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Cover Story: More Cool People

Get to know these people this fall, and you'll be cool too

By Staff · September 19th, 2007 · Cover Story
  Mandy Smith
Mandy Smith

Mandy Smith

Kevin Brunck
Kevin Brunck is in charge of the creepy clowns, satanic swashbucklers and disturbingly sexy vampires that populate Kings Island�s Halloween Haunt, which opens Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 31. Formerly called FearFest, the Haunt is more than just a name change. "It's a much more intense overall experience," Brunck says, "with more haunted mazes and fearzones than ever before."

Not to mention twice as many (400 this year) costumed "scare-actors" prowling the park after dark. In fact, evening hours might not be appropriate for kids younger than 14 unless they have an unusually high tolerance for graphic horror.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Brunck: "I get to create fun, family entertainment during the summer. And in the fall I get to get down-and-dirty putting together Halloween Haunt."

Q: What do you look for when casting monsters?

Brunck: "We don't have people stand in a corner and try to scare us; it's more interview than audition. But we assign roles right there. For instance, we'll look for over-the-top guys who can pull off playing demented cowboys in our Tombstone Terror-tory area."

Q: What's the coolest new attraction at the Halloween Haunt?

Brunck: "Club Blood is a major new maze. The setup is that vampires have taken over a club with the intention of repopulating their species. That's all I'll say, but it's definitely the most provocative maze we've ever done. Dead Awakening at the Showplace (outdoor theater) is also brand new. Produced entirely in-house, it's a combination MTV video-style show and teen slasher movie with songs by Maroon 5, Linkin Park and Kelly Clarkson.�

Event Note: Halloween Haunt is open 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays Sept. 28-October 27 and 7 p.m.-midnight daily Oct. 28-31. (www2.cedarfair.com/KingsIsland)

-- Michael Schiaparelli

Ed Cohen
By day, Ed Cohen is an attorney. By night, he's a respected director of theater productions.

He first made his name with community theater companies, and he continues to work with them. His staging of the regional premiere of the musical Parade for Footlighters, co-directed with wife Dee Anne Bryll, won five Cincinnati Entertainment Awards last month.

In the coming season he's been invited to direct at two area universities: In the spring, he'll stage Hugh Whitemore's Breaking the Code for Northern Kentucky University and Craig Wright's Recent Tragic Events for UC's College-Conservatory of Music.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Cohen: "I have the coolest wife ever. Dee Anne told me to say that. But it's true anyway."

Q: What's cool about theater in Cincinnati?

Cohen: "I love how it's become more and more collaborative. Seeing directors from the Playhouse at Ensemble Theatre and seeing how supportive Ed Stern and Lynn Meyers are; seeing Michael Burnham and Richard Hess from CCM and Alan Patrick Kenney from New Stage Collective at Know; seeing Cincinnati Shakespeare Company involve great actors such as Bruce Cromer, Joneal Joplin and Amy Warner from outside their circle; seeing the growth of the Fringe Festival -- all these things have created an atmosphere where theater groups are getting stronger by feeding off each other and the great talent pool here instead of being limited by their resources. It's an exciting time to be working in theater in Cincinnati."

Q: What's cool about being part of Cincinnati's arts scene?

Cohen: "Over the years, people have focused more on the work than the labels. Good theater is showing up everywhere, even in the high schools and community theatres that have often been overlooked. What's most cool is that people -- both audiences and producing companies -- are less afraid to experience new things, whether it's seeing a show in Over-the-Rhine or Hartwell or producing plays like The Goat or Frozen or The Pillowman."

Event Note: Ed Cohen is directing Dearly Beloved for Mariemont Players Nov. 2-18.

-- Rick Pender

Jen Dalton
It's a good year to be Jen Dalton. She landed a job at Local12 (WKRC-TV) and the CinCW, essentially serving as special projects talent for the stations' many endeavors -- not the least of which is the brand-spanking-new Bearcat Nation weekly live show about UC football. She won acclaim at this year's Fringe Festival for her well-regarded and intimately personal play Mad, her playwriting debut. And she re-teamed with her on-air partner of many years at WB64, Bob Herzog, to host the annual Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Dalton: "I have a pretty good sense of humor, I guess. But the coolest part about me is the people I am blessed to have around me. I have the most amazing friends and colleagues a girl could ask for."

Q: You've done on-camera work around town for years. What's the coolest moment in broadcasting you've had?

Dalton: "One of the coolest moments of my life thus far was when I got to sit in the dugout at a Reds game. It was surreal: Players were warming up next to me, they kept showing me on the Jumbo-tron with this giant grin on my face and at one point a ball rolled off the field and Bob Boone, manager at the time, actually picked it up and handed it to me! I felt like the kid in that Mean Joe Green commercial."

