Though it hasn’t always been a loving relationship, Bogart’s has been a part of my musical life since the ’80s. I’m slightly older than the venue. I was 5 when it opened. But in less than 10 years, as my music fanaticism truly took hold, Bogart’s would become a place of awe to me.
It began when I entered junior high. I went to a school just a few blocks up Vine Street. It was commonly known as Schiel, but I attended during a brief period when it focused on foreign languages and was called the Cincinnati Bilingual Academy.
My fellow musically-obsessive friends at the time loved to hang out on Short Vine. The record stores were a big draw, as was the arcade, Jupiter and Beyond. So we spent as much time as we could in the area after school and on weekends. Bogart’s sat right in the middle of it all, but it was this magical, mysterious entity to us. Because the venue was yet to have “all ages” shows, we’d never seen a concert there. But we would stand out front and marvel at the posters in the window, wishing we could go see some of these very bands with which we were becoming deeply obsessed.
At some point, we discovered the alleyway that ran behind the club and realized that was where the artists entered and loaded in. So we began a ritual that lasted through high school. A few friends and I would linger around the backstage door before shows by artists we loved, hoping to see our heroes and maybe get an autograph. We would also sometimes be able to hear the musicians doing soundcheck, and every so often during our early high school years we’d be there late enough that we could actually hear some of the concert through those back doors.
There I got to meet some artists who were favorites of mine then and remain important to me to this day. Guitarist Andy Summers of The Police stopped at Bogart’s on a solo tour. The Police were by far my favorite band at the time, so it was incredibly exciting to say hello to Summers (who is a tiny, tiny man) and have him sign the pickguard I yanked off of my cheap acoustic guitar. I also got to meet the members of L.A. Punk legends X. Billy Zoom, the band’s blonde-pompadoured guitarist, was hilarious. He chatted with us briefly and then when we asked for autographs, he happily obliged, pulling a silver paint pen from his leather jacket. It must’ve been a new acquisition because he couldn’t get the cap off, so he handed it to me for help. Nervously, I got it off, but also broke the pen in the process somehow. Zoom started giving me shit and I was horribly embarrassed, but later realized he was likely just busting my chops and having fun with me.
When I was just starting junior high, British Ska/Pop band The English Beat played Bogart’s on its 1980 tour. The Beat were second only to The Police to me, but the show was during a time where we could only longingly look at the gig posters in the front windows. Later, while in high school, with our back door ritual in full swing, General Public — which featured the Beat’s frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger — were booked to play Bogart’s, so we made plans to try and meet Dave and Roger. We arrived a few hours before the show and noticed that a few upperclassmen from our high school were there hanging out as well. It was a cold day and Roger and Dave came hurriedly around the corner towards us, huddled up in coats and trying to stay warm. Dave saw the five or six of us hanging around and instantly invited us in out of the cold. This was my first time inside of Bogart’s and it felt like I’d just entered a sacred temple. I had to leave (Mom was waiting for me), but we got to make that climb up the stairs from the backstage, walk across the stage (where the band members were messing with equipment), then through the big hall and out the front doors. It was a highlight of my life up to that point.
I also camped out around back when Adrian Belew and The Bears (featuring local musicians Rob Fetters, Bob Nyswonger and Chris Arduser of The Raisins) were making their Bogart’s debut in 1985 (it was the start of the band’s very first U.S. tour). I was a huge fan of Belew’s solo albums and work with King Crimson and The Raisins were one of my favorite bands. The Raisins were the first “local band” I truly fell in love with and anytime the group played an outdoor, non-club, all-ages show (in a park usually), I was there.
Belew finally was making his way into the club as we approached, accompanied by a man we didn’t recognize. It was Arduser, who was actually the drummer during an earlier period of The Raisins, not during the time when I’d go to see them constantly. As Belew jotted down autographs for me and my friends, he introduced Chris with a silly joke I’ll probably never forget: “This is Chris Arduser, also known as Chris Our Drummer.”
Years later, when I started my writing career, several of these moments connected and came full circle. While living in New York City, I had the chance to interview X’s frontpeople Exene Cervenka and John Doe in their record label offices (I didn’t bring up the Zoom/exploding-pen incident). I did an extensive phone interview with Belew. And through writing about and interviewing Arduser and Fetters over the past 20 years, I think if they saw me on the street they’d recognize me and say, “Hello.” Just being able to talk to those guys (and Nyswonger), considering my fanaticism over their bands from a young age, was and is pretty amazing.
