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Afternoon Edition: Dec. 6, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Flanked by family members, supporters, attorneys and bodyguards, former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, Monday morning.
Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 34 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 10 and sub-zero wind chill values. Tomorrow will be sunny early, then cloudy with a 20% chance of snow and a high near 24.

Top story

Jussie Smollett takes the stand in his defense

Jussie Smollett took the witness stand today, hoping to convince a jury that he was an innocent victim of a hate crime attack and not the mastermind of a hoax.

The former “Empire” actor began to testify a little after noon, and early questioning by defense attorney Nenye Uche focused on Smollett’s childhood and family background. He said he wasn’t always close to his father until later in life, but he called his mother “my favorite human in the world.”

Smollett also talked about being a “working child actor,” doing commercials in New York, moving to Los Angeles and landing a role in “The Mighty Ducks.”

“I played a Duck,” Smollett said.

Later, Smollett talked about his time on “Empire,” where he said he was paid around $28,000 per episode for the first, 10-episode season. By season three, he said he negotiated a raise to $80,000 per episode with a $10,000 increase per season. By the time he was fired, he said he was making $100,000 an episode.

Still, he said he was told, “You have to be for gay Black men what Phylicia Rashad was for Black women on ‘The Cosby Show.’”

Smollett’s time on the stand will mark his first extensive public remarks on the case against him since the former “Empire” actor read a statement as he left the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in March 2019. That followed a hearing at which the Cook County state’s attorney dropped all charges just weeks after he was indicted.

Andy Grimm has more on the latest developments in Smollett’s trial.

More news you need

  1. Unvaccinated Illinoisans would have to pay for their health care expenses — including hospital bills — out of pocket if they contract COVID-19 under legislation filed today in the Illinois House. Rachel Hinton has more on the bill, which was proposed by State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, and will likely face legal questions.
  2. A new round of federal low-income housing tax credits will allow for $1 billion in development projects with an emphasis on the South and West sides, Chicago officials said today. Officials also announced the purchase of critical vacant land in Pilsen that’s part of a plan to provide more affordable housing.
  3. Two North Shore brothers who entered the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection each pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor charges connected with the breach. Christian Kulas and Mark Kulas Jr. now face up to six months in jail and a maximum $5,000 fine.
  4. Fans of “West Side Story” will want to make time to see Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of the musical, which our Richard Roeper gave a raving four-star review. “In a career filled with brilliant achievements, Spielberg has injected new life, new blood, new energy, new artistry, into a classic,” Roeper writes.

A bright one

‘Ferris Bueller’ accordion Berwyn polka queen Vlasta Krsek played in Chicago parade scene sold at auction

The accordion that Vlasta Krsek, the Berwyn musician who was known as the “International Queen of Polka,” played in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” has been sold for $12,500 at a Hollywood auction.

Krsek, who died of cancer last year at 83, performed “Twist and Shout” and “Danke Schoen” on the instrument while riding on a float with “Ferris” star Matthew Broderick in the exuberant parade scene in the 1986 John Hughes movie.

Polka queen Vlasta Krsek of Berwyn and her Baldoni accordion, which she played in the parade scene in downtown Chicago in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Gene Pesek/Sun-Times file

The accordion, which Krsek kept for years at her Berwyn home, was custom-made by Baldoni, a company long based in Wisconsin.

It was sold through Julien’s Auctions over the weekend at a Hollywood entertainment auction whose priciest item was a notebook, sold for $437,500, with Sylvester Stallone’s handwritten ideas for his 1976 movie “Rocky.”

A Prague-born World War II refugee, Krsek composed polkas for the Chicago Bears and Pope John Paul II, played for President Ronald Reagan and once danced the polka with Mayor Harold Washington.

Read the full story here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

After the news that Minnie Miñoso finally made the Hall of Fame, who is another Chicago athlete you think is overdue for the same honor? Why?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

On Friday, we asked you: What was the best album of 2021? Here’s what some of you said...

“Japanese Breakfast’s newest album ‘Jubilee.’” — Cesar Cruz

“Mastodon — ‘Hushed and Grim’” — Joe Pasaye

“‘The Future’ by Nathaniel Raetliff and the Night Sweats.” — Sam Gambill

“Robert Plant and Alison Krauss — ‘Raise the Roof’” — Howard Moore

“Taylor Swift’s ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’” — Amber Nicole Alvarado

“Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Heaux Tales’ for sure!” — Bertram Dugan

“‘The Quest’ by Yes” — Hayley Boyd

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