Our pop culture columnist Mike O talks tattoos, pumpkins and the latest issue of Boomer....
Pop Culture Chronicles
Bat Out of Hell
The Cleveland Connection
By Mike Olszewski
Boomers are big on anniversaries, and I’ll get to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in a bit, but let’s look at another landmark album that turns 40 in October.
Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” sold 43 million copies on Cleveland International Records, the brainchild of the late, great Steve Popovich.
Popovich worked at Columbia/Epic and eventually started Cleveland International. I say this with the greatest respect, but sometimes he looked like he slept in his clothes.
Then you went into his office and there are the photos with Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and on and on. Popovich told Columbia Records to sign Michael Jackson as a solo artist, and there was a photo with him, too.
He insisted that my wife, Janice, and I come out to see this 9-year-old kid singer he was promoting; it was Hunter Hayes. This guy had a Midas touch and was generous to a fault.
There was an ethnic bar on the west side that was famous for its fish fries. A bunch of us, eight or nine radio and record people, were knocking back beers and eating like kings when the door opens and it’s Steve. He came in for take-out, and while he was waiting he sat with us.
When his dinner came he looked at me and said, “Michael, ask me how’s business.”
All right, I’ll bite. “How’s business Steve?”
He picked up the whole table’s tab and wrote “business conference” on the receipt — the most expensive fish fry he ever bought.
He knew rock ’n’ roll, but he loved polkas. Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople (“Cleveland Rocks”) was on his label and was sitting in his office one day....
Pop Culture Chronicles
What Happened to Summer Jobs?
Years ago when spring rolled around, you started thinking about landing a summer job.
Those also were the days before we paid for TV, radio, tap water in plastic bottles and when I didn’t have to take out a loan to see a first run movie. I joked once that someone is going to figure out a way to pay for air, and then I pulled into a gas station, where you’re paying to fill your tires.
To be fair, a lot of jobs for young folks no longer exist. Look at theaters. You had a movie house that hired ushers, and the kids’ matinee on Saturdays was a nightmare. Then automation moved in and projectionists were eliminated. We have 10 screens in one location, and the person selling tickets runs to the candy counter to hawk overpriced candy and popcorn out of big clear garbage bags with some kind of oil instead of butter. Don’t think for a minute that most people don’t hit a discount store first for snacks to sneak in. My wife and I went to a movie a while back, and a guy was eating a sub sandwich as long as his arm.
Before gas stations became supermarkets and beer gardens, you could find work pumping gas, cleaning windshields, and checking water and oil. Pay at the pump meant you handed the cash through the window and maybe tip the attendant. Now I do all the work, and I feel like I should tip myself.
Newspapers and Fast Food
If you were ambitious you might get a paper route. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Press, Akron Beacon Journal and all newspapers had carriers who would put your paper inside your door so it didn’t get wet....
There’s No Place Like Home
By Breanna Mona
First, a flashback:
Heavy smoke shoots from a fog machine and rolls over the hill at Blossom Music Center. A crowd filled with restless young fans, hair teased to wild heights, chants, “MSB! MSB! MSB!”
Michael Stanley and his band finally emerge from the smoke clouds, and they give the crowd what they want — music, and lots of it. Energetic rock that keeps fans on their feet. Quieter ballads. The fans know every word to every song. Hits such as “Lover,” “My Town” and “Falling in Love Again” gave the band a phenomenal fan base that built a cult-like obsession in Northeast Ohio.
MSB performed at Blossom 17 times over a six-year period, with an astounding four-night run in 1982 that drew a total attendance of 74,404 — still a record for that venue. The band not only reached regional fame, but also landed on Billboard’s Top 40 list twice. Their music video for “He Can’t Love You” played on MTV.
Stanley is still very much a performer and a celebrity in his hometown. Since the Blossom days of the ’80s, Stanley has worked with several bands and done solo work. He estimates he’s made more than 30 albums.
Today he performs in venues all over Northeast Ohio and — fittingly — is an afternoon drive host at the classic rock station 98.5 WNCX. He and his band The Resonators in April sold out the Akron Civic Theatre. He’s working on another album from his home studio.
At a recent photo shoot at the Agora Theater and Ballroom on Euclid Avenue, he caught up with a handful of people who stopped by to say hi.
Stanley is reflective and private. Anyone who hasn’t seen him since their college days in the ’70s or ’80s would immediately recognize him....
