Dr. Know: Dangerous Doorways, Impromptu Iggy Pop, and a Taste of Cincinnati Curse


I love Taste of Cincinnati, even with the overcrowding, too-loud music, and sometimes disappointing and overpriced food. It’s a wonderful community event, and most of the food is really great. I keep hearing that at the very first Taste in 1979, the food was actually free! Is that true? —FOODIE FAN

Dear Fan:
“That” is not true, on two levels. First, Taste of Cincinnati has never had free food, unless you wish to envision certain scenarios which, while possible, would be rude, unsanitary, and let’s just please not think about it, moving along.

Second, the original Taste occurred in 1980, not 1979. Yes, the event’s website and Wikipedia page claim the earlier year, but the Doctor’s enormous forensic research staff has confirmed that the first Taste occurred on May 26, 1980. Tickets were 25 cents each, with most samples requiring three to five tickets. That first foodfest was only two blocks (Eighth Street between the statues of Garfield and Harrison), lasted only one day, and featured only about 20 restaurants. But oh, how the event turned those restaurants into permanent Cincinnati fixtures! Zino’s! Edwards! Marcus’ Chicken & Ale! Laura O’Bryon’s! El Greco! Dockside VI! The Black Forest!

By the second year, even more we’ll-be-around-forever eateries had signed up: LeBistro-L’Umbrella! Markets International! R. Tapley’s! Crestview Gardens! Zutano’s! Hmm. Was participating in this event a kiss of death? To be fair, mainstays like La Rosa’s and Arnold’s did take part. And Mike Fink! They say that’ll reopen any day now. See you on Memorial Day weekend.

When I drive past the Ludlow Avenue firehouse on my way to the Esquire Theatre, I see a large set of double doors on the side that faces Clifton Avenue—but the doors are way up at the top floor, with no balcony or anything. Anyone stepping out of there would fall about 20 feet. This makes me nervous.  Why are they there?  —DOORWAY TO HEAVEN

Dear Doorway:
The Doctor shares your unease. Stepping out at such a height would be very dangerous unless you are Wile E. Coyote, and even then your luck would run out after a few seconds.
But you can exhale: Those doors have been sealed since at least 1921, when the Cincinnati Fire Department retired the last of their horse-drawn trucks. A hayloft occupied most of the second floor, with hay pitched out of those doors as needed to the lower level where Nessie and Petunia (the Doctor is guessing here) resided. Inside, the lower half of one wall is still covered with a large thick metal plate, the “kick plate” for when the horses exhibited Ornery Leg Syndrome.

The Doctor thanks F.A.O. Bob Anderson for the tour of Clifton’s Station 34, Cincinnati’s second-oldest operating firehouse. The oldest, off River Road in Riverside, also sports double-doors on the outside upper wall. Be comforted, though, that those doors have a permanent crossbar on them. Also a satellite dish, which probably was not there originally.

Did Iggy Pop do an extremely small concert in Cincinnati sometime in the early ’70s? I know all about his legendary Crosley Field show, but I’m thinking about some time after that, maybe at the old Sublet Winery, with fewer than 10 people attending. How’s my memory? —MIDDLE-AGE WASTELAND

Dear Wasteland:
The Doctor must impose boundaries on these types of questions. Readers of a certain age are abusing the limited resources of this column by trying to fill in the pages of their mental photo albums after their brains’ gummy-tabbed snapshots have dried up and fallen out. Botoxing your memory is not our mission.
Furthermore, considering Mr. Pop’s historic impact from the 1970 performance to which you refer, it is doubtful he could have even driven past Cincinnati during the next decade without drawing a crowd. Footage of that Crosley Field event is often presented as evidence that he, and we, invented crowd surfing on that June evening. There was also the moment with the peanut butter, perhaps best left for our next food issue. Let’s just point out that Crosley Field closed forever 11 days later.

But the Sublet Winery? That establishment’s existence was too brief to even qualify for the kill list at Taste of Cincinnati (see above). If Mr. Pop did give an impromptu performance there for the customers whilst shoplifting a bottle of Boone’s Farm, it was likely nasty, brutish, and short. Also loud.

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

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