Rock and Roll Redux: Memories of Chicago Bands, Two Buck Covers and Quarter Beers

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

During these (fill in the blank with your favorite adjective) times, many pass time by completing a 1,000-piece puzzle, binge-watching six seasons of a program offered on one of the premium channels or diverting attention to the past.

Me? Well, we have a nice puzzle, but I haven’t started it yet. As for television, I watch enough already, but I have found reruns and current episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit provide a welcomed 60-minute escape before the 10 p.m. evening news.

Ah, the Thirsty Whale. Can’t fathom how many times I visited this cavernous club. There’s a combination gas station and McDonald’s on the site now.

And like many, I find ways to escape to a different time, specifically, the 1980s when I employed my passion for rock and roll and ability to write to take part in the vibrant Chicago rock community.

For around a dozen years, I was a regular contributor to the Illinois Entertainer, a free monthly that’s still published.

I relive those often raucous, often loud days and nights by reading posts, listening to music by local artists found on YouTube and scanning print ads from the scores of now-gone music venues that appear on the Chicago Bar Bands 1975 Through 1982 Facebook public group.

The group name is a bit of a misnomer, as many of the acts covered on the site gigged through the end of the ’80s decade and beyond. Some are still making noise today.

This was a time when club rock music was dominated by bands with big hair, big guitar sounds from big amps and big dreams.  It was an era defined by a musical gumbo of post punk, metal, New Wave and other less discernible genres. To be part of this scene came cheap: Two dollar (perhaps three or four on weekends) cover charges and week night specials featuring quarter beers.

And, I was part of it — visiting clubs, conducting interviews backstage, writing record reviews — in essence being a cog of sorts in a scene that’s mostly gone.

Contributors to the just-mentioned Facebook group, specifically Illinois Entertainer founder and former publisher Ken Voss,add nuggets of history on artists and bands that may largely be forgotten had the information not be shared digitally. Display ads, like the one shown above, capture the depth and breadth of the local live 1980’s club scene, one that’s, of course, now much diminished.

On occasion, I’ll add a Facebook comment regarding shows I remember or the acts I covered.  (For the record, I was the de facto metal correspondent for a while; surprisingly, my hearing is intact.)  My huge binder of print clips was tossed prior to a move years ago, however I still have the October 1989 issue of IE featuring a cover story I wrote on the still vital band Enuff Znuff.

Stepping back three-plus decades to revel in an era of Chicago rock and roll allows me to press the pause button on the fears and confusion that dominates our world today — even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Two buck cover charges and quarter beers assuredly won’t return. But when the fallout from the pandemic, economic meltdown and unrest is gone, perhaps live rock and roll played in small clubs will return, and hopefully provide new memories to savor.

 

 

 

 

Who’s Really Behind Renew Cook County?

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

From the onset of this post, full disclosure: We pay property taxes on our modest two-flat in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, and over the past two decades the amount has skyrocketed. Soared. Catapulted.

How high have property taxes soared on our modest Avondale home? Let’s just say “a lot” over the past 20 years.

And, over the years we’ve worked with a law firm to appeal our taxes with the Cook County Assessor.  Sometimes, our taxes were lowered; sometimes they were not.

So, when I learned about Renew Cook County, a non-profit that bills itself as “the voice for property tax fairness,” I wanted to learn more.

Renew Cook County came to my attention through a June 22 Crain’s Daily Gist podcast. The organization maintains a modern website with sections on how property taxes are formulated, the impact of property taxes on the economy, video perspectives on property taxes from small business owners, links to relevant news reports, a profile on the organization’s mission and contact info.

Based on an analysis of the site content, it’s clear that Renew Cook County is an initiative to take on Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi.  In recent weeks, Kaegi’s office has reassessed north suburban residential properties higher than commercial properties.  This recent Chicago Sun-Times editorial offers details.

What’s missing from the site? Information on the non-profit status of Renew Cook County that would indicate the specific sources behind the the organization’s funding.

