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In 1942 Hollywood released a hurriedly made movie meant to capitalize on another movie with a setting also taking place in South Africa. Algers had been a hit but now that Warners’ next film was ready they were no longer sure a success was possible. They knew they had a good cast but besides that they just didn’t know. The whole film’s production had been fraught with difficulties and so uncertainty hung in the air as they waited for the public’s response.

What Warners got was a huge surprise they have never stopped feeling blessed with. Casablanca was a hit with a capital H. The film’s earliest beginnings were steeped to the ceiling with doubts that it ever would be made. After all ~ it was based off a play that had never been produced. To say that Casablanca has a story to tell is a vast understatement. The making of this classic has its own lore.

What can I tell you that you don’t know? That all depends on how immersed in the movies or how much of a Casablanquiste you are.

Let’s start with the basics. It all began with a play written by Murray Burnett entitled Everyone Comes to Rick’s. The play was never produced but Warners bought it from Burnett for $20,000 in 1941. It wasn’t until May 25, 1942 that shooting began. What held it up? There was no screenplay but they were shopping for actors/actresses to play a part that they had trouble describing because there was no script and they were making the storyline up as they went along. That problem remained through the whole of shooting as no one knew the ending all the way to the final days of shooting. The big question? Who was Ilsa going to go with?

The legacy of Casablanca is very much like the earliest of Mack Sennett comedies where the cameras roll and whatever happens happens. The script was written day to day with the ink barely dry before being handed off to the actors only hours before shooting began for that day.

The norm on the set was confusion and arguments. People walked off and lines were rewritten by everyone. The characters evolved and without anyone knowing they created a masterpiece that to many film historians is #3 behind #1 Citizen Kane and #2 Gone With the Wind as the greatest film ever made.

Interesting Facts

Bogart was 43 ~ Bergman was 27

Henreid, Lorre & Veidt were all refugees of the Nazi party in real life.

The Film cost $878,000 and was 8% over budget.

Filming took 59 days and that was 11 days over schedule.

What: Early Valentines Day Showing of Casablanca
When: February 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Where: The Pickwick Theater ~ 5 S. Prospect Ave Park Ridge, Illinois
Admission: Regular $7, Seniors $5

downloadOver the years there have been many stars in Hollywood’s parade of stars. Some were fleeting and have long been forgotten. Others shone so bright that it is doubtful that their light will ever be extinguished. In the town of Potsdam, near Berlin, there was a babe born who was destined to fall between these two cosmic stars of the silver screen. Even his name is that which will cause some to shake their heads in a struggle to remember and ultimately fail. Still, there are those who will lick their lips and roll their eyes around for a second before the name clicks.

His name was Conrad Veidt and he was born January 22, 1893. It was an important year. The world’s fair opened in Chicago that year and Germany put her best foot forward to show the world that she was friendly to all people. Too bad that feeling of good will toward men didn’t last longer. But for the Veidt house this year was a joyous one.

Young Conrad grew up fast and at the age of twenty entered that long exalted line of men and women who brought dramatizations to the world. He stepped upon the stage in 1913 but he didn’t remain there long. In 1917 he took his career forward with the times and entered the German cinema. The expressionist movement was growing stronger and stronger and Veidt became a master.

German cinema at the time was morbid and strange and Veidt’s portrayals of morbid characters were always memorable. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari he played a demented somnambulist controlled by an evil doctor. To this day it’s considered a masterpiece of German cinema. The combination of hard angle camera work and Veidt’s own performance make it a unique experience.

His star was rising with each film he did but when he played the title role in The Student of Prague he’d reached the top. He now was world famous. Hollywood wanted a piece of the action and they came calling in 1927. He did a series of films for the US before returning to Germany when sound hit the airways.

When the Nazi’s took hold of Germany Veidt left his home for the safety of England. There was no place for him in a world that despised Jews and he found himself and his family under attack. He’d done the unspeakable and married a Jewish woman.

