BITCH: The Maria Pappas Story

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APPLYING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. THE OFFICE WAS CLEAN AND MODERN WITH NONE OF THE RAGGED, DEPRESSION-ERA DRESSED PEOPLE I IMAGINED. THERE WASN’T EVEN A LINE. THE INFORMATION DESK WAS MANNED – OR IS THAT PERSONNED – BY TWO WORKERS, MALE AND FEMALE, WHO BOTH SEEMED HAPPY TO HAVE SOMEONE NEW TO TALK TO. THE WOMAN GREETED ME WITH A SMILE AND ASKED ME THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY UNEMPLOYMENT.

“Were you laid off? Fired? Did you quit?’ She inquired, trying to determine which form I needed to fill out. Seldom are things so clear cut and likewise, my recent unemployment was no simple question that could be answered “yes” or “no”, “black” or “white”. Besides, having voluntarily quit, I wasn’t about to close any options that would make me ineligible for free government money.

“I was forced to quit.” I answered, hoping being forced out would count just the same as being fired. For unemployment  eligibility requirements, being fired is second only in desirability to being laid off –  quitting is for losers. The lady looked over her glasses at me, clearly needing more information. “My boss heard a rumor I’d called her a bitch,” I explained, “Maybe you’ve heard of her. Maria Pappas, Cook County Treasurer?”

“Oh, she is a bitch!” The woman declared. Everyone has a Pappas story.

And such is the reaction I’ve come to expect after falling into disfavor with the baton twirling Maria Pappas, newly enshrined Cook County Treasurer. But the odd thing is, up until Ms. Pappas turned against me, I thought she was great. It’s funny how sometimes you look back and smack your head and shout, “What was I thinking?” I’m having that kind of summer.

After being led into an immaculate, carpeted room, furnished with two conference tables and a dozen empty chairs, I got right to work on the stack of forms I was handed, using a borrowed #2 pencil from a box of thousands. Employment History was the first intimate detail of my life they wanted to know about.

I started at the Treasurer’s Office right out of college. Not that working for Edward J. Rosewell, who was the Treasurer before Pappas, was the reason I spent over thirty-grand in student loans. All my life my family warned, “You better go to college”, as if it were some magical place that transformed you, by association, into a highly employable individual. So I went to DePaul University and drifted back out a few years later armed with a Bachelors degree in English. Unfortunately, I had  graduated in the middle of a recession and for employment purposes, an English degree during a recession is about as impressive as an Associates Degree in Telemarketing.

My first job offer out of college was from a rental car agency. They wanted me and my English degree for a Manager Trainee position. They saw my potential! And they wanted to groom me for management! As it turned out, the only thing I was groomed for was a career in washing cars. I left within two weeks. The day I “quit” (by mutual agreement) I made a frantic phone call to a politically connected fraternity alumnus who wanted to get in my pants (I told him “no thanks”, as there was one ass in there already). He made a call to his buddy, Edward J. Rosewell, Treasurer of Cook County and as simple as that I had a job. It was a temp position at first, but because I was able to dress myself and not show up drunk – and I could run a computer – I eventually got a permanent position as an “auditing clerk”.

I was constantly interrupted from my form-filling by a stream of well- meaning, but bored workers wanting to assist. There seemed to be about three workers for every unemployed person there. Thanks to the booming economy, many of the people helping me fill out those forms were in danger of becoming unemployed themselves. How ironic that their job security goes up when everyone else’s goes down.

One guy wanted to help me find a job, and asked me what kind of work I formerly did for the Treasurer. I wanted to say, “No thanks, I’m just here for the free money”, but instead I described my work experience. Despite having absolutely no financial background, I had spent the last six years doing accounting-type work for the County. Reconciling accounts, computing interest and distributing tax money in the Treasurer’s Cash Management department. But the last thing I wanted to do was work with numbers again, but nevertheless, I was handed pages of available accounting jobs. I politely accepted them and continued to fill in the blanks on my multitude of forms.