A few years ago, I got to sit backstage at Riverbend with Dave Wakeling when The English Beat opened for 311. He was the kindest “Rock Star” I’d ever met and he actually hung out with me and a few other people I was with before and after the show. (When he let us into Bogart’s, I was convinced it was because one of the older high school girls was very cute, but I’m now more convinced he was just being a cool guy.) At one point, I was standing next to Wakeling at the side of Riverbend’s stage watching 311 play. At one point, he leaned over and said in my ear, “I think me and Roger (who no longer performs with The Beat; Wakeling is the only original member) will get back together at some point.”
If my 13-year-old self would have been told that any of those moments would happen several decades later, he would’ve fainted.
At some point in the ’80s, Bogart’s began experimenting with having all-ages show. My very first show at the club was to see Violent Femmes (I believe in 1986), but, in the early stages of this experiment, Bogart’s herded us under-agers up into the balcony. I remember loving the show and being in the club, but I more vividly recall looking down on the club’s floor and noticing what a small audience there was. While the balcony had hundreds of kids smushed together and barely able to breathe, it seemed like there were only a couple hundred people below us. Still, I’d made it into Bogart’s! Not long after, I made it to the floor-level when the club was hosting high school cover bands for all-ages shows. The Complaints (who also did some originals I really liked) were the big band at my high school at the time and I remember the club being packed with teens for their show. (Fun fact: The Complaints’ drummer was Michael Meisel, who later became a big-time music manager for several popular artists, including Nirvana.)
The club kept expanding its all-ages policy over the next few years. Punk Rock matinee shows were very popular; I fondly remember seeing some of my favorite local Punk acts, like SS-20, The Edge and Human Zoo, thrashing around on the Bogart’s stage. It seems like a weird dream now, but there were also Punk shows that featured wrestling — an actual ring was installed in the middle of the floor and local Punk icon/radio host/Bogart’s employee Handsome Clem Carpenter not only MCed (I believe), but also wrestled.
Another early show I saw was True Believers, Alejandro Escovedo’s early punk-ish band. I remember this show because it was the first time I actually was served beer at the club. My teenage friends and I were sitting at a long table and a waitress came up to take our order; she didn’t flinch when we ordered a pitcher of beer. So, of course, we ended up ordering about 20 pitchers of beer throughout the night.
Around this time, I played my first shows at Bogart’s, something almost any young musician will tell you is a pretty special feeling. My Punk band was added to a few bills by a gracious promoter or fellow local band. I remember being so nervous at those first shows that I could barely play my instrument, partly because I was thinking about all of the famous musicians (U2, Prince, R.E.M.) who had stood right where I was standing. I ended up playing there many times over the years with various bands (opening for bands like New Model Army, Prong, Matthew Sweet and Fugazi), but the early shows were the most memorable. When my first band opened for 7 Seconds, we started to get heckled by a gaggle of skinheads in the crowd (we mixed Rap, Funk and Post Punk into our sound, which offended their purist tastes apparently). Our singer started taunting them so they approached the stage; as one started to climb up, I punched my combat boot directly into his face at the lip of the stage. After our set, the club provided us with a couple of security guards so that we could walk back up and watch 7 Seconds. We were told some skinheads were waiting for us outside, but by the time we got out, they were gone.
By the time I reached college, I was a regular at Bogart’s. I even started befriending some of the staff, dating a couple of bartenders and even marrying one. These were the days when I saw certain bands right before they graduated to “arena rock”-levels of success, like The Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys and Marilyn Manson. One of the more memorable shows was a weird 1995 package tour headlined by Mike Watt and featuring Hovercraft (which included Eddie Vedder on drums, right as he was at his Grunge God peak with Pearl Jam) and a new band fronted by Nirvana’s Dave Grohl on guitar and vocals. Grohl was road-testing his new group, which you may have heard of (rhymes with Doo Righters). Watt headlined the show and was backed by Vedder, Growl and Germs/Foo Fighters/Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear for his set.
As mentioned above, I haven’t always loved Bogart’s. The sound has ALWAYS been hit or miss, often frustratingly. I can only imagine it’s best explained by the set-up of the club (basically a big, long brick shed). There was period when the staff was almost universally rude, with harsh pat-downs at the door (at one point, if you tried to bring in anything that could remotely be considered dangerous — a lighter! A pack of cigarettes! A chain necklace! — it was often just tossed in the trash) and overly-aggressive bouncers roughing up kids who were perhaps dancing a little too hard. About 10 years ago, I got an assignment from U.K. weekly music paper NME to review an Insane Clown Posse concert at Bogart’s. During the pat-down, the door person grabbed the pen I needed to take notes and he tossed it into the garbage. I know ICP crowds can be rowdy, but, even after explaining the pen’s purpose, the doorman just blank-stared me, seemingly convinced that I was just the type to go on a serial pen-stabbing spree during the show.
