Hollywood On Lake Michigan Previews And Teasers

Kevin’s Movie Corner has an excellent review of Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition. Check it out here!



I especially enjoy the fact that he had read the original edition and loved the additions I made and the extra material that Arnie put in the history section:

I had bought, and enjoyed, the first edition of the book, but there’s a lot of fascinating new material on hand for the new edition. So many movies have been shot in the Chicago area since the first book came out that there’s lots of interesting tidbits to enjoy.
The book is loaded with not only stories and anecdotes, but interviews with moviemakers with deep Chicago roots, such as writer/director Harold Ramis, producer Michael Shamberg, actress Irma P. Hall and so many others.
Plus, the authors have substantially beefed up the section on the early days of cinema, where for a short time it looked like Chicago might be the nation’s movie making capital. This is what I found particularly interesting.
Yes!!! He then goes on to detail several tidbits and sidebars that he found enjoyable and intersperses it with fascinating stories of his own encounters with Chicago Film. It is really a fine piece of work.
The takeaway here is that Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition is the perfect gift for that relative or loved one who is an old movie buff!!!

HOLM 2 Book Cover





I am extremely honored to announce that I am speaking at Chicago Book Expo. It is a major gathering of Chicago Writers and Independent Publishers and I can’t begin to describe how pleased I am to be a part of it.


Chicago Book Expo

Sunday, November 24

St Augustine College, 1345 W Argyle.

 The event starts at 11AM and I’ll be presenting from 2:30-3:30


It will be such a kick to do my HOLM 2 presentation in the old Essanay Studio Buildings- which were the site of one of the first movie studios on earth. And to be in the company of such fine authors and publishers makes it an even bigger thrill.

You really ought to stop on by because I will be in Full Expounding Mode!!!

Arnie Bernstein will be there as well talking about his fantastic new book, Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German American Bund.

The World Premiere of my Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition Lecture!!!

Saturday, October 5        4PM

I am appearing in Lisle this coming Saturday, October 5 at 4PM at The Lisle Depot Baggage Room (921 School St.) as part of The History Author Series of The Museums At Lisle Station Park. I will be holding forth about the History and Present of Chicago Film and telling stories of my herculean struggle to update Arnie Bernstein’s beloved Chicago classic.  I will also be selling (cash only) and signing copies afterwards.

It’s going to be a very fun afternoon, so stop on by!!!




HOLM 2 Book Cover


The love for Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition keeps on flowing with two more great reviews!!!


The first one is in the online entertainment journal Pop Matters and was written by Brendan William Boyle. Brendan gives the book 8 out of 10 stars!

Click here for the Pop Matters review.


The second was done by film blogger Aurora on her classic movie site Once Upon A Screen (aka Aurora’s Gin Joint). Aurora gives a great review of the book and even had a book giveaway! (My apologies to those who missed out on it for my procrastination in not posting this here earlier)

Click here for Aurora’s review.

Kartemquin Korner is a regular series spotlighting the efforts of Kartemquin Films, the best documentary producing collective this side of the spiral arm of the galaxy. Much of this particular piece is excerpted from the large Kartemquin section in Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition.

At The Death House Door (2008)


Click on this picture to order At The Death House Door.

Although they are most known for the legendary film, Hoop Dreams (1994), which they directed and produced together with Frederick Marx, Steve James and Peter Gilbert also share co-producer and co-director duties on this brilliant collaboration. In addition, Gilbert handles director of photography duties and James is co-editor (with Aaron Wickenden). Wickenden and Zak Piper are co-producers and the executive producers are Gordon Quinn, Christine Lubrano, Debbie DeMontreux, Evan Shapiro, and Allison Bourke.

"At The Death House Door"

Gilbert (left) and James pose with their camera in the cemetery where many of the convicted men were buried. The sequence where Pickett walks through this graveyard pointing out those whom he ministered to is one of the film’s more powerful moments.

At The Death House Door tells the story of Carroll Pickett, a prison chaplain in Huntsville, Texas, who presided over ninety-five executions during a fifteen-year period. Having no one he could share his emotional burden with, Pickett made cassette-tape recordings of his thoughts and impressions of each individual execution, describing the entire day (which Pickett would spend with each condemned man from 6 am until they were killed at midnight) in vivid detail.


Carroll Pickett sits with some of the tapes he recorded during his time as minister to the condemned men. He had not listened to any of these tapes until the making of this film.

