That morning she prayed at mass.
And hit the streets in the afternoon, the blister swelling on her toe, not stopping the handshakes and "vote-for-me" pleas until the polls closed.
Late into the night -- the "victory" party for Mayor Michael Bilandic by now a sodden, stunned wake -- three Democatic regulars repaired to the Bismark Hotel bar. The one in the natty pin-stripe threw his crumpled napkin across the bar. "You can kiss the city goodbye." The heavy set woman, weaving out at closing time, gathered a few to her room for more booze. "Everyone," she explained, "just wants to get totaled."
Meanwhile, Jane Byrne -- on her way to making history in the most stunning upset in the wild and woolly world of Chicago politics -- was, uncharacteristically, smiling. In a voice near gone from a cold, the diminutive woman most experts expect to be Chicago's next mayor, told her supporters, "The people of Chicago freed themselves tonight."
In her hotel ballroom headquarters, there were no heavies from labor or business or politics or anything. One bushy haired young man, wild-eyed with joy, grabbed a mike and shouted, "The Machine is Dead!"
But is it?
Headlines blare that Byrne, by wresting away the Democratic primary, shattered the legendary Chicago Democratic political machine for the first time in nearly 50 years.
But the irony is that Byrne herself is the product of the machine -- Mayor Richard A. Daley's protege and showcase woman, for 12 years an adored loyalist perceived by many as his chief apologist.
Only after she was fired by Daley's successor, Bilandic, was the thought planted in her head -- and hers alone -- that she just might be able to beat him. And beat him by running against the machine.
Today, she makes a differentiation "I never ran against the organization . I ran against Bilandic's new machine. I love the Democratic party." Bilandic and his "cabal of evil men" were her target, not the other Democratic regulars.
This is, of course, calculatingly reassuring and soothing to the stupified regulars now scrambling for survival. And Byrne -- tough, pragmatic Daley desciple -- deftly does the tightrope act of garnering their endorsement and financial backing while keeping her new non-machine coalition of youth, blacks, women and other disenfranchised.
She attends the private breakfasts with aldermen she was slicing up for lunch meat a few weeks ago. Some heads will roll -- the police chief's for one, and close Bilandic functionaries -- but she plans no "hit list" purge, she reassures. Patronage in its place is okay, she says.
And so just one week after her incredible victory, Byrne strides into a meeting of top labor leaders. The room is filled with smoke. There are young blacks with modified afros, young whites in leather jackets and long, greased-back hair, a sprinkling of women. But mostly the old guard is there -- the ones who look like political cartoon stereotypes, with pot bellies and chomped-on cigars and baggy pin-stripes. On cue, they stand and clap.
Her face, as usual, is expressionless as she acknowledges the standing ovation. Slim, small, not quite 5-feet-3, she stands on stylishly thin high heels, wearing a slim-skirted beige dress and fur wrap. Jane Byrne fits no political stereotypes, particularly Chicago's. She is no gladhander, has no cronies. She does not come from the wards. She was a well-to-do Irish debutante. She adroitly knows how to use the press, but makes no attempt to charm them, does not bother to smile for photographers. She does not, in fact, bother to smile for anyone.
She seems absolutely without caprice. With her close-cropped blond hair, there could be a resemblance to the Mary Martin of younger days, except that Byrne seems to have not the slightest idea how to be coy or "cute." She looks every bit her 44 years these exhausting days.
There is an indefinable something to her -- for all her lack of visible emotions, no one uses the adjective "cool" to describe her. The first adjective that always comes to mind is "tough." Sometimes "very tough" or "extraordinarily tough." The next is "smart." And in Chicago politics, where the trait is of uncertain virtue, she has been called "almost pathologically honest."
Her eyes pan the room of labor leaders and she once again -- as she did thoughout the campaign -- invokes the stillmagic name of Richard A. Daley.
The "principles and feelings he had for the working man certainly will be continued if I am elected mayor." (In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 9 to 1, the April general election is regarded as almost perfunctory.) "I need your help," she says, to more cheers. Some shout "We're behind you 100 percent."
Driving back to her apartment, Byrne displays none of the elation most politicians savor after the roar of applause. She shrugs. "Two weeks ago they stood and cheered the same way for Bilandic. I now have to rally the corps back together. I'm doing the proper thing."