I loved the ICP show, by the way. The band is a Bogart’s staple and that was my first time seeing them. The music isn’t really up my alley, but the duo’s ridiculous showmanship is truly something everyone should experience at least once. I’m convinced the two ICP dudes know they’re more a comedy act than anything — and probably chuckle at the fans who take them way too seriously — and that makes me appreciate what they do. It was like a surreal circus show gone awry and I had a smile on my face the entire time. Though afterwards, I felt really bad for the Bogart’s clean-up crew — SO. MUCH. FAYGO. I wonder which show was more dreaded by the janitors — ICP or GWAR?
The Bogart’s of today is strikingly different and in the best shape it’s been since I started going there. I remember several years ago writing a rant about the club (probably after the ICP incident) and pointing out that, in the decades I’d been going to concerts there, the venue had made absolutely zero notable improvements. Sure, they’d upgrade the sound system from time to time (usually without much noticeable improvement to the sound), but the club never seemed to improve conditions for the customers (good Lord, those bathrooms approached CBGB levels at times). Maybe it was a money issue or maybe management felt there was no reason to upgrade, since people were coming anyway. And, besides, where else would they go to see these particular acts?
But the days when going to Bogart’s felt like entering a prison yard are long gone. A few years ago, I remember going to a show and being stunned at how different it was. It was right after some upgrades and, while nothing drastic, it changed the whole vibe of the club and the experience. The staff was friendly. The front-door inspections were respectful. The bathrooms were clean. It was suddenly customer-friendly in a way I never remember it being.
There is no way I can remember every show I saw at Bogart’s, memorable or not. There have been several hundred. But a few stick out. There was the 1990 show when on-the-rise bands Faith No More and Soundgarden opened for cult Metal group Voivod; by the time the tour got to Bogart’s, the openers were blowing up on MTV and radio, which meant that less than half the large crowd stuck around to watch the headliners. Another time, when I started my writing career, I had a pre-show interview with the guitarist for Blind Melon at a restaurant next door to the club. As we chatted, late singer Shannon Hoon (who’d later put on a great show) and the other band members threw food at each other and acted (endearingly) like 12-year-olds.
Another favorite memory was a weird Red Hot Chili Peppers/Faith No More show in 1987. This was when Hillel Slovak (who later died from a heroin overdose) was still playing guitar with the Peppers (a favorite band of mine at the time), and Faith No More featured Chuck Mosley on lead vocals (well before Mike Patton took over the mic). Faith No More opened and ran through most of the material from the We Care a Lot and Introduce Yourself albums, its only releases at the time. Then things got weird and Mosley started telling the sizable crowd that the Chili Peppers weren’t going to show. Then the band started doing jams and weird covers, playing for well over an hour. Mosley did an acoustic version of Suzanne Vega’s “Luka.” By the time guitarist Jim Martin began to do a solo Hendrix-esque rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it felt as if Mosley may not have been kidding.
Faith No More was clearly vamping and trying to fill time. Then, in the middle of a song, four heads started weaving towards the stage from the back of the room. The Chili Peppers hopped onto the stage with Faith No More and jumped up and down for a few minutes, then headed backstage. They put on a great, incredibly energetic show (they said their tour van — a VW Beetle Bus with bullhorns on the front that my friends and I saw in the parking lot afterwards — broke down on the highway, but we all suspected something drug-related caused the delay). For their encore, the Peppers came out naked except for the tube socks on their dicks (part of their schtick at the time) and looked nervous as hell, glancing over their shoulders constantly. Apparently they’d been informed about Cincinnati’s low-tolerance for anything sexual in public (remember, this was the ultra-conservative ’80s, when Cincinnati was most associated with shutting down “obscene” art exhibits and hassling Larry Flynt) and were fearful of being arrested. The band played one or two short, fast songs and then booked it off stage. (It’s just a rumor, but I’d heard the police were indeed there and going to arrest them, but the band escaped in a fan’s car and stayed at their house playing video games all night.)
I’m not a big fan of huge crowds, so sold-out Bogart’s show always put me in panic attack mode. But I’ve braved several and I’m glad I did. When Bob Dylan decided to play some smaller clubs in 1999 and chose Bogart’s as one of them, I proudly took my dad to see him. I’ve seen Dylan numerous times over the years and more often than not I’ve left disappointed. But at Bogart’s, he sounded amazing and played inspiringly. I also took the love of my life to an over-stuffed Bogart’s in 2003 see her favorite band of the time — The White Stripes — when she was several months pregnant with our child (if she’d given birth, the baby would have had to have been passed to the exit, crowd-surf style, because it was so packed).
