Anne Engelhardt stepping down from leadership of Kendall County PADS with gratitude, graciousness


By Tom Siebert
Assistant director for community relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County, IL

The first guest of Kendall County PADS was a 34-year-old recovering alcoholic and single mother of four. That was on the evening of Oct. 18, 2010.

Since then the homeless support group has helped a total of 474 homeless guests, providing 11,006 overnight stays and serving 33,325 meals, including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Those impressive numbers belie the inauspicious beginnings of the local PADS chapter, when most area residents were unaware that there were those who had no place to live in the sprawling, rustic county with a 2010 population of about 127,000.

Ms. Engelhardt herself became aware of the problem when Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ (YCUCC), where she is a member, was visited by a liaison from the Grundy-Kendall Regional Office of Education, which had been tracking the number of homeless students in area schools.

Then Anne and a few other concerned citizens visited a Grundy County PADS site, following it up with letters to local churches and editors of weekly newspapers to see if there was support for aiding the area’s homeless.

Thus began a series of organizational meetings at YCUCC throughout the spring and summer of 2010, where the social issue was discussed by pastors and churchgoers from the community.

The meetings grew exponentially from 12 attendees to 18, to 80, to 170 at the first volunteers training session in September of that year.

“They didn’t know there were homeless people in our community––people were oblivious to it,” said Anne Engelhardt, who recently announced that this shelter season would be her last as executive director of the nonprofit organization.

“There was definitely something happening that was bigger than us,” Ms. Engelhardt recalled. “People would stand up and say, ‘I want this at my church.’ I felt like the Holy Spirit was leading us.”

Shortly thereafter, Kendall County’s health department, food pantry, and sheriff’s office offered their services. And seven churches subsequently volunteered to provide temporary shelter sites one night of the week during the six colder months of the year.

In addition to YCUCC, they were Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Harvest New Beginnings church in Oswego, United Methodist Church of Plano, Trinity United Methodist Church in Yorkville, Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego, and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Montgomery.

Six of those original seven churches will still be offering nutritious meals and a safe place to stay when PADS opens it tenth shelter season on Oct. 20. The seventh site is Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, which replaced United Methodist Church of Plano in 2017.

Over the past nine years, Kendall County PADS has widened the scope of the services that it  offers.

The first challenge was providing transportation so that guests who did not own cars could travel from site to site throughout the week. Since the county has no bus service, PADS partnered in 2011 with Kendall Area Transit to provide rides during the week, and then Yorkville Express came aboard in 2015 to cover the weekends.

The two private transit firms not only shuttle guests to and from the shelter sites, but also get them to their worksites––for those who have jobs––or other important appointments.

In 2016 a guest assistance program was established with social work interns from Aurora University. The interns help PADS clients with such personal issues such as addiction, mental health challenges, finding employment, and securing permanent housing.

“That added a whole new dimension to what we do at PADS,” said Ms. Engelhardt. “We were able to offer our guests a lifeline to be able to help themselves. And we will always do that.”

She points with pride to those former guests who have become contributing members of the community and some who have even volunteered at the shelters.

One of those is Darrell McGhee, 39, who sought shelter at Cross Lutheran Church on a cold December night in 2014.

“I for one as a guest had a great experience there for a couple of winters,” said Mr. McGhee, who now has a steady job and a permanent place to live. “Anne was always positive and encouraging, always found a way she could help.”

He added: “She put in a great deal of effort and hard work to make this all come together.”

Kathy Farren, an assistant site coordinator and treasurer for the nonprofit organization, agreed.

“Anne has a great combination of energy and organizational skills beyond belief,” she said. “God put the right person in place at just the right time.”

Ms. Farren, a friend of Anne’s for more than 40 years, heads a task force that is searching for a new executive director.

They are seeking someone who has considerable computer, organizational, and interpersonal skills, said Ms. Engelhardt. “I’m sure someone is out there, and perhaps getting a whisper in the ear or a nudge in the heart.”