But lest anyone make the mistake that there is a patsy somewhere inside, she said publicly of any possible rump party opposition in the city council, "they would be very foolish to try it. I'm not going to have my plans thwarted." Later, alone, she elaborated. If one alderman tried anything, "I'd cut him off from his jobs. See that he got nothing . Absolutely nothing ." The voice is deadly in its calm: "I'd break him in front of all 50 so that the others would know he got broken." The Odd Couple
They are, in many ways, the odd couple, Jane Byrne and her second husband, Sun-Times newspaperman Jay McMullen.
Tall, handsome and 58, McMullen is likeable, gregarious and flamboyant -- given to the flashy in dress (such as melon-and-pale-blue plaid blazers and bright colored string ties) and the outrageous in speech. He will be "First Husband" he jokes, then adds, "I could well be her Billy Carter, only I gave up beer for my waistline." She laughs. "No he won't. I'll gag him."
A City Hall reporter for 23 years, McMullen, divorced almost six years ago, dated the widowed Jane Byrne for five years while he covered City Hall for the now defunct Daily News.
"The opposition was always -- because I was getting stories from Jane Byrne. The Tribune double-teamed me! I asked why and they said, 'Well, we got to make up for your pillow talk somehow.' " McMullen laughs heartily.
They are in their apartment on the 43d floor, with its spectacular panoramic. view of Chicago. The apartment is ornate, neo-Mediterranean with dripping crystal chandeliers, off-white plush velvet sofa and wall-to-wall plush white carpeting. Smoked glass arches frame the windows and an Italian mural, like those in neighborhood Italian restaurants, adorns the foyer wall.
The apartment reflects McMullen's taste more than Byrne's. He lived there before they were married last St. Patrick's Day. Byrne is a chain-smoker and the apartment smells of stale smoke.
All the while McMullen talks, Byrne, barefoot and engulfed in a large kimono, moves between living room and kitchen to answer her many phone calls. Occasionally she rolls her eyes at his statements, but the gesture is a tolerant one. She never attempts to quiet him.
Some celebrated McMullen one-liners made him famous in the Chicago press corps last year when Tribune reporter Eleanor Randolph wrote an Esquire article about male-female conflict-of-interest among reporters and their political sources:
"I never made my feelings for Jane a secret. We were doing it openly and I was never ashamed of dating her," he was quoted. Then, "But I don't get all this new sanctimonious ---... All those goddamned blue noses who think you get stories from press conferences! Hell, there was a day when I could roll over in bed in the morning and scoop the Tribune. Anybody who wouldn't --- a dame for a story is disloyal to the paper."
McMullen leans back on the sofa and says his comments were "not exactly in context. It made it sound like I was talking about Jane -- I was talking about girls from the Old Days. Hell, in the old days, if you could --- a secretary and get a story, you'd get a raise.
"After that article came out, my publisher told me, 'You didn't need that.'" He chuckles and gestures in the direction of the kitchen, where Byrne is cradling the phone at her ear and simultaneously drying dishes. "That was the same kind of response I got from 'Her Honor.'"
Byrne and McMullen give each other their own space. Regarded as smart and knowledgeable about politics, McMullen seems to prefer, however, to play up his Peck's Bad Boy role these days -- perhaps to maintain an identity now that his wife gets phone calls from the president of the United States and is besieged by the national media. But he always speaks proudly of her and she says quietly, "He's handsome. He's smart. He is a very bravado type, but there is a deep understanding. He takes care of me."
He does the shopping and cooking and, in a knowing parody of the traditional political wife interview he says, "But I'm not the gourmet cook. Heather (Bilandic's wife) is."
"Jane is much more serious about the world. The greatest service I can do for Janie is lighten her up a little bit. She has great determination and is the John Wayne of politics. She has true grit. She was the only one in this goddamn city who thought she was going to win." He adds proudly, "She wasn't the kind of public official you wouldn't want to associate with. She was Madam Clean.
"That little broad -- hell you needed three lawyers who know Sanscrit to decipher the new delegate selection process. Well, she started explaining the goddamn rules and I fell off at the first turn. She has a great grasp of detail and can deal with the minutia of politics. That I find an excruciating bore. She eats, sleeps and breathes politics."
