Our new columnist once made national news for a few days by pissing off comedian Jackie Mason.
That makes him OK in my book. I don’t think Jackie Mason is all that funny.
Anyway, last week we started running a column called “The Grapevine” by Ray Hanania. He is a guy who will probably make you laugh one week and could make you r face turn purple and make you want to tear up your newspaper in a million pieces if you disagree with him. But you will love this guy to death if you agree with him.
Hanania is a man of many hats. He was once a hotshot young reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. Since then, he has worked as a comedian, written books, hosted radio shows, has become a public relations voice of the town of Cicero and the Orland Fire Protection District and still keeps his hands in the column writing game.
He has also done some unforgivable sins in battling anonymous dopes on message boards over the years. I think that’s a bad move for a guy in public relations, but this is what makes him interesting. He spits in the face of convention. It’s just Ray being Ray, you might say.
Back in 2002, he was scheduled to be the warmup act for Mason at Zanies in Chicago but Mason didn’t want an Arab-American Palestinian to share the same bill.
“It's not exactly like he's just an Arab-American,'' Mason’s manager, Jyll Rosenfeld said in the Sun-Times back then. ''This guy's a Palestinian. We were not told about it ahead of time. Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now it's a very sensitive thing. It's just not a good idea.''
Mason tried to put out the fire by issuing a statement saying that he ''didn't fire anybody, nor have I ever refused to perform with anyone. The manager at Zanies canceled the person after being inundated with calls. (Hanania) apparently sought to exploit the tragic situation in the Middle East with the hope of enhancing his own reputation. We received calls from Jews who were sensitive to his publicity. I am also sure that Palestinians likewise would have been offended.''
So welcome to the Reporter, Ray.
Hanania joins a pretty interesting roster of local columnists with various backgrounds and experiences.
It would be impossible for us to get all nine of our opinion writers in one room for one night, but it could even happen, the stories that would come of out that gathering would be stupendous. And that would be before the booze arrives. After a couple of drinks…Wow!
So the current lineup features:
Bob Rakow and myself: For most of his columns, Bob writes from the heart. For most of my columns, I write from the funny bone. But both of us have written on a variety of topics, from the silly to the serious to the surreal and it’s hard to pin us down on just one style.
Ken Karrson: The man who writes the award-winning Bartosh column in sports usually writes about a national issue or trend with a mix of outrage and humor. Since I compile the Retro section for page 4, I will see some of his vintage columns and with roar with laughter over a line he wrote a quarter of a century ago.
Dee Woods: Even though she’s living in Arizona now, we find that the former Worth resident is worth keeping because of her columns on alternative medicine. Sometimes I don’t know what in the heck she is talking about, naming drugs and medical conditions that have about 13 syllables. But she has a loyal following and when I do understand what she’s writing, it’s a fun read.
Anthony Scarano: The ageless wonder from Evergreen Park writes about wine and while he doesn’t write new stuff anymore, his “best of” material is still strong – like aged wine. Recently, while doing the Retro section, I found out he was a musician and songwriter, too. A man of many talents.
Don C. White: Another ageless wonder from Palos Hills, this gentleman knows his history, especially when it comes to the Civil War and presidents. Once in a while, he’ll take on some modern issues in his self-appointed role as “skeptic.’’ One of my favorite moments in the office is when Don C. brought former Reporter editor a Ghost Pepper (one of the hottest known to man) and Jason had a taste of it. Great hilarity.
Claudia Parker: As a reporter, this Evergreen Park resident really knows how to find some of the most inspiring people to grace our front page. As a columnist, she still finds those people but her own stories of triumph and failure are a hoot. Some of her columns could make a reader laugh in one paragraph and cry in another. She writes children’s books but her column-writing ability is nothing to kid about.
Tony Pinto: The movie reviewer in the O and A section is fresh out of college and helps bring the average age of our columnists down to, oh, about 102-years-old. This kid had no published writing experience when he walked into our doors this spring looking for an internship so we weren’t going to throw him to the dogs and have him cover a board meeting right out of the box. So we tried him on movie reviews and he’s been a fine fixture ever since.
Ray Hanania: He’s the new guy, but he’s far from a rookie. He’s been writing columns for the Southwest Herald, our new sister paper, for years and now he’s here to make you laugh and possibly raise your blood pressure.
I don’t know if this is the most talented group of columnists ever assembled but it certainly the most interesting group.