The About section states Renew Cook County is “funded by business organizations and commercial and industrial property owners” and “managed by Resolute Public Affairs, a public affairs consulting firm headquartered in Chicago.” That’s a rather broad and decidedly vague roster of who is putting up the money; furthermore, the site does not list officers, staff or a mailing address.

On Sunday, I requested information on the organization’s non-profit status via this email address — info@renewcookcounty.com — and received a reply containing the two-paragraph About content repurposed.  No specifics, no explanation for failing to provide the information requested.  A follow up message has gone unanswered.

A google search did not yield results on Renew Cook County’s non-profit status; but as noted on the Corporation Service Company website, all non-profits must file articles of incorporation in order to operate.

This leads to the question: Why does Renew Cook County keep its officers, address and funding sources secretive? I’ll not speculate, but will share this: Open disclosure of information is a component of the PRSA Code of Ethics — which I adhere to — and a fundamental practice desperately needed in a world too often driven by innuendo, half-truths and speculation.

As noted in the Core Principle on Disclosure of Information: “Open communication fosters informed decision making in a democratic society.” Going further, one of the guidelines of this principle is to “Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”

The Second Installment of 2019 Cook County Property Taxes should arrive in our mailbox next week. No, I won’t disclose the amount; I don’t have to.

But I hope those behind Renew Cook County will disclose just who they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And Then, We Heard The Carillon*

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

The sojourn was planned many weeks before the foundations of our nation and world were shaken uncontrollably by an insidious virus, an abrupt financial fallout and, most recently, unbridled anger over the death of an unarmed, handcuffed man who offered no resistance while in police custody.

You know what’s referred to in the statement above.  You’ve been impacted by these events.  You want conclusion, answers and change.

Somewhere beyond the tree line across the river came the sound of the carillon bells.

Like many, I was growing increasingly despondent and needed to mentally and emotionally get some distance. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to venture away from our Chicago home, from our neighborhood that was the site of vandalism and violence, from the ever-incessant sirens at many hours of the day and night.

My break came through a visit to the home of my long-time friends Tom and Mary Jane in southern Wisconsin. The drive last Tuesday from Chicago, on highways relatively light on traffic, proved therapeutic, especially when I ventured off the Illinois Tollway and took county roads north past farms and fields.

From my friend’s deck that evening, I enjoyed the simple pleasure watching the sun set over a pasture while enjoying a beer and conversation. I slept well that night.

On Wednesday the objective was simple: Tom and I would head up north to the small town of Fremont, Wisconsin — “The White Bass Capital of the World” — to fish the Wolf River for (you guessed it) white bass. We’ve fished this river many times over the years; sometimes we catch white bass, also known as stripers, sometimes we settle for rough fish.

On this trip, it was the latter, as the water level in the Wolf, a truly great body of water and one of the few American rivers not sullied by a dam, was high from recent rains; landing fish was a challenge, and even the locals with serious bass boats were not out chasing stripers or walleye or pike.

Yet, being in a boat with my friend on the Wolf on a glorious early summer day helped me figuratively unplug and focus on fishing, telling stories and the natural beauty we saw along the shoreline and around every river bend.

Around an hour before sunset, the tranquility around us was augmented by a chorus of bells, the sound of what I thought came from a carillon* The sound, which lasted some 10 minutes, was real and true, and I found it inspirational.  I believe the melody came from the Hope United Church of Christ, just west of the river, as a Google search did not show a true carillon anywhere in the area.

That didn’t matter.

The dulcet sounds that afternoon may not have energized the white bass to strike our minnows; but the music did inspire this post and provided an additional calming factor.

Perhaps we all can find this simple kind of unexpected solace in the the days before us. Look, listen, it’s out there.

 

Catching That Perfect Wave, And More With Marisa Vallbona, APR, Fellow PRSA

By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)

Since her “media debut” as a child decades ago, Marisa Vallabona, APR, Fellow PRSA has led an extraordinary life. To start, she speaks four languages! Decades ago Marisa founded CIM Inc PR, an award-winning public relations firm that continues to thrive in today’s challenging communications market.