Ideally, she continued, PADS’ new leader would be able to shadow her and learn the position throughout this shelter season, which runs through April 18, 2020.

Ms. Engelhardt and her husband Jerry are both retired teachers who have been married for 49 years. The Yorkville couple has five adult children and nine grandchildren, with one on the way.

She expressed her profound appreciation to all those who have volunteered, donated, or contributed in some way to PADS over the past nine years. “I continue to be moved by the compassion of hundreds of people in the communities who graciously give their time and kindness to others in need.”  

Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the homeless community may call (630) 334-8180 or visit the website at

Although Anne’s role in Kendall County PADS will soon be reduced, her vision remains large.

“My hope is that our community leaders and social agents will gain an understanding of the complexity of the lives of homeless people,” she said. “I hope they will begin to recognize that homelessness is a social problem that requires systemic support for a better and different approach to solutions to reduce––and maybe someday end­­––homelessness.”  

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Poetry trumps politics in Caroline Kennedy’s talk at Judson University’s World Leaders Forum in Schaumburg

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By Tom Siebert

Caroline Kennedy comes from the most fabled political clan in American history.

But the author, attorney, and diplomat conducted a clinic on how to avoid family feuds over politics last night, telling stories, reciting poetry, and even playing trivia with an audience of more than 500 people at Judson University’s World Leaders Forum at the Renassaince Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center.

“We have enough divisiveness in our country over social issues, so I’m not going to go there with you,” said Ms. Kennedy, after conservative cultural commentator Eric Metaxas asked her how she reconciled her Catholic faith with her pro-choice stance on abortion.

The subject was politely changed by Mr. Metaxas, the nationally syndicated radio host of “Socrates in the City,” a series of conversations on “life, God, and other small topics.”

“Your mother did a really great job of raising you and your brother,” the interviewer told her, referring to the late First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr., who was killed in a small plane crash in July 1999.

“My mother was somebody who was incredibly true to herself and that was a great example to my brother and me,” recalled Ms. Kennedy, who served as U.S. ambassador to Japan during the second term of President Barack Obama.

She noted that her family’s ties to that country dated to August 1943, when a Navy patrol boat commanded by her father, John F. Kennedy, was struck by a Japanese destroyer, killing two crewmen and stranding 11 others on a Samoan island for six days.

“When I was there, many older people knew of my father’s war record, but what they didn’t know is he corresponded with the crew of the Japanese destroyer throughout the 1950s,” Ms. Kennedy said. “He had hoped to visit Japan during his second term and would have been the first sitting president to do that.”

President Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s rifle bullets while riding in a motorcade in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, five days short of Caroline’s sixth birthday.

She expressed her pride and privilege in fulfilling her father’s legacy of reconciliation in May 2016, when she accompanied President Obama to Hiroshima, Japan, the city that was decimated by a U.S. atomic bomb in August 1945, expediting the end of World War II.

“When I was the ambassador to Japan, Americans often approached me and recited my father’s presidential inaugural address from 1961,” said Ms. Kennedy. “This always made me proud because the quote ‘ask what you can do for your country’ is emblematic of the service and generosity that makes America special.”

She traced the family’s history of service to her grandmother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, who “believed that we should be not just hearers of the faith but doers of the faith.”

Rose Kennedy’s father was mayor of Boston and her husband, Joseph P. Kennedy, was U.S. ambassador to Great Britain during the 1930s.

At the World Leaders Forum, Caroline singled out her late aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, for founding the Special Olympics, “right here in Chicago.”

And she gave a high grade to Judson University’s Road to Independent Living, Spiritual Formation, and Employment (RISE) program, which provides a college experience for students with intellectual disabilities.

Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Metaxas, acutely aware of their political polarism, joked and cajoled each other throughout their hour-long, lively conversation.

“What does the word America mean to you?” the host asked his guest.

“You go first,” she quipped.

“I’ve written a book on the subject!” he shot back, referring to his New York Times best-seller, “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty.”