Q: You've done plenty of theater around town, but you recently tried your hand at playwriting in this year's Fringe. What was the coolest part of that experience?

Dalton: "The entire Mad experience was cool for me. From the outstanding cast and directors who thoughtfully handled my family's story to the fact that my parents allowed me to publicly share it, the experience was incredible. Watching people portray my family and speak the words I wrote was moving beyond words. But I think knowing that it helped other families was the coolest part of it all."

Event Note: The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for music are Nov. 18 at the Taft Theatre.

-- Rodger Pille

Darrick Dansby
Darrick Dansby moved into his position as Director of Development for Over-the-Rhine at Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) in July 2006. During the past year, he's seen lots of activity in this burgeoning area, including the development of a new School for Creative and Performing Arts building and the possibility of Jean-Robert de Cavel opening a new restaurant near 12th and Vine.

Dansby says 3CDC is also working with the Cincinnati Park Board and community members to redesign Washington Park. Two public input sessions have been held with local residents to draw up a conceptual plan that both the community and the park board can agree on. The group plans to host another meeting (date to be determined) with a larger group of people to gather more feedback.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Dansby: "I can get along with and talk to almost anybody. I can talk to someone who works downtown and someone who's walking through Over-the-Rhine (OTR). I think I'm a cool person to talk to and hang out with. I have an open perspective, an open mind on many different topics and subjects."

Q: How are you working to develop OTR?

Dansby: "We're working on a plan to bring 100 new home ownership units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space to Over-the-Rhine. OTR has a 4 percent home ownership rate. In order for us to better stabilize the area, it's necessary to have more people invested in the community. We (3CDC) can help improve the area overall. As investors, we can get control of properties that have been problems for years. OTR and District 1 have seen the highest decrease in crime in Cincinnati. We feel the work we've been doing, and that of the police department and sheriff's office, has helped that."

Q: What are some of the challenges and benefits to being development director?

Dansby: "We have a lot of work to do. Everyone wants us to do everything everywhere. We can't support everyone to the level we want to. But we think the things we're doing are helping everyone, not just a specific street or association."

Event Note: To find the next community meeting on Washington Park and to learn more about other Over-the-Rhine projects, check www.3CDC.org.

-- Christine Mersch

Matt Distel
In the past five years, Matt Distel sure has grown up. He worked as a curatorial assistant under Thom Collins at the Contemporary Arts Center, leading the curatorial team there after Collins left. He moved to Peekskill, N.Y. and became a director of a museum there. Last year he returned to Cincinnati, with his wife Laura and new baby Desmond, to work with the CAC after Director Linda Shearer left.

Distel has now left the CAC for the second time and is preparing to open his own gallery in Over-the-Rhine, called Country Club, with associate and curator Christian Strike. The gallery's first exhibition, tentatively titled I Will Be Alright, will be "a reflection of the work we are going to show," Distel says.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Distel: "Nothing about me is except maybe my son (pictured). Which is not about me really at all."

Q: What will you do first when the weather cools down?

Distel: "How many more cool questions are there?"

Q: Who's the coolest person in the city besides you?

Distel: "See answer No. 1."

Event Note: Country Club, 424 Findlay St. in Over-the-Rhine (same building as Carl Solway Gallery), opens Oct. 26.

-- Laura James

Gabe Freeman
Gabe Freeman is one of the handful of people who started the MoBo Bicycle Co-op in Northside (1415 Knowlton Ave.). The place isn't a professional service center or a bike shop, but it is a community-oriented collective dedicated to promoting healthy transportation.

Basically, it's a space to take your busted, old bike where you can grab the parts, advice and grease you need to get back on the road. Gabe won't fix your bike for you, but he'll help you help yourself.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Freeman: "I can do pretty tough leg lifts, and I'm really good at pilates."

Q: What's so cool about bikes?

Freeman: "When you're on a bike, you become part of your environment. Like if you see someone, you can stop and say, 'Hello.' You can stop and talk to your friends. When you're in a car driving around, it's like you're trapped, watching stuff through a screen. Bikes are also cool because if you fall off you get really tough scars. Girls like that."

Q: What's the coolest thing about your co-op?

Freeman: "Probably our kids day program. It's original. We hold an open shop just for kids. Also, we're connected to the Village Green Garden Center. That's cool because you can munch on an organic tomato while lubing your chain."

Event Note: Public workshops are held at 5-8 p.m. Mondays (kids under 17 only), 6-9 p.m. Wednesdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Go to www.mobobicyclecoop.org for ride and event information.

-- Maija Zummo

Nathan Gabriel
Nathan Gabriel is a Cincinnati native who studied acting at Millikin University in Illinois and earned his theater degree from Northern Kentucky University. After graduation, he worked at the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, D.C., and with the Northern Lights Playhouse in Wisconsin.