Still in 1930 he returned to his homeland on a visit and soon found himself in trouble. They wouldn’t let him leave. Under the pretext that he was too ill to travel they hindered his leaving. With the aid of the British studio Gaumont, he was able to escape when they sent doctors to prove his blooming health. It’s no surprise that he became British citizen in 1939.

In 1940 Veidt once again went to America to make films for the country who partially liked to take credit for his notoriety. Ironically this roles now were those of a Nazi and for those who don’t remember him before he turned into a German devil once more, he will always remain one. For it was his second to last film that would keep him in the stars column. He played Major Strassaer in Casablanca. He Was the newest man we Loved to Hate! – Sorry Erich Von Stroheim. Someone had to take the reigns into the talkies.

Sadly Conrad Veidt died of a heart attack that same year and the world was deprived of learning what was next in store for it. What would he have done? Who would he have given us?

A List of His Most Memorable Rolls:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
  • The Hands of Orlac (1925)
  • The Student of Prague (1926)
  • The Beloved Rogue (1927)
  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • Dark Journey (1937)
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
  • Casablanca (1943)

Lilian GishLillian Gish – 1st Lady of the Silent Screen

Lillian started working with a famed director after being sponsored by a close friend. Her frail build but strong mind gave her parts that many women would have turned down. She often played a down trodden woman who’s man has taken advantage of her to the point of leaving her, oft times with a baby or young child to care for with no more means than her own willpower.

Lillian herself was no wallflower. She quickly got to know the business and soon became her own boss; picked her directors, leading men and scripts. She had complete control of her creative efforts and no one who knew her even thought for a moment that they could get around her, small though she was, and no one tried. She was too often right. Her ideas were sound and what she touched turned to gold.

She is quoted as saying, “Let’s pretend.” Lillian said those words and she lived by them almost her entire life so that a nation and those another continent away could live, love and follow her into that make believe world found only on the other side of a picture screen.

Her story began October 14, 1896 in Springfield Ohio. Born to a drifter father and a future actress she seemed destined to live a parallel life with that of her future screen persona. Nearly a year and a half later a sister named Dorothy was born. With their father often gone, money became tight and their mother took the suggestion of friends and went on the stage. At the age of five Lillian stepped out into the footlights and there before the public’s eyes a star was reaching higher and higher towards its eventual zenith.

For the next eleven years the sisters would always be on the road. They no longer had a home. They lived the world of the performer to fullest complete with the constant hassle of finding a job and times when their food ran out. Always they were together and always they took care of each other.

It wasn’t until 1912 that things began to look up for Lillian. It began with a chance meeting of an old friend. Nineteen-year-old Gladys Smith was working steadily and invited Lillian and Dorothy to follow her into the new medium known as motion pictures. In that world she was known as Mary Pickford and she was quite successful. Though she no longer worked for the Biograph studio, she brought the girls to her old boss, D. W. Griffith and suggested he hire them. That same day they made their first film, “An Unseen Enemy.” It truly was a family affair as their mother was granted a part as well.

From then on things moved upward. Lillian became Griffith’s biggest find thanks to Mary and Lillian remained with him loyally for a decade. Dorothy worked with her sister in the beginning and shared her own amount of success but it would be her older sister, Lillian who would become an international name.

In those days the world was in some ways a lot closer. We didn’t have radio at first and when we did it wasn’t for the masses. Television was just an idea in a lunatic scientist’s mind. Yet the movies had become wildly popular. They didn’t talk but they didn’t need to.

The silence of the movies was a blessing in so many ways. The actor or actress’s own body became the lighthouse into the character’s very soul. We could see in their eyes every emotion in the human psyche. What they thought, what they felt, all that could be portrayed in a single flick of the wrist. Pantomime has many forms beyond that of a circus performer and the men and women of the silent screen knew exactly what they were doing. Lillian was a top master of this delicate art form. In her eyes you saw the misery of a trapped soul and you saw the beginning flicker of knowledge when a person realizes they have the power to stand up and begin again. For that she became widely known as The First Lady of the Silent Screen.

