19 Sep 1932 1
Chicago IL 1
29 Apr 1997 1
Chicago IL 1

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Personal Details

Also known as:
Dr. I.M. Kookie 1
Also known as:
Slats Grobnik 1
Full Name:
Michael Royko 1
Also known as:
Mike Royko 1
Full Name:
Michael Royko 2
19 Sep 1932 1
Chicago IL 1
Male 1
19 Sep 1932 2
29 Apr 1997 1
Chicago IL 1
Cause: brain aneurysm 1
29 Apr 1997 2
Burial Place: Acacia Park Cemetery, Chicago. 1
Mother: Helen (née Zak) Royko 1
Father: Michael Royko 1
Judith Arndt 1
21 May 1985 1
Chicago IL 1
Carol Joyce Duckman 1
06 Nov 1954 1
Chicago IL 1
Spouse Death Date: 19 Sep 1979 1
It's harder to be a Liberal than a Conservative because it is easier to give someone the finger than a helping hand 1
Columnist 1
Race or Ethnicity:
Polish Ancestry Maternal Ukrainian Ancestry Paternal 1
Employer: Chicago Tribune 1
Position: Columnist 1
Place: Chicago IL 1
Start Date: 1984 1
End Date: 1997 1
Employer: Chicago Sun Times 1
Position: Columnist 1
Place: Chicago IL 1
Start Date: 1978 1
End Date: 1984 1
Employer: Chicago Daily News 1
Position: Columnist 1
Place: Chicago IL 1
Start Date: 1956 1
End Date: 1978 1
Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (72) 2
Social Security Number: ***-**-5702 2

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Mike Royko, the Voice of the Working Class, Dies at 64

Mike Royko, the increasingly cantankerous voice for this city's little guys and working stiffs, whose newspaper column seemed as much a part of Chicago as the wind, died today at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was 64.

Mr. Royko had collapsed in his home in suburban Winnetka on April 22 and underwent surgery last week for an aneurysm.

For nearly 30 years, every young journalist who ever set foot in a Chicago newsroom wanted to be like Mr. Royko. He had a tough skin and a generous heart, and his column won almost as many awards -- including a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 -- as a Windy City election has dead voters.

One morning, he might be blasting a bumbling politician, the next, ''the rich, smoke-belching industrial fat cats'' who he said were threatening to turn Chicago's magnificent lake front into a wasteland with pollution, overdevelopment and greed.

In his column of Sept. 23, 1981, Mr. Royko sought to explain President Ronald Reagan's policies of ''hacking away'' at Federal programs for the poor ''while spending more and more on the military.''

''Contrary to popular belief,'' Mr. Royko wrote, ''it's much wiser to take money from the poor than the rich.''

''Reagan's approach,'' he wrote, ''will achieve one of the basic goals of the conservative: Things remain basically the same. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor, or even a little poorer.''

He took on such people and subjects five days a week, decade after decade for paper after paper. When he reluctantly cut back to writing four columns a week in 1992, he saw it as a sign of weakness.

''He always doubted himself, but that's what drove him,'' said James Warren, a friend and colleague at The Chicago Tribune, where Mr. Royko wrote his column, syndicated in about 800 papers across the nation, since 1984.

Mr. Royko loved politicians; they made such easy targets, and one helped make him nationally famous: Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley was the subject of Mr. Royko's best-selling book ''Boss,'' published in 1971.

Even some of his targets say he was fair.

''He was an equal opportunity shot taker,'' said the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Mr. Royko dubbed Mr. Jackson ''Jesse Jetstream'' because he thought Mr. Jackson moved from crisis to crisis too quickly.

Mr. Jackson recalled one column, written in 1972 when Mr. Jackson was campaigning on the West Coast on behalf of Senator George McGovern's bid for the White House. He was preaching that every vote counted. But on election eve, rather than take a red-eye flight back to Chicago and cast his ballot, Mr. Jackson decided to stay out West.

''It was contradictory to what I had been saying,'' Mr. Jackson recalled, with a chuckle. ''Somehow Royko found out about it, and opened up with both barrels. I didn't like it, but I haven't missed a vote since.''

A recurring character in Mr. Royko's columns was an alter ego named Slats Grobnik. Slats took the working-class perspective in conversation with the columnist about the issue at hand, from how to age gracefully to sending volunteer troops to foreign hot spots (said Slats: ''See, what made the draft so wonderful was that when it was run on the legit -- until the Vietnam War -- it gave everybody the same opportunity.

''To get killed.'').

Directing traffic downtown today, Officer Percy Johnson, 33, described Mr. Royko as ''an icon of Chicago, just like Michael Jordan and Al Capone.''

''Chicago and everyone else is going to miss him,'' the police officer said. ''Mike Royko was for the working man.''

At the Billy Goat Tavern downtown, long associated with Mr. Royko, the owner, Sam Sianis, was distraught today in recalling the columnist. ''All these years people would come in from all over the world and ask where Royko sits.''

Mike Royko, the Voice of the Working Class, Dies at 64 Part II

But Mr. Royko didn't write for decades without being criticized. He offended many Hispanic people with his descriptions of Mexico when he satirized the anti-immigration views of Patrick J. Buchanan during the commentator's run for President, prompting an anti-Royko rally. . And he upset many gay men and lesbians and police officers a few years ago when, after he was arrested for drunken driving, he insulted the officer, using a derogatory term for homosexuals. Critics of Mr. Royko said the two incidents were proof of what they said were his increasingly conservative views.

