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Post Friday Night Entertainment: "Bolero," "The Murder of Fred Hampton"
Created by John Eipper on 02/28/21 3:25 AM

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Friday Night Entertainment: "Bolero," "The Murder of Fred Hampton" (David Duggan, USA, 02/28/21 3:25 am)

A year ago, my Friday night entertainment was to go to art gallery openings around Chicago. Up-and-coming neighborhoods like Pilsen, River West and Bridgeport were chock full of galleries and attending their opening galas was like going to the Art Institute, but with free wine, cheese, and parking. You may not meet Mrs. Lady Astor there, but you'd find someone interesting to talk to.

Covid killed those days, so I've had to find my Friday night entertainment elsewhere. Much of that time recently has been spent watching a French television series, A French Village, about a fictional village in the Vosges during Nazi occupation, 1940-45. In these pandemic days, I cannot say enough about this series which aired from about 2008-2014, one series of episodes for each year of unpleasantness. While we may think we've got it bad wondering whether to wear a mask while outside doing our chores, at least we don't have to wear stars of David doing so. Nor wonder whether our longtime neighbor will be there in the morning.

This past Friday however presented an embarrassment of entertainment riches. Chicago's hometown ballet company, the Joffrey, premiered a fantastic rendition of Ravel's "Bolero." The company of masked performers, wearing stark black-and-white costumes with no sets on a dimly lit stage, sinuously captured the crescendo-effect of the haunting strains ending in a dysphonic crash. More famously known as the backdrop of Bo Derek's corn-rowed beach romps in the 1979 fantasy 10, Bolero is seduction music on steroids. But until I'd seen this performance I had thought the piece un-choreographable. Too much snare drum and oboe, not enough strings. I was wrong. Here's the link to the performance. It is well worth the 15 minutes you'll spend watching it.


After that I took a diversion down memory lane to watch a documentary, "The Murder of Fred Hampton," produced by WVON, the black radio station in Chicago. In December 1969, a posse of Cook County Sheriff's police and the Chicago Police Department executed a pre-dawn raid on Fred Hampton's west side apartment, killing him and Mark Clark (not the general) with an avalanche of fire from a Thompson submachine gun. Hampton was the head of the Chicago branch of the Black Panther party; Clark was his "minister of security" guarding the apartment when the police broke in. Hampton's pregnant girlfriend escaped the fusillade. I was a freshman in college when this event occurred, a month after Black Panther Bobby Seale had been cited for contempt for his court-room antics in the Chicago Seven federal conspiracy trial then on-going. The documentary is fragmented and lacks a narrative arc (Ken Burns, where are you?), but it was a chilling reminder of the sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of persons of color in Chicago and elsewhere.

Fast forward 25 years from the period depicted in the documentary, and I'm representing a Gangster Disciple in another federal conspiracy trial: this involving narcotics. The Feds had tapped the phone and in-person conversations of the imprisoned GD leader, Larry Hoover, serving a life stretch in state prison for a double homicide. The Feds contended that Hoover, chairman of the GD board, had run a drug empire from behind the walls, using not-yet-incarcerated lieutenants to sell drugs to fuel a political agenda. During these profanity-laced discussions, Hoover said how he had admired Hampton and what he was doing for the community. A Chicago police officer testified as to how the taps were secured. On cross-examination, I asked her how long she'd been on the CPD. She said around 20 years. "So you were not on the force when Fred Hampton was shot in his bed by a squad from the Chicago Police Department?" I asked. The prosecutor's objection was sustained. That was 25 years ago. What has changed since?

JE comments:  I thought teaching in masks was hard enough!  Ballet is not my thing, but you have to admire the Joffrey's pluck in staging a premier in the most trying of times.  Cultural institutions have been under enormous financial pressure during the pandemic.  For survival, the strong ones have learned to monetize their brands in novel ways.  David, how was the ticketing process handled for the Joffrey premier?

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