Mark Weinberg’s ‘Mayor Culpa’ a searing, funny anti-tribute to Daley
INTERVIEW BY MARK KONKOL July 25, 2011 12:40AM
Mark Weinberg poses for a photograph with his book, "Mayor Culpa," at his home on N. Tripp Ave. Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: October 29, 2011 12:36AM
There isn’t a “One Bathroom Book, One Chicago” book club, but if there were, Mark Weinberg’s self-published anti-tribute to former Mayor Daley would be required reading on every pot in town.
Mayor Culpa: Gone But Not Forgiven tells the story of alleged corruption during Daley’s 22 years in office through a collection of satirical campaign buttons and bumper-sticker slogans that Weinberg came up with late at night.
“I’d say it’s appropriate for the bathroom. It’s a quick read . . . or a longer read depending on one’s condition,” Weinberg says without laughing. “It’s a funny book, but I’m actually not that funny. It’s hard to write a funny book when you’re not that funny.”
Weinberg, 48, a civil rights lawyer practicing in his Old Irving Park basement, got help from a buddy who writes jokes for David Letterman and a couple of graphic designers who put together glossy, slick-looking pages.
The jabs at Daley are brutal, cruel, often personal and, in some cases, not suitable for publication in this newspaper.
Some are doozies:
† Daley ’89: Everything sounds better with “Um.”
† Supporting Term Limits . . . For all my convicted friends.
† Daley: Making Public Schools so wonderful kids are refusing to graduate.
† Father of the Bribe
† I cannot tell a lie … from the truth.
† Sure I flunked the bar exam twice . . . It was in English.
Weinberg says his tiny tome is “the culmination of years of bitching and moaning about Mayor Daley’s corruptions, arrogance and anti-democratic tendencies.”
As far as he’s concerned, Daley’s exit from public office gave him too much credit and not nearly enough criticism for the state Chicago is in.
The book’s goal: “Wound” Daley by telling the just-warts version of what he considers 22 years of misdeeds, mispronunciations and general malfeasance. Weinberg makes no apologies.
”I think Daley has done a disservice to Chicago. The cynicism his type of leadership promotes makes all of us distrustful of politics,” Weinberg said. “I wondered why nobody has written a critical attack on Daley. I just thought I don’t want to die and not do it.”
So, Weinberg spent countless hours in his basement compiling 685 pages of notes that he whittled down to the 144 six-inch-square pages of his sarcastic goodbye to the Boss. He has had trouble getting the book in bookstores and local shops. He’s only sold about 300 of the 4,000 books he printed. He expects to lose money on the deal. Still, all the work is worth it, he says. But don’t suggest he’s obsessed with shoving a farewell stick in Daley’s eye.
“Obsessed sounds like you’re mentally ill. To me I’m telling an interesting story about political corruption by a powerful man,” Weinberg said. “To me that’s a really fascinating subject, and I wanted to tell the story in the funniest most effective manner I could, so I used humor and satire. I’m just a concerned citizen.”
Weinberg’s sister, who he “unthanked” in the book notes, tirelessly made failed attempts to stop her brother from writing Mayor Culpa. “She said, ‘Why do something when you won’t win.’ I said, ‘There are a lot of ways to win.’ ”
Weinberg is a quixotic character unafraid to tilt at windmills.
In the ’90s, Weinberg published Blue Line, the unofficial Blackhawks program. His target was late Hawks owner Bill Wirtz, who also was the subject of Weinberg’s first book, Career Misconduct, which detailed his take on Wirtz’s business dealings. In fact, Weinberg was arrested three times for hawking that book outside the United Center allegedly in violation of the city peddling ordinance. He sued City Hall claiming his arrest violated his right to free speech since he was selling a book. He won the case in the appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider it further.
In skid row circles, Weinberg is known as the patron saint of panhandlers. In 2003, he got City Hall to settle a class-action lawsuit he filed on behalf of beggars who were arrested and ticketed illegally. Panhandlers who were arrested got $400 each, and lawyers, including Weinberg, split nearly $400,000 in attorneys fees. The lawsuit was far more lucrative than the book.
These days Weinberg’s still fighting City Hall, regularly preparing brutality suits against the police department.
“If you get beat up by the cops,” Weinberg said with a smile, “give me a call.”
Weinberg’s next feat will be trying to sell the Daley books stacked in his garage. He plans to give copies to all 50 aldermen. He has requested the book be put on display at the Chicago Cultural Center. And he’s kicking around the idea of sending a copy to Daley.
But he’s nervous about that.
“The worst possible thing that could happen to me is if Daley likes the book. I meant to wound him. I meant to be critical. I don’t want him to like it,” Weinberg said. “If he called me up and said I want two copies, I would be heartbroken. It would mean I failed.”
All you have to do is turn to Page 69 to know Weinberg doesn’t have to worry about that.
To buy the book, go to mayorculpa.com.