Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Travolta Fever Hits Town with the Filming of Criminal Minds

Stuart C. Wilson/Thinkstock

Movie sets are rapidly becoming an all too common sight on the streets of Cleveland. With the runaway success of indie films at the Cleveland International Film Festival and national franchises such as Captain America, the city has managed to accommodate both local and big-time filmmakers alike – a considerable feat. We even dedicated an entire cover package to Cleveland's newfound filmic identity, and it doesn't look like the growth is about to stop.

Just yesterday, shooting for the deviant Criminal Minds shut down parts of Chester Avenue downtown. Craving a bit of adventure, this all too often desk-bound journalist meandered down to the set hoping to lay eyes on the action – and perhaps a peak at John Travolta or Jackie Earle Haley. But alas, the fates conspired against me. All I managed to catch were sweaty crew members scurrying in and out of a closed set in Pacer’s Ribhouse and a ditty about free beer from wandering super-bard Guitar Man. An on-set source did tell me Travolta will only be filming in Cleveland briefly. Instead of waiting around, I took a few moments to brush up on the Travolta canon. 

Pulp Fiction: Quentin Tarantino’s blood-spattered 1994 masterpiece is brutally spacey, pairing over the top violence and superbly inane dialogue. Opposite another Cleveland film scene stalwart, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta’s earthy take on hit man Vincent Vega is required watching before heading to the theater for Criminal Minds.

Grease: Singing, dancing, gaggles of girls and guys, and excessive use of hair products. What else is there in life? The 1978 classic, coming on the heels of the equally campy Saturday Night Fever, is a necessary part of the Travolta back catalog. Travolta’s experience as a song and dance man has been turned on its head since the '70s though, due mostly a totally regrettable billing in 2007’s Hairspray as Edna Turnblad – complete with wig, body modification suit and falsetto. Hopefully, the excessive accouterments will be safely stowed in the costumer’s closet this time around.

Swordfish: A personal favorite, due mostly to repeated scheduling on daytime cable, this thriller about a hacker forced to work for a terrorist group features Travolta playing the hilariously languid villain Gabriel Shear. Hugh Jackman plays hacker Stanley Jobson in a script with so many techno-cliques it’s terrible enough to only be watchable by high schoolers bound in bed by sickness.

To view road closures during the five-week shoot, click here.

Cool Trick

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group
 Where there's smoke, there's ice cream. Really. That is if you're at the brand new Piccadilly Artisan Creamery on Euclid Avenue in University Circle (right next door to Coquette Patisserie). The Bota brothers, who launched their frozen treat empire last year with a self-serve store on Coventry Road, have a new concept, new for Cleveland anyway. Every scoop of ice cream and frozen yogurt is custom made, on the spot and to order. It takes about two minutes per customer. Talk about instant gratification.

   The not-so-secret secret ingredient that makes this possible is liquid nitrogen. The base flavor is poured into the bowl of a KitchenAid Mixer. The odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is added. Then a chemical reaction happens in a swirl of smoke, and like magic, the mixture begins to thicken and harden into an astonishingly smooth rich creamy and cool treat that's ready to eat.

  Science teachers have been doing this trick for many years to the delight of their students and chefs have been playing with the process since molecular gastronomy became a thing. There's a national chain built around this very concept. But it's a first here and what makes Piccadilly a standout is the use of organic, local and ethically sourced ingredients. Plus, the floor show that comes with your sundae is also great, and so is the rustic meets urban industrial decor — the work of Sailee Gupte of SxG Design.

Photo by Barney Taxel, Taxel Image Group 
They've launched with 12 base flavors and a variety of goodies to put in the mix and on top. I tried the salted caramel ice cream with some chopped pecans at the launch party and was happily impressed  it had a lovely velvety mouthfeel and tasted as delicious as it sounds.

  They'll be selling pints to take home as well as scoops. Although it has no preservatives or stabilizers, we were told it would keep in the freezer up to 30 days. But in my personal and professional opinion, there is no way something this good won't disappear long before that.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Breakfast, Lunch and Delicious

Two weeks ago my husband and I participated in a panel discussion at a conference for food and travel editors, held at the Cleveland Convention Center (which would benefit from better signage inside and out). This event is significant only because it began and ended early, while the day was still in its morning phase. After it was over I felt the need for both sustenance and more caffeine, and this prompted the decision to go for brunch. Since we were already downtown it was the perfect opportunity to head west and make a first foray to Jack Flaps, something I've been meaning to do since it opened in December.