He's been involved with many theater companies around Cincinnati, including work with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. In 2006 he became associate artistic director of New Edgecliff Theatre, where he shepherded a new program: a competition in which young directors staged brief works and were evaluated by local theater professionals. There was a surprising outpouring of talent, and performances were attended by substantial audiences.

The showcase was a cool representation of the depth of directing talent in Greater Cincinnati. Several directors found new opportunities as a result of the project.

Q: What is cool about you?

Gabriel:My accomplishments make me cool, especially the first-ever Cincinnati Directors Competition. Oh, yeah, I have a kick-ass marriage to a smart and beautiful woman.

Q:What's the coolest thing about theater in Cincinnati?

Gabriel:The support it receives from the community. New Edgecliff's directors competition was a huge success, which means people in this city not only care about seeing theatre but also are interested in its creation.

Q:Why is it cool to be part of the arts scene in Cincinnati?

Gabriel:Cincinnati has world-class arts institutions, like the Contemporary Arts Center, the Playhouse in the Park and art galleries like Publico. I am honored to be part of it.

Event Note: New Edgecliff opens its 2007-08 season with Neil LaBute's Fat Pig Oct. 4-20 at Columbia Performance Center in Columbia-Tusculum. See more here.

-- Rick Pender

Damon Gray
Damon Gray chuckles when he's described as an artisan and a craftsman, but that's exactly what he is. Making and repairing stringed instruments in a workshop behind his house in Liberty Hill, he also finds time to play in two local bands: Straw Boss and The Sidecars.

Gray's instrument-making skills won him a Certificate of Merit for Tone Award in Portland, Ore. in 2004. (See more about his instrument business at www.damongrayviolins.com.)

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Gray: "I'm a musician here in Cincinnati. I play cello and steel guitar. I'm also a full-time violin maker. I make violins, violas and cellos and repair stringed (instruments) for professionals and students in the area."

Q: What other cool things do you do?

Gray: "I play steel guitar for a group called The Sidecars, who do Western Swing, and a group called Straw Boss, who are Rockabilly."

Q: What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?

Gray: "I've spent some time with both of the them, but mostly it's just the music you play on them."

-- P.F. Wilson

Mark Harris
Mark Harris selected his current position as director of the School of Art at the University of Cincinnati four years ago over two other job offers. And that's just one reason why we find him so cool.

Harris' resume includes two Master's degrees in Art and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Goldsmiths College. His artwork has been shown in international exhibitions, and he's critiqued others in Art in America and Art Monthly magazines.

This fall Harris will be busy teaching classes at UC and working to boost the profile of the university galleries. He's helping finish UC's Curatorial Practice Graduate Certificate and is curating Once Upon the Time in the Midwest, an exhibition featuring people involved in the local contemporary art scene.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Harris: "Without a doubt my cool son Luke, 7 years old now and enthusiastic for just about everything, but especially FIFA World Cup soccer, including the Women's World Cup, starting right now in China."

Q: Why did you choose UC's College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning?

Harris: "The job afforded the most interesting opportunities for developing the curriculum in different directions.

The close ties between Fine Art, the university galleries, with Art History and Art Education, as well as all the other programs in DAAP, made it a clear winner. As director, I have a chance to work with some great faculty. I also have the responsibility to improve links with the local Cincinnati community. I particularly enjoy figuring out ways to involve leading contemporary art specialists in the work of the School of Art. For example, next quarter the three Cincinnati collectors -- Sara Vance, Andy Stillpass and Michael Lowe -- have kindly agreed to work with my graduate students in a kind of reality show. It will be the job of the students to work out how to sell a work to one of these three collectors, who will each purchase one piece. I hope it will be a real-world experience for the students and a great way for them to get involved in the local community."

Q: What's unique about the upcoming Once Upon the Time in the Midwest?

Harris: "It features 18 primary exhibitors, all of them either currently or recently key contributors to the vitality of Cincinnati's contemporary art scene. Without the contributions of these people, the city's art scene would be a wasteland. The aim of the show is to throw some light on the vitality and intelligence that has historically distinguished Cincinnati's contemporary art scene. I'm sure similar things go on in other Midwest cities, but as a relative newcomer I'm struck by how rich the scene has been here for some time now."

Event Note: Once Upon the Time in the Midwest will be exhibited in DAAP's Reed Gallery Sept. 27-Oct. 19. Find more at www.daap.uc.edu/gallery.

-- Christine Mersch

Bob Herzog
Full disclosure: One of my guilty pleasures is a segment on Local12's (WKRC-TV) Web site called Comprende, essentially an informal Spanish lesson with topical words of the day. It's all about the goofy charm and chemistry of hosts Sasha Rionda, anchor of the station's Nuestro Rincón, and Bob Herzog, morning show reporter.

