My Town Monday: Movies Shot In Cincinnati

Earlier this month, the George Clooney film Ides of March opened, which excited a lot of locals here in the Queen City. Clooney, a native of nearby Maysville, Kentucky, who also grew up in Cincinnati, used the area for location shooting for the film. After all, much of the action takes place in Cincinnati, and even in the trailer, you can’t miss the Roebling Suspension Bridge or the skyline’s newest feature, Queen City Square.

But this is not the first movie to be shot here. In fact, Cincinnati has had several movies shot in and around the city. If you’re old enough to remember, WKRP in Cincinnati is not the first television series to use the city’s skyline and landmarks in its transition shots and credit sequences. Crime-centered soap opera The Edge of Night (produced by local corporate behemoth Procter & Gamble) used a shot of Cincinnati’s skyline from Mt. Adams to stand in for the fictional Monticello. (Which, it has been suggested, was located in Ohio.)

Getting back to the silver screen, what movies were shot here?

A few of them…

Eight Men Out, 1987: This John Cusack movie about baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal was, appropriately, shot in Cincinnati. Eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

Rain Man, 1988: Tom Cruise comes to Cincinnati to retrieve his autistic older brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. There are scenes on the Roebling Suspension Bridge and in the Dixie Terminal Building, which offers a spectacular view from the lobby of the bridge and the Northern Kentucky skyline. Sadly, that view, which I once got to see on a daily basis in the pre-9/11 era, is no longer there. The Banks riverfront development has blocked the view.

Lost in Yonkers, 1992: The Martha Coolidge adaptation of Neil Simon’s play takes place in 1940’s Yonkers. The problem is Yonkers looked like 1990’s Westchester County. So Northern Kentucky, which looks in places like a World War II era town along the Hudson, doubled as Yonkers of Simon’s youth.

Milk Money, 1993: This Richard Benjamin film starring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith shows a lot of Cincinnati locations, though it’s not really clear if the film is set here. Most of the film was shot in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood, which means I likely delivered pizza to the crew at some point. There are also some great shots of downtown, and the seedy flophouse Ft. Washington Hotel makes an appearance as Melanie Griffith’s “office.” In one scene, Griffith, who plays a hooker, is kicked out of a limo while servicing a businessman in a parking garage. When I finally saw the movie, I realized that I parked in that same garage almost daily in 1997.

The People Vs. Larry Flynt, 1996: The only film on this list not listed on the Chamber of Commerce’s web site. But you can’t tell the story of Larry Flynt without shooting it in Cincinnati. The bar that doubles as the original Hustler Club is actually a quiet fern bar on the corner for Fourth St. and Central Avenue. What happened to the Hustler Club. It and the entire block were torn down to make way for the Aronoff Center.

Traffic, 2000: Michael Douglas plays a prosecutor from Cincinnati named as the nation’s new Drug Czar. Much of action takes place around Cincinnati. Douglas’s daughter in the film, who descends into drugs and prostitution, is depicted as a student at Cincinnati Country Day, which prompted outrage from the private school

Seabiscuit, 2003: This Depression-era tale of the horse racing legend used the retro-looking River Downs along Kellogg Avenue for some of its location shots. If someone could chime in with a comment, tell me if my memory is correct in that Florence, Kentucky’s Turfway also got some camera time in this one.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: The Aronoff Center

Mind Meal, used under Creative Commons

Mind Meal, used under Creative Commons

Most cities have either a theater district or a major facility for performing arts. Cincinnati has the Aronoff Center, situated at Sixth and Walnut. Across the street is the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Museum. It’s also home to the Backstage District, an ever-shifting series of bars and restaurants that service theater goers.

If you want music or a comedian, you go to the Taft, down on Fifth Street. If you want arena shows, you go to US Bank Arena. But if you’re looking for Broadway without the expense of a trip to New York, the Aronoff is your place.

Some concerts come to the venue, but in terms of music, the complex hosts ballet and the symphony more often. Sometimes, a big name like Lewis Black will bring a standup show, but the big attraction is the Broadway Across America series.

The Aronoff actually is three theaters and an art gallery. The largest is Procter & Gamble Hall, which seats over 2000 people. For smaller events, there is the Jarson Kaplan Theater, which hosts just over 400 patrons. At the small end of the scale is the Fifth Third Theater, which handles up to 150 people. At the corner of Seventh and Walnut is the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery. There are a number of smaller rooms and rehearsal spots as well that are used for small-scale performances and private parties.

