Monday, October 16, 2017


Leonidas Frank Chaney, “Man of a Thousand Faces,” is getting a run for his money from Mark Dawidziak.

Lon Chaney was “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and the title character in “The Phantom of the Opera” nearly a century before Gaston Leroux’s novel was set to the music by Andrew Lloyd Webber that stirs my soul and emotions every time I see it – in Toronto, in Cleveland, in the movie -- alongside the woman I love.

Dawidziak, current PD and former BJ pop culture critic, has been the face of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, a Civil War character, Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” worshipper and, Tuesday, October 17 and Thursday, October 26, a vampire.

Even Mark’s email address is a tribute to two icons, savage humorist H.L. Mencken and frenetic comedian Groucho Marx.

Mark’s Facebook post:
“For those of you who have asked (and those who didn't), two chances at area libraries to experience the awe and mystery that is The Vampire Talk, a lively look at the changing face of the undead in history, folklore, literature and the pop culture.

“These are a few of the props I'll be bringing to the North Royalton Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library (5071 Wallings Road) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, and the Cuyahoga Falls Library (2015 Third Street) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26.
“As Count Dracula once said, time to think outside the box. Book signing after? Count on it.”
If you missed, that's coffin humor. The box. Get it?
The Vampire Talk is just part of Mark’s expansive resume. He did one in 2013 in Massillon at the Massillon Museum.
Some day I expect Mark to show up at one of the Largely Literary Theater’s Mark Twain performances dressed as Edgar Allen Poe. I don’t know how he keeps his characters straight, but he channels them amazingly accurately.
And I didn’t teach him any of that when he was my TV critic at the BJ for so many years, starting in 1983, during my Television Editor days at Ol’ Blue Walls.
I can't keep a straight face when I lie, let alone assume one of a thousand faces or, in Mark's case, close to a dozen faces.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Former BJ reporter John Dunphy and Rebecca Allen Dunphy celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary on Friday, October 13 in California, where they live in Lakewood.

John is among Cincinnatians Harry and Angela Dunphy’s nine children.

Cincinnati Xavier University grad John at Ol’ Blue Walls, with the late Pat Englehart cracking the whip, was a key reporter in the BJ’s coverage of the four 1970 Kent State dead and nine injured by Ohio National Guard bullets that brought the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize and spawned Neil Young's "Ohio" with the words "four dead in Ohio" as sung by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
America was killing its children and decided it was time to end the Vietnam War.

After moving to California, John became a reporter for the Orange County Register and contributing editor for Southland Golf magazine. John also worked for newspapers in Kansas City, Detroit and Seattle.

He’s retired and busy battling health problems. So is Rebecca, who also was at the Orange County Register.

Friday, October 13, 2017

NPR's Geewax to add teaching at UGA

Former BJ reporter Marilyn Geewax, National Public Radio senior business editor, also will teach at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in spring 2018.
Marilyn Geewax
 
She will be an Industry Fellow with the James M. Cox Jr. Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership.

One-time Ohio governor, Congressman and the 1920 Democratic nominee for President James Middleton Cox founded Cox newspapers, beginning with the Dayton Daily News.

Cox’s vice presidential running mate was assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Democratic ticket lost by a landslide to another Ohioan, Republican Warren G. Harding, he of the Teapot Dome scandal, and vice presidential nominee Calvin Coolidge, who became President when Harding died while occupying the Oval Office.
So everyone on both tickets became President except Cox.

Marilyn wrote:

“Honored to join UGA Grady students in the Spring. I’ll be looking for future talent for NPR. Love working with tomorrow’s great journalists.”

Grady, founded in 1915, has more than 1,500 students.

Marilyn joined NPR in 2008 after 23 years with Cox Newspapers. She took a Cox buyout after Cox abandoned its Washington bureau, then joined NPR 10 days later.
She went from Cox’s flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she was a columnist and editorial board member, to national economics correspondent for Cox’s Washington Bureau.

Marilyn went south to Atlanta after seven years at Ol’ Blue Walls (1985-92). She came to the BJ from the Poughkeepsie, New York Journal.

