Photograph by Aaron M. Conway
We’ve made it 50 years. (That’s 600 issues.) In celebration of the magazine’s golden anniversary, we look back on the countless characters and stories that filled our pages (or should have) and take stock of the way we were, and the way we are.
→ A is for Agreement, Collaborative
It did not start with the death of Timothy Thomas. It started several months earlier, or depending how you’re judging it, years prior. After collecting stories of some 400 African-American Cincinnatians’ encounters with the police, in March 2001 civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein filed a lawsuit on behalf of the ACLU and the Black United Front against the Cincinnati Police Department for racial profiling and use of excessive force. It included a motion for a class action certification—as well as an invitation to approach the case through a collaborative, community-wide process rather than formal litigation. Both a 5–4 city council decision and Judge Susan Dlott approved that alternative approach, and the Fraternal Order of Police voted to join in the process. All came to the table for the hard back-and-forth with their legal representation, court-appointed special master Jay Rothman, and experts including UC criminal justice professor John Eck. Weeks later, Thomas was shot, civil unrest ensued, and the imperative for a solution was thrust front and center.
Eck likens the ensuing negotiations to “the most extreme roller coaster ride you can imagine,” saying, “We’d have these days when things would go well and we’d just know that it was all going to fall apart in a week or less—and it did.” He credits Gerhardstein and FOP counsel Don Hardin for not being distracted from the end goal. “There were so many opportunities for the thing to fall apart,” Eck says. But it was ultimately signed into law, with the Department of Justice’s consent, in April 2002.
“The Collaborative promoted and is continuing to work toward ensuring public safety while reducing the over-reliance on arrests,” says Gerhardstein. “That’s one of the biggest achievements—in the last 15 years the number of arrests for misdemeanors and for felonies has been cut in half in Cincinnati, and the crime rate has gone down during that time.” The goal was accomplished through immediate changes like cruiser cams and a protocol for officer-involved shootings, but largely through an ongoing commitment to a problem-solving policing strategy.
Fifteen years later, meetings with the city manager, community leaders, and police leadership that began with the Collaborative still happen every six weeks or so, and have facilitated real dialogue about proper use of Tasers, body cameras, and the Tensing trial, affording the opportunity for diverging perspectives to be heard and potential crises to be averted before an incident occurs. A refresh is also under way. After all, says Eck, the true measure of the Collaborative Agreement’s success? “It’s the headlines that don’t occur.”
→ B is for Beer
German immigrants brought their idea of how to party with them to this country (see: Gemütlichkeit), creating plenty of demand for the newfangled lager developed in the middle of the 19th century. By 1860, one count listed as many as 38 breweries in Cincinnati. But Prohibition, and the consolidation that happened after its repeal, nearly evaporated the industry locally. Christian Moerlein returned in 1981, and a few brave souls—Barrel House and Listermann among them—were early craft pioneers. Today dozens of breweries vie for attention. So much so that the competition was too much for Scott LaFollette, who closed his beloved Blank Slate Brewery in August due to lack of funds.
B is for Brand Marketing
Brand marketing entered into existence in 1931 thanks to a memo crafted by P&G executive Neil McElroy that outlined the need for “brand men” to dream up new, often emotive ways to distinguish their products from competitors. The next year, P&G launched the first ever soap opera, and went on to set the pace in marketing with brands like Tide and Pampers. By the 1960s, the conglomerate established itself as the go-to source for brand marketing talent in a landscape where winning is still achieved by knowing consumers better than your competition. With nine other Fortune 500 companies currently headquartered here, the Queen City is often dubbed “the center of the brand-marketing universe.” Not bad for a tag line.
B is for Big Red Machine
From “The Defining Moment,” by Lonnie Wheeler, April 2000
The Yankees are not essential to New York; they merely permit its vanity to be perpetuated. Nor are the Cubs truly vital to Chicago; their purpose is to amuse it. All the Dodgers do for Los Angeles is give its beautiful people a place to be seen.
It’s different here, of course. While we’re proud enough of our chili and disposable diapers, they’re not the stuff of provincial puffery. That’s where the Reds come in. Without them, Cincinnati would be a lumpier Columbus…. The Big Red Machine made Cincinnati complete. Twenty-five years ago, it reaffirmed the city’s place in its chosen game, putting it officially and unequivocally first again. It gave us stature outside the corporate limits, validating the emotional investment Cincinnati had made more than a century before, with interest compounding annually…. Even after the club was busted up (Reds fans have never quite forgiven management for trading Perez, firing Anderson, or letting Rose leave), the mere memory of it helped Cincinnati weather the likes of Vern Rapp, Marge Schott, and Mr. Red. And now, even as the new century begins, the Big Red Machine is still sketching the city into the big picture.
