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For the Love of Mike: More of the Best of Mike Royko




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The Best

Every morning, when I open the newspaper, I remember that Mike Royko is dead. I read the paper with a little less enthusiasm as a result, and often without a feeling of how perfect our language can be, and how, in the right hands, words can sing. Columnist Mike Royko presented opinions and perspectives every day. For the Love of Mike is the second book that selects a hundred or so of his best columns for our recollection and reading pleasure. I enjoyed reading One More Time, the earlier collection of Royko columns, when it came out in 1999.

Here’s a column from February 16, 1973, titled “What’s Behind Daley’s Words?”:

Several theories have arisen as to what Mayor Daley really meant a few days ago when he said:
’If they don’t like it, they can kiss my ass.’
On the surface, it appeared that the mayor was merely admonishing those who would dare question the royal favors he has bestowed upon his sons, Prince Curly, Prince Larry, and Prince Moe.
But it can be a mistake to accept the superficial meaning of anything the mayor says.
The mayor can be a subtle man. And as Earl Bush, his press secretary, once put it after the mayor was quoted correctly:
’Don’t print what he said. Print what he meant.’
So many observers believe the true meaning of the mayor’s remarkable kissing invitation may be more than skin deep.
One theory is that he would like to become sort of the Blarney Stone of Chicago.
As the stone’s legend goes, if a person kisses Ireland’s famous Blarney Stone, which actually exists, he will be endowed with the gift of oratory.
And City Hall insiders have long known that the kind of kiss Daley suggested can result in the gift of wealth.
People from all over the world visit Blarney Castle so they can kiss the chunk of old limestone and thus become glib, convincing talkers.
So, too, might people flock to Chicago in hopes that kissing ‘The Daley’ might bring them unearned wealth. Daley, or at least his bottom, might become one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.
The Blarney Stone has become part of the living language in such everyday phrases as ‘You’re giving me a lot of blarney.’
That could happen here, too. People who make easy money might someday be described as ‘really having the gift of the Daley bottom.’
That is one theory. Another, equally interesting, goes this way:
Throughout history, the loyal subjects of kings and other monarchs have usually shown their respect with a physical gesture of some sort.
In some places, it was merely a deep bow or a curtsy when the ruler showed up or departed.
Others, who were even more demanding, required that the subjects kneel or even crawl on all fours. (A few Chicago aldermen engage in this practice.)
In some kingdoms, those who approached the big man were expected to kiss his ring or the hem of his royal clothing.
Daley has already ruled Chicago for longer than most kings reigned in their countries.
At this point, many of his loyal subjects view him as more a monarch than an elected official. It seems obvious that he intends to pass the entire city on to his sons, which is a gesture worthy of a king.
So it would be only natural that he might feel the time has come when he is entitled to a gesture of respect and reverence that befits his royal position.
And what he suggested would be simply a variation of kissing a ring or a hand. Instead of kissing the royal hem, we would kiss the royal ham.
Although I have not read of any king expecting a kiss in precisely the area the mayor described, why not? One of the hallmarks of Chicago is that we do so many things in an original manner.
What other city had made a river flow backwards? What other city makes traffic flow backwards?
And it would be quite original if we had a leader who greeted us backwards.
Where else would a leader turn his back on his people and be cheered for it?
History also tells us that in some ancient kingdoms, a person who had some terrible illness thought he would be cured if he kissed the feet of the king.
Could it be that the mayor is launching a low-cost, and low-slung, health program for us?
I am sure there will be some people who won’t want to show their affection for the mayor this way. As one man put it, when he heard what the mayor had said:
’If Daley wants me to do that, then he sure has a lot of cheek.’
But there also are the loyal followers, typified by radio disk jockey Howard Miller, who declared over the airwaves that they mayor has ‘more brains in his bottom’ than his critics have in their heads.
While I might disagree with Miller on the quantity of cerebral matter, I won’t quarrel with the location.
In any case, we will maintain our efforts to find out what they mayor really meant.
We hope to get to the bottom of this story. Or should I say, to the story of this bottom.”

In addition to columns poking fun at politicians, there are plenty of others calling attention to matters of injustice and the foibles of the pompous. I recommend reading one column a day, with pleasure, for the love of Mike.

Steve Hopkins, May 30, 2001


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