Sunday, August 31, 2008

Veterans Memorial Bridge and subway tour

Saturday I stopped by the Veterans Memorial Bridge and subway tour. Three times a year, the Saturdays before Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, the county engineer opens up the lower level of the Detroit-Superior bridge, where streetcars used to cross the Cuyahoga River, and the underground streetcar station under W. 25th St. and Detroit Ave.

If you're interested in Cleveland history or architecture, it's a must-see.
A beautiful film of Cleveland streetcars was playing in one alcove. More on this later...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

'Torso' filming in Cleveland?

More news for all you torso enthusiasts! reports progress toward shooting Torso, a feature film about Cleveland's infamous serial killer. I'm excited, but skeptical.

Here's the backstory. In January 2006, Fight Club director David Fincher announced he wanted to adapt the graphic novel Torso into a film, dramatizing Eliot Ness' attempts to solve our town's grisly 1930s dismemberment-murders. Then 2 1/2 years went by with few updates.

Until this week, when the Plain Dealer quoted Bill Mechanic, a co-producer on the project, saying Paramount Studios wants to start shooting in early 2009. The filmmakers want to shoot it all in Cleveland, Mechanic says, but they may have to do only street scenes here, and the rest in Detroit, because Michigan has new tax breaks for filmmaking that Ohio doesn't.

Well. A few thoughts. Of course Cleveland movies ought to be filmed in Cleveland. And of course Ness' Cleveland years were filled with cinematic drama. I can't wait to see the scene of Ness, on his first day as safety director, walking out of the old Payne Avenue police headquarters, promising action. And even though Detroit's gorgeous 1920s architecture could easily stand in for Cleveland's, Ohio should look to Michigan's new law for ideas on attracting film projects.

But a close read shows reasons not to dust off your head shots, in hopes of becoming a fedora-topped or post-flapper-bobbed extra, just yet. The PD, citing Mechanic, says "Paramount executives are putting together the movie's budget and a critical piece of that involves receiving tax breaks." In other words, the funding isn't nailed down yet. Also, the PD says the film "will star Matt Damon as Eliot Ness," but Damon's not listed on Torso's page on IMDBPro (subscription only). I think the PD is going off vague 2006 reports that the filmmakers were talking to Damon about the role. An anonymous poster to who says he's in the film industry is skeptical too.

Torso could be a great movie if Fincher can see his ambitions through. He says he wants to make it the Citizen Kane of cop movies -- and demythologize Eliot Ness. A worthy goal, but given his source material, I wonder. The graphic novel Torso, while closer to the historic Ness than the Untouchables film and TV series, takes plenty of fictional leaps. To create an effective climax, Ness catches the killer. The real torso murderer was never caught.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Overheard in Southern Ohio

A report from the road by an out-of-state friend driving to Cleveland:

The fry cook says to the manager, "He picked a woman."

The manager responds: "Do I want a woman as a vice president or a black man as president? I think I want a black man."

"Not to mention I don't want McCain."

"Not to mention she was mayor of a small town a few years ago."

"Not to mention I don't want four more years of Bush."

Then the cashier turns to the lone customer and says "Not to mention, I forgot to give you your 63 cents change."

This is at a McDonalds in Warren County.

My friend's conclusion: Ohio really is a swing state. (By the way, check out this month's feature on the election to see how we might do as a swing state.)

The big reveal

We've revealed the identities of our first two subjects in the new First Impressions blog.

We asked people to submit a photo. We posted it and asked our readers to give their first impressions, make up a back story and tell us about that person. It goes along with our September story, which you can read by clicking here.

To give you a preview, here is one of our subjects:

And here are a few of the comments our readers made:

"He's married with a kid and kind of a douche bag, but a good dad. clinging desperately to his hair. He is an elitist and makes bad drinks at over rated bars. Listens to Arctic Monkeys and Steve Aoki. None of the real messengers accept him thus he is forced between west 6th and the garage."

"I agree; definitely unmarried. He's got a live-in girlfriend, though, but his mom doesn't like her. I don't think he works in a casual environment, though; these are his "off-duty" clothes, loud because he's making up for lost time at the office. He's confident, maybe even comes off cocky (at least to women), but that's because he was a nerd in high school and is "cool" now--that kind of fits with the younger crowd theory! He'd be entertaining to hang out with, but as far as meaningful dialogue...maybe we wouldn't be great friends."