In 2003, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk stood in a Hamilton County courtroom, flanked by two attorneys, and accepted responsibility on behalf of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for failing to report sexual crimes against children committed by local priests.
Pilarczyk’s plea of no contest was the first time a Catholic institution had been convicted in connection with the priest sex abuse scandal. It was one in a wave of instances that first came to light in early 2002 when the Boston Globe exposed and detailed the extent of sexual abuse by priests against children in the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston—an investigation dramatized in the 2015 Academy Award–winning movie Spotlight.
Then-Hamilton County prosecutor Mike Allen (whose own tenure ended in scandal in 2004 when he admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate who had sued him for sexual harassment) initiated the investigation into the local Archdiocese. Though the agreement—reached by the county and Archdiocese—covered the crimes of just two inactive members of the clergy, the Archdiocese’s own investigation found at least 188 complaints of child abuse against 49 priests from 1950 to 2003.
The Archdiocese created a $3 million fund to compensate victims as part of the agreement, one of many low points that damaged the Church’s moral authority and fundamentally changed its relationship with its followers.
C is for Crossroads
What started as a megachurch with millennial-friendly branding, free coffee, and a startup-with-a-heart-of-gold vibe has morphed into America’s fastest growing church with 12 more locations and—with the for-profit Ocean Capital and nonprofit Ocean Accelerator—the capital to help Corporate America get a little God.
The game has long been part of the national sporting consciousness thanks to a series of indelible moments and images: Xavier (twice) knocking off top-ranked UC; Bob Huggins prowling the sidelines; gratuitous shots of Skyline Chili coming back from commercial breaks; and sadly, the ugly bench-clearing brawl in 2011. Locally, however, the rivalry has always been more an annual celebration of unabashed school pride and our perpetually underrated college hoops scene. (And continued gratuitous consumption of Skyline Chili.)
→ D is for Dubose, Sam
According to his funeral program, 43-year-old Samuel Vincent DuBose was a rapper, music producer, and founder of a motorcycle gang.
On the evening of July 19, 2015, DuBose, who was black, was shot in the head at close range by white University of Cincinnati police officer Raymond Tensing. Wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt beneath his uniform, the officer pulled DuBose over for a missing front license plate. Tensing later claimed that, as he reached into the car, DuBose had attempted to drive away, dragging him, and that he had fired out of fear for his life.
But 10 days later, on July 29, 2015, Tensing’s bodycam footage was released. Neither it, nor the bodycam footage of two other responding officers, showed any evidence of Tensing being dragged. That same day, notoriously pro-cop Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters called the shooting “unwarranted” and “asinine,” and announced Tensing’s indictment on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
The UC police department fired Tensing, who pleaded not guilty, and a jury of two black women, four white women, and six white men deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial. Months later, a second trial convened; Tensing’s T-shirt was deemed prejudicial and not admitted into evidence; and the trial ended in another hung jury. Deters announced there would be no additional retrial and charges against Tensing were dropped, provoking protests and marches by groups including Black Lives Matter. That may not be the end of the line, though: The Justice Department is reviewing evidence to determine whether there are grounds for a federal civil rights case.
→E is for Emerald Ash Borer
The larvae of this glossy green beetle spell doom to ash trees when they tunnel through the green tissue beneath the bark, cutting off the capillaries that carry water and nutrients up the trunk.
Emerald Ash Borers probably sneaked into the U.S. in shipping pallets, killing more than 30 million trees in Michigan before spreading south to our region, appearing in Warren County in 2006. An infestation takes a while to get going, but when it does, these pests are relentless. Walk through our woods and you’ll see sick trees shedding bark, the forest floor littered with dead, decaying ash, making cicadas seem downright charming.
→ F is for FC Cincinnati
After years of fits and starts—and after landing some committed, deep-pocketed investors—professional soccer has finally taken root here. The only question now is how high it can go.
F is for Findlay Market
The only surviving public market house of nine that once thrived downtown, Findlay Market is also Ohio’s oldest, thanks to city engineer Alfred West Gilbert’s durable iron-frame construction. Settler James Findlay planned a market on land he bought north of downtown, but died 20 years before it opened in 1855. Findlay Market was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, renovated over the following two years, and expanded from 2002 to 2003. Its market bell first tolled at Pearl Street, the site of Cincinnati’s first market, and Findlay Market continues to be a vibrant, sensory feast for another century of hungry Cincinnatians.
F is for Fire, Beverly Hills Supper Club
From “The Last Supper,” by Ian Aldrich, May 2007
It all happened so fast.