The 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. spot on Lorain Road in Ohio City is a collaboration between Eric Williams and former Momocho chef Randy Carter. In an email to me, Williams described the concept as a small, fun, quirky breakfast and pancake shop with cool, unique scratch-based recipes, large portions, a casual urban vibe and good coffee. By the time I'd scraped the last bite of grits out of my bowl, it was clear to me this was an excellent idea that was the right thing in the right place.

Luckily, we'd slipped in and nabbed the last two seats at the counter just 10 minutes before a line started to form and snake out the door. The 40 seats were in high demand. Ordering was tough. There were too many appealing options including: cornbread waffles with pork shoulder; creamed beef brisket; eggy bread (French toast); and vanilla bean rice pudding. Ultimately, we created a feast of eggs sunny side up, Vietnamese-style sausage patties, a bánh mì sandwich, aforementioned grits and some really tasty root vegetable hash.

The coffee, made with City Roast beans, is excellent but I thought it odd that this liquid gold was served in a paper cup. The explanation came as we were getting ready to roll out. Our server offered us refills to go, on the house. Nice touch.

Also worth a mention, scrapple lovers take note: Chef Brian Doyle is serving the hard to find stuff at Beachland Ballroom Sunday brunches, and starting May 31, Toast Wine Bar will be serving Saturday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mix knowledge with alcohol at the bar tonight

Life, The Universe & Hot Dogs: Cosmology at Happy Dog

Sick of trivia, karaoke and billiards at the bars you frequent? If you’d rather jump-start your brain than turn it off while swilling a cold one, try one of these lectures in a bar. From simplistic scientific talks to a storyteller’s forum, these lectures elevate your average bar trip.

May 22: Learned Owl Book Shop’s Book Club in a Bar at Papa Joe’s
Instead of leaving your books in the car while you enjoy a few drinks, bring them inside and talk them over with a crowd at this monthly Book Club in a Bar series at Papa Joe’s in Akron. Tending to keep to the thriller and mystery genre, it's a more relaxed version of the book club your mother attends. Join the regular crowd to discuss Game for Five by Marco Malvaldi. "It's a good bridge book club if you're trying to get into one," says Kate Schlademan, owner of the Learned Owl. If you graduate from the Book Club in a Bar, the bookstore also hosts two more devote monthly discussions at its location. 7 p.m., 1561 Akron Peninsula Road, Akron (Papa Joe's), 330-653-2252 (Learned Owl),

May 27: Life, The Universe & Hot Dogs: Cosmology at Happy Dog

We don't always get to hear about all of the groundbreaking research happening in Northeast Ohio, let alone meet the scientist behind it. But at the monthly Life, The Universe & Hot Dogs series, researchers from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Case Western Reserve University get out of the laboratory to talk about their work to regular folks without making them feel dumb. On May 27, CWRU graduate student Amanda Yoho will explain the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the first visible light in the universe, and its anomalies. "What they do well is they know how to balance [their lectures]. They know it's not a technical audience, so they don't go super technical about their description," says Happy Dog owner Sean Watterson. It's even encouraged, and possibly mandatory, to get a hot dog while learning about astrophysics and evolutionary biology. 7:30 p.m., 5801 Detroit Ave., 216-651-947,

June 11: Told No. 3: Home, Sweet Home at Market Garden Brewery

Everyone has at least one story to tell, according to ToldCLE creator Dave Sabol. ToldCLE is the forum to shape and hone your storytelling skills. Anyone can find courage in the liquids available at the bar and tell a tale based on the evening's theme, Home, Sweet Home after featured storytellers Afif Ghannoum and Cindy Reagan let loose. Although this will be the second held at Market Garden Brewery, Sabol says that he only has two stipulations about ToldCLE's venue: a separate room (so bar noise doesn’t interrupt) and alcohol. 7 p.m., 194 7 W.25 St., 216-621-4000,,

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mo' Mojo to radiate positivity at Hessler Street Fair

The Hessler Street Fair kicks off in University Circle this Saturday and Sunday. The fair, founded in 1969, has attracted body artists, drum circlers and positive vibes since its revival in 1995. Nineteen bands are expected to play this year, including the zydeco-cajun-blues outfit Mo’ Mojo. Frontwoman Jen Maurer spoke to us about how, on Sunday at 6:30, the band will jam in front of the sea of long hair and dresses for the first time in a few years. “I think we’re going to be the full eight band,” she says. “Eight members and quite a variety of instruments with fiddle and horns and rubboard and triangle and accordions and whatnot.”

