Sunday, August 30, 2020

Compassion for Campers Homeless Camping Gear Distribution Returns to McHenry

The camping gear distibution will take place in the First United Methodist Church in McHenry Paraking lot located at the rear of the church on West John Street seen here.

The Faith Leaders of McHenry County and Compassion for Campers will again be distributing camping gear and supplies to the homeless this Tuesday, September 1 from 3:30 to 5 pm at First United Methodist Church, 3717 Main Street in McHenry.
“Due to high demand we have increased our supplies of tents and sleeping bags and will have small propane camp stoves available in addition to plenty of mosquito spray, sunscreen, personal hygiene items, non-perishable food, and other essentials,” according to Patrick Murfin of Compassion for Campers.

Stocking the camping gear at an early event at the First United Methodist Church in McHenry.

Another distribution will be held in two weeks at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 503 W. Jackson in Woodstock on Tuesday, September 15 from 3:30-5 pm and additional events will continue into the fall.

Distribution of supplies will be drive through/walk up with face masks required, social distancing observed, and no gathering. 

The Faith Leaders of McHenry County is an informal group of clergy serving local congregations or as chaplains as well as lay leaders and volunteers who meet regularly to address the needs of the community. The group came together to share wisdom, experience, positive community action as the Covid-19 epidemic arose.  It has also taken up the issues of racism and privilege brought to the fore by the Black Lives Matter Movement and the protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and other Persons of Color and immigration justice.
Compassion for Campers is a program founded by the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry which has been serving the homeless every summer for the past eight years.  Monetary donations from the Faith Leaders and their congregations have been added to Compassion for Campers funds to purchase the gear.  
Additional donations can be made by sending a check made out to Tree of Life UU Congregation with Compassion for Campers on the memo line to the church at 5603 West Bull Valley Road, McHenry, IL 60050.  Compassion for Campers is a dedicated fund and no donations to it can be used by Tree of Life for any other purpose.  The church absorbs all administrative expenses so 100% of donations will be used to aid the homeless.
For more information contact Patrick Murfin at 815 814-5645 or e-mail .

Joan Blondell—Big Baby Blues, Wise Cracks, and a Smile

Joan Blondell--the whole package.

She was the brassy blonde who had been there, done that, and lived to tell about it.  A wise cracking working girl with the biggest blue eyes ever, an electric smile, and a plump figure that turned heads and got attention.  She could scheme and connive with good humor.  Underneath the veneer of urban cynicism, though, you just knew she was capable of undying loyalty to lovers and friends alike.  That was the persona Joan Blondell brought to Warner Bros. in 1930 and which sustained a career that spanned 40 years.
Rose Joan Blondell was born on August 30, 1906 in Brooklyn to a pair of vaudevillians, Ed Blondell, a comedian and Kathryn “Katie” Cain, an Irish-American hoofer.  Baby Joan was first thrust on stage a just four months old as the daughter of Peggy Astaire in The Greatest Love.  She would be given lines and bits of business in the family act by age four
The family toured relentlessly and Joan did not know a real home until her teenage years.  By then in addition to becoming familiar with hotel rooms in cities across the country, she and her family spent a year in Hawaii and toured Australia for six years.

Before blond--Miss Dallas, 1926 age 20/

The family finally settled in Dallas, Texas where she managed to finish school.  Under the name Rosebud Blondell, she won the 1926 Miss Dallas Pageant and placed fourth in the fifth outing of the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey later that year. 
The next year, 1927, Blondell tried her hand at North Texas State College in Denton where her mother was working as an actress.  Education didn’t take.  Show Biz did.  She worked as a model and a circus show girl before heading for the Big Apple and a bite of fame.
Blondell joined a stock company and worked regularly in small parts, including stints on Broadway.  Her big break came in 1930 when she was paired with a charismatic young hoofer named James Cagney in the play Penny Arcade.  It only ran four weeks but the show and its young stars wowed Al Jolson, Broadway’s biggest star and the man who had helped save Warner Bros. with his breakthrough talkie, The Jazz Singer. 
Jolson bought rights to the play and then turned around to sell it to Warners with the provision that Cagney and Blondell had to re-create their parts.  Jack Warner agreed but wanted to change her name to Inez Holmes.  Blondell flatly refused, endangering her big chance in the movies.  Rather than risk losing the property and perhaps Cagney as well, Warner relented.  But it would be far from the last time that Blondell clashed with the notoriously dictatorial studio boss.