Join in the fun over at Upload your own picture. And tell your friends.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tremont's Sweet Spot

I just met Lilly, aka Amanda Montague, Cleveland’s own Cocoa Queen, the Czarina of Confectionary, the Duchess of Decadent Delights. And she has hot pink hair. It matches the walls of her new Tremont shop on Starkweather, where she sells her own handmade chocolates. The place is without a doubt, a grown-up Candy Land. That’s because Mis Lil likes to spike her sweet creations with spirits and adult flavors. There’s the Redhead made with vintage port and dark chocolate; the Southern Gentleman that pairs Makers Mark bourbon with buttered pecans and milk chocolate; and a little oh-my-god good round of dark chocolate filled with cherries soaked in kirsch brandy she calls BoozieSuzies. “I’m not shy,” she tells me, “and neither is my chocolate.” She also stocks a selection of wine, beer, and bubbly that complement it.

The self taught chocolatier uses espresso ganache in a confection she christened Breakfast (I love the concept of a start the day chocolate); black mission figs in the Chomp Monster, and masala chai tea in the Raja. The girl has a way with words as well as roasted hazelnuts and caramel. How can you not want a treat called Sweet Cheeks? A real neighborhood booster she's named some things after local culinary achievers: the Rocco, for Fahrenheit’s big man, features black truffle infused honey; the Heather, in honor of her neighbor next door at Lucky’s Café, is spiked with cayenne; and the Mike, a Symon spectacular that combines milk chocolate and bacon. Her stuff is pretty too, coated with gold specks and lavender dust, or topped with colorful designs and intricate transfer patterns.

I spent five minutes with the woman and realized she’s got a seriously playful streak. So I wasn’t surprised when Lilly told me she’s hosting a reservations only Pajama Party at the store this Saturday, Aug 30, from7:30-9:30 pm. Appropriate dress required if you want to attend and sample her version Rolos, Poprocks, and Chunkies.

761 Starkweather, 216.771.3333

*Cleveland Magazine food writer Laura Taxel blogs here every Wednesday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not Even the Worst

So released a list of the top 10 worst cities to be a sports fan. We thought for sure we could win this one. But to our surprise, cities such as Miami (No. 1), San Diego (No. 2) and Indianapolis (No. 3) have taken the title from our cursed city. Umm ... didn't the Colts just win a Super Bowl? Isn't our history a little worse than New York (No. 4), whose Yankees have more champion rings than we do fingers? If you look into it, its just not about games won or lost overall (it's just over the past year), its also about ticket prices and yada-yada ... but hey, at least we still beat Pittsburgh.

Also, see's list of the top 10 most miserable sports cities, too. In true Cleveland style, we did not win that either.
Photo courtesy Imagine24

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Haunted Cleveland torso murders tour

This weekend, I went on Cleveland's most macabre tour, which includes no haunted houses or ghost tales, just actual killings. Haunted Cleveland's Torso Murders tour tells the homicide-curious the story of the never-identified serial killer who decapitated and dismembered 13 victims in Cleveland between 1935 and 1938.

I've read the two main books on the murders, Steven Nickel's Torso and James Jessen Badal's In the Wake of the Butcher, so I figured I was prepared. Anyone who'd pay $50 for this tour likely has a strong stomach and an appreciation of dark horror. But my friend and I were still caught off guard -- we did not expect such an uncensored trip through the county coroner's office, including the sight of bodies under sheets, their toe-tagged feet sticking out. By comparison, the bus ride through Lake View Cemetery was downright sunny. Our destination was Eliot Ness' gravestone. The legendary Treasury agent and Cleveland safety director investigated the torso murders but could not solve them -- a failure many torso enthusiasts blame, inaccurately, for his career's decline.

Buddy Kovacic, a retired Cleveland homicide detective, narrated the tour. As the sun set and the tour followed Kinsgbury Run, where many victims were discovered, Kovacic explained historians' leading theory about the murders. Their research points to deranged surgeon Francis Sweeney, whom Ness secretly interrogated for days, and who sent Ness disturbing, taunting postcards for decades afterward. (Click here and scroll down to read James Jessen Badal's 2006 Cleveland Magazine article about Sweeney.)

Last stop was the Cleveland Police Museum, which has a torso murder exhibit that includes the death masks of some victims (pictured). Badal, the torso-book author, took questions about the murders and revealed he is working on a second book about them. It will focus on suspect Frank Dolezal, who died in jail after his arrest for one of the murders, and Sweeney, the secret suspect.