McMullen stands by the window, frosted by cold, and looks to frozen Lake Michigan. "You know, Daley and I had something in common. We were both working class." McMullen's father worked in a factory. McMullen got a degree in English literature before getting into the newspaper business. When the Daily News folded, McMullen wasn't picked up. Byrne feels it was because of his association with her. Now working in the Sun-Times' real estate section, McMullen says there is no conflict of interest and that he will retain his job.
"I don't suffer an identity crisis. I'm the most successful man you ever met because I'm doing what I want to do. I like being a newspaper man."
Then, as if it were all getting too serious, McMullen starts in on Bilandic. "Janie knew sooner or later that boob would make a mess of it. He's put so many dolts in City Hall. She's gonna have to can a lot of 'em. You know, the reason Chicago (the regular party delegation) got booted out of the '72 convention? Bilandic went down there to Miami and sat on his duff. They only needed 35 votes to make the switch, and he didn't even try to lobby.My god," he says, with a laugh, playing the role to the end, "you could walk around and pinch 35 women on the butt and get that many votes." The Turning Point
Close friends and members of her large family are as fiercely loyal to Jane Byrne as she is to them. They speak of her idealism, her determination, her Irish stoicism.
"When things were really bad, when we had, say, one volunteer at headquarters, mother would always say there were good and bad cycles. She was terrific," says Jane Byrne's 21-year-old daughter Kathy, a political science major at St. Mary's College in South Bend, Ind.
Byrne says quietly that the turning. point in her life came when her Navy pilot husband, en route to Chicago, crashed into a Glenview, Ill., cemetary.
"I was only 25 -- by one week -- when my husband got blown to bits. That changed me. Having come from nothing but the good life, it was almost too great. I went into Kathy's room and I was angry . Very angry for her. Here was this little baby, just 18 months old, and her whole world had died while she slept. I asked God, How dare you do this to me?"
She continued, "But I learned the hard way. There were just some things you couldn't control." Had it not been for his death there was "no way" she would have moved into politics. "Ours was a conservative, wealthy family. There is just no way I would have been different from the rest."
Self confidence, however, was there from the start. Jane was the oldest of four daughters and the child of an Inland Steel top executive. She came between two brothers. "I always felt whatever the boys could do I could do." Her sister Carol said, "Janie was the type of person who always did what she wanted to do." Their mother was strong, matriarchal Irish, who had uplifting quotes and sayings "for every situation."
"I remember our mother telling us all the time, 'Whatever you want to do, you go after it,'" recalled Carol."'Only one person will stop you from getting what you want and that's yourself.'"
Jane was a practical joker who put rabbits and chicks in a box and took it to her brother at his very strict seminary, then told him it was a lemon meringue pie so that he would be sure to open it.
And she had no fear. Carol recalls a time when her parents were in Europe and had left Jane, 19, in charge. "When someone tried to break in the house, Janie raced out and saw the car and said, 'Let's get him.' She jumped in our car and pursued this guy for about six blocks and then he got away. But we got his license number and the police picked him up."
Byrne was the same way in her campaigning. "She went into places where the police were afraid to go. Like housing developments. And she would go alone. At night. I told her she was nuts," said her sister.
Gus Savage, black publisher of the Citizen, southside weekly community newspapers, said "she went into the Robert Taylor (housing project) alone. She even knocked on the damn doors there. It was really something. This little white woman going around there."
Byrne, the straight A student, attended Barat College in Lake Forest, Ill., and wanted to be a doctor until she met William Byrne at Notre Dame. "That was a different era. When you got married that ended thoughts of a career." Workhorse Volunteer
Anger propelled Byrne at least three crucial times in her life -- when she went to work for the John F. Kennedy campaign in 1960, when she first tangled with Mayor Daley and last year when she decided to run against Bilandic after he fired her.
Her Catholicism was of no help after her husband's death in 1959. She was seething and could not accept "God's will." Then one day, the young widow -- living back home with her parents, not working, caring for her daughter -- heard Kennedy talking about pilots who had been killed in the cold war. He spoke of the sorrows of the widows and mothers. "I felt this man understood."