Blondell and James Cagney made an impression in Warner Bros.' Sinner's Holiday in 1930.
Released as Sinners Holiday the movie was Cagney’s film debut.  The second film Blondell had made for Warners, Office Wife had already been released.  In that one she had a supporting role as the sister of the female lead and stole the show handing out world weary advice while getting into or out of revealing underwear.
Sinners Holiday established the screen personas of both Cagney and Blondell.  Cagney shot to immediate stardom.  Blondell was along for the ride.  She would co-star with the actor six times, more than any other actress in his career.  The films included Public Enemy, Footlight Parade, and Blond Crazy.  Cagney later said the only woman he ever loved other than his wife was Joan Blondell.
If Cagney shot to top stardom, Blondell never quite reached that level despite her great popularity with audiences.  Men adored her and women felt like she could be their best friend.  But the studio already had one blond bombshell, Jean Harlow.  Another up-and-comer young actress with a street-wise persona, Barbara Stanwyck played working class girls in edgy and darker material.   Blondell’s close friend Betty Davis was a fast rising star and would soon be dominating serious and prestige parts.  Ruby Keeler, Jolson’s wife, was the musical star.  And young Olivia de Havilland would soon sew up all of innocent sweetheart parts.  The studio even had extra sassy comic blonds like Glenda Ferrell.

In pre-Code flicks Blondell frequently dished out wise cracks and world weary advice in various states of undress, revealing lingerie, or even from the bath tub.  Seen here on loan to Fox in 1933 with a more modestly covered up Ginger Rogers in Broadway Bad.
So the studio wasted Blondell’s time in shorts and  relegated her to the sassy best friend in over 50 feature films.  She, her sex appeal, body, and sass were perfect for the pre-Production Code naughtiness for which Warners was famous.  She was cast in fallen women picturesIllicit with Stanwyck in the lead, Big Business Girl with Loretta Young, Night Nurse again with Stanwyck, The Greeks Had a Word for Them in a rare first billed lead, and Thee on a Match with Ann Dvorak and pal Bette Davis.
The studio also put her in their down-on-their-luck Depression stories like Union Station with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as an improbable hobo and Central Park in which two down-and-outers forced to live in the title park fall in love, are separated, and exploited in a scheme to rob a charity ball.

Blondell spent a lot of screen time answering the phone in her underwear or a peekaboo robe.
Blondell was making as many as six pictures a year plus shorts when she married cinematographer George Barnes in Phoenix, Arizona on January 4, 1933.
Musicals were another staple of Warners in the early 30’s.  The fact that Blondell was not a singer and only a so-so dancer did not prevent the studio from casting her as a chorine and pal of the leads.  Most famously she co-starred in Gold Diggers of 1933 in which she performed—mostly in a semi-spoken wail/moan Busby Berkley’s epic Forgotten Man number.  That one song may have been Blondell’s finest dramatic performance.  It was on the set of this movie that Blondell met boyish singer Dick Powell who would become her second husband.

The heart wrenching Forgotten Man number from Busby Berkley's Gold Diggers of 1933 was a highlight of Blonell's career.
Warners would pair her with another wise cracking blonde, Glenda Ferrell, in six films most notably Gold Diggers of 1937.  The characters were different in each film, and most were straight comedies.  By the mid Thirties the Production Code office had killed the fallen woman genre and limited the amount of time the well-endowed Blondell could spend in lingerie or taking baths.  And the public tired of musicals.  Warners turned to gritty gangster flicks, high flown women’s dramas, prestige historical bio-pics, and swashbucklers.  Davis had the women’s film sewed up, de Havilland’s bosom heaved for Errol Flynn, and Blondell was deemed unsuited for most costume dramas.  But she was perfect for gangster films.  She re-teamed with Cagney in He Was Her Man and with Edward G. Robinson in Bullets or Ballots.
Through the later thirties Warners used Blondell almost exclusively in comedies.  Scripts got lamer, budgets cheaper, co-stars second rung.  She was in danger of slipping into B movie unit films like her erstwhile partner Glenda Ferrell had with the Torchy Blaine girl reporter series.
Blondell and husband Dick Powell excaped Warner Bros. and made I Want a Divorce together at Paramount in 1940.  A harbinger of things to come?
When her contract with Warners expired in 1939, Blondell cheerfully left her long time home to become a free-lance actress.  Husband Dick Powell left the studio about the same time.  Parts were harder to come by and Blondell was nearing 40.  She teamed with her husband in a preachy comedy I Want a Divorce in 1940.
But now she was lucky to make one or two films a year.  The high points during the War years were Topper Returns, Lady for a Night at Republic Pictures with John Wayne, and Cry Havoc, a gritty war drama about Army nurses at Bataan  for MGM in 1943.

