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The Humor of George Ade

             In 1908 the First Ward Ball was closed down for good, and an era ended. The First Ward Ball was probably the largest Bachanal outside of Mardi Gras, and involved a level of display not otherwise associated with the city of Chicago. The First Ward was also known as the Levee, the red light district where the worst bars, gambling dens, and houses of ill-repute were located. One Chicago judge dismissed a robbery case against two defendents with the comment that anyone who wandered through the Levee deserved what he got. The First Ward Ball was the annual celebration put on by the denizens of the Levee; it was officially hosted by the ward's alderman and committeeman, Bathhouse John Coughlin and Hinky-Dink Kenna. Scantily-clad working girls and gaudily bedecked madames marched in the opening parade, led by Bathhouse John and Hinky-Dink themselves. Each House dressed its girls according to a theme: harem girls, circus acts, and so on. Elephants, horses, camels, and other picturesque creatures trooped along as well. It was, by all reports, a remarkable sight. The Ball was held in the National Guard Armory, the only structure large enough to contain the several thousands of celebrants. It roused the admiration and ire of the city, depending on one's perspective. It so enraged the "reform element" that they finally pressured the mayor into closing down the Ball, much to Bathhouse John's and Hinky-Dink's disgust. Said Hinky-Dink proudly during the height of the Levee years, "This ain't no sissie town." .
             Indeed it ain't. Chicago has always provided rich material for satirists, almost too rich. Chicago polictics are generally stranger than any fiction that could be created about them. The recent power struggles centered around the coming to power and tragic demise of Mayor Harold Washington have been satirized by a number of comics, especially Aaron Freeman. Yet they have a lot of difficulty competing for satirical value with the evening news.

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