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C L A S S I CC I T Y r , ; , . , ' , ' ;
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Shouldcrs.add shaclers
of
Sinatra, and presto! You'r.econjured a picture of
post$'ar Chicago. Much fiom that cra ha-svanishecl,
but the classicciq'sunives in placeslike Unior-r
Station; in the recollections o1'Dzrnrtr.Neuman;
in aband ofblues all-starsl:rnclin a scoreofother
people, places,and thing-s.
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Ebert has racked up national recognition nhile staling true to his neu.spaperand l-risciq: Friends and colleaguesgive him hvo thumbs qr. bl Cu o1Fe'1scrrtfial
NUMBER rz
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H3J"ll;llL*,.*"
;"1;
has been creeping torvard Chicago from the coasts,
a^sperformance artists and jaded club kids revive
the campyjoys of old-fashioned striptease.Meet
"Toots"
Michelle
L'amour, the city's reigning queen
of bump-and-grind. by Stuart J. Rosenberg
l\4if; Xj;13"1"1'.'"1J4
*,,""
l"refbund Bob Lunn, a smooth-talking money master connected to a who's who of Chicago'sbiggest
inr.estors.Now, after an ugly dispute, Lunn is bankrupt and out of business,and Pippen is still wondering how much he'll ever seeof the millions he
saysLunn cost him- by Shane Tritsch
D E C E M B E2RO O 5 c H I c A G O 1 3
CONTRIBUTORS
(\-,/,t' ho0
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THE ONLY SHOE COLLECTION
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TO THIS COLLECTION
'Joe
Silverberg wanted to ca.llhis ga.llery
ar
saysTHOMASCONNORS(,,TheDealer
R
would think it was a place to get their
nails r
it for a typical gallery. Or Supercuts.,,Conno
is the author of Meet Me in the Bar:
Classic
"The
Custom design your own
sugar shock got a rittle intense,"says
New Media editor DEB.RAH wrLK about
her
research into the city's ever-growing
offering
of cupcakes(,.Let Them nut c,rpl*..;
"This
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Arena)'
assignmentyas certainly un eight-year-ord,s
dream come true. But instead
of skateboarding in the park, I used
the o...-. "rr.rgy,o clean my house.,,
"By
the time I became aware of bosom prayboymagazine
s,
had appeared on the scene,,,
sayssruART J. RoSENBERG(oh,
t'amouiD. one ofthis magazine,smusic
writers.As a
child taking violin lessonsat the Fine
Art. g"ildl"g, h" *.uld passthe burresque
houses
on south wabash, then in their last
"The
days.
live"musicthat wafted out would catch
my
ear-and the posters of the performers
wourd catch my eye,,,he says..They were
so differ_
ent than the playboylook, and while
practicing p;gu.ri.ri I wourd contemprate
their
pasties"'Today'sneo-burlesque
sceneoffersa colo.ful bienai.rg orp".rorrJ
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-a
cultural traditions' Rosenberg says,
and "performers rike Michete 'u-o..r.
i" uiracting
nearly as much attention ilom academi..
i.rt"r"rt"d in gender studies, cultura.l
anthro_
pologr, and performance studies
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I
20
c H I c A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
o
RogerEbert was an eageryoung man fresh
from lJrbanawhen he startedrevie,ring
moviesfor the ChicagoSun-Tin?esmore
than threedecadesago.His interveningyears
havefeaturedunimaginedsuccess,
abiding
friendships,too much booze(for a time),
the death of a colleague,bouts with cancel
and (ratherlate) lastinglove.Today,his passionfor film hasmadef,bert a biggerstar
than many of the peoplehe writesabout
i } \ C A R O L F E L S E N T I I , \ I , i ' i I { ) ' I0 ( ; I i , \ I ' I I B Y A N N A K N O T T
'l'he
rrrl
mo\necritic Rogerfbert
has often said he would never leave his cherished Chicago SunTrnles or his beloved ciq'. Yet, in 1968, he was ready to do just that.
In a letter to his mentor Daniel Curley, an English professor at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the young newspaperman confided th at The New Yotk Tt'meswanted him to travel east
to talk about becoming its second-string drama and movie critic.
Ebert complained that his military draft status would preclude such
"If
Tie NewYork ?inres summons one only once in
a career move.
a lif'etime, then I blew it," he wrote. But something else Eberi re"I
vealed in the letter suggestshis state of mind at the time. contin"I
ue to write about the movies,"he noted. think a lifetime of such
work would make [one] a moron."
Today, at 63, Ebert still writes about movies for the Srrn-Tr'meg
and hardly anyone would call him a moron (well, maybe he would
hear that from Rob Schneider,who speculatedthat one ofthe reasons Ebert had panned his Deuce Big'alowmovieswas that the crit"never
had sex in high school"). Rather, a lifetime of reviewic had
ing movies has made Ebert a number of other notable things.
He's rich-a multimillionaire whose latest contract is said to give
him $3 million from his s}'ndicated TV show. At the Sun-?ihles
alone, he rnakes $5oo,ooo a year.
He's famous-"more recognizablethan most of the movie stars
he writes aboutj' saysthe ,9un-Tr'mescolumnist Richard Roeper,his
"I've
seen him walk into Holllnvood parties,
current TV partner.
and the stars are turning toward himl'
And his opinions carry enormous influence in the world of
movies. He long ago transcended his newspaper. In Hollyrvood,
"'What
did Tfie New York Tintes
nervous studio executives ask,
'Wlrat
did USA Today say?''What did Ebert say?"' It is not
say?'
even a question any longer, says Michael Cooke, formerly of the
Sun-Trirresand now the top editor of the New York Daily Newq of
"He's
a brand, like Coke."
how good or bad he is as a critic.
journalism
and Hollpvood-two busiRemarkably, working in
nessesnot known for their generosity of spirit-Ebert has attained
this successfor the most part without making enemies. Although
some people do question the quality of his reviews, it is hard for a diligent reporter to tum up anyone who has a bad word to say about him
personally, even in private. Rather, acquaintances cite his loyalq,, his
sweetness,his benevolence-and, of course,his vast store of knowledge and enthusiasm about movies and my'riad other subjects.
The road to becoming the first film critic to win the Pulitzer
Prize (1975) and the first to be awarded a star on the Holly'r''ood
Walk of Fame (last summer) was paved with Ebert's hard work, his
ability to write at qping speed, and his unflagging optimism and
cheer, even in the face of obstacles:his father's death when Ebert
was a fieshman in college; a serious drinking problem; the writing
of a ridiculed soft-porn screenplay;the death {iom brain cancer of
his close professional colleague,Gene Siskel; his own repeated
bouts with cancer. It's a life worth its own screenplay-the tale of
a movie-obsessedboy from central Illinois who made very good.
THE NATURAL
While still an undergraduate at the University of lllinois, Roger
Ebert had l"riseye on big-city journalism; he was selling freelance
stories to both the Chicago Daily New's and the Chicago Sun-Times.
In September 1966, James Hoge, then the ciq' editor of the Srrn-
106
c H ] C A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
Tr'mes,took him to lunch at Riccardo'son Rush Street, the ersatz
commissary'1brthe cif's newspapers,and hired him as a rwiter for
Midwest, the Sun-?r'mes's Sunday magazine. (Ebert continued
pursuing a Pir.D. in English at the University of Chicagofor another year before fin:ill1' quitting.)
It was a livel1'tirne to work at the tabloid, the sister publication
of the high-toned afternoon broadsheet, the Chicago Daily News.
"We
were like the steelworking sons who work so we can send our
bright brother to collegej' says Paul Ga-lloway,another Sun-Times
reporter. Looking for young readers and hoping to inject personality into his paper, Hoge also hired Bob Greene, Ron Powers, and
Roger Simon; a.llof them went on to wide recognition as writers.