Marilyn’s parents live in Campbell, just east of Youngstown, and her younger brother and his wife live in Reminderville, at the northeast tip of Summit County.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


While dozens of people were dying and hundreds fleeing from California’s devastating wildfires the Arizona Republic ran a promo atop the front page about a food section article with this inappropriate headline: “Fiery Feast.”

Honest to God.

Isn’t anyone responsible for checking out the front page of the Republic, the Phoenix newspaper?

Explains former BJ management and columnist whiz Stuart Warner, who worked there until a few years ago:

“People who design the page work for a different division of the company ... that's the world we live in.”

The headline/montage for this article shows clearly how Ben Maidenburg would have reacted. He would have come thundering out of his office and shouting: "What idiot did this!”

The California wildfires are no joke. They have been raging for days, with people suffering horrible deaths and nearly 4,000 homes and businesses turned into ashes.

Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said: "We are literally looking at explosive vegetation."

And apparently no one at the Arizona Republic was looking at its own front page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Jane Gaab Scott, wife of former BJ regional issues reporter and deputy Business editor Dave Scott who left in the 2014 BJ buyouts exodus, is making her first run for elective office. She’s a candidate for Copley Township trustee.

There are five running for the two seats. The others are Copley trustees president Scott David Dressler, trustees vice president Dale Panovich, Naureen Dar and Bruce Koellner.

Jane is no novice to township doings, however. She has been on the Copley Zoning Board for 11 years.

She’s been around politics before, too. Jane’s father, Robert Gaab, was a councilman in Independence during the 1960s.

Summit County's general election is November 7.

Jane is manager of the Fairlawn-Bath Library, part of the Akron-Summit County Public Library system. She has a master's in Library Science from Kent State. She has been president of the Copley-Fairlawn Kiwanis and the Copley Historical Society.

Jane and Dave have been married 38 years and have three sons, including Franklin who, with the help of wife Natasha Kunin Scott, made Jane and Scott grandparents. Their granddaughter was born in Oakland, California.

Jane’s sister, Katie Gaab-Shaw, is married to another former Ol’ Blue Walls inhabitant, Webb Shaw. Webb retired in 2014 as Vice President of Editorial Resources at J. J. Keller & Associates in Neenah, Wisconsin. The Shaws live in Fremont, Wisconsin.

It was Katie and Webb, along with another former BJ staffer, Rick Reiff, and his wife Diane, who set up the blind date that led to Jane and Dave becoming wife and husband.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Thrity chat October 22

There will be “A Conversation with Thrity Umrigar” 2-5 p.m. Sunday, October 22 at the Hagan family cottage overlooking Lake Erie.

It’s by invitation only. So you have to RSVP if you’re on the preferred list.

The Hagans live at 1572 Redbird Road, Madison, Ohio.

The Hagans’ post:

“To celebrate autumn, friendship and our love for books and to support a local author.

“Thrity will sign her latest novel, ‘Everybody's Son,’ and her other books at the event. Get a head start on your holiday shopping! Drinks and light refreshments provided by the Hagan family.”

Hagans and politics are an inseparable match.

The late Robert Emmett Hagan was Trumbull County commissioner, in the Ohio State Legislature as its most liberal member and ran unsuccessfully for Ohio lieutenant governor.

Among his 14 children was Tim Hagan, Cuyahoga County commissioner for two decades and 2002 Democratic nominee for Ohio governor.

Another of Robert’s sons, also a Robert Hagan, is in the Ohio House of Representatives after servng as an Ohio State Senator.

Former BJ reporter Thirty’s other books, many set in her native India, include “The Story Hour,”  “Bombay Time,” “The Space Between Us,” “If Today be Sweet,” “The Weight of Heaven,” “The World We Found” and “First Darling of the Morning.” 

The Babe From Bombay came to Ol’ Blue Walls in 1987.

PD and former BJ pop culture critic and extraordinary author Mark Dawidziak and on-stage and off-stage co-star Sara Showman Dawidziak are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversity today – October 9.

When I did the research for this article I realized that, to do justice to this “run of the play contract” for life, it would rival the Encyclopedia Brittanica in length. Since, as a BJ editor, I didn’t allow my reporters to do write that long, I won’t.

