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Climbing up the charts, er, ladder

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Legendary disc jockey Dick Biondi, page-1-3-col-biondi-2R83, was a guest celebrity at the second Battle in the Burbs event Sunday at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. But before the softball action between area mayors and police/fire chiefs took place, Biondi decided to climb a 60-foot Crestwood Fire Department ladder, which was visible beyond the left field fence. Biondi said his father was a fireman, and the DJ said he always liked heights. He said he once sat on top of the Sears Tower.
Meanwhile the game, which was a benefit for the Illinois Special Olympic, also had its share of high-flying thrills as the chiefs beat the mayors for the second straight year, 19-8. Photos by Jeff Vorva.PAGE-1-2-col-biondi

From running with the devil to... Walking with Jesus

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Harvest Bible pastor admits he was a ‘long

haired, drug using, deceitful drummer’ 

Filled with faith in Jesus Christchurchpage 3cols PastorHall 071714Former “Stoner” Ryan Hall (photo below, with his future wife, Lauren) is now the pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. Top photo by Tim Hadac. Bottom photo submitted.churchpage 2cols longhairedguyandblonde 071714 and pastoring a vibrant, growing church is not something Ryan Hall—or probably anyone who knew him—would have predicted for his future, back when he was a scruffy Palos Hills kid attending Stagg High School.
“I was a stoner--a long-haired, drug using, deceitful drummer in a heavy metal band,” he recalled in a conversation last Sunday morning before services at the new home of Harvest Bible Chapel, 6600 W. 127th St., Palos Heights. “I made trouble, I stole things.”
Raised Roman Catholic, Hall attended religious education classes and received the sacraments at St. Patricia Church in Hickory Hills.
“They did their job in giving me the facts, but my heart was not filled with faith,” Hall remembered about his boyhood. “I didn’t believe what I heard, so to me it was a joke. Even in high school, I viewed religion as a joke. God was a joke, Christians were a joke.
“It wasn’t until I was a freshman at Moraine [Valley Community College] that I was struck to the heart with the reality that I was a sinful man who needs a savior,” he added. “I had known about Jesus, but I had not known what he needed to do for me.”
Shortly after he had found Jesus, Hall met his future wife, Lauren.
“She grew up in Palos Heights,” he said. “As children, we had the same pediatrician, swam at the same pool, but we never actually met until college, when the bass player in my heavy metal Wax Illusions told her about me and got her phone number. He just knew her as a waitress at Country House Restaurant.”
Though their first phone convesation went well and lasted a few hours, others may have seen them as a bit of an odd couple.

Sunday sorrow

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Traffic accident near Quincy and drowning
in a Michigan lake claim two area lives

  Two weekend tragedies within an hour and a half of each other claimed the lives of an Evergreen Park man and a Chicago Ridge woman and left a Chicago Ridge man seriously injured, according to police.

  The first accident occurred Sunday morning on U.S. Hwy. 24 in Camp Point, Ill., a small town outside of Quincy.
  Karin M. Kirchman, 53, of Chicago Ridge, was killed and her husband, Ronald L. Kirchman Jr., also 53, was seriously injured when the Harley-Davidson motorcycle on which they were riding was struck by a car that crossed into the path of the bike, police said.
  Karin Kirchman was a passenger on the motorcycle, driven by her husband, police said.
  The accident occurred shortly after 9 a.m. when a 76-year-old Camp Point woman driving a Chevrolet SUV ran off the road and crossed into the path of the motorcycle, according to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. The woman was charged with improper lane use, according to reports.
  The Kirchman’s were transported to Blessing Hospital in Quincy where Karin Kirchman was pronounced dead at 10:08 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office. Ronald Kirchman remains in serious condition. The driver of the SUV was not seriously injured, police said.
  The accident remains under investigation.
  The second tragedy also occurred Sunday morning when an Evergreen Park man drowned while paddle boarding in a lake in southwestern Michigan, according to reports.
  Vincent Churak, 67, reportedly fell off a paddleboard while on Donnell Lake in Cass County, Mich., at about 10:30 a.m., according to reports.
  Witnesses said Churak appeared to be struggling in the water and called for help. He went under the water by the time people trying to help were able to reach him in the lake, the report added.
  The Cass County Sheriff’s marine division and dive team responded.A dive team eventually found him in the water at 1 p.m., according to reports.
  An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death.

Cass County Undersheriff Richard Behnke said Churak drowned in a section of the lake that is 27-feet deep.
He maintained a house near the lake and was familiar with the water. Family members told authorities that Behnke is a former Naval officer. A life vest later was found on the board, he said.
“Nobody saw exactly how he got off the board,” Behnke said.
Churak’s nephew, Jason Murphy, told WNDU.com that Churak called Donnell Lake his “second home” and members of their group would go off in the water on their own.
“Sometimes he’ll go out on a canoe or on a paddleboard,” Murphy said. “We don’t keep tabs on Vince. He did his own thing and and went under the radar. That’s why no one was worried when he was out for two hours because it was a frequent occurance.
“We’re still waiting to see what happened and if it was a medical condition or what.”