As the features editor, Robert Zonka nurtured the bunch. Fourteen years Ebert's senior, Zonka was a charismatic teddy bear who
loved to party and drink and recognizeda soul mate in Ebert. When
the papers film critic, Eleanor Keene, a former socieq/reporter, retired in April 1962 Hoge and Zonka asked Ebert to take her beat.
He grabbed the chance to cover what he later described as the
greatest art form ofthe 2oth century
His timing was perfect. At The New Yorker, Pauline Kael had
just started "to blow the library dust offwriting about filmsj'recalls
David Elliott, then the critic atthe Chicago Da.ilyNews. The city had
four newspapers in those days, each with its own film critic-Ebert;
"Pco1-rle
likeclRoger
ahr-avs
l'rekr-rer\solrttlch;'
becairse
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Elliott (now at the San Diego rJnion-Tribune); Mary Knoblauch at
Chicago Today; and Gene Siskel, a rookje reporter who had maneuvered his way into the job althe Tribune. The most intense competition was between Ebert and Siskel,who, Ebert says,was hired'to
knockmeoffl'
"Before
the late sirties, when we all came along,"recalls Knoblauch,
"old
fogiesj'who wrote as ifthey
movie criticism was in the hands of
worked for the studios' publiciry offices.The social sea changes of
"the
film
the 196os and t97os brought with them what Ebert calls
Hudson
roRock
generation moment." Doris Day comedies and
in
Paris,
and
Last
Tango
gave
Easy
Nder,
way
to
mantic dramas
Bonnie and Clyde. Attending his first New York Film Festival in
1962 Ebert met Kael, and afterward he sent her some of his
"the
best film criticism being done in
columns. She called them
American newspapers today," he says.A few years later, he took
Knoblauch to meet Kael at her apartment, where they sat around
"People
always liked Roger
the kitchen table talkir.rgabout movies.
becausehe knew so much," saysKnoblauch.
The remarkable easewith which he wrote also caught the eyeand the ire-of his colleagues.The public-relations consultant Connie Zonk4 then married to Bob, recalls Ebert strolling in on Thursday evenings, a ha-lf-hour before deadline for the Sunday paper, while
"Roger
the theatre and music critics sat agonizing over their copy.
would walk aror.rnd.tell some really terrible iokes, sit down at his
t)pewriter, ding;,diry'. ding:, ding, dhg-and he finished his piecel'
ersatz
:'iterfor
rtir"rued
anothlication
r l/ews.
r'nd our
t-Times
,r'sonal,rs, and
ntefs.
ir Four.'ar rvho
: \\'nen
tr beat.
I as the
.ricl had
recalls
.,it| had
-L,bert;
<
7-," *
:t
lauch at
nlaneuompetiriled'to
oblauch,
r.sifthey
iLngesof
the film
lson rorrig and
stival in
e of his
done in
he took
: iu'ound
.d Roger
hc eyernt Con:r Thurs,er',rvhile
. Roger
in at his
prece."
o
z
DAYS OF WINE AND I].OSES
Alter work, the gathering place in those days was a bar called
O'Rourke's (on Norlh Avenue,just west of Wells Street), a hangout
with the look of a shabby Irish pub. O'Rourke'shad photographs of
Brendan Behan and William Butler Yeatson its walls, a coal stove,
a polished oak bar, and a sign adverlising a bonelesschicken dinner
"We
for 15 cents (i.e., a hardboiled egg).
thougl"rtof ourselvesas bohemians or antiestablishment,"Eberl recalls.
The lpical slogwent from the newspaperoffice to Riccardo'sfbr'
dinner and drinks, to O'Rourkesuntil closingaI2 a.m.,then domr
North Avenue a block to the Old Town Ale House, which stal'ed
open until four. The trek became known as the Bermuda Triangle.
"Night
after night, year after year, all the tirne," says Ebert, nl.rose
drinking crew included Zonka, Galiou'ay;and John McHugl.r, a fbr'mer Daily News reporter whom Ebert calls his "oldest frier.rd ir.r
Chicago."Although known for being glegarious, Ebert hin.rselfad-
>> Breakingaway:(left
to right, from top) baby
Rogerin 1942,high-school
graduationin 196O,early
days at the Sun-Times,
taking chargeat a cousin's
farm, with his 1957Studeb a k e rG o l d e nH a w ki n M i c h i gan, marrying Chaz in 1992,
with family at WrigleyField
about 2OO2,receiving
his star on the Hollywood
Walk of Famein 2005
mits to a certain shlness, and his colleague Robert Feder, the Sun-Trines's
"inherently
radio and TV columnist, calls him
a shyyoung man in a
great celebrity persona." But whatever shyness remained was
washed away by the alcohol. Sometimes Ebert would interview
stars at O'Rourkes-Jane Russell, John Wayne, Mel Brooks, or
Clint Eastrvood. Although Ebert's rules required the stars to be
treated like anyone else,one night an O'Rourke's regular screamed
"My
at Charlton Heston,
God, it's Moses!" and he cheerfully autographed her bra.
Eber1,wl'ro drank Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch,could finish off a bottle by himself. Later, r,r'henhe worried that he might be
drinking too much, he told Galloway that he had his drinking under
control-the night before, he had consumed only 15 highballs.
D E C E M B E2RO O 5 C H I c A G O 1 0 7
"He
might just
The more Ebert drank, the jollier he became.
who
Rosenthal,
Marshall
recalls
poem,"
a
reciting
or
start singing
Ebert
News'
Dai'ly
Chicago
at
the
a
reporter
as
working
was then
and McHugh would quote Yeats,sometimes in unison, and Ebert
would also composelimericks' When he stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a rumpled carbon copy,the regulars knew that he
was about to read them his review for the nert day.
Becausehis social life centered on O'Rourke's, Ebert met the
women he dated there. For two years,he saw a nurse named Sarah
Nance, who was divorced and the mother of three children' They
talked about marriage, but looking back, Ebert says, he was not
"marriageable."In1975 at O'Rourke's'he met Ingrid Eng, an exotically beautiful mother offour. After her divorce, they dated, althoug'h
not exclusively, well into the next decade. Ebert became close to her
"copy
kid"
children and helped one ofher daughters,Monic4 get a
"I
don't
Tnbune'
for
the
job at the Sun-Times.Today she is a reporter
think I d be in journalism if it werent for himj'she says'
'the
ultimate
Ebert remembers that they used to call O'Rourke's
go
home
alone"'
and
with
somebody
go
there
you'd
singles bar:
papers
in a
and
with
books
cluttered
apartment
a
rental
rvas
Home
three-flat at 2437 Norlh Burling Street.
The drinking did not seemto impair Ebert's writing' He was an
alcoholic when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, but he never
missed a deadline and was never late for an appointment' Still, he
was beginning to recognize that it was a dead end, says William
Nack, Ebert's friend since college. Legend had it that one night,
home from O'Rourke's,he threw his bowl of ice cream against the
"It
was taking over my life," Ebed recallstoday'
wall.
By then, he had embarked on the television show with Gene
Siskel, and Ebert worried about being hung-over during the tapings, at the time every other week. He would stop drinking trvo or
three days before. In the summer of 1978he saw a doctor, who recommended Alcoholics Anon)'mous. Ebert said no, and the doctor
told him to come back every month for a year to seehow he was doing.'At the end of the year, I hadn't made any improvement, so he
suggestedseeinga counselor,"Ebert says.She refused to talk to him
unless he went to AA. Ebert will not talk about AA directly or even
confirm for publication that he ever belonged to the organization,
but friends say that he attended his first meeting in August 1979,
and he has beensoberever since.