Haunted Cleveland may run the torso tour once more this year, but its focus this fall is on its Halloween-season Burning River Ghost Tour.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Dad's view of the Jonas Brothers concert

Yes, I went to the Jonas Brothers concert last night at Blossom. (Embarrassingly enough, this is only the third concert I've ever attended. The other two were Donnie Iris & the Cruisers back in high school, and Live maybe 10 years ago. Let's just say, I'm not musically inclined.)

Surprisingly, it was a good time, maybe because my girls (8 and 6) had so much fun. They're not Jonas obsessed like most of the crowd (they're a little more in the Naked Brothers Band demographic), but knew most of the words and screamed with the best of 'em. The collective squeal when the JoBros hit the stage was enough to raise the boy-band dead (guess that's how New Kids on the Block will play The Q on Oct. 3).

Here are some of my favorite observations from the concert:
  • The mom wearing a T-shirt that read: "It's my 40th birthday, and I'm here with my daughter."
  • The dad who bought a huge nonalcoholic blended drink and then went to the bar to order a few shots of rum to pour into it. "I'm not quite sure how to charge you," said the girl behind the bar. "Honestly, I don't care what you charge me," he responded. Then he added: "I'll have a beer, too."
  • The dad in line for beer wearing large ear plugs. (Man, I should have thought of that!)
  • A dad nearby who screamed, "I love you, Nick" after his daughter yelled the same thing about five straight times.
  • A small group of moms gathered at the very back of Blossom, behind the beer pavillion, reading magazines, doing counted cross-stitch and generally avoiding the chaos.
  • Apparently 12-year-old girls love Ohio State too. Several text messages of O-H drew an I-O and squeals for mentions of the Buckeyes.
  • The preteen girls with their homemade T-shirts that read: "Tack me backstage." Sorry, but if you can't spell it, you have no business being backstage. Actually, you have no business being backstage anyway.
JoBros rule. <3
(Or something like that.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hanna Theater: 10 Days and Counting

Fences block off the sidewalk on East 14th, spilling over onto the street; a sign that the renovation of the Hanna Theater isn't just about making the inside look like 15 million bucks (see our previous post). The Hanna marquee was painted this week a vibrant purple and yellow, adding new life to a drab street of parking lots and garages. New lights are to go up on the marquee in the coming days too.

Tom Einhouse, VP of the PlayhouseSquare, says this is just the first step in renovating East 14 Street. Future plans according to Einhouse include widening the sidewalks (more space for the Hanna Deli patio) and adding brickwork as an extension of the Euclid Corridor project. I envision another East Fourth Street close to home!

And those fences I mentioned are scheduled to come down in just 10 days, when the Great Lakes Theater Festival is to take over the space. An electrician on his lunch break outside assures me that it will be done on time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What can you tell about someone from a picture?

In September's issue, I wrote a story called "First Impressions," which involved a kind of experiment. Here's how it worked: We went out and took a bunch of pictures of folks in downtown Cleveland, and we asked people to give us their first impression of those in the pictures. Their answers often said as much -- or more -- about them, than about the person photographed. We then used some of the respondents photographs as the next picture held to scrutiny. You can see the story here.

Well, we've now launched a new blog to let YOU comment about people's photos. We started out with this guy:

He gave comments about our editor, Steve Gleydura. Click HERE to comment on him.

And we're giving you one more way to participate as well. You can upload your own picture by clicking HERE, and our online readers will post their impressions of you, just based on the picture. Have fun. Be honest. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stephanie Tubbs Jones

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones died at Huron Hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm Tuesday night. She was a Cleveland icon, and a state icon as the first black woman to represent Ohio in Congress.

Cleveland Magazine ran a lengthy feature on Tubbs Jones in 1993 as she was still a rising political power and named her one of the 30 people who defined Cleveland in 2002.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Serving you up some fist cuisine

The Silver Jews concert is 10 days away, as told in our August issue by writer David Ferrara.

You should be there Friday, August 29 at the Beachland Ballroom, because it is the best band you never heard of. (Click here to buy tickets.)

Here's an excerpt from a way-too-long interview with band leader David Berman, giving insight into his writing process of one of the songs off his new album.

Things like "San Francisco B.C.", there's this line like, "He came at me with some fist cuisine," and it had previously been, "He came at me with all he had." I took that out because I realized "all he had" was a cliché. I thought really quickly "fist cuisine." It was one of the last things I was changing, but now I look at it and I realize if I had one more day, I probably would have changed it to "he served me up some fist cuisine."

In case I sound like a super-fan...I am. And you'll see that in my upcoming blog review of the show.