In fact, on closer inspection, it is Herzog's "hip to be square" everyman charisma that buoys the piece and makes it accessible. He's been co-host of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards (both music and theater), where he puts that oddball charm to good use.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Herzog: "The coolest thing about me actually has very little to do with me. Just look at the folks I work with every morning: Anna Townsend, Steve Horstmeyer and is there anyone cooler on local TV than John Lomax? All those guys along with rest of my family and friends swaddle me in a warm cocoon of coolness that I could never produce on my own."

Q: What's harder: passing the bar exam or working the traffic simulation computer on TV?

Herzog: "That's a tough one. When I took the Ohio Bar there was a guy that actually passed out when the examiner said, 'You may now open your test booklets.' The traffic computer isn't the same kind of difficult. It's just ... busy. Information is constantly coming in from several sources and you're always trying to assimilate the latest info into your map for a report that's coming up in 45 seconds! Go! Go! Go!"

Q: What's the coolest Huey Lewis album and why?

Herzog: "How does one choose the finest Van Gogh? Picture This put them on the map. Sports made them stars. You know what, though, I'm going off the board with Plan B. It's their latest original studio release. It has a much more R&B feel and yet serves as a reminder that the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating. Do you still think I'm cool?"

Event Note: The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for music are Nov. 18 at the Taft Theatre.

-- Rodger Pille

Rod Huber
Each game day, fans crowd the parking lot outside of Schueler Field at the College of Mount St. Joseph grilling burgers, tossing bean bags and fraternizing in their blue and gold gear. Since Rod Huber took over the struggling MSJ football program in 2000, the small Division III college in Delhi has become the dominant football school in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Huber's team went 0-10 during his second year, but three years later the freshman on that team completed a perfect 10-0 senior season, sparking a run of three straight HCAC titles and a 28-2 regular season record. During Huber's tenure, the Mount has built a multi-million dollar athletic facility, which has contributed to a legitimate college-football atmosphere at a ridiculously affordable price.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Huber: "The passion I have for my program and my players. I think it's obvious that I love 'em. I've got the greatest job in the world."

Q: What's the coolest thing about having the best facility in the conference?

Huber: "Here's what I like: When the other team shows up, the intimidation factor sets in immediately. When they drive their bus through our tailgate area, I�ve had coaches tell me, 'It's overwhelming when we drive trough your parking lot and have all those people pointing at us.' It's an intimidation factor. They have a cornhole tournament out there and sometimes they have to relocated it so the buses can come in. That doesn't make them happy. It�s a good atmosphere."

Q: Who is the coolest player on this year's team?

Huber: "(Laughing) Mike Jones out of Columbus, Ohio. He wears those Chad Johnson teeth. He's got those gold teeth he plugs in on game day. I don't know how it works. He cracks me up. He's the real deal. He talks the talk, but he walks the walk."

Event Note: Remaining Mount St. Joseph home football games include Hanover Oct. 6, Franklin Oct. 13, Defiance Oct. 27 and the �Bridge Bowl� against Thomas More Nov. 10.

-- Danny Cross

Nathan Ive
Time was, the term "sucka MC" was reserved for wannabes and "beat-biters," but Nathan Ive reincarnated it into an epithet that he slings at corrupt politicians and "Gilligans" with too much power. "Nothing is funnier than the truth," Ive says.

Named Best New Voice in Radio in CityBeat's 2005 Best of Cincinnati issue, Nathan hosts engaging, no-nonsense broadcasts on WBDZ (1230 AM) and WIZF (100.9 FM) where Hip Hop, popular culture and politics converge and listeners react.

Q: What's the coolest thing about the show?

Ive: "Everything. The energy, the flow, but most importantly the callers. For two hours every week, I talk with some of the most intelligent and articulate people in Cincinnati. I talk with the kind of people who are still pissed about Katrina. I talk with the kind of people who look at the world and wonder what the fuck is going on. I talk with the kind of people who are not afraid to talk truth."

Q: How do you keep your cool when callers get heated at you?

Ive: "I don't really. I lose it all the time. I'm trying to get better at that. It's just being confident in your opinion, and I'm very confident with my flow. I don't have to be right, but I'm willing to be wrong and stand by it. I'm not afraid to say, 'Look, you know, I'm wrong. You got me on that one,' and move on. To me, that makes great radio."

Q: Recently, what were some hot-button topics you addressed?

Ive: "Well, Michael Vick, of course, because that was ridiculous. I think for the summer my big topics were Barry Bonds, making sure he got his proper due respect and props and putting that whole steroids issue in its proper context. George W. Bush, that's been my big topic since 2000 and will continue to be a big topic, actually. In general, the show is politics. I call it Pop Culture and Unpopular Politics."