“Reason for leaving?”

We were back to that question. I wasn’t always the model employee I ended up being under Maria Pappas. I started off in the Treasurer’s office wanting to make good. I rushed through each assignment, then proudly reported to my supervisor that I was ready for more. That is, until a co- worker took me aside and asked “What’s up with that shit? Take your time, slow down.” That’s the culture you find in some government offices, where promotions are reserved for the connected.

I thought working for Maria Pappas would be different. I had followed Pappas’ political career through the years, admiring her confrontational style. She was always bitching about something and stirring up controversy. I liked that. I rooted for her when she ran for the County Board Presidency against John Stroger and Aurelia Pucinski. I cheered her on when she twirled her baton every year in the Gay Pride Parade. When she announced she was running for Rosewell’s job, who was retiring under the scandal of an indictment for ghost payrolling and for placing his window-washer “room- mate” in a $70k job. I was excited about the prospect of working for this political maverick and when she took office, I transformed myself from lackadaisical county employee into Super Worker, eager to be part of the team.

There were a lot of worried faces within the rank and file as the day approached when Eddie Rosewell, a very sweet, energetic little Irish man – and the top vote getter for the Democratic party – would gallop off into the sunset (or possibly prison) and Ms. Pappas would take over the helm. Gossip and rumors filled the office. Pappas had a terrible reputation as an employer during her years as a County Commissioner. The gossip columns buzzed with her latest firings or of disgruntled workers calling it quits. One estimate pegged her as going through over twenty employees in an eight year span, which is a staggering figure when you realize commissioners are only allotted three employees. There were also rumors that called into  question Pappas’ mental health. Supposedly she had  her office swept for bugs – the electronic kind – afraid someone was spying on her. There were also tales of her employing handwriting analysis of people she didn’t trust, trying to judge character through their scribblings. There were so many, many rumors, I just discounted them all. At worst, I thought, she was a little eccentric.

On Pappas’ first day in office. I was appointed by her Chief Deputy, a wonderful guy named Mike Shine, to assist with computer related issues. The Treasurer’s office wasn’t exactly the information superhighway. When I first started, we were still doing spreadsheets on grid paper. I was good with the different programs like Excel and Word, while most workers couldn’t find the “On” button; and because of this I gained a reputation for being knowledgeable about computers, which Pappas’ people found to be of value. This is what I craved – what any worker craves – to be recognized and to feel needed.  I responded well to this new and unfamiliar stimuli. I found myself staying late and arriving early, working harder and what was really odd – taking work home with me! Because of my enthusiasm, Pappas’ top management recommended me for several different promotions, but for some reason, Pappas always turned my promotions down. I never took it personally which was a mistake, because it was personal, only I didn’t know it yet.

The first clue that working for Maria Pappas wouldn’t be all roses and lollipops came the second day she was in office. It was early December, with signs of Christmas all around, but for a half-dozen employees, their coal-filled stocking came early. It was expected that the new administration would want their own top management, but the people Pappas canned were hardly top management. Most were mid-level career employees who had worked in the office for ten or more years. Two of the workers fired were a gay couple, both approaching retirement. The biggest shock was when they fired Kelly, a young woman from my own department. Kelly started working for the Treasurer’s office right out of high-school, needing the job to support her younger siblings after their parents died. Kelly was an invaluable resource for everything related to the functions of the Cook County Treasurer. She was also six months pregnant when she was abruptly informed her services were no longer needed.

Everyone was freaked out by Kelly’s firing, including me, but I tried to remain calm. That was my reaction to everything that happened, “Calm down, I’m sure there’s a reason.” Even when Pappas made all the women  – and only the women – wear ugly blue blazers. They were hideous, baggy and had the effect of turning even the most shapely woman into a frump. You could feel the humiliation from the ladies when they were forced to put on these over-sized men’s cotton jackets. Males were required to wear white shirts and a tie, unless you were part of the janitorial service, she made the male janitors also dress in those awful blue blazers.  Women and janitors. Let that sink in for a minute and what that says about Madam Treasurer’s regard for women. (Given Maria’s psychology degree, maybe someone should ask her!)