She moved into the Kennedy headquarters and as one JFK operative recalled, "worked her ass off." He became a close friend from that day on. "Every town we went to, there was always someone like her." The workhorse volunteer, sometimes wealthy, often Irish. "She was just a little white-faced, thin-lipped Irish girl. But she always had a fire."
After Kennedy was elected president, Byrne turned down jobs that would take her to Washington and away from her family. But she retained her Kennedy ties. One Kennedy political staffer said, "She became a good unofficial type person who any of us could get a hold of and ask 'what the hell's going on out there?' She always gave you the straight. Straighter than straight."
The affinity between Byrne and Daley was special, but their relationship started with a fight.
After noticing her at JFK headquarters, sitting in presidential boxes at football games and with the Kennedy crowd at other functions, Daley's curiosity got the best of him. But it wasn't until a few months after Kennedy's death that he called her into his office and offered a job.
Byrne had gone back to school, gotten a masters degree and was teaching part time in high school.
She recalls that moment with Daley as if it were yesterday.
"Right after the pleasantries, he started shouting. I had heard he was terribly jealous of the Kennedy crowd, but I had never seen it. He started shouting, 'What have they ever done for you? Why didn't they give you a job? We take care of our people' -- strictly organizational thinking."
"Finally," said Byrne, "I started just shouting. I said, 'I have come to the wrong place. I can't believe this.'
"Finally I shouted, 'I got exactly what I wanted... to see John Kennedy elected president.' Then I said, 'and I'm very disappointed in you. All he meant to you was that you wanted the spoils of victory. It wasn't the man.' Then I stopped and said, 'But it doesn't seem to make much difference, does it?' And Daley said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because he's dead .'"
With that, Byrne recounts, Daley leaned over on the pretext of tying his shoe. When he sat up, he would not look at her. "I peeked at him and his face was soaked with tears. Just soaked. I said, 'Well I was right. You did admire the man.' And that's how it all started."
Byrne began her Daley days with a minor poverty program post. He made her part of his cabinet as commissioner of sales, weights and measures in 1968, then, finally his co-chairman of the powerful Cook County Democratic central committee.
Few saw that co-chairmanship as holding any real power, but she was fiercely protected from the long knives of other politicians by Daley. And she was blindly devoted to him.
"I remember telling him the men around there weren't going to like my being co-chairman. They won't want you pushing me down their throats." Daley just smiled and said "I always have a few good tricks. You know how I always go to funerals? Well, some friend will die. The next time one dies, I'll schedule a central committee meeting and then I'll say 'I have to leave to go to this funeral and Janie will preside.'"
She laughs. "I used to pray nobody would die, but eventually, there I was presiding."
The chemistry between the long time Boss of Chicago and the young Irish girl is one no outsider can fathom. "There were always things said about us," says Byrne calmly. Her friends saw it as a father-daughter relationship.
Mike Royko, the Sun-Times columnist who has written perceptive books about the Daley era, says "Byrne really saw only the good side of Daley. He was this devoted husband and family man. Byrne probably is the only woman who played a role in his life other than his wife. It probably meant a lot to Daley to have this young attractive, bright woman worshipping him at City Hall."
"She knew what was going on over there, but I think she believed Daley, in order to function, had to let a certain amount of stuff go on. Daley's position was that he had 'no direct connection' and I think that satisfied her."
Her brother, Ed Burke, a co-chairman in her campaign, said, "I think Daley recognized a lot of himself in Jane. He was a doer, not a profound thinker. And Jane is like that. She resembles Bobby Kennedy in her constant quest for new ways of doing things.But she's like Daley in that she is a doer and politically shrewd."
One marked difference about Byrne is that she never came up through the machine. She was a kennedy outsider who came in at the top. This freed her from much of the machinations of the machine -- while at the same time earning her many enemies.
As Byrne tells it, as consumer commissioner she cracked down on bribes and payoffs and scolded butchers who peddled poor meat as high grade cuts and auto repairmen who faked car ailments.
"I had a very corrupt department when the mayor gave it to me, which I didn't know. I'd been on the job three weeks when this distraught grocer said, 'I can't pay any more.'"