The Aronoff did not exist when I first arrived in Cincinnati in 1991. The stretch of Walnut between Sixth and Seventh Streets was a seedy, rundown block most famous for the location of Larry Flynt’s original strip club in the early 1970’s. By the early nineties, the block had been demolished to make way for a new performing arts center.

The center has hosted such shows as The Vagina Monologues, Miss Saigon, Spam-a-Lot, and most recently, Beauty and the Beast.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

Every September, thousands of people descend on Fountain Square to drink beer. A LOT of beer. Not just any beer, either. Oh, the usual premium brands are there, from Samuel Adams to the various Guiness brands to German brands like Warsteiner. But then there are other beers there as well. Beers you may never see again until next September. Beers that will knock you flat and have strange flavors.

It is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, an inevitable extension of the city’s German heritage. After all, a few blocks north is a neighborhood called Over the Rhine. Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest claims to be the largest such celebration outside of Germany, and it certainly is one of the largest with over half a million visitors – more than the population of the city itself (just under 300,000) – converging on downtown for the weekend.

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati these days is sponsored by Samuel Adams, the craft beer brainchild of Cincinnati native and Boston resident Jim Koch. There is a lot of sausage served at Oktoberfest, but when you consider that Cincinnati is home to John Morrell Meats, Sara Lee, and Kahn’s, as well as the goetta capital of the world, what did you expect? In Cleveland, there would likely be more kielbasa than bratts and metts, and in Philly and Baltimore, they would likely have scrapple. But this is Cincinnati, and the cuisine here will be extremely German.

But it’s the beer that brings people. Back in my days at BigHugeCo, I found myself working on a Saturday morning during Oktoberfest. I could step out of the lobby and right into Oktoberfest. So when I finished up for the morning, I did exactly that.

The booth closest to my building sold this strange brew from the former East Germany I’d never seen before. I tried a pint. I had another.

Driving home after two beers – normally not an issue for me – was not an option. It was good, but baby, it was strong!

The Oktoberfest here in Cincinnati has one other claim to fame: The World’s Largest Chicken Dance.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Repost: Boomsday!

This Sunday marks the return of Cincinnati’s loudest end-of-summer tradition: The WEBN fireworks. Here now is a repost of last year’s MTM post on the subject.

Every Labor Day weekend, for Riverfest, half a million people crowd the banks of the Ohio River between the Big Mac Bridge (so-called because it looks like free advertising for McDonald’s with its yellow arches) and the Roebling Suspension Bridge.  Boats begin showing up a week ahead of time to get the choice spots.  You have to be at Sawyer Point in Ohio or Newport on the Levee in Kentucky by eight or nine that Sunday morning to get a good seat.  If you have an office on Fourth Street, over in River Center in Covington, or live in One Lytle Place, next to US Bank Arena, you supplant the city’s richest people for one day as the most elite people in Cincinnati.  Why?

Because every Sunday before Labor Day, local rock station WEBN blows up the Ohio River.

Riverfest_Waterfall

Starting in 1977, WEBN and Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks, who also blow up the river in Louisville and do the fireworks for the Reds at Great American Ball Park, put on one of the largest fireworks shows in the world, all set to music.  The original show was to be a one-off event celebrating WEBN’s tenth anniversary.  The response was so huge that they’ve repeated it every single year.  Initially, the music sync did not work, so the fireworks were just that, fireworks, with a loud music played on the radio.

Now?  One year, I watched it on television (because anything between Kentucky’s Cut in the Hill and the Norwood Lateral in Ohio is going to be gridlocked for five hours after the show).  One section was set to the keyboard bridge from Ozzy Osbourne’s “No More Tears.”  Red blossoms exploded in perfect time to the piano while white flares went off for each guitar note.  Perfectly synched.  After 33 years, they have this down to a science.

Will I go down this year?  I have to work across the river on Sunday this year, and so will have to go home through Mt. Washington as downtown is shut down that afternoon.  Not even I-71/75 is open within a few hours of the show.

So I will watch it at home.  They now show it in HD on WLWT, Channel 5.

Someday, I will book a room at a downtown hotel, probably on The Banks when it opens, so Nita and I can watch from the comfort of our hotel room.

That will be a party.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Camp Dennison

At the eastern end of Galbraith Road sits Camp Dennison.  Now an unincorporated village, Camp Dennison began life as one of the most important Army camps in the Civil War. In 1861, as the war broke out, Ohio Governor William Dennison ordered George McClellan, then commander of the Department of Ohio, to locate and build a military recruitment, training, and medical facility as close to the Ohio River as possible. What made the need so urgent was Kentucky’s ambiguous status. It had not seceded the Union, but as a slave state, had a large contingent of Confederate sympathizers.

