Dr. Know: A Waving-Arm Balloon Man, A Traffic Helicopter Crash, and Ruth Lyons’s Alley

The good doctor holds forth on troubling issues, including what that flapping thing is doing atop Congregation Beth Adam, what happened after a traffic copter crashed, and naming streets.

I was driving past a synagogue in Loveland and couldn’t believe this: On the roof is one of those flappy waving-arm balloons, the kind you see at used car dealers. I actually turned around and looked again to make sure. Why in God’s name (pardon the expression) is that thing up there? —HE DOESN’T LOOK JEWISH

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Doesn’t:
The Doctor is always grateful to receive a question whose answer is so easy to explain. Obviously, the only reason there’s an orange flapping-arms balloon on the roof of a synagogue is because it replaced the fake dead vultures, who just weren’t getting the job done. See? Anyone could have guessed that.

Congregation Beth Adam built its Loveland synagogue in 2001 and prides itself on its diverse membership. It did not, however, expect dozens of local vultures to convert to Judaism last year and take up residence on the roof. Contrary to myth, certain vultures feed on more than just dead animals and will sometimes attack. These new Beth Adam members are inflicting serious damage by mistaking parts of the building’s roof as prey.

Professional wildlife removers first tried placing effigies of seemingly dead vultures up there, because sometimes that will creep out the living ones. Didn’t work. So they introduced the orange flapping-arms balloon guy. Success! Jewish vultures apparently have zero interest in used cars. Who knew? Drive carefully.

I was among many motorists on I-275 near Forest Park on the morning of June 23, 2000. Out of nowhere, a traffic helicopter crashed down onto the berm. Miraculously, nobody was hurt! It’s been 20 years, and I was wondering what that charmed pilot and traffic reporter are up to now. —DECENT DESCENT

Dear Decent:
That pilot was as skillful as he was charmed, and could easily have won the season finale of So You Think You Can Crash Land Onto a Crowded Highway. Rodney Newsome was clearly ahead of his time, as this was social distancing practiced long before it was a thing. After that morning, Newsome picked himself up, dusted himself off, and to this day continues to pilot helicopters. He’s flown air care rescue for several medical organizations, and recently joined the new helicopter service at The Christ Hospital.

As for the traffic reporter, Dave Armbruster also climbed back on the horse shortly after the incident, continuing as the sub for WLW’s John Phillips, who had been vacationing that fateful week. “Yiddy,” as most people call him, still wears every hat imaginable for the radio station, mostly as producer for Reds broadcasts. The near-tragedy didn’t leave him with a fear of helicopters, but Armbruster has found himself white-knuckling during bumpy airplane rides. “You don’t have time to be scared in a falling helicopter,” he says. “But in a plane, yeah.”

In the 1980s, the city named a shabby downtown alley “in honor” of broadcaster Ruth Lyons. What an insult. She was a true Cincinnati treasure and deserved better. How about we just trade Ruth Lyons’s street signs with the ones on Pete Rose Way? Seriously, has there been any effort to fix this disgrace? —RUTHLESS

Dear Ruthless:
Younger readers may be unaware of Ruth Lyons. She basically invented the daytime talk show, first on Cincinnati radio in the 1930s and then on TV. Her other accomplishments are vast; look her up. You will then understand the angry bafflement as to why, in 1983, City Council threw her name onto a scruffy alley between Sixth and Seventh Streets near Vine.

Council said back then that a committee was still developing a policy about naming streets for celebrities, that this conversation had already delayed renaming streets for others, and that Lyons’s declining health demanded quick action. An attempt was made in 1991 to rename a different street, and in 1993 to improve the existing one. Neither idea saw fruition.

The Committee on Names, when it finished in 1985, decreed that no street should be renamed for a living Cincinnatian. The policy has been ignored numerous times, most famously for Pete Rose, whose Way runs by the stadium from which he is banned for life. Unofficial proposals include renaming it to Pete Rose Was or perhaps Pete Rose Why.

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