Beyond the art form, silence of the screen was a blessing to the masses. With the change of the flickered dialogue on the screen any nation in the world could watch a film produced in any nation in the world. Stars quickly became known internationally over night. Lillian was known the world over. She once said that when the movie began to talk the world became a little quieter. No longer could we share our films across the world. Sound had shut us out.

By 1928 her style of acting had became antiquated for many by the emergence of the glamour girl and the It girl’s of the roaring twenties. Fragile was supplanted by self-reliant and Lillian gave up the screen for the stage of her youth. There she once again found success alongside other stars of the screen. However she never turned her back on the medium that had made her a household name. Often she returned to the screen in bit parts and supporting roles and the audience welcomed her returns with relish.

She made her last film The Whales of August in 1987. Lillian had accomplished what few had; she’d become an icon that has lasted more than a lifetime. She died in 1993 at the ripe old age of 97 but she is long from forgotten. How could she? She made over a hundred films and her career spanned a remarkable eight decades. While the academy awards were not in practice until after she’d partially retired, Hollywood knew how to reward one of its greatest stars. In 1984 the American Film Institute awarded her its Life Achievement Award, which she humbly accepted from the hands of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., the man she most closely viewed as family, the stepson of her best friend Mary Pickford. Lillian herself never married but nonetheless she had lived a charmed life once the movies caught up to her. Suitors were many but none stood high enough to her ambition. She was content to be who she was and for that, her fans can be grateful. Thank you Miss Lillian.

A List of Her Most Memorable Rolls:

 

  • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • Way Down East (1920)
  • Orphans of a Storm (1922)
  • The Scarlet Letter (1926)
  • The Wind (1928)
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955)

image

There was a time when the world was filled with romance. Ladies were ladies and men were brave and strong, ready to stand and protect a lady’s honor. Men knew how to race and jump horses and ladies knew the delicate manner of holding a tea cup. It was the time of the Old South. Plantations were large. Land owners were wealthy. Crops grew tall and the people lived day to day with the thought that life would remain so.

Reality has an unfortunate sense of humor. Lady luck is fickle and what was, was not to remain. War loomed in the air and the pride of the Southern gentleman was so loud it could be heard without a single word needing to be uttered. When Sumner was fired on the world changed in an instant.

Margaret Mitchell realized the story of the South’s struggle could best be told through the eyes of a single character. She rightly chose a spoiled Southern Bell as her protagonist. Scarlett O’Hara starts her journey as a young woman determined to have everything she desires even if it doesn’t belong to her. What she already has is of little consequence. In Mitchell’s now famous book Gone With the Wind, we follow Scarlett on her journey through every emotion man has to endure. Step by step her character grows but always there remains the Southern Bell who could charm the crown off the rooster’s head.

Mitchell’s work was instantly realized as a classic and readers impatiently waited for Hollywood to immortalize their newest favorite. They waited four years before Vivien Leigh sat before them on the porch steps of Tara. The movie too proved to be a huge success and when the Academy Awards came around Gone With the Wind stole the show.

Nothing had ever been seen like it before and the accolades continue to this day. That is why we are so excited to share this great story and wonderful movie with you. For one night only, the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge Illinois will be showing this film. Seeing this in its native form, on the big screen, is a real treat. The color, the sound, the size: no television in the world can compete with the enormity of a movie palace screen.

So if you’ve never seen it or have, if you own it or not, it doesn’t matter because this is a whole new experience. This is the real movie experience. It can not be duplicated. So please join us.

For more information please visit Park Ridge Classic Film.

What:

The 75th Anniversary showing of Gone With the Wind

When:

December 4, 2014

7:00 p.m.

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Admission:

Regular – $7

Seniors – $5

Originally posted on WGN Radio - 720 AM:

The Park Ridge Classic Film Series will be presenting a special 75th anniversary screening of ‘Son of Frankenstein’ next Thursday October 30th at the wonderful Pickwick Theater.  Donnie Dunagan, the last surviving cast member from the film, will be a special guest.  Get more details when programmer Matthew Hoffman joins Nick Digilio.

To download this or any of Nick’s podcast visit our I-Tunes page.

