Wednesday, July 22, 2015



You don’t need to watch “The Lion King” movie to learn about the circle of life.

Just read this article about Mark Dawidziak, PD and former BJ entertainment critic.
In 1982 Mark published his first book, “The Barter Theatre,” about an Abington, Virginia town where in the Great Depression actors put on shows to an audience that brought 30 cents worth of food for admission.
Playwrights like Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder, Robert E. Sherwood and Maxwell Anderson accepted the food as their royalties. George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian, bartered for spinach.
 
And the reign of “Ham for Hamlet” was born.
 
Barter’s alumni include Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Hume Cronyn, Ned Beatty, Gary Collins, Larry Linville, Kevin Spacey, Frances Fisher, Barry Corbin, Jim Varney and “Cheers” creator James Burrows.
 
Well, come Wednesday, Aug. 5, Mark will return to the Barter Theatre with his wife, Sara Showman, to perform "Twain By Two" at 7:30 p.m., based on Mark’s 12th book, “Mark Twain’s Guide to Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health and Happiness.”
 
As for the fabulous tale of the Bart Theatre, let Mark tell it, after I asked him to provide the full background for me:
 
“John,
 
“The Barter Theatre is in the small town of Abingdon, in southwest Virginia. I did not know about it while attending George Washington University. I finished up college in three and a half years, so got out in December 1977.
 
“By then, I was working full time at the Knight-Ridder Bureau in the old National Press Building at 14th and F (Dave Hess was representing the Beacon Journal). I then went to work at the Associated Press bureau in D.C. on K Street.
 
“In January 1979, I started as the arts editor at the Bristol Herald Courier (the Virginia/Tennessee state line ran through Bristol, and I lived on the Tennessee side).
 
“Abingdon is nearby and, before I left Washington, several people told me my job would include covering the Barter. So I read up a bit and learned it was one of America's most important regional theaters.
 
“It was started in the depths of the Depression by Broadway actor Robert Porterfield, who was from that area. Porterfield was in the original Broadway production of ‘The Petrified Forest’ with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart.
 
“He took a company of 22 starving, out-of-work New York actors to Abingdon and started staging shows in the town's opera house (a structure that went back to the 1830s, in one of the buildings not burned during the Civil War).
 
“Farmers with plenty of crops they couldn't sell could barter their way in for 30 cents worth of produce. The actors would work and eat. The area would get New York quality theater. Playwrights agreed to a royalty of just a Virginia ham, a tradition followed by the likes of Noel Coward, Thornton Wilder, Robert E. Sherwood and Maxwell Anderson.
 
“It was dubbed ‘Ham for Hamlet’ by the national press. The joke was that they estimated a season's success by weighing the company.
 
“Porterfield had a tremendous knack for promotion and for spotting talent, and among the actors who got started at the Barter: Gregory Peck, Hume Cronyn, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine and Ned Beatty. I got to personally present copies of my book to Peck and Borgnine.
 
“When I got to Bristol that January, I headed for the local library and asked for the history of the Barter Theatre. The theater had such a colorful and noteworthy history, I just assumed there was one. There wasn't, so I decided there should be.
 
“I started researching the theater and collecting interviews while working first at the Herald Courier, then at the nearby Kingsport Times-News. The entire area is known as the Tri-Cities -- Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City (Sara's hometown).
 
“The book was published in 1982, a few months before the Barter's 50th anniversary on June 10, 1983. Four months later, I was starting as the TV critic at the Akron Beacon Journal. 
 
“The book's subtitle, which I wanted to be the main title, is from a Kahil Gibran quote used for a memorial when Robert Porterfield died in 1971: ‘Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work, and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms from those who work with joy.’
 
“Need anything else, let me know.
 
       “ Mark “

 
This is a more than ample serving, Mark. Bon appetite at the Barter!
 
In 1946, Barter was designated The State Theatre of Virginia, the first theatre to receive a form of recognition that later became a national practice.
 
Barter is the longest running professional Equity theatre in the nation.
 
Robert Porterfield died in 1971. The late Rex Partington took over until 1992. Richard Rose was the next leader.
 
Attendance has grown to more than 140,000 annual patrons for the 500-seat theater and a 167-seat smaller venue across the street.
 

 

Monday, July 20, 2015


BJ charges dead man for newspapers it never delivered

The Beacon Journal has been billing Harry Liggett for nine months for his subscription to his former newspaper.

Never mind that the BJ Alums founder passed away 16 months ago.
Harry Liggett, John Olesky

Writes Harry’s son, Bob Liggett of Copley:

“ABJ knew about Dad’s passing. I called them on that.”

