Transcript: Halsted Street, USA
Directed by: David E. Simpson
HALSTED STREET, USA
Archival footage of urban street scenes.
NARRATION: Chicago, the midst of the great depression. City of the bent shoulders; the shattered windshield; the bad back. A city Nelson Algren described as “...not so much a city, as a drafty hustlers’ junction in which to hustle a while and move on out of the draft.”
In November, 1932, a filmmaker named Conrad Friberg picks up his camera, and travels the length of a single Chicago street, south to north. Not State Street, not Michigan Avenue — but the backbone of Chicago: Halsted Street. It’s a stretch of pavement both enriched and torn apart by class and ethnic divisions. When you go over a bridge or under a viaduct on this street, you’ve left one country for another. It’s the American pot at full boil.
Now, at the end of the century, at the beginning of a new millennium, we wondered what we’d find traveling the length of Halsted Street, as Friberg’s camera did in 1932.
Colorful scenes of Halsted Street today.
If this is the melting pot, can it melt? Should it melt? And who are these people today that make up this stew? What thoughts and dreams, conflicts and tensions, simmer up through the cracks in the pavement?
River ferry docking at beginning of pavement; cars roll off ferry and start up road.
But we start our journey where that pavement begins: in the swirling waters of the Ohio River, at the very southern tip of Illinois. On the far shore lies Kentucky and the South; on this side—the road to Chicago and the promised North. Halsted Street creeps out of the water at a sleepy town called Cave-in-Rock, where it’s officially known as Route 1. We’ll drop you here, and meet up again at the end of the line. In between, you’re on your own, with the sights and sounds and people of Halsted Street.
Illinois Route 1
378 miles to Chicago
Kids ride bikes through small town streets.
KID ON BIKE #1: Right there’s where the ferry docks over there. And right here’s where the fire station is.
KID ON BIKE #2: Over here is Lee’s Cafe and Willietons. And there’s a dog with three legs over here, but I don’t know if he’s there right now. And he bit my aunt Linda.
KID ON BIKE #1: And right up here’s the barber shop.
KID: Barber, there’s that fly. You want me to kill it?
Kid swats at fly.
BARBER: Get him?
Kids continue tour on bikes.
KID ON BIKE #1: Right down here’s where Route 1 starts, and goes to Chicago.
KID ON BIKE #2: And the ferry boat’s over here.
KID ON BIKE #1: I’ve never been to Chicago, but I’d like to go some day. Don’t think my mom would let me go.
KID ON BIKE #2: Chicago’s a real nice place.
KID ON FOOT: It’s pretty, but they also got a lot of murders around there.
KID ON BIKE #2: There’s a lot of people that’s real mean at that place too.
Truck zooms up road. POV shots of large plastic cow, sign that says “Crenshaw House: Where Slavery existed in Illinois,” and state prison.
Small town Independence Day parade.
West Union, IL
270 miles to Chicago
MAN ON PORCH WITH GUITAR: I see the tractors are comin in.... Well if you like that kinda life-style it’s the place you wanna be at, cause it’s kinda “Mayberry” around here—pretty slow and everybody knows everybody.
Man on porch plays portion of theme song from “Deliverance.” POV shots traveling past cornfields. Farmer checks his field.
FARMER: See this weed here? That weed is going to die....
Most corn grown in the United States is field corn. It’s for animal feed and to make Post Toasties out of, and corn bread and corn meal..... But this right here is called sweet corn. Basically the world does not eat sweet corn, just in America and a few other places.
Farmer taps tassel of corn stalk. Pollen flies off.
FARMER: That is the pollen flying. And that will fall on an ear of corn. Every kernel inside here has a silk attached to it. The pollen comes from the tassel, lands on that silk, and works its way down to this kernel. It fertilizes the kernel, and that’s what causes the corn to mature.
Truck barreling down Route 1. Traveling POV of cows in field. Signs on outskirts of Paris, Illinois.
155 miles to Chicago
People picnicking in park at dusk. Girls’ softball game: a pitch is hit, the arc of the ball sailing through sky cuts to exploding fireworks.
Traveling POV of yellow highway lines, houses in a suburban subdivision.
