Tag Archives: Alderman John Arena

Mediatrocities #12: Razzie & Oscar Surprises and Oversights and Remembering Kim Fowley

KimFowleyby Legendary Lew

Mediatrocities #12 is here with Legendary Lew, TyPi and Mountain Drew in their latest thrill-packed episode. We discuss what’s going on with some overlooked Razzie noms, why the Oscar noms are so damn white, and what exactly did legendary music producer claim he did to promote early Motown records. Give a listen and share. I think it’s one of our best episodes.

Is Comcast Trying to Kill Chicago’s Public Access TV Stations?


by Legendary Lew

Comcast is Chicago’s largest cable provider and wants to renew a 10-year contract with the city. Part of the licensing renewal agreement, if agreeable to the city of Chicago, would be to provide air space on their spectrum for public access.

This has always been a pesky little matter for cable giants, because providing public access stations gets in the way of important things like profits from vital, universe-changing programming like Duck Dynasty or disputing reports of their incredibly low-ranking customer service ratings.

Well, negotiations for a renewal, including budgeting for CAN-TV (Chicago’s public access TV stations) have now been going on for over a year with no agreement. Seriously. Comcast can’t seem to get it together enough to promise to do right for Chicago with a guaranteed budget to keep CAN-TV operating. The current contract with Comcast was extended for three months and expires on June 15, 2014.

That means that, conceivably, Chicago could be without public access channels after that date. This would be a travesty and would totally undermine the original goals of serving the public interest promised by the cable companies.

Comcast made $6.82 billion last year. Current operating costs for CAN-TV run about $2.7 million dollars total. The cable companies don’t even provide all that money, some of it comes from fundraising and donations, etc.

Even if cable companies were to provide all the $2.7 million. That means in terms of just Comcast’s income alone from last year, it would amount to .04% of those earnings.  This is a pittance to ensure a great service for the community.

Forty-three Aldermen signed a petition to Comcast asking the cable company to stop dragging its feet and provide for the services Chicago needs to keep CAN-TV operating at its best potential.

In a time when the cable giant is willing to put up the bucks to purchase Time Warner for $45 billion for a super cable conglomerate, it’s ludicrous to believe Comcast can’t cough up enough to provide basic, vital community programming for its local viewers.

As part of the production team of the Emmy-nominated Elephant and Worm TV show (my public disclosure), I’d like to call on others to join CAN-TV in contacting and thanking their Alderman for taking the right stance with Comcast. You can find the list of those who signed the petition here. (Find your Alderman here). If your Alderman did not sign, please ask him/her to do so.

Also, call CAN-TV and tell them you support their programming and ask how you can help. They need to hear from you, Chicago, if you value the true choices in programming that the cable lobby always promises the public.

Dear Chicago: Would You Like to Make World Headlines for Something Other Than Murders and School Closings? Here’s How

by Legendary Lew Ojeda

There are 4 people out there with $3900 who could help us right now to make world headlines for Chicago. I’m not kidding.

The Ralph Kipniss marionettes are believed to be the world’s largest collection of marionettes privately-made by a single artist. 

As you know by now, The Underground Multiplex has been running a

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Ralph Kipniss with Wizard of Oz marionettes in the 1960s

Kickstarter campaign to the save the life work of master marionette puppeteer Ralph Kipniss. As of this writing, we are just short of $16,000 of our goal, which is due at 9:49AM Central Standard Time November 13.

The story has been covered widely by Dave Hoekstra of The Chicago Sun-Times; by Gwynedd Stuart of The Chicago Reader; by Dominick Suzanne-Mayer of Heave Media; soon by Kwame Shorter of CHIRP Radio; and by LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago. Boing Boing has now posted about this campaign as well.   If you haven’t read about the incredible story of Ralph Kipniss and his marionettes, please do so. Here’s a video of Trotter’s NBC 5 news report:

The Associated Press has picked up the story and distributed it to the following news outlets

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Stamford Advocate
Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram
Danbury News Times
Wichita Eagle
Miami Herald
Quad Cities Times
Kansas City Star
Arlington Star-Telegram
San Francisco Gate
Modesto Bee
Austin 360
Charlotte Observer
Houston Chronicle
and many others!

Our campaign has also been “faved” or shared by Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Rabbit Room Productions, La Mama Theater and more!

This story has national attention. It also has the very strong possibility of going viral, so please share this on Twitter (we are @TheUGMultiplex), on Facebook and click the up arrow on this post at Reddit (it’s a quick register).

If our campaign is successful, Chicago will gain world attention for saving the largest collection of privately made marionettes known in the country and perhaps the world.


Chicago, you have your chance at history. Right now.

We have until Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 9:49AM. Click here to help.

Thank you!

Mediatrocities #7: Legendary Lew Interviews Chris Hefner on His Upcoming New Feature “The Poisoner”

poisonerChicago filmmaker Chris Hefner recently sat down with me and talked about his new movie The Poisoner, which will debut soon at The Portage Theater (you can help him screen the film sooner by visiting his website and buying a deluxe screening ticket).