Added Bob:

“The refund (for the subscription) was just short of $90. Your guess is as good as mine as to how they arrived at that.”

Based on my retirees subscription to the BJ, which I keep out of loyalty, which is $29.95 for three months, the BJ refunded nine months of subscriptions. I don’t know what happened to the other seven months.

Harry’s other son is Tom Liggett of Akron.

This situation brings up several questions:

1. Did Harry set up automatic payments through his checking account and, if the account closed after nine months and the BJ got an “account no longer active” notice, then the Circulation folks figured it out. In my case, my subscription charges are paid through my credit card, so the BJ will continue to collect from me till my credit card is canceled.

2. Was the BJ giving Harry’s carrier his/her cut of Harry’s subscription payments, as the BJ does from all the other customers?

3. Maybe they expected Harry to provide his change of address: Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron.

I can’t help but wonder how Harry would have handled this story. Or, for that matter, Pat Englehart. I suspect the Nobil-chewing guy would have mentioned something about “a man with a paper asshole.”

RIP, Harry. The BJ stopped ripping you off.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Moe Greene’s cashed in his chips

Alex Rocco, who went from the tough Winter Hill section of Boston to film immortality as Vegas casino owner Moe Greene in “The Godfather,” died at the age of 79.

The gravelly voiced Rocco studied acting with the late Leonard Nimoy, a fellow Boston-area transplant.

Rocco won an Emmy Award in 1990 for best supporting actor in a comedy for playing sneaky Hollywood talent agent Al Floss on the short-lived CBS series "The Famous Teddy Z," starring Jon Cryer.

He was born Alexander Federico Petricone in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

To read the entire CNN article, click on

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


BJ columnist Bob Dyer and PD/former BJ entertainment critic Mark Dawidziak will be inducted into the Press Club of Cleveland’s Journalism Hall of Fame Nov. 13 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, WTAM-AM multimedia journalist Ken Robinson and Reader’s Digest editor in Liz Ludlow  Vaccariello also will be inducted.

The Press Club also said it will present its annual Chuck Heaton Award to WKYC-TV meteorologist Betsy Kling. Heaton is the late Plain Dealer reporter and Press Club Hall of Famer member.

Last year’s Hall of Fame inductees were Ed Byers, on WGAR as Ed Richards for nearly three decades; Call & Post associate publisher and editor Constance Harper; WOIO-TV news reporter Paul Orlousky; 36-year (WJW & WEWS) news anchor Wilma Smith; and PD editorial board’s Tom Suddes. WJW anchor Wayne Dawson got the Heaton Award.

It’s a double-barreled pleasure for me since I was editor of both Dawidziak and Dyer in my Features Department days. I’d like to say I thought both of them everything I know, but who would believe THAT?

In 2012 former BJ writing coach Stuart Warner was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2009 former BJ and later PD columnist Regina Brett was inducted into the Hall.

Dawidziak has been a TV and movie critic for 35 years, coming to the BJ from Tennessee and to the PD from the BJ. His Mark Twain shows and authoring tomes about ol’ Sammy are nationally known.

Dyer wins state and national awards more often than I change my underwear, and I don’t stink all that badly.

Kudos to both of my “proteges”!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


For 67 years, the Oval Office is only for millionaires

When adjusted for inflation to compare in current U.S. dollars, George Washington is the wealthiest President in American history at $525 million.

Next is John F. Kennedy at $125 to $1,000 million, depending on whose figures you go by.

Thomas Jefferson is at $212 million. Andrew Jackson is at $119 million.

Theodore Roosevelt is at $125 million. Cousin Franklin Roosevelt had $60 million.

James Madison is at $101 million.

Lyndon Johnson is at only $98 million.

Since Harry Truman (less than $1 million), Dwight Eisenhower is at $8 million, Richard Nixon at $15 million, Jimmy Carter at $7 million, Barack Obama at $8 million, Ronald Reagan at $13 million, Gerald Ford at $7 million, George Bush at $20 million, George H.W. Bush at $23 million. So America hasn’t elected a non-millionaire since 1948.

When the President tells you he feels your pain at trying to pay your mortgage or rent, he only means symbolically.

Abraham Lincoln, among the less than $1 million crowd in the Oval Office, wouldn’t stand a chance today.
Maybe BJ columnist Bob Dyer should have LeBron James’ guy build a larger trophy room for Bob. Hell, by now he’ll need a second wing to his Copley home.