Cacophony of signage in outskirts of Chicago. Truck over bridge with Sears Tower in background.
man outside bowling alley: Down there past the bridge is Route 1; once you cross that bridge and come to Chicago it becomes Halsted.
129th St. & South Halsted
City Limit of Chicago
MAN OUTSIDE BOWLING ALLEY (continued): You see the difference cause the first thing you see is light: the city’s well lit up. Then as you cross you can tell that you’re in the city because the neighborhood changes. You know, things are just different here. Something happens it just happens, all right? Ain’t no big deal to us. Somebody gets shot our here, OK somebody got shot. It’s not a big deal. As for if you go to the suburbs, you’d see it on TV. I been in the neighborhood 20 years. When we first came out here it was mostly white people. Now it’s mostly us out here. So it’s changed a little but the neighborhood’s still pretty good.
FILMMAKER (off screen): Where do all these white people go when they move?
MAN OUTSIDE BOWLING ALLEY: That’s a good question (laughs). I Would assume they moved out to the suburbs (laughs). But I don’t know. I know they’re not here now.
Interior of city bus on Halsted Street. POV traveling shots out bus window. Man being handcuffed on street. Store fronts. Gangbangers on corner throwing dice.
63rd St. & South Halsted
Preacher on corner.
PREACHER: Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for your soul. If you don’t know Jesus Christ in a pardon of your sin, kind sir, kind men, your soul is lost. And you need Jesus to come into your life, you need to repent and ask him to save you. If you on cocaine, if you on heroin, if you sleeping with a woman that’s not your wife, if you sleeping with a man that’s not your husband, woman tell that man to go home to his wife. Are you listening to me?
Two young men walking down street past shops.
MAN #1: Come on brother...
MAN #2: I bet you these will last longer than Nikes.
MAN #1: That’s cause brothers tear up their shoes, but I bet you money Nikes can last longer than Reeboks. I bet you money!
MAN #2: Please, please. I’ll bet you they last longer than yours.
MAN #1: I bet you they don’t last longer than my cleats.
MAN #2: Watch. Nikes better than Reeboks.
MAN #1: Nikes, they fit your foot, they got quality. Reeboks are just there.
MAN #2: We can go to any store and ask... any store and ask, and they’ll tell you what shoe got the best quality.
They enter a shoe store.
SALESMAN: They’d all last the same amount of time.
MAN #1 & MAN #2: Ok, but which one would last the longest?
SALESMAN: Depend on the shoe.
MAN #1: Ok, like say you had casual Filas, casual Nikes, and some casual Reeboks, which one do you think would last longer?
SALESMAN: They’d all last the same amount of time.
MAN #2: Reeboks got more quality. I’m tellin you they got more quality, man.
MAN #1: You still ain’t proved to me much.
MAN #2: I bet you people running around here breakin their ankles in Jordans.
MAN #1: I’m steppin outside man. I don’t feel I like your opinions on shoes Corey.
Street shots of business district.
OLD MAN: When I first came to this area this area, we could get anything we wanted: furniture, clothing—anything. We had at least 126 functioning stores that was doing a good job. But after 1959, there was an exodus. And by ‘60, Sears had moved out of here. Wieboldt had moved out from down there at the next corner. Those were two of our main anchors. When we lost them we lost a lot of jobs, we lost a lot of services. So we’re not lacking in any way in education and transportation. The only thing we lack is jobs. Jobs is what we want.
Exterior of shop with sign: Lucky’s African Hair Braiding. Inside shop, stylist singes ends of braids with a lighter.
FILMMAKER (off screen): Is it real hair?
HAIR BRAIDING STYLIST: This is synthetic. It’s not human hair.
CUSTOMER: They have some beautiful styles: human hair, real thin braids, where you can do a lot of different styles with em—wear em up, wear em down, twist em, turn em, curl em.
FILMMAKER (off screen): Where do they get human hair from?
CUSTOMER: That’s a good question. Where do you get human hair from?
HAIR STYLIST: From Chinese store. (they laugh.) Yeah. We get from Chinese store.
CUSTOMER: But where does it come before it get to the Chinese store?
HAIR STYLIST: I think it come from Chinese.
CUSTOMER: From the Chinese hair?
HAIR STYLIST: Yeah. China.
CUSTOMER: No wonder after the black hair grow out and you have that straight hair on your head it look so bad.