The two talkers found common ground on the subject of poetry, Ms. Kennedy having published three anthologies of poems, some of which her extended family members would recite or illustrate during Christmases.

She fondly recalled her “Uncle Teddy,” the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), reciting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” at her book signings.

And she drew laughs from the audience when she recounted her young son John getting off easy on a family assignment when he memorized “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a three-line ode that Mr. Metaxas knew was written by American poet William Carlos Williams.

Trivia came up again when Ms. Kennedy remembered that the Secret Service would ask her and young John Jr. questions “to keep us quiet” such as what are the five state capitals that begin with the letter “A.”

Some sharp members of the Schaumburg audience shouted out the answers: Albany,‎ Annapolis, Atlanta, Augusta, and Austin.

Then the discussion turned serious, to sacrifice, a subject that the tragedy-stricken Kennedy family knows all too well.

Caroline’s other uncle on her dad’s side, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), was gunned down after winning the California presidential primary on June 5, 1968, dying the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.

And to this day, all of her many cousins are involved in service in some way.

“Our democracy is something that is really precious, and we should treat it that way,” she asserted. “It really does inspire me to want to give back, to be worthy of that sacrifice and legacy that has gone before us.”

Mr. Metaxas concurred. “God blesses us so that we’ll be a blessing.”

The eighth edition of Judson’s World Leadership Forum received rave reviews from students.

“I loved the presentation,” said Bryan Tripp, a junior majoring in music and business administration. “I thought it was a real fun evening, lighthearted, not at all what I expected it to be.”

Sophomore Ce’Nedra Fogg, a psychology major, agreed. “I loved the witty banter between them. It was an actual conversation that I felt I was a part of.”

The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to present Judson students and the Chicagoland community with an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders. Proceeds fund Judson Leadership Scholarships and innovative entrepreneurial activities, as well as support ongoing operations of the Forum.

Previous keynote speakers at the annual event were former President George W. Bush, ex-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and ex-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Located in Elgin since 1963, Judson affords students a Christian, liberal arts and sciences education through its Bachelor of Arts degrees in more than 60 majors, minors, and graduate programs. The university also offers online courses, in addition to certification and accelerated adult-degree programs. For more information, visit

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Kendall County PADS faces critical need of new volunteers as shelter season looms

PADS - Food Team - serves awesome meal!

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

Famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger was once asked what his prescription was for someone who felt they were about to experience a nervous breakdown.

“Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for them,” Dr. Menninger replied.

Well, that’s what Kendall County PADS volunteers have been doing since the fall of 2010, when the nonprofit support group began providing nutritious meals, safe overnight housing, and much-needed social services to the area’s homeless community.

During the colder months of the calendar, 630 volunteers are needed to operate seven temporary shelter sites, each of them open for one overnight of the week from mid-October to mid-April. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week.

Kendall County PADS usually retains about 90 percent of its volunteers each shelter season. But the number of returning volunteers is down this year.

“Just one month prior to our scheduled opening, we need about 150 men and women to serve as volunteers this season” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “It seems to be more challenging to find people with the hearts for volunteer service of this type.”

In order to address its current shortage of volunteers, Kendall County PADS lowered its age requirement from 18 to 17 as well as expanded its recruitment pool to include those needing to complete court-ordered community service hours.

Additionally, a volunteer recruitment team has been plastering social media with inspirational PADS posts; handing out brochures to local businesses; reaching out to churches, civic organizations, senior communities, and emergency/medical personnel; and keeping a database of all volunteers so they can be called on to meet emergency staffing needs at any of the sites.

Anyone interested in helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new-volunteers training session from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 3, at the Kendall County Health Department, 811 John Street, Yorkville.

A special invitation is extended to churches, public libraries, local businesses, PADS volunteers, the Caring Hands Thrift Store in Yorkville, and police departments, in addition to the county sheriff’s office, health department, and food pantry.

The two-hour training session will include an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the integral role of volunteers. Attendees also will learn general operational procedures, how to address health issues, and the importance of kindness to the men, women, and children who come to the shelters.

