Monday, March 30, 2015

Dinner Lab Cleveland Launch

Sure, Cleveland has a lot of fresh restaurants, which means plenty of new places for you to try. But none may be more experimental and unexpected than Dinner Lab, a new membership-based service that regularly plants pop-up restaurants throughout the city beginning in July. (A formal announcement will happen later today.)

Dinner Lab, a nomadic restaurant group founded in New Orleans just a couple of years ago, offers guest chefs the freedom to get beyond their menus and cook whatever inspires them. Diners at these semi-exclusive events reap the benefits.

"[The chefs] don’t have any rules, they can do whatever they enjoy doing and cook what they enjoy cooking," says Dinner Lab's director of human resources, Hallie Dietsch, a New Orleans resident but Shaker Heights native.


"We’re really looking at cities where there is an active food culture ... where the people there are engaged, adventurous, eager to try new things and there’s also a lot of talent there," she says. "Every time we talked about expansion I would always chime in. ... I would say, 'And what about Cleveland?'"

Here's how it works: Sign up for a membership ($125 annually), which gives you access to Dinner Lab's calendar. When you see one you like, purchase up to four tickets to that evening's event (typically $50-60, but sometimes as high as $90). You get a multicourse meal — usually between five and seven courses — a welcome cocktail, select wine or cocktail pairings throughout the meal and unlimited beer and wine pours while you eat. Yes, unlimited.

About half of Dinner Lab's guest chefs will be from Northeast Ohio; the rest will come from other Dinner Lab cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Austin and Nashville, exposing locals to even more new flavors and fresh talent. If you're a traveler, your Cleveland membership will get you into dinners in other cities as well (32 other cities have a Dinner Lab presence as of today).

Copyright Ryan Green/

The first event will be July 24 (location TBD). Chef Daniel Espinoza's modern Mexican menu is five courses and includes ingredients and flavors such as chorizo, tomatillo and orange; carnitas toastadas; fried chicken with cilantro grits and pickled carrots; mahi mahi with mole verde; and a rhubarb flan.

There are a limited number of memberships available in the first few months of Dinner Lab's Cleveland launch, so don't wait to sign up. Look for updates on Twitter @Dinnerlab or with the hashtag "#dinnerlab."

Friday, March 27, 2015

CIFF: 'Dreamcatcher' Provides Hope for Those Affected by the Sex Industry

Photo courtesy of Dreamcatcher
Brenda Myers-Powell spends late nights cruising Chicago streets in her Dreamcatcher Foundation van, looking for prostitutes in need of condoms. Her goal is to have a conversation with the girls and let them know there is another way — and she can help if they are ready. Why does she do this? Myers-Powell spent 25 years a prostitute. Now, she pours every once of herself not reserved for her family into her Dreamcatcher girls, who she also helps through an after-school program for those at-risk.

The film is a raw depiction of the prostitution, human trafficking and sex abuse that is sad, ongoing reality. Girl after girl comes forward with horrifying stories of getting shot, stabbed and raped. Some girls were even molested as young as 4 years old. Some followed their mothers into prostitution. For others, prostitution was the only constant in their life. Myers-Powell helps with necessities such as drug recovery but really becomes the voice of reason for these girls — the first phone call when a crisis arises.

Perhaps one of the film's most tender moments occurs when the usually boisterous Myers-Powell admits in an all-too-rare aside that she is terrified of what is to become of her girls while she has knee surgery and is still tormented by the weight of her time on the street. These gracefully handled intense moments helped earn director Kim Longinotto a World Cinema Directing Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Dreamcatcher breaks the painful cycle of abuse and finally shows the girls — and us — that hope can change your life.

See Dreamcatcher at 4:30 p.m. today, March 27, at Tower City Cinemas. The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29. For a full list of films, visit

A Boy's Life: Rocky Wright

Rocky, a sixth-grader at Metro Catholic School, lives with his mom, his 16-year-old brother and his 20-year-old sister in Cleveland His father moved to Texas after his parents’ divorce two years ago, but the two keep in touch over social media and weekly phone calls. When Rocky’s not playing kickball with his brother in the backyard, he’s singing in the school choir or acting onstage.

My best days were when I went into Cub Scouts with my dad. I was chosen for lots of things and there’s camping. We learned how to survive in the wilderness and did some community services. There’s the main club where they choose one little leader. First, it goes from tiger, wolf and bear, and those three groups chose me to be their little leader. They were all my friends and they listened to me. They made me happy just from listening to me and actually not arguing with me. A leader needs to be able to not yell at people and help people out. If you don’t help your pack or your group, they’re not going to listen to you.

I don’t want a friend that’s actually bad. There are lots of times when we’re playing outside in the summer and this kid will start trying to make an argument with me. He’ll start out by saying, "I suck," and stuff. I’ll say, “Please stop,” and he’ll get up in my face. It does make me feel angry, but I’ll still try to control it. I’ll just say, “Please, step away from me. I don’t want to talk to you.” I’m just not a fighting person.