They are distracted by a news report coming from the TV on the counter. Shots in the news report of a black teenage boy in a coma, three white alleged perpetrators, and a protest march on Halsted Street.
TV NEWS ANNOUNCER #1: “Wanda McMurray cries because she doesn’t know whether her 13 year old son will live to be 14. Lenard Clark has been in a coma since his attack on Friday. The 8th grader is the victim of a brutal beating—police say at the hands of three white Bridgeport teenagers.”
TV NEWS ANNOUNCER #2: “More than 350 people took to the streets Thursday night to protest the beating of 13 year old Clark. The group marched to Bridgeport. The message of the march: end racism in this community. More marches are being planned....”
CUSTOMER: I grew up south of Comiskey Park in the Chicago Housing. And I can remember going up to Bridgeport as a kid, shopping, and to that library over there, and I can remember that we knew to get out of the neighborhood before dark. And even yesterday, as I was going through Bridgeport, I thought about the incident that happened with that little guy. And I was looking at the people, thinking: “Well, they don’t look like they would be that prejudiced.” Because they looked like plain, middle class white people, and I work with a lot of white people, and they looked basically like they would not have done that. And I really thought about that incident a lot when I went through Bridgeport.
Customer looks out window. Bus leaves corner. POV shots traveling on Halsted. Signs meat packers in stock yard district.
Pershing Rd. & South Halsted
Union Stock Yard closed in 1971
Door opens onto hundreds of sheep in a pen.
MAN IN SLAUGHTERHOUSE: What we have here is Chiapetti Lamb & Veal’s holding pens, where we can hold up to about 1500 lambs, and 1200 of those lambs will be used for that day’s kill. There’s been a few times, a few of the livestock have escaped and went down Halsted Street, made a left on 35th and went into the Spiegel’s. It didn’t take long after that to get phone calls of customer complaints that livestock was shopping in the Spiegel’s.
Truck traffic on Halsted Street. Exterior: Jewel Diner. Two white men sit at a counter in greasy spoon diner.
CUSTOMER: Years ago, when I first started in the meat business, you had to be Irish to be a truck driver. The tradesmen... of course the knife people were primarily Germans, with a few Polish.
Waitress interrupts to deliver food.
CUSTOMER (continued): The laborers were primarily ... ah.... “soul brothers,” (he nods toward the black restaurant owner behind the counter).... brought up here during the strike in the ‘20s. Didn’t make any difference to you where they came from, as long as they could handle a knife....
RESTAURANT OWNER: I’ll tell you how the stock yard was: blacks had the hard labor jobs, whites was the boss. We started from the bottom, not from the top. And they said, “Pull yourself up—that’s what I did!” Hey, they came to this country at the top of the boat; we came to this country at the bottom of the boat! Then they say, “When I came to this country I had to do this, and I had to pull myself up.” Sure, but it was easier for you! For my people it wasn’t easy. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States.
FILMMAKER (off screen): Why is that?
RESTAURANT OWNER: You can see around you: everybody is pigeon-holed. You got neighborhoods—look at the kid in Bridgeport, walked over there, got beat up—you got neighborhoods a black man is not allowed after dark. He go spend his money, but he got to run like hell when nighttime come.
Street corner shots. Sign: Bridgeport Restaurant.
31st St. & South Halsted
Birthplace of two Mayor Richard Daleys
More shots of Bridgeport: photo portrait of Mayor Richard J. Daley; exterior of Richard J. Daley Public Library; exterior 11th Democratic Ward Headquarters; exterior Daley Insurance. Street paving. Interior of a small grocery store.
STORE OWNER: If the same thing that happened to that boy happened in another area, it might have been simply overlooked, but because of the bad reputation we have here it’s kind of blown up. I’m sure that sort of thing happens if not every day, every week or every month in some area of the city. I mean somewhere there’s some white kid that’s been beat up by three black guys or a Hispanic kid who’s been beat up by three black guys, or a black kid that’s been beat up by three Hispanics and so on and so forth. But it’s only because it was this area with the bad reputation you say, “Oh boy, there goes Bridgeport again.”
Kids playing in open fire hydrant. Grandfather off the side cooking at the grill.
