Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. He has contributed pieces to Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Reader and Playboy magazine. He has written books about the Farm Aid movement, travel and kick ass country music. His latest book is about minor league baseball in the Midwest.
The bamboo plant flourished in the dining room of her Rogers Park apartment. When she moved away three years ago I inherited the plant. It brought us good fortune like bamboo often does. The plant illuminated the present and sometimes pointed towards the future.
I gave the bamboo plant to my mother. At the time she was 88 years old.
I always kept an eye on the bamboo plant during my Sunday trips to see my parents. My Mom had placed the plant on a small table near a window in the northwest corner of her kitchen. As recent as two years ago my Mom would walk out onto the back porch adjacent to the kitchen and mind the bird bath she put up every spring.
The bamboo plant continued to grow. A lot. I almost wanted to take it back for my Tiki Bar. I had to fetch a bigger vase and more pebbles for the bottom of the vase. I believed it was bringing my parents the fortune all of us hope for. My Mom is now 91 and my Dad is 92. It is quite a story for another time.
My Mom hasn’t been doing well recently and I don’t have many people to share these words with. The shadow of dementia is rapidly creeping in on her, although I can still stir her up now and then. On Mother’s Day I mentioned the New York Times article about how dog ownership can curb heart trouble.
“We are not getting a dog,” she declared.
Every Sunday when I walk into the living room my mother is sitting in her favorite chair. The brown chair is adjacent to a hassock where she has placed a calendar filled with doctor’s appointments. She wears a gray sweater with deep warm pockets.
My father is always sitting next to her in his wheel chair. The room is quiet and it is old people hot. Sometimes they just look at each other for periods of time without saying anything. They are bookends of memories. The television set is not on and old songs no longer play over the radio. My brother soon will be fetching the piano. Things move away. Things are lost.
But Mom and Dad sit close together, best of friends, hunkering against the cruel winds of time. One of the repercussions of dementia is how my Mom has neglected to take care of her house plants. She has loved plants her entire life. Now when I visit my parents I notice the plants are dead or dying. I wonder if it is too late to water them, but then I wonder why it snowed this weekend in Northern Michigan.
On Mother’s Day I removed the bamboo plant from the kitchen table. Its green stems had turned brown. Tiny leaves drooped. It was time to go. I replaced the bamboo with a bouquet of bright blue hydrangea. Mom liked that which I could see by the twinkle in her eyes. She did not comment about the missing bamboo.
Instead, she looked out the window and saw young birds fly away on Mother’s Day.
INDIANAPOLIS—A standing ovation is due for a group of young urban planners who rescued seats from historic Bush Stadium on the industrial west side of Indianapolis. Bush was one of the jewels of American baseball between 1931-1995 until it was torn down.
Bush was often compared to Wrigley Field. I visited Bush and it’s brick ivy covered outfield walls with manual scoreboard during it’s final season
. I was told that Bill Veeck imported the Bush ivy to Wrigley Field. That’s not certain. (F.D. Clavey Ravinia Nurseries was regarded as the main source for the Wrigley ivy.) But this much is for sure: Bush was first. Veeck planted the Wrigley bittersweet in 1938.
Hank Aaron began his professional career for three months in 1952 at Bush as a shortstop for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American Leagues. Roger Maris, Razor Shines and the late Cubs outfielder Champ Summers played for the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians at Bush. Slugger Rocky Colavito used to amaze pre-game fans by standing at home plate and throwing baseballs out of the park.
In 1987 John Sayes filmed “Eight Men Out” at Bush. I was on the set along with John Cusack (Buck Weaver), Charlie Sheen (Happy Felsch) and the late great Studs Terkel who played Hugh Fullerton of the Chicago Herald and Examiner.
Over the winter the Indianapolis based People for Urban Progress (PUP) salvaged 9,000 of 11,000 ballpark seats left for ruin. The twenty/thirty something designers and makers re-purposed the seats for city bus stops. And just in time for baseball season, more Bush seats are now being made available to the public.
A single seat is $45. A double is $80 a “triple” is $120 and a series of four seats can be had for $160. PUP does not ship the seats unless a fan is willing to pay for shipping. The seats can be picked up at the PUP offices in the artsy Fountain Square neighborhood. PUP is on the second floor of the former G.C. Murphy’s Department Store (1929-1998), 1043 Virginia Ave. just a few blocks off of I-65 and I-70.
The aluminum and plastic seats were sandblasted, lead paint was removed and the seats were reassembled.
Michael Bricker, 30, co-founded PUP in November, 2008. His twin sister Jessica is product manager-designer for PUP. “When people come in to buy a seat they share their memories of going to games at Bush,” Michael Bricker said. “They met a girl friend there, a couple got married there, one guy remembered staying at a game that went nine extra innings and no one was left in the crowd at two in the morning. A lot of people remember that place. It was the city’s first sports arena.”
The peeps at PUP were stunned at the interest in the seats once they began to sell them. “We had no idea what the demand would be because it is such a unique product,” Bricker said. “We estimated we’d sell around 50 chairs. We’re over 800. (That was in a period between Feb. 21 and March 13). It’s incredible because it’s allowing us to invest that money back into the community and do more bus stops. It’s covering the cost associated with the project.”