The ladies hated those fucking jackets, but were all too afraid to complain. Except for one.

Pappas liked to hover about the workers, and when the blazers were distributed, she went around asking the women how they liked them. She questioned the wrong person when she asked Joyce. a fifty-something lady not known for her quiet nature. Joyce told Pappas she hated the jacket, “I feel  like we’re in prison,” she replied. Pappas seemed startled by this frankness and asked the lady seated next to Joyce for her opinion. The lady answered “They’re fine,” which caused Joyce to erupt, “That’s not what you said a few minutes ago!”

After several more futile attempts to promote me went down in flames, my supervisor took me aside, “Did you do something to piss off the Treasurer?” he asked. I was surprised by this, “No,” I replied, I honestly couldn’t recall saying or doing anything that would put me in disfavor with the Treasurer. She certainly didn’t behave toward me as if anything was wrong. Pappas had even bragged about my serving on the county Domestic Partnership committee – chaired by Congressman Mike Quigley, who then was the man newly elected to Maria’s old County Board seat; and also Greg Harris and Kelly Cassidy (before they were elected State Representatives).  My role was to draft a letter that all County officials would sign in support of extending benefits to LGBT domestic partners of Cook County’s 25,000 workforce. Our committee crafted and helped pass the Cook County Domestic Partnership Ordinance, and Pappas boasted to everyone that she and I were working “together” on this project (although her only involvement was not objecting to my attending the committee meetings).

Despite all of the signs, I still could not believe that Pappas had something against me.

“Are you finished with your forms?” The Unemployment officer asked, interrupting my trip down memory lane. I nodded yes, but her keen eye spotted information I had yet to fill in. “Put your previous salary here.” She said, pointing to one of my errant blanks.

Your former salary helps determine your winnings in the Unemployment Sweepstakes. County employees are not lavishly paid, unless you’re a former window washer. Rosewell gave me a secure job with benefits, but no lavish salary. Luckily, money wasn’t an issue for me. Like Pappas, I had  married well. Not nearly as well as Maria, whose husband is an owner of the Treasure Island grocery store chain, but well enough that when the shit hit the fan, I was able to walk away without worrying where my next meal was coming from.

During her run for Treasurer, all the Treasure Island stores had Pappas campaign signs in their windows. A precinct captain told me about Pappas campaigning at the Broadway Treasure Island, sitting on a table, puffing away on a cigarette inside the store. One of the employees, a young bagger, approached her about this, pointing to a very prominent “No Smoking” sign and asked her to put the cigarette out, to which she seethed, “I own this store!” Apparently this is the manner Pappas treats all of her subordinates. Very early on, we were given a memo instructing us on how she preferred the phones to be answered; a script ending with the chilling words “Phone Calls may be monitored for quality assurances.” After that, we assumed we were all being listened to, even departments such as mine where calls from taxpayers were rare.

No one could have convinced me that Pappas herself was the one doing the phone monitoring, until one day a worker in the Refund Department told me about a call from an irate taxpayer who referred to Pappas by every four letter word imaginable, without any contradiction from this employee. Later, an angry Pappas confronted him, demanding to know why he hadn’t defended her. “You instructed us that the customer is always right.” he replied. This rule, he found out, had some exceptions.

Another lady was written up twice for going into her own purse during work hours. Pappas had targeted her for ill treatment to get her to resign so she could give the job to a supporter and the fact that this poor lady had lost her entire family in a drunk driving crash a year earlier had no alleviating impact. They drove her to quit without pity.

The cumulative effect of all the memos, the blue blazers, the mysterious firings and the massive write-ups for petty infractions led to a state of paranoia, distrust and multiple forced resignations.