The date was May 28, 1977, a humid Saturday night on Memorial Day weekend. Nearly 3,000 people had crammed inside the Beverly Hills Supper Club to enjoy a prime rib dinner and perhaps catch singer John Davidson in the Cabaret Room. The first gray, wispy puffs of smoke were spotted by a lone reservation clerk shortly before 9 p.m. In less than an hour, the “Showplace of the Nation” was engulfed in flames and acrid, black smoke. When it was over, 165 patrons and employees were dead, and the club that had once played host to local gamblers and the Rat Pack would gain infamy as the site of the third worst fire disaster in United States history.
That night the once-beautiful Beverly Hills grounds were transformed into a surreal and macabre scene, with the living wandering among the dead—victims of smoke inhalation and toxic gas released by the carpeting, chairs, drapes, wiring, and other building materials incinerated in the fire. Thirty-three local fire departments and 522 firefighters, many of them volunteers on small-town crews, battled the flames and faced the grim task of retrieving the victims. It took five days for the smoldering ruins to be fully extinguished, weeks for investigators to finish their work, months before Beverly Hills wasn’t the centerpiece of every single local newscast, and years before the subsequent litigation had run its course. Before the advent of 24-hour news coverage, before the internet, and before the idea that major disasters mean a boost in the ratings, the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire held a grip on Greater Cincinnati in a way that could be compared to only two other events: the 1937 flood and World War II. Everyone, it seemed, had a connection to that terrible night at the club, and the memories are still raw….
The impact of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire can be seen in nearly every public building today. Stricter safety codes have led to lighted exit signs, sprinkler systems, and audible fire alarms, and aluminum wiring is no longer manufactured. Kentucky policy makers beefed up the state’s inspection teams, wrote new, more stringent building and fire codes, and created the Office of Housing, Buildings, and Construction. For those who lived through the fire, the physical and psychological scars were devastating; survivors, medical personnel, firefighters, even journalists struggled to get on with their lives. The land the club stood on is now owned by a local nonprofit nursing home. The parking lot is cracked and crumbling, and a patch of scrubby hardwoods have overgrown the foundation….[I]t’s hard to tell a nightclub was ever there.
→ G is for Gentrification
From “3CDC in Over-the-Rhine: Between Two Worlds,” by RJ Smith, October 2015
Lauded urban studies guru Richard Florida looked at [a recent study on defining gentrification] and said, “It’s clear that ‘gentrification’ is still a vague, imprecise, and politically loaded term….”
But just because gentrification may be vague, imprecise, and politically loaded doesn’t mean it’s fiction. In OTR, a young moneyed class, overwhelmingly white, is moving in, and will soon be crossing Liberty. The character of the neighborhood is changing day by day. Several questions follow: Are people being displaced? 3CDC sometimes says through spokespeople that it isn’t responsible for gentrification because nobody gets moved out. But various press accounts have documented cases of tenant removal. Don’t neighborhoods change all the time? And is change bad? OTR has seemed like a place in need of change—about two-thirds of all families in OTR live below the Federal Poverty Level. North of Liberty, according to 2010 Census data, median income is under $11,000. Overall, OTR’s 6,064 residents (72 percent of whom are African-American) can expect to live six years less than the average Cincinnatian. We got to this point because after the destruction of the West End, stranded African-Americans found cheap housing in a part of town that nobody wanted. OTR was such a dead zone that no one had even bothered to practice urban renewal on it.
→ H is for Harambe, Hippos
The hardest thing to explain to someone reading this magazine in 1967 would be the Harambe, umm, let’s call it phenomenon. When a toddler found his way into the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla enclosure in May 2016, the zoo made the difficult call to shoot the silverback gorilla dead. What would have been a sad but short-lived local news story in any previous decade/lifetime then raged through our modern social media cycles of anger, sadness, ironic memorials, and meme-tic fame.
It was so brutal that the zoo left Twitter for a time at the height of the abuse from Harambe “defenders” who dedicated obscene slogans to the gorilla. The zoo-baiting public didn’t care about the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, and none of the baby animals born in 2016—a condor, a giraffe, even a litter of cheetah cubs—hit any kind of reset button.
It took the premature birth of a hippo in January to finally put things right for the zoo. Fiona has obliterated the damage done by Harambe’s death, inspiring a fervent online fanbase and getting a book deal before she was even six months old (zoo director Thane Maynard will write a children’s book about her early days). There’s nothing ironic about this phenomenon, although there’s still the odd Twitter reply to the zoo about how Harambe would have done or loved whatever thing Fiona is doing.
Ironically, hippos kill far more people than gorillas in the wild, taking an estimated 500 human lives each year. So for the love of Harambe, let’s make sure that hippo habitat is impenetrable.