Bob’s latest awards are third places, both in general interest and in humor, Bob’s speciality, in this year’s National Society of Newspaper Columnists contest.

My long-time fellow survivor of Blue Room food, till my 1996 retirement, has authored three books in his spare time, one with former Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel.

The list of awards, which Bob will provide for you at the drop of a hat, are pretty close to three score.

They might as well call the award as Best Columnist in Ohio from the Society of Professional Journalists chapters in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus the Bob Dyer Award because he’s won it so many times. Seven years in a row, last time I checked. The Associated Press Society of Ohio habitually names him columnist of the year, too.

In 2008, the National Society of Professional Journalists named him the best columnist in the nation.

The list is too long for me to plunk it into this article. But if you want to see it, ask Bob: He keeps it handy in his desk drawer.

He was one of the lead writers for "A Question of Color," a year-long examination of racial attitudes in Akron that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. And was a Pulitzer nominee as a columnist, too. About the only award he hasn’t snared. But give him time. This guy is the best humor columnist this side of Dave Barry. He’s the Mark Twain of his day.

He’s pretty fierce on the golf course, too and, till age caught up to his, a mighty good baseball player.

Bob came to Ol’ Blue Walls from the Wooster Daily Record.

BJ readers I encounter during my 19 years of retirement from the BJ complain that the newspaper is a shell of its former self. But Bob Dyer is one part of it that is even better than he was when I was prowling the newsroom.

Saturday, July 11, 2015



Former BJ  Reference Library chief Cathy Tierney, who “fully retired” in 2013, doesn’t let much grass grow under her feet.

She’s leaped into volunteering and traveling.

Write Cathy of her travels:

“My first was an Amtrak trip to DC, then Japan in Cherry Blossom season, a riverboat trip from St. Petersburg to Moscow, covering 2,000 miles of Russia, leaving for Vietnam & Cambodia in October, and I've already made plans for a long trip to Morocco next year, for sure ... the trips have been wonderful.”

For all of us, it’s a major transition from Ol’ Blue Walls to traveling the world. When I look at that photo on Clyde “Bud” Morris’ farm, I think I counted 20 who are no longer with us, including Bud. Except in our memories.

 

LeBron James isn’t the only one giving back to the community with his skills and his celebrityhood.

Former BJ reporters David Giffels and Thrity Umrigar, authors of a ton of books, will headline the keynote reading at the Cleveland INKubator sessions Saturday, Aug. 1 at the Cleveland Public Library, 325 Super Avenue.
It’s a free writers workshop for those 14 to 18 years old. David and Thrity, who were at the International Book Fair at Miami's Dade College at the same time, too, hope to encourage a new generation of writers.
Registration will begin at 11 a.m. The welcome and kickoff starts at noon.

Workshops and craft talks run from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Resource fair for writers with independent booksellers will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

David and Thrity will do their readings from 5 to 6 p.m.

Dinner will be followed by a youth reading performance in the Eastman Reading Garden and an open mic.

Thrity has been teaching creative writing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland since 2002. Her 6th novel and 7th book is “The Story Hour.”

Her previous novels are “Bombay Time” (2002), “The Space Between Us” (2007), “If Today be Sweet” (2008), “The Weight of Heaven” (2010) and “The World We Found” (2012). Her memoir is “First Darling of the Morning”  (2008).

Thrity left India at the age of 21 to attend Ohio State University. She began her reporting career with the Lorain Journal. Two years later, in 1987, she came to the BJ.

Giffels, who authored “The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches From the Rust Belt” and “All the Way Home,” is an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron.

David’s sideline is handling guitar and vocals for the local May Company rock band with Dave “Doc” Rich, Pat McNulty and “Friday” Mike Wilkinson.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif dies

Omar Sharif, who played the title character in “Docto Zhivago” to Julie Christie’s Lara and Peter O’Toole’s right-hand man Sherif Ali in “Lawrence of Arabia,” died in Cairo in his native Egypt on Friday, July 10.

He got an Oscar nomination for supporting actor in “Lawrence.”

His passion was bridge. He co-authored Goren On Bridge with Charles Goren and authored two books about the card game.

To read the Hollywood Reporter obituary/eulogy of Sharif, click on http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/omar-sharif-dead-doctor-zhivago-789643

Monday, July 06, 2015



Don Roese’s fourth adventure to Alaska with wife Mary Ann looks like another rootin’, tootin’ time by the retired BJ photographer.
It’s sort of a late 54th wedding anniversary present: That was May 6. Don was slow getting around to the gift.
On one of his trips, Don bankrupted the insurance company that had to fix all the dents in his camper or RV or whatever he calls it.
On July 10 Don reported:
 
“John, been to Chicken twice and may go again on our return leg. Not that we want to see Chicken again but because we don't want to drive the Alaska Highway between Burwash Landing and the US border again. Believe me, once is enough. We have driven this highway four times now and that stretch has been terrible each time.”
Paula and I have been there. “The Chicken Mall,” or so the sign says, is one tent.