My turn came on April Fool’s Day. Pappas summoned me to her office for a meeting. I wasn’t the least bit nervous, assuming she wanted to talk to me about one of my projects. She invited one of her deputies to sit in our meeting, explaining as she closed the door, “I want a witness to avoid any confusion later.”

“Uh-oh,” I joked, “what did I do?” I had no idea what was about to happen.

“So, you think I’m a bitch.” Pappas said, taking a seat behind her massive desk, “and that I’m part of the Greek mafia.”

I was floored. She could have had me on the “bitch” part, as I’ve used that word liberally my entire life. It’s a great, all purpose word, and as a political friend later commented, “If calling Maria Pappas a bitch is a firing offense, then crank up the hiring mill.”

Pappas and the word “bitch” had a quiet wedding years ago. Former County Board President Dick Phelan made a big splash in the press when he called her one during a County Board meeting. Pappas was called a bitch so many times by so many people, I thought it was part of her name until they painted it on the front door.

She might of had me on the “bitch” remark, but the “Greek Mafia” thing was not from me. I tried to defend myself, but she kept insisting her informant, whom she would not identify, was “trustworthy”. Then her faced turned cold and sneering, “Quit!” she yelled, “If you don’t like it here, then quit!”

Walking back to my desk, I felt like a truck hit me, or I’d gotten kicked in the balls. I was bewildered that someone would do something like this to me and powerless to defend myself without knowing who was my accuser. Later in the day I attempted to speak to Pappas again, to iron out this mess. I was talking to her secretary when Pappas poked her head out of her office and hissed, “What are you doing here?”

By the tone in her voice I realized it was a lost cause. I returned to my department and typed up a letter of resignation and began looking forward to a long, luxurious summer collecting unemployment and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, now that I’m all grown up.

I’ve also made a decision to retire the word “bitch” from my vocabulary, I’m considering a switch to the “C” word. Bitch is still a great word, it’s just that I won’t be able to use it without thinking about Maria Pappas. I want to move on, you know.image

Losing My Faith in A Higher Pasta

  
 I’m in a quandary. I’ve been giving serious thought to switching my parody religion. Don’t get me wrong, my current fake set of beliefs have served me well these many years, and I’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of them…yet I find myself unfulfilled.

So, should I convert to Invisible Pink Unicornism or stick with the old Flying Spaghetti Monster?

You see, this has nothing to do with Pastafarianism. I really enjoy their rituals, (like “Talk Like Pirate Day”), but to me the FSM, (bless his noodley appendages) seems a bit too far-fetched – even for a religion. After all, how could a carb create life when we’ve come to realize how bad carbs are for life? Besides, if I wanted to ritualistically eat my God, I’d go back to Catholicism.

A good parody religion must be as implausible as the religion it lampoons and be equally impossible to disprove. With all of our advanced technology, I’m pretty sure a giant floating plate of pasta and meatballs would have been detected by now.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn has the advantage of seeming less far fetched to me than flying spaghetti. At least compared to talking snakes and Noah’s Ark. The IPU is impossible to disprove or even see because – duh – He’s invisible! And the reason we can’t detect Him is explained conveniently right there in His name! He is invisible – yet He is pink, or has a pinkness about Him. I like pink.

But just to be on the safe side – Ramen.

Megyn Kelly is No Saint (or Journalist)

Last week, Fox News host Megyn Kelly spent two nights explaining why a 15 year old white child molester should be forgiven for repeatedly finger banging his sleeping toddler sisters (and other un-consenting household guests). This week, a black 15 year old girl is “no saint” because she “lingered” at a pool party after a cop told her to leave.

In molester-apologist Megyn Kelly’s twisted world: Lingering = Bad. Fingering = Not so bad.

The topper is Megyn Kelly’s choice of guests to provide her audience an analysis of the disturbing McKinney, Texas police incident caught on tape; and whether the police acted reasonably when a 200lb cop violently smashed a 15 year old bikini clad girl to the ground: for this delicate task Ms. Kelly chose convicted perjurer and admitted racist, ex-cop Mark Fuhrman. You can’t make this shit up.