I don’t really like people who judge other people. I worry about people being judgmental about me because I am kind of overweight. I just don’t want people to notice that. I kind of recently got over that because I normally wear a sweater to hold it in, but I lost my sweater so I just decided to go with the shirt. It still showed and no one actually said anything about it. It makes me feel happy because I don’t have to hold anything in. — as told to James Bigley II

[Editor’s Note: This blog series is an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Parma's Brian Johnson Advances on "The Voice"

Brian Johnson singing Bob Dylan's
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Photo courtesy of NBC
Brian Johnson auditioned for NBC’s singing competition, The Voice, four times before he ever saw the back of any chair. “I actually decided that I was not going to audition anymore after I went to the Philadelphia audition,” Johnson says. “ [But] the fact that they were coming to Cleveland, I felt like… it’s literally in my backyard, I have to go audition.” He did, and now the Parma resident has went from the churches he grew up singing in to national TV. While on Blake Shelton's team the soulful vocalist's rehearsal rendition of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" brought mentor Meghan Trainor to tears. And now, Adam Levine has stolen Johnson and is taking him to the show's final round, live performances. “Adam has always been in my court. He came backstage after the knockout rounds and just said it was a no brainer. … I’m really excited about working with [him].” We chat with Johnson about singing for the biggest names in the music business and dealing with newfound fame.

Cleveland Magazine: How did you feel before you went out for your blind audition?
Brian Johnson: When I saw the doors open and I started walking out and saw the backs of the chairs, I was really overwhelmed with fear and nervousness and all the things that could possibly go wrong. Once I stepped onstage, I almost blacked out and I just don’t remember anything after I saw the first chair turn. I had my wife tell me what happened and fill in the spots that I missed, because all I saw was that Adam turned and then Blake turned and I didn’t forget the words. That’s all I could get from the moment. I didn’t know that Adam turned around so quickly. The first time I watched it back was when I realized that he turned before I even sang a word.

CM: Going forward, what do you feel like you need to work on?
BJ: I’ve always struggled with some of my stage presence and just moving around the stage … Adam was just giving me some advice on how to move around stage, and that’s definitely something that I plan on working on as the competition moves on. Having a background in church music, you stand onstage and you kind of have your spot, and you move around a little bit but not a ton. As I’ve been home in the last couple weeks, I’ve been leading a lot of worship at churches and doing some performances around Cleveland at different churches and just trying to get onstage more and move around and do some fast songs. Experience is the best form of practice.

CM: What’s the weirdest part about adjusting to your newfound fame?
BJ: Being recognized in Starbucks was pretty weird. I was just getting coffee the day after the blind audition aired and it’s cool because I was thinking ‘Oh, it could happen. Someone could recognize me.’ And then the first person who walked into Starbucks said, ‘Hey! You’re the guy on The Voice!’ That was really cool.

CIFF: 'Move On!' Shows the Heart of Near West Theatre

Photo courtesy of Move On!
One member was discriminated against for her race. Another was rejected by a casting director for her weight. But not here. These actors are accepted at Near West Theatre. That's the kind of place it is — one where people, whether they may be black, white, gay, straight, disabled or able-bodied, can have a turn in the spotlight.

Move On! captures the heart of the diverse community theater by chronicling the group's farewell show in its former location on the third floor of the Club Building at St. Patrick's Church. Since 1978, the theater has had incredible reach — more than 15,000 adults, teens and children have been a part of its productions. What they do is so impactful that former members, including one battling cancer, came from as far as Iowa and New York to be a part of the final show.

Artistic director Bob Navis Jr. steals the documentary with his colorful comments — This is assaultive theater! — and unconventional teaching methods — pulling out a candle that inspires members to discuss problems group-therapy style. It's soon apparent that while Navis encourages members to build a character onstage, he's really teaching them to use theater as a way to find themselves.

While much of the film mourns a place that became a home for so many budding artists, it also opens the door for another era in Near West's vibrant new $7.3 million space anchoring Gordon Square Arts District and makes the argument that  — if for heart alone — you'll want to grab a seat for their shows.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29. To view a schedule, visit Near West Theatre opens its season with Shrek the Musical April 24.

CIFF: 'Just Eat It' Examines Food Waste

Grant Baldwin looks out over a dumpster of perfectly good hummus
(photo courtesy of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story).

If you've ever avoided an imperfect-looking apple at the grocery store, filmmaker Grant Baldwin's examination of food-waste culture will make you realize that desire for aesthetic perfection is part of the problem. But it's only one dimension of a multifaceted quandary that Baldwin's quick-moving and insightful 74-minute film Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story does an excellent job explaining for those of us with last week's leftovers still hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. 

The Canadian filmmaker's documentary is built on a simple premise: Baldwin and his wife eat nothing but discarded food for a full six months. They start with a box of leftovers supplied by Baldwin's brother as he's cleaning out his home prior to a move, but it's not long before the couple are dumpster-diving for their daily menu. What they find extends far beyond the expected questionable-looking bags of lettuce and reveals a much deeper and disturbing side to the amount of perfectly fine food that is tossed away due to either store policy, appearance or mere convenience. In some cases — such as the discovery of a "small swimming pool"-sized dumpster full of hummus that still has more than three weeks of shelf life left — Baldwin can't decipher the reason for the waste. 