H is for Home State Savings Bank
The savings-and-loan meltdown of the mid-1980s was a national catastrophe, and it all started with Home State Savings Bank right here in town. Home State made the same fatal mistake a lot of S&Ls were making in the go-go ’80s—investing depositors’ savings in poorly-performing stocks, junk bonds, bad mortgages, and risky investments. When investigators discovered Home State had lost $140 million in a fraudulent securities firm, the ensuing rush by depositors forced Ohio Governor Richard Celeste to declare a bank holiday. The collapse triggered the bankruptcy of more than 1,000 thrifts nationwide, including perhaps the most notorious: Lincoln Savings & Loan, run by former Cincinnati attorney Charles Keating. Eventually, Home State depositors were bailed out by Ohio taxpayers; the bank’s owner, Marvin Warner, went to prison on nine counts of fraud-related charges.
Cincinnati is a highway town. This post-war identity shift followed the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 and the construction of I-75 just a year later. Built along the original Mill Creek Expressway, I-75 became the economic backbone of the region. “Seventy-four percent of all jobs are within five miles of Interstate 75,” says Robert Koehler, deputy executive director for Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The legacy extends beyond the economy, too. Interstate 75 plowed through the West End, an established African-American neighborhood, scattering that community throughout the city and encouraging an informal segregation that still impacts our residential patterns. Many West Enders moved to Evanston, and were similarly displaced in the early 1960s with the construction of I-71, which connected the city with northern suburbs and made bedroom communities like Kenwood possible. Interstates 74, 471, and 275—all of which came later in the 1970s and ’80s—spread to rural counties in Indiana, Northern Kentucky, and Ohio, connecting workforce communities to the urban core as the car became king. It all contributed to our current predicament of mass public transit that feels increasingly out of reach. “The heavy lift for transit is going to be providing that first and last mile,” Koehler says. That is, making transit workable for people who don’t want to—or can’t—rely on a car.
→ J is for Junior
It’s easy to forget how bad things went for Ken Griffey Jr. and the Reds, but here’s a good way to jog your memory: Griffey was the anti-LeBron. Yes, much like that other Ohio superstar, Griffey came home with dreams of a championship—“I’m so happy to be here,” he said at his press conference in 2000—and Cincinnati was ecstatic to have him. But in nine seasons, Griffey’s biggest contribution was a slew of freak injuries on a bad, poorly run team. The city didn’t give much back, either, with fans focusing their anger on the Kid. The Reds-Griffey saga survives as a case study in why you can’t always go home. When he rightfully entered the Hall of Fame in 2016, Griffey chose to do so as a Seattle Mariner. Even in Cincinnati, who could blame him?
→ K is for Kings Island
The world sat up and noticed Kings Island when The Brady Bunch rolled into town for a zany 1973 episode. Cincinnati’s then-year-old amusement park and its little Eiffel Tower helped kick off a couple boom decades for theme parks around the Midwest. A partnership with animation studio Hanna-Barbera added themes to the mix, which evolved through the early 1990s and 2000s with a Paramount Studios takeover, as rides swapped logos and movie titles from Top Gun to Nickelodeon Universe. But old favorites like The Racer, The Beast, and even the swinging Viking boat remain. And of course, plenty of that blue soft serve.
→ L is for Leis v. Flynt
Is Hustler obscene? Si Leis—and a “Censor-nati” court—sure thought so, but Larry Flynt’s conviction was overturned on appeal, recasting the pornographer as a First Amendment hero.
L is for Lindner family
And to think it all started with a family dairy and little ice cream shop in Norwood.
Carl H. Lindner Jr. (1919–2011) and his brood have stamped their family crest on a seemingly endless number of Cincinnati businesses and organizations: United Dairy Farmers, American Financial Group, Thriftway, Provident Bank, Great American Insurance, Chiquita, Taft Broadcasting, Kings Island, Cincinnati Reds, FC Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Cincinnati Zoo, City Gospel Mission. And that’s an incomplete list.
The Lindner boys—Carl Jr. (a high school dropout) and his brothers Robert and the late Richard—quietly yet steadily grew their chain of UDF stores into the 1960s, after which they split up. Robert took UDF. Richard took Thriftway. Carl Jr. went into banking and insurance. Conservative and quiet, Carl Jr. was a shrewd junk bond investor and takeover artist who became a billionaire. He once famously told Forbes, “My main hobby is working. I love what I do.”
Lindner’s signature white hair, bright ties, and Rolls Royce Phantom created an unforgettable image of wealth and power in town. His name is plastered for posterity on the West End’s Lindner Family YMCA, Christ Hospital’s Lindner Research Center, Mason’s Lindner Center for HOPE and Lindner Family Tennis Center, UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business (on the same campus where the professional soccer team owned by one of his three sons, Carl H. Lindner III, draws throngs), and on Carl Lindner Way downtown.
But even more telling of his legacy is the fact that one could throw a rock from practically anywhere in the city and crack the window of a business or organization that traces back to the Lindner family tree. That, and the ability to buy gas and ice cream in one convenient stop.