I’m beginning to think Fox News might be enabling racists. And pedophiles.

(Graphic courtesy of Rawstory.com)

My Super Trademarked Duggar Jokes

 In light of Megyn Kelly’s interview last night, it looks like the Duggar’s show “19 Kids and Counting” has attracted some brand new sponsors!

Armored Nightgowns

Kwikset Locks and Deadbolts

Bushnell Night Vision Goggles

ADT Home Security Systems

Christian Prepper’s Pepper Spray – Brother Strength

Wait.. I got more…

How did Josh Duggar’s parents catch on he was molesting all the kids?

When they asked Josh to show them his hands, he had a sister on each finger.

********

What’s the most overused phrase in the Duggar household?

“Honey my water broke.”

What’s the second most overused phrase?

“Quit molesting the girls, Josh.”

****

Oh, yeah, and this one:

A gentleman from the North, dating one of the Duggar sisters of Arkansas and not acquainted with Southern fundamentalist Christian customs, intends to ask his beloved to marry him. But first, he politely asks if she’s still a virgin. This causes the Duggar girl to become enraged, yelling at her suitor while pounding on his chest,

“Are you calling my brothers queer or something?”

*****

I’ll add to these as they come and TM for them too!

Is Mike Huckabee A Perv?

Headline from the Business Insider: IMG_1499-0 Let’s add Mike Huckabee to the list of republican conservative Christian perverts. It’s just amazing to hear a Presidential candidate – and Fox News personality – wistfully talk about his missed opportunities to shower with high school girls.

Between this and his dismissing Josh Duggar’s midnight finger banging of his sleeping toddler sisters as “a teenage mistake”, I’m thinking Huckabee may be just another in a string of religious perverts with a secret. Does he have a Duggar/Hastert/Sandusky problem?

Of course, every time one of these religious fanatics open their big fat mouths condemning other people’s morals, they end up sticking their big fat foot back in. They say gays are cramming things down their throat, but there’s actually no more room.

With all the Duggarbots defending molestation and now Mike Huckabee, It appears southern Bible Belt Christians have a taste for tender girl flesh. In fact, the age of consent in Huckabee/Dugger County (Arkansas) is the lowest in the land: 14.

If you’re anything like Mike Huckabee or Josh Duggar, you are probably wondering which States allow you to fuck minor children. Here’s a handy video to help you remember the age of consent laws in all 50 States! Remember, the redder the State, the lower the age of consent!!

Know Your Age of Consent!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivvr2MEJp1Q

Sandusky Duggared Me So Hard My Hastert

Dennis_Hastert_2

Uh-oh! Looks like another “family values” Republican has a dark secret – which he was willing to pay a former student $3.5 million in hush money to stay hushed! When the sketchy details were laid out in a federal indictment last May, we all knew it was a sex scandal behind the hush money. The only question was: Boy or girl? Since ex-Speaker of the House Denny Hastert was also a former wrestling coach at Yorkville High, I immediately put my money on “boy”. I should have used the plural. Boys. At least four of them identified so far.

Of course, being a Republican, Hastert made it his duty to make life as difficult as possible for gays.

Here’s ex-Speaker Hastert’s LGBT voting record:

  • Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman.
  • Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.
  • Voted NO to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay soldiers.

It’s getting to the point when a politician comes out against gay marriage, you automatically wonder how many kids they’ve fucked.

* This whole thing reminds me of that old political maxim: Don’t get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

* There may be additional victims, (maybe they settled for less than $10,00 in hush money). I’ll update when I find out more or have some better jokes.

**Update:

Heres a snippet from Coach Hastert’s book posted on Buzzfeed.

“I felt a special bond with our wrestlers,” he writes in the book, “and I think they felt one with me. In my talks with them, I stressed how important it was that they learned to do a few things well. That was better than trying to do everything halfway. ‘It’s work and not talk that wins championships,’ I kept telling them. ‘Perseverance is the key in whatever you do.’”

