Jim Siergey: RIP MAD

September 16th, 2021

I recently learned that someone I grew up with had passed away. Yet another reminder that I have reached the “thinning of the herd” stage of life.

I did not know Mike from childhood but I met him in high school and we hung out even beyond that, which is why I say we grew up together. There’s a lot of growing up happening in those years.

He had a tendency to be loud and brash in a very offbeat way. He was also very creative in an offbeat way. I guess you could say he was offbeat.

He wished his name was Archibald Marmaduke so that his nickname would be Arch Duke. Instead his given initials spelled out MAD which was a fitting monogram for him.

In gym class he tore off the sleeve of his maroon Morton East gym shirt and pulled it over his face like Mort from the Bazooka Joe comics, calling himself The Masked Marauder as he wildly ran around the gym and climbed ropes like a methamphetamined Tarzan. Most of my friends, including me, had weirdness cruising through our veins so Mike, with his unbridled sense of madness, fit in perfectly.

By senior year we were cutting classes and hanging out on the third floor of our high school which housed Morton Junior College. There was a Smoker Room there where we could blend in and puff on ciggies while watching a blurry TV up on a corner wall.

We were faux-greasers but soon after graduation we slithered into hippiedom where six million more stories lie. Mike was the first of us to get his own apartment so a group of us hung out in his various cribs during our psychedelic years.

Mike was a musician and played bass in a few groups. He also created odd objets d’ arte such as attaching a faucet and handle to the broken handle of his umbrella, making a mobile out of the dead insects that collected in his window jambs, building a strobe light out of a coffee can and creating an “Electric Painting”which was a storm window upon which he painted psychedelic designs, encased it in a wooden frame and strung blinking Italian lights behind it. In the dark it was quite a trip, man. One day it fell over and broke so he created an exact duplicate.

He had an obsessive streak in him. Looking back I think he may have also been bi-polar because he could be manic-crazy and an awful lot of fun to be with while other times so low and bitter you wouldn’t want to be in the same neighborhood as him.

I have written a few Mike stories in some Third City posts which displayed his craziness much clearer than I am doing here. He “crashed” for a while in the apartment I shared with my wife and two kids, he lived in his van for a while and once camped out in another friend’s apartment in a tent that he erected in the dining room.

As the years went by our paths separated and we lost touch. Then, a few years ago we reconnected again. I don’t remember how but I’m betting the internet played a part.

We had a phone conversation, exchanged a few emails but mostly we conversed through “Word With Friends”, a Scrabble-like word game that one could play on the computer. Mike was a “Words with Friends” fiend. He said he was usually playing two or three games at a time with different people.

Mike was not what one would call an “intellectual”. He didn’t go in for book-learning and schooling and such but he was a smart guy. He was good at games. He was an expert chess player, cribbage player (for a period of time there a small group of us who feverishly played cribbage) and as it turned out, very good at “Words with Friends”.

I consider myself a good Scrabble player so our “Words with Friends” matches were like heavy weight fights. One would strike a blow with a 55 point word and the other would follow with a 64 pointer and on and on. We would kibitz one another via texts during the bouts and it was great fun.

Then we drifted apart from that and several months passed without any contact. It was on Facebook that I learned of his passing, one week exactly after his 72nd birthday where I had emailed him birthday greetings. I knew he had health problems but we never spoke of that stuff in depth.

Still, when death comes, whether expected or not, it is always a shock. So long, Mike, may the triple word plays keep coming your way.

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Showboatin’…

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Jim Siergey: Showboatin’

September 9th, 2021

It was the top of the ninth and the Sox were ahead 4-2. Their ace closer was on the mound and since they were playing the lowly Pirates, the game seemed to be in the bag.

Even the announcers were barely paying attention. They yakked it up between themselves with nary a comment upon the game. The TV crew as well had become lackadaisical. When a Pirate came up to bat his name and stats weren’t flashed on the screen as per usual.

The ninth inning had become a vague abstraction.

Such is life when the baseball season is in its final month of play and your team is firmly ensconced in first place, many games ahead of their nearest pursuer. Things get taken for granted, which is not a safe thing to do, especially in Chicago whose middle name is Heartbreak.

Meanwhile, the unrecognized batter lifted a soft fly into short center field. It looked like it might drop in for a hit but Luis Robert, the Sox’ fleet-footed young outfielder was racing in attempting to snare the spheroid before it touched the grass.