But the film goes beyond the food experiment at its core, talking to farmers, food processors and the like about the waste that is inherent in our food production. It starts in the field and wasteful practices continue up the chain to our homes, where an estimated 25 percent of the food we buy from the grocery store ends up in the trash.

Just Eat It is an eye-opening examination of our attitudes toward food. By the end, you'll never look at that bumpy grocery store apple the same way again. 

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story screens at 12:20 p.m. March 26. The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29 at Tower City Cinemas. For a full film schedule, visit

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brunch for the Broke

Inviting a friend to Saturday's annual Coit Road Farmers Market French Toast Fundraiser can be a mouthful, but so are the offerings.

If you don't want to fork over $35 at some hoity-toity spot this weekend (hey, we've all been there), get your fill of French toast made with locally raised free-range eggs, real Northeast Ohio maple syrup, fresh-churned local butter and a cup of fresh apple cider or a steaming mug of Crooked River Coffee, all for $5. That's less than the cost of valet parking downtown. Scrounge up an extra buck to add a side of local pork or chicken sausage. Or bacon.

"You can't have French toast without bacon," says chef Robin Blair, who will be churning out plates for this kid-friendly fundraiser for the fourth year in a row.

Last year's event attracted approximately 200, and if you think that's a zoo, just wait until the kids finish eating, when farm animals such as chickens and goats are brought out for the young ones to learn about and pet.

"It's a lot of fun," Blair says. "Even when people are standing in line, it's still fun. There's talking, there's usually live guitar playing near the line. It's not just for the food."

Once you're finished eating, take a stroll through the historic barn setting to get your shopping done like a locavore.

Saturday, March 28, 9 a.m. to noon at the Coit Road Market (15000 Woodworth Road, East Cleveland). Visit for updates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Forty Years After Ali, Chuck Wepner Stands Tall

Cadillacs, pinky rings and minks came to the Richfield countryside March 24, 1975, as the Coliseum hosted the heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. Boxing experts predicted a walk in the park for Ali, but Wepner had other ideas, lasting until the waning seconds of the 15th round despite cuts above both eyes and a broken nose. “We tried to get him off his game and piss him off,” says the 76-year-old Wepner from his home in Bayonne, New Jersey. “I fought a great fight, but he was just too good for me.” To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fight, Wepner was honored with the unveiling of a 30-foot mural in his hometown last weekend. We talk with Wepner about Ali, serving as the inspiration for Rocky and an upcoming feature film on his life.

Q: You knocked Ali down in the ninth round at the Richfield Coliseum. Was it legitimate or did you step on his foot?

A: I hit him with a right hand under the heart. It was a good shot. I could feel it all the way up to my shoulder. Two hours after the fight, Drew Bundini Brown came up with the story that I stepped on Ali’s foot. That’s a bunch of bunk. After I knocked Ali down, my trainer, Al Braverman, said to me, “He’s getting up … and he looks pissed off.”

Q: How did you first learn about Sylvester Stallone using you as the inspiration for Rocky?
A: One of his producers called me a couple of weeks after the fight. He told me Stallone had watched the fight on TV and then locked himself in a room for three days and wrote the movie. I went to the premiere in New York and was standing in a long line until the theater manager brought me inside. When the movie was over, people were jumping up and screaming.

Q: You’re an executive producer on a new film The Bleeder, starring Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts and Christina Hendricks. What can we expect from the movie?

A: I’m very excited about it, because I’ve been waiting for this for 10 years. The script has been rewritten, and they start shooting in New York next month. It’s not going to be like Rocky. It will be more like Goodfellas. It should be out around Christmas.

By Barry Goodrich

Monday, March 23, 2015

CIFF: 'Bread and Butter' Awkwardly Approaches Dating

Photo courtesy of Bread and Butter
"I have a couch," virginal Amelia points out to her date Daniel as he plops down on her single bed. Instead of moving, the gecko-owning, life coach-going Daniel stays put like he's completely frozen. Amelia uncomfortably slides in next to him, stacking pillows to make a barrier between them. This painfully awkward exchange is relatable enough to make audiences chuckle at indie rom-com Bread and Butter.

Thirty-something Amelia (Christine Weatherup) has never dated but suddenly finds herself balancing two guys — Daniel (played by Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan) and the poetic, jobless Leonard (Micah Hauptman). Each character is plagued with eccentricities, from Daniel's odd tendency to pause at least three seconds before responding in any conversation to Leonard's habit of making video wills for friends and families.

The film is endearing in its quirkiness. Despite the fact that Amelia is in her 30s, it makes us feel nostalgic for clumsy first kisses, bumbling dances and nervous hand-holding. It is evident, however, that this is director Liz Manashil's first film as the story's momentum slows two-thirds of the way through. Despite an underwhelming third act, it's good for lighthearted laughs and makes us — hopefully the majority — thankful that we are past those incredibly uncomfortable dating firsts.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29 at Tower City Cinemas. To view a full schedule, visit

CIFF: 'Traficant' Offers a Portrait of an Unforgettable Character

James Traficant gets his due in director Eric Murphy's insightful and entertaining documentary (photo courtesy of Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown).