GRANDFATHER: The Italians have a name for this bread, I don’t know—”Facia” or “Facaccia....” I’m half Italian, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what I put a little mozzarella on it—tomato bread probably—and I put mozzarella on it and boy does it taste good. Now there ain’t much on this grill right now. We’re gonna give the kids some hot-dogs in a little bit. My son Mike’s very hungry. I’m gonna have a little bread, but we got a party at four o’clock. So this is only to fill in a little bit....
This neighborhood is a melting pot, you know what I mean? We got everything in this neighborhood, and say what they want.... Did you see my friend that had that white car there? Jimmy Woods is his name—black guy, nice guy. We known Jimmy for years, he comes to visit us. He’s in my daughter’s yard right now. This neighborhood got everything. We get along if they leave us alone, you know. They bring trouble here maybe....
Neighborhood kids play basketball in a driveway.
GRANDFATHER (continued): I can move away from here in a minute if I wanted to, I coulda left a long time ago if I wanted to. But I got too many friends here, you know. I meet at the restaurant at 31st and Union, I take my walk in the morning. I stop in three, four places, talk to everybody. They miss me if I ain’t there, you know. J.J. Car Wash, D&K Auto Parts, Stages Restaurant—these are my hangouts. Scalise’s now, we go there in the afternoon for coffee. My little buddy, the alderman’s dad down the street here, I pick him up and we go.
Chinese people do exercises and practice Tai Chi Chuan in a Bridgeport park.
CHINESE MAN: Tai Chi is a very suitable exercise for older people. It’s movement is continuous and without interruptions. In Tai Chi, the outer form is important, but one must also use one’s internal energies. I’m from the Chen Yang Province of China. I like living here in Bridgeport. The quality of life is very good. In my brief time here I haven’t met many people. The black people I’ve met have all been very friendly. As for the Hispanics, I still can’t distinguish them from the white people.
Chinese man and Caucasian man do Tai Chi pushing exercise together.
MONK (off screen): I think there are a lot of different faces to Bridgeport. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. But now we’re getting a lot more people from China, and it’s a pretty diverse neighborhood really.
Monk walks into narrow passageway between two buildings.
MONK (continued): It’s probably the only place in the country where you’ll find a Buddhist temple and a Catholic monastery virtually side by side.
Monks preparing meal in Kitchen.
MONK (continued): Brother Bernard is our designated shopper, so we give him the list and he takes off with it. There are lots of little mom and pop shops along Halsted. There’s a wonderful meat market, Mike’s Meat Market that we love to go to because you can select a juicy piece of meat out of the case. And it’s important for us because we only eat meat once a week, so we don’t wanna take just anything, you know. We like to have something really good.
Monks lead singing in church.
MONK: The city is filled with so much noise, it’s very important to us to maintain a spirit of silence within the monastery. A spirit of silence and prayer. Because as soon as you step outside the door, you don&rsqu;t find it at all.
Monks sing “Lord have mercy....” Exterior shots of church. Teenagers walk past and shadow-box one another. POV shots traveling along Halsted.
18th St. & South Halsted
Shots of Pilsen street life. Traveling shot along mural with immigrant theme, into classroom filled with Latino people of all ages. A teacher is at the blackboard.
TEACHER: The adjective is “large.” You don’t duplicate the “e” and then you add “s-t.” So you always see “e-s-t” at the end. So my house is the largest in the neighborhood.
STUDENT #1: My sister Lourdes is the tallest in my family.
TEACHER: Very good.
STUDENT #2: My little son is the youngest in my family.
TEACHER: Ok, repeat: “The most intelligent.... the most beautiful.... the most accurate.... the most energetic...”
Two women walking on street.
OLDER WOMAN: This community was originally Cheslovakian....
YOUNGER WOMAN: Czechoslovakian, Polish, German....
OLDER WOMAN: .... that’s why it’s called Pilsen.
YOUNGER WOMAN: It’s a town in Germany.
OLDER WOMAN: Right. And so they named it and then slowly they started moving. And when the university took over, the Mexicans moved over towards 18th Street. I feel secure here, I feel like I’m home. There’s a lot of Mexican stores—anything I can get in Mexico I can get in Pilsen. It’s being back with your people, being back with the community, being back with familia.
Shots of street life in Pilsen. Women continue walking. Traveling POV shots of houses along street.