In the previous inning young Robert made a dazzling play, running a long way to his right in pursuit of a sinking line drive. He left his feet and leapt, stretching his six foot two inch frame as far as it would reach and caught the ball in the webbing of his glove as he hit the turf and slid to a triumphant halt. The appreciative crowd rewarded him with cheering that would have raised the roof if it was a domed stadium.

So here he was once again running in at top speed endeavoring to rob the opponents of another hit and once again sliding, this time on his backside, to make the catch.  The announcers, suddenly paying attention to the game, applauded the play but debated whether Robert really needed to slide to make the catch.

This got me to wondering.

 I wondered if he made that second sliding catch merely to entertain the crowd. Did he feel that Sox fans were getting so inured to victorious outcomes that he had to jazz things up?

Could this be the start of something new? Would players on the White Sox feel so confident in their abilities that they would begin to nonchalantly catch balls behind their backs, bat one-handed, pitch while blindfolded, run the bases on pogo sticks? Would they adopt “Sweet Georgia Brown” as their team theme song?

Showboating is not something Chicago sports fans condone or welcome. We’re a blue-collar, shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone city. We don’t cotton to no hot-doggin’.

But yet…

Chicagoans loved the Super Bowl Bears of 1985 where the defense would line up and start barking like dogs at their quavering opponents, 300 pound tackles were used as running backs and, arrogance of all arrogance, put out a Super Bowl Shuffle music video before they even reached the Super Bowl.

Then there were the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams who won six championships. Jordan would mercilessly trash talk and dis his opponents while leaving them stupefied in their sneakers as he would make one sensational play after another.

Chicagoans cheered him on and smiled smugly at all the other cities whose teams fell in defeat to Jordan and his teammates. As pitching great Dizzy Dean said back in the day, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” (Dean also, while a Sox announcer, once said “He slud into third base.”)

Yes, Chicago sports fans loved those two showboating championship teams…but baseball? I don’t think a team could get away with making circus catches, hollering insults at the opponents and making animal sounds when they came to bat. Every Sox player would become a beanball victim.

I ceased my musing about a possible Cirque du Southside and saw that the Sox were one out away from victory. There came the windup and the pitch to the current Pittsburgh batter who deftly stroked a single to left field. It woke up one of the announcers who proclaimed to the TV audience “There’s a hit to left by Newman.”

I may not be sure of many things but one thing of which I was sure, after that particular intonation by the announcer, was that every one watching the game at home was saying in unison, along with me, in a Seinfeldian voice…”Newman?”

Leave the show biz thoughts to your fans, Pale Hosians, and just play ball.

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Soap & Watergate

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Jim Siergey: Soap & Watergate

August 25th, 2021

Recently posted on social media was a wedding photo of Luke and Laura. The only reason I know who Luke and Laura is (was) is because of the Watergate hearings.

The Watergate Hearings took place in 1973. It was an investigation into the misdeeds of President Richard Nixon that eventually led to his impending impeachment. Tricky Dick resigned before suffering that particular indignation.

It was fascinating viewing. It was a massive edge of your seat live-on-TV whodunit with layers of onion skin being slowly peeled away each day. One didn’t want to miss a minute of it. And I didn’t.

I switched from full-time work at the warehouse at which I was toiling to part-time so I could be home each afternoon to watch the Watergate proceedings on my 19 inch black and white TV.

I was there to watch the unraveling of the coverup concocted by Nixon’s White House through the testimony of John Dean and the revelation from Alexander Butterfield that conversations in the Oval Office existed on tape. What a bombshell that was!

I became quite familiar with the bushy life-of-their-own eyebrows of Senators Sam Ervin, the stentorian tones of Fred Thompson who went on to become an actor in Law and Order and later a pitchman for reverse mortgages, and Howard “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Baker as well as Nixon’s cabal led by his venal  henchmen, Erlichman and Haldeman. What a colorful cast of characters!

But what, you may ask, do the Watergate hearings have to do with the wedding of Luke and Laura? Well, I’ll tell you.

The hearings ultimately came to an end but my position as a part-time employee didn’t. I had become inured to watching television in the afternoon. I couldn’t kick it. I was hooked. And what was left to watch in the afternoon? Soap Operas!

There were two of them that had seduced me. One starred the daughter of old-time actor Walter Slezak who, fortunately, did not resemble him. It was called One Life to Live and despite the title there was a character named Joe Riley who kept coming back to life. I was told that he (or whatever actor happened to be portraying him at the various times) had been doing this for years.  Who needs an evil twin when you can be reanimated?

