Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Davenport (IA)

Tim Stopulos Plays Redstone Room on Dec. 19th

tim-stopulus1Tim Stopulos, a Davenport Assumption High School graduate who attended college in Wake Forest (Winston Salem, North Carolina) after graduation, was in town on December 19th, playing at the Redstone Room of the River Music Experience.

His tightly knit combo played some covers of Billy Joel and Elton John (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”) on which Steven Kretschmer guested and sang harmony, but most of the songs were original compositions from Tim’s album “The Long Drive Home.”

Tim’s band consists of Justin Hooks on drums and percussion, Seville Lilly on keyboards and bass guitar, Michael Tahlier, lead guitar. Tim, himself, plays keyboards and guitar and sings lead vocals while composing many of the group’s songs. Born in 1983, the 25-year-old singer/songwriter says he has been influenced by everyone from Dave Matthews to John Mayer, Ben Folds, Coldplay, Billy Joel, Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. He began 15 years of piano instruction at the age of 6, and it has definitely paid off.

I spoke with Seville Lilly, the bass and keyboards player (and the thin guy wearing the hat) and he said, “Tim is the most complete musician I’ve met. He has it all. He sings, he composes, he can play all the instruments. I’ve been in 13 bands in and around Chicago. This CD is really well-produced. It was hearing this CD that convinced me to join the band.” Seville went on to note that he is not on the CD. He gave kudos to band organizer and “main man” Tim Stopulos, who seems very upbeat and energetic and dedicated to making it in the crazy and unpredictable music business.

tim-stopulos2I bought one of the CDs, in order to listen to: “Weak and Willing,” “Too Close,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Love It or Leave It,” “Where I’m going,” “Loose Ends,” “Lie to Me” (I thought it was going to be Johnny Lang’s version; it wasn’t), “Wandering,” and “Wait it Out.”

What I liked best about the concert was that Stopulos is undeniably talented. I haven’t been as impressed with a keyboard player since I heard Joe Firstman open for Sheryl Crow and predicted a big career for the guy (who is now the house band on Carson Daley’s late night show). [22 years of piano instruction here, so there!]
The band’s members are mainly from the Chicago area, and they are playing in the Chicago area at the following places during the upcoming weeks:

December 20th – Bad Dog Tavern (solo) 9 p.m.

December 23rd – Nan’s Piano Bar (solo) 8:30 p.m.

December 27th – Reggie’s Music Joint

January 9, 2009 – 1:30 A, Bar Louise (solo)

January 16 – The Red Line Tap, 9 p.m.

January 31, Private party, 8 p.m.

Learn more about Tim Stopulos’ band, and vote for a name for the band, at his blog:www.timstopulos.com. It’s nice to hear a singer who can actually sing, for a change, and whose talent comes through loud and clear. Good luck to thisĀ  Iowa native as he takes on the world of entertainment.

John McCain Speaks in Davenport, Iowa at Campaign Stop on October 11th

John McCainRepublican Presidential candidate John McCain visited Davenport, Iowa and held a rally at the RiverCenter at 136 E.3rd St on Saturday, October 11, 2008. It was the day after his Vice Presidential running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, was found guilty by a bi-partisan committee in Anchorage (AL) of abusing her power as Governor to have a commissioner fired who refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper.

The rally was scheduled for 10 a.m. and the National Anthem was sung by Nick Boyd of Rock Island, a young student from the Illinois Quad Cities, who did a wonderful job. [His voice has not changed yet, however; one wonders whether that pure high tone will stay with him into adulthood.] Nick had previously sung the National Anthem at a Cubs game.

The stage was decked out with a John Deere tractor to the right, amidst some fake foliage, as Moline, Illinois, in the Quad Cities is the international headquarters of Deere & Company.

I sat on the Press risers next to two sixth grade students from Rivermont Collegiate Prep School whose teacher, Leigh Ann Schroeder (a fifth grade teacher) had engineered press passes for her charges. Madeline Bowman, daughter of Carrie and Jerry Bowman, and Lollie Telleen, daughter of Amy and John Telleen, are two of just 12 students in the prestigious but pricey private school located in Bettendorf, Iowa. They seemed excited to be there and even helped by snapping a photo of me.Connie Wilson

My old boss, Bill Wundram of the Quad City Times wandered by quite late in the game, and, later, said that “they all start to seem the same” of his over 50 years in the news game.

The Blue Devil (Davenport Central) Dance Team did a good job of keeping the crowd amused and occupied while we waited for McCain’s entrance, which was to good effect as the Straight Talk Express drove right into the auditorium, which held about 3,000 faithful fans.