Onewoman, who casuallydatedEbert, encounteredhim at anAA
meeting the first week of his sobriety. It was a hot day; the door was
open, and she glanced out at a Sun-Times delivery truck that had
Ebert's picture plastered on its side and realized that the man in the
row in front of her was a cohost of the television show about movies
then distributed nationally by the Public Broadcasting Service'
For the gregarious Ebert, AA became another O'Rourke's, and
people he met there have remained his close {?iends' In the beginning he went to meetings every day, sometimes more than once a
day, and he eventudly persuaded Paul Galloway to join (today Galloway credits Ebert with saving his life). After meetings they would
go out for ice cream. Ebert describeshimself as an agnostic,but Father Andrew Greeley,the novelist and columnist, recalls Ebert once
saying that'his AA meeting was his Massl'
A STAR IS BORN
Growing up in the 194os and 195os,an adored only child in a modest house in Urbana, Illinois, Roger Ebert enioyed a childhood that
IO8
C H I C A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
seemed lifted 1i'om the pages of The Satutday Evening Postthe rare dinners out at Steak n Shake; elementary school at St'
Maryt; sening as an altar boy; secondary school at Urbana High,
his parents'alnta mater. Television came late to Urbana, and Ebert
"lifeinstead found ne*'spapers and books; he calls the latter his
long consolation."
Neither ofhis parents had gone to college,but theyboth encouraged their son's bookishness. His father, Walter, worked at the university as an electrician. He was determined that Roger not follow
"I
was over at the English building working tohim into his trade:
"and
I saw the professors with their feet up
day,"Walter told his son,
pipes and reading their books' Boy,
their
on their desks, smoking
Annabel, grew up on a farm and
job
mother,
you."
His
for
the
that's
worked most of her life as a bookkeeper. She was tiny and always
wore a suit or a dress.
Ebertwits an nlcoholicw'hen
lre n on thc'PulitzerPrize
in 1975,but he ne\rermissecl
a deacllineancl\\'asnever
latefor an appointment.
As a boy, Ebert was especially close to his mother's sister, Marth4
a nurse who never married and who loved movies' He remembers her
takinghim to seesuch adultfareasAStar Is BomandlWantto Live'
Ebert grew to resemble Martha so strongly that, his friend Sally Sin"ifyou put aV-neck sweateronher and gaveher a short hairden says,
cut and a pair ofround glassesj'they would have looked exactly alike'
In grade school Roger published lhe Washington Street trtrewg
named for the street where he lived; in high school he published a
science fiction fanzine and was the editor in chief ofthe school
newspaper and the president of his senior class.He had become enamored with the novelist Thomas Wolfe and wanted to go to Harvard as Wolfe had, but his father said the family could not afford it'
"You just thank your luckT stars that you were born in Urbana,"
"becauseif you were born in Bloomington, you'd
Walter told him,
be going to Normal lnow Illinois State University]"'
Staying home and going to the University of Illinois meant that
Ebert could continue to make extra money-less than a dollar an
hour-at The News-Gazette in Champaign, where, during high
school, he had held ajob as a bylined reporter working 25 to 3o hours
"Theyhiredyou to turn out lots of copy real fasti' Ebert recalls'
aweek.
Shortly before Walter Ebert, a smoker, died of lung cancer in
1960, Roger-stilt a high-school senior-beat out adults by winning
first place in the Illinois AssociatedPresssportswriting contest' His
"I've never seen
father, Ebert says,knew that his son was on his way'
anybody grow up as fast as he did when his father died," recalls Betsy Hendrick, who worked with Ebert on The News-Gazefte' He also started to gain weight.
Ebert continued to rvork at The News-Gazetlte,but in the end he
hitched his star lo The Dai\y IllinL, becoming a general columnist,
then night editor, news editor, and editor in chief his senior year,
1963-64. His coileagues remember in near reverential terms the
paper that Ebert put out after John Kennedy's assassination'
William Nack, the sports editor under Ebert, says that a veteran
journalist "could r.rothave put out a better paperl'
ung Pta:lrai er L
bana lltF
- ad F.brrr
'1it'r hr-.
oth encqrat tlre to'
: not fo{lcr
,rrcrliing to
heir t'ert rp
brloLs. Bft
a farm and
and ahrar
I
l
I
er. \Iartha
embersher
'antto
LircI Sallv Sinshorthairiacdv alilie.
reef -hlegs.
rublished a
the school
|ecomeengo to Harrt afford it.
r Urban4"
;ton, youd
neant that
r dollar an
rring high
o 3Ohours
prt recalls.
cancer in
rywinning
rntest. His
never seen
ecalls Bet're. He althe end he
:olumnis!
)ruor yeax,
terms the
;sination.
a veteran
After college, Ebert applied tobecome an intern to James Reston,
thentheWashingtonbureau ctrief of TheNewYork fimes. In aletber
of rejection, Reston, himseHa graduate of the University of Illinois,
"I
*rote,
have decided . . . to hire ayoung man from Hawardl
PULP FICTION
In 1968, The WalI Street Joumal published a letter from Ebert
praisingthe director RussMeyer,whosesoft-porn movies-Faste4
Pussycat!Kill! Ki1ll, for example-were widely held in low regard.
The men becamefriends. Always looking for lively talent, Meyer
talked to Ebert about writing the script for his next movie. Ebert,
then 26, did not acceptthe offer.Besides,he wrote Dan Curley,he
had qualmsaboutworking with "the king of the nudies.. . . It would
be unwiseto get mixed up with moviesat that level."
In January 1969, Ebert had failed his physical for the draft (at
2O6 pounds he was nine pounds overweight) and kept reviewing.
The next month, without disclosing their friendship, Ebert gave
"skin
Meyer's movie l4,ren three stars and called Meyer the
flick'
"only
genre's
artistl
Several months later, when Meyer was signed to make his first
major studio film, Ebert accepted a $15,OOOoffer to wdte the script
for Beyond the Valley ofthe Dolls, about a female rock-h'-roll band
struggling to make it in Hollywood. He took a leave from the ,SunTimes and moved to Hollywood.
Connie Zonka has a frank explanation for Ebert's attraction to
"Roger
Meyer, who died last year, and his movies:
was crazy about
"and
women with big titsj' she says,
Russ Meyer filmed women with
big titsJ Every moming Meyer would pick Ebert up at the Sunset
Marquis and drive him to the 2oth Cenhrry Fox lot where he was ex'When
pected to writ€ nonstop.
Russ didnt hear the typewriter, hed
"Russ
say,What3 the matter?"'Ebert recails.
seemed to believe that
tlping andwritingwerethe same thing." Meyerb biographer, Jimmy
>>Thumbs up: (left to right,
from top) with Charles
Bukowski and FayeDunaway
on the set of Barfly in 1987,
with Russ Meyer about 1969,
Emmy winners Ebert and
Gene Siskel with producer
Thea Flaum,with Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes
about 198O.then and now
partners Siskel and Roeper,
at Juanita Jordan's birthday
party in 2OOl with Chaz
and BillClinton
McDonougfr, wrote in Big Bosoms and Square Jaws that Ebert re'
quired good booze and good food . . . [and] at the end ofthe week he
would have to have a girl with outrageous proportionsi'McDonough
claims that Meyer clamped down on the brysts until the script was
completed. Ebert finished it in six weeks. (In the book, Ebert con"I
tends, did not require a girl at the end of every wee\ nor, for that
matter, did I get one.")
Later, writing in the highbrow magazine Film Commenf Ebert
claimed that the X-rated Dolls, which was released in 1970, was'a
satire of Hollywood conventions." His colleagues were not im'A
pressed:
cesspool on film," wrote Gene Siskel (Ebert recalls that
"offered
Meyer
to throw Gene out of [a] hotel window). Stanley
Kauffrnarrn, The New Republr'c3 critic and a man whom Ebert ad"utter
mired, called it
garbage."