Ramones produced fun music through all the turmoil

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col ImpressionsThe final pinhead has passed.
Erdelyi Tamas, more famously known as Tommy Ramone, died of cancer at age 65 Friday and was the last surviving original member of my favorite rock group – the Ramones.
(For the record, the group was called Ramones and not “the Ramones’ but it’s easier to just call them the Ramones).
I’ve loved this New Yawk group for close to 40 years when I first heard the song “Judy Is a Punk” in the late 1970s on something called Triad radio, which was located somewhere on the right on the FM dial in Chicago. At the time, Triad played artists no one else on radio was playing and that included this struggling, rarely heard dude named Jimmy Buffett.
The Ramones were like nothing I had ever heard before. They came up with fast and melodic assaults that were so brilliant that their first three albums were clones of each other but each one got progressively better. “Rocket to Russia” contains my favorite song of all-time, “Rockaway Beach’’ but also had gems such as covers “Do Ya Wanna Dance” and “Surfin Bird” plus original classics “Cretin Hop,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,’’ and “Teenage Lobotomy.”
The Sex Pistols were called the Beatles of punk rock and I thought the Ramones were the Beach Boys of that genre.
On stage, the group was pretty basic. Joey Ramone was the human totem pole rarely moving from the mic stand with his long hair spilling into his sunglasses. To his left (and our right) was bass player Dee Dee Ramone, who was jumping up and down like he stuck his finger in a light socket. To Joey’s right (and our left) was Johnny Ramone who also jumped around but was mostly content to pose and look cool while playing music on his guitar at a million miles an hour.
About the only change came toward the end of each show when they performed “Pinhead” and some roadie would come dancing on stage with a sign that said “Gabba Gabba Hey” that Joey would raise over his head.
And in the background was Tommy who was later replaced by a few others including Marky Ramone, who served the longest term as the group’s drummer.
To me, their first three albums, “Ramones,” “Leave Home,” “Rocket to Russia” and their fifth, “End of the Century” (produced by the insane Phil Spector) are masterpieces. The fourth, “Road to Ruin” is OK. The sixth album, “Pleasant Dream” is also pretty cool, but I didn’t appreciate it until decades later. The rest of the albums are hit-and-miss with some flashes of brilliance here and there. Heck, even an average Ramones song is still pretty good.
The group had a cult following and had no big charting hits for many of its years.
Then the boys started dying off and their legend started to grow. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. The first song off their first album, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” never cracked the top 100 but is now used in commercials and sports arenas and is considered a classic.
I never met of talked to any of the fellas. One time I got to meet Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and we talked a lot about the Ramones and he took my business card and said he would have Johnny call me. That never happened.
When I covered the Cubs, I would attend parts of spring training and one year I missed out on meeting Johnny attending a game in Arizona by a week. The other writers razzed me about that.
That said, I’m kind of glad I never did get to meet these guys.
I’ve done a lot of reading on them and I liked them less and less as people.
Dee Dee was just flat out crazy and had way too many drug problems and didn’t always treat people very nicely.
Joey had drug issues of his own and in so many interviews I tired of his whining about how underappreciated the group was. At times he complained about not having a breakthrough single or album. Other times he said he was glad the group never made it big because they kept their integrity. Can’t have it both ways, big fella.
Johnny? There are plenty of stories about how he was ultra conservative and had a fascination with Hitler, the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. When Johnny stole Joey’s girlfriend and married her, the two Ramones rarely talked. Legend has it that Joey wrote the song “The KKK Took My Baby Away” in dishonor of the incident.
If that’s true, how dumb is Johnny to play that song thousands of times live not realizing that it is a direct slap at him?
Anyway, there are plenty of ugly and dysfunctional stories about these dudes to be found (heck, a book about them is called “The Complete Twisted History”) but it never seemed to affect the magic on stage or in the studio.
So as the final original Ramone has been laid to rest I was grimacing at the stories I remembered about their lives but grinning at the great music they made.

The B and B show: Hickory Hills cops promoted

  • Written by Kelly White

  Jason Bray and Mark Benaitis joined the Hickory Hills police force in 1997.

  These two cops shared another experience at last Thursday’s village board meeting.
  Both received promotions and plenty of compliments from their boss — Police Chief Alan Vodicka.
  Sgt. Jason Braywas promoted to lieutenant and Officer Mark Benaitis took over his role as sergeant. Also, officer Scott Sodaro was honored for 20 years of service.
  “I firmly believe that these two officers will excel in leading our department,” Police Chief Alan Vodicka said of Bray and Beneaitis
  Bray is a 17-year veteran of the Hickory Hills Police Department. He joined the department in 1997upon his completion of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.During his tenure, Bray has been a tactical officer, juvenile officer, evidence technician and detective. As a detective, he was assigned to the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force as a lead homicide investigator and was responsible for investigating homicides throughout southwest suburban Cook County. In 2007, he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to supervise the investigation division.
  “His personnel file contains an extensive number of commendations and letters of recognition,” Vodicka said.
  Benaitisalso began his law enforcement career in 1997 in Hickory Hills. During his tenure, he has held the position of juvenile officer, field training officer, detective, patrol officer in charge and has been assigned to the immigration customs enforcement task force, where his investigations generated significant revenue for the department through forfeiture seizures.
  “Along with his partner, [police dog] Oscar, he was part of the first K-9 unit for the Hickory Hills Police Department,” Vodicka said.
  Bray and Benaitis received a blessing from the department chaplain upon taking their oaths administered by Ken Fonte, commissioner of the city’s Police and Fire Board.
  After the promotions, the department is planning to hire a new recruit by September.
  The promotions were not the only thing celebrated on Thursday.
  Sodaro was also honored for 20 years of service to the Hickory Hills Police Department.
  “During his tenure with the department, he had the greatest impact while assigned to the traffic enforcement division,” Vodicka said. “In this assignment, he took traffic safety to a whole new level by combining programs that emphasized education with enforcement tasks.”
  As a result, the police department received numerous awards for traffic safety from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
  “Along with his (canine) partner, Trustee, they are also widely acclaimed for their community relations initiatives,” Vodicka said.
  Over the years, Sodaro and his partner have been a fixture at school, park district and community events. They have been requested to assist other police agencies with safety events and programs. Vodicka said he is proud to have Sodaroas a member of the department.