OLDER WOMAN (continued): We’re slowly being infiltrated by the so-called yuppies. That’s why the properties are going up so much. The city, the loop, is moving south. So as the loop moves south, more homes are... and you’ve got the university, which is also slowly trying to take the stock from the people who live in the community that are looking for properties.
YOUNGER WOMAN: This property right here that’s being rehabbed is my ex-boyfriend’s family’s house. And they’ve lived here longer than we have. And they had opportunities to buy this building, as well as the building next door, as well as many properties on here. And they never took it, because they didn’t have faith in the community.
Muralist walks past outdoor mural and begins searching through a crate of paints.
MURALIST: Oh maybe we can use this. Yeah, this is a scandalous green.
FILMMAKER (off screen): What makes it scandalous?
MURALIST: Well look! It looks almost like Puerto Rican green. Oops (laughs)... Puerto Rican green.
He speaks in Spanish to assistant, who is painting from the top of a scaffold. Shots of mural.
MURALIST: I’ve been wanting to retouch this mural because it’s almost fading, and before it fades completely I want to bring it out and make it alive. It was done in 1982.
I’ve been able to see the best and the worst of this community, and I want to paint both of them. I want to paint the night—the way the night looks in this neighborhood, it looks very dramatic, especially with this type of street lighting: you feel like you’re in some type of cop movie, you know?
Shots of street activity at night. Shots of families in daytime...
Everybody’s a suspect. A lot of drugs, a lot of stuff, you know. But at the same time there’s a lot of beautiful families. People who wanna work and want to get ahead. People who love flowers and color, you know? Which is the day to me, you know? I wanna paint day and night, and the heart of the community.
Street explodes in a shower of fireworks at an Independence Day block party.
WOMAN AT PARTY: We have a lot of new family members who became citizens. In fact, my ma just became a United States citizen, so we had the biggest 4th of July party to celebrate her citizenship.
WOMAN AT PARTY (continued): Our neighborhood has been completely gang infested for some time, and the gang activity is pretty bad. This is why we want to have the block party, just to make it safe for the children. And I’m hoping that eventually our neighborhood can be a safe neighborhood for everyone.
Fireworks explode against houses. Shots of band playing Mexican music in a cantina. Patrons in Cowboy hats dance with waitresses, shoot pool and chug beer.
The camera enters a gallery where a poetry reading is in progress.
POET (reading in Spanish):
It is invisible, but inevitable.
It is energy.
In their own time and opportunity,
our sick demons are healed.
In the end, we will all
have to pay everything.
Finally, we all have a quota.
The blood is an endless flow
that through our hands runs,
that heats up inside you
everything that is perceived
that is alive and fragrant
Rechargable with the
slightest embrace, indefatigable
even when our minds are in
the utmost anguish.
It is treacherous,
It is said that it
does not trust our auras.
It is energy.
Workmen gathered around an open sewer hole on Halsted.
WORKMAN #1: Hand him some more brick, I’ll keep it going.
FILMMAKER (off screen): He’s the new guy down there?
WORKMAN #1: Yeah, it’s the new guy.... That’s where we put the new guy: inside the hole.
WORKMAN #2: They have to work their way up.
WORKMAN #1: That’s right. He’s still on punishment.
WORKMAN INSIDE SEWER: This sewer gotta be about a hundred years old. I smell somethin dead down here.
WORKMAN #2: Sure that’s not your left-over lunch?
WORKMAN INSIDE SEWER: Might be you, Bob.
Traveling shots along Halsted. Shots of street vendors at Maxwell Street.
1300 South Halsted
VENDOR (off screen): Hi there. How bout some cologne or perfume today? Any perfume for you today? Even though it’s on sale? I’m having a Sunday Sale! (Vendor continues on-camera:) You got Chanel #5?
VENDOR: You do?
VENDOR: Oh!... You runnin low?
VENDOR: Well, it is on sale! How bout somethin for him?
VENDOR (to camera): The secret is personality, I would say. But then there are different approaches. Some of the guys use slick talk, you know: make someone believe that they’re getting something for nothing.
Shots of vendors hawking wares, fondling gold chain. Old Jewish man standing on street corner.
