A real screen gem

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


It was raining like a scene from “Key Largo.’’

The Blackhawks were down 2-1 and playing Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

And yet more than a dozen people – including a couple of big-time Blackhawk fans, spent their June 10 evening watching a couple of old-time comedies. The Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” and
“Duck Soup” were presented at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn.

CineVerse celebrated its 10th anniversary in early June and the Oak View Center has hosted screenings and discussions about various films on Wednesdays for a decade. Running the show is movie buff Erik J. Martin, who shows the films and then asks the group for input on them.

Almost all of the films are either old or obscure. Black and white, silent and foreign films make up a bulk of the movies shown and discussed.

Martin insists this isn’t some snooty highbrow group, but anyone coming to a meeting hoping for a showing of the super hero movie of the month or sci-fi movies where computer-generated robots destroy each other will probably be disappointed.

“I’m not saying were the cultural conciseness of Oak Lawn,’’ Martin said. “But to the group’s credit, we cater to the tastes of the members. A lot of people show up because they want to be exposed to something they wouldn’t ordinarily rent or watch on TV on their own.’’

Martin is a guy who loves moves and is fascinated enough by them to research them.

“I don’t pride myself on being a know-it-all on this stuff,’’ he said. “I think the majority would agree that one of the great pleasures of CineVerse is discovering stuff that you would have never seen on your own. And it’s important to hear other viewpoints. It’s great to hear what people like and don’t like about a movie. It’s a communal, social experience.

“The crux of it, to me, is that you watch movies all the time, but how often do you really talk about them? That’s what keeps everybody coming back.’’

Hometown’s Brian Hansen and Tom Nesis kicked off the discussion on the Marx Brothers double feature.

While casual film viewers notice the obvious slapstick gags, from Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, people like Hansen and Nesis observed some of the more subtle humor, double entendres and its satire on world events during the 1930s era in which the movies were made.

Martin likes to bring facts about the movie to the table. He examined the Marx Brothers movies of the early 1930s with some of their later works for MGM, in which more music and love-interest storylines were featured.

“This isn’t trivia,” he said. “I try to find out what is contextually interesting. Historically interesting. What’s relevant? What still resonates today? What were the themes? Were there any symbols or repeated patterns? What was the director going for? Why does this movie still hold up today? Or does it not hold up? Those important kinds of questions that I ask.’’

Ten years ago, the group started by watching the Orson Wells’ classic “Citizen Kane.’’ It’s been shown three times in 10 years. Martin remembers spirited debate over D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent movie “Birth of a Nation,’’ which features the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

Coming up in July and August include “Casablanca,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.’’

Martin did have an off-night, in which he snuck in some classically bad films.

 “It fell on April 1 and I told them a week before to show up because I had a special surprise planned,” he said. “I told them they would be watching clips from some of the greatest movies of all time. I told them I put a special package together and we will talk about these.

“We got a pretty good turnout. We hit the lights. I hit ‘play’ and suddenly we started watching ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ skewering ‘Manos the Hands of Fate,’ which is a real bad drive-in horror movie, and ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.’ We tried to get those both in and we just couldn’t take it anymore. We had to turn it off. It was that bad.’’

Films are shown at 7 p.m. at the Oak View Center, 4625 S. 110th St. in Oak Lawn.


OL cops and village sued for ‘shocking misconduct’

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn resident Piotr Niton on June 29 filed an 11-count federal lawsuit against Oak Lawn police officers and the village of Oak Lawn charging excessive force and other civil rights violations.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, on behalf of Niton and his two minor daughters, alleges, among other things, that police used excessive force against him during an arrest on July 27, 2013. He also cites “a ‘code of silence’ in the Oak Lawn Police Department, by which officers fail to report misconduct committed by other officers.”

Oak Lawn Police Chief Michael Murray had no comment on the lawsuit. A representative said last week that the chief never comments on ongoing litigation.

Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen also said the village does not comment on litigation. “Suffice to say, our Oak Lawn police do an outstanding job for our community and are well-trained and respectful of our laws and all citizens’’ Deetjen said in a statement. “Their job is never easy nor uncomplicated in an ever-changing and dynamic society. The Village will vigorously defend itself and the laws they are sworn to uphold.”

 Niton’s attorney, David P. Sterba, of Palos Heights-based Walsh, Fewkes & Sterba, P.C , said, “My client’s constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as Section 1983 of the U.S. Code, have been violated by this shocking police misconduct, pursuant to what is clearly a policy and practice of the Village of Oak Lawn by its Police Department. We look forward to the day when a federal jury sends a clear and unambiguous message to the Village of Oak Lawn – stop this outrageous and lawless behavior by your police officers.”  

Niton is seeking unspecified monetary damages, attorney fees, costs and punitive damages. The complaint also seeks compensatory damages for his two daughters.

According to Niton’s complaint, shortly after midnight on July 27, 2013, he was asleep on his living room couch, and his two young daughters were in their bedrooms when he was “awakened by loud and persistent banging on his front door.”  

He said in the suit that when he opened the door, two uniformed Oak Lawn police officers on his front porch shouted commands at him, questioning him about a hit-and-run accident that occurred earlier that evening, and demanding that he come outside to show them his van. Niton told the officers he had not been driving, and would not leave his home but offered to open his garage door from inside his house to let them inspect his van.

The complaint states that officer Timothy Thomas then “forced his way into Niton’s home and violently shoved Niton backwards” onto the floor, landed on top of him and struck him with his fists and his knees. Officer James Mitchell also allegedly repeatedly and violently struck Niton with his knees. The case also alleges that Thomas and Mitchell beat Niton with steel batons before handcuffing him and leading him out the door.

According to the complaint, Niton’s daughters heard the beating from their bedrooms and the older girl witnessed it.

Niton was arrested and charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery to a police officer, resisting a peace officer and other offenses. A judge found no probable cause and dismissed all counts against Niton at a preliminary hearing on Aug. 21, 2013, but he was later indicted on two felony counts of aggravated battery to a police officer and two counts of resisting a peace officer.

According to a press release, in February 2015, after a four-day trial, a Cook County jury found Niton not guilty of all counts.

A different man was later determined by the police to be the actual driver of the van involved in the hit-and-run crash.

In addition to Thomas and Mitchell, others named as defendants in the pending federal lawsuit are Oak Lawn Police Sgt. David Winston, other unnamed Oak Lawn police officers and the Village of Oak Lawn. The suit alleges use of excessive force; false arrest; false imprisonment; conspiracy; malicious prosecution; failure to intervene; intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges.

Niton, who had spinal surgery after the incident, states in the complaint that he suffered “pain and injury, as well as emotional distress.”


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Welles was larger than life in more ways than one

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

You are old if you remember Orson Welles.

You are ancient if you were around when Orson Welles was a genius. But you are a better person for it.

If Welles was still alive, he would be 100.

Hanging out with Erik Martin and his Oak Lawn-based CineVerse film discussion group and talking about classic movies (see page 1)  jogged my memory about my favorite movie of all time, “Citizen Kane.’’

Some, including Martin, consider it to be the greatest movie ever. CineVerse showed it three times in 10 years.  Welles was the boy genius who starred and directed that film in 1941 and, depending on who you want to believe, wrote some or a lot of the storyline.

Growing up, I didn’t get Welles. At the time he was a fat, old guy who people in the entertainment biz made fun of. He did some wine commercials, popped up on a Dean Martin roast and many talk shows.

His last couple of credits before death in 1985 were not Oscar- or Emmy-worthy. He was the voice of the planet-eating robot named Unicron in the movie “Transformers: The Movie’’ and he was the voice in a “Moonlighting” episode on TV. Remember “Moonlighting”? That was when Bruce Willis did TV. And had hair!

