Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss

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Much of the press Sebastián Silva’s move “Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012” has gotten this summer has focused on the film’s female lead, Gaby Hoffmann, and the fact that she did not require a merkin or other artificial follicular embellishment for her nude scenes.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared September 19, 2010.

CHICAGO – One of the funniest things I’ve heard in many years was said to me by a co-worker, a lifelong Chicagoan.

“There’s no such thing as a Chicago accent,” he said.

I laugh every time I think of it.

Of course, like everyone else who grew up here, he pronounced “Chicago” as “Shuh-CAW-go,” and, as well-educated as he is, I bet that after a beer or two, he would have said “dere” and “t’ing.”

He said it with a straight face, and he meant it. (Not like the Facebook group, “There is no such thing as a Chicago accent!,” which appears to have been started by individuals who, in fact, believe the opposite.)

“Dis’s hayer sapose ta tawk. Dis’s narmal. Ever’wun eltz tawks funny.”

All right, now I’m exaggerating. And I’d agree that there is no such thing as the Chicago accent. There are, of course, several. It’s a very diverse city. Ukrainians and African-Americans and Vietnamese and Assyrians and Bosnians all have their own accents. As do Uptown Kentuckians and the few remaining Andersonville Swedes. The most prominently parodied Chicago accent is a dialect that is mainly found among the white working class – specifically, white working class individuals who were born and raised here. Due to demographic changes, that accent is quite noticeably on the decline.

I was an impressionable kid. For instance, I was very moved by the “let’s put on a show!” ethos of “The Little Rascals” (aka “Our Gang”) shorts – which were broadcast every afternoon on Chicago UHF TV. Thanks to Spanky, Alfalfa, and company, I was forever trying to put on a show in my own backyard, always unsuccessfully, due to the fact that there were not enough fellow rascals in my neighborhood to stage a full-blown vaudeville extravaganza, or even to serve as a suitable audience, notwithstanding the tireless efforts of my long-suffering (and sole) sidekick, Jeffie.

I can’t remember if it was “Our Gang” or some other bane of Newton Minow that provoked me to try to start up my own neighborhood “newspaper.” Like my attempts at theater, my paper never got off the ground, even though I had found a really kick-ass place in the woods for a secret hideout, er, editorial headquarters.

Failures are learning experiences, and should be appreciated, as such.

I stayed interested in the newspaper business. After a semester of gonzo sex-and-drugs-and-rock-and-roll-soaked fun as the news editor of my community college weekly (the day we learned we were being evicted from our little hash-smoke-redolent trailer on the edge of campus, and were to be moved into a glass-walled fishbowl in the midst of the lair of our nemesis, the faculty director of the student government – dude was Dean Wormer with a cheesy mustache and smarmy grin – the editorial board got together, got wasted, and trashed the bejesus out of our beloved offices and spray painted obscene cartoons all over the hammer-and-boot-pocked wood-esque-paneled walls – good times) I transferred to one of my home state’s top-four “directional” universities and immediately joined the staff of the student newspaper.

I think I lasted two days. Maybe three. Details are unusually fuzzy in my memory, but something about my first assignment pissed me off, and I said some things to a couple of editors that made me unwelcome in their very stuffy and Omega-Theta-Pi-House-like home. Which was actually a house. A house full of very dull people.