Those who are not from Mahoning County, Ohio, may not fully understand how James Traficant became a fixture in the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years. Eric Murphy's documentary Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown gleefully examines the phenomenon that was the Youngstown area's charismatic, entertaining and embattled sheriff-turned-congressman.

Known for sporting bell-bottom pants and a long-on-the-sides, who-knows-what's-going-on-up-top hairstyle, Traficant rose to prominence in the Mahoning Valley first as a maverick high school quarterback and then as a candidate for sheriff. The son of a truck driver could easily identify with the region's blue-collar population and embodied a swagger that got their attention. 

Taking on the area's established Democratic machine, he won the job of sheriff but ran up against the Cleveland- and Pittsburgh-area mob families, which both had their hands in the industrial city located between them. That's just the opening salvo in this film, which makes wonderful use of historic footage of the charismatic and blustery Traficant to show off his larger-than-life persona. 

It's easy to see why voters were so drawn to Traficant. Even when he's spinning what seems the tallest of tall tales to get himself out of a jam, you want him to prevail. Even when he's making bad jokes on the floor of the House of Representatives, you snicker. Along the way, you find out that was a large part of his allure ... and his downfall. 

Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown screens again at 11:55 a.m. on March 23. For more information and a full Cleveland International Film Festival schedule, visit

A Boy's Life: Alexis Oyola

Alexis, a seventh-grader at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School, is learning how to skateboard and wants to be a baseball player in the major leagues. He currently lives with his 13-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister, his mom and his stepdad in a four-bedroom house in Lorain. The family has moved to a larger three-bedroom house in the West Side city, but he hopes to maintain strong relationships with distant family members.

Sometimes, I get worried and my stomach starts to hurt real bad. I don’t want anybody to get hurt. On the news, there are a lot of people who get shot every day in Cleveland. My mom said she might move to Cleveland, but I don’t know why. Sometimes, they say that Cleveland people go to jail in Lorain, so sometimes I’m worried they’ll get out and come to our place.

I’m really happy when all of my family comes together. We have a lot of fun. I have six or seven brothers. I don’t see my aunt or my cousins a lot. I try to call them but they never answer.

I really don’t talk to my stepdad. I just hang out with my brother and play video games. I usually can’t talk to my sister much because she has a lot of work to do for her job.

My mom inspires me. She cooks a lot and she makes me things every day. Sometimes, I get scared of fires. Yesterday, my mom put out a fire on the stove when she used the wrong stove. She took off my pants and tried to use my pants to put it out, but then she used salt to take the fire down.

I barely see my dad. On New Year’s, we always tell our resolutions that we’re going to do for the new year. My New Year’s resolution this year was to get closer to my dad. He texted me on New Year’s, but I didn’t get the text because my phone is messed up. After a couple of weeks, it showed up, and it said, “Happy New Year!” So I just called him and said, "Happy New Year’s" to him. In the summer, I want to spend more time with him. I want to help him out with cars — he has four of them. — as told to James Bigley II

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Friday, March 20, 2015

CIFF: '1971' Offers Inside Look at Historic Heist

1971 uses filmed re-enactments to help tell the tale (photo courtesy of 1971).

Living in a time when a government contractor can steal 1.7 million documents from a computer and fly to Hong Kong with them, what happened in Media, Pennsylvania, on March 8, 1971, shows just how different our world has become in the past 44 years. 

As Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared off for the "Fight of the Century" on that night in 1971, a crew of eight people broke into a small, suburban Philadelphia FBI office and made off with every document stored there. The file-folder-in-suitcase heist seems startlingly analog in these days of digital data. Even more surprising is how what started as an act of government disruption ended up revealing evidence of the FBI's far-reaching practices of spying on and intimidating U.S. citizens. 

Those who broke into the building that night were never caught and their identities remained a mystery for more than four decades. Johanna Hamilton's film 1971, a documentary that includes re-enactments and news footage from the time, tells the story with efficiency and style. It is fascinating not only because of how unbelievable this corner of U.S. history seems today, but because — for the first time — those responsible for the break-in step out from the shadows to tell what happened in their own words. 

The film works as both a dissection of a heist and a portrait of the people behind it. When you find out who they are and the reasons why they risked so much, the story becomes all the more engaging. 

1971 screens again at 12:20 p.m. on March 20 at Tower City Cinemas and at 2:15 p.m. on March 21 at the Akron Art Museum. For more information and a full Cleveland International Film Festival schedule, visit

A Boy’s Life: Aidan Muchnicki

Aidan, a seventh-grader at Shore Middle School, lives with his parents in Mentor. He’s a multisport athlete, playing on football, baseball and basketball teams. He is following in his father’s footsteps, who played football for the Kent State Golden Flashes.

The hardest part of school is probably tests. You learn something, then you keep learning it, then you take a big test and it stresses on you for that part. We were taking the [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam], and that’s a lot more stress now.

My biggest fear? I honestly hate insects. They’re just really ew, like spiders. And probably dying young. Because there are so many things in life that you can enjoy. Dying young means you probably never experienced most of the things that you will as you get older. There’s so many things you can do when you get older. That’s the biggest fear, you’ll never know what it feels like to do that.

