While I’m name dropping, let me add: Bob Newhart, Hugh Hefner, Kim Novak and Johnny Lattner.
As fate [destiny, kismet, luck, chance?] would have it, each of them grew up in my same westside neighborhood of Chicago. Which might raise the question: Is there anything in this little Heartland community that helped shape five such divergent lives?
The answer, as I see it and lived it, is Yes and No.
No, because every life is an unrepeatable act like they say about the unduplicatable snowflake. However, there may be a Yes here, because there was a certain energizing something about the homes and streets and stores and schools and churches in our westside community of Austin. If I were to choose just the right one word for it, it might be: In-touch!
Living in the middle of the country in the middle of the century, 1940s-50s Chicago westsiders were in daily touch with the most typically American rhythms of life. Including a palpable sense of the great green earth even when living in a city like Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland….a sense of the big-shoulders that aptly describes our essentially blue-collar roots….a sense of the average, being a part of an America that has few of the extremes so common to our distinctive East and West Coast cultures.
Andrew and Bob lived a few blocks from me, where their distinguished and distinctive take on American life has long kept us thinking and laughing. Kim and Johnny also lived nearby where they were nourished by the same Heartland passion for pursuing what they sensed was best in themselves. As for Hugh, well I didn’t know him personally like the rest, but I remember him ushering in his dapper uniform at my home-away-from-home movie theater the Rockne; where somehow he decided instead of watching famous lives he would become one himself.
Like gold, fame is where you find it. Each of these lives were found in the same little Heartland community in mid-America in mid-century. A good sociologist could probably develop that commonality into a compelling research paper. I, no sociologist, am just glad I grew up with them at the same time I was growing up…..
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