Happy Friday Chicago media mavens! Today’s Eye On Chi spotlight flashes on our pal Rick Kogan and his 2006 ode to Billy Sianis, Sam Sianis, Mike Royko, “Cheezeborger! Cheezeborger!” those wonderfully depressing Chicago Cubs, several goats, and yes, a tavern — a tidy piece of prose called A Chicago Tavern: a Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream.
I grabbed the book last week at Myopic on Milwaukee and have torn through it in two sittings; I’m two-thirds done and looking forward to finishing it today. As Rick writes in the acknowledgements, this is not simply a tourist-grabbing fluff piece that relies strictly on the name-recognition of the Goat, the Cubs, and SNL. As Rick writes in the acknowledgments about Sam and Bill Sianis approaching him about penning a book about their tavern:
I told them that if they wanted a book strictly for the tourist crowd we could slap it together in about 30 minutes: a lot of pictures, a few Mike Royko columns, some curse and Saturday Night Live stories.
But Sam said, “No, I want the real story for the tourists and everybody else too,” and he then did everything in his considerable power to make it happen, correcting some longstanding errors in the historical record and offering honest and often heartfelt answers to every question I asked him.
You can say that again. A Chicago Tavern tells the story of the Billy Goat by telling the stories of the Sianis family, starting with William “Billy Goat” Sianis, the man made famous in Chicago when P.K. Wrigley refused park entry for Sianis’s goat before Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, a story that, in Chicago lore, ends with Sianis declaring at the park’s gates something to the effect of: “The Cubs will never win a World Series until they let in my goat!” or something. As usual, the truth is more interesting and more satisfying than the myth, and Kogan captures it here along with countless other Chicago stories. My favorite so far is when Billy Goat sees business sagging even with the 1944 Republican National Convention in town, and astutely posts a sign reading “No Republicans Allowed!” By the end of the day, furious Republicans demanding equal rights have given him one of his great nights of sales.
I’ve got a few more stories, but we’ll leave it at that.
From June 22: my own Billy Goat story.