The other one was the one that was really weird. It was called General Hospital and one of its main stars was John Berardino who had been a professional baseball player in the 1940s and 50s. There was the typical soap opry stuff taking place in the hospital as well as in the private lives of the various characters but there was one very strange aspect to the usual story line…an attempt to take over the world!

No, it wasn’t Pinky and the Brain (they were decades away from existence) but some villain whose moniker was Mikkos Cassadine. He was the “Face of Evil” bent on world domination. It was a strange science-fictiony addition to a rather tame soap opera storyline. But there was one other element that made this strangeness even stranger.

Elizabeth Taylor was in it! Yes, big time movie star Elizabeth Taylor. How could I not watch? She played the wife of the evil genius. Apparently she was a fan of the show so she signed on to appear in a handful of episodes.

I don’t remember the outcome but I’m sure there was some sort of secret laboratory explosion and the fever dreams of the  evil-doers were crushed. Take that, Liz!

Oh yeah, Luke and Laura. They were the big stars of the show and their visages graced the covers of Soap Opera digests and TV Guides and such. They had off and on and off and on and off and on again romances, sort of like Joe Riley’s disappearances and re-emergences. Being the heroes, they terminated Mikkos Cassadine’s attempt at world domination.

They finally got married and it was big media news like the” Who Shot J.R.?” event that would be all the rage some years later.

My switch from a soap opera in Washington D.C. to GH’s Port Charles wasn’t such a big leap. In the latter, a madman trying to take over the world was foiled as was the one in the former who tried to take over the United States.

I, for one, would like to see these happy endings keep a’comin’. We’re overdue.

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Slap Happy

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Jim Siergey: Slap Happy

June 8th, 2021

The other night I watched a movie that I last saw in the early 1970s that holds special meanings for me in different ways.

The film is He Who Gets Slapped and it was made in 1924. It stars Lon Chaney (Sr.), the “Man of a Thousand Faces”, in another remarkable performance. Co-starring are the young Norma Shearer, who went on to have a successful career in motion pictures and John Gilbert who became a matinee idol in The Silent Era but “talkies” killed his career. It was brilliantly directed and finished in one month on a scant budget by the Swedish director Victor Seastrom who, after directing some films, went back to Sweden to concentrate on his acting career (the opposite of how it usually happens) and joining up with Ingmar Bergman.

I apologize for all the cinematic foofaraw. Perhaps I should have handed out scorecards.

In the early ‘70s, a young film critic named Roger Ebert hosted a series of Lon Chaney films on PBS. He also hosted a series of Ingmar Bergman films.This was my introduction to both of those artists.

In He Who Gets Slapped Lon Chaney plays a scientist who, on the day of his presentation before an arena filled with scholars, scientists and other brainy types, is double-crossed by his benefactor who steals Lon’s ideas (and wife). When Lon protests, claiming the expressed ideas were stolen from him, he is humiliated by gales of laughter from the intellectual crowd that seemed to number in the hundreds. The laughter and jeering rises to an even more intense level when Lon’s benefactor/double-crosser slaps Lon across the face. Turning to plead with his wife, she, too, slaps him which causes even more howls of laughter from the literati.


Bring in the clowns…


When we next see Mr. Chaney he is  a clown,the star attraction in a circus billed as “He, Who Gets Slapped”. Yep, his shtick is getting slapped and slapped again and again. The crowd eats it up and can’t get enough.

It is quite a remarkable film but if you have a “thing” about clowns, I suggest viewing Saw VII or something else instead. There are scenes with literally hundreds of clowns and creepy-looking little devils they are.

Back in the day not everyone had televisions (Imagine that!) so a small group of us gathered to watch He… and were mesmerized.

So much so that one friend dressed as He to attend a Hallowe’en costume party to which all of us were invited. He donned the white face, the skull cap and his clown suit even had the torn heart half-sewn upon it, just like in the movie.

At the party, he was asked who he was dressed as. Being a character from a silent film, he could not speak so, ever willing to help a fellow human out, I politely intervened.

“Allow me to give you a clue.” I kindly and helpfully interjected, whereupon I slapped my friend in the face.

Seeing puzzlement on the asker’s face I said, “Watch closely. This is all part of who he is.”

I slapped him again.

“You still don’t know? Watch carefully now.”

I made it a point to be nearby him for the rest of the evening, waiting for someone to pose the fateful question. Before too long I had to begin using my left hand because my right one was beginning to get swollen from all the slapping I was doing.