At the height of the war, the camp supported a population of 50,000 troops. Situated on the Little Miami Railroad, which terminated at Cincinnati’s Public Landing (near Great American Ball Park and US Bank Arena), the camp was far enough from the Ohio River to isolate it from potential attack, but ideally situated to defend the city by railroad on short notice.

A few buildings from the original camp still stand, along with the camp’s cannon.

 

The camp was not immune from combat, however. A band of raiders under the command of John Morgan crossed the Ohio River in Illinois and began wreaking havoc on southern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Morgan struck at nearby Miamiville, hoping to cripple the Little Miami Railroad. Troops traveled by rail two miles and repelled the Confederates, driving them eastward where they were eventually captured.

At the end of the war, the camp was decommissioned and the land sold off to locals. A small village arose, some of the buildings built from lumber from the dismantled camp. Unincorporated, the village remains today.

The one indication, besides the monument and the cannon, of the town’s military past is a rifle range where, if you bike along the Little Miami Trail, the former railroad, you can hear gun reports from visitors practicing.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Would You Like A Hudey? I’d Be Delighted!

When my beer drinking days dawned back during the Reagan Administration, many of my friends pushed me to try a brand called Little Kings. Little Kings is a cream ale, like Genessee. It was popular in the Cleveland area in the days before the Great Lakes Brewing Company emerged. It was really popular at Miami (of Ohio) University, where Li’l Sis and my best friend from high school went to college. Why?

Miami is in Oxford, Ohio, 30 miles from where I’m sitting right now, which makes it part of the Cincinnati area. That meant the local brews all came from the old Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company.  So when I arrived in the Queen City in 1991, I had to sample the local ale like any good newcomer. I’d already put away my share of Little King’s. The next thing I tried was Hudey Delite. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it was painted to me by my friend from high school as piss water, but it was pretty much a mild beer like Coors Lite, only not as watery. As my taste for beer grew more sophisticated, I tried their flagship brand, Christian Morlein. It’s now one of my favorites and is popular among beer snobs (of which I can be on occasion. It’s not a bad form of snobbery.) Never tried Burger. Someone once told me all I needed to know about Burger was to remember the last can of Stroh’s I’d drunk.

Yuck. (Sorry, Erin.)

Hudepohl fell on hard times in the 1990’s. Some of their facilities were shifted to production for Samuel Adams (the brainchild of Cincinnati-born, Boston-reared Jim Koch). Eventually, only Christian Morlein remained, a very old brand and recipe dating back to the city’s early days.

A few entrepreneurs, however, took it upon themselves to revive the old Hudey brands, buying Christian Morlein and, in turn, buying out the Hudelpohl-Schoenling Brewing Company.

So what does Hudey produce?

Here’s a few of their brands:

Burger – I was shocked they brought this one back until I started working on the West Side. It’s a workingman’s beer, and many West Siders have fond memories of drinking Burger in the old days. As I said, it was often compared to Stroh’s.

Hudey Delight – Hudey is a light beer along the lines of Coors Lite. Actually, it’s closer to Michelob Lite, a little more flavorful than Coors. Not as popular in its revival, it was very popular in the late eighties and early nineties.

Little Kings – A cream ale, my strongest memory of this brew is it knocking me on my ass.

Christian Morlein is actually a family of beers, the best known of which is OTR (for Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood north of downtown). It is a strong, smooth amber lager that tastes a lot like some of the British lagers. It’s one of my favorite beers.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Riverfront Stadium

Before the Reds moved to Great American Ball Park, before the Bengals moved into Paul Brown Stadium, both teams played in a large oval called Riverfront Stadium. In its waning days, they called it Cinergy Field, after the electric company now part of Duke Energy. As a building, it had little to distinguish it from other 70’s era stadiums like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, RFK Stadium in Washington, or the original Meadowlands complex in New Jersey. It was a big, round bowl.

But it was Cincinnati’s big round bowl.

Wikicommons

Wikicommons

For Cincinnati, it’s history. Opening in 1973, it rescued the fledgling Bengals from playing in the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, which was not the class facility you see in the NCAA games today. It also brought the Reds into a modern stadium just in time for the Big Red Machine to start their dominance of Major League Baseball.

For the Reds, Riverfront succeeded Crosley Field, where the team had played since before World War I. Crosley was a neighborhood stadium in the mold of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds in New York.  I-75 claimed part of Crosley’s outfield and bleachers, and neighborhood changes made the old field less practical for modern baseball.