Bogart’s has admirably supported local and regional artists since as long as I can remember. Locals were given opening slots for big-time bands often. After my first band played a crazy set at one of the club’s battle of the bands (competing mostly with straight-forward Hair Metal bands), Dan Reed, manager at the time, came up and asked if we wanted to open for Jane’s Addiction. We very much did, but Jane’s took off and ended up playing Hara Arena in Dayton instead. The aforementioned local Punk shows were always a blast. And I have fond memories of 97X’s old 97Xposure band contests. The club’s “battle of the bands” events (which I mostly attended as a guest judge after my competitive years were over) could sometimes be painful, but I always enjoyed watching the younger bands exhibiting that same awe that I felt the first time I played there (and it was fun to play “Spot the Parents”). The club also hosted a couple of benefits for local community radio station WAIF that were a lot of fun, one featuring a ton of local bands playing Christmas songs (my band decided to perform in just Christmas underwear — briefs! — which must’ve been horrifying) and one with local groups playing David Bowie songs. And I spent many great New Year’s Eves at Bogart’s when the great Columbus, Ohio band Royal Crescent Mob played there every year. I seem to remember The Afghan Whigs taking the slot a few times, too. (The many Whigs shows I’ve seen at Bogart’s, including their most recent one a couple of NYEs ago, have been some of my all-time favorites.) In recent years, CityBeat has hosted a new band showcase at Bogart’s — the staff has always been great and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the shows.
I wouldn’t say Bogart’s is my favorite club — I prefer smaller venues, in general. But I’m very thankful it exists. It has been the one constant, reliable place to check out live music of every sort in Cincinnati ever since I was a teen, and its mid-size has made it possible for mid-level acts to play the Queen City instead of skipping it altogether. More or less, my musical life has revolved around Bogart’s, and it’s hard to imagine what it (or Cincinnati’s concert scene, in general) would have been like without it. Thankfully, we don’t have to.
CityBeat celebrates the 40th anniversary of Bogart's with this week's issue. Check out Brian Baker's overview Cover Story on the club's rich history and promising future, plus sidebars on Brian's favorite moments, the view from John James' nearby record stores, Prince's surprise visit in 1984 and the infamous Heavy Metal Wheel of Sex.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
An unidentified University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Sam Dubose during a traffic stop at the corner of Rice and Valencia streets in Mount Auburn around 6:30 p.m. yesterday. Dubose, who has been identified by his family but not yet by law enforcement officials, died in his car from a single gunshot wound to the head. UC police say Dubose dragged an officer with his car before he was shot, resulting in minor injuries to the officer. The corner where Dubose was shot is about half a mile from UC’s campus. Cincinnati Police were subsequently called to the scene to investigate. We’ve made public records requests to both departments. So far, CPD has released only the initial incident report. We’ll update this story as we find out more.
• Mayor John Cranley on Friday suggested that the city “scrap” its Central Parkway bike lane in response to accidents that have occurred on the major downtown thoroughfare. Cranley called the lane a “disaster” that should be removed, pointing to confusion over parking on the street and ire from local business. The bike lane was completed last year after controversy from a few business owners along the route, who said the lane would take away their customers’ parking. A compromise was worked out to preserve much of that parking, but now lane opponents say the way cars must park on the route — in the parkway’s right lane, between traffic and the bike lane — has caused more accidents. A WLWT report says 33 automotive accidents have happened on the parkway since May. It says that multiple times, in fact, without revealing how many of those accidents were directly related to confusion over the lane. In a pretty befuddling oversight, it also doesn’t mention how many accidents happened during the same stretch of time before the lane went in. Hey, a bunch of accidents (way more accidents) happen on the nearby stretch of I-75. We’d better remove that as well. It’s unclear how many, if any, accidents involved cyclists. Cincinnati City Council approved the lanes before Cranley was elected, and a majority of council still stands behind the project. Personally, I have a better idea: If you’re driving your car on Central Parkway, pay attention to the road and don’t run into other cars.
• The University of Cincinnati might soon spend more than $70 million to renovate its Fifth Third Arena, according to plans released last week. The 26-year-old facility houses the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the women’s volleyball team and other athletic groups. The plans call for a reduction in the more than 13,000 seats now in the building and the creation of more premium, high-price seating like the 16 private suites the arena currently boasts. University officials say they haven’t made a decision about whether or not to carry out the renovations because they’re waiting on more information about the potential project.
• David Hansen, the Ohio Department of Education official responsible for the oversight of charter school sponsors has stepped down. Hansen resigned from his position after it was revealed last week that he omitted data from low-scoring online charter schools in reports about charter school sponsor performance in order to make charters look better. The reports possibly set up two charter sponsors run by Republican donors for more financial help from the state. Hansen has said he felt the poor performance data from the online charters “masked” better performance by other charter schools in the state.
