Dr. Know: September 2015

Your Queen City questions answered.

I vaguely remember being taken to a “theater in the round” somewhere near Mt. Healthy in the 1950s. It presented new shows during the summer, sometimes with big name performers. Where was it exactly, and what’s there now? —FADE UP MY LIGHTS

You undoubtedly refer to the Cincinnati Summer Playhouse, a tent theater in Finneytown that opened in 1955. As a typical “summer stock” venue, it featured road shows of plays and musicals starring major Broadway performers whose insecurity couldn’t stand a season without applause. These productions also provided entry-level jobs for newcomers to the stage, so it’s possible that you witnessed, say, a young Christopher Plummer as Bystander No. 4 in Damn Yankees. Although tent theater declined after the 1960s—you know, like everything else that was good and virtuous in America—summer stock still exists here and there.

Cincinnati Summer Playhouse was pitched at 8405 Winton Road, an address now paved over by the Kroger next to Brentwood Plaza. But give this a try: inside the Starbucks or Chipotle there, stand up, stretch out your arms, and belt out the chorus of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” If the employees roll their eyes and mutter, “Third one this week,” you’ll know you’re back home.

How come down on the Ohio River, the Kentucky side has all these big, elaborate floodwalls but the Ohio side doesn’t, except for maybe the Serpentine Wall? During a flood, does the water tilt toward Kentucky? —CRY ME A RIVER

Ohio River flood management reaches far beyond the depth, breadth, and word count of this column. But the Doctor feels compelled to address the depth, scope, and obliviousness of your question.

First, stand in the middle of the Ohio River downtown and look around. Notice the Cincinnati side sloping dramatically upward, ascending into approximately seven—what’s the word?—hills. Contrast this with a modest rise into the general flatness of Covington and eastward, and you have one reason why Ohio and Kentucky address flooding differently.

But Cincinnati’s floodwall is most certainly there. It is, in fact, profoundly longer, higher, and more muscular than its Kentucky sisters. Though except for the Serpentine Wall (which actually exists to prevent the bank from erosion), it is hidden underneath Ft. Washington Way, Sixth Street, and the major riverfront structures. There is also an enormous barrier dam at the mouth of the Mill Creek with eight massive pumps that kick into action when waters misbehave. It’s big and beautiful, and if a radio station ever presents a big fireworks show there, everyone will know about it.

I’m from Mt. Washington, so your west side readers may laugh at this: What is the strange-looking house I saw on Foley Road in Delhi? It’s shaped like a tall mushroom, or a lighthouse, or maybe a 19th-century rocket ship. OK, I don’t really want to say the first thing I thought of when I saw it. What is it? —COME ON-A MY HOUSE

If any west-siders laugh at you, just show them a photo of that thing on Erie Avenue next to the Hyde Park police station that looks like a giant Ebola molecule. That’ll shut them up.

You did not see a mushroom, a lighthouse, a rocket, or a Freudian metaphor. It’s a windmill—sort of. Richard and Margie Linneman, back from a honeymoon in Europe, designed their new Delhi home with a special addition that reminded them of their romantic visit to a windmill-shaped house in Norway. Unfortunately, the year was 1931 and the Depression broke their budget with only that section completed. Suddenly, their lives were an episode of HGTV’s Tiny House Hunters, 75 years too soon. Let us hope that the west side’s famously positive attitude carried the Linnemans through these tough times. (“Just think how great our TV reception will be when Cincinnati gets its first television station in 15 years!”)

Be not ashamed of your ignorance concerning the Delhi windmill house; every community has its quirky structures. There’s the spaceship house in Covington, the Pyramid House in Hamilton, the aforementioned Hyde Park Ebola house, and of course, the Loveland Castle. As for our generation, we carry the awesome responsibility of telling our grandchildren about the time when our downtown towers grew giant mustaches.

Note: The answer to last month’s rather pointless library challenge is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Condolences to your search engine.

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