SNEED: Dick Tracy and Picasso intertwine in a memorable news career

SHARE SNEED: Dick Tracy and Picasso intertwine in a memorable news career

Artist Richard Locher of Naperville, who used to draw the Dick Tracy cartoon, died this week at 88. | Mary Beth Nolan/ For the Sun-Times

Well, well . . . 

This certainly has been a week of memories for Sneed, who began a career as a Chicago street reporter in 1967.

For instance:

• Dick Tracy cartoonist Richard “Dick” Locher died this week at the age of 88.

• Chicago’s iconic Picasso sculpture just turned 50. Its unveiling coincided with my debut as a journalist with the City News Bureau of Chicago.

So join me in a brief walk down memory lane.

Sometime in 1983, while I was banging out my creation, the INC. column at the Chicago Tribune — which the Sun-Times hysterically labeled the Stinc. Column — Locher was winning a Pulitzer Prize as an editorial cartoonist.

Locher then became the man behind the Dick Tracy comic strip after the death of another cartoonist who had taken over when the cartoon’s originator, Chester Gould, retired in 1977.

At some juncture, a Dick Tracy cartoon drawn by Locher himself arrived on my desk.

“Gad, Michael. If I had you as my chief investigator, I wouldn’t be in half the jams I’m in. . . ,” the caption read.


I’m sure a long line of my former editors would have disagreed.

At that time, I had been in the news business for 20 years; a seasoned “trouble shooter” who had twice covered hijacked Americans held hostage; Patty Hearst’s kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army; the American Indian Movement uprising at Wounded Knee, the cyanide cult deaths at Jonestown, Guyana; and the scourge of a profoundly new taboo business via the U.S. Mail — child pornography, the last two being Pulitzer Prize nominees.

It had already been an amazing career and, hey, I was still a legitimate brunette.

But being the subject of a “Dick Tracy” cartoon, which I read every Sunday as a kid, was an incredible honor.

It still resides in my office. Although the yellow color of Tracy’s hat has dimmed, the memory hasn’t.

I vaguely remember Dick’s smile when he gave it to me, an honor from a man who never let his ego grow higher than grass in his beloved Naperville.

I now whisper a silent thank you again.

Picasso’s jubilee . . .

I was surprised Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg — who wrote a smashing piece on the Chicago Picasso’s history — didn’t know I was just cutting my journalistic teeth when “she” was unveiled in what was then called the Civic Center Plaza (now the Daley Center Plaza).

“Why, Mike,” chirped a very polite Steinberg. “You are surely too young . . .”

Well, I was at “her” unveiling and it was true it launched an avalanche of negative reviews.

Observing the sculpture’s unsheathing from a seventh-floor window perch at the Civic Center press room, the iconic Picasso piece was untitled.

Nesting my chin on my City News Bureau typewriter (no computers then), I proclaimed her one helluva dame.

And I’ve loved her ever since.

And now for a sad note…

It is always hard to say goodbye, but I say so with love to Jim Kirk, our publisher and editor-in-chief who stunned us with his resignation Friday from the Sun-Times. Jim’s heading across the street to Tronc, which also brought back memories of my days at the Tribune, when my first city editor, Don Agrella, used to yell “Hat and Coat” to those of us he was sending out on assignment. No more hats. So many bosses; so many changes. The very best to you, Jim.

Sneedlings . . . 

Saturday’s birthdays: Cara Delevingne, 25; Mario Balotelli, 27; and Francois Hollande, 63. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Sebastian Stan, 35; and DeMarcus Cousins, 27.

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