• Well, Gov. John Kasich will announce that he’s seeking the GOP nomination for president tomorrow, which should come as no surprise to anyone, since he’s been campaigning for months. The timing is designed to give Kasich the biggest bump possible ahead of selection of the Republican contenders who will be invited to the party’s first debate in Cleveland later this year. Only the 10 highest-polling candidates will be invited to the debate, and there are (depending on who you ask) anywhere between 16 and several thousand people running for the GOP nod.
Ahead of his announcement, New Day for America, the nonprofit associated with Kasich’s almost-campaign, has released its first ad touting Kasich’s conservative record. There’s a minute-long version of the spot and a longer,
Roughly one month in advance of the Contemporary Arts Center opening Myopia, its highly anticipated retrospective of Mark Mothersbaugh’s artwork, he will come to Woodward Theater for a special concert.
The Aug. 28 performance will be what the CAC is calling a “three-headed evening.” It will start with a small orchestral group playing DEVO covers and Wes Anderson scores — Mothersbaugh co-founded the ground-breaking New Wave/Post-punk band and then moved into film-score composition, working often with Anderson. He also has long been active as a visual artist, having studied art at Kent State University.
Next, there will be a short “onstage dialogue” with Mothersbaugh. Then he will conduct an ensemble in “Music for Six Sided Keyboard.” He did a similar performance in Denver in connection to Myopia’s opening there.
Tickets will be $60 seated and $30 standing, and more information should be available next week on the Contemporary Art Center’s website, www.contemportaryartcenter.org. Myopia opens at the CAC on Sept. 25 and runs through Jan. 9. The exhibit is curated by Adam Lerner of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
UPDATE: A pricing change has been added.
Back in January at Music Hall, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Morris Russell, presented its unique “American Originals” concerts. During the performances, the orchestra collaborated with several local and national Folk/Americana artists to perform and celebrate the music of Stephen Foster and other early songs that are the foundation of the “Great American Songbook.”
Read CityBeat’s cover story on the project here.
Rosanne Cash, Aoife O’Donovan (who recently returned to join the Pops for its Fourth of July concert at Riverbend; read our interview with her here), Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Joe Henry joined Cincinnati area artists Over the Rhine's Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and others to perform specially arranged versions of Foster compositions like “O! Susannah,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer,” as well as traditional numbers like “Red River Valley,” “Kumbaya” and “Amazing Grace.”
A live recording of the concert featuring 17 songs will be released on Friday, Sept. 11. (You can pre-order it now here from Amazon.)
Here is the detailed track listing for the American Originals release (via cincinnatisymphony.org):
1) “O’ Susannah” (written by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and with Joe Henry on vocals)
2) “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair” (written by Foster, arranged by Rob Mounsey and with Aoife O’Donovan and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine on vocals)
3) “My Old Kentucky Home” (written by Stephen Foster, arranged by Rebecca Pellett and featuring Rosanne Cash on vocals)
4) “Amazing Grace” (traditional, arranged by Pellett and featuring Aoife O’Donovan and the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)
5) “Rolling River: Sketches On Shenandoah” (composed by Peter Boyer)
6) “Why, No One To Love?” (written by Foster, arranged by Pellett and featuring Over the Rhine’s Bergquist on vocals and her OTR partner Linford Detweiler on Rhodes keyboard)
7) “Old Folks At Home” (by Foster, arranged by Timothy Berens and featuring Dom Flemons on vocals and harmonica, Timothy Berens on banjo and Paul Patterson on fiddle)
8) “Kumbaya” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring Timothy Lees, Kathryn Woolley, Gabriel Pegis and Scott Mozlin on violins and Richard Jensen on djembe
9) “Slumber My Darling” (by Foster, arranged by Chris Walden and featuring O’Donovan on vocals and guitar)
10) “Aura Lee” (by Foster, arranged by Pellett and with Henry and Ed Cunningham on vocals)
11) “Foster's Folly” (by Foster, arranged by Berens)
12) “Ring, Ring The Banjo” (by Foster, arranged by Walden and featuring Flemons on banjo and bones
and Cunningham on fiddle)
13) “Red River Valley” (traditional, arranged by Berens and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars)
14) “The Battle Cry Of Freedom” (composed by George Frederick Root and arranged by Berens)
15) “Beautiful Dreamer” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey with Cash on vocals)
16) “Hard Times Come Again No More” (by Foster, arranged by Berens and featuring Over the Rhine, with Bergquist on vocals and Detweiler on guitar)
17) “Camptown Races” (by Foster, arranged by Mounsey and featuring the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, as well as Cash, Flemons, Henry, O’Donovan and Over the Rhine on vocals)
ONSTAGE: CLYBOURNE PARKCommunity theaters often produce tried-and-true shows that keep people laughing and happy. But Sunset Players isn’t afraid to make its audiences think, and that’s what will be happening over the next two weeks with a production of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning script, set in a Chicago neighborhood in 1959 and 2009. In the first act, white community leaders try to prevent the sale of a home to a black family. In Act II, the same house is the focus as the African-American neighborhood struggles to hold its own against redevelopment. It’s an ambitious show that’s important in today’s world. Through July 25. $12-$14. The Arts at Dunham Center, 1945 Dunham Way, Western Hills, 513-588-4988, sunsetplayers.org.