When I was in college, I was home on a Saturday night and “Citizen Kane” was being shown at 10:30 p.m. My attitude was “OK, Kane, you are supposed to be the greatest movie of all time – impress me.’’

The stars were aligned for me to not enjoy the greatest movie of all time. I was watching on a 19-inch TV with rabbit ears. Channel 7 showed way too many commercials.

And I loved it.

It’s the story of the fictional newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane (allegedly based on William Randolph Hearst) from the innocence of his childhood to his rise as an idealistic newspaperman to his later years as a disagreeable old man.  The lights, shadows and camera-angle styles used in that film are still used in films today.

Welles was masterful as a young, middle aged and old Kane.

I thought it was going to be overrated but I was blown away by the movie.

Then I found out Welles was just  25 when he created the masterpiece. All of a sudden, the fat wine salesman people enjoyed spoofing was someone worthy of respect in my world.

Even earlier in his career, he was the brainchild of the radio broadcast “War of the Worlds” which was a fictional account of alien invasions and it was so realistic-sounding that people all over the country panicked.  Frightened folks called radio stations and newspapers all across the nation wanting to know what the heck was happening to their planet.

The first quarter century of Welles’ life was simply amazing.

The rest was a mixture of hits and misses but nothing could compare with the work his first work of art –“Citizen Kane.’’

For those of you youngsters who think that black and white movies are not worth your time and know Kane as a Blackhawks star or a WWE wrestler, I would point out that alt-group the White Stripes have a song called “The Union Forever” in which the lyrics are based on Kane.

A few hard rock/punk groups have emerged that called themselves Citizen Kane have popped up and a prog-rock group called Citizen Cain so the movie has some influence in the guitar group world.

The “Orson” character in “Mork and Mindy” was in homage to Welles, even if fat jokes were a part of the bit. “The Simpsons” parodied Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcasts. I don’t know if the town Orson, Indiana in “The Middle” has to do with Welles, but it wouldn’t surprise me. 

Kane is probably not for the teen set, but if you are in your 20s or older and haven’t seen it yet, give it a shot. It might not make it to No. 1 on your list there is so much to the movie to enjoy.

And just remember, the guy who made the magic of this great film was just 25.

'Selfish' motivation turns to Irish language school

  • Written by Dermot Connolly





 Photo by Dermot Connolly

Luanne Baldwin, Shannon O'Brien and teacher Áine McGillycuddy are involved in Irish language classes offered at Gaelic Park.


What began last summer with the coincidental blog post seeking Irish language classes at the same time that an Irish teacher was starting a new life in Oak Lawn, has grown into a language school, complete with drawing students from the Southwest Chicago area.

 “It was purely selfish,” said Shannon O’Brien with a laugh.

She posted her request last June for an Irish teacher on a Facebook page for mothers in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, where she lives.

“I had been trying for years to get Irish language classes at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest, because it is too hard for people here to get to those held on the North Side, at the Irish-American Heritage Center,’’ she said and added finding qualified teachers was difficult.\

But not impossible.

Her search ended when a mutual friend saw her post and contacted Áine McGillycuddy, an Irish teacher who had recently moved to Oak Lawn with her partner, Kati Whittingham, and their infant daughter, Saoirse (which means “freedom” in Irish).  Whittingham, from Orland Park, starred on Mother McAuley High School’s 1991 state champion basketball team and is now a guidance counselor in Community School District 218.

The couple met 10 years ago when McGillycuddy spent a summer here playing Gaelic football for the St. Brigid’s team based at Gaelic Park

With a degree in Irish and economics from University College Dublin, McGillycuddy has 15 years of experience teaching Irish (sometimes called Gaelic) and other subjects at her alma mater, Coláiste Ráithín, in Bray, County Wicklow. She explained that the high school is a “gaelscoil” where all subjects are taught through the language known as Gaeilge in Irish.