→ M is for Magnet Schools
In the early 1970s, court battles still raged over the desegregation of large urban school districts. Cincinnati faced one lawsuit in the early 1960s when a judge and an appeals court ruled that the racial segregation in Cincinnati Public Schools was unintentional. In 1974, another suit was filed. But even before that, a brash, liberal superintendent from Texas arrived to reshape the city’s schools in 1972. Donald Waldrip had the idea that a series of alternative schools—targeted educational programs, like the School for Creative and Performing Arts, language immersion classrooms, and the truly alternative high-school-without-walls City-Wide Learning Community—would attract white students back into the district like a magnet, eliminating the need for forced bussing. These schools were some of the first of their kind in the country, and they worked, at least for a time; the SCPA and its admission-by-audition policy was the earliest and highest-profile example. Magnet schools caught the imagination of Cincinnati’s parents, leading over the years to enrollment stampedes and prolonged admission campouts. (The introduction of a lottery system in 2015 made those campouts obsolete.) But the long-term impact of these programs on desegregation remains unclear. In 1986, the Supreme Court allowed districts to end their desegregation plans, and studies conducted in the 1990s came to opposite conclusions on whether magnet schools were effective in reducing segregation. Today though, when “school choice” is the buzzword, public magnet schools and their focused programs are still part of the conversation.
M is for Maisonette
When American fine dining was hitting its stride in the 1960s and ’70s, Cincinnati could claim three of the eight highest-rated Mobil five-star restaurants in the country: Pigall’s, Gourmet Room, and Maisonette. While the first two eventually shed a star, Maisonette’s rise was galactic. Beginning in 1964, Cincinnati’s classic French restaurant was awarded 41 consecutive five-star ratings from Mobil Travel Guide, the longest run ever in the guide’s history. The jacket-and-tie dress code struggled to meet the emerging culture of informality, and eventually succumbed to it, closing its doors in 2005.
M is for Mapplethorpe
From “Past Perfect,” by Linda Vaccariello, April 2000
On April 7, 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center and its director, Dennis Barrie, were indicted on obscenity charges. At issue were seven photographs from the touring exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment. Six months later, in Hamilton County Municipal Court, Barrie and the CAC were acquitted of all charges, but not before the controversy put the city in the spotlight in a debate over censorship and the arts.
Perhaps the curator who titled the exhibition was prescient. In retrospect it sure seems like the time was ripe for the showdown that unfolded here.
The Mapplethorpe exhibition went on tour in 1989, in a faltering economy, when Capitol Hill budget-trimmers were taking a hard look at programs such as the National Endowment for the Arts. Word of the Washington-bound Mapplethorpe exhibit enraged conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, who was already doing battle over another NEA-funded artwork, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” Helms was pushing to limit NEA grants, and controversial works by Serrano and Mapplethorpe fueled his argument that tax dollars shouldn’t be funding art.
In June of 1989, Washington D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery cancelled its scheduled presentation of The Perfect Moment. The Washington Project for the Arts came to the rescue, hanging the show on its own walls. But the Corcoran’s decision to bow to pressure sent the art world into an uproar.
The exhibition became a new target of Rev. Donald Wildmon’s Mississippi-based American Family Association, which had made a name for itself in the 1980s by organizing national boycotts of companies that advertised on television shows the AFA found objectionable. At the same time, the Mapplethorpe exhibit also became the rallying cry for gay activities and AIDS activists, who saw the furor around the artist’s work as blatant homophobia.
And so Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment arrived in Cincinnati with a load of baggage. And here history was made when the museum and its director were put on trial.
Barrie was ultimately acquitted of all charges of obscenity. He left Cincinnati in 1993 and headed north to serve as director of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum before taking on projects such as the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
→ N is for National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
In June 2002—just over a year after the riots in Over-the-Rhine—organizers of the planned National Underground Railroad Freedom Center broke ground at The Banks, the nearly empty riverfront district now filled with flowers, fountains, and boundless civic cheer. Two years later, as the nation looked on, the museum opened to wide acclaim, filling its halls with exhibits about humanity’s struggle toward freedom — sharply demonstrated by its leading exhibit: an actual historic slave pen salvaged from a Kentucky farm. Despite this strong start, NURFC has grappled with sustaining an audience and expanding programming while remaining true to its original vision. In 2012, the Cincinnati Museum Center took steps to bring NURFC under its long-established wing, securing the important new museum’s future prospects in the city.