She’s held national positions with the Public Relations Society of America and served on the Universal Accreditation Board, where we first met. A Californian, she engages in a challenging water sport popularized in the Golden State. And, Marisa battled and beat a foe that has altered society around the world.  Below are Marisa’s responses to questions in this latest PRDude profile of public relations leaders.

Marisa Vallabona, APR, Fellow PRSA

1.  Your website profile states you became enamored with communications as a child following a news story involving you frying an egg on the sidewalk. Can you please elaborate how this developed?

I was 12 years old and it was a super hot day in Houston to the point we could see steam rising from the asphalt. As kids usually do at that age, I was hanging around with my sister and a group of friends from the neighborhood. She had the idea to see if we could fry an egg on the sidewalk. We were surprised to see it actually fried, so we called the local newsrooms to tell them. One of the news stations sent out a crew and I went on camera. I fell in love with news from that moment forward. It was thrilling.

2. CIM Inc PR provides a wide range of services for a wide range of industries. How has client service changed over the years you’ve been in business? What has remained constant?

Service is the hallmark of any successful PR firm. We’ve been in business 30 years (since 1990) and client service has changed dramatically in the sense that so much more is done electronically and clients expect much more availability. The more business gravitates toward texting, email and Zoom, the more I make it a point to meet in person with my clients. I find that personal touch makes a massive difference in our relationship and success. Over the 30 years we’ve been in business, I’ve found that there are unrealistic expectations for delivery and there’s a lot more stress as a result. It’s also frustrating when some start ups think they can do their own PR because they found a do-it-yourself PR kit online; then they come running back asking for help because they realize it’s a lot harder than they thought. They don’t realize that established relationships make a significant difference in outcome. What has remained constant? Expectations of quality, consistency, news coverage, sound and strategic counsel, and creative ideas have remained constant. Key though is that while anyone can start a business in today’s electronic era, they’ll quickly fail if they don’t have solid and sound knowledge of the industry and if they don’t keep up with professional development. And, our industry is evolving so fast that keeping up requires constant effort and discipline.

3. We met way, way back in 2005 through our service on  the Universal Accreditation Board. Does the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential hold the same value today?

I do believe the APR holds value because it tests and asserts that the professional who holds Accreditation has the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities for the profession. However, it’s not necessary. I know countless non APR PR professionals who are equally if not more qualified than some APRs. Earning the credential is a matter of personal preference and should be something one strives to achieve for their own mastery and self and career confidence. I did it for that reason and I used the opportunity to raise my consulting rates. It should not be seen or used as a reason to say one professional is better than another because that is simply not true.

4. Now, must get to a somewhat serious question. Over the past few weeks, you shared a video and commentary on battling a serious illness. Can you please elaborate and share insight and advice on how you coped?
My doctors diagnosed me with COVID-19 and it was horrible. I’ve never been sicker in my life, struggling with shortness of breath, dry cough and fever for over five weeks. I rarely left my bed and if it had not been for my boyfriend, who stayed by my side the entire time, I don’t know what I would have done. There were two instances where I choked and gasped for air and if it hadn’t been for the inhaler my doctor prescribed me at the onset of my difficulty breathing, I truly believe I would have choked to death. It’s been over 10 weeks and I am now left with Reactive Airway Disease. I just started surfing again a few days ago (with a rescue inhaler in a waterproof fanny pack) and my lungs are shot after an hour of surfing, which is something in the past I never would have thought possible. I used to be a marathon runner, have never smoked a cigarette in my life and rarely ever get sick. This has been a tremendous struggle and continues to haunt me daily. 
5. Okay, let’s conclude on a lighter note. You’re a surfer girl. You live in greater San Diego. What advice can you give a Chicago guy who has aspirations to surf the wilds of Lake Michigan?
Take a surf lesson before you try it and get ready to fall in love with the sport. Your life will never be the same in the best way you could ever imagine. I promise! 
* * *
An aside: Way back in 1982 (or thereabouts), I visited some friends who moved to Southern California. Off on my own, I drove my rental car to LA, then took Highway 1 south, stopping in Newport Beach.  My objective was to surf!  Hey, man, I passed the lifeguard test and was an excellent swimmer.  I could do this.
Well reality took over as I encountered waves higher than the home I lived in and water that was really, really cold. I watched the surfers for a while, then headed south to San Diego.
 

