Monday, December 22, 2008

Blagojevich in the buff? Ugh!

A part of me is reluctant to write this commentary out of fear that I’m going to be giving more publicity to the Old Town neighborhood tavern that is displaying what it’s owner mockingly refers to as its “nude governor series.”

But I really don’t get the appeal of an amateur-quality painting depicting Rod Blagojevich in prison, about to be strip-searched by a guard.

IS THIS REALLY meant to draw the business of the segment of Illinois’ population that won’t be satisfied until they learn that Blagojevich is in a prison infirmary being treated for injuries sustained after being gang-raped in his cell?

Or are there really people other than the former Patricia Mell who have a desire to see Rod in the buff?

Either way, I don’t get it.

At stake is the Old Town Ale House, which received a dose of national attention earlier this year when its owners hung a painting that purported to be Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin in the nude, except for the assault rifle she was carrying.

ACTUALLY, IT WAS a painting of the tavern owner’s daughter, with Palin’s eyes, glasses and exaggerated beehive hairdo put on her body. But the painting’s existence drew many locals and tourists, many of whom insisted on using the cameras in their cellphones to shoot pictures of the nudie picture.

I don’t feel the need to show the Palin picture, but people can find many of those crude cellphone photographs on various sites around the Internet, if you are so inclined to search.

There’s no word thus far on who actually posed for the painting of Blagojevich.

Not that I particularly want to know, since about the only physical attribute of Illinois’ governor that has ever been notable has been his hair – which gives away completely the fact that Blagojevich is an “Elvis man.”

BUT TO ME, the reports about the Blagojevich painting that have been turning up in various newspapers all depict the aspect of this issue that offends me. And no, it’s not the thought of Blagojevich naked.

It’s the idea that a prison guard is included in the painting, putting on rubber gloves and having a look meaning serious business on his face.

As I perceive this so-called work of art, the point is to make us envision in our minds the moments following this scene – the one where Gov. Milorod is probed to ensure he’s not trying to smuggle contraband into whatever federal facility critics envision Blagojevich spending time at in coming years.

Personally, I can do without that scene, considering that we’re not even at the point where the Illinois House of Representatives can tell us exactly what it is that Blagojevich has done that makes him worthy of impeachment and removal from public office.

WE’RE DEFINITELY NOT anywhere near the point of a criminal trial, or sentencing, or the day when we might someday see our governor carted off to a minimum-security federal prison (perhaps the same facility in Oxford, Wis., that former Gov. George Ryan would have preferred to serve his time at).

Yet despite the idea of how premature such an image is, we are at the point where some people want us to speculate about “Blagojevich Behind Bars!” Perhaps some even have the notion of a companion painting of first lady Patti being searched at the federal facility for women near Pekin, Ill.

Now I know that the people who are out for Blagojevich’s scalp (with that mane of Elvis-like hair attached) aren’t going to want to hear this.

But if there are people in our population who are already concocting such images in their heads, I’m wondering if it is possible for Blagojevich someday to get a fair trial. Could we already have a potential jury pool of people with such set views on the incumbent governor that they’re not going to want to hear any of the rhetoric that Blagojevich’s attorneys are starting to espouse (that Rod’s chatter caught on federal wiretaps is not criminal activity in and of itself, but is just political trash talk).

NOW I KNOW that some people feared the same thing when it came to picking a jury for the federal court trial of Ryan and they managed to get through a trial and arrive at a conviction.

But let’s not forget the mess that became of that jury, and the perception among some (including some appeals court judges) that the jury did become tainted against Ryan. I’d hate to think we’re going to have to relive a version of that saga with the Blagojevich trial.

Paintings like the portrait at the Ale House (which officially carries the title, “The Cavity Search”) are trivial in, and of, themselves. But when put together with a lot of other trivial slights, they create the image that could prevent true justice (which involves getting at the truth, not punishment) from ever being achieved.

And the idea of something as stupid and trivial as this painting having a serious negative after-effect scares me.

THERE’S ONE OTHER reason I’m critical of this painting. At least insofar as the image that was published of the painting recently in the Chicago Tribune, it’s terrible as a work of art and as an accurate image.

It doesn’t look like Blagojevich, not even the ridiculous hair.


EDITOR’S NOTES: I fear the image that will be created should the Old Town Ale House (,0,5136319.story) decide to display a portrait of California’s governor.

Sarah Palin seems to have started something in Chicago at a tavern in the same neighborhood ( as the Second City comedy troupe that originally produced Tina Fey.

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