Ebert's friends claim that he shrugged offthe bad reviews, but,
arcordingto McDonough, he was feeling rejected until Meyer came
to Chicago with Edy Williams, who was both his third wife and the
movie's star. They took Ebert to the Roosevelt Theater in the Loop,
"where
the trio watched the picture with a live audience. When the
(continued on page 178)
crowd went wild, Roger felt redeemedl'
D E C E M B E2RO O 5 c H I c A G O I O 9
ALTEE TNTLOV1ES
gontinued from page 1o9)
"cult
classic"
Today, Ebert cals Dolls a
at
Oford
shown
and boasts that it has been
he
time
every
that
He
claims
and Harvard.
disome
Festival,
Film
the
Sundance
goesto
rector praises the movie. Mary Knoblauch,
though, says she suspects that Ebert regrets
"The great thing about these trvo guys was,
it wasn't an act," says Harvey Weinstein,
who with his brother headed Mirama.:r,also
"When they disagreed,
owned by Disney.
they sure did disagree,and they were both
incredibly opinionated and strong-willed.
But the thingtheyboth had in common was'
havingwritten it.
theywere champions of movies."
Jim Hoge told Ebert that he had to
At the beginning, that was about all they
choose between reviewing movies and writhad
in common. Ebert was convivial;
beStill,
ing them, and he chose reviewing.
private. Siskel loved sports; Ebert,
Siskel,
to
contributed
Ebert
tween 1974 and 1979,
{iiend, could not name three proone
says
Beneath
one,
projects;
only
Meyer
five more
fessional athletes unless they had appeared
the VaJleyof the Ata Vxens, rn'hich Ebert
in movies. Ebert was an intellectual about
sayshe wrote in five days,was ever produced.
movies; Siskel,a brilliant repofter, especialHe later told an interviewer fot Playboy"'I
ly in analyzing the economics of the indusdont believe that a film critic has any busitry. Ebert was a lightning-fast writer who,
ness having his screenplays on the desks at
saysLarry Dieckhaus, one of Flaum's rnany
five
those
the studios." Today, he clarifies:
"would go back and rnaybe
successors,
withindependents,
projects were all done as
make a comma change; Gene would sit
out studio backing. He did explore one more
and sweat bloodl'Ebert was competithere
he
1978.
In
however.
production.
big-studio
tive, but mildly so compared with Siskel,
worked on what he and Meyer hoped would
who, saysMarshall Rosenthal, Siskel'sprobe a 2oth Century Fox feature about the
"was probablythe most
band the Sex Pistols. The band's manager' ducer at\AIBBM{V,
rvho was to be the movie's producer, had seen competitive guy I ever knewl' Ebert traveled
to film festivals and watched movies from
Dolls]rSOtimes, and Ebert and Meyer went
"Movies were Roger's
morning until night.
stars,
Pistols'
to London to meet the Sex
"They
Iifebloodi'says Gary Dretzka, a former ediactuJohnny Rotten and Sid Vicious'
tor at the Tribune. Siskel soon had a wife
removiej'Ebert
on
that
shooting
started
ally
"before the Sex Pistols management
and children and preferred to stay home
calls,
with them. Siskel was the more skillful dewentbroke andthe plugwas pulledl'
bater, the better wisecracker; Ebert had
more tender feelings.
THE ODD COUPLE
Flaum insisted on a set with a balcony;
make
The idea for the show that would
stars sometimes had their backs to the
her
came
famous
Ebert and Siskel rich and
as they looked at the film clips,
camera
proa
the
time
at
Wald,
from the late Eliot
agree, were central to the show's
all
which,
anBut
\&TIW.
television's
public
at
ducer
slrccess.She forbade them to wear ties;
other producer there, Thea Flaum, made
sometimes she would take them shopping.
the program work. She insisted on pairing
She demanded a simple yes or no response
the fiercely competitive critics at the two
morning papers, even though they could to each film; for the first year, she also refused to let Ebert include the small and subnot stand each other. Ebert later told the
"We
"I
had to get
titled films he championed.
of
us
each
Tribune's Rick Kogan, think
going
weren't
we
us-that
to
trust
viewers
want
the
we
didn't
yes
because
initially said
stratoin
the
off
public
television,
to
be
already
was
Siskel
it
first."
guy
to
do
other
sphere discussing a foreign film that they
reviewing movies forWBBM-TV, and Ebert
h a d d o n e a 2 o - p a r t i n t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e didn't care about," she says.(Once the show
was established, Flaum relented on the
films of Ingmar Bergman for WTTW and
egghead films.) She also decreed that a
hadiust won the Pulitzer'
canine, Spot the Wonderdog, later
trained
Opening' Soon at a Theater Near You
and
Sparky,would jump onto the balDaisy
title
The
first aired in September 1975.
the Dog of the Week. The
to
introduce
cony
to
WTTW
from
moved
changed as the pair
"that
we
saysFlaum,
the
message,
sent
dog
Buena
to
Entertainment
Tribune
PBS to
weren't discussingthe cinema: we were
Vista Television, a division of Disney, but
the idea remained the same: tlvo newspaper critics, one fat, one bald, dressedin casual clothes, talking, often arguing, about
the movies. There were no celebrity interviews, no gossip, no visits to movie sets.
1I8
c H I C A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
talking about the movies."
By the end of the first season,Ebert ar.rd
Siskelwere on more than 1oO public television stations.In 1978 the show. renattted
SneakPreviews, moved to PBS. It aired ir.r
18o markets and was, according to Televi"the highest-rated entertainsion Week,
ment show in the history of public broadcasting."stations in NewYork and Los Angeles picked it up, which put an end to the
"Who
are these Midwest bumpquestion
kins to talk to us about film?"
PBS decided to cash in by spdicating
"theywantit commercially, Ebert says,but
ed to continue to pay us PBS salaries"'At
WTTWthey had been making in the lower
three figures per show. They ended their
time at PBS making about $8/,ooo each
per season,with no share ofthe profits. By
then they were both represented by the
same lawyer and agent, Don Ephraim, reducing the chances for a split. Ebert recalls
"Ifwe have sepaxateagents,
Siskelwarning,
it'll end in bloodshed"'
Ephraim thought he had a done deal
with WTT\4|PBS when the networkhired a
Hollyvood lawyer who presented an unacceptable deal and told Ephraim his clients
"take it or leave itl'He took the shorn
could
to Joe Antelo, an executive with what became the Tribune Entertainment Company'
Antelo eventually offered each of them
$125,ooo plus 10 percent of the show's
profits. He sold the deal to his bossby arguing that the clips cost nothing-the studios
happily gavethem for free-and Ebert and
Siskel starred in and wrote the show themselves. For the first l3-week cycle, Antelo
signed 87 stations and quickly sold out the
advertising. The next cycle he more than
doubled the number of stations. Six months
later, he says, it was a major hit. That year,
1982, with the show's name changed to At
the Movies,Antelo recalls, Ebert and Siskel
made half a million dollars each.
Four years later, in 1986, they were readl
to renew with Ttibune Entertainment, but
the manwhowas supposedto handlethe de"It was a big bootails let the matter slide'
boo," saysAntelo. Jamie Bennett, a formet
WBBM-TV executive who had moved tc
Disney's Buena Vista, offered the pair $1 milIion each, twice what they were getting al
Tribune Entertainment. Sr'ske1&Ebert & tht
Moiesbecame Buena Vista's first s1'ndicat
ed show. Along with the name change camt
the switch to thumbs up and thumbs down
an idea that Ebert claims ashis own.