Although Irish is the first official language of Ireland, English is the everyday language in most parts of the country. McGillycuddy said that while Irish wasn’t her first language, she and her four older brothers became fluent in it.  

Now a stay-at-home mom, McGillycuddy said she liked the idea of teaching evening classes, but credits O’Brien with setting them up. “We didn’t have a clue at the beginning about how much to charge, or how many students should be in the classes,” she said. But they worked it out, and O’Brien is now affectionately known as “the principal” of the school.

Weekly classes started last fall, drawing students from age 13 to 80, and continued into the spring for beginners and intermediate levels. They will start again in the fall. In addition to Oak Lawn and Oak Forest, and Chicago neighborhoods such as Clearing, Morgan Park, Beverly and Mt. Greenwood, students also come from more distant suburbs such as Homewood and Clarendon Hills.

Her former students in Ireland were challenged to come up with a name and slogan for the new language school, and the winning name was Gaeilago, combining Gaeilge and Chicago. Another won for the motto, “Sharing Our Language Across the Waves.”

Gaeilago students and others are invited to an “immersion weekend” at Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St. from July 17-19, where they can speak Irish all weekend. The immersion weekend will include informal classes in language, culture and history led by McGillycuddy and her brother and sister-in-law, both teachers in Ireland, along with plenty of socializing.

Group breakfasts are also held one Saturday a month at Jack Desmond’s restaurant in Chicago Ridge.

McGillycuddy has an easygoing way of teaching, encouraging students to speak as much Irish as possible, without worrying about mistakes.

“I guess I’m proof that immersion works,” she said, laughing about her early days as a 12-year-old at her gaelscoil, learning everything through Irish and not understanding much for the first few months.

“I caught on eventually,” she said.

 McGillycuddy’s students give various reasons for learning Irish.  

Most have family connections in Ireland, and want to get to know the culture as much as possible. O’Brien, who grew up in Maine and was named after the largest river in Ireland, once planned to move there. Clearing resident Luanne Baldwin, whose grandmother came from County Roscommon, said she enjoys learning languages. She said one basic Irish class she took at Daley College years ago piqued her interest.

“It is easier than Finnish,” she said.  

The classes also draw people like John Murray, who was born in County Mayo but had to immigrate with his family before he got to learn much of the language in school.

“It is up to us and the younger generations to keep the language alive,” said Murray, who is now learning it alongside his son, Martin, 13. A younger son might be joining the class in the fall.

"It has been such a positive experience right from the beginning. I have been amazed by Americans’ enthusiasm to learn Irish. I have so many years of experience teaching at home and to see such interest here has been so encouraging. When moving here last June, never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have a school established so quickly. Shannon’s willingness to do so much administrative work in the early stages was a great help,” said McGillycuddy. “Hopefully the interest and the classes will continue to grow. Ní neart go cur le chéile (There is no strength without unity)."

More information about the classes and the immersion weekend may be obtained by contacting Shannon O’Brien at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