''I used to think he represented all the small people,'' said Mary Dedinsky, an admirer and an associate dean at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. ''I guess some ethnic groups don't think so right now, but he was not a racist. Royko didn't change. The times did.''

Michael Royko was born on Sept. 19, 1932, in Chicago to Helen and Michael Royko Sr., a Ukrainian immigrant and saloonkeeper. He attended Wright Junior College, the University of Illinois and Northwestern. But he did not graduate from college.

He started his journalism career when he was in the Air Force in the Korean War. To avoid assignment as a military police officer or as a cook when he was transferred to O'Hare Field near Chicago, he talked his way into editing the base newspaper, a skill he picked up the night before from a journalism textbook. He also lied and said he had worked for The Chicago Daily News.

Later, in 1959, Mr. Royko got a job at the Daily News, and in 1964, he began writing his column. In 1978, the Daily News closed and Mr. Royko went to The Chicago Sun-Times, where he stayed until the paper was bought in 1984 by a group controlled by Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media magnate who at the time owned The New York Post.

Mr. Royko quit and crossed the street to the Tribune, calling Mr. Murdoch ''the alien'' in his column and deriding Mr. Murdoch's journalistic practices.

Mr. Royko had a wicked wit.

He dedicated a book of his newspaper columns, ''Sez Who? Sez Me,'' to his ''legmen,'' or research assistants, and at a party gave each of them a copy of the book with the identical inscription: ''You were the best. Don't tell the others.''

It was, said Ellen Warren, a friend and colleague and the first woman to be a legman, ''a very typical Royko devilish moment.''

Mr. Royko's first wife, Carol, died in 1979. He is survived by his second wife, Judy; four children, David and Robert from his first marriage, and Sam and Kate from his second marriage, who live in Winnetka; three grandchildren; a brother, Robert, and two sisters, Eleanor Cronin and Dorothy Zetlmeier.

Readers learned plenty about Mr. Royko, and his fear of flying was legendary. In a 1977 column after returning from President Jimmy Carter's inauguration, Mr. Royko wrote about how he had had to get on a plane for the first time since something like 1953.

''Word spread quickly because I was howling about how terrified I was,'' he wrote. ''People decided to be kind.''

He was led down the aisle, where he saw Muhammad Ali bouncing a baby on his knee.

'' 'See?' '' a stewardess said. '' 'Even the little baby isn't scared.' ''

'' 'You're right,' '' I said. '' 'Ask Ali to bounce me on his knee.' ''

Frank Sinatra’s Angry Letter To Chicago’s Mike Royko

Mike Royko is the quintessential Chicago columnist, mostly thanks to his efforts to piss people off. As a writer, he was one of the loudest criticizers of Chicago politics, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for commentary. Despite years as a newspaperman, his most famous publication is Boss, an unauthorized biography of Richard J. Daley. He also received and published manyfan reader letters in various forms, allowing some people to share their gripes about the city and life with him, allowing others to share their displeasure of him.

One person who shared their displeasure of Royko withRoyko was Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was so angry over a column Royko had written, he responded with an angry letter.

Though, to be fair, Royko started it.

In April of 1976, Frank Sinatra was in town to perform and was even granted police protection by the Chicago Police Department. Chicago, what a town!

The idea of Chicago women having to deal with “panters, breathers, grunters and other assorted lewd commentators” in Chicago without any help from police while Frank Sinatra “with his army of flunkies, has a full-time police guard” did not sit well with Royko.

So he wrote an article about it for the Chicago Daily News, which not only included the quoted remarks above, but also a few other choice insults for Ol’ Blue-eyes’ to swallow.

(Credit: Chicago Daily News /

“Frankly,” Royko goes on near the end of the article. “I’m surprised that Sinatra, who has such a tough reputation, would need somebody standing outside at all hours. He’s an absolute terror when it comes to punching out elderly drunks or telling off female reporters.”

My favorite part of the article shows Royko’s sharp wit in full action, when he turns the magnifying glass on himself, writing, “Well, I hate to brag, but I think that around here, I’m every bit as disliked as Sinatra. But I wouldn’t think of asking for a police guard. He’d probably dislike me, too, so what’s the advantage?”

Did Frank Sinatra shrug the column off? Did he reply with his own wit and sense of humor?

Nah, he just sent a really angry letter.

“Let me start this note by saying, I don’t know you and you don’t know me,” Sinatra wrote.

(Credit: Chicago Daily News /

The piece is filled with wonderful lines. In the middle, he writes, “… who the hell gives you the right to decide how disliked I am if you know nothing about me. The only honest thing I read in your piece is the fact that you admitted you are disliked, and by the way you write I can understand it. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why people don’t spit in your eye three or four times a day.”

At the end of the letter, Sinatra offers Royko two challenges…

“Lastly, certainly not the least, if you are a gambling man: a) You prove, without a doubt, that I have ever punched an elderly drunk or elderly anybody, you can pick up $100,000. b) I will allow you to pull my “hairpiece”; if it moves, I will give you another $100,000; if it does not, I punch you in the mouth. How about it?”

Unfortunately, Royko never took Sinatra up on his offers.

The day after receiving this letter, Royko published Sinatra’s letter in the Chicago Daily News and auctioned it off to the biggest winner with the winnings going to the Salvation Army. Oddly enough, the winner happened to be Vie Carlson, mother of ex-Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos. A few years ago, Carlson and the letter made it on an episode of Antiques Roadshow, which you can see below.

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