Today was the annual Bughouse Square debates - commemorating the days when people used to make speeches in Bughouse Square, a park I include on the Weird Chicago tours. Speakers in its heyday ranged from anarchist nuts all the way to great reformers such as Clarence Darrow and Emma Goldman. You might recognize it (under its own name and as Blueberry Park) from a couple of books by the great Daniel Pinkwater.
I recorded the whole thing for the Weird Chicago podcast, served as a spokesmodel holding up sex toys (during a speech entitled "Why Your Neighborhood Needs a Sex Shop,") and was told by the program director that, while I'm not qualified to be the Mayor of Bughouse Square, I can be the "deputy mayor." I'm pretty sure that that's good enough to get me some kickbacks!
Among my interviewees:
- Leon Despres, alderman of Hyde Park during the 50s and 60s. In a council of 50 aldermen, he was often outvoted 49-1 for going against Mayor Daley (who often turned his microphone off). He attended Bughouse Square now and then, and knew Clarence Darrow personally. He's 99 now, but still talking. Aldermen are like the mayors of neighborhoods.
- Joffre Stewart, who was the Beatnik Party's anti-candidate for President in 1960. He's actually mentioned in Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" in the line about the guy passing out incomprehensible leaflets. He's still going strong today, passing out leaflets about anarchy and conspiracy theories to any and all comers. Interesting cat, to say the least.
above: Joffre Stewart passes out anarachist literature during one of the speeches.