There are 42 bus stop stations in greater Indianapolis. PUP came out of the gate last fall installing stadium seats at 11 stations. “We have plans for 15 to 20 more by the end of the year,” Bricker said.
I bought my own chair so I don’t have to drive to Indianapolis to sit in baseball history. (Photo by Jessica Bricker)
For NFL fans, the group also makes wallets ($40) from the roof of the RCA Dome (demolished in 2008). The dome wallets are one of PUP’s most popular items. The group also salvaged vinyl, mesh and polyblend from banners used at Super Bowl XLIV at the new Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indy.
Seats will even be installed near the old stadium site. Last year ground was broken for the site to become the Stadium Lofts apartment complex, with the shell and historic facade of the stadium retained. Even though I’m a Cubs fan, I so wish the White Sox had saved some of Old Comiskey, even just to frame a parking lot.
Bush was the first minor league stadium to have underground tunnels to the dugouts. A center field fence was installed in the 1960s and for part of one season, the Indians had a Native American mascot that operated from a teepee behind the fence. The teepee remained until Bush’s final day.
In 1995 then-Indians GM Cal Burelson told me, “We had an outfielder (in 1972) named Gene Locklear (who went on to play for the Reds, Padres and Mets). Today he’s an accomplished artist on the West Coast. One time he was given a fine for missing a bus. Instead of paying, he asked to paint the teepee.” The teepee now sits in the center field concourse of the present day Victory Field in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Bush opened in 1931 as Perry Stadium and was renamed Victory Field in 1942 to honor the American war effort. In May, 1932 the first night game was played in at the stadium, with the Indians losing 6-4 to Paul Dean (Dizzy’s brother ) and the Columbus Red Birds. The 1954 Indianapolis Clowns were managed by Oscar Charleston, one of the first Negro Leage players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The ‘54 Clowns featured female second baseman Connie Morgan, who replaced Toni Stone who moved on to the Kansas City Monarchs. Stone was the first professional female baseball player.
The ballpark was renamed Bush Stadium in 1967 to commemorate Indianapolis native, ex-Tigers shortstop (1908-1921) and former White Sox manager Owen J. “Donie” Bush. Victory Field is the present day home of the Indianapolis Indians, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.
The first Bush rock concert took place on Aug. 10, 1972. The festival included Chuck Berry, Foghat, the trippy San Francisco band It’s a Beautiful Day and others. [REO Speedwagon played Bush in 1975.]
It was promoted by Tom Battista, an Indianapolis native who now co-owns the popular Italian restaurant Bluebeard, 653 Virginia Ave., a block away from the PUP offices. Battista is also stage manager for baseball fan Jimmy Buffett. The restaurant is named after the 1987 Kurt Vonnegut novel about a famous painter. Vonnnegut is an Indianapolis native.
“I majored in Latin American history at Indiana University,” Battista says. “I was one hour short of getting my degree in ‘72. A friend of mine was hanging out with the promoter of the show in Clermont, Indiana. There was a court injunction against the show. They got an agreement to move it to Bush stadium at noon on Friday. And the show was noon on Saturday. And they had to be out of there at noon on Sunday.” Bill Hanley sound was from Indianapolis and Tom Fields did the lighting companies. Hanley designed, built and operated the Woodstock festival sound system. Hanley’s payment for the Woodstock sound system totaled less than five cents per audience member.
“We worked all through the night,” Battista said. “We set up towers with spotlights. Staging. Bill devised these wagons that were 25 feet long and maybe 12 feet deep. You would pre-set one act on it, roll it up center stage, then at the other wing stage left behind the speaker stacks they set up the next band. Then the third wagon on the other side was empty. So when the first act was done you would move them off stage right and roll the wagon in from stage left. I had never done anything in the music business before that but I was told if I came to Bush I could see how rock n’ roll worked.”
Battista immediately connected with the show’s promoter Bruce DeForest, a former sound man with the Rolling Stones. And DeForest asked Battista to build the iconic Bottom Line nightclub in Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The 400-seat Bottom Line opened in 1974 and closed in 2004, just short of it’s 30th anniversary. Bruce Springsteen played early showcase concerts at the club and Lou Reed recorded the live album “Take No Prisoners” at the Bottom Line. Van Morrison, Neil Young, Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt were others who played the Bottom Line. “In it’s day it was THE place,” he said. “And that’s how I got in the business.”
Battista and his wife Sharon started having children—their daughter Victoria is an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C. and their son Ed is a partner at Bluebeard. Battista nestled back in at his hometown of Indianapolis.
“The Amy Grant show came through town,” he says. “The production people that did Amy Grant did religious shows in the winter and Buffett in the summer.”
Battista knew one of the crew members and mentioned that if they ever needed a fill in during a summer run, he was available. “He called me the next day because his assistant had to go out and do Bruce Springsteen,” Battista recalls. “When I asked my wife if I could go out, the only thing she said was ‘How much?’ When I said ‘how much,’ she said, ‘See ya.’ Battista has now been with Buffett since 1992.