Despite the constant cuffing of his countenance, we remained friends…for a few more years. Confidentially, he was a bit of a jerk, so I did not miss him much. I didn’t miss him much at that party either.

He Who Gets Slapped. Yeah, that classic film brings back some fond memories.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Boston Blackie…

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Jim Siergey: Boston Blackie

May 18th, 2021

When in the throes of melancholia, many people turn to what has been labeled as “comfort food”. Me, I turn to “comfort films”.

I will re-watch movies that I have already watched innumerable times. It makes me feel warm, safe and content. Plus they contain less calories than a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

I won’t bore you with a listing of my comfort cinema but they are a combination of classic films, not so classic films and “guilty pleasures”.

One selection from the latter category is Boston Blackie movies. They are all B-pictures running a tad over an hour in length that are a combination of mystery, suspense and corny humor.

Boston Blackie is a reformed jewel thief and safecracker now operating as a kind of private detective. The law always suspects him of whatever crime has just occurred as he continually outwits both them and the actual culprit with charm and cunning.

Apparently there were Boston Blackie films made in the teens and twenties but the ones I’m familiar with were from the 1940s. Chester Morris (The Man with No Profile as I call him) stars as Blackie and George E. Stone, a character actor from the silent era who worked all the way through the early 1960s, eventually settling in playing a court clerk on the Perry Mason TV series, portrayed Blackie’s cohort/partner/valet/stooge whose moniker was “The Runt”.

Jack Boyle was quite a character…


Blackie’s constant accuser was Lt. Faraday, played by Richard Lane who later gained fame as radio announcer for midget car racing, roller derby and wrestling. His catch phrase was “Whooooaaaaahhhh Nellie”, used whenever something unexpected or exciting occurred.  His Detective-Sergeant was played by a variety of dim-witted lunkheads whose main purpose was to be the butt of jokes.

They were easily watchable films with crisp cinematography and entertaining story lines. There were 14 of these films made during the ‘40s and quite a few of the actors, actresses and directors involved in this series went on to become big names in Hollywood.

In the early 1950s there was a TV show called Boston Blackie starring ‘40s film actor Kent Taylor. All history of his thievery and safe cracking was erased as he portrayed a straight private investigator who, along with his wife and dog, solved crimes with the assistance (!) of Lt. Faraday and the police.

I only recently discovered that Boston Blackie began as a series of short stories.

Jack Boyle, an ex-newspaperman, who like his literary compatriots, Jean Genet, O. Henry, Nelson Mandela, the Marquis de Sade, Ezra Pound, Eldridge Cleaver and Jack Abbott, began writing his Boston Blackie stories while in prison.

Born in Chicago, Jack Boyle, working as a reporter in San Francisco became an opium addict and was jailed for writing bad checks. He was later convicted of robbery and while serving his sentence in San Quentin in 1914 began writing Boston Blackie stories.

The life of Jack Boyle could make for an interesting movie.

I found a website that presented Boston Blackie stories to read. For free. In the Boyle stories Blackie, whose given name was Horacio Black, was not an ex-jewel thief and safecracker but an active one.

In this story I began reading he had broken into a house in order to steal jewels from the wall safe he had found but was interrupted by the entry of a couple, the wife of the house’s owner and a man who was not her husband. From this point on ensued several pages of overwrought dialogue between this man and the woman who felt pangs of guilt for having an affair with the man she was with who was trying to persuade her to go away with him to the islands of Hawaii.

It got to be too much for me so I quit reading. I guess I shouldn’t blame the author for carrying on this torpid dialogue of anguished sexual deception for so, so many pages. After all, he was in prison at the time.

So there you have it, more info about a subject with which you most likely never expected to be confronted. Now, did somebody say something about meatloaf?


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was His Hair Was Perfect

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Jim Siergey: His Hair Was Perfect

May 5th, 2021

The book I’ve been reading lately is I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon. Needless to say it portrays the rock and roller as even crazier and more out of control than one already expected. Despite all that he wrote a shitload of great songs.

While reading it, I came across a 1975 photo of Warren and a guy named David Lindell. Lindell was a mercenary in Africa and the co-writer of “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”.

In the song, Roland is a mercenary in the Congo War of the 1960s and is known as the greatest Thompson gunner, a reputation that captures the attention of the CIA and an agent named Van Owen who hunts Roland down and blows his head off. But Roland becomes the phantom “headless Thompson gunner” who gets his revenge on Van Owen and continues “wandering through the night”.