OLD MAN: My parents, when they came from Russia they settled here, and I was born here. And I lived here as a kid. There were numerous kosher butcher shops and bakeries, there was a matzoh factory, there were a number of Yiddish theaters. In fact I remember my mother dragged me back here to buy a bar mitzvah suit here.
Vendor pursues young, white man down sidewalk.
VENDOR: Yo, my man! Yo. What kind do you like?
VENDOR (to camera): All this was Jewtown. It was an adventure to come to, because you’d find some of everything, some of all different types of people. And everything was just here. Everything.
Old man walking along street.
OLD MAN: The University of Illinois wanted this land. And Mayor Daley ordered the land to be bulldozed. And then a couple days later they put a big fence around it, and the land was turned over to the University of Illinois.
Old black man sings along with radio, in alcove of shop. Traveling shot along Halsted. Shots of Greek Town.
Shots of Fulton Market: Fork lifters in crowded, early morning street. Sides of beef sliding off truck on an overhead rail. Teenagers loading cardboard flats onto truck. They drop one, spilling frozen chicken parts everywhere.
Traveling shots along Halsted. Street sign: intersection of Grand, Halsted & Milwaukee. Exterior: Chris Grill
WAITRESS (on phone): Is that all sir? A tamale? Chili-dog has only onion and what else?
WAITRESS (to grill owner): Onion and chili, a liver-sausage, raw onion, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise on French, a tamale....
GRILL OWNER: No tamales, I told you.
Grill owner prepares food.
GRILL OWNER: I started working here 1950. Ten years old. Barely could reach the counter. They made a stool for me to pour the coffee — we used to have the old coffee urns....
Well, nine out of ten people that come in here are creatures of habit. And you know just about what they want and how they want it. They’re working class people. People that go to work everyday.
GRILL PATRON: I work for Frigid Fluid Company. I sell funeral supplies — it’s a factory. Cemetery and funeral supplies. Anything in the funeral industry or the cemetery industry. I run the showroom.
FILMMAKER (off screen): So what’s in the showroom?
GRILL PATRON: Suture thread, body bags and needles. Hazard bags.... We have a 60-page catalogue. And we supply most undertakers in the city, some in the suburbs, some from Indiana. We ship all over the world. Except for Japan and Greece. Greece, they don’t use embalming fluid. They just wrap em in a cloth. And Japan, one guy came by and spent $600. But that’s the only customer I’ve seen from Japan. But other than that we ship all over.
Customers leaving grill.
GRILL OWNER: Bye Michael, see you tomorrow.
Traveling shots along Halsted. Traveling shots of public housing project.
1200 North Halsted
Various shots of the projects: cleaning with hydraulic gun; kids on playground; people walk past a metal detector, setting it off, and enter elevators.
MAN IN ELEVATOR: Don’t step in the.... What, somebody urinate in the elevator?
WOMAN: Ah hum.... Or it might be water comin from up there.
MAN IN ELEVATOR (to camera): I used to be a member of CVL: Vice Lords Nation. And I moved up in the ranks and sold drugs, did a number of things, but the conditions started changing. You know, back then it had block clubs and a sense of value in the community. But now the conditions are changed. Now there’s more drugs in the community, more guns in the community. And a lack of education. That made me change and wanna come back.
People from the elevator walk down a dark corridor and through a hole in the cinder block wall.
MAN FROM ELEVATOR: So the residents use this? If the elevator’s stuck then the residents use this. They use this for a route, to get from one building to another because the elevator’s stuck, to go to the other elevator, to go down. See these buildings are not connected: building 500, building 502 — they made a connection.
WOMAN: They made a connection for to go through.
YOUNGER MAN: We had peace for about two years, right? And it broke for about a month and a half. And this was the short cut that muh-fuhs get through, to get from building to building so you won’t get shot.
Man from elevator walks down hallway alone. Close up on TV in apartment, pan to little babies sleeping on sofa.
APARTMENT RESIDENT: One day I was lookin out the window, and as soon as I raised my head, a bullet came through the window. I came in here to see if she was OK. And she said something hit the wall.
It happen all the time: when the peace treaty break and they get to shootin at each other. But the majority of the shootin and the biggest guns and stuff is over there. It don’t make no sense. You always scared, you don’t know which way to go out, which way to come in. I’ll just be prayin, ask God: just make a way for me to get out of here, because I’m really tired over here.