"They charge 35 cents for the seal on the weight scale and I was so naive that I said, 'Well I'm sure if you talk to the clerk, she'll bill you. He starts screaming, 'I'm not talking about the 35 cents , I'm talking about the club.' I said, 'What club?' I found out that inspectors -- who got their jobs through the alderman -- were charging $150 a week in payoffs. They used to charge $100, but they upped it when I came in. They said, 'We hear she's straight, so it's going to be harder to cheat.' So I fired 50 percent in the first month."
She laughs ruefully as she recalls, "I went to Bonwits one day on my lunch hour and one of my assistants was on the floor fixing up a coat in the fur salon." The woman was working for both the city and the store.
Some critics feel she played a less diligent role. Leon Despres, a former independent alderman, said, "When I was in city council, I didn't like her. She was 1,000 percent for Daley. She fully accepted the patronage system. She was a fairly good administrator, but she could have been harder on consumer violators." He said she was slow to use federal anti-poverty program funds.
Her loyalty to Daley was boundless. She attacked Sen. Adlai Stevenson verbally when he struck out at Daley. When liberal William Singer -- who humiliated Daley by ousting him at the 1972 convention -- ran against Daley in 1975, Singer stated that he had been active in Bobby Kennedy's campaign. Byrne flattened any support he might have gained from that connection. "I got on the phone to the Kennedy people and to Teddy. He said 'Daley was the ball game -- we never heard of Singer.'" She looks satisfied, still. "That ended that."
Her loyalty to the Kennedys was nearly as strong. One day, when she sat in the mayor's office, he took a call from Lyndon Johnson. "The mayor kept going on about how you stick with the party -- through thick and thin -- even when you are likely to lose with the top of the ticket . I thought, 'My gosh, he's telling the president that he's going to lose; he's telling him not to run." Byrne left that office and phoned the Kennedys. A few days later Lyndon Johnson told the world he would not seek re-election. And Bobby Kennedy soon entered the race. Taking a New Tack
Throughout her years at City Hall, while Kathy was growing up, Byrne worked hard at being a mother. "I was lucky I was an only child," says Kathy. "She took me every place, to D.N.C. meetings, everywhere," She counters her mother's public image of "Ms. Sourpuss" and says "she has a great sense of humor. And she is a close friend. Because she wasn't there all the time, it made our time together special."
The last time Kathy saw her mother in tears was December 1976. "When Daley died. We both just sat and cried for three days."
Being a woman in politics is never easy, particularly in that macho, ward heeler world of Chicago politics. Byrne says she got used to the sneers and snickers. "You had to be the best and overwork always," she says tersely. "As the only woman commissioner, I refused a permanent driver -- because I knew there would be talk." There were innuendos about Byrne and Daley, she said, and, even at the last, about Bilandic. "They spread the rumor that the reason I ran against Bilandic was that he was my lover and that I was a woman scorned."
The press made much of the fact that the day after the election she took time off to go to Elizabeth Arden's for a needed overhaul.
When she took on Bilandic in 1977 there was a new tack taken. "The Bilandic crowd said 'they felt so sorry for Mrs. Byrne, now that she is at this difficult time of her life.' Suddenly I was this slightly crazy menopausal lady on the streets."
It was never as difficult when Daley was alive. She had a powerful ace. He threw aldermen out of his office who complained about her. And he referred to her as "our Janie."
In 1974 when Daley was recuperating from a stroke, Byrne saw the beginnings of a "cabal" by regular Democrats she thought had designs on City Hall. In a speech given without Daley's knowledge, she ripped into the "little men of greed" and "political vultures" who were exploiting his incapacity.
When Daley died, so went Byrne's power and safety. The regulars who had long resented her access to the mayor quickly ousted her from the co-chairmanship of the Central Committee -- but let her keep the consumer sales post.
Quietly, for months, Byrne, who had been given jurisdiction for vehicle registration before Daley's death began compiling information on the taxicab industry. In Novemaber of 1977 she leaked to the press a memorandum, written to herself earlier, and notarized, that accused Bilandic of leading a conspiracy of city officials to "grease" the way for a taxi fare increase. The increase helped only the powerful cab companies and corrupt city officials, she claimed, not the drivers.
Her "Taxigate" memo led to her firing in 1977. She packed up her 1960 color picture of JFK and her daughter Kathy, who was then a baby, and her pictures of Daley and moved out of City Hall. The picture hang now in her headquarters -- waiting to go back to City Hall.
