John Kass gets personal

April 23, 2012

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His column sits prominently in the front of the paper, where the ghost of Mike Royko still hovers from his last gig before he passed away. He rails against the corruption, sweetheart deals, and tomfoolery that’s been the hallmark of city and county government since before Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lantern. Former mayor Richard Daley was perhaps his most popular pincushion, but no official is too large or small to escape his ire. 

I’m talking about John Kass of the Chicago Tribune

He also pulls no punches when it comes to President Obama, current mayor Rahm Emanuel , or the Democratic party in general, both locally or nationally. 

Kass has popularized the term “chumbolone”, a word that nobody is sure is real or made up.  He got it one day during testimony from connected Chicago cop Anthony “Twan” Doyle, while Doyle was on the witness stand.  Kass usually busts out “chumbolone” when referring to the voters in Chicago- the ones who get stuck with the bill when the pols sign off on another no-bid contract.  Or the ones who keep voting in the pols who keep signing off on the no-bid contracts. 

Kass does have a lighter, less political side, and delights in sharing the secrets to his beloved BBQ, especially his famed Beer Can Chicken.

But for all the thousands of words, and the hundreds of subjects he’s tackled over his long career, John Kass rarely opens up about himself.  Where did those famous opinions come from?  How does he decide what’s important-not only to him, but to his readers?  Does he care in the end, what readers think? 

On Monday’s Afternoon Shift, Steve Edwards tries to pry open Kass’ coconut, climb inside, and find out about the man behind the column.