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Who is Donnie Dunagan?

lefils  994550_10151745258122432_1051500962_n13463935_o_518cce6be087c337516da457What happens to a childhood actor once they no longer act? The first order is to grow up. And who do they grow up into? Let me tell you a true story.

The boy was affectionately called Donnie by his friends when he was five years old. Now, when the names of a little boy’s friends just happen to be Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone the wheels start to turn. Just who is Donnie Dunagan? You might well ask this question. The easy answer, there is no easy answer; he has been many things to many people. Let me begin from the beginning.

Donald Dunagan was born on August 16, 1934 to parents who didn’t have much more to give their son than love. As Donnie says, “They were dirt poor.” But Donnie’s destiny was not to remain the poor boy from the poor side of town. At the age of two and a half Donnie’s family moved from San Antonio, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee. There his father worked on a golf course as an assistant to the assistant golf instructor. He worked long hours helping men try to recapture their youth at the age of forty to fifty when they picked up and swung a club for the first time in their lives. It didn’t pay much but it kept the family afloat.

They didn’t know it but 1937 was the year things would change. At the local theater in downtown Memphis a talent contest was announced. With a top prize of $100 everyone who had talent up to the age of thirteen planned to be a contestant. Donnie had been taught to dance and the little tyke had plenty of talent as far as the family and neighbors were concerned. He was promptly entered. The Orpheum Theater was about to be surprised and so was Donnie.

Wearing hand-me-down shoes from a richer neighbor, sporting a paper hat made to look like a top hat and carrying a whittled stick that looked from a distance like that of an English walking stick, Donnie took his first few strides onto the Orpheum stage thinking he was in the wrong place. The dancer before him was so much better, how could he possibly compete. The outcome was a fairytale come true. Donnie danced and the audience lost their hearts. He won that first place prize but he won something else so much more. For seated in the audience was a Hollywood talent scout.

In mere weeks Donnie found himself on a sound stage. His first film was released in 1938. Mother Carey’s Children gave young Donnie a new look at life. Gone were the days of not having enough. He was making money and helping his family. One might think that a boy of his tender years might not understand, but Donnie did.

His next picture would cement him years later in the movie buff’s who’s who. 1939 was a magical year for Hollywood and for Donnie Dunagan. Son of Frankenstein boasted an incomparable cast for Universal. The names Karloff, Lugosi and Rathbone fairly jumped out at you. Such talent, such thrills, such horror, those thoughts hit the audience watching the trailers. Was Donnie afraid of Karloff’s monster? Did he fear Lugosi? Did he view Rathbone favorably?

Now five years old and a veteran of one movie, little Donnie understood the dynamics of an actor’s life. His mother would drop him off at the studio and a nanny took over his care. Only the nanny always disappeared. So Donnie picked out his own nanny. Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone became his friends but they probably would balk at the term nanny being applied to them. The reality was that they helped each other.

The boy had an amazing ability for memorization. Not only did he know his own lines but he memorized and coached his fellow actors on their lines. He became an integral cog. Even as lines were changed, added and taken out, little Donnie kept up. In return for Donnie’s line coaching Karloff taught him to play checkers and to his incredulity little Donnie won on is own when Karloff didn’t give the game his full attention. Rathbone read him classical poetry and attempted to teach the lad chess. That game proved too much but the memory of those tutored lessons has lasted a lifetime.

His other co-stars left lasting impressions for other reasons. His mother in Son of Frankenstein, Josephine Hutchenson left the sound stage after takes leaving her co-stars to their own devises and that is what little Donnie remembers most of her. The same can be said of Lugosi. Donnie didn’t like Lionel Atwill. In fact, Donnie stayed away from the man who played a policeman in favor of the man who played the monster.

Donnie’s memories of making pictures have remained vivid throughout the years showing a strong and perceptive mind. He would make five more films for a total of seven with Son of Frankenstein and Bambi being his most memorable.

With the latter he was hired by Walt Disney to be the facial model of the young deer but in time they discovered his remarkable memory and he became the voice of the fawn as well. With those two films his name will continue to be memorialized.

