Weather Updates

High praise, indeed: Mitt Romney banner hung on Willis Tower

Ironworker John Rukavin74 put Romney banner top Willis Tower. Phoby Stephen Brown.

Ironworker John Rukavina, 74, put a Romney banner on top of the Willis Tower. Photo by Stephen Brown.

storyidforme: 38548663
tmspicid: 14180296
fileheaderid: 6499076
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: November 17, 2012 6:22AM

M itt Romney got the city’s highest endorsement recently on President Barack Obama’s home turf.

It was a 110-stories-high sanction atop the Willis (Sears) Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

◆ Translation: John Rukavina, 74, a Local 1 ironworker — who claims to have put up “every antenna and tower in Chicago since Marina Towers in 1974” — affixed a Romney banner as well as an American flag on the ABC antenna on Willis Tower minutes after it was completed Sept. 30.

“The flag is a symbol — an old ironworker’s custom — which is hung if the job went well,” said Rukavina, who said he worked on the Sears Tower antenna in 1978. He’s also worked on the John Hancock Center and New York’s World Trade Center.

“I promised my sister, Anna, a year ago I would use the burial flag of her husband, a World War II Navy veteran, when we topped off the antenna,” he told Sneed.

“But I didn’t tell anyone I was going to put up the Romney poster. I did that on my own and it was hard going. The wind was blowing like crazy that day,” he said. “But I wanted to make that gesture the last thing I did.

“Hey, I’d jump off a building to get Romney elected.”

“I can’t stand Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Obama,” said Rukavina, who worked for ISI Installation Services in Genoa, Ill.

A 60-year ironworker now living in LaPorte, Ind., Rukavina is also the subject of a film being shot called “Cowboys of the Sky,” a documentary chronicling Rukavina’s work on 20 major antenna installations on the country’s tallest skyscrapers.

Although the Romney banner and the American flag were taken down shortly after their placement, the entire installation was filmed by a helicopter loaded with a gyro-camera used by Zoo City Productions, directed by Stephen Brown, whose father is a Rukavina pal. Brown has been filming him ever since Rukavina installed the Trump International Hotel and Tower spire. “He had no idea I was going to put up that poster,” Rukavina said.

“But I had to take everything down because it’s my responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt and the wind could have ripped it loose.”

So what’s his next project?

“I get bored. When I was a kid I jumped off a Chicago bridge. So we’ll see what’s next.”

The Police blotter . . .

Former Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis has been hired by ABC Channel 7 News as the station’s new Public Safety Expert, “reporting on Chicago’s violence problem and other public safety issues,” according to News Director Jennifer Graves.

Will that put Weis in a position to comment on the performance of his successor, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy?

“I won’t be criticizing Garry or Mayor Emanuel,” Weis told Sneed. “I will offer insight based on my FBI and police experience to discuss public safety like I did as a consultant for ABC during the NATO summit.”

“We’ll try it for the next six months and see what happens,” said Weis.

There ya go.

AmBush ’em . . .

Former President George W. Bush, who has largely stayed out of the public eye since he left office, has reportedly taken up painting — dog portraits and Texas landscapes.

Madonna-rama . . .

If you can’t keep your clothes on, maybe keep your mouth shut. . . . Sneed hears pop princess Madonna dedicated an onstage striptease at the Staples Center in Los Angeles last Wednesday to Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl and education advocate shot by the Taliban. After telling the audience to support education and those who help women, Madonna pulled off her top and pants to reveal “Malala” written across her back.

Sneedlings . . .

I spy . . . Comedian Bob
spotted dining at Hugo’s Frog Bar on Saturday . . . CSI’s Marg Helgenberger spotted at Hugo’s a few hours later . . . Tuesday’s birthdays: Suzanne Somers, 66; Angela Lansbury, 87 and Bob Weir, 65.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.