People With Passion: Alex Beh (2015 edition)

Warren Alex Beh film

People With Passion

Filmmaker Alex Beh

E-mail exchange, Feb. 2-3, 2015

When we last spoke, back in April of 2010, filmmaker Alex Beh had recently released Babe, his fourth short film. In the intervening five years he has directed three more shorts, directed several music videos, starred in commercials for Bud Light and Burger King and has now released Warren, his feature film debut.

John Heard (left) and Alex Beh (center) in
John Heard (left) and Alex Beh (center) in “Warren.”

The movie stars Beh as the title character, a Chicago man drifting through his late 20s while his parents (John Heard & Jean Smart) get divorced and his ex-girlfriend (Sarah Habel) turns up back in town with a fiancé. Beh is the lead but dishes out plenty of screen time for his co-stars, with particularly strong performances from the veterans Heard & Smart. Let me be the first to say that Heard — whose credits include Home AloneAfter Hours, Big and The Sopranos — gives one of the best performances his career as Warren’s hard-drinking, love-lorn, soon-to-be-divorced father.

While Beh prepped for Warren‘s Chicago premier last night at the Midwest Independent Film Festival, Beh and I traded e-mails the past two days about his experience making the film. The following is an edited version of that exchange. Continue reading “People With Passion: Alex Beh (2015 edition)”

Exavier Pope’s story continues

Exavier Pope of the Pope Law Firm tells his DWB police abuse story in support of St. Louis boy Mike Brown, shot and killed by police. (Ben Speckman for Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)
Exavier Pope of the Pope Law Firm tells his DWB police abuse story in support of St. Louis boy Mike Brown, shot and killed by police. (Ben Speckman for Chicago Daily Law Bulletin)

If you follow my work at the Law Bulletin, you probably read about Exavier Pope, the sports and entertainment lawyer whose harrowing & uplifting backstory was our front page story for Law Day 2014.

Ex and I spent a day together — it started with him talking to students at Hyde Park Academy High School and continued as we visited his childhood home where he lived with his foster mother, toured parks where he played ball, was attacked by gangs and later slept, went to the projects where he nearly sold crack and finally to one of his two law offices, this one at Lacuna Lofts.

While the story was packed with episodes from Exavier’s life — it included a sidebar strictly on his Twitter game — there were a few anecdotes from later in Exavier’s life that we had to leave out of the story. One of them was the story of how Exavier and friends were pulled over in Kentucky when they were in college, leading to Ex spending nearly two weeks in prison for a traffic stop.

In light of the Mike Brown murder, Ex decided to share that story on Twitter. Here it is, tweet by tweet: Continue reading “Exavier Pope’s story continues”

People With Passion: Jonathan Eig

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

January 30, 2012: Jonathan Eig

Jonathan Eig.

We are meeting at Eig’s Lakeview home on a sunny January afternoon. A tall man, heroically bald, Eig is a gracious host and a loquacious subject, and stories and opinions spill from him with a child’s energy. He seemed equally comfortable speaking with me as he did speaking with Jon Stewart when promoting his book “Get Capone” on the Daily Show in May 2010.

Here, in the 25th installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, Jonathan Eig tells me about Red Smith ledes, the influence of Watergate, and the birth of his new sports site ChicagoSide, which he hopes will become Chicago’s own Continue reading “People With Passion: Jonathan Eig”

People With Passion: David Drake, music writer

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

January 18, 2012: David Drake

David Drake, during his DJ days.

We are meeting at Filter Coffee Shop on Milwaukee Ave. in the late afternoon. David is quiet yet loquacious, with a deep knowledge and passion for music, particularly hip-hop. It is that passion for the music mixed with a love of writing, an authority of opinion, and relentless networking that has allowed him to leave his day job and make, as he puts it, ‘a run’ at writing.

Here, in the 23rd installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, David Drake of Pitchfork, Fader, the Tribune, and his blog discusses his life as a working freelance writer, and describes the process of how he created the connections required for such a career. Continue reading “People With Passion: David Drake, music writer”

People With Passion: Tran Ha, RedEye

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 29, 2011: Tran Ha

Tran Ha, RedEye.

We are meeting in the RedEye’s conference room. Covering the walls are old RedEye issues, and I am surprised by how familiar they are — I remember many of them, even though most were only on newsstands for a day.

Tran is enthusiastic and energetic in her soft-spoken way. Later, when I watch a newsroom meeting, she leads the RedEye staff in a manner both self-assured and receptive; she directs the course of the meeting while giving everyone an opportunity to be heard.