Getting back to the earlier question of what happens to childhood actors, Donnie grew up into a man the whole nation could be proud of. In December of 1952 at the age of eighteen Donnie received a message from the draft board. Answering the call he went in for his physical. Standing in line with the others he was singled out by a combat gunnery sergeant who realized in the young man’s form the build of a football player. After a thirty-five minute talk Donnie was a Marine.

He rose quickly in rank almost from the first day. Responsibility was handed to him and Donnie followed through. He was sent to boot camp in charge of thirty to forty men. While still only a private first class he was made a drill instructor, becoming the youngest in Marine history.

In the final days of the Korean War Donnie was ship bound. Before they could get there the war ended and his ship turned around. It was a hardship to be in Hawaii with all the pretty girls. While he might have averted combat then, he didn’t escape Vietnam.

Vietnam painted a tattoo across his body. His injuries were never easy or superficial. He got it in the head, the lung and the leg among other places. Consequently he over heard last rites being said over him three times and three times he was medivaced out. His head has a plate in it, he didn’t lose his leg as initially thought and at eighty he’s still breathing and walking around with enough spunk to be dangerous. After all, Donnie was the champion heavy weight boxer for nine years in the Marines. Add to that, the fact that he served as a counterintelligence agent during the Cold War and you really don’t want to mess with Peter Von Frankenstein. Like his fictional father and grandfather – Donnie Dunagan know how to take a body apart.

So who exactly is Donnie Dunagan? He is –

 

  • A childhood Hollywood actor,
  • A 25 year career Marine wounded in combat numerable times who also served as a counterintelligence agent and retired as a major,
  • A champion boxer who still coaches the sport today,
  • A mathematician,
  • Physicist and an
  • American Mensa Society member

 

This multiple Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient is quite the man. Acting gave Donnie the skills he would later need to survive as the man of action he remains.

 

To meet this fascinating man in person, Chicago area residents haven’t far to go. This month the gates of Hollywood’s golden age are opening up. On October 30, 2014 Donnie Dunagan will be at the Pickwick Theater in historic downtown Park Ridge Illinois to personally invite guests to participate in the 75th Anniversary showing of the movie that really introduced Donnie Dunagan to the world, Son of Frankenstein!

 

 

For more information please visit Park Ridge Classic Film.

 

What:

The 75th Anniversary showing of Son of Frankenstein

With special guest Donnie Dunagan

 

When:

October 30, 2014

7:30 p.m.

 

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Admission:

Regular – $7

Seniors – $5

{Autographs $20}

 

Don’t forget to bring the kids and your cameras. There will be a costume contest for children twelve and under with prizes.

 

 

A List of His Films:

 

Source used:

Earth vs. the Sci~ Fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews
By Tom Weaver
© 2005
Donnie Dunagan, Pgs 86 ~113

Grace Rellie:

Please check this out. If you live in the area and have ever wanted to say Hi, now is your chance. I’ll be there and so will a great movie.

Originally posted on WGN Radio - 720 AM:

Nick Digilio visits with Matthew Hoffman, programmer of the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series about their 50th anniversary showing of Goldfinger on September 18th.

To download this or any of Nick’s podcast visit our I-Tunes page.

View original

As I write this I stand behind the counter of a small four pump gas station. I know times have changed. With the passing years innocence has been lost and with it the general trust of a nation. No longer can there be doors left unlocked. Cars no longer can be found left standing idle and the owner vacant from his seat.

The world has truly changed. Coming into my little gas station over seventy miles from Chicago you know you’re in rural America and yet like the big city you will find things locked. There is a key to the propane stand, a key for ice and separate keys for the restrooms. The men’s room even had its key stolen block and all once upon a time.

Who would have thought thirty years ago that we’d have to pay for such things as water and even air to fill our car tires? These days we even buy soil for our gardens (though the gas station draws the lines there.)

Gas today will begin at $3.59 and it’s gone down 20 cents in the last few weeks. A propane exchange will cost $16.99. The cheapest cigarettes are $5.23 a pack.