Nineteen Questions Regarding COVID-19

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

We all have questions regarding some aspects of life as we know it. In fact, raising an occasional interrogative challenge is part of human nature. And, questions comprise the subject of this post.

Don’t know about you, but this graphic of the COVID-19 is plain creepy. Go away! (Image courtesy of the CDC.)

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has dominated lives around much of the world since March, without question prompts many people to utter statements verbally, in print or within their own mind and seek answers to the impacts made by this global development.

Below are 19 questions that have crossed my mind related to the pandemic.  Some questions are serious, some perhaps can be perceived as being silly. They are in no particular order of importance, however #19 is the most poignant, I think.

But for all, the answers have yet to be determined.

  1. Will people want to pursue careers in industries like hospitality, given the large number of chefs, servers, bartenders, hostesses and hotel employees now out of work?
  2. Will entrepreneurs – especially those in the creative fields – be reluctant to launch new ventures?
  3. How will the impact of the virus and pandemic influence the presidential and other elections this fall and in the years to come?
  4. Who will be viewed years from now as “heroes” and who will be viewed as “villains” once the pandemic is history?
  5. When will the pandemic be “glamorized” by Hollywood in a film?
  6. On a similar note, when will the first book be published on the pandemic?
  7. From a personal perspective, will barbers charge men more for cutting longer hair?
  8. What is the most significant aspect of coping with this pandemic that we have learned so far?
  9. Many, many people have lost savings and livelihoods from the pandemic, but who will benefit financially?
  10. When will we stop seeing the virus depicted as that creepy red sphere?
  11. Will the efforts to finding a vaccine demonstrate future cooperation between government and the private sector?
  12. Will selecting a mask in a particular color or print be part of one’s daily wardrobe decision?
  13. Will more people comprehend and appreciate the value of accurate, timely communications now that we receive daily updates on the virus?
  14. Will the phrase “social distance” be replaced with a less pragmatic phrase like, “Just stay the heck away from me!”?
  15. Given its value during this crisis, will the practice of ethical, strategic public relations — my profession — gain respect, stature and relevance in C-suites, boardrooms and conference rooms?
  16. Will trips on public transit trains and buses ever be standing-room-only again?
  17.  When will it be inappropriate to take a stroll or run down the middle of the street?
  18. Are people as productive working at home than from the office?
  19. And, of course, what can we do to prevent this horrific episode from happening again?

So there. Now it’s your turn. What questions do you have?

Those First Steps Toward Earning My Master’s Degree

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It was on a late August day in 2016 when I strolled — somewhat intrepidly, but perhaps incredulously — down the walkway shown in the image below.

My destination was Stevenson Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. My purpose was to participate in the first class required to earn my Master of Arts degree in English.

On that August day in 2016, this walkway on the UIC campus was filled with people just like me — people wanted to learn and grow.

Since that class, the ENGL500 Masters Proseminar, I’ve successfully completed three writing workshops and four seminars, or courses based on literary genres or eras; plus I submitted a thesis (60 pages of a novel still-in-the works).

The outcome: I’ve earned my Master’s degree through the Department’s Program for Writers.

Today would have been the official commencement for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but the condition of the world in this place in history meant the in-person ceremony would have to be postponed. A virtual Commencement is scheduled for May 16.

In this space, I first announced in a “creative” July 2016 post my intention to earn an advanced degree.  Since then, I’ve chronicled my experience in the classroom over the semesters in several posts, including a May 2017 report on what I learned in a class focused on the works of author Vladimir Nobokov and “candid” perspectives on some classmates.