Like em' or not, weather forecasters deserve credit

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col ImpressionsHere is a shout out to the people most people want to shout curses at.
The weather forecasters.
People get mad at these men and women when they give forecasts for bad weather. People get mad at them for being wrong. People say they don’t know what they are talking about.
Yet, we all go back to these meteorological mavens to find out what it’s going to do tomorrow night or next weekend.
Because they are usually more right than wrong.
It’s been a crazy spring in our area – crazier than usual.
One day, we are in shorts and sweating and the next day is sweatshirt weather. Teeth can be heard chattering in late June for goodness sake. How can you get a handle on that?
We’ve had thunder storm warnings, hail warnings, flood warnings, tornado warnings andDR-Page-3-Coghlan-with-JV-COLChris Coghlan played six straight games with the Cubs before visiting kids at Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and surprisingly became baseball’s Iron Man with 128 straight games in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva. just about every other warning short of “Careful with that axe, Eugene.”
So far, our area hasn’t suffered much.
Coal City, however, was ravaged June 22 by a tornado that is being called the worst one in the area since Plainfield’s 1990 disaster. Thanks to all of the early weather warnings and sirens going off there were thankfully no deaths.
We can give the forecasters a little credit for that, can’t we?
I’ve heard the argument “Geez, they have millions of dollars of equipment and radar – why can’t they get it right?’’
My answer to that is that even the radar isn’t infallible.
Once I was covering a baseball game in Miami and it was delayed by a huge rainstorm. I checked the radar to see how long this bad boy was going to last and the radar showed nothing! My computer said it was sunny. A look out the window showed otherwise.
I equate predicting weather with doing all the research in the world but in the end, it’s like putting a playing card on the table and guessing if it’s an odd number, even number, picture card or joker.
Speaking of jokes, I once heard this one, and it sums up forecasters pretty well: The most honest answer to “What’s the weather going to be?” is “I don’t know.’’

This rally stunk
The biggest event in the Chicago area in June was the Blackhawks celebration June 18 through the streets of downtown and Soldier Field.
Were there millions of people or hundreds of thousands? Believe what you want, but there were a lot.
I’m a little too old for that stuff. During the Bulls run, I was assigned to cover the rally of their fourth NBA championship at Grant Park. I was actually paid to be there, so I shouldn’t whine.
But I’ll whine.
I was told I would be in the media area and I thought that would be great. I would be up close to the action. I didn’t think I would be on the stage, but I thought I would be close to it.
We were an afterthought so far back that we couldn’t see or hear the players very well. Someone would say something that was funny and thousands would laugh and we had no idea what they were saying.
While I couldn’t see or hear very well, I could smell just fine. They put us next so some police horses and one of them must have had a really bad meal the night before.
It was really a horse(bleep) assignment in more ways than one.

Professor Fife and giraffes
On a smaller, bigger scale, I was sad I had to miss World Giraffe Day at Brookfield Zoo in June.
Ever since I was a kid, the giraffe has been my favorite animal at the zoo. A couple of times I was able to feed a giraffe and their slimy purple tongue are kind of gross but I still like them. My family gave me a Father’s Day card with a giraffe on it a few weeks ago.
So I missed an opportunity to join Potoka, a Brookfield Zoo giraffe, to celebrate his second birthday. I was denied the chance to party with him and learn about how these tall animals’ status is threatened and how to protect them and their environment.
Potoka was given a special birthday cake made from his usual diet of fruits and vegetables and guests sang “Happy Birthday” to him.   
I doubt in any of the informational presentations of giraffes, the zoo will have any theories from Barney Fife.
The fictional deputy on the “Andy Griffith Show’’ was trying to soothe young Opie Taylor’s fears about a pack of dogs who were out in the rain. Professor Fife said that dogs look after each other. Not so with giraffes.
“Now if they was giraffes they’d have been hit [by lightning] by now, but dogs are short and they take care of their own. Giraffes don’t. No, giraffes don’t at all. Boy, giraffes are selfish, just run around looking out for No. 1.’’

I am Iron Man!
Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan visited sick kids in at Advocate Children’s Hospital Oak Lawn last Aug. 29 and then went to Wrigley Field to go to work.
He didn’t start that night but he managed to sneak in a pinch-hitting appearance after that game he had played seven games in a row for the North Siders.
Who knew on June 18, his 30th birthday, he would become baseball’s Iron Man?
OK, he would have a long way to go before catching Cal Ripken’s seemingly impossible streak of 2,632 consecutive games streak, but on that night, he played his 128th straight game while Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman had a 234-game streak halted because of a wrist injury and Seattle’s Kyle Seager had a 192-game streak snapped because he fell ill.
Coghlan was next on the list and moved up to the front of the line.
See, good things can happen to you when you come to one of our hospitals and hang out with the kids.