Sure, you could Google the differences between House, Ghetto House, and Juke, but the audio of Leida Villegas describing each is way more fun.
We have to start with Chicago’s house dance community. I used to dance for a lot of the house-dance artists back when I was in high school: Kashmir who is better known as Green Velvet, Dashé, Tin City, Fast Eddie . . . a lot of the house-music artists. Footwork is a style that originated in Chicago out of the house-dance genre, and eventually the music started changing. They termed it ghetto house, then from ghetto house they called it juke…[laughs].
You’re familiar with house, right? Well OK, house—how do we describe house? House is dance music, it just has a [slaps hands] consistent thump that just makes you want to move [laughs]. House is such a free expression. We did of course have to choreograph certain things, anything from little pieces of vogue—you know vogueing—involved in house, lower body movement [snaps]. You know, footwork. We also did jazz movement, my partner and I—my former partner Larry Sims, who is now a celebrity hair stylist [laughs] who works and lives in LA. It’s such a free-spirited dance. You do what you feel —Afrocentric movement. I see a lot of breakers dancing to house. It’s probably, to me, the most free-spirited music. It doesn’t really put you in a box, whereas other genres of music have particular dances that you do to those particular types of music.
The late-forties activist Padraig O’Hara talks fast, ideas and one-liners spewing from the back of his head as if his life depended on them being heard, now. He’s well read, and holds opinions on most political matters from the last two decades. [With apologies to the careful readers among you; this post was intended to follow Tom Shepherd's concluding comments.]
What would you do if Jesus came back to earth?
As you’re aware, unlike the Jews, Muslims believe that he was an important prophet so they would accept him. The Catholics would probably accept him, I’m not sure about the Protestants or the Baptists here, but if he was to return—Ah, I thought he only comes at the end of the world. If he’s just coming for a visit, to do some technical support maybe, I’m not sure he would be safe. I mean, I would think he’d have to expose himself to only a slight few people. I don’t think he should go to the Vatican. I think the last place he should appear should be the Vatican. I think he should appear in Gaza, that’s what I think. I think he should reappear right there.
With a nod to one of my favorite short films of the last decade, The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal, I present a few images from around actual Division Street, Chicago. They speak a bit to changes the city’s gone through since 1967, when Division Street: America was released, the Studs Terkel book (the title was always a metaphor) that this blog revisits.
Joshua and I sat in an empty charter-school cafeteria talking about his career. The only one of my interviewees who preferred to hold the mic in his hand (rather than leaving it on the table), he was clearly at ease with media. “I do music,” he told me. “I’m an entertainer.”
“Will you sing a song for me?” I asked him.
Joshua and I are talking in the lunchroom of Innovations High School, the school he graduated from a few months ago. A ring of lockers lines the large room, and everything echoes. The space is dank, but no one seems to find it depressing. When kids come through, cracking jokes, jostling each other, pushing each other into the lockers in jest—it’s hard to hear the together young man with the large square glasses.
He’s talking about his future.
Lately I’ve been making a lot of pop songs. I want to be an artist, a big artist, a mainstream artist. I’m talking to a lot of big people, but we just talking. I’m still local. I got a lotta local fans. Musically, Chicago is known as known as a hater city. They’ll hate on you before they appreciate you, but it’s slowly opening up ‘cause through the recession, people realized, We all in this together right now. Like, the recession broke everybody down. So you got people that are sad, people that are happy, people that just need to be entertained. One thing you’ll always need, you always need business. You always need entertainment, and you always need your hair done, you always need food. Entertainment is something you need, but I also feel like I have something that’s rare.
Right toward the end of our interview, Tom asked me if I ever met Studs Terkel. I did, I said, one time, just a few months before he died. “He was a great man,” he said. “We really miss having him around.” I agreed, sure, but said I thought a few of his questions might baffle contemporary readers.
For example, Studs asked a lot of his interviewees, what do you think would happen if Jesus came back to earth?
I think I asked somebody that, not too long ago.
Tom starts thinking. We were wrapping up our talk, preparing to move on with our respective days, but now he’s getting into it again. Perhaps it’s the setting, the church in Pullman, or maybe, like Studs, Tom just wanted to know the answer.
You know, what comes to mind is, would people believe that it’s him? About 90 percent of the people, they’d probably call the police. Hey you better come lock this guy up. I would find Jesus quite fascinating to meet. I’m not afraid to talk to hardly anybody, so I would give this guy with long hair and sandals an audience at least, and if he began to preach to me the way that Jesus preached I’d say, That’s a pretty odd fellow [laughs] with an interesting delivery, speaking in parables. OK, let’s see where’s he going and where’s he coming from. Kind of a cool guy.