So, what did I learn?

Well, along with the subject of the required readings, I learned how to interpret literature, authors and theories and present a (somewhat) cogent thesis that later evolved into a scholarly paper. And, I learned that there are few, if any, absolute or definitive perspectives in the analysis or interpretation of literature: Your thoughts are valid, providing you can support them.

So, what’s next?

I certainly plan to continue reading fiction and non-fiction works, but now I want to explore works from other authors. For example, I’m now reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which at 695 pages requires a commitment. Also on the agenda: Completing my novel and revising short stories from my recent Fiction Writing Workshop.

So, who do I thank?

Of course the professors who prepared and led class and provided direction when I was at a crossroads, my classmates who challenged me and shared my commitment to learning, the administrators in the English Department who provided much-needed guidance, and my UIC colleagues, family and friends who offered encouragement when I felt overwhelmed. But most of all, I must thank my dear Susan, for her steadfast belief that I could, indeed, earn a Master’s degree in English.

So, what am I most proud of?

From an academic standpoint, I maintain a paper exploring modern poetry completed in 2018 for a course on modern and contemporary literature represents a high-level of achievement. Also, there’s a soft spot for this short essay on a street I called “a bastard thoroughfare,” still my favorite street in the world.

And, there’s one more thing: I only missed one class over the entire eight semesters, and that was on September 28, 2016, when I learned that afternoon that our dear mother, Sophie V. Bury had passed away.

On this Mother’s Day 2020, I’m confident our mother also is proud of what I accomplished.

 

 

 

COVID-19 and the Role Played by Communicators: PRSA Chicago Webinar Recap

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Controversy continues to surface regarding just about every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in these waning days of April, it’s readily apparent that controversy related to the virus and its impact on society and our way of life will continue for the foreseeable future.

From another perspective, one can argue that the virus has become the most talked about, most written about, most analyzed, most disputed topic in human history to date.

Regardless of the what takes place in the months ahead — whether we can resume what once were “normal” activities — this remains certain: We’ll need accurate and regular communications on what’s happening next week, next month and next year.

Yesterday, PRSA Chicago hosted a Zoom webinar, “Leading Through Crisis and Establishing a New Normal for Communicators After the Apex.” A long-standing member of the Chapter, I took in the presentation, which featured three senior communications professionals:

Chandler Goodman, Director at Gagen MacDonald, moderated the program and PRSA Chicago President Dane Roth provided welcoming and closing thoughts.

Here are summarized and bulleted recollections from the panelists:

  • Avoid being opportunistic when issuing communications.
  • Unlike other crisis situations, developments in the COVID-19 crisis often change hourly.
  • Communicators must update messages on a continual basis — both to internal and external audiences.
  • What was not considered newsworthy in the past may be newsworthy today.
  • Regularly try to demonstrate progress on communications to stakeholders.
  • Senior leaders should reach out to employees on a regular basis.
  • Maintain credibility, honesty and transparency when addressing a competing interest.
  • Listen to feedback from all audiences.
  • The virtual workplace will be in place for a long time; get accustomed to managing teams, media and internal communications remotely.
  • CEOs now have to respond to stakeholders and the media via Zoom or an online platform; this may require additional coaching.
  • Grasp how relationships with business partners have changed during the advent of the crisis.
  • Demonstrate the value of effective public relations during these unprecedented times.
  • Collaboration between other business or organizational units has been positive during the pandemic.
  • Recognize that a greater segment of society now recognizes the value of effective communications.
  • Some organizations now field many, many more media inquiries than prior to the pandemic — some up to 100 per day.  And, some organizations issue multiple news announcements daily.

One great feature of Zoom is the ability to pose a question. I’m proud to note that my question — “What have you learned during the pandemic that can be employed in the future?” — was the final query addressed. The responses:

Rodrigo: Communicate often and be as transparent as possible, both to internal and external audiences.