It’s not exactly a lullaby to be sung to the kiddies but it’s a great song that is powerfully recorded. The influence of the ex-mercenary Lindell is heartily felt in the lyrics.

As I looked at the photo, the appearance of the mustachioed Lindell as well as his name kept eating at me with a sense of familiarity. Finally, like a bag full of feathers, it hit me. He looked like the My Pillow Guy!

I Googled “The My Pillow Guy” and found a photo of the similarly mustachioed Mike Lindell—the same last name!  I had read that in a previous life Pillow Guy Lindell was a crack addict. Perhaps in another life he was a mercenary as well?

Could this possibly be? I returned to the Google.

Alas, Pillow Guy Lindell was born in 1961. Mercenary Lindell met Zevon in Spain in 1975 so unless he was Thompson gunning in the jungle as a teenager, they were not one and the same.

But could they be related?

I Googled and I Googled and I Googled even more but could find little info on David “Mercenary” Lindell. More forthcoming was personal info on Mike “Pillow Guy” Lindell.  Among his siblings and half-siblings, there is no David Lindell. Anyone who wants to search his family tree for cousins is welcome to do so. I’m not that obsessed with this.

I just found it interesting that these two fellers shared the same surname and facial hirsuteness. If you’ve read this far, then you probably were too. Unfortunately, it has all been for naught.

Poor, poor pitiful we.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Plenty of Nothing

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Jim Siergey: Plenty of Nothing

April 23rd, 2021

Out in the frigid vastness of outer space existed a planet that was made entirely of ice. The inhabitants of this planet ate nothing but ice and where they got the ice to subsist on came from the planet itself. Despite the fact that their population was small and they didn’t need much to sustain themselves, they were slowly eating away their planet and they knew it. However, this fact did not worry them because they felt that it would be a long time before the disastrous effects of their dietary destruction would become noticeable.The future could wait. They were hungry now.

Mike loved to play football. The fact that he was big and solid and hard to move aside worked in his favor in being positioned as a lineman. He played all four years on his high school team. He wasn’t a starter but he would get in for a few plays now and then as a second stringer. He even made the football team in college. Again, he wasn’t a starter. In fact, he was more of a third-stringer. He realized that his chances to get on the field in an actual game were pretty slim but he never missed a workout or a practice and felt that his doggedness and determination would pay off some day. However, he never left the bench during his freshman, sophomore or junior year. He felt in his heart that he would get his chance during his senior year. His three straight years of doggedness and determination would earn him the respect of his coach. Once again, he showed up for every practice, every workout and every scrimmage. He boisterously cheered his team on from the sidelines. Ultimately, the final game of the season came about. Mike suited up, carefully buckling on his pads and climbing into his uniform. He applied eye black to his cheeks to keep off the glare, affixed his mouth guard over his teeth, pulled on his helmet and with the rest of his teammates, ran roaring out onto the field. The first half ended with him never moving from the bench. The second half will be my chance, he thought to himself. The third quarter ended and his uniform remained as clean as it did when the game began. The fourth quarter started and he anxiously waited for the coach’s gesture for him to run onto the field.  The minutes ticked away. With one eye on the game and the other on his coach, Mike remained optimistic as he waited with bated breath for his chance to enter the game. Maybe Coach will insert me for the final seconds, Mike mused. Maybe, maybe the last play.  The game-ending gun sounded and on the bench Mike slumped forward as if the gun shot was aimed at him.

Inspiration had struck Fenton Cargill. He sauntered to his writing desk and sat down. He laced his fingers, stretched out his arms and smiled in grimacing joy as he counted out the knuckle cracks and pops.  Eight, nine, and then ten.  He unlocked his fingers and shook them by his sides.  He was ready to begin.  He reached up to flick on the gooseneck lamp and….nothing happened.  Click, click, clickety click and still…no light.  Fenton reached in and unscrewed the long-dead light bulb.  Finding no wastebasket at hand–what did happen to that wastebasket?, he mused–he opened a desk drawer and deposited the dormant bulb next to an empty Sprite can and a pile of Bazooka Joe comics which were carefully paper-clipped together and resting safely beneath some orange peels.  Fenton sat back, placed his hand upon his chin, letting his index finger curl atop his upper lip as he furrowed his brow and contemplated where he could look to find a light bulb.  Minutes ticked by and no imaginary light bulb appeared above Fenton’s cranium to direct him to where an actual light bulb could be found. Several more minutes elapsed and the light bulb of initial inspiration also burned out leaving Fenton with freshly developed hunger pangs and just a hint of a headache.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Roger & Me


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