EVENT: DOUBLE TALKLittle-known fact: Northern Kentucky is home to the Vent Haven Museum, the world’s only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. And Sunday marks their annual fundraiser show, Double Talk, a fun and raucous afternoon of comedy, audience participation and ventriloquist dolls (don’t call them puppets). Featuring performances from around the country, including the No. 1 female ventriloquist in the U.S., Lynn Trefzger; young up-and-comer Peter Dzubay from Connecticut; and Tristate favorite Denny Baker. 3 p.m. Sunday. $20 advance; $25 door. Notre Dame Academy Performing Arts Center, 1699 Hilton Drive, Park Hills, Ky. ventshow.com.
Good morning all. Here’s your news today.
Well, Toby Keith says his favorite bar has winners and losers, but it seems like Mr. Keith himself is on the losing end lately. The country star’s Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill location at The Banks was shuttered suddenly yesterday, reportedly due to being a year behind on its rent. That’s the fifth Toby Keith’s location to close recently; the chain’s Minneapolis, Houston, Mesa, Ariz. and Folsom, CA locations have also shut down. The bar is the fourth closure at Cincinnati’s highly-touted riverfront development, which has taken more than a decade to materialize. Last year, soul food restaurant Mahogany’s closed there with much controversy and original tenant Johnny Rockets has also pulled out of the development. Representatives with Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., which handles leasing for the development, say they’re confident another tenant will fill the space in short order. Mahogany’s location is now filled with Santo Graal, while the Johnny Rocket’s location has yet to be filled.
• If you’re holding your breath that some how, some way, a new morgue and crime lab could still come to the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital, well, you can breathe now because it ain't gonna happen. Crews began tearing down the building yesterday. The hospital group had made efforts to donate the building to Hamilton County after closing the location in 2013. But after paying more than $1 million in upkeep costs for the building, Republican Hamilton County commissioners balked at the cost of retrofitting the facility to house the county’s critically-overcrowded crime lab, morgue and other county offices. Political considerations also played a part — Democrats, including commissioner Todd Portune, were opposed to a proposal that would have put the county’s board of elections at the location, saying it was too far removed from the neighborhoods were many low-income, non-driving voters lived. Mercy will hold onto the vacant land the hospital has occupied for now until it finds a suitable buyer.
• Breaking news: Donald Trump still doesn’t like Macy’s. After the GOP presidential nomination contender last month made some pretty racist comments about Mexicans, equating immigrants to rapists and murderers, Macy’s ceased carrying his line of paisley-infected menswear. Trump at the time said Macy’s didn’t account for much of his sales anyway, and that he wanted to pull out from the store. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. Trump has continued to dump on the Cincinnati-based retailer, saying they “suck and are bad for America.” Trump also revealed he was friends with Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren and felt personally betrayed by the department store’s decision. But wait, didn’t Trump say he decided to leave? Welcome to the wacky world of the Donald, who is currently one of the top-polling picks for the GOP presidential nomination. Pop up some popcorn because I could sit back and watch this feud between the megalomaniacal real estate tycoon and big old corporate entity all day. It’s like Godzilla vs. Mothra, only Godzilla had better hair than Trump does.
• I told you yesterday about the recent controversy over some low-scoring online charter schools left out of a report on the effectiveness of Ohio’s charter school authorization groups, a move that seems to have broken Ohio law. Republican State Auditor Dave Yost has since said he’s “concerned” about that omission and is examining the situation, but is not yet launching an official investigation. The groups measured in the study oversee charter schools across the state. The Ohio Department of Education’s Director of Quality School Choice and Funding David J. Hansen is responsible for the oversight, which left a number of online charter schools with “F” grades on state performance rankings out of a consideration of charter school performance. Hansen, incidentally, used to helm a pro-charter conservative education think tank called Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. He’s also the husband of Kasich’s presidential campaign manager, Beth Hansen. It’s unclear when or if an official state investigation into the omission will begin.
