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Chicago’s First Lady: Maggie Daley on the Move

FROM OUR APRIL 1994 ISSUE: With good works and a deft political touch, Maggie has quietly carved a special role for herself. Now, the departure from Bridgeport has put her in the spotlight, and she doesn’t like being there.

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In Bridgeport, the workweek has ended, and Schaller’s Pump is hopping. Families and friends are sitting around tables eating fried fish and prime rib. Other patrons are clustered at the huge oak bar. Gerald, a skinny, grizzled fellow wearing a Chicago Recycling Company cap, is at the bar, pounding down $2.25 martinis. He takes them customized-—that is, Jill Schaller, the pretty young barkeep, a direct descendant of the restaurant’s founders, serves his packed to the gills with olives. “I don’t know if I like the gin better or the olives,” he says.

Schaller’s was founded more than 100 years ago, about the time the family of Mayor Richard M. Daley took up residence in Bridgeport. The restaurant is situated across the street from the headquarters of the 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization, and for that reason it’s the most political saloon in a neighborhood famed for its political talent. Bridgeport turns out politicians the way certain small towns in Georgia or Texas turn out beauty-pageant winners—the neighborhood has produced five Chicago mayors, including four straight from 1933 to 1979.

It was home to the current mayor, too, until last December, and the people of Schaller’s Pump think they know why they lost their latest favorite son to a tonier neighborhood to the north: Maggie Daley, the mayor’s wife.

“People feel absolutely that Maggie is behind the move out of Bridgeport,” says one neighborhood resident. “She’s wanted to move for some time. I think he’s very neighborhood oriented—obvious1y, growing up in the neighborhood—where she’s not. People just sort of accept it if she doesn’t want to be here. They think, Well, that’s their business. That’s what it should be—their business.”

Of course, the conventional wisdom of Bridgeport may be utter nonsense. The Daleys have indeed treated their move to Burnham Place—a new, affluent townhouse development in the South Loop—as their business alone. Mayor Daley has said only that it was a family decision. A source in Daley’s press office speculates that with two of their three children now away at college, the time had come to settle in a smaller house. But in Bridgeport and elsewhere in Chicago, the break with family tradition has put the spotlight on Maggie, and, by all accounts, she doesn’t like it there.

“She will guard her privacy with her life,” says Bill Zwecker, the Sun-Times columnist.

Her attitude is somewhat incongruous, given whom she married, but over the years it has provided her with an air of mystery. She’s an active participant in any number of charitable causes and a familiar face at civic functions. People who’ve followed her closely say her speeches are more polished than her husband’s, and—if she was once hesitant about taking a public role—there are any number of signs that she’s blossoming as first lady. “She gets blonder every time I see her,” says one woman who runs into her at social and charitable functions. Others think that she is simply growing accustomed to her position.

 

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