I’ll find somewhere to go.
Shots of a mural. A young woman walks in parking lot.
YOUNG WOMAN: You hear the rumors, and some of those rumors are true about them wanting to tear down these developments. But it’s all about money, you know what I’m saying, because, this area it ain’t nowhere—nowhere!—from downtown. You can just hop skip and jump and there you is downtown. And it’s all about money. Most of the people that live here in Cabrini Green are poor. A lot of folks think that it’s about race, but it’s really about money.
Another woman walks out of building with baby on her arm.
WOMAN WITH BABY: Right behind us is 1119-1117: that was a 19 story building. And over to your left was a 7 story building. They tore that one down. This one is next to go. They tore it down so fast you can’t even tell a building used to be there, could you? And you can’t imagine that all those families that was in there, now they just gone, and I wonder where they at, you know, if everybody was able to find them someplace to stay. And I just figure in another ten years, this whole place... I wouldn’t even know my way around here.
An Arabic man and his son unload rugs from a truck in the shadow of the projects, displaying them from the side of the truck. A scrap collector pokes at a piece of smoking wire on the ground, walks away muttering. Another scrap collector addresses the camera:
SCRAP COLLECTOR: You know, prices vary, cans are down because everybody’s bringing in cans. The economy seems to merit that everybody’s out here. Didn’t used to be this many people out here junking. Everybody’s junking now. Everybody. Used to be only two or three of us in a certain area. Now there might be ten or twelve. So that let’s you know that the economy is shot. There’s a lot of poor people out here pickin up cans, and a lot of older people — 60’s — out here walking with buggies.... It’s rough right now.
I think it’s gonna get a lot worse. Lot of people are gonna start stealing, taking.... I think crime is gonna go up. I don’t think people are aware of how many people are actually on aid. And I agree a lot of people are.... I don’t get a check, I don’t even get food stamps — I get up and work every day — I don’t get nothing. But I know a lot of people that get em. And I know what kind of people they are. And if they don’t get checks, they’re gonna take. Ok? They’re just gonna have to build more prisons. See, they wanna stop welfare, but they wanna build more prisons, I think that’s stupid. You see what I’m saying? I don’t think nobody’s ever looked into how much money they spend on prisons. It’s a money-making venture though. You know, so maybe they wanna build prisons.
Elevated train rumbles overhead. Traveling shots of Lincoln Park.
1600 North Halsted
2 blocks from Cabrini Green
Various shots Lincoln Park street life: yuppies. Camera enters a cigar bar where patrons are offered cigars by scantily clad hostess. Two men converse in a walk-in-humidor.
CIGAR MAN #1: If you appreciate a Panama hat, or Italian leather shoes, porcelain from Portugal, or wherever all the famous things are made, and German engineering for cars, you appreciate a Dominican or Cuban cigar because it’s the same old world, hand made process that takes place.
It comes down to personal preference, but that cigar happens to be rated one of the highest cigars in the world.
CIGAR MAN #2: Very nice....
CIGAR MAN #1: In a zero to 100 rating, this one’s rated probably 93.... Anything over 90 is a classic, is a classic.
Street scenes: valet’s open and shut doors for patrons.
RESIDENT (Off screen, initially): It used to be, in 1980 — I’ve lived here for 17 years — in 1980 you could lay down in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day and wait for a car. Where would you want to park? You could take up as many spaces as you wanted — in front of your house, behind your house — wherever you wanted. As you look out now, you’ll see there’s one parking space available, and that person just pulled out.
Valet gets keys from another, starts off on a long run to where car is parked.
RESIDENT (continued...): So what are they doing? They try to get valets. Parking is the hot issue here. What’s going on on Halsted, in Lincoln Park? Parking! There’s only so many places to park; there’s only so many lots a valet can use.
Valet continues his run.
RESIDENT (continued...): They wanna have parking meters on Halsted so the stores will survive; they wanna put in permit parking.... And now people are fighting so that they can park in front of their house.
Valet finally reaches car and gets in. Shots of yuppies in intersection. Loner in bar watches “Wheel of Fortune” on TV, gazes out window. Day turns to night. Shots of Intersection of Fullerton and Halsted at night: blues clubs, yuppies. A blues song is heard — initially off-camera, then we enter the bar and see the performer:
No one cares about me.
