renovations before signing a leaseback.  The only other houses left by 1980 were two cabins, one across from us, the other down the street.  Across a ravine from us the Krueger family left a footlocker filled with letters son Tom wrote while in the Seabees during World War II.  Toni discovered them, and with the family’s permission Steve McShane and I published them in a volume entitled “Skinning Cats.”

1 comment:

  1. I am Mae Whitlock Gentry, daughter of Edwina H. Whitlock and Henry O. Whitlock. Please contact me at gentry.mae@gmail.com. There are a number of factual errors in this blog. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete