Save the spindle - an update
Judy Baar Topinka, our one-time State Treasurer, Chairwoman of the Illinois Republican Party, and failed candidate for governor must have a hell of a lot of time on her hands these days. Never one to leave well enough alone, she's added art criticism to her formidable list of talents.
In The Chicago Tribune, 3 August 2007, she launched a rather blunt and ad hominem attack on Berwyn's Spindle and it's late owner, David Bermant.
Berwyn is a west suburban treasure.
It has solid bungalows and beautiful Victorian homes. It is great for commuting because of the Metra and its location between two major expressways. It has great ethnic restaurants. And finally, it has good, community-oriented citizens.
No argument there. Its main business thoroughfare on Cermak is no more hideous than 100s of Midwestern cities "beautified" by suburban sprawl.
But what is it known for? It is the "Burrrrr-wyn" of "Svengoolie," and the site of a vertical, auto graveyard known as "Spindle."
Rick Koz, who plays Svengoolie, not only hails from Berwyn but has kept his one job longer than any eve held by Judy.
Yes, the "Spindle" did put Berwyn into the movie "Wayne's World." But no other community is bucking to be in something as spoof-oriented and goofy as that film. You don't see Hinsdale or Bolingbrook or Riverside seeking something like the "Spindle" to get notoriety. No community of standing wants to be known for having something better placed in a used-car lot.
Nor do any of them have as much public art as humble Berwyn.
Yes, tourists come with cameras and pose in front of the stack of deteriorating cars. These photos are probably sent to homes around the world. And what is the message? That Berwyn prides itself on having a pile of junk cars as its claim to fame. How disrespectful of all that is good and worthy in Berwyn to shout about.
As they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity - Judy's gubernatorial campaign is proof of that.
In my days as a reporter and as an Illinois legislator, I received numerous complaints about the "Spindle" and some of the other alleged works of art at Cermak Plaza. People recognized that the "Spindle" was just plain junk. But it was not as bad as "Big Bil-Bored." That piece of expensive garbage, facing busy Harlem Avenue, was a three-story concrete pork-chop-shaped "sculpture" with pieces of landfill trash stuck into it. What a commentary it and the "Spindle" were about Berwyn, sort of a one-two punch.
Judy definitely has a bee in her bonnet when it comes to David. He was the developer who commissioned both the Spindle and the Pork-Chop. Back in 1980, Judy took on the pork-chop in much the same way. Her op-ed piece which galvanized the opposition to David, eventually forced him to replace it with this... Tempus Fugit.
I spoke to David Bermant, the now-deceased owner of the plaza, when these "works of art" first started appearing there. I noted that there were complaints, especially that the artworks encouraged bird droppings and provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes. An elderly, rather acerbic gentleman, Bermant was not put off by the complaints or my comments. In fact, he said I was representative of the "rednecks" who inhabited the area. If anything, he was going to show us what good art was. He was going to "educate" us, if you will, to appreciate art.
It's more than odd to me that Judy chooses to attack David who was successful businessman and lifelong Republican. Although he did have the unfortunate trait of talking like an intellectual: ..."the art of our day that incorporates time, or movement, motion, change, is the most vital of all the arts being created. It is the art of our time which will endure."
There was no way to get at the junk legally since it was on private property, and I certainly did not want to limit what people could put on their lawns. And so, the "Spindle," "Big Bil-Bored" and other assorted alleged artworks plagued Cermak Plaza until they fell apart on their own or were removed when plaza ownership changed.
Ah, that damn, pesky 14th Amendment to the US Constituion: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property..."
The "Spindle" is all that is left, eight cars shish kebabed one on top of another as they rust and rot.
You go girl! What will you do when you have no more crusades?
Walgreens wants to put a drugstore on the spot, giving the cars their just reward -- a spot in the auto graveyard where they can disintegrate out of public view.
And where do you think that junk yard is?
Sure, the "Spindle" has its supporters, and they are circulating a petition to save it in some way. But to what end? The cars are old and falling apart. Where would the "Spindle" go? Remain at the plaza? Be relocated to the front yard of a school or by the south Berwyn train depot? Do we really want this thing?
The "Spindle" was a pipe dream of a gentleman who felt he could impose his taste in art on others. All he did was to trivialize a great community like Berwyn.
Is this really about the art or the man who didn't give a damn about petty politicians and bourgeois suburban tastes.
Berwyn deserves better.
It certainly, certainly does...