That, he was.
But not just because he was fast on his feet in backroom negotiations when he was the powerful alderman of Chicago’s 10th Ward.
It was what Eddie said and the way he said it.
No one was funnier.
Wit. The speed of lightning.
Storyteller. One of the best.
Good looking? OMG.
Did I say he once owned a white horse … and a herd of buffalo?
And Eddie’s rapid-fire, three-staccato chuckle (huh-huh-huh), which he’d inject after pointing out a bit of political skulduggery, was pure Eddie Veeeee.
No sitting alderman in the 1970s-’80s had the combo of charm and mischief as Edward R. Vrdolyak, the larger-than-life pol with the constantly mispronounced last name (Ver-dole-eee-yak).
Did I say Vrdolyak was of Croatian descent? He was proud of it, a powerfully magnetic outlier in a galaxy of Irish-American politicians.
I got to know Vrdolyak when I was on the other side of the pencil.
Having left the Chicago Tribune to become Mayor Jane Byrne’s press secretary, I was invited to dine at Vrdolyak’s home with my husband, Byrne’s chief of staff; met his wife, Denise, and their three small sons, who now run the Vrdolyak Law Group.
And, upon occasion, our families would get together at one of Vrdolyak’s favorite haunts where the specialty was frog legs. His favorite.
When my son was born soon after I’d left my City Hall gig and returned to my reporting job at the Tribune, Vrdolyak and his wife sent us a baby gift.
I think it was a toy frog?
Head of the Cook County Dem party until 1987, Vrdolyak’s political career ended when his second attempt at running for Chicago mayor — this time as a Republican — failed.
I never really lost track of him even though he’d run afoul of the Feds in 2008.
His guilty plea Thursday would become the second time Vrdolyak had been convicted of a federal felony.
Vrdolyak and I would chat via phone from time to time. Now he awaits sentencing on the tax-evasion charge.
Hard to believe I am now 75.
Even harder still to believe the 81-year-old former political dynamo who appeared before U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Thursday in a charcoal gray suit after pleading guilty to a single federal tax-evasion charge — was described as “shuffling” up to the lectern with a slight limp and speaking in a “quiet” voice.
There may now be a limp, and a softer voice. But I gotta believe there is still a whiff of dynamo who will always be rumbling inside Edward R. Vrdolyak.