Tag Archives: lincoln park

Eddie Balchowsky and Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis & Brad Meinecke


Eddie Balchowsky, the Fascist Hunter, was a Spanish Civil War veteran.  Pre-War he was a skilled concert pianist and artist.  Battle robbed him of his right hand and he returned to his native Chicago a  pain-killer junkie.  Over the course of many decades he became a local legend, playing deserted pianos all across the Northside with one hand and a stump.   He was the janitor at the historic Quiet Knight music club.  Jimmy Buffett wasn’t the only person to write a song about him.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of working on The Resurrection of Tristan Meinecke is that Brad will introduce me to Chicago stories such as Eddie’s.  Doubly exhilarating is the fact that Tristan’s life was so connected to the rugged ecstatic history of Chicago that his name comes up in connection with so many local legends.  The deeper I get into this resurrection, the more clearly I see the Meinecke family emerging as kind of cultural nucleus inspiring the city around them with they’re fiercely determined rebel autonomy…or as Eddie Balchowsky calls them in the colorful story below – “Chicago Royalty”.   XOX

Tristan and Angel at their Cleveland Street home.

“Everywhere my parent’s went they drew a crowd.”  – Brad Meinecke

EDDIE & DAD

Eddie and Dad were extremely tight.  Dad hated junkies.  Eddie was a classic heroin user.  If not for that he would’ve been over all the time.  As it was he was often at our house playing the piano.  Dad loved his one handed playing.

ed1

Eddie Balchowsky

He was homeless but had umpteen homes.   He had one hand but played the piano . . . well.

He was junkie but to my knowledge never stole from friends.  Dad let him sleep in his office on numerous occasions,  never worried about theft.   He owned nothing but could eat free at some high end places, and everyone on the late night scene on Clark knew him.   He was known as the mayor of Clark street in the 70’s.

Once I was involved in an argument in a late night smorgasbord on Clark Street around 3am.   Bunch of folks yelling at me and I’m yelling back.   Suddenly this wizened little guy who looks like he hasn’t had a bath in a year sticks his head out of the crowd shouting-

Eddie grave“Everybody hold on for a second!  Son,  you’re about to get a royal ass kicking. You should leave now while you can.”

I said, “I don’t see anyone here who can kick my ass and y’all can serve me my dinner or grow some balls and try and kick my ass.   Your call.”

He cocks his head at me and asks my name.   I say,  “Brad Meinecke.”  He starts cracking up. Practically rolling on the floor.  Everyone is watching him like he’d gone mad.

“I knew you had to be a Meinecke!  I felt like I was talking to your Dad  a moment ago.  Your Dad is a great man with a huge heart.    I’m Eddie Balchowsky,  unofficial Mayor of Clark St.   You can eat here anytime.  I’m proud to eat with any Meinecke.  Clear a table, boys,  the son of Chicago royalty has come to visit…and if he’s anything like his Dad we’d better just leave him alone!”    That was the last time I saw him.   Eddie,  like my Dad, was larger than life.   A true Chicago original.

-BLM

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

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The Jazz Castle of Tristan Meinecke

by Joseph R. Lewis

Jazz players 2

“Meinecke remains one of the monumental artistic secrets of Chicago, a man whose contribution remains to be adequately understood and evaluated.”
John Corbett,  Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“If they played jazz in Chicago, they came to my parents’ pool parties.” – Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

When Tristan Meinecke arrived in Chicago back in the forties he fell in swiftly with the jazz swingers.  Tristan had already taught himself clarinet and alto sax and he worked the jazz dive circuit successfully here in this Windy City for many years.  He played in the first integrated jazz trio to hit the Northside clubs.  He hailed King Oliver and the entire royal court of jazz pioneers that forever changed the sound of music back in the 1920s from their impoverished neighborhoods on the Southside.