The Tribune retaliated against Siskel
charging that it was a conflict ofinterest fo:
him to work for Disney when the companr
also made movies that he would revies
Ebert lobbied the Sun-fi'mest editor to hirr
"
Siskel, and the paper made him an offer.
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I2O
C H I c A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
has the usual tabs for news, sports, and
business, but it also has a tab rnarked
"Ebert." which, since October 2Oo4',has
taken the browser to Ebert's own Web site,
rogerebert.com. It carries all his reviews
"It's
and other writing dating back to 1967.
rny archive, mylife's work," he saYs.
John McHugh liked to argue that Ebert
had wasted himself on the movies and that
he was born to be a serious political writer
in the mold of a Walter Lippmann. But the
Sun-Tr'meshas also served as a soapboxfor
Ebert's liberal opinions-against his paper s
endorsement of George W. Bush in 2ooo,
for example. At what other paper does the
film critic get to offer political or socialcom"Everymentary whenever he feels like it?
"He
has never
thing gets in," says Barron.
anl'thing."
been turned down on
Ebert's unwavering liberalism defines
him
as much as his opinions on film. He
ly enjoyed itJ'
by his politics natura\ Both of his
of
comes
sort
While they would never be the
parents
were Democrats-his father was a
others
each
out
at
friends who would hang
"I
of the Internationa.l Brothproud
member
there
him,
and
loved
Ebert
says,
houses,
were times when I hated him. There were erhood of ElectricalWorkers. Atthe Univertimes when he infuriated me, yet we were sity of lllinois, Ebert was almost passedover
for the top job on The Daily Illinibeca:use
good liiends."
some members of the board feared he was a
radical. (He was a member of SDS-StuPRIMARY COLORS
"l:efore
dents for a Democratic Society-but
the
In the early 198os, Kathaxine Graham,
they started making bombs,"he says.)
owner of Tfie Washington Post and a movie
"Nou,;
Ebert's sympathiesare so strong, and his
I
office.
to
her
Ebert
buff, summoned
position at the paper so secure,that in the
just want to know one thing," she asked him.
"Do you
fall of zooq, when the Chicago Newspaper
like the movies? Because the critic
Guild reached an impasse with managerve have now he doesn't seem to like them
ment, he wrote an open e-mail to the pubvery rnuch." She told Ebert that she didn't
lisher, John Cruickshank, pledging to walk
care ifhe continued to live in Chicago as long
out with his colleaguesif a new agreement
as he was a presence at Washington cocktail
not struck. Ebert explained to a rewas
he
as
parties and openings. He said no,just
porter
that his father would haunt him if he
the
including
papers,
did to several other
a picket line.
crossed
ever
editor
an
bythen
Knoblauch,
Tibune.Mary
In an e-mail back, the paper's former
there, says that she was asked more than
chief executive,Conrad Black-who bythen
once to approach him.
"No
had been removed from his position beEbert cherishesthe Sun-Times.
cause of alleged financial shenanigansmatter who owned it, no matter who
"proletarian posturing"
dragged it in the gutter, savaged it, ravaged chided Ebert for his
"Roger
a year
always be- while hauiing in more than $5OO,OOO
itj'says John McHugh,
Tibune
the
that
sure
made
Black
pain
salary.
was
the
best
lieved that the Sun-Trines
saw a copy of the e-mail. Ebert countered,
per in Chicago."Friends sayhe loves it for its
"For years my reviervs and other writings
underdog status, its griry urban, workinghave represented more than half the total
man feel. When Rupert Murdoch bought
hits on the Sun-TrirresWeb site."
the paper in late 1983, Ebert calmed colToday, Ebert does not have much bad to
leagues who said they could not work for
"It's
sayabout Black ("more of a Tory than he was
my paper," he told
the media mogul:
"He
an American right winger") or about the forSurronly owns itj'The current
them.
"our' mer publisher David Radler ("a charming
Ebert
calls
Barron,
Trirreseditor, John
best-known asset,the guy who really helps guy, a good conversationalist"), also removed, in his casefor {iaudulent dealings.
us to sell newspapers."
The bar at the top of the paper'sWeb site Nigel Wade. a for- continued on page 124)
dont think Gene would ever have conle to
the Sun-Times. I think he just used that as
leverage,"Ebert says.In the end, Siskel lost
his movie criticb title, kept a tie to the Tribune as a high-priced fleelancer, and picked
up other, more lucrative work, such as appearing regularly on CBS This Motttittg.
The trvo men really did disagree u'ith
"There!
a line you don't lvant to
each other.
"People are uncomcrossj'Flaum explains.
fortable watching real enmiq', real hostiliq',
'Yott
real anger.Every once in a while I d say,
Let's
do
know what? That was unpleasant.
heat."'
it again with a little less
As their careers blossomed, their economic interests converged, and they realized they needed each other. The hostility
"It
was just
became more feigned than real.
"They were
sport," says Larry Dieckhaus.
like people fencing or sparring; they actual-
A LTFE IN ItrOV]ES
(continued {ront Page 12o)
mer editor of the Srrrr-Tinles.saysthe r''vo
Canadian businessmen did not return
"Conrad
and David had no
Ebert's affections.
taste at all for his Guild s1'mpathies-especially since they lr,ere paying him so well,"
"Neither trusted him and rvould
sa1'sWade.
have replaced him with someone cheaper if
they had thought they couldi'
MOONSTRUCK
In 1985, Ebert hired a friend, Sally Sinden,
the unmarried mother of a baby son, to
watch over the renovation of his recently
purchased three-story Victorian house at
2114,North Cleveland Avenue. Although
she was younger than Ebert, she describes
"alrvayslike the big sister."The
herself as
house itself wasn't the only thing that
needed renovating. When Ebert returned
liom trips, he rvould dump the contents
of his suitcaseson a long Victorian fainting couch in his bedroorn. The pile crept
higher as he bought new underwear,
socks, and other staples, wore then, and
tossedthen-ron top.
Sinden took it upon herself to unpack
his suitcasesand r'vashand put away his
clothes. She organized another mountain,
t h i s o n e c o m p o s e d o f P a P e r s ,b o o k s ,
"He
was like this
records, and magazines.
brilliant absent-minded professor,"she
says.Then she tackled his refrigerator.
"There were things in
[there] that were
just scaryl-'She starled doing his grocery
shopping, paying his bills, feeding his cats,
taking phone calls, making travel anangements, and transcribing taPes.
Sinden transformed the job into that of
a firll-tirnepersoualassistantto a man who
appeared to be a confirmed bachelor. Still,
f iends knew he was aching to find someone; that as busy as he was, he was lonely,
especially when he was traveling. He said
often that what he adrnired most about
Gene Siskel was his devoted marriage and
his obvious love for his wife and children.
Ebert's mother, Anr-rabel,presented
"She
didn't want
something of an obstacle.
rne to marry a divorced woman with three
kids,"Ebert says.Friends believethe thought
of her son taking responsibilig' for another
man's children bothered her most-more
even than defying the teachings of the
Catholic Church. For a short time, Ebert
dated an Israeli woman, whom Annabel
"The girl was Jewish,"Ebert says,'but
liked.
that wasn't a problem becauseshe was single" and childless.
At parties in Chicago, recalls Ebert's
1 2 4 c r r c A G oD E c E I \ 42BoEoR5
"Annabel l'as alrvays
friend Regan Burke,
'Do
you
pulling us aside and whispering,
think Roger will ever get married? Do yott
think he'sever going to lose weight?"'
"After
the funeral, he better get his ttxeone fi:iend used to joke, meaning
ready,"
do
that Ebert would not get married until his
mother died.