As disreputable Aunt Sissy in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in 1945 with her proper sister played by Dorothy McGuire.
Blondell would not appear on the big screen for nearly two years.  And when she did, she was a revelation.  As Aunt Sissy in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn she was the scandalous relative of the poor but respectable Nolan family who collects men who may or may not be other women’s husbands.  Blondell considered it her finest film work.
Blondell and Powell had divorced in 1944.  In ’47 she married for the third, last, and most disastrous time to charming but profligate theatrical impresario Mike Todd.  She described her relationship with him as the great passionate love of her life.  But Todd was a spendthrift, heavy gambler, and a cad by nature.  It did not take long for him to spend his way through Blondell’s money leaving her essentially broke.  The couple divorced in 1950 with Blondell alleging physical abuse including being dangled out of a hotel window by her ankle.  A few years later Todd swept Elizabeth Taylor off of her feet then died in a plane crash.
In 1951 Blondell reached the pinnacle of her post-war career in The Blue Veil starring Jane Wyman as a self-sacrificing nurse to young children.  Wyman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and Blondell was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
She appeared sporadically on the big screen after that, mostly in comedies most notably The Opposite Sex, a musical re-make of Clair Booth Luce’s The Women  with a cast headed by Dick Powell’s next wife, June Allison and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? starring Tony Randal in which she played a pal/companion to Jayne Mansfield.
After that Blondell worked mainly on television where she appeared as a guest star in programs like Playhouse 90, Lux Playhouse,  Adventures in Paradise, The Untouchables, Dick Powell Theater, Death Valley Days, The Virginian, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, Burke’s Law, Bonanza, Dr. Kildare, The Lucy Show, My Three Sons, Slattery’s People, The Man From Uncle, Family Affair, Guns of Will Sonnet, Petticoat Junction, That Girl, The Name of the Game, McCloud, Love American Style, The Rookies, Medical Center, New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Snoop Sisters,  Police Story, and Fantasy Island.
She also was in more than a dozen made for TV movies and had reoccurring or regular series roles in.  The Real McCoys, Here Come the Brides, and Banyon. 

Blondel as the dealer in a high stakes poker game in The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen, Karl Malden, and Edward G. Robinson.  Ann Margaret got the voluptuous girl friend part she would have played thirty years earlier.
Among Blondell’s later appearances on the big screen were a memorable turn in The Cincinnati Kid in 1965 as an experienced dealer in a high stakes poker game, Support Your Local Gunfighter in ‘71, Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood in ’76, Grease  in’78, and the re-make of The Champ. She was featured in small parts in two more films released after her death.
Center Door Fancy was an autobiographical novel written by Blondell that was published by Delacorte Press in 1972.
Joan Blondell was diagnosed with leukemia and died in a Santa Monica hospital on Christmas Day 1979 at the age of 73.  She was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Those of us who love this stuff delight in stumbling on her old Warner Bros. films, no matter how slight the plot, on Turner Classic Movies and basking in that sensational smile.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The March for Jobs and Freedom that Moved a Nation was Bigger than Dr. King

Dr. Martin Luther King's ringing I Have a Dream speech was the highlight and climax of the 1963 March for Jobs and Justice in Washington and helped change America, but the March itself was bigger than any one man.