It’s really tough to think about 10 years. In 10 years, you’d already be 22. I haven’t really thought about that yet, but I know that sometime I will have to think about it. All I know right now is that I can be a nice person, an honest person, reliable, trustful. I know that can help me toward the future, being what I want to be. — as told to Sheehan Hannan 

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CIFF Opening Night: 'I'll See You in My Dreams' Adds Dimensions to Aging

Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street Media
The echo of deep-belly laughter swirled with sounds of sobbing at the CIFF opening night screening of I'll See You in My Dreams. From retirees getting stoned to Blythe Danner prodding, "People talk about living in the moment like it's some kind of goal. What does that even mean?," the film adds dimensions to aging that go beyond the usually flat Bingo-playing, crotchety senior often seen on-screen.

Danner portrays Carol, a 70-something with a 6 a.m. wake-up time and days filled with reading the paper and swigging  generous amounts of white wine. She's lonely but detests the thought of being cooped up in a retirement community with her busybody friends. Her predictable existence gets shaken up when she meets a sparky senior Bill (played by Sam Elliott) with a similar dislike for stereotypical aging and a young pool boy Lloyd (Martin Starr) who's in a similar stage of restlessness in his life.

While it starts admittedly slow and tears flowed within the first 10 minutes, the story is smart and honest — especially when it comes to addressing an older woman's deepest thoughts. Life is in the past tense. What's the point of getting close to people if they leave you? Despite all the questioning, we are certain this is a journey worth witnessing — and a testament that it's never too late for new beginnings.

The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29. To view a schedule, visit I'll See You in My Dreams has a theatrical release May 15. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'The Wrecking Crew' Goes Behind the Music

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

If you’ve ever heard the themes from the Batman, Bonanza and Green Acres TV shows or the songs “Good Vibrations,” “California Dreamin’” and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” you’ve enjoyed the work of legendary session musicians the Wrecking Crew. “My dad had four phone lines in the house and an answering service,” says Denny Tedesco, reminiscing about his father Tommy, the crew’s superb guitarist who passed away in 1996. “He never turned a job down.” Tedesco’s documentary film The Wrecking Crew pays homage to the men and women behind the hit music of the ‘60s and ‘70s. With the Cleveland premiere March 20 at the Cedar Lee Theatre, we chat with Tedesco.

Cleveland Magazine: You started this film in 1996 and didn’t finish the first cut until 2008. Did you expect it would take that long to complete?

Denny Tedesco: No way [laughs]. We had to pay record labels, publishers and the musicians union. I started out traveling the country and taking donations before we raised more than $300,000 with Kickstarter. I always wanted to tell this story of my father and his extended family. When the film ends, we’ve had standing ovations and grown men in tears. Seeing this with an audience is a blast for me.

CM: Your father played alongside such talents as Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Don Randi and Carol Kaye, producing an incredible string of hits for everyone from Elvis to the Beach Boys to Cher. Why did they remain anonymous?

DT: These people were stars among their own community and the artists they recorded for. But they were real people who had to put food on the table and take their kids to school. They went from one session to another. In the end, they had a huge affect on the music of their time. 

CM: What happened when the crew backed Frank Sinatra on “Strangers in the Night”? 

DT: He didn’t like the song. He recorded it to appease some people. At the end of the song, he forgot the lyrics and did the do-be-do-be-do thing. And then he walked out. So Dean Martin came in to use up the rest of the studio time.

A four-CD soundtrack of The Wrecking Crew is available at PledgeMusic.

By Barry Goodrich

A Boy’s Life: Tarae Graves

This sixth-grader at Miles Park Elementary School may seem tiny, but he makes up for his size with a huge heart. With four brothers and sisters, Tarae is proud to be the man of the house, helping his mother and his stepfather take care of his 7-month-old brother, Rome. The family currently lives in Harvard neighborhood, and hopes to move to a larger house soon. For now, Tarae splits his time between his mother’s house and his father’s house down the street, and wants to become a police officer.

I worry about my family because when I’m not there, they don’t have nobody to help them. Sometimes, I put Rome to sleep. He likes his purple cover, so I’ll give him his purple cover and I rock him until he falls asleep. He’s expensive. He’s a chunky baby because he drinks milk a lot, so we have to keep buying milk. He nibbles on everything. He gets mad sometimes because we have to put him in the playpen — that’s jail for him.

I clean the house for my mom. I do the dishes, I sweep the floor, I vacuum, I do my room, I wash the walls, and I keep the bathroom clean and smelling good. My mom is special to me. If I help her, she’ll give me a reward for doing that. She doesn’t have to tell me every day to do it, I just automatically do it on my own.

My god-sister is Miracle. She’s 10. She lives across the street from me. My mom and Miracle’s mom are like sisters. My neighbor’s kids are always talking about my sister and they’re always trying to jump my sister, but I won’t let them. I guess because she’s little they think they can bully on her. I just tell Miracle to come in the house with us, and we’ll just listen to music. That’s why my mom keeps us in the house, because they’re always trying to jump me too. They think I’m little, and when I protect my sister, they want to get on me.