New recruits will also receive a volunteer manual and be assigned to an experienced shelter coordinator who will serve as a mentor to them. The hope is that each person attending will be informed and feel comfortable with their role in Kendall County PADS, should they be inspired to serve.

The session is free, refreshments will be served, and there is no commitment obligation.

First-time volunteers, however, are strongly encouraged to attend the training, which will also feature representatives of the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps homeless guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

The shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 20 and ending on April 18, 2020. The nights and sites are as follows:

Sundays: Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
Mondays: Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
Tuesdays: Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, north campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
Fridays: Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
Saturdays: St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

During the past nine shelter seasons, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 474 homeless guests, provided 11,006 overnight stays, and served 33,325 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

PADS of Kendall County is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit group funded by gifts and grants as well as donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate, volunteer, or learn more about helping the homeless may call (630) 334-8180 or visit the website at


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Designer Alpha Coles Blackburn awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Judson University

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By Tom Siebert

Judson University recently recognized renowned architect, fashion designer, television host, and community leader Alpha Coles Blackburn with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the tenth anniversary G.L.A.M.M.Ys fundraising event in Indianapolis.

Blackburn is the retired president and CEO of the prestigious Blackburn Architects, which served as lead designers of the National Underground Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

As the technical representative and co-coordinator for art for the Indianapolis International Airport, Blackburn led the selection, commissioning, and installation of the facility’s art collection. She is also a national award-winning fashion designer and former TV host.

For the past two years, Blackburn has been working with Shanel Poole, president of Guidance Life-skills And Mentoring (GLAM, Inc.) to provide opportunities for young women to attend Judson University and major in architecture, art, or graphic design.

“Alpha Blackburn uses her professional expertise to help the next generation of young women study and enter the creative fields of architecture, art, and graphic design,” said Judson president Gene Crume.

“We are pleased to recognize her exceptional contributions to the arts. She is a trailblazer in her field and has demonstrated her commitment to giving back and shaping others’ lives. This is also Judson’s mission of shaping lives that shape the world,” Dr. Crume added.

Ms. Blackburn serves on more than 60 community boards and committees. She was the recipient of the Indiana Governor’s Civil Rights Legacy Award in 2018; the Chancellor’s Medallion at Indiana University/Purdue University of Indianapolis in 2017; the Indiana Minority Business Magazine Golden Laurel Professional in 2017; and the G.L.A.M. (Indianapolis) ICON Award, also in 2017.

Since its founding ten years ago, GLAM has assisted more than 350 girls through programming that focuses on self-esteem, education, professional development, and healthy choices. According to the GLAM website, the organization has helped at-risk girls, who normally have only a 35 percent probability of graduating from high school, graduate at a rate of 97 percent.

Judson University is a fully accredited, private Christian institution representing the church at work in higher education. Nestled along the Fox River in Elgin, 40 miles northwest of Chicago, Judson is home to more than 1,200 students from 36 states and more than 30 countries. 

Judson offers degrees in more than 65 different majors and minors for traditional, graduate, and adult students, ranking consistently among the best regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.


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Judson University hosting job fair and Network Night

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By Tom Siebert

Judson University will host a job fair and its annual Network Night on Sept. 26 as part of the school’s Homecoming and Family Weekend Celebration.

Both events will afford alumni and current students an opportunity to meet with representatives of businesses searching for new employees as well as enjoy an evening of networking and inspiration in the Reed Room of Lindner Tower, 1151 N. State St., Elgin.

The job fair will take place from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., while the networking event begins at 6:30 p.m. and continues until 8:30 p.m.

This year’s special guest will be Kesha Kent, empowerment speaker, author, and trainer with more than 17 years of human resources experience.  She is a Judson graduate, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management and Leadership, in addition to a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership.

Ms. Kent is a wife, mother, and energetic influencer seeking to help others reach their potential. She draws individuals in and helps them to grow, develop, and build professional relationships.

Kesha will share how “Networking Is Your Super Power” and lead participants in an opportunity to interact with each other during the event.

