Dr. Know: Star-Crossed Corners, Mystery Pitchers, and Vintage Local Movies


The closing of Macy’s downtown is so sad. As I remember, that corner across from Fountain Square went through a big struggle before the Macy’s got built. Wasn’t there supposed to be more construction on top of that building at some point? Offices, condos, or something? —TALL ORDER

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Tall:
Caution: You are scraping a large sore. Yes, the downtown Macy’s, built in 1997 (it was Lazarus then), has the structural strength for supporting a future office tower. Or maybe some apartments. Possibly a Fountain Square Hooters? How about a vertical soccer stadium connected to a new Brent Spence Bridge?
Countless abandoned proposals have befallen the accursed northwest corner of Fifth and Vine. In the mid-1980s, the city evicted and razed several businesses, touting grand plans for “Fountain Square West,” a gleaming tower of entertainment and commerce. What we got was a gleaming square block of dirt. Corporate suitors came and went for 14 years while City Council did what it does best: argue. Fountain Square West eventually became a parking lot and a punch line.

The star-crossed corner finally got a Macy’s with help from a hefty city bribe tax subsidy. Accordingly, Cincinnati’s requirement to always have an embarrassing acres-of-nothing boondoggle within city limits was moved to The Banks. Now that that’s been (mostly) filled in, the grand vision has apparently moved back north. Hey, our downtown has made major strides in recent years, so we shouldn’t complain about Macy’s closing. This could be our chance to have a Tiffany’s and Hooters side by side!

Here’s a baseball question for the approaching season. Pitching legend Sandy Koufax briefly played for the University of Cincinnati in 1954, but nobody, including him, remembers the number on his uniform. Has anyone ever solved this minor mystery? Can you? —FULL COUNT

Dear Full:
The Doctor enjoys a good challenge, but it must present a minuscule hope of victory, or at least a critical mass of curiosity. The great Mr. Koufax himself, as you observe, devoted no memory cells to this topic. His single baseball season in Cincinnati was almost an afterthought to the basketball scholarship that first brought him to UC. Such brevity—he pitched only four games—left no official record of his uniform number, and no photograph with a revealing angle has been found.

A rummage through old newspaper articles only makes things worse. Let’s watch history change before our eyes: In 1954, papers reported that Koufax enjoyed a winning season of 3 and 1, struck out 34 batters in two consecutive games, and then got offered $20,000 to join the Brooklyn Dodgers. But in 1955, history increased those struck-out batters to 35. Oh, and the Dodgers’ offer had apparently only been $18,000. The 1957 version of 1954 bumped Koufax’s 3 and 1 season to a perfect 5 and 0. And by 1964, the Dodgers’ bid had shrunk to $15,000. Following this standard of accuracy, the Doctor hereby declares that Sandy Koufax’s UC uniform number was 41, the same as another legendary southpaw: Joe Nuxhall. Go ahead, prove him wrong.

At the BrewRiver restaurant in the East End, I saw some wallpaper showing old ads for classic movies. I assumed it was generic, until I noticed that the ads were for old Cincinnati movie theaters! The Albee, Lyric, Shubert, and more are all there. Who designed this beautiful collage? —ALBEE SEEING YOU

Dear Seeing:
Here’s looking at them, kid. On the wall you see dead people, but when they’re presented so artfully, frankly, you don’t give a damn. Joby Bowman, managing partner at BrewRiver Gastropub, credits her late father for this cinematic set. Thanks to a beautiful friendship, he had access to a huge collection of mint-condition local movie ads. Keep these screen gems hidden? Inconceivable! From hundreds of ads, he chose wisely and gathered the fairest of them all. Put ’em up, put ’em up!

That escalated quickly. Some images became framed posters throughout the restaurant’s upper-level “theater room,” but in one area the pictures got small. Dozens of old Cincinnati theater ads, carefully reproduced on wallpaper, now beckon fans of classic films to come up and see them sometime. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And after you’ve sampled the menu, you’ll be back.

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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