Also, it appears the Coach was kind enough to volunteer to drive some of his team members to wrestling camp way, way far off in Colorado! And they all stayed in a single cabin!  What a caring Coach.

***Update: Breaking News!

Hastert sentenced to 15 months in prison!

Also, Hastert’s victims confirmed as male members of the Wrestling Team he coached. (Told you so last year!)

Politics is so strange. One of Dennis Hastert’s victims is former Illinois Republican State Rep. Tom Cross’s younger brother. The victim never came forward publicly until Hastert, shockingly, and in very bad taste, asked his victim’s brother to write a character letter for Haster’s sentencing for bank fraud.

I don’t get it. Did Hastert forget he molested this man’s brother? How many kids did this perv abuse?

What’s really weird is that Dennis Hastert replaced Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House of Representatives after Gingrich got caught having an affair and after Gingrich’s replacement Bob Livingston got caught having an affair. So, all three Speakers of the House involved in prosecuting Bill Clinton for lying about a BJ were themselves covering up dark secrets!

If you are offended, go fuck yourself

 

 Like everyone, I post those things to Facebook and my blog that interest me. Some of those interests are controversial to at least someone. But I’ve learned not to care too much. If you do, then you censor yourself for the most sensitive.

I’ve been involved in Chicago politics since 1995, and for that long I’ve been fighting for our rights as LGBT citizens. I helped, along with Greg Harris, Ellen Myers and Kelly Cassidy, to pass the first County domestic partnership registry way back in 1999, giving equal benefits for all LGBT County workers. I’ve also written about politics In the gay media for that long. 

Some people think I’m too hard on religion. The way I see it, the fight right now is against religious organizations, mostly Christian. They are our chief opponent in our struggle for equality. When Pat Robertson backs off, I’ll back off. And not until all my LGBT family have equal rights will I back down.

Scary Indiana, Scary Indiana…

For those morons who think Indiana’s religious nut law is “just like” 19 other states, let me educate you: there are federal protections against discrimination for race and sex, but not sexual orientation. A gay person can legally be fired in any state that doesn’t have a non-discrimination ordinance like we do in Illinois. The state law in Indiana supersedes local non discrimination laws, like the one in Indianapolis, making the refusal to hire or service gay people legal throughout the state. The whole reason the law was enacted was to give permission to bakers and florists to refuse service to gay couples. The law is the direct result of animus against gays. It is hate.

People with low IQs can’t imagine that similar laws may have different effects in different states depending on what other laws are also in effect. For example, each State has a constitution that may limit the scope of any law subsequently passed. Illinois’ Anti Discrimination Law gives statewide protections to LGBT in hiring, housing and public accommodations, excepting “ministerial” employers from the law. The Illinois Religious protection act doesn’t strip away these protections. In Indiana, where there were no protections to begin with, except at the local level – which this new state law now overrides, LGBT are further disadvantaged because the State has given explicit signals that gays are the real subject of this act.

To those bigoted businesses owners who think they should be able refuse service based on their freedom of religion, I ask you: who paid for the the road leading people to your business? Who paid for the sidewalk? The Police, the Fire Department? The taxpayers in your community paid for the infrastructure that allows you to prosper, including gays and divorcees, and people on their 5th marriage. Public accommodation laws respect this arrangement. Indiana’s law turns this polite concept on it’s head.

I could imagine begrudgingly supporting a version of Indiana’s pro discrimination law if it required businesses to display on their windows and websites which taxpayers in the community they refuse to serve. That way no one would have to suffer the indignity of being turned away from a public business for violating the owners hateful religious beliefs.