Heather: Be transparent and be human; let the world see you without wearing a tie.

Jim: You can’t over-communicate today. Be prepared to manage a long list of FAQs.

And, I’ll conclude with one other suggestion from a panelist: Communicators need a day off, which I wholeheartedly support.

 

Finding This Worker “Essential” During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Let me echo the tributes to the first responders — the healthcare workers, the police, ambulance and firefighters, the elected officials, and the other courageous women and men — on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in my home state of Illinois, across the nation and around the world.

This is how I found the Sunday April 19 edition, just outside the front door.

Same goes for those deemed essential to our lives and the economy — like mail carriers, grocery store workers and truck drivers, transportation staff, farmers and food processors.

If I’ve neglected a category, my apologies. There are many people out there day-after-day away from the safety of their homes and families doing their jobs so many of us can shelter, work at home and battle the virus remotely.

Now, let me propose adding another category to the list of essential workers: The newspaper delivery people, those unheralded part-time workers who cruise streets in the early-morning hours and fling a folded print publication onto porches and doorsteps.

For years, we’ve subscribed to the daily and Sunday editions of the Chicago Tribune. And, each day (with a few exceptions) the newspaper is delivered on our front porch. Usually by 7 a.m.

I’ve never formally met the lady who delivers our newspaper each day, but we’ve exchanged waves on occasion. I know her name is Yeimi, because around the holidays (remember those?) she includes a note in the Sunday edition offering greetings. I respond with a some words of holiday cheer and thanks and a modest gratuity.

The delivery of the newspaper is part of what makes my day “normal” and “predictable,” factors I appreciate.

It’s been hard to find normalcy and predictability for the past month-plus, and it’s uncertain when they again will be within our grasp.

Thanks to Yeimi and the unheralded working members of our society, a seemingly minor comfort provides welcomed respite.

When Will …

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

When will the “proper distance” we can have with friends and strangers becomes three feet?  Then no distance at all?

When will the drone from the nearby Kennedy Expressway fade during most of the day because of the return traffic that normally builds from early morning and lasts well into the evening?

Looking forward to the day I can take my widow seat and engage in what I call “malt therapy” at Small Bar. (Image courtesy of Small Bar.)

When will I be able to scan the eastern sky from our back porch and count five or six jet airliners heading toward O’Hare International Airport most evenings?

When will I not have to look both ways more than one time when planning to cross a street?

When will I be able to read the main news section of the Chicago Tribune and not read an article on the subject that has dominated our world over the past few weeks?

When will I find trash dumped on the sidewalk near our home, evidence that more people are carrying on with life in the way they had before all this happened?

When will I find enjoyment in listening to loud rock and roll again, when now I only find true enjoyment and solace in jazz and classical music?

When will I be able to take my favorite window seat at my neighborhood tavern, the Small Bar, and enjoy a beer and an honest welcome served by Katy?

When will I wake up and not have to say a silent prayer thanking God that I’m not sick?

When will television commercials again center on candidates running for office or political issues?

When will acronyms like “PPE” and words like “surreal” and “uncertain times” be gone from our everyday lexicon?

When will I be compelled to not write about this subject anymore?

Answers and thoughts are welcomed.

 

 

The Front Line is at My Front Door

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

And, it’s at your front door, and your neighbor’s front door.

It’s the line between today and tomorrow, between what was “normal” and what will be the “new normal.”

The line divides those who demonstrate compassion, civility and decency from those ghouls, fiends and cowards who attempt to capitalize.

The line will provide a demarcation of sorts to identify the brave, the resilient, the heroes who stand firm against the silent aggressor.

Every day, or sometimes every hour, the line moves, often radically, causing uncertainty and even terror.

Regardless of when the line is obliterated, it will have permeated your psyche and your soul.

Actually, no one knows who drew the line, but perhaps history will come to a decision on who did, on why it crossed oceans and crossed demographics.

The line is insidious, and it will be erased some day.

I wish that day was tomorrow.