Dr. Know: Old Music Shows, Road Work Ahead, and That Noisy Machine in Summit Park

The good doctor examines the rise and fall of local pop music shows, what’s behind recent roadwork for pedestrian safety, and a mysterious, noisy machine in Blue Ash.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Please tell me if I actually remember this or am just imagining it: In the mid- 1960s, when TV pop music shows like Shindig featured “go-go” dancers and lip-synched singers, did Cincinnati have a local version? I think so, but maybe it’s my memory glitch. —DIDN’T WE DANCE

Television history is strewn with the wreckage of local attempts to copy national programs, especially music shows for teenagers. Imagine Cincinnati’s middle-aged TV executives of the 1950s, thinking they understood young hep cats and groovy chicks, and you’ll get a sense of why most of them failed. The only real success was Bob Braun’s Bandstand, which lasted about a decade. Another Dick Clark clone, TV Dance Party, barely reached its fifth birthday. Other shows came and went.

But the winning all-time loser is your memory glitch: 5-a-Go-Go lasted for just 14 Saturdays in 1965. National shows like Hullaballoo and Shindig were featuring female cage dancers twitching along to pantomimes of current pop artists. In response, WLWT hired six young women for local twitching (without cages, because this was Cincinnati), a handsome host, and guest pantomimers. Our region, though, could not provide enough local or touring singers, so viewership was nil. The Doctor has failed to unearth any surviving video from 5-a-Go-Go; perhaps this is for the best. At least we still have tapes of Paul Dixon.

Has the new gazillion-dollar federal infrastructure bill already hit Cincinnati? Near Winton Hills Academy where I live, I’m seeing a lot of work on crosswalks—not just repainting, but bricklaying and weird rubber speed bumps. How has Cincinnati gotten federal dollars so quickly? —WHO SCRATCHES WHOSE BACK

The Doctor has good news and bad news. Good news first: The City of Cincinnati is aggressively addressing pedestrian safety. This admirable project to improve the visibility of things like crosswalks and school zones is called, for some reason, Vision Zero. Seems contradictory, but let’s not quibble. Anything that reduces pedestrian injuries and fatalities deserves a hurrah.

Citywide, crosswalks are being made more visible in vulnerable areas, with newly bricked intersections, added signage, and a little experimentation. What you saw on Winneste Avenue in Winton Hills were temporary rubber “speed cushions.” Other tests will include crosswalks with lights triggered by pedestrians.

The bad news: You missed noticing Vision Zero when the city began the program in 2019, so you’ve mistakenly assumed that its funding comes from the federal government’s recent Magic Infrastructure Dollar Bomb. Money has instead come from sources that are more, um, pedestrian: city coffers and grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Worry not. Cash from the Magic Dollar Bomb will undoubtedly drop from the sky soon enough.

We enjoy Summit Park in Blue Ash, but recently one of its parking lots has had several spaces taken up by a mysterious thing that’s huge, maybe 15 feet square, and surrounded by fencing covered in black cloth. It also makes an incredible noise. My kids think it’s a top-secret government project. What is it? —AREA 52

Yes, this was the early prototype of a government mind-control device before it was miniaturized into the microchip in your COVID-19 vaccine. Amazing what they can do with transistors nowadays. Sorry, kids, it’s much more benign than that. Surely you noticed that not far from the parking lot is Summit Park’s winter ice rink, providing family fun for suburbanites who’d rather not slog all the way downtown to Fountain Square.

That “mysterious thing” is what keeps the ice rink iced, officially known as the chiller. It originally sat much closer when the rink opened about five years ago, but as you’ve noted it’s noisy as hell. Skaters couldn’t even hear the music playing as they skidded and fell. The underground connections are now tethered to that contraption in the parking lot, which does reduce the available spaces but increases the available fun on the ice. The rink will have closed for the season by the time you read this column, so feel free to skate across the entire parking lot and invent new conspiracy theories.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, weekday afternoon deejay on 92.5 FM The Fox. Email him your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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