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Reports from the University's true crime files!

A secret, new bombshell has been revealed—U of C alumni have taken a role in some of the greatest scandals and crime stories of the 20th century!

The O. J. Simpson case might have passed the University by, but a Chicago Enquirer investigation has learned that it was one of the few sensational trials without a U of C connection:

•Easily the most famous U of C attorney for the defense is Elmer Gertz, AB’29, JD’30. Gertz—who was a Camelot footnote, the lawyer who saved Jack Ruby from the death penalty—was also the attorney for one member of that deadly duo, Leopold and Loeb!

Cab color's Chicago Connection!!!

Because of a University of Chicago study, most taxicabs are yellow.

The Chicago Tribune reported that, in the early 1900s, John Hertz painted his fleet of taxicabs—and then his rental trucks—bright yellow, because a University study found that “yellow is the easiest color to spot from afar.”

But the study is missing in action, and a cab company spokeswoman says it’s probably just another urban legend.

•On May 24, 1924, Nathan Freudenthal Leopold Jr., PhB’23, and Richard Loeb—both U of C graduate students at the time—murdered a 14-year-old Kenwood boy named Bobby Franks. The motive? They wanted to commit the “perfect murder.” Eight days later, they were apprehended for the less-thanperfect crime. Even the legendary Clarence Darrow couldn’t get them off, and both were sentenced to life in prison. Loeb was murdered by another inmate in 1936. With the help of Gertz, Leopold was paroled in 1958 and lived in Puerto Rico until his death in 1971.

•Not long after Leopold and Loeb did wrong, Eliot Ness, AB’25, did good. Ness, a Prohibition agent, helped end the career of notorious gangster Al Capone (photo below). Though Ness and co-author Oscar Fraley may have exaggerated Ness’s escapades in gangland in their book The Untouchables, that didn’t stop Hollywood. After his death, Ness was the subject of two TV series and a film.

•Then there’s John T. Scopes, X’31. In 1925, the then 24-year-old Scopes touched off the infamous “Scopes Monkey Trial” when he taught Darwin’s theory of evolution in a Tennessee high school. Scopes was defended by Clarence Darrow and prosecuted by William Jennings Bryan. Public opinion—and the court—went against Scopes, who came to the U of C to study geology after he was convicted and fined $100. His trial became the basis for the play and movie Inherit the Wind.

•And in a recent case that made lots of headlines—though it barely made it to court—Quin Denvir, JD’69, a federal public defender in Sacramento, California, defended Theodore Kaczynski, born in the U of C’s Wyler Hospital and otherwise known as the Unabomber.

Dick and Jane's Long-lost Dad!!!

Diet Secrets of the Quads!!!

In the the pink: From lunch meat to limericks

Take Spam. Please! No, seriously, Spam has saturated the pop-culture world. One can buy Spam hats, Spam T-shirts, and, of course, Spam itself.

George A. Hormel founded George A. Hormel & Co.—proud makers of Spam—in 1891, the same year John D. Rockefeller became the Founder of the University. Coincidence? You be the judge! First introduced in 1937, Spam quickly became the world’s largest-selling canned meat. Over the years, the U of C connection has continued: James D. Hormel, JD’58, has served as dean of students in the Law School and as chair of the Law School’s visiting committee.

According to the official (there are unofficial ones, too) Spam Web site timeline, “to spam” became an Internet term—meaning the flooding of e-mailboxes with junk mail—in the 1990s. The origin? A Monty Python skit focusing on the meat-product Spam featured the word “Spam” said over and over again. Computer types thought this was funny.

For meaty details about the luncheon loaf that’s inspired haiku, limericks, and sonnets, go to

Inventor gives cooks amazing “grease”!

Marion Trozzolo, PhB’47, MBA’50, was the first U.S. manufacturer to apply the non-stick material Teflon to cookware—changing forever the way Americans cook and fry food!

You don’t believe us when we tell you what an impact Trozzolo had? Try this: The Smithsonian has one of his 1961 “Happy Pans” in its collection.

There’s more! During the Reagan presidency, Trozzolo, who died in 1992, cashed in on Reagan’s “Teflon President” nickname, selling Teflon-coated silver dollars.


A story too good to be true has turned out to be just that. In recent years, undergraduate lore has included tales of a U of C prof who supposedly invented NutraSweet.

Unfortunately, a little basic research (i.e., an Enquirer staffer’s call to the Crerar reference librarian) reveals that the accidental discovery of the sweetener aspartame—the stuff of both NutraSweet and Equal—was made in 1965 by James Schlatter, a researcher at G. D. Searle & Co.

