You just have to love this flurry of indignant stories (as here, to cite just two) coming out of Chicago.
It seems that some prominent denizens of that fine city are outraged — outraged! — at the fact that Donald Trump’s brand new Trump Tower that graces the banks of the Chicago River has a huge sign going up on the side of building that says…wait for it… “TRUMP.”
Oh the humanity! Mayor Rahm Emanuel is enraged. He called the sign — really, no kidding — “tasteless.” And the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic, one Blair Kamin, is beside himself, calling it a “self-indulgent branding exercise.” And more.
One has to wonder if any of these Trump critics actually live in Chicago. Why would I wonder that? Well, I’ve been to Chicago. A terrific city, with many things to see. Like what?
Like, for instance this mammoth sign that towers over the city — this one right here for the Drake Hotel. An absolutely humongous sign easily as large as Trump’s if not larger — and, as seen in this photo, it lights up in the dark so it can’t be missed. Who, pray tell, was Drake? Actually the Drake bears the names of two brothers, John and Tracy, a pair of early 20th century Donald Trump-style Chicago developers who built the hotel in 1920 and promptly slapped their own name on it. Big time — for all of Chicago to see. The brothers are written up in a book by Miles Berger titled — no kidding — They Built Chicago: Entrepreneur’s Who Shaped a Great City’s Architecture.
Then there’s this place — a lovely place right there on the prime real estate of what’s known locally as the Magnificent Mile. Take a look at this photo of the Conrad and that big — OK very big — sign that towers over the city reading, simply, “CONRAD.” Conrad? What kind of a name is that to put up so it looms over Chicago? Actually, “Conrad” was the first name of… Conrad Hilton. Yes, that’s right, the founding father of Hilton Hotels and the ancestor of one Paris Hilton. (Where do you think Paris gets the money to do what she does? It came from buildings like this with her great-grandfather’s — name on it. A name writ large and big, in this case.)
Then there’s this lovely place, the CourtYard Marriott, and its sibling, the Chicago Midway Marriott. Both of them boldly bearing in large Trump-style signs the name of the hotel chain’s famous developer, J. Willard Marriott.
And don’t forget the Chicago Tribune. That’s right, the very paper where architecture critic Kamin hangs his journalistic hat has this Trumpian style sign advertising itself — as seen here.
One wonders when Mr. Kamin will be demanding that his bosses remove this mammoth sign that he rely must consider a “self-indulgent branding exercise.” Like the Drake. The Marriott. The Conrad. And more — as with this towering sign in Chicago named after its owner: Prudential Insurance.
Mayor Emanuel is famous for being blunt spoken. So let’s be blunt. This all foo-faw has nothing to do with the size of signs, or the places listed above would have been long stripped of their oversized “branding exercises.”
This is Chicago, the home of President Obama. The city where the Obama ex-White House Chief of Staff and Obama pal — that would be Rahm — is da mayor. And Donald Trump has been one of the President’s most outspoken critics. So the last thing Rahm and his liberal buds presiding over the President’s hometown want to see is the name of one of the President’s most famous critics emblazoned on the Chicago skyline. It’s OK for the Drake’s — they’re dead. So too are Conrad Hilton and J. Willard Marriott. The Tribune’s architecture critic doesn’t have the brass to write that his own paper should take down its journalistic version of “self-indulgent branding.” And note the tale of the sprawling Jay Pritzker Pavilion, located in Millennium Park, a portion of the larger Grant Park, and home to a symphony and music festival. But there was a problem in building it? Why? The Pavilion violated zoning ordinances on the height of buildings in Grant Park. What to do? Why, simply declare the pavilion to be not a building but a work of art! And presto! No problem. Oh yes…there was one other thing. The name on the pavilion? That would be Pritzker — a Pritzker of the Hyatt hotel–owning Pritzker family. The Pritzkers are big Obama supporters, with Penny Pritzker serving as Obama’s Secretary of Commerce. So what’s to fuss?
This is Chicago, after all.
No, this kerfuffle over Donald Trump’s sign isn’t about a sign for a first class building and a brand known for excellence and luxury around the world. This is about zapping Donald Trump the Obama opponent who dares to intrude on the private political preserve that is the President’s hometown.
There’s nothing more to this little if telling episode than that. It’s laughably blatant hypocrisy — and the petty politics of the double standard.