Note:  Amid unprecedented upheaval over White Supremacy and unabated police violence, a divisive Presidential campaign in which the incumbent blatantly pins his hope on White backlash and fury, and during a global pandemic, a new March on Washington was held yesterday boldly addressing all of those issues as well as economic justice and recognition of a broad alliance of the oppressed and marginalized.  Yet some on my Facebook feed seemed to feel lost without a great leader like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. But Dr. King never intended to be a sun around which all others orbited.  So we are revisiting the original March and the many hands and voices that made it possible.
Like a lot of people back in ’63 I was glued to the television for the beginning-to-end coverage provided by CBS News of the March for Jobs and Freedom on August 28.  I was a 14 year old in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the time.  I was both thrilled and awestruck.  Listening to Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech literally changed my life.

The March was the brain child of labor and Civil Rights leader A. Phillip Randolph.
The march originally was the brainchild of an elder of both the labor and Civil Rights movementsA. Philip Randolph, President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and of the Negro American Labor Council as well as a Vice President of the AFL-CIO modeled his call for a march on Washington on a similar event he had planned back in 1941 to force President Franklin D. Roosevelt to open up employment in the burgeoning defense industry to Blacks.  Just the threat of thousands of Negros descending on the Capital had been enough to cause the President to establish the Committee on Fair Employment Practice and bar discriminatory hiring in the defense industry.  Randolph wanted to bring similar pressure on President John F. Kennedy and Congress to move on stalled Civil Rights legislation, but also to bring up new issues of jobs that had been overshadowed by the tumultuous battle for civil rights in the South
Randolph brought together the leaders of all of the largest national Civil Rights organizations including James Farmer, President of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); John Lewis, President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Roy Wilkins, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Whitney Young, President of the National Urban League; and Dr. King, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to form a coalition to sponsor the march.  It was no small feat because of turf wars, ideological differences, and egos.

Civil Rights Leaders and major speakers at the March for Jobs and Justice, standing left to right are Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice Matthew Ahmann, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader John Lewis, Protestant minister Eugene Carson Blake, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leader Floyd McKissick, and UAW President Walter Reuther; sitting are National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young, chairman of the Demonstration Committee Cleveland Robinson, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters President A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader Roy Wilkins.
In addition Randolph sought support from the Labor movement, most significantly from Walter Reuther, President of the United Auto Workers (UAW)The White dominated craft unions of the AFL, however, were notable for their absence. 
Bayard Rustin of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and the organizer of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, an early forerunner of the Freedom Rides that was meant to test a Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel, was tapped to coordinate volunteers and logistics, recruit marchers from across the country, and attend to all of the other details of the march while Randolph pulled together political, labor and religious support for the march. 
Veteran pacifist and Civil Rights leader Beyard Rustin of the Fellowship of Reconciliation was the Deputy Director of the March and in charge of most of the planning and logistics.  As an openly Gay man his public profile was kept low.  Retail workers labor leader Cleveland Robinson, right,  was named Chairman of the Administrative Committee.
Other than being a star speaker that day King was not heavily involved in the planning or management of the event. He even left the details of mobilizing SCLC supporters to his aides.
As word spread, it became apparent that the march was going to turn into the largest event of its kind in history.  The media began to pay attention.  On the day of the march, buses poured into the city from sleepy Mississippi towns and from gritty industrial hubs like Detroit and Chicago.  Trains from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were jammed.  Thousands of local Washington residents swelled the throng. 
Organizers put the crowd at more than 300,000.  The National Park Service, in charge because the speakers’ platform was erected at the Lincoln Memorial, said 200,000.  Whatever was the case, crowds filled the Mall far passed the Washington Monument.  About 80% of the marchers were Black. Marchers included many celebrities including actors like Sidney Poitier, Harry Bellefonte, and Charlton Heston—yes that Charlton Heston. 

Charlton Heston, Harry Bellefonte, novelist James Baldwin, and Marlon Brando added star power to the March.
It was a Wednesday afternoon but the three major broadcast networks broke away from their usual programming of afternoon soap operas to cover the swelling crowd and speeches live. 
Marian Anderson, who had sung on the same steps at the invitation of Eleanor Roosevelt after she was denied use of the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall in 1939, opened the program with the National Anthem.  Several other performers took to the stage over the course of the program, perhaps most notably Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mahalia Jackson. 

