In 1976, Frank Sinatra played Chicago. While he was in town, newspaper columnist Mike Royko got a tip that the Chicago police stationed a uniformed officer at Frank’s hotel room door, round the clock. Always the champion of the common man, Royko got ticked off at the waste of taxpayer money. especially since Frank had his own legion of lackeys. So he wrote a column about it. The next day one of Frank’s lackeys hand-delivered this letter:
Even though Royko liked Sinatra, he wasn’t going to take that lying down. He wrote another column. In that one, he announced he would auction off the letter, with an opening bid of $100, and give the money to the Salvation Army, because they helped drunks and loose women.
Cut to Vie Carlson, a longtime Royko fan. On a whim, she called Royko’s office on the last day of the auction and offered $400. She won the letter and held onto it.
“If the money wasn’t going to charity, I might not have bid two cents on it,” Carlson said recently by phone. But “on the spur of the moment,” she called Royko’s office on the auction’s last day. The woman who answered the phone told Carlson that Royko had left for the day, but it wasn’t too late to bid. Carlson glanced in a desk drawer and spied a check for $400, a Mother’s Day gift from her kids, and made the offer.
Weeks later, while Carlson was guiding a tour through her museum, Carlson’s Western Town, a still-active replica of the Gunsmoke TV studio that she and her husband built in front of their house, Royko called with congratulations on the winning bid. “I was thrilled!” Carlson said. “I told him, if nothing else, I could show it to the student groups who regularly toured our Western Town, to show them how they shouldn’t turn out. Sinatra sounded like a hoodlum. I mean, would you use the word crap in a letter?”