Longtime Cook County Treasurer Eddie Rosewell was an old— school Chicago Democratic machine man if ever there was one. He was high— flying and high— style, but he stayed old school a bit too long.
Before he died last year at age 72, his political wheeling and dealing came back to haunt him, and his relationship with a young window washer, Rodney Zobjeck, was part of his undoing.
The Chicago Tribune last Sunday had an interesting article about Rosewell's highs and lows, and his sad death far removed from the glitz of city and county politics. He died nearly alone, with most of his possessions stolen or damaged. He had little money or power left, and most of his political friends had abandoned himuntil they attended his funeral.
Rosewell was a conflicted man. I remember covering his many campaigns for County Treasurer, and he was ever— elusive about gay issues. He was a "yes" man, but never really followed through on community promises. The community had little clout at the time he promised an IMPACT political forum that he would make sure county assets were only invested in institutions with pro— gay policies. Rosewell never followed through on the promise, but the community also lacked sophistication in making sure he did what he said he would "look into."
Rosewell was far more concerned with playing the Democratic machine game, rewarding friends and punishing opponents. As County Treasurer, his first allegiance seemed not to be to the voters, but rather to the "party machine." That worked for many decades in Chicago, but Rosewell seemed unable to make the transition to the new school of politics. There are still many deals to be made, but the key is not to get caught. Rosewell was caught, but his sentencing was permanently delayed when he took seriously ill. He died last July.
Who was the real Eddie Rosewell? He seemed to fit a certain gay stereotypethe closeted power— broker who puts all his hopes and dreams in young men who eventually take advantage of him. Rosewell put Zobjeck on the treasurer's payroll, which caused dissent in the ranks. Zobjeck was promoted to deputy treasurer and made $63,000 a yearand was Rosewell's roommate. Even most straight politicians would know not to be so obvious.
But Rosewell for years had gotten away with more serious issues than that. He thought he was the last of the "untouchables," and continued to put people in ghostpayrolling positions.
Rosewell probably was able to remain closeted because of the power he had as treasurer. Money and politics can cover up a lot of trails, and even though Rosewell was hardly the most discreet politician ( I remember seeing him drinking and obviously flaunting in certain gay clubs ) , he had power, and that was enough to keep a lot of people quiet. Or was it the other way around: was he doing what he did because others threatened to "out" him if he didn't follow orders? We may never know.
Rosewell's own drinking was likely one of the ways he dealt with his sexualitytrying to repress it, trying not to be ashamed. He could have been the state's first openly gay elected official, he could have been a lot of things. But he was from another era politically and socially.
We can only guess what really motivated Rosewell, what internal demons caused him to make the choices he did in his life. Was he just trying to fit in? Was he afraid of being caught? Did his self— loathing contribute to his downfall? We can't really know. But he was one of us, and we should try to learn from his mistakes.
Tracy Baim, Publisher
Liar's Club response
This letter is in response to Andy Thayer of the CABN's letter in a previous issue. My name is Herb Rosen and I am the owner/operator of Liar's Club. I have refused comment as of late for the simple reason that I did not want to dignify these preposterous charges any further. However, in light of Mr. Thayer's most recent slanderous attacks, I felt I had to respond.
I will answer Mr. Thayer's charges roughly in the order he makes them in his letter. The charge of not returning "repeated phone calls from all the major LGBT papers in town" is absolutely false. I received two messages, one from Windy City Times and one from New City, both of which were returned. I have a staff, an answering machine, and caller ID, so missing "numerous" calls is highly unlikely.
I will also comment on certain details of the incident in response to Mr. Thayer's further false statements: Mr. Edwards indeed threw the first punch and that is the one and only reason there was any physical altercation at all. The sexual orientation of any of the parties involved was not known and had nothing to do with the incident whatsoever.
The statement that my friendship with the gay community "is generally tabulated by reference to having a float in a Pride Parade a few years ago" is ludicrous. Mr. Thayer knows nothing of my personal life or activities in the LGBT community, nor do I feel the need to define or defend them. Finally, Mr. Thayer's comparison of our participation in the PrideChicago parade to that of pharmaceutical firms and the Coors foundation is ridiculous.
If a gay bashing occurred on the Liar's Club premises I would "courageously stand up for pro— gay principles, come what may," but a gay bashing did not occur. Apparently, Mr. Thayer, Edwards, and Schneider have started their own "aptly named 'Liar's Club'."
Herb Rosen, Liar's Club
The discourse about the Conger— Rockwell nuptials has concentrated on the public's hunger for a media sensation or women's greed or men's callousness or the decline of civilization. What we see is that a wealthy man can marry a woman who is a total stranger in a klieg— lit Vegas pageant in front of 23 million people as part of a ratings grab/publicity stunt, but a woman who shares life and love with another woman or a man with a man stands barred from ceremonializing and registering that commitment publicly. It's insulting to heterosexual people who take marriage seriously and to gay men and lesbians who deserve access to the rights and responsibilities marriage bestows.
So why did Congress pass the Defense of Marriage Act? If this cheap joke is what straight people are defending, you can keep it.
Susana Darwin, Chicago