Peter Paul & Mary were among the notable entertainers who performed.  They led the crowd in Pete Seger's anthem If I Had a Hammer.
The Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Patrick O’Boyle led the invocation.  Other religious leaders on the program included Dr. Eugene Blake on behalf of the Protestant National Council of Churches and two leading Rabbis. 
After Randolph’s opening remarks each of the major civil rights leaders took the stage in turn. Floyd McKissick had to read the remarks of CORE’s James Farmer, who was in a Louisiana jail. The youngest leader, John Lewis of the militant SNCC, excoriated the Kennedy Administration for not acting to protect Civil Rights workers who were under regular and violent attack across the South.  Randolph and others who were trying to flatter and coax the President into action forced Lewis to strike the most inflammatory portions of his speech, but what was left was still plenty critical. 

Despite their notable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement key figures like Rosa Parks, and Dianne Nash were excluded from the speaker's list.  In the end the only woman to address the crowd was singer and dancer Josephine Baker who had spent most of the previous 30 years as an expatriate in Paris.  She wore her World War II uniform as a decorated member of the French Resistance.
Slain NAACP organizer Medgar Evers’s wife Myrlie was on the announced program to lead a Tribute to Negro Women, but did not appear.  In fact several prominent female figures in the Movement were either not invited or had their requests to be added to the program rejected by Randolph.  In the end the only woman to speak was jazz singer and dancer Josephine Baker who wore her World War II Free French uniform emblazoned with her medal of the L├ęgion d’honneur. 
It all led up the last major address—the highly anticipated speech of Dr. King.  If civil rights veterans knew what to expect from the notoriously eloquent leader, millions of Americans viewing at home were in for an eye opening experience.  The speech, built to the thundering crescendo:
Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks who showed up for the March for Jobs and Justice were just as important as any of the movement heavies and celebrities.

The nation, or much of, it was awestruck and impressed.  That speech, along with the continued televised violence against Blacks struggling for equal access to public accommodations and the vote, helped set the stage for the major Civil Rights legislation enacted in the next three years. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Protests, and “Patriot militia” killings—The Statement of Tree of Life UU Congregation Social Justice Team

Community peace maker Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times while his sons witnessed the atrocity from the back seats of his van.

This is the statement of the Tree of Life UU Congregation Social Justice Team posted to church members.
We were saddened and angered, but not shocked when Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin in front of his three sons. Blake had broken up a fight between two white women but when police arrived they ignored them and went after the respected neighborhood peacemaker.

We were not shocked because it is the continuing story of unabated racist policing despite a summer of protests that Black Lives Matter. When outrage erupted on the streets peaceful protesters and those filled with rage mingled. Fires burned, including one next door to the Bradford Community Church, UU whose illuminated sign reading Black Lives Matter also burned. In a brave statement the minister and board said: 
Despite the fact that we cannot condone violent response to injustice, we understand and appreciate the anger and frustration that fueled the events of last night. While we are relieved that our church home mostly survived the inferno in the lot next door, we affirm that we would rather lose 100 buildings than one more life to police violence.

The next night a teen from Antioch, a police fan-boy, Trump supporter, and militia recruit went to Kenosha and killed two protesters and wounded another with an assault rifle he carried openly all night. He and other militia members had been welcomed by the police as allies. They made no attempt to disarm them. And after the shooting they allowed the boy to walk unmolested through their line despite screams that he had just killed people. He was finally arrested the next day in Illinois. Tucker Carlson on Fox news declared him a hero.

The victims of White Nationalist militia violence in Kenosha.  Joseph Rosenbaum, was a 36 year old Kenosha father of a 2 year old daughter was shot in the head.  Jason Huber of near-by Silver lake was a 23 year old who chased and tried to disarm the assailant with his skateboard. He was shot in the stomach in the struggle.  26 year old Gaige Grosskreutz was a volunteer street medic who was wounded in the arm.
We stand with Jacob Blake’s family and community, with the families of those killed by the teen wanabe Rambo, and affirm our commitment to Black Lives Matter and to combat systematic racism. We will follow the young people of McHenry County who planned and staged peaceful BLM protests earlier this summer who will be planning measured local responses. The Social Justice Team stands ready to follow their leadership. We will keep you informed of local actions.