-- Mildred Fallen

Jefferson James
It's no secret that Contemporary Dance Theater's Jefferson James is busy in her dual roles as CDT's executive and artistic directors -- and CDT turns 30 years old this year to boot. Currently the longtime dance advocate is running the publicity committee for the upcoming Suzanne Farrell Tribute reception Oct. 28. A who's who of local dance organizations have come together to plan an event for Cincinnatians to honor Farrell, a ballet legend and Queen City native.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

James: "I have no idea. I think it's the people that I associate with -- the people and the animals."

Q: What's cool about dance as an art form?

James: "It's a nonverbal means of communication that is open to everyone and available to everyone, and it's healthy. It's beautiful. It feels good. It's exciting, it's sensual, it's romantic, it's extremely physical. It deals with emotions and colors and design, but it also deals with issues."

Q: What's cool about the local Suzanne Farrell connection and tribute?

James: "Well, once again this relatively small city of Cincinnati has people with renown who have done major things and they came from here, and this is an opportunity for Cincinnati to take pride in that association and to honor one of its own. Suzanne has been an amazing force in the dance world. Besides her own dancing and then her teaching, she has a company and continues to make dance visible and accessible."

Event Note: The Suzanne Farrell Tribute takes place Oct. 28 in Music Hall's Corbett Tower.

-- Julie Mullins

John Johnson

The process of getting a Hollywood film made all begins with the written word. And yet, in this age of celebrity actors and even star directors, the screenwriters just never seem to get the credit they deserve for creating the stories in the first place. Someone right here in Cincinnati is doing what he can to change Hollywood and to harvest the next great story told by Hollywood.

Meet John Johnson, executive director of the American Screenwriters Association. (Find out more at www.asascreenwriters.com.)

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Johnson: "The coolest thing about the American Screenwriters Association is that we started 10 years ago with four people in the backroom of Kaldi's Coffeehouse, with an idea to help emerging screenwriters learn the art and craft of screenwriting. We now have 40,000 members worldwide in 41 countries, give out several major entertainment industry awards each year, host an annual screenwriting conference in collaboration with the San Diego Film Festival and are launching a $20 million endowment campaign as we speak."

Q: What's the coolest script/writer you've had come through your association that went on to big things?

Johnson: "Todd Riddle won our very first screenplay competition 10 years ago, and his script was just bought and is now in production as a major feature film. We also have a member, Brandon Miree, who is a Cincinnati native and an NFL running back and filmmaker. This past year, an ASA member won the NFL's competition to design a commercial for the Super Bowl. And we just learned that member Gary Alison sold his script to Orlando Productions to begin filming next year."

Q: The 20th annual screenwriters conference held in San Diego (but organized from Cincinnati) will be held later this month. What's the coolest part of that experience?

Johnson: "The coolest part of working on the conference -- which is the longest running event of its kind in the world -- is that we offer unprecedented screenwriting workshops and exclusive access to Hollywood power-brokers within a film festival setting. It's a thrill to watch attendees from around the world enjoy the conference as a place where they can meet and talk personally with agents, producers, industry reps and top Hollywood faculty."

-- Rodger Pille

Dan Korman
In June, Dan Korman opened Park + Vine, a store selling environmentally sustainable products in Over-the-Rhine just north of Central Parkway. Since then, it's become a neighborhood anchor as other independently-owned shops have opened along Vine Street. It's also become an information center for people interested in the latest "green" news.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Korman: "You'd have to ask the people who know me. What I can say is that I'm deeply loyal to causes and people. I moved back to Cincinnati from Chicago after 11 years there and in New York City because I believe in this city and wanted to make a difference. We're attracting people who might not otherwise come to Over-the-Rhine or even downtown to shop. We could easily be just another store that wants to benefit from the heightened awareness of buying green products that were previously not available in Cincinnati, but we're so much more than that."

Q: What's the coolest thing about Over-the-Rhine?

Korman: "Over-the-Rhine has a strong sense of community and the best of what the city has to offer, despite what the media and people unfamiliar with the neighborhood might say. Unfortunately, it remains largely misunderstood and neglected. It's the ideal city neighborhood that should be the envy of other cities. It has affordable houses and apartments, owner-operated stores, Findlay Market, Music Hall, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, independent theaters, social service agencies, churches, parks, art galleries, schools and sidewalks and alleys that tie it all together."

Q: What's the coolest thing about your customers?

Korman: "Running a small retail business is a tough proposition. Fortunately, we have great neighbors and customers. Many of our customers volunteer to pass out information about the store, talk us up to people they know and even help keep our Web site current and our sidewalks free of cigarette butts. They come from all over to support us. Rather than heading to a chain store or buying something online, many of them are deliberately changing their shopping habits and supporting what we're doing here."

Event Note: Park + Vine is located at 1109 Vine St. and is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday (and later on Final Fridays). Find out more at www.parkandvine.com or www.myspace.com/parkandvine.