“Judson’s Network Night provides opportunities for students and alumni to hear from distinguished alumni of the university, allowing  people to build connections, community, and careers,”  said Mary Dulabaum, the school’s director of communications.

Previous speakers have included 1993 Judson graduate Lori Heiselman,  founder and CEO of Biscuit Media Group in Nashville; David Plummer, from the university’s class of 1998 and executive producer of WCIU-TV’s “The Jam”; and 1981 grad Jack Frisby, sales coaching executive and author.

Businesses interested in taking part in the job fair may register with event organizers at

Alumni, current students, and friends of the university are invited to learn more and register at




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New fascinating movie ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ reimagines the culture of 1969 and the Manson Family murders

once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-1___08154746386By Tom Siebert

From “Singin’ in the Rain” to the latest remake of “A Star Is Born,” many films have been made about the star-making-and-dimming machinery of Tinseltown.

But Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” twists and turns the movie-movie genre into an entertaining valentine to the culture of the late 1960s, even attempting to rewrite a fairy-tale ending to one of the most notorious crimes in American history, the Manson cult murders that occurred 50 years ago this month.

It is February 1969 in Los Angeles. Western TV series star Rick Dalton, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, is driven around by his best friend and stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt, who has trouble finding work because rumor has it that he killed his wife.

Booth is a war veteran who lives in a rusting Van Nuys trailer with his pit bull Brandy, while Dalton resides in a Benedict Canyon mansion next door to actress Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski, who directed the blockbuster thriller “Rosemary’s Baby” the previous year.

Similar to Woody Allen’s “Zelig” and Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump,” this movie has its fictional characters interacting with real-life luminaries.

In a long tense flashback, Booth reminisces about beating up famed martial-arts actor Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) on the set of TV’s “The Green Hornet.”

Ms. Tate attends a party at the Playboy Mansion in the nearby Holmby Hills section of L.A. Some of the guests include mega-movie star Steve McQueen as well as Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliott of the Mamas and Papas, a highly popular soft-rock group of the times.

Director Tarantino’s genius is evident throughout the epic film, but especially when he digitally inserts DiCaprio’s character into the McQueen role in a scene from the 1963 classic “The Great Escape,” since Dalton’s name was on a list of possible replacements if misfortune had prevented the star from making the movie.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a Trivial Pursuit extravaganza for Baby Boomers, with references to 1960s music, movies, TV shows, catchphrases, and Southern California iconography.

And Mr. Tarantino is a virtuoso of verisimilitude who perfectly recreates the kitschy cultural pastiche of 1969.

Booth watches a black and white television showing Vegas-style singer Robert Goulet melodramatically hitting the high notes of “MacArthur Park,” an unlikely No. 1 song for British actor Richard Harris.

Trying to jump start his fading career, Dalton crosses over to the pop music show “Hullabaloo” and wails the 1956 hit “The Green Door” as go-go girls dance around him.

And in a particularly poignant scene, we finally get to know Sharon Tate, who was known more for her stunning beauty than her acting acumen. Actress Margot Robbie inhabits Ms. Tate, portraying the budding starlet as an intelligent free spirit who walks unrecognized to the Bruin Theater in the Westwood section of Los Angeles.

Sharon tells the ticket seller that she is in the current movie playing, is invited in by the manager, sits down, and delights in her own performance in “The Wrecking Crew,” one of Dean Martin’s series of Matt Helm films that spoofed James Bond.

Meanwhile, Dalton lands the lead role in a new TV Western, “Lancer,” which co-stars Trudi, an eight-year-old method actor played smartly by Julie Butters.

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has a great soundtrack that showcases the eclectic radio of the late 1960s, which ranged from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” to Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” to “California Dreaming,” the José Feliciano B-side version, not the Mamas and Papas original––in a trademark Quentin quirk.