• A new law signed yesterday by Gov. John Kasich takes some restrictions off the drug naloxone, allowing the medicine to be more quickly and easily administered to heroin overdose victims. The new rules allow doctors to give the drug to individuals who can administer it to friends or family having an overdose. It also relaxes rules on pharmacies, who can now distribute it without a prescription in certain cases.
• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced he will investigate Ohio Planned Parenthood clinics after a video came to light earlier this week allegedly showing a high-level member of that organization talking about organs from aborted fetuses. A California-based conservative group says it posed as organ buyers and that the official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is shown discussing the sale of organs from fetuses. That’s illegal, though not-for-profit donation of organs with a woman’s permission is allowed in many states.. Planned Parenthood says that’s exactly what is going on in the video. Dr. Nucatola is heard at one point in the video saying, “nobody should be selling tissue. That’s just not the goal here.” Republican lawmakers in D.C. and a number of states have jumped on the video, calling it disgusting and demanding all public funding be stripped from Planned Parenthood. Despite denials of wrongdoing, Planned Parenthood did apologize for Nucatola’s tone and statements in the video, saying they didn’t reflect the organization’s goal of providing compassionate care. The group says Nucatola has been ‘reprimanded” for her statements. Though the video wasn’t filmed in Ohio, DeWine has vowed to investigate Planned Parenthood in the state to make sure they’re following all laws related to handling of fetal tissue.
That’s it for me today. Tweet at me or e-mail with suggestions for the best summer swimming spots. It’s getting hot out there.
Every year, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati brings together a
group of young professionals who spend a season at the Over-the-Rhine
theater understudying roles, working backstage, helping build sets and
run lights and sound — learning the ins and outs of professional
theater. Many of them stick around town continuing their lives in the
theater. Several of them will come together at
Washington Park on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. for a free performance of Still Life with Iris,
a play by Steven Dietz. The 1996 script is an adventure about a little
girl’s search for the simplest of things: home. She lives with her mom
on a magical island where by night workers make things seen in the world
by day. The rulers are determined to have the best of everything on
their island, so they kidnap Iris and bring her to be their daughter,
leaving her with no memory of her home or family. She joins with friends
she meets on her journey as she embarks on a quest to return home. The
family-friendly play, written in 1998, was the first to receive the
Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award. The cast is
comprised entirely of former ETC interns, including: Jared D. Doren
(1996), Sara Mackie and Burgess Byrd (2000), Daniel Winters (2005), Lisa
DeRoberts (2011), Ben Raanan and Jared Earland (2014), and Molly Israel
and Patrick Phillips (2015).
The summer theater company, Stone on a Rock, is back for the second production of its second season with a new version of Aristophanes’ ancient comedy Lysistrata. The company focuses on productions that are “short, sweet and cheap.” This one is a time-tested farce about the women of Greece giving their husbands an ultimatum: Stop waging war or no more sex. Maybe they can next bring their strategy to bear on Greece’s current financial crisis? Performances are at Simple Space, 16 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine. Tickets ($10) can be purchased at the door.
Another summer company is presenting the 1998 Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime at Highlands High School’s Performing Arts Center (2400 Memorial Parkway in Ft. Thomas). The Commonwealth Artists Summer Theatre (C.A.S.T.) is led by theatre instructor Jason Burgess; his cast includes students from Anderson, Walnut Hills, Newport Central Catholic, Cincinnati Country Day, Seven Hills, Highlands, Scott High Schools and more. Ragtime is a remarkable show with great music (composed by Stephen Flaherty, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music). Set at the dawn of the 20th century, it’s a time of change and possibility in the volatile melting pot New York City. The show tells three interwoven stories — a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician — united by courage, compassion and belief in the promise of the future. It’s being presented for two weekends, opening tonight and continuing through a matinee on July 26. Tickets ($10) can be reserved at http://www.showtix4u.com. (Remaining unreserved seats may be purchased at the door one hour prior to each performance.)
Queen City Flash, Cincinnati’s flash-mob theater company, is up to the third installment of its four-part play cycle of Mark Twain’s tales of Tom Sawyer. This part, The Complete Tom: 3. Abroad, is performed by three actors and an array of puppets. For this episode, the characters of Tom, Huck Finn and Jim the runaway slave are on a trans-Atlantic voyage in a Jules Verne-like airship. Free performances begin at 8 p.m. but the outdoor locations remain secret until 4 p.m. when an email is sent to ticket holders with a map and parking instructions. (The fourth installment is set to happen in August.) Tickets — no charge — can be reserved at http://www.QueenCityFlash.com
You can stay at home on Saturday evening, if you prefer, and enjoy a radio theater production of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac by LA Theatre Works, broadcast on WVXU-FM 91.7 at 8 p.m. The story of the brash 17th-century soldier-poet with an oversized nose is also a tale of love and longing. The audio production features Hamish Linklater, Jason Ritter, Devon Sovari and Gregory Itzin. This is your chance to get prepared for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s season opening production (Sept. 11-Oct. 13).
