Monday, April 20, 2009

John "Bulldog" Drummond - It Ain't Pretty, But It's Real

Veteran Chicago newsman John Drummond was covering the trial of some mob henchman when they started giving the snap-brimmed, stogie-chewing reporter a hard time.

Drummond didn't miss a beat. "I turned around and said, 'Hey, we're trying to get your point of the story, but you guys aren't talking. I've got a camera guy down in the lobby. Let's settle it right now. We'll be glad to talk to you.'"

The ne'er-do-wells didn't take Drummond up on his offer. But during a broadcast career that spanned more than four decades, the straight-talking WBBM-Channel 2 reporter nicknamed "Bulldog" scored the inside scoop on many of the area's most notorious crimes and the thugs who often left behind their fingerprints.

In his second book, "It Ain't Pretty, but It's Real," Drummond shares more tales of murder and mayhem in a follow-up to "Thirty Years in the Trenches Covering Crooks, Characters and Capers," released in 1998, which sold about 5,000 copies.

"I felt when I finished the first one I still had a lot good stories to tell," said Drummond, 79, in his trademark baritone voice, before a book signing at the Villa Park library. "Our book has no fabricated quotations. It's all real."

It includes nearly two dozen colorful vignettes, beginning with the haunting 1972 kidnapping of a Hillside police officer who was killed in Villa Park. His murder led to technological advances in suburban police radio equipment.

Drummond shares his encounters with notorious horseman Silas Jayne, who among his long list of crimes was convicted of conspiracy in his brother's October 1970 fatal shooting in Inverness. Jayne long was rumored to be involved in the still-unsolved 1977 disappearance of candy heiress Helen Vorhees Brach.

"He was a fascinating individual whether you liked him or not," Drummond said. "If you did him wrong, he believed in physical retribution, not litigation; he felt something had to be done and done ruthlessly."

Drummond also tells of other unsolved mysteries he covered, such as when 14-year-old Barbara Glueckert of Mount Prospect vanished in 1976 after attending a rock concert, never to be seen again. In a less notorious case, but just as mysterious, Arlington Heights couple Edward Andrews and his wife, Stephania, disappeared after leaving a cocktail party at the former Sheraton Chicago hotel in 1970. Their bodies still haven't been found.

Drummond, a kid from west-central Wisconsin infatuated with Chicago's big city tales and the lure of television, covered crime, politics and sports and had one-on-one's with presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

He was there when the city was rocked by the riots following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and the violence that erupted during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, as well as the federal 1985 Greylord indictment linking Chicago judges to corruption. But the former U.S. Air Force veteran and radio broadcaster is best known for his work in front of the camera sniffing out leads on the Chicago Outfit. He even came out of semiretirement for the recent Family Secrets trial.

Drummond said the terrorists and mentally ill subjects he's covered posed far more of a threat than the mobsters he's known.

"The Outfit was very well disciplined in its heyday," he said. "It would have been counterproductive to kill or assault a news reporter because it would have put too much heat on the mob. We sort of had diplomatic immunity."

Drummond not only covered colorful characters with true grit, in his checkered sport coats and on-air lexicons, such as "coppers" for police or boxing terms like "palooka," but made for an interesting story himself. He's even made cameos in movies such as, "The Fugitive," "Chain Reaction," and "Above the Law," in which he played himself.

Inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997, his artfully weathered face and delivery never changed during a period of blow-dried, cookie-cutter television personalities. He outlasted nearly two dozen news directors during his Channel 2 tenure, which began in 1969.

One of his favorite spots was the "Chicago Chronicles" series that ran three times a week on the 6 p.m. news and featured stories on everyone from a prize fighter to cabbie to bartender to mobster to stripper. His sign off was, "You won't read about them in the Chicago guidebooks or travel brochures."

Drummond left the daily grind in 1995, but "Bulldog" said he still has plenty of good stories to tell. He delayed promotion for his second book after his beloved wife, Carol, with whom he raised three children during their 48-year marriage, died in October after a 10-year cancer battle.

"I survived," he said when reflecting back on his storied career. "I think we tried to be fair, and I'm very serious about that. I always tried to get both sides."

Thanks to Christy Gutowski

2 comments:

  1. John Drummond is the best. I wish he was still on the air.

    "leftisthebest"

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  2. I'm just glad to hear he's still alive. I had a short stint as a report on the old City News Bureau and had the luck to run into the Bulldog on the job. He rocks...still!

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