The music of Paul Revere and the Raiders, a Colonial-clad rock band that had several hits in the late Sixties, is also prominent in the movie. When Ms. Tate and her friend, Beverly Hills hairstylist Jay Sebring, rock out to the Raiders’ “Good Thing,” Sharon teases him about what his client Jim Morrison of The Doors would think of his taste in music.

And Manson cultists are shown watching an episode of “It’s Happening,” one of three TV shows that the popular Paul Revere group hosted during the era.

Thematically, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is about the old versus the new, the ushering out of the studio system in favor of maverick independent filmmakers, and the end of innocence for the tight-knit entertainment community.

The first half of this homage to Hollywood is all fun and gamesmanship. Brad Pitt acts just like the slick, hip, and handsome movie star that he is. Mr. DiCaprio, however, plays a much more complex character, acts otherworldly, and should win some awards.

The chain-smoking-and-coughing Dalton is an alcoholic who struggles with his lines during the lengthy, meticulously staged cowboy-series scene. He then has an emotional breakdown in his dressing room, goes back to the studio sound stage, and delivers a compelling performance.

The incandescent cast of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” includes Kurt Russell, the late Luke Perry, and film legend Al Pacino, whose casting-director character Marvin Schwarzs helps Dalton break into so-called Spaghetti Westerns, the Italian-made movies that propelled Clint Eastwood to international fame.

But when the soon-to-be-notorious Charles Manson shows up at the Tate-Polanski home looking for Terry Melcher, a record producer who had rejected his folk-rock songs, Tarantino’s tale gets real. Real scary.

While driving Dalton’s car, Booth picks up a hitchhiker named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) and takes her to the old Spahn Movie Ranch, not knowing it is now a hippie commune where Manson and his drug-crazed followers are holed up.

Booth recognizes the desert ranch as the place where he and Dalton filmed the 1950s Western series “Bounty Law” and wants to say hello to his old friend George Spahn (Bruce Dern), the 80-year-old owner of the dilapidated outdoor studio lot.

Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, played creepily by Dakota Fanning, reluctantly allows Booth to visit Spahn, who is sleeping in a back bedroom. (The scene becomes more frightening when one remembers that Ms. Fromme tried to assassinate President Gerald R. Ford in Sacramento’s Capitol Park in 1975.)

After checking on Spahn to see that he’s all right, Booth walks back to his car, only to find that Mansonite Steve Grogan (James Landry Hebert) has slashed the front tire. He then brutally bashes Grogan and forces him to change the tire.

Then comes the fateful night of August 8, 1969, when Manson cultists Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel drive to Ms. Tate’s home with the intent to kill everyone inside, as the Mamas and Papas’ “Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)” plays prophetically on their car radio.

But they mistakenly arrive at the estate next door to 10050 Cielo Drive, occupied at the time by Booth, Dalton, and his Italian wife Francesca Capucci (Lorenza Izzo), as the Vanilla Fudge’s psychedelic version of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” is heard in the foreboding background.

And this reviewer will keep readers hanging on about the ending so that you may be inspired to go see this endlessly fascinating film.

What actually did happen that night was that Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, and her house guests Voityck Frykowski, Stephen Parent, Jay Sebring, and Abigail Folger were murdered.

And on the next night, grocery store executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary were viciously stabbed to death by Manson Family members in the nearby neighborhood of Los Feliz.

If only Hollywood could have rewritten those tragic scripts.

Posted in Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Movie Review, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Siebert | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

That old strange magic still sounds new as Jeff Lynne’s ELO enchants Chicago


By Tom Siebert

When Jeff Lynne founded the Electric Light Orchestra in 1970, his musical vision was to pick up where the recently disbanded Beatles had left off.

Nearly 50 years later, the legendary Lynne showed more than 20,000 fans at the United Center that his dazzling, dizzying songs still sound light years ahead of most music played before or since then.

The symphonic rock band opened the Chicago show of their 2019 North American tour with the orchestral “Standin’ In The Rain,” from ELO’s mega-selling 1977 double-album “Out of the Blue.”