Sunday's edition of the Internet misstated that the Browns were a promising team with potential to go deep into the playoffs. That was clearly refuted by a report Monday night. The entire city of Cleveland regrets the error.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Madden 09 messes with downtown geography

What's wrong with this picture? The real question is: what's right? The release of Madden 09 came with a hi-def version of Cleveland that has some seriously screwed up geography. If you really stood in front of the stadium (as the tailgaters in this pic, who are partying in a parking lot that doesn't really exist either) and look out to the west, you would see Lake Erie, not the downtown skyline.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, the perspective is actually from the other side of the stadium: Key Tower and Terminal Tower would be obscured by the stadium, not off to the east.

The verdict: an obvious cut-and-paste job by game designers (stadium - check; highway - check; downtown skyline - check). we're sure the glitches exist in the depictions of the other cityscapes too, as the general set up of each landscape looks remarkably similar save for the iconic buildings plugged in to each one. The game's designers probably thought no one would notice. We did.

P.S. Look where they put the Great Lakes Science Center in this thing, too (that's it, across the water in the distance).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Former Browns Player + Sports Bar = Success?

If you’ve driven down West Sixth Street recently you’ve probably noticed there is a new bar in the works at the corner of Lakeside Avenue: Bob Golic’s Bar and Grill, which is scheduled to open by (or perhaps even before) Labor Day. As a current resident of the Warehouse District and a die-hard Browns fan, I can only say that this is amazing!

My gut feeling is that this bar will succeed based on a few simple reasons:

1. Cleveland is a football town, and a bar named after and operated by a former Browns’ player will succeed. (Look how well Al “Bubba” Baker’s Bubba Q’s is doing in Avon)

2. It occupies prime downtown real estate. Coming off the Shoreway, this is the first thing people will see and I can say that it has drawn interest. I have heard people talking about it a lot in the two weeks since the awnings went up with Golic’s name on it. I have been one of them. I can say that I will be in this place probably the first day it opens.

Word is pricing will run $10 to $12 for lunch, with similarly priced entrees available for dinner, alongside dishes ranging upwards of $30. Expect pizzas, salads, corned beef and French dip sandwiches.

But let’s not forget the beer/sports-viewing statistics:

Expect to find 20 big screen TVs, a draft beer system featuring at least 15 to 20 specialty drafts and local brews, as well as a radio transmission area where Golic can do live broadcasts.

Yup, that’s right you’ll be able to find all your Great Lakes Brewery favorites, listen to Bob Golic live during his radio shows and hopefully see some guest appearance by either ESPN or WTAM 1100. We’ll see what happens. Boy I can’t wait!

— Brian Schmoldt

Read our March 2005 story about Bob Golic's return to Cleveland here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kate Voegele on Team USA Soundtrack

Kate Voegele let us know today that her song "Lift Me Up" is on the Team USA soundtrack, along with other songs from artists such as Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift and Chris Brown. You can pick it up online, and all proceeds go to Team USA. (Keep your ears out for Kate's song during the Olympics telecast, too).

Within the past 12 months, the Bay Village native also appeared as a budding solo musician in 13 episodes of the CW network's One Tree Hill (which included plenty of in-show promotion for her real-life CD, Don't Look Away), and had her song "It's Only Life" featured in the trailer for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, (which was tacked on to the front of The Dark Knight - go figure).

Ah, we knew her when. Check out Kate's first appearance in our pages and our interview with her soon after she was signed to MySpace Records. Also, check out West Shore magazine's May/June '08 cover story about Kate.

Rover ups WMMS a.m. ratings

The buzz Clear Channel's WMMS garnered in the wake of signing Rover's Morning Glory to its morning-drive slot last spring has translated into a top morning-drive finish with listeners 18 to 34. Overall, the station, finished third with people 18 to 34, but even those ratings marked a doubling of the numbers the station garnered during the last ratings period. The spring Arbitron ratings book from which they most recent figures come spans April, May and June 2008. Rover's show began airing on WMMS April 1.

When we sat in with Rover's Morning Glory in early April, WMMS program director Bo Matthews said attracting Rover was the cornerstone of cementing a new identity for WMMS that honors but is distinctly different from the station's long-time image. Since April, daytime rock music has been sandwiched by two distinctive personality-driven shows: Rover's Morning Glory from 6 to 10 a.m. and The Maxwell Show from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. A new syndicated talk show gets added to the mix Aug. 18, when Loveline begins airing Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Grasshoppers selling well at Momocho

When we hit Ohio City's Momocho recently, we already knew about the grasshopper taquitos that had been added to the menu. What we didn't expect is for our server to tell us they were sold out of them for the evening, when we showed up for our 8:30 reservation.

