Remembering Ruth L Ratny: A True Chicago Iconoclast

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

Earlier this week, I learned the sad news regarding the passing of Ruth L Ratny.

Note there is no period after the “L” in the name above.

That’s not an error, it was the way Ruth spelled her name. I’m not sure why, but I can ascertain that the minor punctuation issue was another reflection of just who Ruth was: A person who grabbed life by the lapels and decided to live it according to her rules.

First, some background.

For some reason, I've kept this March 21, 1994 issue of Screen. Perhaps because the focus was music and I had four articles published.

For some reason, I’ve kept this March 21, 1994 issue of Screen. Perhaps because the focus was music and I had four articles published.

From the mid 1980s until the mid 1990s, I contributed to Screen magazine, a then weekly print publication that covered Chicago’s film and audio/visual production industry.  (I trust “audio/visual,” also known as “A/V,” is a somewhat antiquated term in these digital days.) Ruth founded the publication and ran it out of her “penthouse” apartment on Wabash Avenue on the Near North Side.

I think there’s a highrise multifamily building on the site today, but back in the day that part of downtown was still sort of edgy.

Back to Ruth and my work for Screen. 

I got the opportunity to write for the publication after pitching Ruth a story regarding a client that retained the public relations firm I worked for at the time. I don’t recall the nature of the pitch, nor the client for that matter; but I do remember that Ruth referred to me as “that publicist” and invited me to contribute to Screen.

This E. M. Bury piece centers on the opening of a new recording studio in Wicker Park, identified as "one of the trendiest parts of town."

This E. M. Bury piece centers on the opening of a new recording studio in Wicker Park, identified as “one of the trendiest parts of town.”

To somewhat distance myself from my agency career, we decided to use “E.M. Bury” as my byline; that suited me because lots of famous writers incorporated initials for their first and middle names, but mostly I appreciated the opportunity to get some freelance assignments and earn extra money.

My beat was music, and that led to opportunities to meet and interview musicians, commercial music producers, studio owners and other creative people who comprised the then thriving A/V commercial production industry in Chicago.

Over the years, I came to know Ruth as someone who was always tough and challenging as an editor, but fair and generous as a person.

But what struck me most was Ruth’s tenacity, her work ethic and her dedication to championing the Chicago film and production industry. Without question, she clashed with stalwarts from the film community, the advertising agencies and production houses, and with her staff and writers, me included.

(Why did she change my copy that read, “commercial music producer” to read “jingleer” on occasion?”)

Yet, I never encountered a situation where Ruth demonstrated mean-spirited actions or duplicity. At least not during our working relationship, and I contributed dozens of pieces over the years.

Ruth L Ratny came from humble beginnings and built a thriving business that chronicled and perhaps contributed to the growth of an industry.

As I noted in this 2014 post, Chicago, and I trust much of the nation if not the world, is losing those willing to chart their own way, a path that circumvents the rules. We’re losing the unique, the characters, the people like Ruth.

Rest in peace Ruth.

 

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