|Angel Casey, Queen of Chicago Radio
1944, 1945 and 1946
Angel Casey, Queen of Chicago Radio and for more than a decade, queen of Chicago.
Until the late 40s, there were two forms of daily mass media, print and radio.
Angel was prominent in both, appearing nationally in Life Magazine and in every local paper, while at the same time she was doing 6 live-read shows a day five days a week on Chicago radio.
A "live-read" show was one where the performers read scripts live in real time with no tape delay. Why? Tape delay had not been invented.
This meant that when a performer made a mistake, the mistake went on air, a narrator's nightmare. Angel was known for being able to adroitly cover any mistakes that occurred, which contributed to her popularity among her professional peers.
Along with the above she was making multiple commercials on a retail 13 week advertising rotation for local merchants such as Morrie Mages Sports and Animal Kingdom along with many public appearances for local advertisers throughout Chicagoland including serving as Marshal for several prominent parades. She was a busy 24 year old.
Then along came television on W-G-N. Humorously, television was first called "visual radio". Angel took to it immediately and according to the local press television took to her. Naturally photogenic with educated diction and a trained voice she quickly rose to prominence in this new medium from 1947 though 1956, notching several historic firsts.
According to the press of the day few local celebrities had her skill set, dramatic depth, or popularity, yet because she was who she was, she gave it all away over a decade later. In 1944 though, she was in her early 20's, young, successful, locally well known and in demand, the city of Chicago lay at her feet.
Nationally, our country had just won WW2. The times were tumultuous and heady. Angel Casey road the wave of national victory with style and graceful success as describe by the local news community. During this time, everything in her professional and public life was coming up roses.
Her personal life was a different story. Her 1st Lieutenant husband, her first husband, was stationed in Italy in an administrative position, and was inexplicably incommunicado. In modern parlance he "ghosted" her with no explanation.
It broke her heart, but she healed quickly. She thought of it as the fortunes of war and never looked back; a trait that revealed an essential part of her personality and personal ethos. When she knew she was right, she was immovable and dismissive of attempts to pursuade her otherwise.
Her career was skyrocketing, as was her skill and confidence, she retained both throughout the entirety of her life. This was also around the time she met the man who would become the "love of her life" Tristan Meinecke in Balantine's Restaurant in downtown Chicago.
Their love burned hot for over 50 years spanning two centuries, a world war, Vietnam, and the 60s cultural revolution in America, when many of the principals on race and culture that Angel and her husband Tristan believed in, sacrificed and fought for, became central to the "new America" where everyone is at least ostensibly excepted for who they are.
They both lived to see it. Both found it to be quite amusing and both loved to say "We told you so in the 1940s . . ."
The love between Tristan and Angel never waned or burnt out, instead it became stronger as the years flew by. They were the definition of "a love for the ages". Whimsically, perhaps it and they go on still.
In any case as angel's success grew, so did her celebrity. She was the toast of the town and everyone wanted a slice.
She knew politicians, producers and luminaries by the dozens. She'd refer to having to "fight them off with a stick" which she was happy to do.
Underneath her warm, welcoming, sunny exterior, lurked a Viking queen who would rip your heart out and grind it under her heel right in front of you, if you dared put your hands on her or threaten anything or anybody she loved. Since she loved just about everyone it soon became known it was best to be on your good behavior when she was around.
Another beneficial aspect of celebrity was that Chicago law enforcement and Chicago firefighters demonstrably adored her.
She walked the loop and downtown frequently. At that time there were numerous traffic cops downtown. Seeing Angel, the police would make a show of stopping traffic so she could go on her way unimpeded. This happened frequently. She was a one woman parade.
When she called the fire department, 2 or 3 trucks would show up. In fact, one day in the early 60s, Tristan wanted to build a hockey rink in the yard of a building he'd purchased at 2026 N. Cleveland.
So he built a frame the size of the yard and began to fill it with water. Garden hoses weren't doing the trick, so noticing the fire hydrant he asked Angel to call the F.D so he could use their gigantic hoses.
They sent 3 trucks with full crews. Angel "chatted up" the crews while Tristan pulled one to the side and explained what he wanted to do. A few minutes later he had his hockey rink and the firefighters got to schmooze with Angel so all were happy. Tristan's ad hoc hockey rink lasted for 3 years to the delight of his and the neighborhood's children and each year the F.D. showed up to do the honors.
Throughout it all, through the highs and lows, she remained as she described "a good Midwestern girl with good Midwestern values." It is for these values that she sacrificed a career without care, concern or future recriminations.
She also remained a Christian her entire life. According to Angel her faith was a cornerstone of her life and gave her great strength, she died surrounded by family, listening to them singing hymns, her favorite verse from Corinthians tight in her hand, a smile on her face. Perfection to the last! For a time she was Queen of Chicago Radio and of Chicago itself. Long live the Queen!
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