No worries. We weren't going to try the grasshoppers anyway. But it's interesting that many brave diners have been ordering up chef Eric Williams' quirky new dish. Our server told us the wings and legs are removed from the grasshoppers and they pretty much take on the flavors of the ingredients with which they're prepared. Other facts: They are crunchy (no surprise there, really), and they are imported from Thailand.

But we had to ask our server the big question: Has she tried them? Yes. Apparently, Williams had our server taste his newest creation before telling her what she was munching on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mmm....Spam quiche

Samantha and Bryan Welch huddled together in the Home and Hobby building at the Cuyahoga County Fair. The top two finishers in last year's Spam cooking contest, the Parma couple was hoping for another big win. Samantha, last year's champion with a creamy spinach spam puff, isn't allowed to compete so she's here to cheer on her husband's prospects with his Italiano Spam balls.

"We get a little more into it than we should," she says. "August means Spam around our house."

The 38 entrants to this year's contest figured out a way to stick the processed ham-like product into just about anything you could think of. Spam quiche (see above), Spam cheeseballs, sauerkraut Spam balls, golden Spam nuggets, Spam salsa, Spam kabobs, pickled Spam and the list goes on.

Spam is pretty easy to work with, but it is finicky, entrants say. For instance, don't try to grind it. It will just fall apart. Jim Lewandowski, who calls himself "Fair Guy," says he thinks about how he can adopt other recipes to include Spam throughout the year. His Spam pizza dip exists because of an appetizer his aunt brought over earlier this year.

This year's winner: Patricia Clark, who made Spam summer rolls — or, as they are known in Vietnam, Spam goi cuon.

Tell me there's a better way to spend an afternoon. The fair continues through Sunday. The spam contest may be over, but there are plenty of other things to check out. For a full list, check out the fair's Web site.

Hello Dahling

Nice juxtaposition, eh? A few of us at the office got a glimpse of the disemboweled innards of the Hanna Theatre today, and while she may not look like a million bucks just yet, Tom Einhouse assures us that when the Great Lakes Theater Festival takes over the space in three short weeks, she'll be all cleaned up and looking like 15 million bucks — the cost of the renovations and upgrades. Einhouse, VP of the PlayhouseSquare real estate group, is clearly tickled about one upgrade in particular: He pointed out the future location of full-service bars that will overlook the stage, thus providing patrons with the option of watching, oh, say, King Lear, while kicking back with a brewski. It's going to usher in a brand new day for the theater. Look for Macbeth to open on the stage Sept. 24.
*Photo courtesy of Greg Terepka

Monday, August 4, 2008

Party in the Back

If irony is the new black, Lakewood is about to get a whole lot chicer. Crazy Mullets Super Salon, the newest venture from the guys behind Coventry’s famed Fast Eddy’s Chop Shop, was bustling with curious onlookers when I stopped in during the Lakewood Arts Fest this weekend. The salon, located across from Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit Road, does offer regular services including cuts and colors, but the fun décor and hip hairstylists may just inspire you to get your Billy Ray Cyrus on -- at least until the "business in the front" section grows back out.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sign of the times

I don't know who the sign artist is in Tremont, but I routinely find them entertaining while out walking my dog.

Picture This

Want a nine-minute tour of Northeast Ohio? Here’s your chance: Today, Dollar Bank debuted a high-def LED video screen (it's 17 feet by 8 feet) outside its Galleria at Erieview headquarters that displays a montage of area snapshots. Check out everything from Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster to critters at the zoo. They’re switching up the content once a month; you can submit your own photography to be shown on the big screen too. — Anne Hartman

Brady's Tights, Football Tonight

Originally uploaded by skiereast64
Sure, you're laughing now, but just wait until you pull a muscle because you weren't wearing tights like Brady Quinn. (And don't forget to stretch!)

The second-year Browns quarterback has sported a pair of black tights (here) and white tights during training camp in Berea earlier this week.

(Don't knock it until you try it: Joe Namath wore women's pantyhose in a TV commercial and he was pretty good, right. Besides, maybe the rest of us are behind the times. Apparently, they were all the rage in New York last year.)

You can check out Quinn and company tonight at Browns Stadium for Family Night beginning at 7 pm. Tickets are $5. There will be activities for the kids, autographs and giveaways. It's definitely a fun evening for everyone ... tights or not.