The Nitro Joint w / "Chicago Jon" Hoffman

Cooking Up Some Mulligan Stew

Ah, the time honored practice of taking various odds and ends, chucking them into the stew pot, and making a meal. This month, I'm grabbing little anecdotes that got whacked from previous columns, adding a pinch of random ideas, and a dash of 'run my mouth', and we shall all enjoy a hearty bowl...of stew!


Fittingly, we lead off with my 'Turkey Brother, from another Mother' mentioned in Septembers Nitro Joint, "Mugs", short for Mulligan. Briefly mentioned in a past piece was the epic 1980 Indy Nationals, where what started as our campsite wandering the campground swelled into a merry MOB over 200 strong, before we were disbursed by a HELICOPTER, and the 5-0, complete with large snarling dogs. That year, there was a song that I swore I would NEVER forget the words to and yet, alas, I have indeed forgotten. (The last two lines were "eat some, smoke some, gobble-gobble-CHEW, We're at the Nationals, hey BLEEP You!") When the mob was peaking, this one jamoke gets on his friend’s shoulders and starts yelling, “Hey, we HAVE to learn THIS song!” He then produces a bedraggled piece of paper...great, YOU don't even know the words, but WE'RE supposed to learn it. Much like FREE BIRD, it is extremely long; UNLIKE Free Bird, it's annoying and forgettable...probably THE reason the cops rained down on us....


My latest stop on the 'Chicago Jon’s Quest For Cash WORLD TOUR' takes me past the former site of the Crystal Lake Drive-In, where I spent many the summer nights enjoying such grindhouse classics as 'The Teacher', and 'Nurses For Sale' (starring CURT JERGENS! ahh, DUDE, you were in 'The Enemy Below'). I've written about the plight of drive-ins before, and while The Crystal Drive-In could not stave off the wrecking ball, my Homies in Gibson City, and closer to me The McHenry, have pulled in the elephant dollars needed for the digital projectors necessary to continue on. The thought of three Hollywood stink-bombs for five dollars has me jones-ing for those lame tamales they'd sell (two for a dollar!)


Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, and while recently the "Bob Utner" Pro Stock bunch have been a BALL, with their costume acts at Vegas, you cannot forget the antics of the Bad Moon Rising Funny Car. At Indy in 1987, I was hustling from the nitro pits back to the campground for a cold refreshing Orange Julius (yeah, right) and I saw the team in the lanes, apparently prepping to receive the Best Appearing Crew award. The late Chuck Phelps and Mickey Winters were a cool bunch, and everybody loved it when they donned their werewolf get-ups. And it's a safe bet that when they drank Pina Coladas, their hair...was perfect.


About a half hour north of me sits what was in the 1960s and '70s the first Playboy Club and hotel resort. (Also the subject of the Guns & Roses song 'Paradise City') My Uncle Sonny was a member, and he snagged us an ashtray once, which brings me to the passing of Hugh Hefner. Like myself, Hef was a Chicago boy, which probably made the Playboy Empire even cooler to guys like me, and I just wanted to mention this icon, he was too important to the American landscape to not be remembered.

Last month I had the honor and thrill to be a part of the press covering the 31st Annual DuKane Abate Charity Toy and Food run, which does, and has been doing for a while, TONS of good for those in need. Throw in the awesome after-party, headlined by Mr. Capone’s Bootlegger Band, and you have a rocking GREAT time. Now, of COURSE I stopped at the store for donations; we were poor once, so I know what it's like to struggle at the holidays. Grabbed some canned goods, uber-container of oatmeal, and then it's over to the toy department.


I could NOT believe the JUNK that passes for a toy nowadays. Remember how in the movie ANIMAL HOUSE, 'Pinto' had a little Angel on one shoulder and a Devil on the other? Well, I looked on my left shoulder, and there was a little Vince Lombardi, tan overcoat, fedora, Browline glasses, the works...on my OTHER shoulder was ANOTHER Vince Lombardi, and they were both bellowing "WHAT THE HELL’S GOING ON HERE?" Have you seen what kids play with lately?? I'm all, "where are the Tonka trucks, where's the Lincoln Logs...where is G.I. Freakin’ JOE?!" These darn kids these days, they play with these things, the 'sit on it and spinners', gimme a break! I FINALLY found a SUPERMAN -- the red and blue tights one like George Reeves. No, I'm not getting the depressing-goth one, where he thinks he's a POS, and the same with the mopey Ben Affleck-as-Batman one as well.

The previously mentioned Capone, first name Patrick, has a regular feature on his radio show that praises vinyl records, which brings me to a concession stand purchase of my brothers from the early '70s. A 45 rpm record, of some garage band singing about Big Daddy Don Garlits that 'Longest 8 miles' had bought, and that we would, well, we LOVE Big Daddy, but the song was horrible, and we would laugh our butts off at it. As it was lost many years ago, I have recently begun searching for a copy. Amazingly enough, not only has this quest flopped, but it seems that NOBODY has ever heard of it. Even Facebook sites that specialize in racing memorabilia have not been able to help. As the late Johnny Carson would have said, "weird, wacky stuff...."


An early telecon between The Burkster and myself had me at my old warehousing job, and he walking down one of my favorite racetracks ever, that being Marion County International Raceway in LaRue, Ohio. He was onsite covering a funny car race, and had never been there before, but the wife and I happened across it by accident, returning from the wash-out that was 1990 Columbus. We had hopped the fence and were mugging (mulliganing?) for pictures when the (now deceased) owner-operator came along. Bill Guthrie was a wonderful, gracious man who took us on a tour, told us WONDERFUL stories, then raced (and lost) to my wife, presenting her with a certificate of having competed at MCIR. We accepted his invitation to return the following year, and the 1991 IHRA Sportsnationals was one of the best times we ever had. Our simple souvenir from that weekend is a bottle of NITRO COLA, and every time I look at it, up on a shelf in my studio, I remember that wonderful man, and his wonderful little track, located, as Patrick would say, "out in the cornfields.”


The stew is done, and dinner is SERVED, thanks for hanging out, I AM Chicago Jon, time to say...C-YAAAAA!


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