Copyright 1998 Chicago Sun-Times, Inc.
Different Fund-Raisers for Two Different WorldsApril 9, 1998
By Richard Roeper

A tale of two fund-raisers on a Tuesday evening in the Chicago area: In Highland Park, the Weisbachs, Lou and Ruth, played host to a $ 15,000-per-couple fund-raiser at their sprawling home. The guest of honor: President Clinton, in town to pull his Jerry Lewis routine and raise a boatload of money.

In the West Lake View neighborhood of Chicago, community organizations played host to a $ 20-per-person fund-raiser at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. The guest of honor: Maverick filmmaker Michael Moore, in town to screen his new film "The Big One," and to raise a basketful of money for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, ACORN and the New Party--scrappy organizations designed to help the "little person" stand taller.

The specific goal at the Highland Park event: To line the pockets of the Democratic Business Council with more than $ 500,000. The specific goal at the Music Box: To raise a few thousand bucks to fight for a "living wage" in Chicago of $ 7.60 an hour, which would enable a family of four to live above the poverty level.

Hours before the main event in Highland Park, Secret Service agents, curious onlookers and a media throng swooped into the neighborhood. Hours before the main event at the Music Box, a few volunteers worked to make sure everything was in order.

Because it was raining, guests at the Highland Park event dashed out of their limos and luxury cars and were whisked into the Weisbachs' compound. Because it was raining, guests waiting to enter the benefit screening stood in the rain. The president arrived in Highland Park with an entourage of more than 200, at a cost to the taxpayers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cheering onlookers caught a glimpse of Clinton waving at them from his limousine before his motorcade zoomed past. Wearing a crisp suit, the president and his bodyguards emerged from the limo and made their way into the party, where the invited attendees were decked out in their finest attire.

Michael Moore just sort of ambled into the Music Box Theatre and started shaking hands, exchanging low-key greetings and signing autographs with the throng milling about in the lobby. Wearing a dumpy coat and a Detroit Red Wings baseball cap, Moore eventually made his way into the theater, where the invited attendees were decked out in jeans and flannels and sensible coats.

Entertainment at the Weisbachs was provided by piano great Ramsey Lewis and comedian Tom Dreesen. Entertainment at the Music Box was provided by County Clerk David Orr, as he searched for an available seat, and by the Loop's Buzz Kilman, who threatened to break into song if they didn't kill the house music that was drowning out his introductory remarks.

Guests at the Highland Park fund-raiser dined on a catered menu of mixed greens and goat cheese salad, Atlantic salmon coated in mustard and fennel seeds, banana-bread pudding, and two California white wines, served by a white-gloved wait staff. Guests at the Music Box dined on a go-to-the-counter-and-fetch-it-yourself menu of popcorn, jumbo sodas and candy.

As a token of his appreciation and respect, Lou Weisbach gave the president a custom-made basketball of exquisite Coach leather. As a token of his appreciation and respect, Michael Moore gave Studs Terkel a brick from the General Motors plant in Flint, Mich., where UAW workers staged the historic 44-day strike that began Dec. 30, 1936, and became a pivotal event in the American labor movement.

"This is my Hope Diamond," said Terkel, as he clutched the treasure. The 80 or so guests at the political shindig received baseballs autographed by the president.

The first 80 people at the screening for "The Big One" received checks for 80 cents, symbolic of the hourly wage paid to a factory worker in Mexico.

The benefit for the Democratic Business Council was covered by every major newspaper and television station in town. The benefit for the living wage was not.

Richard Roeper can be heard Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the "Media Creatures" show on AM-1000.

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