LABOR: The Pied Piper of Chi

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He made an alliance with George Browne, the notorious pandering boss of the stagehands' union—but kept the alliance only as long as it pleased him. "Browne used to be a good guy," says Petrillo, "but when he got screwy and started mixing himself up in trouble I washed my hands of him."

In 1933 Chicago rang with a rumor that Petrillo had been kidnaped from a suburban nightclub and that other union officers had seen fit to buy him back for $50,000. Jimmy issued shrill denials, distributed a C.P.A. report on the union's finances which showed no $50,000 deduction. But he took to riding in a $25,000 armored car, and recruited a force of bodyguards which included two city detectives.

He became a force in Chicago, an intimate of Mayor Ed Kelly, and a park commissioner. He used these connections to "give service to the boys." He persuaded political candidates to abandon sound trucks for vanloads of live musicians during campaigns; he promoted municipally financed concerts in Grant Park. In 1939 he expressed his gratitude for this largesse with a concert honoring Mayor Kelly. In so doing he gave a dramatic demonstration of his own power. At his "suggestion," 23 band leaders, among them Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring, Tommy Dorsey and Kay Kyser, brought their orchestras to Chicago at their own expense. The concert orchestras of the National, Columbia and Mutual broadcasting systems came, too.

The next year Petrillo was elected international president of the A.F.M. With grandiose magnanimity, he gave his predecessor, 73-year-old Joseph Weber, a $20,000-a-year pension for life.

War. Petrillo had already begun his war on canned music. Talking pictures had thrown 18,000 U.S. theater musicians out of work. Petrillo listened to radio broadcasts of recorded music as though he heard the rumble of doom. "Electric refrigerators put the iceman out of work," he screamed, "but the iceman didn't have to make them. The musician is being asked to destroy himself." In 1936, unabashed by the fact that he was simply the head of one local union, he announced that union musicians would no longer make records in Chicago. He also forced radio stations to hire standby workers—i.e., extra musicians they did not need.

Both practices set off public protest, but both worked. Petrillo had one vast advantage over other labor leaders. A music strike, unlike a coal strike, caused little or no public suffering; in fact it hardly diluted the endless flow of recorded sound which dinned daily in the nation's ears. As international president of A.F.M., Petrillo assumed unlimited power. The union's bylaws solemnly assert: "It shall be his duty ... to (a) enforce the constitution, bylaws, standing resolutions or other laws and resolutions or (b) annul or set aside same or any portion thereof . . . and substitute other . . . provisions of his own making. . . ." He began making war on a grander scale.

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