I’m definitely gonna join this boycott. But I HAVE to travel through Indiana a few times a year to visit my Mom in Ohio. Should I call ahead to inform them of my new religion, The First Church of No Speed Limits? I’d hate to have my religious beliefs infringed on the Tollway. #boycottindiana

Richard Foley as The Marlboro Man

image The title of the “Most Interesting Man I‘ve Ever Met” would go to my old friend Dr. Richard Foley. He’s also the leading candidate for the “Craziest Man I‘ve Ever Met”.

Richard was a recently retired college professor when I first met him at one of his infamous after-hours parties. I was writing a nightlife column at the time for the Chicago Free Press, so our paths were destined to cross. He was holding court around his sprawling couch, a cigarette dangling in his hand, ashes going everywhere but in the amply full ashtray in front of him. I still remember his booming laugh as he concluded an elaborate “dumb blond joke”, a funny joke that was all the funnier for his dramatic re-telling.

Richard had been a tenured Professor at the University of Illinois, and a well-known expert in the psychology of education. A brilliant man from a humble and chaotic blue collar childhood, he studied hard and received degrees from the University of Chicago and Roosevelt University. A lover of both psycho and drama, (his favorite movie being “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)  Richard relished getting friends or strangers on his proverbial couch to spill their guts or to take one of those standard personality tests, which he’d administer like he was reading you your fortune.

Richard loved telling the story about one of these late night psychotherapy “patients”; a young man who confessed to Richard that what he wanted most in the world was to become a fashion model. Richard thought the guy was over estimating his attractiveness. Not one to hold back on dashing dreams, Richard explained to him that professional models all tended to have certain ratios and symmetries to their facial features; and then proceeded to whip out a tape measure to assess the degree of the bad news, which he delivered with a sympathetic shake of his head, “Pity.”

He was a great listener and a mentor to many, but, alas, a terrible role model. He drank Skyy vodka from morning to, well until the next morning, while also using stimulants to mask his intoxication. He had a good excuse for his drinking and drug abuse though. For over twenty years he had walked around with a grapefruit sized hole in his leg, the former home of a cancerous tumor – whose removal left a giant radiated, un-healing wound, the sight of which would make a battlefield doctor vomit and go AWOL. The radiation rendered the wound incapable of healing over and un-bandaged you could see bone and a good place to smuggle things through an airport. So, he had an excellent excuse to drink – the alcohol and pills kept him mobile, until the pain became unbearable and he had to lay down.

Richard had a terrific sense of humor and a hearty laugh to go with it. He loved a good joke or even better, a good insult. Because of his leg, he preferred hosting in his large Edgewater condo overlooking the lake. When the bars let out, there was always a place to hang. I saw many a sunrise from his balcony. I also got to learn about condo boards from his various run-ins with them over his late night extravaganzas. He was actually forced to sell one of his old places after too many complaints. That condo board had a dossier on him thicker than Bin Ladin’s – which he loved to bring out and read a loud from.

His funniest condo board run-in happened one morning around sunrise when some of his departing guests discovered there was a swimming pool on the roof of his high rise building. Richard sent me to shoo them out, but the water did look refreshing and I confess I may have been negligent in performing my duties.

Unfortunately, sunrise is also a great time for old people to swim laps.

The resulting condo board complaint indicated there was “noxious sexual activity” going on in the pool, which was untrue; as I argued to the board, it was merely two people innocently rubbing against each other rhythmically in order to keep warm in the chilly pool. I think we got the fine down to $600 that time.

He died a few years back. The cancer came roaring back in his leg and he refused his doctor’s advice to amputate. I begged him too lose the damn leg – I even offered to lop it off myself. But he let the cancer take him. I hope when I go, my friends will think as fondly of me as they do of Richard.

Now, may I present a never before seen video of Richard as the Marlboro Man  –  in a home video filmed by his Polish ex-boyfriend who I’ll call Jack. (As Jack is a doctor now living in a conservative country, he wants to remain anonymous). It took years for me to track him down for this video. A copy of it disappeared from Richard’s safe after he passed, along with the notorious “Sketch Book” a diary in which visitors would write interesting things or tell jokes or draw cartoons.