On July 10, Don posted:


“In Chicken now... heading for Whitehorse in the morning. Top of the word highway still a great drive, even with the smoke from fires in both Alaska and Canada.”
North to Alaska is a piece of cake for Don, after surviving the Korean conflict aboard the
USS Oriskany, CVA34.
Don and Mary Ann returned to the Salty Dawg on the Homer Spit after a 13-year absence. Quips Don: “I could not find the dollar I had pinned on the wall among the thousands of others pinned there. Had a beer and bought a hat.” It isn’t clear whether the beer caused the hat purchase.
Don remembers hunting for bear in Alaska. Says Don: “Seeing the size of these animals is one of the reasons I quit.”


Don is using a Chevy 1500 pick-up truck to pull a 21-foot camper with queen bed, bath, large fridgerator, oven, double sink, slide-out and 30- gallon holding tanks.

“It may take the rest of the summer to get it clean,” Don writes. “The Yukon Territory shows no mercy.

Don and Mary Ann are working their way back to Ohio. At last report they were sighted in Grand Coulee Dam in Washington on July 20.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Habyan recovering & still doing tributes to Gold Star heroes

Former BJ maintenance worker Ray Habyan (1975-1996), in reply to my query, writes:

“At the present time, I am recovering from major back surgery and am unable to drive and even ride for now.”

Ray Habyan
But the seven collapsed discs that were fused in June don’t keep Ray from doing portraits of Gold Star military heroes.

Explains Ray:

“Most portraits take from 20 to 60 hours. I do not charge for the portraits, but my cost to produce them is around $60. That includes cost of materials and postage to deliver them to the families. Labor is always donated free and donations are welcome. I have done 15 to date and work strictly through my website US Fallen Heroes Portraits.”

Ray lives in Wooster after being a computer whiz in Sedona, Arizona, a Valhalla for art-lovers, and flying small planes for 17 years.

I’ve been there. Sedona and Jerome, if you can handle the drive up and down steep, curvy roads, are not to be missed if you’re near them off I-17 near Flagstaff.

If you want to donate to Ray’s non-profit venture to honor America’s Gold Star military, go to his Fallen Heroes Portraits web site and he’ll tell you how to do it.

Friday, July 03, 2015



Former BJ reporter John Dunphy beat the Black Keys to the White House.

His wife, Rebecca Allen, has credentials to the White House briefing room.

So they dropped in on their friend Barack. Or Barry, as they call him.

Rebecca practiced her standups in the NBC booth outside the West Wing.

John practiced grinning from ear to ear.

It’s a well-deserved reward for John, former reporter for the Orange County (California) Register, who has been eluding the Grim Reaper since 2012 over his esophageal cancer. Rebecca is deputy Features Editor at the OC Register. They live in Lakewood, California.

John keeps his hand in journalism as contributing editor at Southland Golf, which gives him an excuse to enjoy his favorite participation sport.

John and Rebecca traipsed all over Europe for six weeks and, currently, the East and Northeast USA. The White House was on their world tour. Beat that, Black Keys!

Just kidding, Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach, the two Firestone High kids who turned basement band into a truckload of Grammys for their musical achievements. And a social media exchange with the first African-American President in history that mentioned Air Force One and possibly, guess who’s coming to dinner?

John’s sons are Brian, Michael and Kevin.

His siblings are Harry Dunphy, Stephen Dunphy,  Pat Maureen Dunphy Welling, Peter Dunphy, Dennis Dunphy, Christine Dunphy Barnett and the late Paul Dunphy. Their parents were Harry and Angela Dunphy.

John and Rebecca had dinner June 30 with Angela Dunphy, Christine's niece, at Zaytanya in DC. Named for her grandmother Angela.
 
John was part of the late Pat Englehart’s team that brought the BJ a Pulitzer for its coverage of the 1970 Ohio National Guard shooting that killed four and wounded nine Kent State students. “I spent more than 7 years full-time covering all the investigations and trials,” John wrote.

Egads, Dunphy survived errant National Guard rifle shots, Englehart AND esophageal cancer and can still whip my butt in golf! I tip my “WV” cap to you, John! All 11 of them.