“Fat people across the world, today is your day.”
-I Hate Running by Romancing The Bone
Born in Evergreen Park, Illinois one of six children. Tony McAley was a middle child. It was a huge family and it was easy to get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps that’s why Tony couldn’t wait to move out and get away. Not to say that his life was miserable or he was forgotten, it was just crowded.
They moved quite a bit. His father loved moving. Sometimes it was just for a different view. Other times it was for more opportunities and better schools. It was one of these moves that led to Tony attending High School in Oak Forest, IL. It was here that he began to show a flair (although don’t say that to Tony, he’ll shoot you a exasperated eye roll) for art classes.
After high school graduation, his cap and gown barely hit the floor before he was off to Junior College in Joliet, IL. If you’ve seen the opening of the Blues Brothers, you’ve seen the famous Joliet State Prison. Its’ tall, stark and gray walls scream the message, “abandon all hope ye who enter here.” It’s also where they murder clowns. Specifically, the homicidal fat clown John Wayne Gacy tied his last balloon animal before catching a ride in the tiny clown car to hell.
Ah, Joliet what a town.
Joliet was fine for junior College – but Tony really felt the need to get further away. He was a peacock that needed to fly. He needed to sow his Quakers.
The towering metropolis known as Charleston, IL was calling his name. Specifically, Eastern Illinois University. He followed his friend Chris and quickly made several strong friendships. After one year in the dorm, a group of these friends rented a house that they named the Study Hall. To be honest, four were friends. There was a fifth, a frat dude who ended up in the mix because he lived on their dorm floor.
“He didn’t fit in at all. He didn’t like anything we did.” Tony says shaking his head.
“He always had a cyst on his back — he was very unhealthy. He would barf regularly on the way to school from coughing so much.”
The other friends didn’t have cysts but they did all share a love of hardcore punk music. Stuff like: Black Flag, American Nightmare and the Dead Boys. It wasn’t long until they decided to form a band. They had a built in venue in their basement, so why not?
“My roommates had musical abilities.” Tony says smiling slightly. “ I’m not saying they were any good but Sean learned to play the drums and my friend Paul played guitar.”
Tony grabbed the mic and started singing/yelling.
Dipshit was born.
Bones on the Windshield by Dipshit:
Driving to the show, Lake Shore Drive
The Factor is complaining because he always drives
Not paying attention cause that’s what he’s like
Oh my God there’s a kid on a bike
Bones on the (fucking) windshield
Tony recalls, “We played a lot of basement shows. We’d have parties at the house and we’d play there too. No covers all original music.”
“We wrote songs like, “Bones on the Windshield (about hitting people with your car) and Sludge-o (about a slug who lived in their basement). It was horrible music. We sucked but it didn’t matter. We had a ton of fun doing it.”
Tony crosses his arms. “We played at a few bars, but really we just played for our friends. We put out a demo and a live album.”
Eventually as expected in the world of music, the band broke up. But, it wasn’t a Yoko thing, or an overdosing drummer thing. Nothing that a cliché — two of his friends graduated.
But, Tony was only about half way through his college career. So, with some new friends he started a band called Romancing the Bone. It was a little more rock and roll with punk influences. They played basement shows, a bar called Friends and even a few gigs out of town. They wrote and performed songs like: Smoke on the Bong Water, I Hate Running and Party Mountain.
“Still garbage music, but really fun to play.” Tony says smiling.
After graduation the curtain came down and the band disbanded. He took a summer job at the music magazine The Illinois Entertainer as an ad sales rep. “I sold two ads and never made any money.” But, he did get free CD’s and free tickets to shows.
By that time, Tony had been in a long distance relationship throughout college and she lived in Saint Louis. After a while he followed not knowing what he would do with his design degree, but anything would beat ad sales.
As luck would have it the Hughes Group (now HLK) was holding an open house and Tony went along not really knowing what to expect. But while there, after his second Busch he met a Creative Director who offered him an internship.