I was very interested to see if there were going to be ugly scenes in this basically polite part of the nation. There was one protester who, at 11:22 a.m., was hoisted onto her male friend’s shoulders and unfurled a banner that read War Is Over. They were promptly escorted out and McCain’s retort was, “There are some people who just don’t get it/.” He went on to say that Americans don’t want to hear us yelling at one another.

Before the rally got started, the Master of Ceremonies had noted that, in 2000, Iowa was lost to the Democrats by 2 votes per precinct. In 2004, it was won by the Republicans by 3 votes per precinct. The message was clear, but the margin, this year, may be quite different.

The backdrop on the stage read, in large white on blue letters: REFORM, PROSPERITY and PEACE. I thought about those three banner words. Palin was brought into the race as an agent of “reform,” and it now looks as though she, herself needs to reform. PROSPERITY? We all wish for prosperity, in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. PEACE? Another sigh and another prayer for deliverance.

The music that ushered McCain into the hall was not the usual Country and Western nor the rock-and-roll anthems that some (Jackson Browne, John Cougar Mellencamp, et. al.) have asked the Republicans not to use. It was a rather somber orchestral score, and it led into the remarks that McCain made, such as, “At this time of crisis, we must go to the heart of the problem and, right now, that problem is the housing crisis.”

The Men with the Big Cameras (national media) swept in around 11:10 a.m., but there were fewer of them than at the Cedar Rapids rally and the tripod count was more like 13 than the huge numbers that usually accompany traveling Presidential candidates.

McCain announced, “I’m so happy to be here in the state of Iowa where there are good family values.” Fifteen seconds into his speech, he used his favorite phrase, “My friends.”

McCain: “One thing I hear from America is that they’re angry.” ( I began to question whether this was a wise segue, in light of recent outbursts at other rallies.) “We’ll turn Washington upside down,” said McCain, adding, “I know how to do that” in reference to getting the economy back on track. The GOP candidate went on to say that he would order the Secretary of the Treasury to carry out a home ownership program, to replace high interest mortgages with affordable ones. “There’s so much on the line. The moment requires a government act,” said McCain.

Just before the female protester unfurled her anti-war banner and was unceremoniously hauled out of the hall, McCain said, “Which candidate’s experience in life make him a better leader? In short, who’s ready to lead?” I thought about this and wondered if this statement worked for or against McCain, who does have many years in the Senate—some of them quite contentious— but does not have the global ties that bind Obama, such as ties to Africa and years spent living abroad in the Philippines. Obama is more an “outsider” than Palin, with his birthplace of Hawaii, but he has Midwest roots, courtesy of his white Kansas grandparents.

McCain made reference to earmarks in a criticism of the “$3 million study of the DNA of bears in Montana.” He failed to mention the two weird and expensive earmark studies that Alaskans asked for and got, to study mating habits of crabs, as I remember one of them.

McCain got a big round of applause when he suggested, “Stop sending $700 billion in aid to foreign countries that don’t like us very much.” He also referenced Obama’s “We need a scalpel, not a hatchet” debate rejoinder in Nashville by saying, “Right now, we need a hatchet and a scalpel.”

McCain, again, expressed his capability of “confronting the $10 trillion debt” with his mantra, “I can do that.” He promised to “balance the federal budget before the end of my term,” which seemed very optimistic for any candidate of either party, at this point in time. He offered no specifics.

There were attacks on Obama: “We’ve all heard what he’s said, but it’s less clear what he’s done or what he will do.” He as good as called Obama a liar saying, “I wouldn’t seek advice (in truthfulness) from a Chicago politician.” [Gee, and just when I thought the Republican candidate was going to take the high road for a while, as when he told the misinformed woman in another state at another rally that, no, Obama was not an Arab and expressed admiration for his life story.

At 11:30 a.m. there were shouts of protest from the crowd as McCain spoke of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and accused Obama of remaining silent in reining in their excesses before the crisis and of taking money from these agencies for his campaign. McCain repeated the line accusing Obama of fining employers who don’t put employees in a federal health program he supports, and repeated a line from the Belmont debate, “He won’t specify the amount of the fine for not insuring employers.” Someone shouted out “accountability” at that point. It was unclear whether it was someone who was for McCain or against him.

McCain, again on the attack, went on to accuse Obama of wanting to raise debt by $860 billion dollars.” I swear that the first time he mentioned the figure, he said $850 billion; the next time, it had been raised by $10 billion. (What’s $10 billion or so when we’re dug into debt this deep?)

