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?”:
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
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
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
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
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
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
’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
We hope to get to the bottom of this story. Or should I say, to the story of
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