I think of my not so long ago youth. Gas was $1.39 a gallon. I don’t know what propane cost but I don’t think I was much, for if it was my neighbors down the clock wouldn’t have bought a new gas grill three years in a row when theirs got stolen for the third consecutive year. Cigarettes couldn’t have been as high then either. My best friend’s dad was a trucker and he always seemed to have a cigarette hanging from his bottom lip. They never had much but he always had his smokes.

It’s not just the cost of living that’s gone up. It’s our very sense of being that has changed. Think to when you were a child. How often were you actually in the house? Were you playing baseball or stickball in the street? Did you go exploring around the woods or in the creek? Did you collect rocks, feathers or even bits of string? How often did you stay out until your Mom called you in for dinner? Didn’t you go out again as soon as you finished and stay out until it got dark?

I did all that and I’m only 28. I was behind for what the world had already become. I lived and imagined. I still do. I believe that fun can be made on your own and not manufactured. I believe that children should be allowed to be children. They can learn how to behave and still have the freedom that belongs to them.

These days the children of America by and large, whether they live in the country or the city, whether the family has money for food or not, these children live in front of the television or the computer. They gain weight eating snacks, their vision dims from looking at the glow from that TV or monitor and they develop allergies because they don’t experience the great outdoors. In an age of freedom we have voluntarily caged ourselves.

As Americans we live in the greatest country in the world. We have the most advantages. Why do we squander them? Why do we live the way we do?

I don’t have the answer. All I have is a call. Don’t wake up one morning with regrets. If you do now, make a decision. It’ll change your whole life and you’ll find that if you didn’t like yourself or your life before, you will now.

Good luck.

A very good friend of mine who is just as passionate about the movies as I am will be showing the iconic 007 film. Once again we are introduced to, “Bond, James Bond.” Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and I can think of no better location than the lavish Pickwick Theater in historic downtown Park Ridge Illinois.

 

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When you step up to the ticket office you will be greeted by a Bond girl in gold who won’t ask for your soul or your virtue but the price of admission. Inside more dazzling beauties in gold will be on hand to help you.

 

Special treats include a prop from the film and a man from the Ian Fleming Foundation. There will be much to see and tell upon your return home. Please step out on the 18th of September and see Goldfinger with us.

 

What:

Goldfinger starring Sean Connery (1964)

 

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, IL 60068

 

When:

September 18th, 2014

Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 7 PM

Goldfinger at 7:30 PM

Be sure to come early and bring your camera to have your picture taken with a Bond girl.

 

Why:

The 50th Anniversary

As if we needed an excuse!

 

Price:

$7 Adults

$5 Seniors

Please check back in with us to learn what other movies and surprises we have in store for you.

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Driving on expressways is fast, hectic and at times nerve wracking. If you occasionally use Chicago’s expressways you know exactly what I mean. Driving the city streets the traffic is often times bumper to bumper and the city driver feels a sense of freedom in the speed they experience when they drive the tollway. It is said that they fly like demons and in some ways they do.

Chicago drivers on the expressway drive as if the road were free and clear. They don’t seem to see anyone in front, beside or behind them. There is even a move that according to one New York driver is unique to the Windy City, the three-lane crossover. Without hesitation and with no turn signal the driver will notice at the last second that their exit ramp has come up and they cross three lanes of heavily laden traffic and the possibility of sudden death to make their exit. If they notice the sudden sound of screeching, burning rubber and squealing brakes they don’t show it. They drive fearlessly like a cat with double its nine lives. Why they think this behavior is no big deal remains a mystery to all safe drivers.

For the thousands of drivers who transverse these paths every day and the dozens of lunatic drivers who cross them up, it would seem luck is with them but luck only lasts so long and goes so far. July 20th of this year luck ended for two drivers as Dennis Anderson changed lanes unexpectedly in his Pontiac coupe leaving no room for Tito M. Rodriquez’s motorcycle. The two collided and Rodriquez, an off duty police officer was killed.

Anderson paid for his crime with a ticket for improper lane use and invalid insurance. Those will soon go away but the memory of taking a life will haunt him for the rest of his. The event is still under investigation.

 

Source: Chicago Tribune Monday July 21, 2014, Section 1, Page 9

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