Rahm and Ari Emanuel Beat Me Up

Do Childhood Bullies Make Powerful Adult Leaders?

Brothers: Rahm and his brother Ari Emanuel are both known for their belligerent personalities.
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Brothers: Rahm and his brother Ari Emanuel are both known for their belligerent personalities.

By Alan Goldsher

Published November 03, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
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You know Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago? And his brother Ari Emanuel, arguably the most powerful talent agent in Hollywood? Well, they beat me up.

Not last week, or last month, or last year, but back in the ’70s, when they were teenagers and I was 10. Mind you, I’m not bitter about it or anything. Hell, I’ve been using the story as social currency ever since the Brothers Emanuel earned their respective notoriety. After all, everybody loves hearing how those ball-busting siblings were busting balls even before they owned Chicago and Hollywood. So let’s travel back to Wilmette, Ill. The year was 1976….

My pediatrician was Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, aka Dr. Benny. Dr. Benny was a faux-crotchety alpha male, the proverbial grump with a heart of gold, the kind of person who would offer to administer allergy shots at his home rather than at his office, just because it was difficult for the patient’s working mother to get her son to said office before closing time. Each Wednesday, for months and months, my mother drove me — a kid who was allergic to every tree on this green earth — the one-ish mile to Dr. Benny’s.

The trips to Dr. Benny’s modest home in the affluent Chicago suburb of Wilmette were cut-and-dried: Trudge into the living room, get teased by the doctor, get jabbed in my bicep, then go hang out somewhere until we were certain I wasn’t going to have a negative reaction to the shot. When the weather was nice, that somewhere was the Emanuels’ backyard. Generally, my sojourns behind the house were solitary and unexciting, but every once in a while, Dr. Benny’s two high school aged sons paid me a visit.

It was common knowledge around Wilmette that Rahm and Ari Emanuel were bullies — hyper-intelligent bullies, but bullies nonetheless. (This was unlike their father, who only pretended to be a bully.) Rahm and Ari were, respectively, 6 and 5 years older than I was, so other than my weekly appearances at Dr. Benny’s, our paths never crossed; still, in those brief moments, the boys took a disliking to little ol’ me.

How do I know they disliked me? Because at every given opportunity, they threw me to the ground. Hard. Really hard.

I’ve blocked out the specifics of the attacks. The only things I know for certain were that a) they were unprovoked, and b) they hurt. I don’t know if their pushes were planned or spontaneous — although I suspect there might have been some forethought on that memorable afternoon when they shoved me back and forth and back and forth.


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