She died in 1987 and, a year iater, Ebert
met an attorney, a strikingly attractive
"Chaz" HarnAfrican American, Charlie
mel-Smith, a divorced mother of two. The
marriage proposal, Chaz recalls, came during the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo while
they were sitting outside eating ice cream'
She does not remember if she said yes im-
mediately. They were married in July 1992
at the Fourth Presbyterian Church; the reception was held at the Drake hotel, across
MichiganAvenue. Regan Burke describesit
"something
out of a Merchant/Ivory
as
-the
was filled with white lilies;
room
film
the chairs were covered in white. Among
the guests were Eppie Lederer (a.k.a. Ann
Landers), Mike Royko, and Russ Meyer.
Roger was 50; Chaz, in her early 4,os (she
will not specify her age).
"I'll
never be lonely again," Roger said,
toasting Chaz at the reception. When he u'as
sick with cancer, she was at his side. Last
summer at the ChicagoCultural Center dur'ing Roger Ebert Day in Chicago,when Chiu
paid tribute to her husband from tl.re stage.
he rose from his front-row seat, with his
arms ertended, asifto hug his wife of 13years.
The second youngest of nine children,
Chaz Hamrnel grew up on the Near West
Side ofChicago and graduated from Crane
High School. Her late father worked in
the stoclTards and, after they closed, drove
"Big
a taxi. Her late mother, nicknamed
Mama," was a spiritualist minister and a
Democratic precinct captain. Chaz eloped
"very
early," she says. She graduated from
the University of Dubuque in 1973 and
earned a law degreefrom DePaul.Admitted
to the bar in1977, she describesher career
as having been a mir of private and public
practice, including environmental and civil
rights litigation and work as a trial lawyer
for the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. After her marriage to Ebert
she stopped practicing law and gaveup her
license. Today she holds the title of vice
president of The Ebert ComPanY.
Chaz likes to write and would like to
write for publication. But she recalls once
going to their Michigan house with Roger
and putting their computers back to back
"flying
in the upstairs study. Roger'sfingers
"I
across"the keyboard distracted her. got
"I
so frustratedj' she says, wanted to take
his computer and throw it out the window."
An enthusiasticDemocrat.shesupported Bill Clinton, volunteered in both the
Gore and Kerry campaigns, and has organized two fundraisers for Hillary Clinton.
Friends saythat Chaztakes care ofEbert
'1ess
boisand has made him, McHugh says,
terous, not asbig a party animal." Joe Ante"saving Roger's life belo credits her with
causeshe got him offthe junk food; he was
the world's worst eateri' (Pre-Chazhe would
diet all day, then eat a Tombstone pizza and
ice creamjust before going to bed.) Chaz admits that she has gained significant weight
"I
was small when
since their marriage.
saYs.
got
togetherj'she
I
and
Roger
She has also given this only child whose
close relatives, including his beloved Aunt
Martha. are all dead a ready-made familya
Chaz'sson and daughter and four grandchil- *
"He
is so gratefirl to have a familyj'says
dren.
MarshaJordan, his producer aIWIS-TV (for
which he reviews and reports regularly)'
"This woman came along at a time when she
brought exactly what he needed." He and
Chaz often take the children and grandchil- ;
dlen on long Europeanvacations:recently
they sailed on abarge in France.
S o m e o l d f r i e n d s , i n c l u d i n g m a n Yo f
Ebert's former drinking buddies, do not see
n.ruchof him these days and, when they do, it
).l
R
l'r
ti
f
h
F
it
tl
tt
b
l
a
I
(
I
I
I
I
a
is usually when Chaz is away. The Fourth of
July parties at the house in Michigan have
stopped. Regan Burke reminisces about how
"invite
Roger would
all kinds of misfits to
parties on the weekends in the summer, so
they could enjoy something they d never otherwise be able to enjoy, and then Chaz takes
him out ofthat." Ebert counters that the
Fourth of July parties, run by Chaz, became
such a'hot ticket" that they grew out ofcontrol and it was time to move on.
An Anglophile since traveling to London
to visit Dan Curley in the mid-r96os, Ebert
once favored ratty corduroyjackets with elbow patches; now he has a tailor from Hong
Kong who comes every yeax on a U.S. tour
and custom makes his suits. During a meeting with this reporter at the University
Club, Ebert sported a straw hat and English
wingtips and later volunteered that he was
interested in British toiletries.
His beachfront stone mansion in Berrien County, Michigan, resembles an Eng"When
lish country house.
we get there, the
look on Roger's face changes," says Chaz.
"He
absolutely and totally relaxes there in a
way that he doesn't anlnvhere else."Ebert
t 13]'ea'".
t hildren,
icar West
,m Crane
orked in
.ed, drove
"Big
rned
tcr and a
rz eloped
Ltedfrom
1973 and
.\dmitted
:rer career
:rd public
I and civil
ral lawyer
i)ortunity
to Ebert
1\e up her
le ofvice
..d like to
. alls once
ith Roger
k to back
':r's''flying
ltf.
I gol
. d to take
sindow"
r suppolTboth the
riis organ'llnton.
^s{V(for
:gularly).
ri'henshe
He and
:riurdchilrecently
rnany of
io not see
they do, it
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
When Roger and Chaz were house hunting
in the early nineties, Gene Siskel, a maven of
real estate, advised them on which house to
"They
buy.
absolutely cared what each other
thought," Chaz saysof the two old rivals and
"more
colleagues,
than they cared what anyone else thought about anythingJ'
Ebert first realized that Siskel was ill in
early May 1998. In a limousine en route to
Miele 54
Yqcuum series.
:'eof Ebert
'less
bois.loeAntels life be,d: he was
r he would
pizzaand
Chaz adint weight
rall when
rild whose
,red Aunt
..f'amily:'iurdchil.:lilyl'says
and Ingrid found the property shortly before he met Chaz. He paid $600,000 for it
"You've
in 1989.
probably heard that he
likes it better than I doj' Chaz says.But she
made countless suggestions, her husband
recalls, during the almost yearlong renovation. There is no mistaking Chaz'spleasure
in their house in Lincoln Park, for which
'We
they paid $1.85 million in 1992.
found
it together; we decorated it together," she
says. The five-story place is dramatic, with
a stunning atrium that shows offthree large
paintings by the British abstract expressionist Gillian Ayres; there is an elevator,
a l4,-seat screening room, and an exercise
room at the top.
the Rosemont Theatre to tape The Tonight
Showwith Jay I-enq Siskel complained of a
"I
headache. want you to carry the ball," he
"and
told Ebert,
I'll just go along with you."
"He
was obviously in terrific pain," Ebert
recalls. Five days later, Siskel had emergency
surgery to remove a growth on his brain.
TWoweeks later, he was on the show by telephone from his hospital bed, then liom his
apartment. By mid-June he was back at the
studio, and he continued to appear there
until shortly before his death eight months
"Roger
later.
was magnificent," says the
Sun-Tl'mescolumnist Robert Feder,a close
"Gene's
speech and his
{iiend of both men.
performance were a.ffected,but Roger was
somehow able to make it work without diminishing him in the process."
Ebert was at his Michigan house on the
Saturday that Siskel died. The show's executive producer at the time, Stuart Cleland,
"Rog,
you've lost your
called and said,
fiiend." Ebert wrote a tribute for the Sunday
"I
paper. wept when Gene died," he says.
1{nd I miss him all the time."
Richard Schickel, Time magazine's film
critic, was one of manywho wondered aloud
Presentingthe next generotionof Miele
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c H I c A G O D E C E M B E2RO O 5
But not profits, according to several people who claim that the show breaks even at
best and is kept goingby Disneyfor reasons
"This
show doesn't
ofprestige, not profit.
make us any money," a Buena Vista executive told Stuart Cleland.