“I learned more in that one month then in all of college.” He says.
After that, he got his first design gig through the Creative Group at Harrah’s Casino. He worked there for five years. After they moved all of their advertising jobs to Las Vegas, Tony visited another open house, this time the firm was called Paradowski. Shortly after the open house he met Alex Paradowski (a tough interviewer) and got the job as a designer.
But, now that he wasn’t fronting a band, what would take the place of such a rush?
“All my life is food.”
To call him a “foodie” will make Tony roll his eyes. But, he has very strong opinions about food and a particular type of cuisine...fast food.
You know, garbage.
“Because I had such a large family the only times we ate out was a funeral.” Tony says matter-of-factly.
“Sometimes we’d go to McDonalds but it was never French fries, it was always just a hamburger. My sister worked at a Chinese restaurant and my brother a Pizza place we’d get that ‘cause it was a discount.”
But when he reached high school a whole new world of excess opened up to Tony. “We’d roller blade up to McDonald’s all the time. I ate so much McDonald’s ‘cause for the first time in my life I had money and nothing to spend it on so we’d just buy fast food.”
All through college he would eat Wendy’s and all sorts of garbage. “I’d take out student loans to eat fast food.” He says proudly. “I’m still paying for the fast food I ate.”
This hunt for signature dishes and piles of sauce-laden fries and burgers led Tony to actually turn his passion into a cottage industry. He and his friend Tim Pinkerton created the Best Slinger blog and tour. For those of you who don’t know, a Slinger is a Saint Louis staple. It’s a pile of hash browns, a burger patty, eggs, all smothered in chili and topped with cheese and onions. Almost everyplace in St. Louis has their take on a slinger on their menu, but few places actually do them right.
“The best? There were some real good ones.” Tony says with a grin. “Big Ed’s Chili Mac Diner was our choice for best of Saint Louis.” “We also had a Hall of Shit (a hall of shame). The dubious winners? City Diner, Steak and Shake and Uncle Bills.”
Tony shakes his head in disgust. “Ugh, I hated Uncle Bills! It looked and tasted like cat food.”
Speaking of cats…
No one is a bigger cat advocate than Tony. But it didn’t start out that way.
“I always hated cats.” Tony says.
“We had birds growing up. I was terrified of the cats always sneaking around you, getting on you. For a while I was living with my Uncle Bob and he had a kitten. I was terrified of it.”
“I always hated cats.” Tony says. “We had birds growing up. I was terrified of the cats always sneaking around you, getting on you. For a while I was living with my Uncle Bob and he had a kitten. I was terrified of it.”
Another time, Lyndsay his girlfriend was living in a basement of a house in Dogtown and her roommates had cats. “I remember one night heading upstairs to take a pee and an orange tabby was lying on the steps, blocking me. I had to wake Lyndsay up to get her to move the cat.”
But, when the decision came to move in with Lyndsay she had one condition. She handed him a contract. It wasn’t a prenup or an agreement to do the dishes on Wednesday and Fridays. It was a contract that said if they moved in together he had to agree to get a cat.
He signed it. And the rest is hairball history.
“We got Boris our first cat (named after a band) and it was an adjustment. But he was so sweet and chill (a perfect starter cat) that after about eight months we got another cat and named him Judge Dredd.”
Sadly, Boris passed and Judge Dredd was clearly bummed out. So after about eight months they got a new kitten and named him Downtown Gary.
Today, if you can’t find Tony in his basement, two bites into a five buck box from Taco Bell surrounded by Downtown Gary and Judge Dredd while Moonminute by Dracla (Saint Louis’ premier vampire fronted stoner rock band) is playing, you might find him at a show at Off Broadway, The Duck Room at Blueberry Hill or the Sinkhole.
“Saint Louis has a very active, very vibrant music scene. But, you can’t be a passive fan. You have to search for the shows — you gotta’ check the venues page, the bands social media and stuff.” Tony says.
Loud music, garbage food and cats — It may not be metal, but it’s Tony.