Several interconnected threads tie the film together: footage of Pickett recounting his life and experiences to the camera, shots of him listening to his tapes (none of which he had listened to since recording them), Pickett’s visit to the prison cemetery where all the condemned men were buried, interviews with his adult children, friends, and colleagues, and a birthday party for Pickett attended by his children. Also woven into the narrative are two Chicago Tribune reporters investigating a story about Carlos De Luna, an executed man who was almost undoubtedly innocent (a sentiment shared by Pickett at the time, which he reveals in a meeting with the two journalists), and the story of De Luna’s sister, who becomes inspired by the injustice foisted upon her brother to become an activist against the death penalty.


One of the series of Chicago Tribune stories filed by reporters Steve Mills and Maurice Possley which provided much evidence to exonerate De Luna, unfortunately too late to save him.

All of these elements are artfully combined into what is one of the most powerful documentary films (or any other category of film or narrative form) ever made. And despite the fact that one can’t watch this film without becoming convinced that there is something seriously wrong with America’s prison system in general and the death penalty in particular, all political issues are superseded by the story of Carroll Pickett, a man who willingly endured unspeakable emotional agony and torment because of his ministerial calling and strong religious faith. A man who is undoubtedly a “Christian” in the purest sense.

"At The Death House Door"

Whatever your political, social, or religious beliefs may be; if you are not deeply moved by this film you really ought to seek help from a trained psychiatric professional.


Kartemquin Korner is a semi-regular segment spotlighting the work of Kartemquin Films, the greatest documentary collective in this part of the spiral arm of the galaxy. This week’s installment:

Typeface (2009)


This film is a delight! Art geeks, Graphic Design geeks, Print geeks, Media studies geeks, Documentary geeks, and History geeks will all find a metaphorical chicken to bite the head off of with this film.

Typeface was directed Justine Nagan, who has been Executive Director of Kartemquin Films since 2008. Under her leadership (in conjunction with the Board Of Directors) the Kartemquin collective has grown into an even more powerful artistic and cultural force as a series of bold strategic initiatives were conceived and actualized.


A genius watches a legend film an artist making art. Justine Nagan looks on as Gordon Quinn shoots a subject from Typeface.

She also handles Executive Producer duties on Typeface (as she does on every Kartemquin Film), sharing them with Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn and documentary doyen Maria Finitzo. Starr Marcello is Associate Producer, Tom Bailey was the Director Of Photography, Liz Kaar edited the film, and Zak Piper did the sound.



Typeface explores The Hamilton Museum of Wood Type in the small Wisconsin town of Two Rivers. The museum serves many functions; as an exhibition of of the history of printing, as a repository for 1.5 million pieces of wood type, and as a gathering point for the many artists who now use those pieces to create mostly abstract works of graphic art. The museum also holds several workshops throughout the year with the most cutting edge letterpress artists holding court and sharing their techniques and tips.



The museum was originally opened in a part of the old Hamilton Factory.

The Hamilton Company, founded in 1880, quickly became the largest manufacturer of wood type for offset printing in the US; dominating the industry for decades and operating up until the mid-1980’s (not coincidentally when the first Macintosh computers were made available). Wood-based letterpress printing was the engine that drove American culture in general and the advertising industry in particular throughout the late 19th and most of the 20th Century until being supplanted by computer graphic design and offset lithography printing techniques.


The film provides a brilliant illustration of a point media studies guru Marshall noted in his ground breaking studies in the mid 20th Century- namely that when one type of media is eclipsed by a newer media, the old media then turns into an art form.


We see that here as a slew of graphic designers and artists are shown availing themselves of the museum; but especially in the case of Dennis Ichiyama, a Letterpress Artist and Purdue University Professor who makes regular pilgrimages to Two Rivers (with as many of his students as he can) to create works of art which utilize selected pieces of type from the museum’s collection of over 1.5 million wood type blocks. The segments where he holds forth on the zeitgeist of his art and the joys of the Hamilton Museum (and Two Rivers) are among the film’s most rewarding.


Some young graphic design artists get very enthused about the museum’s immense collection.

The film contains many lovely segments of practitioners of letterpress art in action; students and faculty of Columbia College’s Center For Book And Paper Arts, members of the Post Family Artist Collective, as well as Ishiyama and his students- combined with footage of them discussing their process and waxing rhapsodic about letterpress printing.


There is something extremely sensuous about the process of letterpress printing. Large dollops of thick ink are mixed to the desired color then slathered onto rollers; then the page is inserted, a lever is pulled, and the machine prints the text with a satisfying “ku-chunk.” Then, its surface now glistening with still-wet ink, the page is gently removed.


The sight of a letterpress machine such as this one may arouse you a bit after viewing this film.