Sometime I feel like I can’t go on.
And every time Jason hits me
up and down Halsted Street I roam.
Somebody help me,
Cause I know what I’m doing is wrong.
I know I should be at home,
but the need is much too strong.
Somebody help me.
Various shots night life in Lincoln Park. Fade to black.
Fade up on workers unloading portable outhouses from truck and placing on sidewalks. City workers erect barricades. Sign on parking meter says: “No Parking — Parade .”
3200 North Halsted
a.k.a. Boys Town
Man stands at table unloading boxes of flyers, etc.
MAN AT TABLE: Ok, who’s checkin in a parade entry? We need you to start signing in.
Shots of gay bars in Lakeview.
PARADE MARSHALL #1: Oh, I remember the first time I saw Halsted Street, I was 18. Couldn’t get into any bars, but I was like: “Let me get this straight, we’ve got 8 blocks, 9 blocks of nothing but gay area.” I’m like: “I love this place, this is Mecca.”
A room full of policemen listen attentively to their sergeant.
POLICE SARGEANT: One of the reasons I wanted all of you to come in here
is because besides the parade itself, what we have here to day are three individual fest sites that will be going on after the parade. I have some of the folks that are involved in organizing the parade, and some of the folks that are involved in some of the festival sites here. I wanted you to be able to recognize them on sight, but also see some of the distinguishing outfits they’re wearing, so you could find them in the crowd.
Take a look at the map we have up here when we are finished: it maps out the parade route. The part in yellow will be the assembly area. Do not allow traffic to flow toward the parade route.
Outside the police station, a parade participant addresses the camera.
PARADE PARTICIPANT: I started out when we couldn’t even talk about gay community. People didn’t talk about it. When AIDS started, it was hard to find a doctor that was out. Well now, in the gay community and lesbian community and transsexual, we are city-wide, we are in every neighborhood, in everybody’s business. We’re very young as a community, and the turn of the century is us. Better watch out!
Various shots Lesbian & Gay Pride Parade. Man poking head through cardboard cutout of Fabio’s body addresses camera.
FABIO: Fabio loves you so much.... Yes, suck the sweat off Fabio’s nipple!
Shots of parade.
PARADE MARSHALL #2: The first time that I saw the parade, I had all these butterflies in my stomach. I was just so excited just to be out, just to be around all these gay and lesbian people. It’s bigger than Christmas, it’s bigger than my birthday. It’s like the biggest family reunion you can think of.
More shots of parade, to the song “You Can Ring my Bell.”
MS ILLINOIS: This is freedom for everybody to be who they wanna be. This is freedom for everybody to just walk and be who they are. I value a person by one’s soul, not by their outside package or what they believe in.
More shots of parade and bystanders. Ms. Illinois passes by on the trunk of a convertible.
MS ILLINOIS: Hi! I’m having so much fun, I love you. bye.
Shots of members of PFLAG: Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, marching in parade. Crowd cheers wildly, and some step out to hug the marchers. Shot of little girl on bike from down-state Independence Day parade. Shot of barber from beginning of film.... Shots of crowds and parade participants from Pride parade begin alternating with shots from Independence Day parade.
NARRATION: It’s been nearly 400 miles since Halsted Street crept out of the Ohio River, and began its migration toward the big city. You could say that the people on opposite ends of this journey are separated by an ocean. Yet, we’re linked by one and a half million cubic yards of concrete, 400 miles, 14 counties, and one road.
It’s a stretch of pavement full of potholes to be sure: wrong turns, barriers, misconceptions. Yet it’s common ground, binding us for better and worse. It’s called Halsted Street. Main Street. Your Street. Do you recognize it?
Street sweepers and crews with air blowers clean the parade route. Crowds disperse file along the street.
NARRATION: Where the parade turns around, Halsted Street meets its undignified fate. It gets swallowed up by Broadway on the north side of Chicago: city of broad shoulders, the city that works. Right there in the shadow of Wrigley Field, where the Cubs have blown slightly more games than they’ve won. City of the called third strike, the dream deferred. “Wait’ll next year!”
Street sweepers and crowds recede in the distance.
TRANSCRIPT HALSTED STREET, USA