CM: How did you guys come together?

JM: Well the band’s been together since ’95 in one formation or another, and everybody’s come differently. One of the guitar players, his dad was in the band, and now he’s in the band. And another guy caught my eye because he was dancing at one of our shows with my mother, and I thought that was really sweet so he ended up in the band. And another girl—her husband was in the band, and when they got divorced she stayed with the band when he left the band.

CM: You played the Hessler Street Fair before. What was that experience like?

JM: Oh, it was fun. Hessler’s a party. No doubt about it. Crazy party. It’s awesome.

CM: Do you know Carlos Jones? [Jones and his P.L.U.S. Band headline Sunday night at 7:30.]

JM: Yeah. I subbed in his band on bass. His guitar player, Dan, has been a sub for us before. Now we actually share a drummer. If there’s one frontman in all of Cleveland I think that I admire the most, it’s probably Carlos.

CM: So you released an album in 2010 and another one in 2012?

JM: We actually have one—I would say it’s about 70 percent done—that we’re hoping to do sometime this summer. Possibly we’re going to call it We All Got The Same. We like to have positive and fun songs, and so “We All Got The Same” kind of encapsulates the same sort of spirit as “Together In Love We Drown,” which is our second album—just that “we’re all connected” kind of thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Have a Spirited Holiday

 There could be an Ohio sequel to the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It seems that for a time Al Capone, a Prohibition era gangster who feuded and fought his way to the top and key character in the show, dealt in hooch that came from New Straitsville, a town 40 miles southeast of Columbus and once  the country's busiest producer of bootleg booze. You can become part of the story Memorial Day weekend, May 22-26, when the citizenry celebrates its infamous past.

The Moonshine Festival has been happening for 40 years, but 2014 is the first time there will be legal, local corn whiskey available from the Straitsville Special Distillery.  They have a five-day permit to brew and sell white lightening and visitors can actually see the antique equipment, once hidden in the hills, at work.

  The story of how this place got into the booze business began with a coal mine fire intentionally started in 1884 as part of a labor dispute. Smoke from the fire, which still smolders underground, made it  tough for revenuers to detect bootleggers by the customary method of tracking the telltale smoke rising from stills concealed in the woods.

Despite the adult-beverage theme, this is an old-fashioned family-oriented festival with parades down Main Street, a flea market, carnival rides and foods, a tractor pull (I've yet to figure out why this is considered entertainment) and live music. For those who care about such things Wayne Nix of the popular Discovery Channel show, Moonshiners will appear May 25. Although it's a three-hour drive from Cleveland, New Straitsville is worth the trek. Plus it's near Hocking Hills, a beautiful part of the state with lots of things to do, so you could easily book a cabin and make a weekend of it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eddie Izzard Makes Laughter the Universal Language on His New Tour

Eddie Izzard believes humor is universal, and he’s out to prove it. The British comedian’s mammoth tour, Force Majeure, is taking his surreal stand-up to 25 countries, and he’s performed in four languages — English, French, German and a bit of Spanish. He aims to try Russian and Arabic too, before it’s over.

Is German too serious a language? Are the French funny? Izzard, who’s had a big American audience since his 1999 breakthrough with the stand-up DVD Dress to Kill, shakes off any questions about differences in humor. Punch lines translate better than you’d think, he said during his trilingual interview with Cleveland Magazine. He performs at the Palace Theatre at Playhouse Square May 30.

CM: How do American and British audiences respond to your humor differently?

EI: They’re exactly the same, actually. And also are Russian audiences, and Turkish audiences, and German audiences, even in different languages.

My theory on comedy is, it’s human. There is a mainstream sense of humor in every country. An American comedian would make jokes about football stars, basketball stars, people in politics, and it would all be American references. The British comedians would do British references, and the Russians the same.

What the more alternative comedians do — I’m talking about human sacrifice, medieval kings, squirrels with guns, and [how] everyone used to smoke pipes, and where did they go to? You used to look very wise when you did it! I make sure my stuff is universal.

CM: Why did you decide to perform in three languages in Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day? (Vous pouvez répondre en anglais ou en français, comme vous voulez.)

EI: Ah, excellent! Mon idée était … (In French: My idea was to go there, stop the American tour to go to Caen. If I’m going to be there, why not do a show? A show in English, a show in French, two shows for charity, Doctors Without Borders maybe, and Help For Heroes in England. German too. A salute to the people who were in the war for the Allies, but also for Germany since ’45. I think Germany is a very strong, courageous country with good politics, with democracy.)