The Love Story of Mark and Sara (without the “h”) began in Tennessee in 1981 when they appeared together in Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor.” A year later, there was a Mark-Sara wedding in Johnston City, Tennessee, where Mark was working on the Kingsport Times-News.

Another year later that’s where the BJ plucked Mark in 1983 as David Bianculli’s replacement for TV critic. And Mark “lucked into” me as his editor. As Humphrey Bogart said to Claude Raines, “It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship” that, like Frankenstein’s monster, “It’s alive!” today.

Before the BJ & the PD, Mark's career took him to the Kingsport Times-News in Tennessee,
the Bristol Herald Courier in Virginia, the Associated Press’ Washington bureau and Knight-Ridder Newspapers’  Washington bureau.

The Cuyahoga Falls couple’s photos, in many instances, were taken by their daughter, Becky, who may have a career in portrait art.

Mark was born in Huntington, New York (think Long Island), on September 7, 1956, a son of World War II Army Air Corps captain/navigator Joseph Walter Dawidziak, buried in Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island, and Claire Dawidziak. Later, Joe married Bernie Dawidziak.

Mark’s siblings were Joe, Jr., Jane, Aileen and Michael.

When he’s not writing more than a dozen books about Mark Twain, Columbo, Twilight Zone he’s performing the works of Twain, who is the spitting image of Dawidziak, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Dashiell Hammett (who gave birth to detective Sam Spade, played so admirably by Humphrey Bogart) and the Civil War, with Sara often alongside him on the stage for their Largely Literary Theater Company productions.

He has been Mark Twain at, honest to God, the Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, at the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, McKinley Birthplace Memorial Auditorium in Niles and the famous Barter Theatre in Virginia. He gave Hal Holbrook a run for his money when it comes to Twain impersonation.

He gets around, locally and nationally:

"A Christmas Carol," the Kent Stage.
"Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War," Zoar. 
"Everything I Need to Know I Learned in The Twilight Zone," Broome County Forum Theatre, Binghamtom, New York.

"Twain By Two," The Thurber House, Columbus.
"A Force of Nature," scenic overlook at Ledges, Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The Big Read in Wayne County at the Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster. 
And Paula and I have witnessed Mark and Sara’s performances at libraries in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Massillon and Hudson.

Mark’s email address includes tributes to H.L. Mencken and Groucho Marx.

Mencken’s most famous quote trotted out today with Donald Trump in the White House: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have been channeling Mencken when he put the M label on President Trump.

Not to be out-done, Groucho said: “Behind every successful man, there is a woman. Behind her is his wife.”


That takes care of President Clinton, Monia Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton.

Despite his tremendous achievements, Mark will never need a larger hat size. He’s as comforting and entertaining as a Twain quote.

Mark is justifiably in the Cleveland Press Club’s Journalism Hall of Fame.
And it is impossible for the reports of his life and love of Sara to be “greatly exaggerated,” if I may borrow from Mark Twain’s denial of his demise.
Rod Serling, one of the many geniuses in Mark’s spotlight, once wrote: ““Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”
Dawidziak is a writer who performs his lines in the public auditorium. But his skull is crammed with amazing talent.
One of my great pleasures in life was to work with and, in retirement, enjoy reunions at Primo’s Deli and at area performances by Mark and Sara, with Becky’s camera always at the ready.
Lights, camera, action – for Act IV of Mark, Sara and Becky.
 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Phil Trexler cuddles Emmy
And the Emmy goes to . . .
 Phil Trexler !


Phil Trexler, a BJ reporter for 16 years, captured an Emmy Award – television’s highest honor -- for his role in WKYC-Channel 3’s investigative series on “Food Stamp Millionaire” Pacal Mahvi.

Long-time investigative reporter Tom Meyer was the on-camera face. But Phil was the researcher and Mike Leonard the videographer/editor.

The Emmy came in the Education/Schools – News Single Story/Series/Feature category.

Geauga County’s Mahvi was convicted of getting $8,300 in food stamps and other welfare benefits while having more than $1 million in a string of bank accounts.

Mahvi also had an $800,000 Russell Township home, an in-ground swimming pool, several cars, stabled horses and undeveloped property worth tens of millions of dollars in St. Lucia.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Sunday, October 01, 2017


Two of my former TV critics, when I was Television Editor of the BJ, play a prominent role in a disturbing but revealing look at “The Twilight Zone.”