Chris is a wonderfully talented director, whose first feature The Pink Hotel had a successful debut at The Music Box Theatre. Our talk discussed everything from his filmmaking approach and his start behind the camera to current methods of radically independent film production and distribution. If you have any interest at all in making films on the cheap but have them not looking that way, you really should give a listen.

This episode hosted by Legendary Lew. Produced and directed by Lew Ojeda. The closing theme is “Ghostsong” by Daniel Knox.


Mediatrocities Podcast #6.1: Remembering Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Lew Ojeda and Tyler Pistorius remember the influence Roger Ebert had on their lives and discuss the future of film after his passing. Included are a few choice clips of classic Ebert from his long-running classic TV series.

The Portage Theater Threatened AGAIN, This Time by the Building’s New Owner “Eddie” Carranza

UPDATE: WBEZ reported on this earlier with Carranza’s lawyer, Thomas   Raines making this statement about a meeting he had with John Arena:

“Something happened in that meeting [Wednesday] that changed all this, and it was something the Alderman said a few times and something he did,” Raines said Sunday morning. I know that’s not much for you and I know it’s kind of cryptic and it doesn’t do much to change your story or make us look any better. But right this minute, I can’t get into it, what he did. But he did something that made us change our position.”

So in other words: we can’t tell you, you won’t understand, it’ll make us look bad anyway, but Arena did and said something terrible.

What is this, a meeting of the Freemasons? If Raines thinks the terms brought forward to him were so bad, he should make them public and not treat us like children.


When the Portage Theater building was bought a few weeks ago by the current owner of the problem-plagued Congress Theater, some in the community were already sounding the warning while others were willing to give it a chance to develop positively.

Looks like the distrusting folks might have had a point.

Alderman John Arena just put out a very stinging statement about owner Erineo “Eddie” Carranza’s attempts to evict the current operators of The Portage Theater, despite assurances this would not be done–flat out calling him a liar. Here is Arena’s statement in its entirety:

***IMPORTANT*** In an effort to keep you posted on the continuing efforts to Save the Portage theater please read the following immediately.

Just two weeks ago, I told you that I was cautiously optimistic that we could work with Erineo “Eddie” Carranza, the new owner of the Portage Theater building, to improve this community treasure and the Six Corners retail district. I now know that is not the case.

My office learned early Saturday that Mr. Carranza is threatening to evict the current operators of the Portage Theater for lack of payment of a disputed amount of back rent. This is despite assurances Mr. Carranza gave the Old Irving Park Association, the Six Corners Association, the current operators, and me that he would not make any changes to the operations at the Portage in the short term. Additionally, Mr. Carranza’s attorney on Wednesday assured the operators and me that he would not evict the operators.

In short, Mr. Carranza lied to me, and he lied to the community.

It is not clear what Mr. Carranza thinks will happen should he follow through on his threat. The current operators are the holders of the liquor and public place of amusement licenses, and those licenses stay with the operators regardless of what Mr. Carranza does.

Additionally, in light of his well-documented problems at the Congress Theater, my office has repeatedly told Mr. Carranza that I would not support his holding of any liquor or public place of amusement licenses at the Portage Theater until he could prove, through a track record of problem-free management, that he had the ability to act as a responsible venue owner and liquor license holder. His documented history of deferred maintenance, rowdy crowds, and underage drinking at the Congress is not welcome at Six Corners.

Moving forward, I will encourage the current operators to explore their legal options. I expect they will operate in the theater until all those legal options are exhausted.

In the longer term, Mr. Carranza has already shown during his short ownership of the Portage that he is not a man of his word. I was willing to give Mr. Carranza a second chance to prove he had learned from his mistakes at the Congress. It seems now that Mr. Carranza has learned nothing. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

We still have options as a community, and my office will continue to explore all available avenues to ensure that the Portage Theater meets its potential as an economic engine at Six Corners. This may take some time, and I ask for your patience and continued support as we work through this.

Other development continues at Six Corners. We still have many exciting institutions and businesses coming to the area. I will do everything possible to make sure that continues. The Portage Theater is one of the cultural, economic, and historic icons of our community. I will continue to be its ceaseless advocate.

Thank you for reading.
Alderman John Arena

You will want to head here to read the entire statement, but it’s not good. It looks like The Portage Theater and the Six Corners community is up for another fight to save the Portage Theater.

I would, seriously, contact the Portage Park Neighborhood Association and tell them you support their continued efforts to save the Portage Theater as an independent venue of entertainment–free from the ownership of those who can’t be trusted with this important landmark.

Oh, and The Congress Theater’s number is 773-276-1235. Perhaps you can POLITELY contact them and let them know you don’t appreciate Mr. Carranza’s deception. Tell him you want the theater owners to remain in the building as previously agreed and not to be evicted.