Sweet deal? Selling off frozen assets!

James Zacharias, PhB’33, JD’35, and his late brother, Richard Zacharias, X’36, were the financiers behind Dove Bar International. Richard got the first taste of success when he first tried a Dove Bar at his Deerfield, Illinois, country club.

“Here was a confectioner that really knew chocolate,” Richard once told a reporter. An investor who knew a good thing when he ate it, Richard contacted the creators, the Stefanos family on Chicago’s South Side.

He joined with the Stefanoses to develop Dove for national distribution, sharing with James one-half of the company while the Stefanoses owned the rest.

To introduce the ice-cream bar to New York City, the Zachariases and Stefanoses released a flock of 50 real-life doves outside the United Nations building—and wheeled 60 refrigerated carts stocked with Dove Bars around Manhattan.

Dove Bar was so successful that the company was bought by Mars, which owns M&Ms, in 1986.

Thousands of U.S. schoolchildren learned to read with sentences like “Oh, Spot. Look at Dick. Look at Jane. Oh, oh, oh.” But how many of those children knew the name of Dick, Jane, and little-sister Sally’s real-life “father”?

The Dick and Jane books, taught from the 1930s through the 1970s, revolutionized the way children learned to read. Before William S. Gray, PhB’13, PhD’16, signed on, Zerna Sharp, a kindergarten teacher, could not sell Scott, Foresman & Co. on the idea of a series of books with illustrated text and simple words mimicking children’s speech. But Gray, an authority on education and reading methods, took up the cause, becoming co-author of the first series in 1927. At the height of the books’popularity, 85 percent of U.S. schools used Dick and Jane. In the 1960s, their use declined amid charges of racism and sexism. The series struggled to changes with the times, publishing a multiethnic edition dotted with black, Asian, and Hispanic families—but to no avail. Thirty years later, Dick and Jane have made a comeback. Not only are there countless Web parodies, but you can buy a set of Dick and Jane magnets for your refrigerator.

“Oh, Jane! There are no eggs! Oh! Oh!”

Chicago Screen Stealers!

Conspiracy theorists have discovered that Chicago alumni have quietly—but effectively—infiltrated the film and television industry, producing some of the biggest names in the business. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the list:

Ed Asner, X’48, winner of seven Emmy Awards, portrayed the heavy-drinking city editor Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant. Asner also lent his voice to such animated series as Spiderman, Superman, Freakazoid, and Gargoyles.

Marilu Henner—a U of C student in the early 1970s and a cast member of TV sitcoms Taxi and Evening Shade—starred in L.A. Story (1991) with Steve Martin, Noises Off (1992), and the 1984 cult classic Johnny Dangerously.

David Rasche, AM’67, starred as the title character in the 1980s dramedy Sledge Hammer!—a “satire with a bludgeon built on the premise of a dolt as a detective who is trigger happy to the point of hysteria.” Rasche also guest starred on Kate and Allie and Miami Vice.

Philip Kaufman, AB’58, directed the 1978 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, called the “American movie of the year” by the New Yorker. He also directed The Right Stuff (1983), Rising Sun (1993), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), and Henry and June (1990). In addition, Kaufman helped George Lucas write Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and it has been rumored that Indiana Jones was based on one of his U of C anthropology professors.

Celeste Holm, X’34—star of the CBS series Promised Land—had her first big hit as Ado Annie in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! She earned two Academy Award nominations (for Come to the Stable and All About Eve) and won 1947’s best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Gentleman’s Agreement.

Philip Glass, AB’56, is not only “the most important living composer” according to Rolling Stone magazine, but he has also composed over a dozen film scores, including Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997), 1997’s Bent, and the 1998 hit The Truman Show.

Elaine May and Mike Nichols, X’53, comic partners in the 1950s and 1960s, renewed their collaboration—which began on campus when both were students in the 1950s—with the 1994 movie Wolf and continued with 1996’s The Birdcage and 1998’s Primary Colors. One of Broadway’s dominant directors—Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and Plaza Suite—Nichols has directed hit films from The Graduate to Working Girl.

Jules Stein, PhB’15, MD’21, built the show-business empire MCA Inc. He founded the Music Corporation of America in 1924 as a talent agency, booking musical acts such as Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller, and Guy Lombardo. How big a player was he? Attending his 1981 memorial service—with music by a Big Band–era orchestra conducted by Henry Mancini—were more than 1,000 friends and Hollywood luminaries, including George Burns, Charlton Heston, Robert Stack, Danny Kaye, Dennis Hopper, Gene Kelly, and Jimmy Stewart.

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