My Choir, Your Choir, Chicago's Choir: A History of Wicker Park Choral Singers, 2008 - 2012
All things considered, I had a pretty swell office. The only imperfection was my cascading pile of assignments—radio interviews to conduct, stories to chase down, histories to write. Easing out of my creaky desk chair, I made my way to the window. I unhooked the slatted wooden shades and threw open the sash for a slap of cold, autumn air.
A door slammed behind me, rattling the glass, and a file thudded down on my desk. “Leave the window open, Crawley, and get over here.”
My cigar-chomping boss was pointing at the file as I turned, her face peeking out of a cloud of blue smoke. I walked over and read the label on the front of the file. “Mark ‘The Gentleman’ Tomasino.”
“You know anything about him?”
I eyed the size of the file. “I expect I will soon.”
“Don’t start cracking wise with me, Crawley.” Stephanie Malmquist chomped the end of her cigar. “This guy is big time. Moved to the city straight out of college. Took a job at Career Builder when it was still hiring anyone with people skills and a pulse. And made something of it, you know?”
“What kind of story is that?” I sat down at the desk, feeling a bit contrary. “Rags to riches is the stuff of Chicago. It’s old.”
“It’s what he did on the side that counts.”
I sat up and folded my hands on the desk. “Alright, I’m listening.”
“Of course you are, I pay your salary.” Stephanie leaned back in her chair and blew more smoke into the air. I picked up the giant folder and started waving the cigar fumes out the window.
“So what did he do on the side, boss?”
She cleared her throat and glanced at the door. “He started a choir.”
“Well, shoot, that doesn’t seem like such a rotten thing to do. He’s ‘The Gentleman’ after all. Don’t gentleman like music?”
“The nickname is ironic…you know…irony. Like that joker who rigged the races a while back and called himself ‘Honest Joe.’ Anyway, gentlemen like to be seen in their opera boxes with fine dames. They don’t play in the pit.”
“So you want me to cover some covert choir deal?” I scoffed.
“I don’t care what you think, this is big time. He’s coming clean on a double life. It could ruin his reputation. But he’s looking for bigger audiences, and I told him, I said, Mark, I can do something about that, if you sell me your story. No more peanuts, we’re talking whole circus.”
I was starting to get the picture. “So, what’s the end goal?”
“Right, picture this,” Steph made a frame with her hands. “We’ll record his story, we’ll get the interviews from members of the choir, and we’ll ball it all up into a series of installments for prime time radio. The choir sings in the background and some hotshot Hollywood talent reads the script over the music—Paul Teipe—you heard of him?”
“We’ll call it, Singing Sweet Somethings with ‘The Gentleman,’” she finished.
“That’s a terrible name.”
“Close it, Crawley.” Steph stood and turned on her heel, stomping her way to the door. She knew she’d hooked me as soon as I started offering opinions. “This is big. Don’t mess it up.”
“I want a promotion.”
Steph hammered the door closed.
To be continued...