I want to be a police officer. I think the police academy is going to be hard for me because you’ve got a lot of training to do. If you want to be a police officer, you have to go to school, get your high school diploma, go to college and then you’re on your own. They make a lot of money. It’s awesome when I’m watching them take people to jail and see all the guns they have. Their uniforms are awesome, and they get to speed in their cars. I wish I could do that. That’s going to be me one day. — as told to James Bigley II

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Project Runway" Star Althea Harper Heats Up Fashion Week Cleveland

        Growing up in Dayton, Althea Harper loved sketching figures and being creative. Then after college she landed a spot on Project Runway and her life changed. She eventually launched her own line, Althea Harper, and has dressed stars such as the Kardashian sisters. The blond bombshell warmed up Fashion Week Cleveland's Retail's Night Out at the 5th Street Arcades on March 13 with her resort wear. The historic building was filled with boutique duds for a market-style shopping experience where patrons could talk to the designers about their creations. See more of her line at the runway show and black-tie reception March 21 at the Arcade. We talked with the Ohioan about her favorite design and what's inspiring her now.

Althea Harper, third from the left, stands with models wearing designs from  her resort Althea Harper line.

Q: How has your fashion line, Althea Harper, evolved?
A: On Project Runway, I started off with evening gowns and the judges really responded to my ready-to-wear designs. I now have a swimwear, activewear, baby and resort line.

Q: Tell me about your favorite design.
A: It was a knitwear project that I worked on in my junior year of college. It was an extravagant coat down to the floor with two double layers, and it took me three months to design. 

Q: What's inspiring your designs now?
A: Nature! I love looking at animals.  They have different colors, but they have fun prints.  God really figured it out when he put it all together. The colors float together and come together well.  

Q: What's it like having your designs shown at Fashion Week Cleveland?
A: It's always nice to see my designs come down the runway because it glamorizes them, but  I appreciate this [Fashion Week Cleveland] because you can see someone actually wear it.

Q: What's next for you?
A: Right now, I want to continue with my resort line it's  self entitled [Althea Harper] and the swimwear line. I'm still figuring things out. I just had a daughter 10 months ago, so I'm trying to figure out how to find that balance.  

A Boy's Life: Max Steiger

Max, a seventh-grader at Beachwood Middle School, lives with his mother, father and older sister in Beachwood. For each birthday, his parents take him to a different ethnic restaurant. So far, he’s tried Ethiopian, Indian, Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisines.

My best day, I think it was last summer. We went to Virginia Beach with my dad’s sister and her family. That was really fun. We went to the ocean and there was one day where we were at the beach for the whole day, then came back to the condo and had a good dinner.

When I’m 22, I want to be somewhere, not just at home. I want to be in grad school or college, depending on what happens. I don’t want to just stay home, skip college and not learn a lot of stuff.

I want to be a lawyer. My dad is a lawyer, and it sounds cool. I’d like to be in court, or just do that kind of stuff. I think it would be fun. I mean, my dream profession is to be a professional sports player, but my realistic dream profession is to be a lawyer.

Everybody changes in high school. I don’t know if it will be for better or for worse, but I’ll be very busy with homework and everything. I don’t know if I’ll have time to be with other people, so that might be a big change when that happens.

In general, I’m afraid of heights. Of the future, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a job and then I won’t be able to have a lot of money. Then I’ll live a bad life. I went to New York a couple years ago, and I saw the homeless people there. I felt really bad for them. I was thinking that I don’t want to have to live like that, because you’re living on the edge. You don’t have a second option basically. So I want to be able to have a second option. I want to be able to do a lot of the things that I want to do. — as told to Sheehan Hannan

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Boy's Life: Michael Beros

The sixth-grader at University School tries to read at least one hour every night before going to bed. His favorite books, like the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans and the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, revolve around adventurous kids who are trying to save the world while coming to terms with their identity. His mother works as a college counselor at University School and his father works as an independent business consultant, but Michael is paving his own path — one that will take him out of this world.

I like reading because it tells me stuff I don’t know about. I wasn’t very familiar with the country of Taiwan until I read the fourth Michael Vey book. It explained a lot of the background history on the country. It’s always fun to learn about interesting things. In the country of Nicaragua, they eat guinea pigs, which I know sounds kind of mean to eat guinea pigs in the United States because they’re cute and cuddly creatures. Everyone is like, “Oh, it’s so weird,” but it’s normal to them. They eat a lot differently than we do and their diet is a lot different.

I think I really want to be an astronaut when I grow up. I wouldn’t necessarily want to go up into space, but be in the International Space Station. It would be really fascinating to go look at the Earth from a different angle than how we look at it. I find space exploration really interesting because we keep discovering things, and it’s only really come around in the past century that we’ve had all these great technological advances. You know the space telescope, Hubble? It’s a deep-space camera. We’re actually sending a version of that called Voyager 2, and it’s going to visit Pluto and take pictures in 2022 — that’s when it’ll arrive.

I kind of have a fear of the dark, but I’ll get over it probably when I get older. It just scares me at night because I always know something bad is happening somewhere in the world and I just don’t want it to happen near me. Recently there’s been terrorist bombings and school shootings and my parents get really scared when that happens. They don’t want me turning into one of those kids.