The somewhat obscure song was elevated to stunning stature, with brilliant laser lights shooting across the sports arena and colorful images of rain, clouds, and lightning projected across five Stonehenge-like video screens.

But the music alone quickly stole center stage during the opening of the second song, as Mr. Lynne sang some familiar lines that thrilled and chilled the crowd:

“You made a fool of me. But them broken dreams have got to end.”

As if on cue, the audience joyfully rose up and clapped to the hypnotic piano groove of “Evil Woman,” the smash hit from 1975’s “Face the Music” album.

“Hello, Chicago!” Mr. Lynne shouted out to the cheering Baby Boomer-heavy audience. “You seem to be in good spirits tonight.”

Those spirits were lifted higher and higher throughout the nearly two-hour musical feast that featured some of the most sophisticated songs ever written and arranged––accompanied by a kaleidoscopic video and laser-light show that depicted and danced along with the perfectly performed music.

The 12-piece band played and sang lush, lively versions of  the irresistible sing-alongs “Do Ya” and “Livin’ Thing,” as well as the playful “Turn To Stone” and the beautifully bittersweet “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head,” on which Mr. Lynne paid homage to the late John Lennon’s serrated singing voice.

ELO’s music has always been futuristic but fun too. During the thunderous “Don’t Bring Me Down,” from 1979’s “Discovery” LP, the crowd delighted in shouting the name “Bruce!” following the title line.

And has there ever been a more entertaining tune than 1977’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” with its  bending guitar solo, cello chorus stop, and more cowbell than Christopher Walken could ever want?

The inventive songs of the Electric Light Orchestra dominated Top 40 radio in the 1970s and are now a staple of classic rock stations. The progressive rock band went through revolving-door personnel changes, with Lynne now its sole original member.

But the current ELO lineup is as good and gifted as any of the group’s previous iterations.

They are Mike Stevens, musical director, guitar, and backing vocals; Milton McDonald, lead guitar, backing vocals; Lee Pomeroy, bass guitar, backing vocals; Iain Hornal, guitar, vocals; Melanie Lewis-McDonald, backing vocals; Marcus Byrne, piano, keyboards; Jo Webb, keyboards; Steve Turner, keyboards; Donavan Hepburn, drums; Jessie Murphy, violin; and celloists Amy Langley and Jess Cox.

And besides, for many years there was no version of ELO either recording or touring. That gave Mr. Lynne time to perform his studio wizardry, producing Tom Petty’s masterpiece “Full Moon Fever” in 1989, and the surviving Beatles’ reunion songs “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” for their “Anthology” TV special/album in 1995.

Oh, and in 1988, Jeff joined a short-lived band that had a lot of potential, the Traveling Wilburys, whose other members were named Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, the aforementioned Mr. Petty, and George Harrison.

The late Beatles’ son, Dhani Harrison, was the opening act at the United Center rock extravaganza. He can’t help that he looks and sounds like his famous dad. But the younger Harrison is a fine performer in his own right, deftly playing rhythm guitar and leading a taut five-piece band whose songs ranged from progressive rock to melancholy blues to Beatlesesque psychedelia.

Dhani was brought back on stage during the main show to sing some of the clever verses from the Wilburys’ 1988 hit “Handle With Care,” a world-wise song that brought tears to some in the audience as iconic photos of the late Messrs. Orbison, Harrison, and Petty were displayed on the massive video screens.

Jeff Lynne is a genius and a gentleman, a self-effacing guitar hero whose voice can still reach the high notes of ELO’s operatic songs.

The evening’s encore was fittingly “Roll Over Beethoven,” which opens with the master composer’s dramatic first movement from his fabled “Fifth Symphony,” heady stuff for the pop music world of 1973 when the hit single was featured on the album “ELO 2.”

The classic song was written by Chuck Berry, who invented rock ‘n’ roll, and in recent years led a sad procession of music giants who have left us, including David Bowie, Tom Petty, and Glenn Frey of The Eagles.

All of which makes Jeff Lynne’s ELO even more of a treasure and pleasure to see, feel, and hear in concert.



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