Portage Theater is Sold

Portage Park Neighborhood Association and John Arena sent out an email on the new development in the ongoing drama over The Portage Theater.  (You can read the statement here. Just scroll halfway down the column)

It’s been sold to Eddie Carranza, current owner of The Congress Theater. The  big concern with much of the community is the reputation of The Congress Theater being a community nuisance. In April, neighbors near The Congress brought complaints about the venue to City Hall. Those grievances ranged from very loud music to issues of safety, magnified by the rape of an underage teen girl near the theater on New Year’s Eve. She had been turned away from the theater shortly before the incident.

I had been reading the Alderman Joe Moreno has been working with The Congress to improve conditions there. That’s great and I really hope this cooperation comes through.

I’ve not ever attended The Congress, so I can’t comment on it, but personally, I almost wish we could learn about the improvements and their effectiveness at The Congress first, before knowing the same owners will be working on an even bigger project with The Portage. I am heartened with their stated willingness to continue having a full range of programming, including films. Hopefully, they’ll allow for the non-profit film groups to still have a home there.

Be that as it may, you can rest assured the neighbors will be watching developments like a hawk.



The Portage Theater is Saved!

Alderman John Arena just posted the following on Facebook:

I was just informed that Chicago Tabernacle has withdrawn its application to the ZBA. I want to thank everyone who supported the Portage Theater throughout this process. Specifically but not limited to the Six Corners Assoc., PPNA, OIPA and JPNA. There are far too many individuals to list but Denis and Linda and his business partners should be thanks everyday for investing in the Portage Theater over 6 years ago. Join me tomorrow night at the Portage at 5 pm to celebrate these visionaries and the gem they polished and maintain in our community.

John Arena, Save the Portage Theater, PPNA, Six Corners, Old Irving Park and all those Chicagoans who spoke out, wrote and attended meetings and events to support the Portage are to be commended.

Indie entertainment lives! Chicago proves it’s a great town for the arts!


Chicago ZBA Set to Rule on the Future of The Portage Theater on Friday

Friday is the all-important date that determines the future of The Portage Theater. Chicago Tabernacle asked for and got an extension before a ruling by the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. That extension expires on Friday and hopefully we can convince the Board that enough is enough.

This (hopefully final) meeting will be July 20 at 2pm at the Zoning Board of Appeals:

Zoning Board of Appeals
121 N LaSalle
Chicago, IL

This is a church that turned down other available abandoned properties in favor of taking over a functioning one.  If the Tabernacle takes over The Portage, numerous businesses set to open around the historic site will have to move elsewhere or not open at all.

The only assurances made public that I’ve ever read by the church that the sale would be beneficial were that churchgoers are local consumers, too (if that’s the case, I’ll be glad to go on a shopping spree with any of them in Fantasy Costumes before Halloween) and that they have a choir that provides entertainment.

Sorry, but these reasons don’t cut it.

The Portage Theater brings delight to the many thousands of people who’ve attended entertainment shows there. It’s one of the few remaining truly independent venues available for promoters, producers and artists. It’s a rental space open to a wide variety of interests, which brings up this point: Couldn’t Chicago Tabernacle just rent the space for a choir concert when needed?

Support this vibrant theater by joining the Facebook page, Save the Portage Theater. Go to The Portage and support them. Support the surrounding businesses and tell them you like The Portage as it is.

Come to the meeting and support this great theater! Sign this petition and share it with others. Thanks and see you there!

Zoning Board of Appeals Decision on The Portage: The Bad and the Good

More than 50 people showed up to support the Portage

The day finally came when the Chicago Zoning  Board of Appeals made a decision on the future of The Portage Theater.

More than 50 people showed up in support of The Portage Theater, a pretty good turnout for a weekday at 9am.

The ZBA took the Portage property case first, with the legal counsel of Chicago Tabernacle seeking an extension regarding the decision of the board. Citing “hardship”, the church claimed they weren’t given enough time to sort out all the particulars, especially with parts of The Portage now up for landmark designation.

A Six Corners Association rep and Alderman John Arena argued strictly along economic lines. Allowing the church to buy The Portage would stifle economic growth for Six Corners and the surrounding neighborhoods. Leases for businesses waiting to open near The Portage would be in jeopardy if the church was allowed purchase or with further delays.

The Board took note for the record that there were quite a number of people showing up opposed to the church purchase (over 50).

The bad news: ZBA decided to delay a decision on the sale of the property for 30 days (until July 20th).

The good news: This time period was half of what church counsel requested. In fact, when asked how long a delay was necessary to basically get its act together, counsel responded “oh, about a couple of months,” eliciting derisive laughter from some in the audience.

I think the ZBA was trying its best to be fair under the circumstances, but I definitely got a read that the chairman was frustrated with church counsel.  It doesn’t look good when you don’t have all “your ducks in a row” as the chairman implied and you get a significant number of people siding against you showing up.

The next ZBA hearing will be July 20th at 2pm. Mark your calendars NOW.

The chairman could not affirm that 7/20/2012 will be the absolute final date of the decision, but it seems clear he doesn’t want this dragging on indefinitely, which is what Chicago Tabernacle seems intent on doing.