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
The city of Cincinnati is instituting new measures to vet minority-owned businesses in the wake of a federal investigation of Evans Landscaping, which is suspected of minority hiring fraud. Evans subcontracted to minority-owned Ergon Site Construction LLC for $1.9 million in demolition contracts with the city and more than $8 million in state contracts meant for minority-owned businesses. Lawsuits between the two companies have drawn scrutiny as to whether Evans was using Ergon as a “front” company to funnel contracts meant for minority-owned businesses to Evans. Ergon was formed in 2010 by an Evans IT consultant. Now, the city says it will better scrutinize the minority contracts it awards to make sure the minority-owned businesses it is awarding contracts to aren’t just fronts for larger companies.
• Kokosing Construction Company has been fined for its role in the fatal overpass collapse near I-75 that took the life of worker Brandon Carl in January. The out-of-service overpass was being demolished when it collapsed, killing Carl. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated that accident and found that Kokosing didn’t do enough to inspect the overpass before placing heavy machinery on it that it could not support. OSHA has suggested $14,000 in fines against the company, which Kokosing has agreed to pay. The company will also utilize third-party firms to perform inspections over the next five years as part of the deal with OSHA.
• We’ve officially moved beyond adult kickball leagues as the vanguard of urban young professional weirdness. Adults on bigwheels are coming to Pendleton, the neighborhood just north of the Horseshoe Casino and just east of Over-the-Rhine. An event called Danger Wheel will take place this Saturday and involves 45 big wheel teams racing down the neighborhood’s streets. Each team paid $100 to be in the race, money that will be used to put up historical markers and planters around the neighborhood. Local brews, food trucks and music will also be on site for spectators. Question: Are the bigwheels standardized, or like, can someone come in with a souped-up super big wheel that runs on nitrous oxide and just take the whole thing?
• City Hall has a new assistant city manager, and unlike other recent big hires, he’s been promoted from within. John Juech is currently a senior policy advisor for City Manager Harry Black. Before that, he managed Vice Mayor David Mann’s office. The city’s other assistant city manager, Sheila Hill-Christian, is also new. She started in May. The duo replace outgoing Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles, who is departing to become city manager of Garden Grove, California, and Bill Moller, who departed his role for a job with the Uptown Consortium.
• Lawmakers filed a bipartisan bill in the Ohio House today that would abolish Ohio’s death penalty and replace it with a life without parole sentence. Lakewood Democrat Rep. Nickle Antonio and Miamisburg Republican Niraj Antani sponsored the bill. They argue high cost, moral problems and difficulty obtaining execution drugs are reasons why Ohio should stop executing inmates. This is the third time Antonio has filed the bill, and it’s unclear if it has better prospects among other lawmakers this time around. Antani says it’s an issue of limiting big government. “To me there can be no bigger government with no bigger power than the right to execute its own citizens," he said. "Even the chance that an innocent individual can be put to death is reason enough to repeal that."
• Marijuana legalization group ResponsibleOhio received a final clearance to circulate petitions for a proposed law that would expunge certain drug convictions. The proposal, which needs about 92,000 signatures from Ohioans to come before the state legislature, would be a companion piece to the group’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment, for which the group has collected more than 700,000 signatures across the state. Should at least 300,000 of those signatures prove valid, ResponsibleOhio’s proposal will go onto the November ballot. The group is proposing legalizing marijuana for anyone 21 and over but limiting commercial growth of the crop to 10 grow sites around the state controlled by the group’s investors. Should ResponsibleOhio get enough signatures for its companion expungement law, it will go before lawmakers next year.
• A group closely allied with Gov. John Kasich’s campaign has hired Matt David, a leader of a prominent pro-gay GOP group. David will work for New Day for America, a nonprofit supporting Kasich’s bid for president. In the past, David occupied a leadership role with Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry, a pro-marriage equality group. Kasich has opposed gay marriage rights, but David’s hire could mean Kasich will attempt to make inroads into the LGBT community. Not that New Day for America’s new hire is a liberal: David worked on George W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 2004 and John McCain’s presidential run in 2008. The staffing decision comes as Kasich gears up for his official campaign launch next week.