'I
assume that if it didn't make money it
be on the airj' says Ebert, who adwouldn't
onedid'
he does not know about profits.
mits
that
going,
show
Ebert decided to keep the
to the current ratings, at about
points
He
He
hosts.
parade
ofguest
and so began the
(each
point equals 1.096 million
rating
2.3
includpartners,
38
auditioning
up
ended
television households), better than they
ing David Ansen of Newsweek, Kenneth
Turan of The Los Angeles Times, Jeff have been in five years. Still, the long-term
decline has been dramatic: in 198/, Buena
Greenfield of CNN, the online critics David
Vista drew an audience of eight million; in
Poland and Harry Knowles, and Janet
1999, it claimed e.g million.
Maslin and Elvis Mitchell, both former crit"Who watches the show?" asks the forperone
ics for Tfie NewYork Tr'mes.Only
"Seven
mer Tribune editor Gary Dretzka.
son declined the opportunity: Manohla
people in Nebraska" What he means is that
Dargis, currently of ?ft e New York Times.
the time slots are poor in NewYork (11am.
One morning as they were walking on
on Sunday) and in Los Angeles (6:30 p.m.
their treadmills and watching the Sunon Sunday). Other cities have even worse
Times columnist Richard RoePer on
WFLD's Fox Thing in the Morning, Chaz times, such as 2 a.m. on Sunday in Cincin'But he and I
nati; even in Chicago, the air times on
suggested that Ebert try him.
are not ideal-Saturday at 10:35
WI-S{V
protested.
work for the same paperi' Roger
"So
on Sunday at 1o:3o a.m.
repeated
p.m.
and
Roeper
Ebert
and
what?" Chaz replied.
is out hustling adverifhe
as
Sounding
friends.
personal
not
were
"We got 6'5
a
tising, Ebert told this reporter,
Roeper, now 46, who writes a column
rating in Detroit. On a recent Sunday night
often focused on pop culture, had not
sought the job. When the call came, he says in Boston, we were the top-rated show on
that station from sign-on to sign-off." (Actoday, he thought,'Aone-shot deal, land it]
would be a really fun tape to have forever." cording to a Buena Vista sPokesman,
"There was no instance in the current seaWhen he kept getting asked back, he says,
son where Ebert & Roeper outperformed
he knew he might be tapped.
"Everyone privately sidled up to me and
all other programming during any day in
"There was Boston.") Ebert claims five or six times as
recalls.
guy,"'Ebert
the
said,'He's
many viewers as Fox News's O'Reilly Facan easiness and a rapport and a quickness
for; consistently the highest-rated of cable's
right out of the starting gate." Two other fipolitical screamers. (The spokesman pegs
nalists stayed in the race: Joyce Kulhawik,
the number at almost two times ursmany
an enterlainment reporter for WBZ{V in
viewers.) Today, Ebert & Roeper airs on
Boston, and Michaela Pereira ofZDTYs In2OOstations. Still, not even an optimist like
TV
anchor
temet Tonight, now a morning
Ebert could claim that the numbers are
multiple
appeared
in Los Angeles. Both
how Ebert would ever replace Siskel. They
had an'Xfactor"thatwould make it difficult
for Ebert to find a new parbrer, he said on the
PBS show The News Hour with Jin I'ehrer.
"It's
like Myrna Ioy and William Powell or
Abbott and Cosbello.There are some combinations that simply work And I think that
times, and Buena Vista's then executive vice
president, Mary Kellogg, was in negotiations with Kulhawik. But Ebert insists that
"it
had to be
Disney executives told him that
somebody I wanted to work with," and
Roeper was his first choice.
When Roeper's selection was announced
in July 2ooo, Ebert volunteered that he was
partial to selecting a man because he would
not feel comfortable beating up on a woman
on the air. Given that, critics askwhythere are
"Richard
and I have never
not more sparks.
really been angry with each other in the last
'l'{ow
we go in, we do
five years,"says Ebert.
the show, we have lunch, we plan nert week's
show.There'sbeen five years ofpeacel'
headed in the right direction.
HEAVEN CAN WAIT
Larely,when people seeEbert on television,
some are alarmed by his appearance. In the
past few years, he has dropped about loo
pounds with the assistance of the Pritikin
Longevity Center & Sp4 formerly in Santa
Monica-"Chaz took me there the first time
kicking and screaming," Roger says-and
by adhering to the 1o,Ooo-steps-a-dayprogram. He keeps a pedometer attached to his
waistband and works out with a trainer
three days a week. Gone is the box ofGood
& Plenty that he used to eat during screenings-replaced by a Pritikin sandwich and
, cral peoa.seven at
,r reaSOnS
ri doesn't
'til execu' money it
: rvho ad,rt profits.
at about
rti million
han they
ortg-term
\; Buena
rillion; in
. the for"Seven
.r
1nsis that
\ (ll a.m.
j:jio p.m.
,'n worse
:r Cincinllneson
rLt1O:35
r:jioa.m.
:rg adver,lot a 6.5
,lav nig'ht
.how on
-,rti."(Ackt'sman,
'rcnt sea,,rfbrmed
l day in
trmes els
tillv Fac, ,f cable's
nan pegs
iLSnany
: 2llrson
i nrist like
:lte1g 21aa
Ir'rision,
.' In the
,,rut lOO
Pritikin
.n Santa
:lrst time
,r s-and
lav pro:,,dto his
, trainer
,it'Good
_ scleeni ich and
diet peach Snapple. Between m<x'it's.he
walks around the block.
He is liustrated that people do not believe that the weight losswas deliberate and
hard won; that they think it is relatcclto his
three bouts with cancer-once thl.roid and
twice salivary gland. Repeated surgeries in
the neck and chin are4 alI'ecting the rnuscles, have causedthe left side of his mouth
to droop, and someviewers saythey rvonder
ifhe has had a stroke.
Ebert is certain that he knows the cause
of his cancers-radiation for an ear inf'ection when he was a child. (In the 195Os,radiation was used on children to treat such
common conditions as acne. dandruff. and
tonsillitis.) In December 2oo3, when he
had his second bout ofsalivary gland cancer, he went, for a month, to a state-of-theart neutron radiation facility at the University of Washington in Seattle. His radiologist told him that the dose he was getting
was 1 percent as strong as what he had received as a child. Side effects ofthe treatment included an inability to eat solid food
for four months (he lived on Ensure Plus),
fatigue, insomnia-he read all of Willa
Cather's novels during his wakeful periods-dry mouth, a numb tongue, and a
"I
hoarse voice. never missed a single show
or a single reviewi'he saysproudly, explaining that he watched movies in Seattle and
wrote from his hotel suite.
In March zOO+,Nancy De Los Santos,his
freelance field producer for the Academy
Awards, was impressed that Ebert continued
to cover the event, although alter the red carpetsegmentshejoinedhim and Chazin their
hotel suite, where they watched the show on
"I
television. did wonder then why he needed
"and
maybe it
to do iC'De l-os Santos says,
was to prove to himself that he was OIC'
By the time of the 2oo5 Oscars, she
"running
found herselfwith him
down Hollyrvood Boulevard at 1O:15at night, trying
to find our cameraman."They had to be live
"He
was right there
in Chicago by 10:25.
with me." Celebrities in their gowns and
tuxedos stared at them, De Los Santos recalls, asking, Isn't that Roger Ebert?
"at
An MRI shows no sign of cancer
the
present moment," Ebert says.But he knows
from experience that salivary gland cancer,
slow growing and generally not lethal,
could come back.
