Rick Kogan works as the host of WGN radio’s “Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan” and a senior writer and “Sidewalks” columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Years ago I counted myself a regular at the Billy Goat tavern on Washington– not the original, but filled with some shared history. But I know only the myths and misconceptions. In the acknowledgements of this book about Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern Kogan writes:
You would not be holding this book in your hands if Sam and Bill Sianis had not asked me one afternoon sitting around a table at the tavern, “Would you write a book about the Billy Goat?” I told them that if they wanted a book strictly for the tourist crowd we could slap it together in about 30 minutes: a lot of pictures, a few Mike Royko columns, some curse and Saturday Night Live stories.
But Sam said, “No, I want the real story for the tourists and everybody else too,” and he then did everything in his considerable power to make it happen, correcting some long-standing errors in the historic record and offereing honest and often heartfelt answers to every question I asked him.
What Kogan produces is an affectionate tale that plunks you down at a barstool next to some of the Billy Goat’s regulars. In these stories he reminds us that the corner tavern is friendliest place in town and that there were once poets working for newspapers.