La troisième millénaire, trois shows, trois langues en trois heures. (The third millennium, three shows, three languages, three hours.)

CM: Merci. English speakers tend to think of German as very serious sounding language. How does humor go over in German?

EI: It goes over exactly the same. I thought it’d be tricky, because past tenses, they have the verb at the end.

I have this joke in English: Did Caesar ever think he’d end up as a salad? In German it goes, Caesar hätte je gedacht — did he ever think — dass er — that he — ein auf Salat Ende würde? — salad end up would?

[I thought,] you can’t do a three-word punch line! But as long as it trips off your tongue — auf Salat Ende würde? — they laugh.

My audience is a kind of open-minded, progressive — they have been students, they will be students — that’s the people who get it. They get it in every country. They get it in Moscow. They get it in Berlin. They get it in German, or in English or in French or in Spanish. It’s the same around the world, which is a great thing to know. We are all the same.

CM: I saw you’re part of the campaign against Scottish independence. Can humor help the cause?

EI: I’m campaigning to say, “Scotland, please don’t go. Please stay part of the union with the rest of the United Kingdom.” Some Scottish people were really pissed off that I did that, but I thought it needed to be said, because the atmosphere was encouraging people not to stand up and speak their mind. I don’t think humor is the one that’s going to make decisions. I think it’ll be a very serious thing.

CM: Americans have a stereotype: Are the French funny? They like Jerry Lewis, and we don’t think Jerry Lewis is funny anymore. So tell me about French humor.

EI: The first number of Jerry Lewis films were really funny. Then maybe it got into a formula and went off the boil. It could be that France just saw those early ones or the best of, like in Britain we see the best of American comedy. We don’t see anything that doesn’t work, anything that was mid-level or not so good.

The French have as good a sense of humor [as anyone]. In Paris they have 500 comedy shows every night, 800 on weekends — sometimes really small ones. They just throw out a hat.

CM: Is it easier or harder to joke about Catholicism now that Pope Francis is in the Vatican?

EI: It’s probably easier. I like the new guy. I wanted someone who’s going to be more human, against the riches of the Vatican, try to help the poor.

The fact that the previous pope has just said, “F--- it! I’m out of here” ... He’s, I think, living in the Vatican, but in one of the back rooms. Doing what? What’s he do every day? Smoking big cigars? Watching cartoons in his underpants? Or what? Eating Cheetos? I just wonder. It’s a bit quiet on the media front. The Vatican has locked that down.

CM: Why did you call your tour Force Majeure?

EI: Now that I’m touring in different languages, I just thought I’d come up with a title that’s used in both languages. Force majeure is used in all contracts in America and Britain. It means act of God or force of nature. I don’t believe in a God, so I go for force of nature. I think we all need to be our own forces of nature in order to get through life and do the things we’d like to do. So I encourage people to be a force majeure.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Required Reading: Truth, Justice, and Johnny F#@%ing Football

Johnny Manziel Texas Monthly cover story - Sept. 2013.
If the mood around town is any indication, Johnny Football just might be the messiah. But before his Heisman and his Alabama smackdown made him Johnny Football, he was Johnny Manziel – a highly recruited, nervously energetic ball of pigskin clobber from Kerrville, Texas.

This Texas Monthly profile from September 2013 traces the rise of Texas A&M’s favorite son from his boxer-heavy family of Texan oil magnates to his victory over Alabama. The final line of the piece, penned by S.C. Gwynne, begs the question we in Cleveland are now asking: “As the season begins, the question hovering over Johnny F—ing Football is the same question that’s always hovering over Johnny F—ing Football: What the hell is the kid going to do next?”

Highlights below. Read the full article here.

 Manziel the super-child: “When he was in seventh grade, he could stand on the 50-yard line, take a crow hop, and throw a football through the goalposts. He was descended from a long line of ferocious competitors – boxers and football players and drag-boat racers and cockfighters and scratch golfers and people who hated to lose even a friendly card game with their own children.
Manziel the viral superman: “Everything he touches, bad or good, goes uncontrollably viral. On the football field, he cannot be stopped, and off the field, the stories and pictures and rumors about him that spread throughout our hyped-up, 24/7, crazy-making news cycle cannot be stopped either. One year ago, he was unknown; today he is a kind of mythical creature. It makes you wonder, What planet did this kid come from?
Julius “Juju” Scott, former offensive coordinator at Tivy High School, on Manziel the enigma: “‘Johnny Manziel is a red-blooded American young man,’ says Scott, with whom Manziel still has a close relationship. ‘He is not superhuman, he is not a saint, he does not have a halo. He is subject to the temptations everyone else is. But he is a great person. He has a genuine love for his teammates and coaches. I have never spoken to him on the phone when he didn’t end the conversation saying ‘I love you, Coach.’ He has never not said it.’” 