Nowhere is the illustration of where industry meets art form more poignant than in the scenes where old employees of the Hamilton factory interact with the artists who now use their old workplace as a creative playground, particularly the segments featuring Norb Brylski a retired Hamilton employee in his 80’s who regularly volunteered his time at the museum filling orders and teaching his craft to the younger generation (before ill health forced him to cut back).


Norb’s segments are delightful in several respects; the skill he uses in his craft, the respect that the “youngsters” have toward him, his good natured yet slightly quizzical attitude towards the abstract and often bizarre works created by the artists. “When I was working at Hamilton I never had time to play around with that stuff” he says while going through some of the prints given to him by Ichiyama. As confused as he seems (“Don’t ask me what they are!” he remarks wryly) one can tell he enjoys and respects what these artists are up to.



It briefly looks as if things might be dire for the museum, but the film ends on a positive note with a new director, Jim Moran, taking the reigns (the previous director Greg Corrigan’s herculean struggles are chronicled throughout Typeface) and the Museum’s 10 Anniversary gala being a tremendous success. UPDATE: the Museum’s just moved to a much larger space, so a great and exciting transition period is afoot.


The museum has moved into this new facility, which has more space and a great view of Lake Michigan.

Almost all Kartemquin Films projects these days seem to be about something serious or dire (for good reason of course) so it is a rare joy to just let a Kartemquin constructed narrative wash over you and give yourself up to the storytelling skills of the some of the greatest practitioners of the documentary form (and Josh Ritter provides a very nice soundtrack).


I will be appearing with Arnie Bernstein on WGN Weekend With Bill Moller (WGN 720 AM) on Saturday, July 20th at 9AM CDT. We will be discussing Chicago Film and Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition. Gonna be fun!!!



I always enjoyed Bill’s work on CLTV so I am really looking forward to chatting with him about HOLM 2!!!

The Chicago Tonight segment was an absolute blast!!! Check it out here.


Doing live television is SUCH a trip! I kept thinking of that scene with Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year– “You mean everything goes into the camera and then just spills into people’s homes??!!”

It’s like an incredibly fast improv game that is very challenging to keep on top of- and all you want to do is not say anything completely stupid as the “game” flies by at light speed.

In fact at one point my tongue gets WAY ahead of my brain and I credit John Hughes with Risky Business instead of Paul Brickman. Such is the rough and tumble nature of live TV– No “do overs!”

It was a fabulous time though and all in all I acquitted myself rather well. And of course Arnie was the consummate pro as always!

Many thanks to Phil Ponce and everyone at Chicago Tonight!


Stop on by Augie’s Garden of Bibliographic Delights and say hello!!!




Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition Launch Party

Friday, June 14—— 7PM

Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore

7419 Madison St.

Forest Park, IL 60130


If you have never been to Centuries & Sleuths (or made the trek out to Forest Park) you will be in for a lovely treat! Augie the proprietor is a wonderful fellow who reminds me of a literary version of another famous Augie- the character that Harvey Keitel played in the great pair of films; Smoke and Blue In The Face. Although this Augie deals in fine books and not fine cigars, his establishment has that same feeling of openness, camaraderie, and a love of life, laughter and community. If you love books, history, and the World Of Ideas you will definitely feel as if you have come home. Although I don’t think this Augie takes a picture from the same corner at the same time every day!

And if you have never been to Forest Park, you will soon discover that one of Chicago’s coolest neighborhoods is actually a suburb! The area around Centuries & Sleuths is chock full of awesome bars, restaurants and other sundry establishments; many of which are extremely fond of having live music and other performances.

In fact, considering the small size of Centuries & Sleuths and the large number of people that may show— if the soiree is too crowded when you arrive just stroll around and check out the hood for a while and return a little later to the store. Arnie and I will be holding forth, answering questions and signing books all night, so lots of folks will be filtering in and out throughout the evening. Once we finish closing down Augie’s we will likely adjourn to one of those fine establishments!!!

Oh, and don’t forget to buy a ton of books while you are in the bookstore! Although if you love mysteries, histories, police procedurals, and detective novels as much as I do it will be all you can muster not to just back your car up to the place and fill the trunk!

So please stop on by and say hello! It’s gonna be a VERY fun time!!!



When you see this handsome fellow you will know you are in Book Heaven!!!


Big thanks to everyone who made my Printers Row Lit Fest appearance such a HUGELY fun time!!! From my fellow panelists to the folks in attendance- and particularly the army of bright and helpful young folks who are the engine that makes that huge machine run.

It was an incredible and somewhat surreal experience, like being called from the mud pit at Lollapalooza to go up onstage and jam with the band.

Thanks again to everyone who made it possible!!!



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