-- Steven Rosen

Gregg Martini
Ad copywriter/writer/actor/musician Gregg Martini is a former member of the wonderfully fun band Birdhouse as well as The Rusty Griswolds. He has appeared in the locally filmed Three Barbecues and just completed another film, Joy.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Martini: "From what I've heard -- not that I hear much in this regard -- I'm cool because I don't let age get in the way of things I want to do, like dating high school girls. However, when addressed specifically about this, my smartass 8-year old son Leopold thinks 'my poop' is cool. Uh, thanks. Louis, age 5, thinks my shirts and shoes are cool 'and that's all.' OK."

Q: What's something cool you haven't done yet but plan to do someday?

Martini: "Produce a kids show. That's actually in the works in the pre-production/pitch phase."

Q: Who's cooler, musicians or actors?

Martini: "Musicians are inherently cooler, though some of them are mostly annoying in their coolness. I think that one needs a sense of humor to be cool. For this reason Rush, Jill Sobule and NRBQ are cool; U2, not so cool. Actors are better at being cool in the sense of having to be cool in front of the camera. But that's mostly a skill, not a characteristic. I just said so much as to be uncool."

Event Note: Three Barbecues is on DVD at Shake It Records.

-- P.F. Wilson

Ben Mauk
Ben Mauk was probably pretty cool back in 2002 when he led Kenton High School to its second straight Ohio state championship and set national passing records. After waiting three years for his turn to lead the Wake Forest offense, Mauk injured his shoulder during the Demon Deacons' second game last season.

Having transferred to UC for his final season of eligibility, Mauk is part of a Bearcat football team that looked pretty cool whipping Oregon State 34-3 early this month on ESPN. Mauk won the UC starting QB job this year, the Bearcats are 3-0 and UC is receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since 1993.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Mauk: "My teammates. The relationships I develop with them. Most of the team is actually from Cincinnati, so everybody is close to home and we feel like we're playing not only for the state of Ohio but for the city of Cincinnati. It's very similar to high school football where you feel like you're playing for your hometown."

Q: Wake Forest came out of nowhere to win the ACC championship last year and play in the Orange Bowl. Could UC be this year's Wake Forest?

Mauk: "I think UC could be even better than what Wake Forest was last year. We've gotten off to a good start. If we continue to play well and play together, we can beat everyone on our schedule. I think we can be in that BCS National Championship game. That's why I came here."

Q: You and UC's new head coach, Brian Kelly, came to a UC program that already had a high level of talent and success last year. Has that eased the transition?

Mauk: "Most of the guys on the team know how to win and know what it takes to win. That makes it a lot easier on Coach Kelly and myself. You just kind of get on board and build off the success from last year."

Event Note: The Bearcats' remaining home football games are Marshall on Saturday, Louisville Oct. 13, Connecticut Nov. 10 and West Virginia Nov. 17.

-- Danny Cross

Dan McCabe
Unless he didn't give your band a show at Sudsy's in the 1990s or was short with you on the phone when you asked if you could open for The Strokes at the Southgate House or you're a dim promoter trying to rip him off, you probably already know Dan McCabe is a cool guy. Booking shows that perhaps otherwise would have bypassed Greater Cincinnati, he's been a cornerstone of the local music scene since his days making Sudsy Malone's the premiere Alt/Underground/Indie club in the region, bringing to town future superstars before they hit (Beck, Jeff Buckley) and playing regular host to innumerable Alt/Indie sensations (The Jesus Lizards, Afghan Whigs).

Besides being a musician, McCabe continues to book shows at the Southgate House (through his Thigmotrope company) and handles the details of the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremonies every year.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

McCabe: "This is the easiest question ever. I've been blessed by an amazingly cool son and wife. Ask anybody who's been around us and they'll confirm: Dominic and Krissy are the coolest thing about me.

Q: What does local music in Cincinnati need to be even cooler?

McCabe: "I enjoy the small neighborhood bars that have become the Petri dish for local music. They're easily filled and pretense is effectively squashed. But I'd like to see more actual stages -- a great concept that raises the performer over the heads of the crowd. Usually accompanied with a solid monitor system."

Q: What's your coolest concert memory?

McCabe: "Morphine at Sudsy's somewhere around '93. It snowed hard and people had to walk in because the streets around Short Vine were closed. The 250 or so attendees were true adventurers. Mark Sandman told fantastic stories between songs while huge flakes came down behind the band (the stage was in the window front). There was this feeling that we'd never be able to leave. We were all trapped together with this new and exciting music."

Event Note: The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for music are Nov. 18 at the Taft Theatre downtown.

-- Mike Breen

Evans Mirageas
Cincinnati Opera Artistic Director Evans Mirageas has become a local celebrity of sorts -- and not just for his tony career credentials, to which he can add the record-breaking crowds for this summer's season finale, Aida. He's often recognized and regularly receives heartfelt feedback from locals.