“He’s the greatest guy and it is a great camp,” Battista says. “They take care of their people. He’s lucky and he knows it. He’s not pretentious. He’s a big Cubs fan. I’m not into sports at all, it’s all entertainment to me. But they all love the Cubs and that’s a good thing.”
Jan. 27, 2013— Elaine Layabout transforms global music through images from vintage dramas, kitsch and travel videos. The Chicago-based indie filmmaker is creating the video wallpaper for a monthly tribute to Tiki exotica that sets sail at 9 p.m. Jan. 29 at Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar, 960 W. 31st St. in Bridgeport-By-The-Sea.
Well, Bridgeport-By-Bubbly Creek.
“It’s exciting because this is the reverse of what happens in movies,” Layabout said last week. “I’ve done music direction in movies where you’re picking music to transform the images. Here I am doing the reverse.”
A couple of hours of her work will be shown to the mixes of global DJ Richard Pierson. Expect colorful snippets from 1932’s Dolores del Rio romantic drama adventure “Bird of Paradise,” the 1952 Bing-Crosby-Bob Hope classic “Road to Bali,” 1922’s “Toll of the Sea” and much more. I’ll be spinning Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Don Ho and “The Magic Organ Goes To Hawaii,” but that’s not the point of this coconut telegraph.
“My work is completely cued into the music,” Layabout said. “I’m a musician, so it’s a given. Richard gives me the mixes and I listen to them. Then I browse through my archives and pull videos. I cut them up to pull scenes I think are interesting or to fit whatever narrative I am trying to shoehorn them into.” Layabout said she pulls her material from large stacks of still and moving images. “I was watching (the 1944 travelouge) ‘Belles of the South Seas’ and trying to see if I could use some clips,” she explained. “It is old black and white video and every scene the women are topless and I’m totally fine with that. My videos are all about breasts in the moonlight. But the way the images are framed, in order to get everyone’s breasts on camera, they cut off the tops of the women’s heads. Is this too much objectification for me to handle? This is all about objectifying people and their culture. I may use these at Maria’s, I don’t know.”
Layabout assembles the videos aesthetically. Sometimes she mixes color and black and white footage and colorizes black and white footage. “It’s irreverent,” she said. “I’ve taken footage from Cuba, South America, Africa and Japan and put it all together. Thinking with the music, that’s the exciting thing to me. There’s a lot of dance footage, which is appropriate. I’m manipulating time. I’m slowing footage up, or speeding it up in order to fit with the music. I’m very anal retentative about matching video with the music.”
Iconic Chicago groove merchant Joe Bryl is the show’s promoter. “Tiki music per se was developed by mainland haole Martin Denny and Kaui born Arthur Lyman, both of whom spent the bulk of their careers sound-tracking Tiki themed tourist lounges in Waikiki,” Bryl said. “Those who insist Tiki music has nothing to do with Hawaii forget that it’s a music of ports of call rather than territories, sound born along a web of trade routes linking Havana and Hong Kong, Mexico South and Manila, with Honolulu as a hub.” Snippets of “I Am Cuba” will be part of her mix at Maria’s.
The 1964 anti-American propaganda film was made as a Cuban-Soviet collaboration. It was restored and released in the United States in 1995 by Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola. The film is shot in black and white with hand held cameras that create a musical rhythm (and accounts for the film’s majestic pans). The Sun-Times Roger Ebert called it “dated—but fascinating.” I bought the cigar-box sized “Ultimate Edition” of “I Am Cuba” which does a fine job of creating ambiance at my home tiki bar. Layabout said, “Just for me as a photographer where every single frame looks like a photograph, ‘I Am Cuba’ blew my mind.”
Layabout is a native of Cleveland, Ohio who grew up in the hills of Virginia.
Bird of Paradise, 1932
She also lived in Treasure Island, Fla. and the Everglades in Florida where her late father Walter was a manager for the Farm Store convience store chain. “Whenever there was a hurricane he would load us into the car during the eye of the storm,” she recalled. “And we would drive us around checking on all these stores.” Now, there’s some video footage. Layabout earned an English degree at the University of Chicago and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. She went to law school and studied film at U.C.L.A. She stayed in Los Angeles for “many years” and returned to Chicago in 2011. Layabout is currently doing post-production work on jobs sent to her from Los Angeles.
When Layabout lived in Los Angeles she played—mandolin—in the popular Southern Gothic punk band Manhattan Murder Mystery. “Most of my video experience is in Los Angeles,” she explained. “I was the videographer for this amazing college radio station called KXOU. We did a live show on Friday nights. Somebody would do playlists from YouTube and we had cameras on the DJs. We were live mixing the DJs to bands from YouTube. Sometimes we even color keyed and did special effects. Video is also very popular in L.A. clubs with outdoor bars. I don’t know why, but it seems like in outdoor bars they project video.” I’d guess it’s because of drive-in movies.
Layabout continued, “I’m surprised there’s not more of this being done. I’m kind of new to all this in Chicago.”