And now: Manziel the Brown.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Get Smarter, Have Fun

Drinking, as a rule, tends to make people dumber. But if you sip your spirits while listening to a presenter at Happy Dog University, there's a good chance the opposite will be true. These free gatherings, sponsored by Belt Magazine and Brokaw Advertising and held the first Tuesday of the month at The Happy Dog, are a chance to hear well-educated, knowledgeable experts talk about subjects they find fascinating. In early April, I attended one that explored the question of truth in photography by Oberlin professor of Hispanic Studies Sebastiaan Faber. After being introduced by Belt's founder and editor Anne Trubek, he announced that it was the first lecture he'd ever given while enjoying a beer.

The place was packed and every table taken but I snagged a barstool. Sadly it was next to an overly-friendly, loud and thoroughly-hammered guy, who had clearly not come for the learning opportunity. He started telling me filthy jokes the minute I sat down (thus proving my opening statement), but with a little encouragement from the staff, he and his pals soon departed. With that distraction gone, I could focus on the conversation, which was lively and thought-provoking, the Power Point presentation that accompanied it, a glass of hard cider and my basket of tater tots. It was an excellent combination.

"Class" will be in session again at 7:30 p.m. May 13. The topic is Hamlet: World's Longest Knock Knock Joke.  These evenings are part of the tavern's ongoing and fabulously successful efforts to provide a laid back, unpretentious setting for intellectual discussions, classical music performances and other pursuits often considered dry, highbrow and unapproachable. It works — just about anything seems like fun when paired with craft brews and a $5 sausage stuffed into a bun and loaded with kraut, baked beans, pickle relish or any of the other 50 topping options.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Charles Ramsey: ‘The scary black dude turned out to be the good guy’

Last May 6, after he rescued Amanda Berry from Ariel Castro’s house, Charles Ramsey sought refuge at the Diamond Men’s Club, where he met the guys who became his entourage and media handlers for his summer of viral fame. Congratulatory calls on his always-ringing phone included a call from a U.S. Cabinet secretary (but not the president).

Now, Ramsey writes about his experiences of the past year in a memoir, Dead Giveaway: The Rescue, Hamburgers, White Folks, and Instant Celebrity . . . What You Saw on TV Doesn’t Begin to Tell the Story . . .

In these excerpts, Ramsey talks about his chance encounter with Michelle Knight last fall and his thoughts about the role his race and his sense of humor played in his celebrity.

From the chapter “The Rescue”

On Seymour Avenue the carnival atmosphere continued long into the evening. But after a few hours it was getting to be a bit much. When nobody was looking, I casually ducked away and just started walking.

I headed north up West 25th Street. I trudged on until I saw some bright lights up ahead. It was the Diamond Men’s Club on Fall Street. A strip joint — they wouldn’t allow TV news cameras in there, so I headed that way.

The hour-long journey had made my feet ache and legs burn as I stopped in front of the club to catch my breath. All those years of smoking and asbestos removal (sometimes not bothering with a respirator) had given me charbroiled lungs. I took a few deep breaths, hands on my knees, and then saw this big guy standing outside the club look at his cell phone, then look at me. This dude looked like he bench-pressed Buicks just because he could, so when he started walking toward me, I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t run; I was too tired. I would be no match for him if he wanted to rob me, or worse. The dude kept looking at his phone. He walked up to me.

“Hey, man, aren’t you the guy who just saved those girls? What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Just trying to get away from all them TV cameras,” I huffed. “Bad hair day.”

“Well, come on in. You can hang out here for a while.”

Since this place was open until 2 a.m. and I really had nowhere else to go—I wasn’t going back to Seymour—I followed this hulking figure into the club. No cover charge for me. He escorted me through the florescent lighting to the bar, and for the first time in probably eight hours I was able to sit down. I looked up at the six big-screen high-def televisions behind the bar. And there I was. The face that could crack a thousand mirrors. Soon, customers started noticing that the big scary-looking black dude on TV was sitting right among them.

