When Chuy Garcia forced a mayoral runoff with Rahm Emanuel, one of the first things I wondered was whether this meant Stump Connolly would stay out in the field for six weeks longer.
If so, I needed to let Chicago know he was out there.
The election issues, of course, are schools, crime, and municipal bankruptcy. As issues like that are a little too vast to get analytical about, the way voters approach them is to agree something has to be done and then vote for whoever strikes us as most likely to do it. And who is that? Hard to say—but by the end of a long campaign voters have a feeling.
Stump Connolly isn’t going to tell us anything about schools, crime, and municipal bankruptcy that we don’t know now. But if you watch his videos, they’ll go to work on your feelings.
“Stump Connolly” is the nom de precinct of Scott Jacobs, whom I’ve known since we were reporters at the Sun-Times. Full disclosure—we once wrote a play together. He wrote a scene; I wrote the next scene; audiences remarked that they seemed to be watching two different plays—though both had something to do with Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. After a brief workshop production at a theater that no longer exists, Jacobs rewrote the whole play his way and I rewrote it mine. Neither version has intrigued producers.
For a fuller biography of Jacobs I refer you to Rick Kogan’s excellent profile in the Sunday Tribune. For my purposes it’s sufficient to say Jacobs took up video in the mid-70s because print’s limitations exasperated him. “I left the Sun-Times because with my little portapak I could capture all sorts of atmospheric stuff I was trying to write down in my notebook, which I couldn’t read when I got back to the city room.” For years he ran his own editing house. He made the TV commercials that helped elect Jane Byrne mayor in 1979. He’s shot documentaries for Kurtis Productions and helped cover presidential elections for PBS. I’ve written about him more often than is appropriate for a friend (for example, here and here), which he’d no longer be if we’d kept trying to write plays together.
But when Garcia forced the runoff, it was past time for Chicago to be told what Jacobs is up to.
Equipped with a tiny $400 camera, working mostly alone (Ben Kolak has done a little shooting and Michael O’Brien has helped edit), Jacobs is making and posting little videos he calls “experiences.” He says, “I don’t watch TV on the Internet. Or documentaries. Or interviews. I watch three-to-five-minute pieces. That’s a very good length for the Internet. It shouldn’t be a TV show. It should be an experience, something that amuses you, entertains you, takes you someplace you hadn’t been.” Last Saturday he spent hours watching Rahm Emanuel ring doorbells—all for a piece he’s editing now that will run about five minutes. Except, he says, “It’s my experience going out with Rahm but it’s not really about Rahm. It’s about precinct captains. There are still precinct captains in Chicago. They still go out and bring their sheets in.”
I’m sorry you can’t find Jacobs’s videos on the Reader website. Second-best would be either of the dailies’. “I approached almost everybody,” he says. “Everybody had a different reason. ‘It’s not in our digital strategy.’ ‘We don’t have any money.’ ‘We love the idea but we’re reorganizing the department.’ One problem with my stuff is it’s individualistic. There’s a lot of me in there. But there was a lot of Royko in Royko.”
Everything’s on Gapers Block. On Monday Jacobs posted his experience covering last week’s election night at Garcia and Emanuel headquarters. (He was with Chuy; Kolak, of Scrappers Film Group, handled Rahm’s HQ for him.) Later in the week he’ll put up his day with the mayor, which is, by the way, the first serious time he’s had with Emanuel. “It’s a pretty tightly controlled campaign,” Jacobs says.
His favorite? It’s Willie Wilson at a Martin Luther King Day rally at the House of Hope in Pullman. Who knew Wilson could sing so well? One I like a lot has Bob Fioretti, risen before dawn, slogging it out out at an el station at 8 AM.
“Goodmorninghowareyoudoing?good. GoodmorningI’mBobFiorettiI’mrunningfor mayor.”
Says Jacobs, “I told people I want to do the texture of politics. I don’t care about the issues.”
But the texture and the issues converge. The kind of change our editorial pages tell us Chicago is in for will be like pulling teeth. Voters are looking for a painless dentist. A painless dentist is not only very good at his trade but is someone who puts you at ease, someone you can be pretty sure has sat in the chair himself. I’ve seen Rahm Emanuel in a social situation stretched out blissfully in an easy chair, his daughter curled up half asleep in his lap. Jacobs hasn’t shown us that Rahm and it doesn’t sound as if the mayor has any intention of giving him the opportunity to.
But he does visit the Garcia household and we see Chuy kissing his wife.