They are David Bianculli, the first TV critic the day that Channels television magazine was born on Super Bowl Sunday, 1980, and Mark Dawidziak, the man from New York City and Tennessee who succeeded David under my editing baton. With David, the BJ was a twilight zone of his making as he danced like a happy leprechaun and entertained the newsroom while I tapped my foot awaiting his column as the deadline approached.

David’s article appears as commentary in TV Guide magazine. It’s title is “We Crossed Over Into the Twilight Zone . . . and Never Looked Back.” David quotes Mark’s book, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone: A Fifth Dimension Guide to Life.”

I asked Mark and David to list their favorite “Twilight Zone” episodes. Mark did. David, of course, missed another deadline, probably while entertaining his Rowan College students in New Jersey now that he no longer works for the New York Daily News. 

The episode that is on every list that I got from critics is “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”

It’s about an alien spaceship eventually revealed as the cause of the townfolks’ panic, shotgunning and mob rule that leads to hurling rocks at windows and hateful accusations at neighbors.

The episode has this chilling and maybe prophetic closing narration by Rod Serling:

“Prejudices can kill – and suspicion can destroy – and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children – and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is – that these things cannot be confined – to the Twilight Zone.”

Sound scarily familiar to today’s real world?

“It’s a Good Life,” set in the sleepy town of Peaksville, Ohio, is about a community who lives are determined by the whims of an implacable, omnipotent monster, a 6-year-old angel-faced boy.

Rod Serling wrote the 1961 episode, based on a short story by Jerome Bixby.

It starred John Larch, Cloris Leachman and Billy Mumy, as the chilling child.

In 2003 “It’s Still a Good Life” aired with Leachman and Mumy more than 40 years later, the only stars to play the same characters in two episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” Mumy’s real-life daughter, Liliana Mumy, played Billy’s daughter in the four decades later sequel.

This isn’t a cornfield in Iowa like in “Field of Dreams.” It’s more like a field of nightmares cornfield.
What about you? Which “Twilight Zone” episode rummages through your brain in your sleep, and astounds you with the significance today of the Serling parables in them?

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Cheryl Scott Sheinin and Neil Sheinin, both BJ retirees, are celebrating their 38th anniversary.

Cheryl posted:
“Happy 38th anniversary to my wonderful husband. That was my best ever birthday present to marry you on that day. I love you more and more each year.”
Clever guy, Neil, a former BJ staffer. By marrying Cheryl on her birthday he only has to give her one gift for her wedding anniversary AND birthday.
Cheryl has a remarkable feat. She has had her dental work done forever by three Dr. Barstans: Father, dad’s son and then dad’s other son. They should just put an engraving with Cheryl’s name on it in the Barstan dental office.
Cheryl retired after 45 years in the BJ Finance Department. Husband Neil Sheinin is a former BJ staffer.
Cheryl is a friend till the end . . . literally.
When former BJ security guard Anna Nitz passed away in 2012, Cheryl went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the ceremony of Ann’s ashes being spread into the Atlantic Ocean. That was Anna's favorite place to travel.
Cheryl’s travels include national parks and monuments in the American West and Portage Lakes when she and Neil are home.

Friday, September 29, 2017


Two people who knew Republican handler Ray Bliss well, Bill Hershey and John C. Green, have written a book about the amazing party organizer, “Mr. Chairman: The Life and Times of Ray C. Bliss.”

Bliss was a Grand Old Party man to the core. When Bliss’ choice, Ohio Sen. Robert A. Taft, failed to win the 1952 presidential nomination, Bliss threw his wiles and support behind Dwight D. Eisenhower. When the Ike that everybody Liked campaigned in Ohio, Bliss made sure that campaign events ran like a D-Day military operation.

So well that, in 1965, President Eisenhower suggested that Bliss become the Republican National Chairman. That warmed the cockles of even Barry Goldwater’s heart, the ultra-conservative who lost his Presidential bid by a landslide the year before to Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Bliss was a master of the nuts and bolts of practical politics and at the forefront of bringing polling and TV into campaigns. Everyone knows there are plenty of nuts in politics. Just check out today’s Senate and House.

