Just a day before a new-school Chicago politician got elected president, an old-school pol, former Tenth Ward alderman Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud in a deal having to do with a Gold Coast development deal on the site of the former Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine.
Vrdolyak was usually lodged on the right side of the political spectrum, but I once saw him deliver an antiwar speech.
It was in the fall of 1984. As the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Vrdolyak — who later became a Republican — was hosting a rally at the Medinah Temple for Walter Mondale’s ill-fated presidential campaign.
Vrdolyak blistered President Ronald Reagan for sending soldiers all over the world, including Lebanon. As I recall, he pointed out that we had lots of problems closer to home. The folks in the audience — lots of lefties and union types — ate it up. I don’t know what got into Vrdolyak that night — I’d never heard him talk like a peacenik before. It made me wonder if Vrdolyak — with all of his charisma and charm — could become a force for progressive politics.
Silly me. The next time I heard him speak at a political rally was in 1987, when he was running against Mayor Harold Washington as a right-wing independent. Speaking to Tenth Warders on the far southeast side, he denounced the public schools for providing birth control to teenagers: “You can get condoms in public schools but you can’t pray in school.”
Two different crowds, two different pitches–so call him a pragmatist. But ultimately, I guess, he wasn’t as fast as he thought.