WBEZ | Ebert http://www.wbez.org/tags/ebert Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Where was Roger Ebert at 25? http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/where-was-roger-ebert-25-106487 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ebert 25 final.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When we started brainstorming for the Year 25 series, Roger Ebert was one of the first names that came to mind. What was the life of a to-be Pulitzer prize-winning film critic like during the intense twenty-something years? We had to find out.</p><p dir="ltr">I reached out to Roger Ebert via email in January, before the series even started, asking if he&rsquo;d pen an essay for our website. He responded immediately, saying thanks for thinking of him but, &ldquo;Only time to write for myself.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">This was right around the time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/film/roger-ebert-cutting-back-workload-after-cancer-returns-106443">as we&rsquo;ve recently learned</a>, that Ebert was in and out of the hospital for radiation treatments to tackle the return of his cancer. He wrote Wednesday in his online blog that he&rsquo;d be taking a <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/04/a_leave_of_presense.html">&ldquo;leave of presence</a>&rdquo; &mdash; essentially cutting back on writing reviews, working on a bigger and better website, and possibly writing about his illness.</p><p dir="ltr">Sadly, Roger Ebert lost his battle with cancer <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/17320958-761/roger-ebert-dies-at-70-after-battle-with-cancer.html">Thursday</a> at the age of 70.</p><p dir="ltr">In his email to me in January, he graciously allowed WBEZ to excerpt from his memoir, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Life-Itself-Memoir-Roger-Ebert/dp/0446584967">Life Itself</a>&nbsp;and gave us insight into his life at 25.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My 25th year was the beginning of my 1967 term as film critic here,&rdquo; he wrote in the email.</p><p dir="ltr">How about that.</p><p dir="ltr">A little context: Before he turned 25 in June of 1967, Ebert was accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Chicago and needed a job. He ended up getting an interview with the city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.</p><p dir="ltr">Ebert&rsquo;s description of the Sun-Times in those days is epic.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I arrived in Chicago one morning on the Panama and walked up Wabash Avenue to the Sun-Times/Daily News Building, which looked like a snub-nosed ship on the banks of the Chicago River. A boat was moored at its dock, and a crane was offloading huge rolls of newsprint.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">He got a job on the spot - he&rsquo;d start working under the Sunday magazine editor.</p><p dir="ltr">Ebert writes of the newsroom camaraderie and the ways he tried to work his 25-year-old-cub reporter self into the fabric of the newsroom.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I knew I lacked authenticity in this company. I was young and unseasoned, but I discovered there&rsquo;s nothing like drinking with the crowd to make you a member. I copied the idealism and cynicism of the reporters I met at Riccardo&rsquo;s and around the corner at the downscale but equally famous Billy Goat&rsquo;s.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">[See my chat with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25-0/year-25-rick-kogan-105329">Rick Kogan</a> for more on that subject...]</p><p dir="ltr">Now remember: The year was 1967. That Sun-Times/Daily News building was full of experienced journalists, including Mike Royko. Ebert writes of one memorable moment where he and Royko shared a drink on New Year&rsquo;s Day in an &ldquo;eye-opener&rdquo; bar by the L tracks.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I sipped the brandy, and a warm glow filled my stomach. It may have been the first straight shot of anything I&rsquo;d ever tasted. I&rsquo;d been in Chicago four months and I was sitting under the L tracks with Mike Royko in the eye-opener place. I was a newspaperman.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Then in March of 1967, the feature editor at the time told Ebert he&rsquo;d be Sun-Times&#39; film critic. Ebert writes that this &ldquo;came without warning,&rdquo; though he&rsquo;d written a few pieces on the movies here and there. He decided to drop his classes at the University of Chicago and focus solely on writing.</p><p dir="ltr">Interesting fact about 20-something Roger Ebert: Being a movie critic was not his career goal at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If I had one at all, it was to become a columnist like Royko,&rdquo; he writes. &ldquo;Now I had a title, my photo in the paper, and a twenty-five dollar a week raise.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And that&rsquo;s where it all began.</p><p dir="ltr">Ebert says he got a lot of attention from the start for being such a young film critic. You can read some of the reviews he wrote <a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041215/COMMENTARY/41215001/1023">here </a>- Ebert keeps an archive of his writings on his website RogerEbert.com.</p><p dir="ltr">In his memoir, Ebert writes at length about the movie scene in Chicago at the time: How it was centered in the Loop, how new movies opened on Fridays...</p><p dir="ltr">Here&rsquo;s my favorite detail: &ldquo;The Clark [Theatre] offered a $2.95 special: a double feature, a three-course meal at the Chinese restaurant next door, and free parking.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Not a bad deal.</p><p dir="ltr">He also mentions the movie stars who would come through town, and what it was like to be interviewing them.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I was by then twenty-five years old, naive for my age, inexperienced, but representing an important newspaper, so the stars and directors were kind to me. It was so new to me that I took it very seriously indeed&mdash;not just my job, but their fame and glamour.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There&rsquo;s all sorts of great anecdotes in<em> Life Itself</em> from Roger Ebert&rsquo;s 25th year and beyond, but I&rsquo;ll leave you with this excerpt, which seems to sum up his 25th year pretty well.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a honey of a job to have at that age. I had no office hours; it was understood that I would see the movies and meet the deadlines. I loved getting up from my desk and announcing, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to the movies.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 13:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/where-was-roger-ebert-25-106487