I haven’t even gotten to the “good parts” of John A. Farrell’s new biography about Clarence Darrow, Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned. I’m pages away from Darrow’s defense in the Scopes, and Leopold and Loeb trials but I’ve already found him to be fascinating. This Saturday at 8 p.m., I’ll learn the rest of his life story when Kevin Bry presents his one-man show at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison St.
Kevin calls Darrow, “America’s foremost trial attorney.” If the Chicago attorney were alive today, he’d defend accused murderers like a former football star in California and a young mother in Florida. He would represent the 9/11 masterminds. Darrow was the last hope for the damned of our society.
Like many, Kevin got his first glimpse into the great man’s life by watching the film dramas “Inherit the Wind” and “Compulsion.” In fact, he acted in a stage version of “Compulsion” which chronicles Darrow’s efforts to save two wealthy University of Chicago students who murder a neighborhood boy just for the thrill of it.
Darrow had come to Chicago from a small town in Ohio to serve as an attorney for the railroads. His legal work for capitalists was financially rewarding but soon Darrow would become their worst adversary – making his reputation as a defender of labor leaders.
Darrow’s dad reminded me of my own. He was a free-thinker who taught his son to never accept conventional wisdom – to always question the judgments of the majority. As a result, Darrow embraced such radical concepts as free love and famously scoffed at organized religion.
The man was not without weaknesses. He was a womanizer and an opportunist. He was unpredictable and unconventional when it came to the law and politics. His ground-breaking arguments advocating for the rights of minors still influence our justice system. His most winning trait was his bottomless sympathy for the downtrodden.
In Kevin’s portrayal, which debuted at the Village Players, we hear about Darrow’s private life, as well as listening to his silver-tongued oratory. Being an attorney, Kevin felt blessed to find a character that meant so much to him. His research included reading all of Darrow’s biographies, exploring the Hyde Park neighborhood where he lived and reviewing online archives. Kevin even found some short films of the famous attorney in his twilight years.
The audience at the bookstore will see a unique production, containing many different points of view and large doses of Darrow in the courtroom. Kevin believes the audience will come away with a fuller appreciation of Darrow, great flaws and all.
I almost forgot: I have a small part as a bailiff and Augie will be a judge. I only have one line, though. But I’ve waited my whole life to cry “Oyez” and I get to say it three times.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.