In an age of segregation and McCarthyism,  Tristan was an aggressive anti-racist. He threw more than a few literal fists into the figurative face of prejudice.

king_oliver
In the fifties Tristan rose to great prominence as one of the cities most exciting and progressive visual artists.  He clashed ideologically and physically with the art world as only a true rebel artist would.  His low tolerance for BS was compounded by his disdain for self-inflation and this, as you can imagine, put him at odds with many of his contemporaries and curators.  Eventually he eschewed the whole dang scene and established a home for he and his family free from the confines and servitude of any traditional genre or lifestyle.

He built his castle on Cleveland Street.

tris_angel_60s_pool_sized_300His wife, Angel, a famous Chicago starlet from the earliest days of television, counted amongst her good friends the likes of Lil Hardin, wife to Louis Armstrong and a legendary piano player in her own right.

Lil played with King Oliver, too.  She, along with others from that famous musical round table could often be seen lounging at Tristan and Angel’s 10-year pool party, which they hosted from ’61 to ’70 at their double-lot dual-building property at 2022 N Cleveland.

pool_scene_summers_gone_by_sized_437

From that address, this Chicago hipster power couple entertained a celebrity guest roster rivaling that of the Playboy Mansion.  He taught art classes and sold his own work directly from his own home, bypassing museums and galleries completely.

baby_dodds_sized_315Instruments abound, Tristan designed the acoustics of the property himself, to optimize the allure of the music from street, drawing the neighborhood ever-towards him.

Here’s a Meinecke unfired bust of Baby Dodds, jazz drummin’ pioneer.  Tris and Baby were good friends.  Baby sat for the bust->

2B Continued…

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.

Chicago’s Forgotten Lunatic Genius

by Joseph R. Lewis

Brad Meinecke, son of Tristan

Last summer I was directing the Youth Media program at Chicago Filmmakers.  One of my students had been signed up for my class by his parents and clearly had no direct interest in media production.  He liked Judo.  He was a champion butt-kicker.

wrapped woman 6But he held his own amongst a throng of supreme media-geeks and even verbally sparred with his sassiest female classmates to great success.  He was strong and eloquent and charming just like his father, as I soon came to discover.

His dad , Brad, would pick him up from camp occasionally.  He was a brick building of a man- the kind that could derail a train.  Sharp eyes, sand-paper stubble, with an aggressive gift for gab.  He told great stories like a great storyteller.  He knew when to be loud and when to whisper. As is true of most natives to this Midwest Metropolis, he loved talking about Chicago.

One day near the end of the summer I was sharing with Brad my adventures in urban archaeology.  I told him of the discovery of The Lost Marionettes and our impending rescue mission.  He leaned back and laid a big hairy eyeball on me.

Stylized_Blonde“I should tell you about my father.”

“Who’s your father?”

“My father came this close-“ Brad raised his hand and shoved it in my face, his thumb and finger pressed together tightly, “to being an internationally famous artist.  He’s one of the Chicago Greats…but nobody remembers him anymore…”

“Why not?”

“Because he was a genius…and a lunatic.”  He stared at me for a moment calmly, knowingly.  “His name was Tristan Meinecke.”

I expected a torrent of abusive tales and rueful recollections.  Instead, what I’ve been shown in these past few months is an ever-deepening picture of adventure, love, family, and rebellion unlike any that I’ve ever seen.    It’s like good jazz thumping across six decades in rhythm with the powerful heartbeat of our native city.

Tristan Meinecke. b. 1916 d. 2004

Where to begin?  Tristan the infant savant? Tristan the self-taught jazz musician?  Tristan the two-fisted?  Tristan the architect?  The father?  The husband?  The author?  The anti-racist?  The surrealist?  The manic depressive?  The composer?  The bulldog?

Only one thing is apparent- He lived the kind of life that can only be lived here, in this crossroads city called Chicago.
2B Continued…HERE
XOX

THE RESURRECTION OF TRISTAN MEINECKE
Visit the excavated studio of lunatic genius Tristan Meinecke in it’s final days of existence…
Exclusive Gallery Hours coming  this February in Chicago, Illinois.

Stay tuned to follow the adventure at The Underground Multiplex and the official Tristan Meinecke portal.