In his attack against earmarks (federal pork attached to bills), McCain was particularly incensed by Obama’s support for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois to receive funding for a new lens. I live across the street from the Adler Planetarium. I am glad they got the new funding, as it is a major tourist attraction in Chicago. After all, Obama is the junior Senator from Illinois, and it makes more sense than either of the earmark programs mentioned previously.

A memorable quote, but one which made me uneasy: “You don’t have to wonder if there will be change if I am elected. You know there’ll be change if I’m elected.”

At 25 minutes to 12 noon, McCain thanked every veteran in the house and added of the many conflicts we are now engaged in (thanks to 8 years of Republican leadership, poor intelligence, etc., which includes Iraq, Afghanistan, et. al.) “I will bring them (our troops) home with victory and honor and not in defeat.” [I immediately thought to myself in alarm, “Unless they’re killed or seriously wounded before the 100 years is up that you have previously said we should stay and fight.”]

McCain vowed to “fight for you and put the government back on the side of the people.” He added, “I know I can inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest.” Again, I wondered whether the next generation will be more inspired by the almost 73-year-old McCain and his Alaskan running mate, or by the 47-year-old Obama and Joe Biden from Delaware.

At 20 minutes of noon, just before the rally ended, McCain made a reference to the United States Naval Academy and there was a huge round of applause and big cheers from behind him. Showing the good humor showcased to good effect on many “Saturday Night Live” appearances, McCain turned and said, “Naval Academy graduates, I guess,” with a shrug.

And then the rally was over and we all exited into the bright, sunny 80-degree weather to find out whether the University of Iowa Hawkeyes would beat Indiana’s football team in their Big Ten contest (they did).

And, soon, we’ll see if the Old Warrior can beat the odds, fend off his Republican ties to the least popular President of all time, and pull out what is now an upset win against the junior Senator from Illinois, AKA “that one,” which state is just across the I74 bridge I took home.John McCain

“It’s a Really Big Shoe….”

Weinermobile benefited from Giant Shoe built in 1922 by Harry Hallas in Davenport, Iowa.

As readers of my blog know, I just did a story on the Weinermobile, a 27-foot vehicle that visited the Quad Cities recently, with its 2-month-old baby brother in tow, a 13-foot smaller weiner, built on a Mini Cooper chassis. [See blog archives.]

But how many Quad City readers are aware that, back in 1922, a local business (Hallas & Mead) built a giant shoe thirteen feet long that weighed about a ton and was an exact metal replica of a work shoe of the day, for advertising purposes for the Mendel Shoe Store?

Back in December of 1978, Jim Arpy (now retired) of the Quad City Times interviewed the then-77-year-old creator of the giant shoe, Harry Hallas, a sheet-metal fabricator for 25 years for his brother, George. George, along with Arthur Mead, owned Hallas and Mead Company (24th St. and 3rd Avenue.) Harry Hallas worked there for 47 years, but building the Big Shoe was among his most unusual job chores…right up there with prying six bullets out of one of John Looney’s vehicles following a gun battle.

The Hallas and Mead Company is long gone, but listen to Harry Hallas talk about one of the prototypical vehicles that the Weinermobile is based on, and a vehicle he helped build:

Harry Hallas:

“I can’t for the life of me remember where Mendel’s (Shoe Store) was located, but one day he (Mendel) came into the shop and said he wanted us to make a shoe large enough to be mounted on a Model T Ford chassis. We’d never done anything like that, but we were the only place in the area equipped to do it, so we took it on.”

[Hallas and the partners worked for about a year to complete the shoe, which had a driver who sat in the arch behind a windshield and steered conventionally, separated from the rear and uppers by a compartment door. The shoe also had eyelet hooks (three of them) on each side and four similarly-situated large holes for the same purpose and was painted work-shoe brown.]

Hallas: “It sure stirred a lot of interest. I don’t think we would have accepted any more orders like that. We didn’t want that kind of business, because it was too much work and took too much time. We didn’t make a dime on it. In fact, if the truth were known, we probably lost money, but it was a challenge we wanted to try.”

Every weekend, Mendel, (the shoe store owner), would come to the shop and create more of the shoe shape out of wire.

Hallas: “Then, following Mendel’s pattern, we’d take the wires out and replace them with one-inch channel iron every four inches. The skin was riveted galvanized iron. When we were done with it, it went to the paint shop and was painted to look just like a big brown work shoe. I never did hear what happened to it, but I’d sure like to know,” said the 77-year-old Harry Hallas back in 1978, when the original Jim Arpy interview was conducted. [If Harry Hallas were alive today, he’d be 106, so it’s probably safe to say that he never saw the Big Work Shoe again.]

If anybody knows the whereabouts of Mendel’s Giant Shoe, drop me a line.

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