Thursday, August 22, 2019
"La Commedia è finita!" or, A Tale of Two Bobs
You can see something every day, for years, but never really look at it.
Such as? This poster, which I created for The Reader when Bob Greene's career blew up in 2002 (if this is unfamiliar to you, I lay out the whole sordid tale for Salon here). I didn't draw it, but conceived it, and grabbed an Italian dictionary to make sure that the words used were correct. Then I worked with the talented Mike Werner, who did all the art for BobWatch.
Bob is seen as Pagliacci, murderous clown in the Ruggero Leoncavallo opera of the same name. "La Commedia è finita!" " is the final line: "The comedy is finished." That seemed apt. The weeping girl is of course the ruined Mother McAuley student who led to Bob's downfall.
I liked the end result so much I bought the original from Werner.
It's been hanging on my office wall for a decade and a half. I've thought about tucking it away. The past, be done with it and move on—is that not the moral of the Bob Greene Saga? But I liked the image, and displaying it, framed, was akin to a pelt on my wall, a trophy head. Bob in a case, gathering dust, while I remain among the land of the living and working.
That said, I'd never have posted it here. While I'm proud BobWatch is remembered after more than 20 years, Bob did have friends, and when I run into an old crocodile who really, really hates my guts, who really get his back into expressing it — think of the trolls living under Robert Feder's bridge — I somehow naturally assume they're Bob fans yearning toward their lost idyll and seeking vengeance for the cashiering of their old friend. Which I did not cause, but certainly celebrated.
Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit; maybe they hate me on my own merits, no Bob necessary.
Either way, my colleague Eric Zorn must have the original page torn from The Reader taped up somewhere because, passing it recently, he noticed the second name on the playbill. The first is Ann Marie Lipinski, the Tribune muckety-muck who tolerated Bob until she decided to have a sub-career glorying in his finally being fired after years of ignoring his excesses.
And that second name. Robert S. Mueller III. Yes, that Bob Mueller, the same Bob Mueller who just returned to the shadows after ineffectually gumming Donald Trump for several years. I completely forgot he was there, and never noticed it after Mueller exploded into the headlines. So, good for Eric and his sharp eye.
Why is Mueller there? Because what people didn't realize, then and now, is that Greene wasn't shown the gate because he seduced a high school student. The Trib could shrug that off, and did. What got him into trouble was when, years later, as part of whatever intensive therapy a person requires to have any hope of recovery after the obvious trauma of having relations with Bob Greene, the former student, now grown to damaged adulthood, contacted him, as part of that therapy. To confront him, I suppose, hoping that might provide closure. He immediately turned her over, as a threat, to the FBI, the kind of cowardly, craven Bob move you would expect. The FBI was at that time headed by Mueller.
Heck, I wasn't on the phone call. Maybe she was a threat. I can't judge. But my gut tells me Bob panicked and called some agent pal who was a fan of his high-quality brand of nostalgia/journalism.
A bit of trivia, perhaps. But it is a swell poster, in my biased opinion, a token of the days when the Reader had some swagger and wit. And it will serve until tomorrow.