→ O is for Ochocinco, Chad
Wander into any local sports bar or tailgate and fans can still tick off the highlights as if they happened yesterday. The gold teeth. The “can’t cover me” checklist hanging in his locker. Sending Pepto Bismol to an opposing team’s secondary. Putting the football with a pylon. Proposing to a cheerleader. The Riverdance. Yet often lost amid all the trash talking, touchdown celebrations, and sideline antics is the fact that the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson was largely responsible for making the Bengals relevant and cool again. He guaranteed a win against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in 2003, torched the Denver Broncos in the team’s return to Monday Night Football in 2004, and was the face of the electric playoff run in 2005. His star may have fizzled out near the end, but when it burned, it was bright as hell.
O is for Orchids
The dining room is an Art Deco extravaganza, and Todd Kelly’s cuisine earned three consecutive AAA Five-Diamond awards. Will the next chef to take the touque maintain those high standards?
→ P is for Pete Rose
From “What, Pete Worry?” by Kostya Kennedy, June 2016
Many years ago, during the prime of his extraordinary career, Pete Rose described to Playboy magazine the philosophy that allowed him to succeed on the baseball field, even when his life was beset by troubles off of it. “Nothing bothers me,” he said. “If I’m home in bed, I sleep. If I’m at the ballpark, I play baseball. If I’m on my way to the ballpark, I worry about how I’m going to drive. Just whatever is going on, that’s what I do. I don’t worry about a bunch of things.”
If there’s one attribute to understand about Rose’s personality, it’s this: He does not worry. It explains the remarkable concentration and consistency he maintained as a player—even as he changed positions on the diamond, or as his first marriage fell apart, or as gambling and other trouble crept closer to the center of his life. It’s the same trait that explains the mental blinders that ensured Rose’s fall from grace. If he had fretted even a little over the repercussions of his gambling and the stances he took, his post-playing days might have turned out quite differently.
But that’s not Pete. And as he said to me last year, “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether I’m going to be in the Hall of Fame or not.”
This attitude may suggest simplicity, but Rose is no simple study. He’s a man of contradictions, one given to making racially insensitive jokes, yet also known for forming fast friendships with African-American players, even during the roiling 1960s. He took amphetamines during his playing days, but has laid off alcohol and other recreational drugs all his life. And of course, the greatest contradiction of all: Rose played baseball with as much integrity as any player who ever lived, but committed the sport’s mortal sin—betting heavily on his own team.
P is for Philanthropy
A half-century of philanthropy entails millions of givers, but the names that will dominate when the history books are written will surely include these three couples: Louis and Louise Nippert; Ralph and Patricia Corbett; and Richard and Lois Rosenthal. The Nipperts’ quiet, extensive generosity included an endowment that guarantees the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be around for generations. The Corbetts’ support of Music Hall preservation in the 1970s ensured that the iconic building endured to see its current restoration and the rebirth of Over-the-Rhine. And the stunning Contemporary Arts Center that bears the Rosenthals’ name propelled the city into the 21st century with a bold new attitude.
→ Q is for queer city
Blame it on deeply held religious traditions or Cincinnati’s trouble keeping pace with the rest of the country (even if Mark Twain didn’t actually say it, somebody did), but the Queen City’s queer residents struggled for years.
Local LGBTQ pride got off to a rough start. In 1973, the recently established Cincinnati Gay Community (CGC) organized the city’s first-ever Pride Celebration, a small protest that went unrecognized by Mayor Theodore Berry. The first “Red Shirt Day” at Kings Island followed, but the CGC befell a contentious dissolution shortly thereafter.
There have been other setbacks as well, such as the obscenity trial over Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1989–1990 retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Center, fueled in large part by HIV/AIDS paranoia. The 1993 passage of Article XII—making it part of the City Charter to block any employment and housing protections for gay people—didn’t help inclusivity either.
But, finally, Cincinnati got gay friendly. Article XII was overturned in 2004, and in 2011 Chris Seelbach was the first openly gay councilmember elected (and he’s being challenged by the first openly gay politician endorsed by the local GOP this fall). The 2015 landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was the fight of a local real estate agent, Jim Obergefell, to be named on his husband, John Arthur’s, death certificate.
And the Pride Celebration, which received a proclamation in 1978, draws upwards of 100,000 people annually. The struggle isn’t over, to be sure. But Cincinnati seems to have closed that decades-behind culture gap to, at long last, lead the way toward equality.
→R is for Riots (1967, 1968, 2001)
When the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders looked to the roots of the riots that rocked many American cities in the summer of 1967, it found frustrations among African-Americans over unemployment, under-representation, and police harassment. All factors played a hand in rioting that spread from Avondale on June 12 when young people, angry over discriminatory hiring practices, joined a protest over the arrest of Peter Frakes for picketing in support of his cousin, the alleged “Cincinnati Strangler.” Violence ensued, and maximum sentences were meted out to the 14 arrested, further angering the community. According to the police chief, “all hell broke loose.” By the time National Guardsmen had quelled the violence on June 15, a white motorist and black bystander were dead, 404 people were arrested, and $2 million in damage was done.