Riverfront would become the site of both the Bengals’ and Reds’ greatest moments. The Reds, of course, had their run as the Big Red Machine in the 70’s at Riverfront, then revisited those days with their wire-to-wire championship season in 1990. The Bengals played both of their Superbowl seasons their in 1981 and 1988.

Near the end, it was where I got to see Ken Griffey, Jr.’s return to Cincinnati in 2000.

The end came, however, when, in an effort to keep the Bengals in Cincinnati resulted in Paul Brown Stadium. The Reds also benefited when voters agreed to also finance what is now Great American Ball Park. Riverfront finished its days as a baseball-only park when the eastern edge was demolished to make room for construction of GABP. In the end, the old stadium was demolished with experts collapsing Riverfront away from GABP. An era had ended.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Old Coney Island

Lots of cities have a Coney Island, New York’s, of course, the most famous. And a lot of cities boast chili-covered hot dogs named for the local park so named. In Cincinnati, the Coney is naturally covered with Cincinnati-style chili. And the park?

Coney Island

Coney Island

Old Coney was once one of the grand dames of American amusement parks. It began in 1867 when the owner of an apple orchard noticed he was making more money renting out parts of his land to tourists than he was off of apples. He built a dance hall, dining hall, and bowling alley. Thus began “Ohio Grove.” In the 1880’s, a pair of steamship operators purchased the site and renamed it “Ohio Grove, the Coney Island of the West.” Never mind that Ohio had not been anything resembling the West since about the end of the Civil War.

Eventually, they began building coasters and other rides on the site. For a time, Coney Island (“Ohio Grove” was eventually dropped from the name) became a go-to park for coaster freaks. Over time, it became as big as its northern Lake Erie rival Cedar Point and had, as it does today, the added attraction of nearby River Downs for horse racing.

Coney, however, was doomed in the era of the Interstate. Though the park sits directly next to the I-275 interchange with US-52, it also sits on the Ohio River. Flooding is a frequent problem for the park. Because of this, park ownership pulled up stakes in the late 1960’s and opened a new, bigger amusement park north of the city, the more famous Kings Island. Coney closed in 1970, and it looked like it would close for good. Ownership even donated the site of its largest coaster for construction of Riverbend Music Center. But…

Redeveloping the site became a low priority, and new ownership reopened the park in 1973. Though a shadow of its former self, Coney remains a popular summer destination for the local population. Not nearly as crowded as King’s Island, the park has kept up much better than most other parks of its size and age. While Cedar Point and Kings Island have become behemoth magnets for national tourists, smaller parks such as LeSourdsville Lake (Americana, in its waning days), Geauga Lake, and Chippewa Lake, the latter two near Cleveland, have disappeared or sit idle.

Coney remains popular partly because of Sunlite Pool, the world’s largest recirculating pool, and attracting traveling shows such as a shark exhibit back in 2000 and Cirque du Soleil in 2011. Flooding remains a problem, but to build flood walls would take away from Coney’s biggest attraction – the muddy Ohio River that forms the park’s border.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: (Repost) Neil Armstrong

This originally appeared the week of July 20, 2009.  Since the 42nd anniversary of the moon landing is this Wednesday, I decided to repost this sketch of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.  What’s this have to do with Cincinnati?

Well, the first one out of the lunar module was current Indian Hill resident Neil Armstrong.

armstrong

nasa.gov

Armstrong, a veteran of the Air Force’s X-1 program and Project Gemini, commanded the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.  Afterward, he was rather quiet about his achievement.  He moved to Cincinnati in the mid-1970′s to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.  Since then, he’s lived a quiet life in the tony suburb of Indian Hill.  Occasionally, he makes an appearance with the Cincinnati Pops to do narrations.  As for the moon landing, he’s been perfectly happy to let fellow lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin speak for the crew.  (There was a radio ad for the the beef industry a few years back when Aldrin, after reverently speaking of the trip, flies off in a rage and says, “Of course, we had steak!  What did you expect us to celebrate with?  A can of ravioli?  One degree off on reentry, and we would have been accute BBR.  That’s a cute little NASA term for burned beyond recognition!“)

moon

nasa.gov

As for the moon landing itself, like Armstrong, I didn’t live in the Queen City at the time.  I was only 3 and living in a Cleveland suburb when Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Yet it’s one of my earliest and clearest memories.  I spent my childhood obsessed with the space program, to the point where I gave Mr. Johnson’s fifth grade class a lecture.  (Now that’s obsessive.)

Hopefully, we will be returning to the moon in a few years.  And we’ll have company.  It’ll be fifty years between the last landing and the next one, a half century wasted when we could have exploited existing technology to find the moon’s true potential.

[More My Town Mondays posts at the My Town Mondays Blog.]