One by one they came over and congratulated me. I heard “God bless you” so many times (a bit ironic to hear in a strip club) that I began to sneeze as if on cue. Every 10 minutes my face and jagged smile were plastered on that TV. The patrons kept cheering me. A few of the ladies who worked there whispered that they would be glad to give me a very special reward. Tempting, yes, but I was just too flippin’ tired. I began talking with this Puerto Rican dude, Justo. He goes by Justo Jr. He introduced me to his brothers Wesley and Victor, then pulled out his cell phone and called his uncle.

“Poppy, you won’t believe who I’m with right now,” he said. “It’s that dude on TV. The one who pulled those girls out of that house. Yeah, he’s sitting next to me right now. He needs to get away from all the commotion and shit. I’m bringing him to your house.”

With that, Justo Jr. told me to pick myself up and get into his grey BMW X3. The four of us headed out of the flats to I-71 south. We kept driving and driving.

“Where are we headed, bro?” I asked. I was getting a little nervous that maybe I, too, was getting kidnapped.

“To our uncle’s house. In Brunswick.”

Brunswick? To a street thug from Cleveland, Brunswick was like in Kentucky. Justo Jr. drove down I-71, exited at route 303, and pulled into a ritzy subdivision. No Section 8 housing here. We walked into a spacious house, complete with cathedral ceilings. It was now about 1:30 a.m. The TV was on, and you can guess whose face was on it.

There stood Gino, Justo Jr.’s uncle. “Good shit, Poppy!” he said with a smile. “I’m proud of you. My house is yours.” I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I chilled out as best I could, unaware of the Category 5 hurricane that would strike the next morning. My life was about to go from that of a lowly ex-con, onion-peeling dishwasher to WTF.

From the chapter Media Madness:

“It’s the White House!” he shouted. “The goddamn White House is calling.”

Wesley carefully put the phone on a table. Everyone, including all the TSA people, gathered around with hushed anticipation. I gingerly pushed the green button and put the phone on speaker.

“Hello?” I said softly. We all knew what voice we were about to hear.

“Mr. Ramsey?”

“Yes, right here, sir.”

“Mr. Ramsey, this is Secretary—.” He gave his name, but I can’t remember it.

“Wha? Dis ain’t Barack?”

“No, I’m a cabinet secretary. I work very closely with the president. On behalf of the United States government, I want to commend you for your quick action and heroic deed. Congratulations, sir.”

Pause. “Dis ain’t Barack?”

“No, Mr. Ramsey. The president has seen on the news what you did. He’s very grateful for what you did for those girls.”

“Uh, thanks. Just did what I had to do, bro.” The group let out a collective sigh of disappointment. I guess it’s still an honor to be called by a cabinet secretary, and it probably was a good thing that it wasn’t Barack calling me. Trust me, I would have had a few things to say to him. He would have wound up hanging up on me, and for sure my ass would have been audited.

From the chapter “The Girls”

I hope everyone gives all three, actually four, girls the same love and affection you all have shown me. What they went through is something few people could ever comprehend, or survive.

The only one I’ve had personal contact with since is Michelle. By chance, we live very close to each other, and Thanksgiving 2013 I saw her walking her dog. I walked up to her and said, “Hi, Michelle.” She looked up at me and said, “Oh, hi. It’s good to meet you finally.” It wasn’t a dramatic meeting, just a low-key meeting similar to that of old friends.

From the chapter “Who’s Stereotyping Now?”

One of the main reasons my part in this whole event became such an international story is the series of ironies that didn’t fit the usual stereotypical patterns and perceptions. This time the scary black dude turned out to be the good guy. And this same scary black dude turned out to be more of a funny guy on TV rather than a thuggish street rat. Plus this scary lookin’ black dude spoke openly about the race factor.

In a perfect world it shouldn’t matter what race I was or what race the girls were. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Race still plays a factor in society’s perception of what should and shouldn’t be. Deep inside, everyone knows that. I was just the first one in a long time to actually say it to the world, and with a goofy smile.

Let’s adjust the location and add some bleach. If I were a white dude with perfect teeth walking down Wolf Road in the upscale Cleveland suburb of Bay Village and found the girls in someone’s four-bedroom colonial, yes, it would have made the news, but not to this extent. Yes, I would have gotten a certificate of appreciation from the mayor or something nice like that, but would I have become more popular in the Philippines than King Rajah Matanda? Would Anderson Cooper have flown out to interview me? Would Snoop Dogg have called me and invited me to be on his show? Would McDonald’s have given me so much as an upgrade to a large order of fries?

Excerpted from the book Dead Giveaway © 2014 by Charles Ramsey with Randy Nyerges. Reprinted with permission of Gray & Co., Publishers. Available at and Autographed copies available at