After the firing, she recalls, "people I knew wouldn't say hello to me on LaSalle Street." She is thin-lipped as she says, "It was not the best of times."
But Byrne had an issue and continued to hammer away at Bilandic, becoming a city name and face through the media coverage. Most of the cab drivers consider her a heroine on this subject. "She's a good shoe-leather woman. A real fighter," said John T. O'Grady, cab driver. Byrne said drivers would surreptitiously load up their cabs with Byrne literature and hand it out to passengers.
Byrne's "underground popularity" was indeed a decisive factor in one of the most unorthodox races ever won in Chicago. To insiders and the press -- caught flat-footed by her victory -- the campaign was dismissed as a joke. Until a few weeks ago, you could call headquarters and Byrne would answer the phone herself.
But she knew what was happening. She knew, for inmobbed that when she went to buy clothes she was so mobbed by other shoppers that they sometimes followed her into the dressing rooms.
She knew that -- even as Bilandic's forces were taking notes on who was there -- City Hall workers mobbed her when she spoke in the lobby one day.
She knew that the rank-and-file firemen and the blacks and the Poles and the poor and the people in lakefront highrises and all those little people were fed up. "The City that Works" no longer did and she hammered away at that.
Byrne is for the Equal Rights Amendment but she deliberately did not run a feminist campaign, and got no support from the movement. "She got tremendous support from the poor and never once did she make one of those bogus 'I'm for the poor' statements. Same with the blacks," says aide Paul McGrath. He, like Don Rose, the independent campaign strategist who fought the machine for years, came on board only in the last months. "She was pretty much alone. She was her own strategy."
Finally, after her months of railing against Bilandic, getting monumental exposure on TV, came the snow. Ninety inches of it. Three and four weeks after; streets were still not plowed, garbage not collected. And Bilandic had hired a former city hall crony to prepare a new snow removal plan. Paid him $90,000. The way to remove snow, his report revealed, was to shovel it. The little people began to add. How long did it take them to make $90,000 -- five years, six? The machine, long on its way to crumbling, fell.
The snow was that fortuitous accident that graphically exposed all that Byrne had been saying for months about City Hall.
As angry as she was at Bilandic, Byrne says "I wouldn't have been in that race if it wasn't for Bobby Kennedy. I remember him saying, 'If one person stands up for a principle you will be joined by forces.' I really believed in that. On to City Hall
A week after the primary victory one question predominates. What would City Hall be like under Jane Byrne?
One critic argues, "How can she sit there with a straight face and say Bilandic was any more crooked than the votes Daley used to steal from the cemetery?"
She counters that she never saw any of that going on, that by the time she became Daley's protege "he didn't have to steal." "I'm not saying vote fraud didn't go on. I'm just saying I didn't see it."
Royko agrees. "This was probably the most dishonest municipal election since 1963 -- the last time Daley was threatened. From then on it wasn't necessary to play tricks. The Bilandic machine did such things as switching polling places the day before. One of the guys, when I asked if they were going to demand a recount, said, 'What? After all the votes we stole ?' If it had been run on the legit, Byrne probably would have had 54 percent instead of winning by 17,000."
Byrne speaks scornfully of police captains who called roll call and "forced cops to vote for Bilandic." She says such corruption will go. "No municipal worker should be forced to buy tickets for some alderman or forced into voting one way out of fear of losing his job." She pledges that she is for collective bargaining for city workers, "Which would eventually end patronage."
But even those close to Byrne feel that the obituaries on the machine, as well as the congratulations on a brave new world in Chicago politics, are premature.
"What Byrne represents is the potential for change. She can open the windows dows and doors," said one aide.
One long-time City Hall reporter says, "Hell, nothing will change. She's gone on the record that patronage is okay. She says she wants to do away with the abuses in patronage. Baby, when you got patronage, you got abuses."
But Byrne has a larger constituency than the old machine.
Don Rose, the liberal independent -- an anathema to the machine -- said, "I don't see her being subsumed by either the old machine -- or by the people I represent. I happen to see fresh air with her in office."
One long-time observer of Chicago politics said, "And that, I guess, is about all you can hope for."