My wife and co-author, Janice, and I are always chasing down our pop culture history; we usually don’t have to look very far. A few weeks back we headed to the state capital for a visit to the Ohio History Connection. We’ve seen a lot of famous firsts in Northeast Ohio that are documented at the center.
WE’RE NO. 1
Some of those firsts are cultural (the first rock and roll concert — the Moondog Ball — in 1952), traditional (the first U.S.Christmas tree on Public Square), convenience (home mail delivery), medical (the first blood transfusion) and technical (the first use of a gas mask).
Some are annoying, like the world’s first automatic traffic signal at University Circle. And some were the result of necessity; Cleveland’s Crane Candy Company needed a product that wouldn’t melt in the summer heat and came up with Life Savers.
Now, here’s the comparison between Cleveland and Columbus. When you go to a supermarket down south you see a lot of stuff on the shelves we don’t have here because Columbus is considered one of the nation’s best test markets. Even so, Cleveland has bragging rights for introducing some-
thing that is often maligned but has been used by just about everyone.
I tip my hat to one of my public speaking students, Haley Held, for bringing this to my attention. In 1964, Cleveland was the test city for Pop-Tarts.
That’s right. Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts were introduced in Cleveland before anywhere else. The Huffington Post reports the original name for the product was the Fruit Scone, but Andy Warhol was making “pop art” an everyday word. Add a “T” and Pop-Tarts were born. As soon as they hit the shelves, people went batty for the new toaster pastry, and within two weeks the company ran out of product....
Here’s one for you: Remember when the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving and ended Jan. 1? My wife, Janice, and I track the first mention of Christmas every year (a Wal-Mart ad on Labor Day this year) and then see how long it takes before every last decoration is taken down. Even so, we love the holiday season and all the memories that come with it.
Local TV and radio gener – ated a lot of those memories. WEWS was the first TV station in Ohio, and its first broadcast in 1947 was the annual Cleveland Press Christmas Show from Public Hall. They brought out the big guns, too. Jimmy Stewart, the star of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” hosted, and word is it was a spectacular show.
A TREE AND A KEY Those were the days when people went to downtown Cleveland for first-run movies, nightlife and shopping; the Christmas season kicked it into high gear. You saw the giant tree at the Sterling-Lindner Davis department store, got lunch in a little toy stove at Higbee’s Silver Grille, and then a visit to the “Keeper of the Keys,” Mr. Jingeling on Halle’s seventh floor.
Starting in the mid ’50s, Halle’s ran a Mr. Jingeling segment on Captain Penny’s show on WEWS every day beginning the day after Thanksgiving and usually ending a day or two before Christmas with an hour-long special.
It was a daily story with Mr. Jingeling and the Play Lady spinning some sort of a tale that involved the latest toy. Remember, this was live TV, and after the show, Max Ellis, Earl Keyes or one of the other actors who played Mr. Jingeling headed back to Halle’s to meet fans and hand out special paper keys.
It was so cool to be a kid in Northeast Ohio back then....
Welcome to Boom!, a look at this area’s popular culture and its lasting effect on our generation. I’m Mike Olszewski, and my wife, Janice, and I have been documenting this part of our history in a series of books aimed at preserving that part of our lives and bringing back plenty of memories.
I’m teaching college now, but before that I spent a long time in radio, most notably at WMMS when it was “The Buzzard.” People often ask me, “Whatever happened to radio?” Well, the programming is there and is growing, but the way it gets to us is changing rapidly.
It wasn’t that long ago that radio was lifestyle. We lived and died with radio, but that was before a lot of other options such as cable TV, video games, computers and the internet. Ah, the internet. Video didn’t kill the radio star. Your laptop and cellphone might be to blame.
Sure, radio is still popular, but mostly for an aging generation.
The internet quickly changed the way we access information and music, and it’s not slowing down. Author Tim Murphy disagrees to a point in a recent article, “Millennials Love Radio. Wait, What?” Portability seems to be the advantage.
“Radio is mobile friendly for the ear bud generation, and it connects with those that want to be part of their community,” Murphy writes.
True, people listen primarily in their cars, and Wi-Fi is now being installed in some upper-end models.
John Gorman has seen both sides of the coin. The well-respected programmer of WMMS and WMJI now heads oWOW Cleveland, a locally focused internet radio station.
A handful of huge corporations today control stations, and they paid big cash to get them. Investors want a return on their money, which has led to major cuts in staff, types of programming promotion and competition....