I don’t really like when people do stupid stuff. Like, “Do you want to go sledding down that hill?” And there’s no snow. Or like, “Do you want to do those crazy bike ramps?” or “Do you want to ding-dong-ditch people?” Like, Why are we doing this? That doesn’t do anything. It’s not comfortable to me. I don’t want to make trouble — I want to stay away from it. — as told to James Bigley II

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dark Side: Greenhouse Tavern Hosts Metal-themed Dinner

It's clear by now that Jonathon Sawyer is a little bit rock 'n' roll, but this Sunday, March 15 from 6 to 11 p.m. he's taking his badassitude a step further with a metal-themed tasting menu ($66.66) and live show called Metal as F---. (Call 216-443-0511 to make reservations before they sell out.)

The event features a six-course collaborative dinner with Sawyer, New York City's Dieselboy, Chicago's David Posey, plus performances by local bands Lawskof, Seeress Prophecy and LA Kraze

It's embracing the dark side, fine dining-style, with highlights like Roulette wings ("six wings in the chamber. one is weaponized [with Scoville powder]. pain is imminent"). 

We talked to Dieselboy (a.k.a. Damian Higgins) for a rundown and why you should definitely go.

CM: What's your role in this dinner?
DH: I actually conceptualized two of the dishes, a dessert and a pasta course. For a couple of the other dishes, Jon threw the ideas out there and I put some of my thoughts into it. I'll actually be in the kitchen cooking at well. It’s going to be a true collaboration.

CM: You're a well-known disc jockey, so pardon us for asking but, have you ever done anything like this before?
DH: Last June, I did a collaborative dinner in Texas at this restaurant called FT33. The head chef, Matt McCallister, he was a Food&Wine best new chef last year. It was myself, him and Alex Stupack, who has also been a F&W best new chef, and he was the pastry chef at Alinea, wd-50 and a bunch of Mexican restaurants in New York. On my own, I’ve done a couple of burger pop-up events in Holland. I’m a DJ but I’m passionate about food, and I like to stay involved in these cool little events to kind of test myself.

CM: So how did you get involved with Jonathon Sawyer?
DH: A few years ago, his wife (who is a longtime fan of mine I guess), she hit me up on Twitter. I had a show coming up in Cleveland, and she asked if I wanted to come visit the Greenhouse Tavern. I had actually been there once before. This time I went, sat at the chef’s counter, got to meet Jonathon, [then] he came to New York and we had dinner together one night. That was sort of the start of our friendship. I was in town within the last six months and we were talking, and he’s like, Man, we should do dinner together.

CM: How does Greenhouse sort of fit the metal vibe?
DH: There’s an edginess to it, and I know they play '80s video cassettes and shit, which is cool. … Their ideology kind of skews in that direction. I assumed this was their first, but this will be Greenhouse’s fourth metal-themed dinner.

CM: Tell us about your dishes.
DH:  It’s easy to go to Halloween, so we’re trying to be not-too-corny and get this nice balance of really good food and ingredients that people have never had before. We’re going to a black pasta with two chambers [an uncut sheet of two ravioli]. One side is going to be blood sausage and black trumpet mushrooms, the other side is going to be cuttlefish, horseradish and whale ambergris. The sauce is called "burnoise," made with black butter. Dessert is a play on black forest cake: A devil’s food cake made with blood, smoked cherry jam, cherries. [Then] I had the idea of making a cherry sorbet with a lot of citric acid, which is what makes Warhead [candies] so sour, with a black-pepper meringue broken underneath it as well.

CM: Sounds very technical. Where do you get your talents in the kitchen?
DH: I’m an avid home cook. I eat out a lot when I travel, I’m friends with a lot of chefs, food writers. I go out to eat a lot, so whenever I cook at home I’ll always set the bar for myself [very high]. I’m also really into learning about food and learning about how to cook food.

For more information about the event, visit

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Boy's Life: Casey Cipollone

The Lee Burneson Middle School seventh-grader has been taking accelerated classes since he was in fourth grade. As the son of Westlake High School’s athletic director, he plays football, baseball and wrestles. But he’s out to break down clique boundaries to create friendships with anyone he can. A couple of years ago, a friend on his bus introduced him to a Bill Cosby stand-up routine he had on his iPod, and ever since he’s been inspired to make people laugh.

People say social isolation is worse than the death penalty. I believe that to be true because if you’re just deprived of any interaction with anybody and you’re kind of just sitting alone and you can’t do anything or talk to anybody, that really hurts you more than anything else could hurt you.

When I moved here in third grade, I was outside and I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t want to go play basketball with kids because I couldn’t play basketball, but I wanted to make friends. It was very confusing because I hadn’t figured out what to do yet and I didn’t know, so I kind of just sat alone. I felt like I had to hide my face and not be very social because no one knew me. Then a friend, Alec, came over to me and he made it OK.

I think socializing is a very important part of seventh grade and eighth grade. You have to make friends and then you build bonds that will last through high school. When you make friends now, they last longer later, so I think that helps a lot.