In Avondale the following April, days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., violence exploded over a false rumor that a white cop had shot a black woman. A UC grad student was stabbed to death and hundreds were arrested. The immediate cost reached $3 million, but those two violent years also drove mom-and-pop businesses away, leaving Avondale economically gutted.
Come 2001, Over-the-Rhine had too much in common with 1960s Avondale. In the early morning hours of April 7, shortly after two black men died back-to-back at the hands of the police, Officer Stephen Roach shot Timothy Thomas as the unarmed 19-year-old fled arrest for nonviolent misdemeanors.
Thomas’s mother and 200 protestors demanded justice at City Hall, then inverted the flag at police headquarters, where they were met with beanbag bullets and tear gas. By the evening of April 10, fires were being set, windows broken, and businesses looted. A city-wide curfew ended three nights of rage that resulted in $3.6 million in damage, but those losses more than tripled when a boycott of downtown businesses was called after the Cincinnati Police Department fired rubber bullets on a peaceful march as it left Thomas’s funeral.
Thomas was one of 15 black men killed by Cincinnati Police between 1995 and 2001. Roach was tried on charges of negligent homicide, but ultimately was acquitted.
→ S is for Smale Commission
Before Brent Spence traffic jams, unending sewer overflows, and the crumbling Western Hills Viaduct, there was the Smale Commission. The blue-ribbon panel, supported by more than 200 volunteers and fronted by Procter & Gamble chairman John Smale, spent a year studying the city’s infrastructure challenges. The 100 resulting recommendations presented to City Council in December 1987 led to a concerted—if somewhat sporadic—commitment to repairing everything from sidewalks, bridges, and streets to parks, traffic signals, and sewers. The work wasn’t glamorous, but it was necessary; at the time, the city was showing every wrinkle (and pothole) of its 198 years. The commission argued that it was well past time to redirect and—crucially—augment funding of the basic amenities taxpayers demanded. It recommended spending $217.3 million over a five-year period toward delayed projects, plus $29.8 million annually on additional infrastructure programs. To help pay for it, voters approved raising the city’s earnings tax by 0.1 percent. The Smale Commission received national acclaim as an example in civic leadership, though it also fell behind schedule. Still, in just 10 years, the initiative resulted in repairs of more than 1,000 miles of city streets, upgrades to more than 20 bridges, construction of nearly 50 new retaining walls, installation of a computerized traffic signal system, renovations to the Fountain Square garage, and 250,000 square feet of new sidewalks.
Behold! Our endless civic drama. We only endured nine years of planning and petitioning, two ballot initiatives, one recalcitrant governor, one even more obstinate mayor, and infinite politicking for the streetcar to finally run its 3.6-mile track. Possible upsides (or, you know, not): Countless cover stories and clickbait-y web pieces (still!) have surely kept a few Enquirer staffers employed, and Nick Lachey’s recorded voice shall live on beyond old 98 Degrees CDs. But the chances of us writing about the recently concluded Battle of Getting the Train Uptown in our 60th anniversary issue? About as high as a Tea Party temper-flare when talk of that damn trolley comes up.
→ T is for Tax, Stadium
Living in Hamilton County means paying a lot of taxes. But our most famous fee is one of our smallest: the half-cent bump in the sales tax passed in 1996 that paved the way for two pricey stadiums and the riverfront development that followed.
It all started when Mike Brown threatened to move the Bengals to a new city. (At the time, this was the only way the team, which finished the decade 52–108, could appear in the same sentence as the word threat.) Brown, with the help of business pals, PR gurus, and pliable politicians, got voters to approve the tax hike. Then he turned the money into one of the most team-friendly stadium deals in sports. The Reds made out pretty well too, and both structures cost more and took longer than officials predicted.
Worst of all, the vision of a sports-revitalized riverfront was built on a lie. The best economists have shown again and again that taxpayer-funded stadiums don’t create growth so much as shuffle it—instead of a family going to Kings Island or the zoo, they go cheer on the Bengals. Which is great for Mike Brown, but a wash for the local economy.
All of this would have been good info to have in 1996. Here in 2017, there’s not much to do except enjoy the positives—like The Banks, with its restaurants and bars and jobs from GE. Still, a city can buy a lot of positives with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, and not all of them need to benefit wealthy sports owners.
→ U is for Union Terminal
This former train station spent decades in limbo before becoming Cincinnati Museum Center, a destination with a new lease on life thanks to a massive two-year reno.