Mirageas says his public persona isn't just about selling tickets, but as a part of this community it's about spreading the word about worthy stories such as the upcoming Rise for Freedom: The John Parker Story, a tale that's based on historic local events and real people who lived in our area.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Mirageas: "Maybe you have to define cool (laughing), because cool for someone who's 52 represents what they thought of as cool when they were in their twenties. I guess what's cool about me is that my life means I'm able to combine a deeply educated and fairly sophisticated sense of opera with a passion and a gift for being articulate that allows me to explain that information to anyone, whether they're the most sophisticated expert or a newcomer."

Q: What's cool about opera as an art form?

Mirageas: "When you look at the stories, they might be about ancient kings and damsels in distress and figures from moments in Greek mythology, but the stories are the stories that drive all of our lives. Strip away the trappings, take away the fancy costumes, remove the temples from the set, and it's about those human interactions which any of us can relate to."

Q: What's the coolest aspect of your job as artistic director?

Mirageas: "To borrow a phrase from an esteemed colleague of mine, it's to make new friends for opera in Cincinnati one person at a time. I go to Findlay Market and someone comes up to me and says, 'Love what you're doing' or 'Boy, did I not like that soprano.' I have become somewhat visible and recognizable in Cincinnati because of the exposure in the press. I love it that people feel comfortable to come up to me and give me their very strongly held opinion."

Event Note: Rise for Freedom: The John Parker Story, a world premiere opera, will be performed Oct. 13-14 and 20-21 at the Aronoff Center's Jarson-Kaplan Theater.

-- Julie Mullins

Angela Morrow
Angela Morrow started her greeting card and planner company, c4yourself, when she became frustrated at the lack of religious paper products available in stores. Now this industrious YP creates her own unique cards and calendars with striking photography and Bible verses that send the perfect message.

This fall, Morrow is busy filling orders for her 13-month desk calendars, which she says were the third-best-selling calendar in 174 stores last holiday season. She's also busy planning the c4yourself art gallery in Over-the-Rhine, which will display works by artists who share their faith in a modern style. Next year she'll re-launch her card line globally through the manufacturer Divinity Boutique.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Morrow: "I'll strike up a conversation with just about anyone. In line for the bus, walking down the street, you name it. I learn something new every time."

Q: What inspired you to start this type of greeting card line?

Morrow: "About four years ago I was looking for a day-planner that was inspirational but not too flowery or heavy. I couldn't find one. During this time, I also would make cards for my friends that were inspirational and contemporary. This sent me on a research spree. After several research trips to tradeshows, I realized there's a niche of people who like to share and express their faith but not in a heavy-handed traditional approach."

Q: You also do a lot of volunteer work; why is that important to you?

Morrow: "Giving back to community is very important because it enriches life in general. My main volunteer role right now is at Christ Hospital as a volunteer chaplain in the Medical Intensive Care Unit and the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Life would be boring if I didn't give back; I'd miss out on so much."

Event Note: c4yourself gallery opens Sept. 28 at 1339 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. Preview Morrow's card designs at www.c4yourself.biz or buy her products at the Christ Church Cathedral Shop downtown, Urban Eden in Over-the-Rhine and Originalities in Hyde Park, among other locations.

-- Christine Mersch

Sung J. Oh
After 13 years at the Riverside Korean restaurant in Covington, which he co-owned with his sister and brother-in-law, Sung J. Oh faced a new future when his sister decided it was time to retire and sell. Oh decided it was time move his authentic Korean cuisine into a new home with a modern twist, and so he and his partner Mary Anne Carr decided to open Sung's Korean Bistro downtown.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Oh: "A lot of friends helped me build this restaurant. Without those friends I couldn't even dream about this place right now. I love that about this restaurant: It's not just about me."

Q: What's the hottest thing on your menu as far as popularity goes?

Oh: "Bi bim pop, a rice dish that comes with different vegetables. It comes in a hot stone bowl and has all the vegetables and chicken or beef with an egg on top. It comes out hot so when you mix it up it sizzles."

Q: Why is Korean the coolest ethnic cuisine?

Oh: "I grew up with this food. To me it's the best. Everywhere I go I'm looking for a Korean restaurant. It's very healthy actually."

Event Note: Find Sung's Korean Bistro at 700 Elm St. soon.

-- Lora Arduser

Sean Rhiney
As if he weren't already busy enough, Sean Rhiney recently joined the board of directors for the Over-the-Rhine Foundation and was elected vice president. He lives near the neighborhood, and his work as co-founder of the MidPoint Music Festival has drawn lots of attention and live music fans to the area every September.