Here, in the 22nd installment of my Chicago journalism interview series, RedEye managing editor Tran Ha discusses her introduction to journalism, her move to RedEye in 2003, her transition to editor, and why the paper matters to its readers. Continue reading “People With Passion: Tran Ha, RedEye”

People With Passion, Sam Smith — EXCERPTS

For the 21st installment of my Chicago journalism People With Passion series, I sat down with legendary Bulls basketball writer Sam Smith for a Skype conversation that lasted more than two hours. We covered Smith’s entire career — his childhood in Brooklyn, his introduction to journalism, his political writing in Fort Wayne and then D.C., his arrival at the Tribune, the writing of The Jordan Rules, his departure from the Tribune, and his tenure at

Since this is such a long, rich interview, I have split it into three parts, running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week, all at our Eye On Chi blog on ChicagoNow. Here, now, are excerpts from all three parts: Continue reading “People With Passion, Sam Smith — EXCERPTS”

People With Passion: Ben Joravsky

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 20, 2011: Ben Joravsky

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader, with Mayor Daley. (photo by Hunter Clauss)

We are seated at a window table at Starbucks at the Irving Park/Lincoln/Damen intersection. Ben holds the tape recorder like a microphone as he speaks, as if he is dictating his autobiography. He speaks in person with the passion, knowledge, authority, and irreverence displayed in his work.

In the 20th installment of my Chicago journalism People With Passion interview series — and a return for 2012 — Chicago Reader political writer Ben Joravsky discusses the challenges in writing about Chicago’s tax increment financing program, the cluelessness of Chicagoans, the trouble with aldermen, and the beating down of the journalism profession. Continue reading “People With Passion: Ben Joravsky”

People With Passion: Corey Graham

People with Passion

Corey Graham, Chicago Bears

October 16, 2011

Corey Graham. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

Drafted by the Bears in 2007, Corey Graham began his career as a cornerback. But it wasn’t until he revealed his talents as a special teams player that his value soared. Now in his fifth season, the special teams ace has earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Here, in an interview after a mid-season game against the Minnesota Vikings, Graham breaks down the art of “gunning” — the act of covering punts — and explains why special teams are much more special in Chicago.

Continue reading “People With Passion: Corey Graham”

People With Passion: Chuck Swirsky

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 9, 2011: Chuck Swirsky

Chuck Swirsky.

We are meeting at the Billy Goat Tavern on lower Michigan Ave., and when Chuck arrives we spend the next 45 minutes eating double burgers and talking about broadcasting, Chicago sports, Ron Santo, Bill Wennington, and the glory days of WGN. I am soaking up Chuck’s brand of passion and enthusiasm — he is definitely one of those “What you hear on the air is what you get in person” sorts of people. He spells out tricky last names for my later reference, hops in and out of memories, laughs at old stories, and speaks seriously about his work.

Chuck’s storied career has taken him through the Chicago Stadium, DePaul University, University of Michigan, up to Toronto and back again to the Chicago Bulls. Since the 1980s he has worked as a P.A. announcer, a radio sports director, and a play-by-play man on both radio and television. Since 2008 he has worked as the radio voice of Chicago Bulls basketball.

In the 19th installment of my Chicago journalism People With Passion interview series, ESPN personality Chuck discusses his early announcing days in Bellevue, WA, his view on whether or not play-by-play broadcasting is an act of journalism, and tells the story of Ron Santo’s 1989 hiring at WGN. Continue reading “People With Passion: Chuck Swirsky”

People With Passion: Sarah Spain

A People with Passion series

Chicago journalism

December 14, 2011: Sarah Spain

Sarah Spain and Mr. T at Wrigley Field, 2009.

If you know Sarah Spain as “that girl who auctioned herself on ebay for Super Bowl tickets” or as “the fantasy sports girl,” it’s probably because you’ve never met her. The self-proclaimed sarcastic, smartass, funny girl is a dedicated entertainer and sports fan supreme, especially when it comes to Michael Jordan.

“When Jordan retired the first time, I was in history class, and they put it on TV in my history class instead of (pause) learning. It was a big enough deal that they wheeled the TV in, and I was just crying in my class. That was just crushing.

“I once drove from Cornell to Washington, D.C. by myself, bought a ticket in the nose bleeds – I was worried I was never going to see him play again. When he came back to the Wizards, I thought I might have lost my chance to see his last game, so I was just like, ‘I just want to make sure I catch him one more time. I don’t know when he’s going to leave.’ And he had one of the worst games of his career. He had like 12 points. And he played terribly. And I was sitting alone in the 300s, just sad. Very sad.”

In the 18th installment of Jack M Silverstein’s Chicago journalism People With Passion interview series, ESPN personality Sarah Spain discusses her background as a full-time athlete, an improv sketch comic, and her perspective on sports as a woman, and how all three make her the sportscaster she is. Continue reading “People With Passion: Sarah Spain”