Recommended in the Julq ZOtr5
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EASY RIDER
When Ebert and Siskel signed with Disneli
there was no hiding the obvious conllict of
i n f D @f o m D U t E r t e f
hn if idnsErvif
E s -t r o m
nrdintpndnrE
fDntrart'
IA47) B=E-47?l
D E C E M B E2RO O 5 c H l c A G O I 2 7
rv
A LIf E IN MOVIES
rumjnate
.l.I{1.]l).\Y
Someliierrdshaveheardhim
o.REMAINS
to the Englishcountrysideto
signedby." T4r:,
havingtheir paychecks
s 58trrconf'er- aboutmor"rng "t
^.1'1"
colorado
of
theuJ"r.ity
At
At the
neverhear him talking
write a "ouJ'
studiowhosemoviesthey-reviewed.
"rr""oJ*oriaAffairsinBoulder',Ebertantl aboutthatan)'T
norel'saysMarshaJordanof
: r':l
.orutime,theypointedoutthataclauseintheir
"l think he'sjttst too ousy'
..completeindepend- Argy;"",kO th" srn-firrr"rir t..rr
wIS-TV'
a
Tell
to
contractguaranteed
How
entitled
panel
more pro.emuin, in ,rir,, *^o" u
Still''his Anglophilia seems
\r
enceand autonomyi,rnut ciau.e
u"t' otrth" tt'p of
for a time
,w" h"* ;;
talked
" J"k" ;;;t*o mudea $zo
he
a'd
.ec"iued
nouncedthan ever'
;; i"';;
Eberr,scontract.
,"ii
*
"He's
,o
would
Ebert
obsessedl'
his h;,
., orr"",
of buying^a flat in London'
perhapsrr"'r, .i"*""*
single call {iom any _"*0".
photographer'
,b"";;*;;;;ation.
a
Lane'
oirrr"v
u
Jack
or
fiie'rd
g"ih. rr"i
,oyr his
managementaboutany .J"*
"ur,-,"up a few .rr"r,.
d*r',"
firmj,Ebertsayr.
cJlaboration in 1985with
^ferl nndon'"
N o b o d y o f f e r s a n y e v i d e n c e , o n o r o f f t Nack'
h e t hwho
e ' p wa:
ackedauditoriur..H
o v e s wAa l k i n g ; h e l o v e s t h e b o o k s t o r e s
william
treatrecord,that Ebert has given special
'
relishes
we
,"t"*i.lrn" reason
mentto a Disnev
of
of conflicts
havent had any *".rrutiorr.
"is becausenobody's ever
says,
interestj,he
Cleland claims
been able to find onel' Stuart
who makes
that Ebert does not even notice
rep
one
;; d-, il."reens. still,
purist w
he understands why a
Ebertstill
il!:"fl11ff:Tti'X-"""J'*"J
carpet at the Academl
appears' t"-11:i^:::
a commotron w
:a:ses to get his attenti
trying
hows.
"Howdo you,
the conflicthuge.
i
comPanYthat makes movies
theirpay,rollandbeacnticandaj
and cr
How do you write about
that of r
And
movies?
company,s
for sure whelhpetitors? How can you say
th"
.o-"trrlrrg
er you would huu" ,#
the
/k-a "harming guide-to
,rite spots, replete with ]iteraV
shortal references. Curley died
would
,oot opp"ur"d, but Ebert
: something like it again'
,i*ilj
your date?,, Ebert
Foxj'she said.
,,What
o"""o *"u-
trtt'"a""^tp"i:w"u'
,"" tt-," 61"'urr;' noa,r, to
yoo irtioi.,".
"r ",. vi"i* e.
asked.
the
ridsomething
sameway?"
i t
He has taught
-u, in the continuing-educaof chicago
tton progra;, in" u,rlu"ttiry
was
His nost recent course
i"":.tn9t
voraciously-rereads
Fassbinder at 60' He
Bellow's Ravcent\ Don Quixoteand saul
Bowl (again)'
Golden
Tlte
as
e1st""r,as well
never
He skips episodic television-"I've
*"ffi"ififr:':r*ff'::ieg?Nor-
--)t;il;:'*ttiTfT::"rl;:H"""fi
ffii"Y"1'}3:}iT':*'Tli
"3i*in*:li',;:H;:;:;lq
;:lidlfiJ"lJ;";:fi-*;::"{t',
tti"" '
learrsinge;r"i
",rid"rr"" of urrr"r, a*"r-ith's
a division of Disney,as recent
""#;ttt:;
the
uJ ry*ra daughter,
his independence.
il'" "d;;;;il;;"
"'li' il;;?;;;'
is
Ebert
of
rhe other commoncriticism
arrutr-ri.prott J"ni", trurn',
,,Formy taste, n-"r,'."r,
"sincehisinn".r-*.*".a *
that he is too easyto please.
,k #;;;",,
."" *ia";, *r,
he,sgotthe do". .n"";;;;;
Ebert'seditor ,#'i"tdffit{::t:::::'l*;';'ryt"lit'
David Elliotr. Laura Emerick,
*"i"*' .l"ii, ;;;;
since his careerhe wrote 125
that
thinks
at the sun_Times,
pflfu"ffi'#
i".*:s-1,?fiil;i";r,#:".#l**
that have a renoticed a soft spot tot n-'
such as overcoming alcoU"*naa" ""*
holism or social injustice'
having
Ebert has "o qttul*t about
The
Sandler's
Adam
awarded three stars to
some
admits
he
LongestYard, although
when-he went to Cannes
n""it "t regret "thatwere
really swinging
films
and saw 25
how limited
t"trt^a
i
and
fences,
for the
deadline tributes to
died on July 1' 199
who died the next
moviesa week; wht
sees three times a;
more than 30 bool
in the Showcase I
Timescelebritiesrep
its Roger' Roger' Rt
has heard Ebert
critic for the Daitl Ne.'
"si-ror seventimes evesaythat getspaid
]le
-o"i"' He'svery proud of
vtinllhe 1""'o
print in the
that'" Ebert's reviewsare in
on wLSsrrr. T1nes,on Ebert & Roepe,r'.
and
antrrologies'on his web site'
w' ln
lris universarPresssyndicatethey
throughthe
B':l;""T:i:l;iH:tiiilil".
'';it-$h*Ti:t".};:*"1'i*;:
:'i-T:i:*;*','T":1il'*T,
ltrH{::i:i:J}:}*;i"nngers
oa-uoread Barbaw" reiru
metlmes we
read literature and som"titr'es
ra vine."
"Helikes more mainstream movies than
Reader's
I do," complai"' ;;;li""go
.,I
adds, read
who
Rosenbaum,
Jonathan
lot. His name
French film magazines a
He's like a one-man wrre s(
he pla ns
t'*"at have heard him say"Ithat
*'ould
often
to give up the television show
Ebert
thatj'
like
tJrt" Ut' announcements
films
smaller
the
of
*v., *Jth*
lists yme
audiwide
a
to
brought
has
tilut tt-," show
;;;x:x":::*;tlrf^';:;
*Ti*;ffir';T}$i::ilt**jff:T-"rili *,
r spend
.ii""r""*^.
Ebert
and
critic
a. u "ritic,
himself
scribes
Ebert o#,*ur.i,,,""n:T*ilffit|Oi'*o
public.Ebert
asa critic for the generarpublic'
wouldbeflatte'"0'-*"t"'ut
128
2OO5
CHICAGODECEMBER
memorrs
t has agreecl to write his
becausel'montelevisionj'headds'
o"r" -
hlve n1
ed to sr
explain
says-c
growil
chr'no'ne'r'h'se
wri'ing
the
with
close
il:'!:",",'in
often
that
stories
tt"
togi"aL
en-dofacareer'Heseesseveralchaptersre
I
maininginhis'