Rhiney is academic director at the University of Cincinnati's College of Law and, in his spare time, a musician.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Rhiney: "I think people like local musicians Napoleon Maddox, like Rob Fetters are cool -- it's just who they are. There's nothing about me that makes me cool. I can talk very excited, rapidly and sometimes obnoxiously about why urban preservation, urban revitalization and local Rock & Roll are so important and how they're all tied together."

Q: What's cool about what you do?

Rhiney: "I've fallen madly in love with the concept of preserving the city's architectural history. I moved to Prospect Hill two years ago and have been renovating/ rehabbing/ remodeling a 130-year-old house."

Q: What's on your horizon that's cool?

Rhiney: "I've got my hands in lots of things and that's how it's always been for me. There's a lot that interests me. I'm a musician and I'm really looking forward to getting back to that after MidPoint. That's the whole reason MidPoint is even around, because (co-founder Bill Donabedian and I) were in bands. The last thing in the world any of us wanted to be is a promoter."

Event Notes: The 2007 MidPoint Music Festival is Sept. 26-29 throughout downtown and Over-the-Rhine. Find more at www.mpmf.com. Find more about the Over-the-Rhine Foundation at www.otrfoundation.com.

-- Margo Pierce

Ryan Rybolt
Ryan Rybolt is a busy guy. He's founder and president of Infintech, a Cincinnati-based financial technology company, and a driving force behind the local WiFi initiative Project Lily Pad.

He's also heavily involved with Give Back Cincinnati, the volunteer organization that's touted as a YP organization but actually is open to anyone interested in giving back to Cincinnati. Find more at www.givebackcincinnati.org.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Rybolt: "My toes on a cold winter night. I was the trumpet section leader for the Harrison Marching Wildcats. There's much worse to know about me."

Q: What's cool about what you do?

Rybolt: "In the business I own, Infintech, everyone has the freedom to come and go as they please. I built a company on trust -- you come and go as you please and everybody gets their work done. We do what we want when we want and get things done. You don't have to micromanage people.

"What's cool about my nonprofit work is that we're making the city wireless. What other city can you do something like that -- make an impact? We've got a city that's ready for that and people who are willing to do it. Success is indicative of our ability to make it bigger and better year after year."

-- Margo Pierce

Joe Schuchter
If you were selling beer at the local pony keg, you'd card Joe Schuchter. He says he's 24, but he still looks like a modest, Midwest farm boy who grew up working the fields. Which he did -- right next to his grandfather, Ken, the founder of Valley Vineyards in Morrow.

"We're the second largest estate winery in Ohio, producing 400,000 bottles of 19 different kinds of wine, everything from Baco Noir (a French American hybrid) to Cabernet Sauvignon," Joe informs me, not bragging, just stating the facts. "And eight of our wines were just awarded OQW status."

Ohio Quality Wines (OQW) is a new designation from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. To earn it, wines must be made from at least 90 percent Ohio grapes and pass stringent sensory evaluations and chemical analyses.

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Schuchter: "About me, or about the winery?"

Q: About you.

Schuchter: "Gosh, I don't know. That I work at an Ohio winery, I guess. But the coolest thing about the winery is that it's really a family business in the sense that when you walk through the door it's really like you're coming into our home. Our customers and our employees will tell you the same thing. It really is a family."

Q: What's the coolest event you sponsor at the winery?

Schuchter: "Our Christmas event is really special. We call it 'Light Up Valley' because we light the Christmas Tree -- and we still call it a Christmas Tree -- out front and then we light up the winery. Some people have complained that we don't call it a 'holiday' tree, but that's not who we are. Still, good friends of ours are Jewish and they'll bring a menorah."

-- Michael Schiaparelli

Stacy Sims
Stacy Sims has a lot on her plate. She owns a thriving group of exercise clubs, Pendleton Pilates, but also works out her mind as well.

In addition to writing and staging her first play, As White as O, starting a new novel and the upcoming changes she sees for her pilates studios (www.pendletonpilates.com), Sims sounds positively giddy when relaying details about her next body-oriented class.

"In October I'm having a multi-generational event out at Hope Springs for the True Body Project," she says. "We're doing a weekend workshop for girls and women."

Q: What's the coolest thing about you?

Sims: "I am so fortunate that most of the things that come under the category of my work are all the things that I absolutely love to do."

Q: What's cool about what you do?

Sims: "I watch people move into a place that might be slightly out of their comfort zone but where they work. They show up over time to find the best part of themselves. To see people move through various stages of transformative experiences is awesome."

Q: What's on your horizon that's cool?

Sims: "Ten years ago I was not a writer, not a healthy person, completely moved away from any sense of my best self. I got into a recovery program from alcoholism and started pilates about the same week. The body movement, connecting with your physical body and finding your real, authentic self -- not your imagined self -- helped me re-find my artistic voice, my philanthropic self."

Event Note: To learn more about the October workshop or sign up, visit truebodyproject.org.

-- Margo Pierce

Mandy Smith



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