Hershey and Green are a perfect team to tell the terrific tale of Bliss’ footprints and fingerprints on Republican history.

Hershey dealt with Bliss often while Bill spent four score covering Ohio politics, much of it as Ohio bureau chief for the BJ and the Dayton Daily News (he flipped back and forth between the two newspapers in his career, bringing dogged digging to benefit both).

Green is director of the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. I saw him at the BJ so often that I thought he was on John S. Knight’s payroll, but Hershey disabused me of that mistaken belief.

Bliss was as good at “applied politics” as Corey Kluber is at baffling batters who oppose the Cleveland Indians or LeBron James is at applying muscle that won NBA titles in Cleveland and Miami.

Hershey also can think quickly with a gun to his head . . . literally. During his State Desk days under the incomparable Patrick T. Englehart, Mogadore’s magnificent master of managing reporters, Bill was covering union coal miners roaming around southeast Ohio trying to convince non-union mines to organize. Their tactics were their version of The Godfather’s horseless head scene.

While Bill was on the phone, talking to me about his coverage, he said: “I have to call you back.”

Later, Bill phoned me again and said, “There was a guy with a gun wanting to know what I was doing. I told him, ‘People are saying a lot of lies about you and I’m here to get the truth.’ “

The man with the gun replied: “Well, come on, then. Follow us.” So Bill got the story of tipples burning and union organizing. And lived to write about it.

I got this email from Bill, who apparently took time out from petting and dealing with his private home “kennel” of dogs to write it:

Hi, John

“Glad you got out of the muck. (I was trapped for 30 minutes by Brandywine Country Club muck on the #9 hole that once was the bottom of the pond before the shoreline was shortened by 20 feet; 3 rescuers, an extended metal ladder and a 3 x 8 foot board rescued me with so little damage that I shot a 38 at Sycamore golf course two days later.)

“John Green, director of the Bliss Institute at Akron U, and I have written a biography of Ray Bliss, the Akron insurance man who was chairman of the Republican Party in Summit County, Ohio and the U.S.

“It is available although the official ‘release’ is at the State of the Parties political scientist conference at Akron U in November.

“As you probably know, Bliss and John Knight were long-time friends and their lives and careers often crossed. Some Beacon Journal retirees might be interested so I thought I'd let you know.

“The book follows Bliss' career from Akron to Columbus to Washington, D.C. but he was a die-hard Akron fan and came home to retire in 1969 after Nixon forced him out as chairman of the national Republican Party. Some people think Nixon could have avoided Watergate if he had listened to Bliss but Nixon wasn't much of a listener.

“Here is a link to a description of the book and also to how it can be ordered.


It's taken more than 25 years to put this thing together and I think there is some interesting stuff as well as ‘inside baseball.’ It's also available through Amazon and some other sites.

“Stay out of the mud!!

  - - Bill H”

Green is the guy that newspapers and TV go to for insight on politics, particularly in Ohio.

Remember how we were always warned to avoid religion and politics in gatherings among friends to dodge turning them into enemies? Well, John is a “Distinguished Professor of Political Science” who is famous for his work in both areas.

Green is co-author of “The Bully Pulpit: The Politics of Protestant Clergy; Religion and the Culture Wars: Dispatches From the Front” and “The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics.” Plus co-editor of “The State of the Parties,” now in its 5th edition, “Multiparty Politics in America” and “Financing the 1996 Election.”

Not much political grass grows under his feet without his tootsies interpreting it.

He spent his student years at 2 C’s, universities of Colorado and Cornell.

John Green also qualifies for academia because he has a massive academic beard, great for pontificating.

Bill had a significant role in the 1987 Pulitzer that came flying to Ol’ Blue Walls over BJ coverage of Sir James Goldsmith’s greenmail takeover attempt of Goodyear and spent two years with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.
 
His student years were spent at Michigan’s Albion College and New York’s Columbia University. The Flint native lives in Columbus with wife Marcia and the dogs (I’ve lost count; one dies and Bill replaces it with two more, or so it seems).

He retired from his second stint with the Dayton Daily News in 2012.

But not from writing, thus the Ray Bliss book. And no one put a gun to his head to make him write it, either. Thank God!