The key is to surround yourself with people you like and people other people like. In our school there are social levels. At the top, there are people who are super-popular and everybody knows who you are and they know your name. The super-popular people usually stay in their own circle. The people down at the bottom are wherever they want to be and that’s very cool because they can be nerds and they can talk about games and stuff, and I like that. And in the middle is the best place to be. Some people stay in the middle, or they go up, or they go down, and that’s how it kind of works now.

There is certainly a sort of pressure sometimes. Every day, I worry about embarrassing myself in front of everybody.

It’s really confusing. I should probably write a book or something. — as told to James Bigley II

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Friday, March 6, 2015

A Boy's Life: Jordan DeMicco

Jordan is a sixth-grader at Harmon Middle School in Aurora. He has two older brothers and four dogs: Coco, Sarah, Boomer and Hershey. He plays football and baseball and is already thinking about college. He’s absolutely certain about going to the Ohio State University. They have a good football team, a good baseball team, they’re really athletic,” he says. “And they have a lot of smart kids there too.”

My best day was probably my birthday, when I went to New York City. I’m into sneakers, so we went sneaker shopping and to this thing called Sneaker Con. It’s a giant sneaker convention. We saw a bunch of shoes worth like $6,000.

I actually have my favorite sneaker. It’s called the Air Jordan White Cement 3. It has this elephant print on the toe and the back. It has a white midsole with a little bit of black and a red inner lining. I like those, mostly how it tells a story of an elephant and Michael Jordan, because he wore those in the dunk show when he won it — from the free-throw line.

My worst day is probably the day that my parents got divorced, three months ago I think. I wasn’t really sure which side I should go on — I wasn’t sure if I should go with my dad or my mom. That’s why it was hard for me. I go with my dad on the weekends and my mom during the other time.

I worry if we’re driving home, Is there going to be a car pulling out and my dad doesn’t see it? Is something going to happen really quick and somebody gets injured? Some people don’t make the right decisions; they can just blank in a second and something could happen. — as told to Sheehan Hannan

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine’s March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the “A Boy's Life” tag.]

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Boy's Life: Malik McKeldie

The sixth-grader at E Prep Cliffs Campus, a Breakthrough Schools charter in the Goodrich-Kirtland Park neighborhood, enjoys drawing, though he only knows how to draw animals right now. When he sits down to create, his father inspires him. “He draws everything,” he says, "because he’s a tattoo artist."

My biggest fear used to be stage fright. I get it sometimes but not as much. I want to be an actor, but stage fright is my biggest fear. I shake. At this school, I talk in front of class more often than at my old school, where I really didn’t get in front of my class. I like people to see me. I want to be famous and express myself.

At my old school we did a play. It was about Santa Claus. Nobody had a really big part. It wasn’t a big play. I played Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It really didn’t feel like a play though, because we acted, but I didn’t really act. I just talked. It was probably because I didn’t know how to act. I didn’t really start wanting to be on TV until last year or two years ago.

When you act, it’s like movement. Actions can speak words too. When you just talk, it’s not as funny or fun. I was watching Disney Channel, and they get real people on TV. They said that this guy had stage fright too, and this group came to his house. He acted real good even though he had stage fright, and he ended up being on Disney Channel.

I can see myself doing a lot of things when I’m 22 — in the NFL, the NBA or an engineer. By the time I’m 22, I might not be an actor anymore. I won’t give it up, but I’ll probably feel that’s too old.

I’ll change in high school maybe a little bit. But I like myself right now. I like to be good and respectful. Sometimes I have discipline problems. When I’m mad and I don’t care about anything, that’s what I don’t like about myself. It affects other people sometimes. — as told to Sheehan Hannan

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of the “A Boy’s Life” feature in
Cleveland Magazine's March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the "A Boy's Life" tag.]

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Boy's Life: Cael Gray

The sixth-grader from Memorial Middle School in Mentor dreams of playing in the NBA. “I’d want to travel to all the different basketball arenas and see the differences between them,” he says. The Wednesday before this interview, he went to a Cleveland Cavaliers home game where he saw Kyrie Irving put up a career high 55 points while LeBron James sat on the sidelines due to a wrist injury.

When I figured out LeBron wasn’t playing, I was hoping Kyrie or someone would step up. I watched Kyrie play in college and I said, “I want to be like him when I grow up.” He’s a point guard, and so am I. He’s a great athlete, got good ball-handling skills. I just hope to practice and be as good as him.

My favorite subject is social studies. I like learning about the ancient history and different religions of the world. Mostly, I like coming to school in the morning and talking to my friends. But then I have to wait through the rest of the day until social studies.

Sometimes school is hard if I’m tired or not feeling so well. Then it feels like the day is going slower. But if I’m talking with my friends and I’m all happy, then I feel like it’s fast and it’s better. I try to always think positive, and hopefully the day can go by fast.

My least favorite part about school is all the homework we get. And sometimes if one of my best friends isn’t at school and I was looking forward to talking to them and they’re not there, it gets me a little down. — as told to Sheehan Hannan

[Editor’s Note: As an extension of “A Boy’s Life” feature in Cleveland Magazine's March issue, we will be publishing additional boys' stories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. For all these stories, click on the "A Boy's Life" tag.]