→ V is for Voice Mail
From “The Enquirer’s Rise and Fall,” October 1998, by Linda Vaccariello and Skip Tate
As the [Enquirer’s] investigation [of Chiquita’s business practices] picked up steam in the fall [of 1997], [reporter Michael] Gallagher revealed in an editorial meeting that he had tapes of Chiquita voice-mail messages—tapes he said were provided by a source inside the company with authority over the voice-mail system. [Jan] Leach, then managing editor, does not recall that there was a flurry of surprise at this announcement. “It was like a normal investigation—someone gave him information.”
But the voice-mail messages proved to be a unique source of information, thanks to the parameters set up by Chiquita. Once questions were presented [by the Enquirer’s investigative team] to [Chiquita attorneys Thomas] Yannucci and [James] Basile, they were taken to Chiquita executives, who discussed their responses. And from time to time, in the course of preparing responses, they left detailed voice-mail messages for one another about the answers.
Some published accounts suggest that [Enquirer Editor Larry] Beaupre struggled with whether to use information from the tapes at all. The Wall Street Journal has reported that he had the name of Gallagher’s inside source—standard practice at the Enquirer for this sort of investigation. And reports are that Gallagher told Beaupre that he’d accessed Chiquita voice mail in order to verify information. According to the Journal, Beaupre reprimanded the reporter and told him not to do it again.
If he had misgivings, it’s clear that at some point Beaupre’s trust in Gallagher and in the value of the information carried more weight. By the time the story was published seven months later, the voice-mail messages were no longer just “information” but were highlighted in the editor’s note.
As it turned out, Gallagher was accessing the voice mail system at Chiquita illegally, earning the Enquirer a fine of $14 million and prompting an apology that ran on Page One for three days.
→ W is for The Who Concert
Dubbed a “Rock & Roll Tragedy” by Rolling Stone, The Who’s December 3, 1979, concert at Riverfront Coliseum saw 11 lives lost, ranging in age from 15 to 27, and more impacted by injury when a crowd of 7,000 crushed attendees as foot traffic bottlenecked.
A few factors were later blamed, including festival seating (14,770 general-admission tickets were sold), not enough ticket-takers, too-few unlocked doors at the venue, and a late sound check that prompted fans to push forward for first-come places close to the stage. In response to the disaster, Cincinnati banned festival seating until 2004.
Famous Ws such as KRC, KRQ, CPO, LWT, XIX, CIN, UBE, LW, EBN, IZF, and SAI gave us famous names like Braun, Burbank, Janson, Fingers, Shreve, Matlock, Scott, Cunningham, Gaines, Dixon, Phillips, Ghoul (bottom), and more. Some needed only first names to ring a bell: Norma (center), Jerry, Carol, Seg, Courtis, Robin, Nick, Oscar, Lincoln, Marty and Joe, Wildman, Clyde, Al (top), and of course, Al. (Sorry, Johnny Fever doesn’t count.) And let’s not forget those stars of commercials: the Kwik Brothers, Buddy, Debbie Merritt, Kash Amburgy, the Taste Buds, and countless Cincinnati automobile egos. Alakazam 3, and POOF!
→ X is for XVI, XXIII (Bengals Super Bowl Losses)
F#%& Joe Montana.
→ Y is for Yeatman’s Cove
Shortly after Yeatman’s Cove opened on the banks of the Ohio River in July 1976, it welcomed the new 500-passenger, seven-deck Mississippi Queen, the first U.S.-built overnight cruise paddlewheel steamboat in half a century. Described as “longer than a football field and swankier than a grand hotel” by The New York Times, the $23.5 million vessel was welcomed at Yeatman’s by “the sounds of Dixieland bands and barbershop quartets.” Named for 1790s Cincinnati tavern owner Griffin Yeatman, the cove was one of the city’s earliest efforts at modern riverfront development. (Who among us hasn’t strained our neck taking in WEBN’s annual fireworks show from the Serpentine Wall?) Yeatman’s helped pave the way for the adjoining Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point and various continuing phases of The Banks, including Smale Riverfront Park and our pair of taxpayer-funded stadiums. The Dixieland bands and riverboats are gone (RIP, Tall Stacks), but there are sand volleyball courts, a sprayground, and a full schedule of music/beer/pizza/taco festivals.
→ Z is for Zaha
In this excerpt from an April 2016 Arts + Minds blog post, art critic Charles Desmarais remembers the untameable brilliance of his colleague and friend, Zaha Hadid, the late Iraqi-British architect who designed downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center:
Zaha Hadid [was an] extraordinary woman who seemed in her too-short career to take command of the all-male architecture preserve. Almost all of my memories from the times we spent together relate to her power—untameable, seemingly unlimited. The Contemporary Arts Center on which we partnered was her first American commission. She became a celebrity who fascinated people around the world, the most internationally recognized (and criticized) woman in art and architecture in her lifetime.