Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Good jazz venues are becoming extinct

It seems the jazz places I love most are forever closing, never to reopen – unfortunately.
Now it looks as if Sammy’s in the Flats is condemned to eternal darkness – at least as far as my kind of music is concerned. Pity.
I guess it’s been a while since any notes of consequence have arisen from the place. For several years it has been a shell of its former self.
And I must confess that I never got there with the kind of regularity I would have preferred.
But oh, how I did love to go whenever I could manage to hear Frank Daniels play the piano, Hank Geer perform on alto saxophone and Marilyn Halderfield, the poor man’s Anita O’Day, sing the ballads we held so dear.
Actually, she wasn’t a poor man’s anything. She was an accomplished singer in her own right. It’s just that she sounded so much like Anita that the comparison was inevitable for anyone who ever listened to Anita sing with Kenton or Krupa.
I think Tom Haley, who once occupied a spot on Channel 3 every morning with Del Donahoo, must have had a huge crush on Marilyn. He talked about her a lot.
I can understand the attraction.
I would go to Sammy’s whenever I could talk someone into going. Actually, I was never a downtown Cleveland person, unless it was going to a Browns or an Indians game at Municipal Stadium.
I guess I’m dating myself.
One downtown place I never hesitated to go to, however, was the former Modern Jazz Room, which gave way to the headache ball so that Jacobs Field and Gund Arena could be constructed.
One of the greatest jazz adventures I ever experienced, other than a few trips to Birdland in New York City – which the last time I saw it was a parking lot – was a week I spent at the Jazz Room because of a fortuitous event that took place on a Monday night many years ago.
I say it was a week because Monday was such a great experience that I went there every night for the rest of the week.
Appearing was the Trombone Sound, headed by Kai Winding and featuring, Carl Fontana (the greatest solo trombonist who ever lived), Wayne Andre and Dick Leib, plus a three-man rhythm section.
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the group had made a “live” recording there one night (what other kind is there?) and I made it my business to acquire a copy.
Needless to say, I still have it.
As a true jazz venue, there is still Nightown, where I once witnessed the finest father-son piano duel of all time. It featured John and Michael Petrone. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
They are both good friends and are still playing. I think Mike is a regular at Johnny’s Downtown, but as far as I know John, who is retired from North High, plays only private parties.
Oh how I wish they had recorded that session! I have a lot of CDs by Michael, but nothing they ever recorded together.
As for the aforementioned Frank Daniels, I saw him play with the Continental Trio a thousand times – every place they ever went.
That includes Intorcio’s, the Town House, the White House, Seaway Lanes and Dream Haven. If you are not familiar with them, they were all local hot spots.
And yes, I do miss all of them.
But let me tell you something about Sammy’s in the Flats that you probably do not know. In fact, if you are aware of this you are probably deserving of some kind of a prize.
Sammy’s was once the Glasier Warehouse, a place that stored caskets for the Glasier Casket Co., operated by Joe Glasier and his father, Hank.
Later on they took on David Glasier, son of Joe. I knew Joe in high school. David worked in the casket business for many years.
If you have guessed that David is the same person who has emerged as a writer of renown and acclaim for The News-Herald, who just recently wrote a brilliantly researched three-part series on Jeffrey Lundgren, the Kirtland mass killer, you would be correct.
See the things you find out when you start reading an innocuous, all-purpose, one-size-fits-all column about jazz?
That knowledge, of course, will not restore Sammy’s to the world of jazz as we know it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Organizations throughout Lake County are prepping for RNC

If you have ever clicked on the TV at 8 p.m. to watch goings-on at a political convention and that is the sum total of your experience in convention-watching, then there is a lot of the real action you have missed.
What happens on the convention floor, of course, is the real business of what the party is up to, for example, nominating a standard-bearer to run for president, but that is but a small slice of the overall picture.
Outside the convention hall, and for miles around, there are thousands of people partying, glad-handing, whooping it up and engaging in the merriment of the day.
And there are also many thousands of people who don’t go anywhere near the convention hall. But they are drawn like moths to a proverbial flame to the drama and the melodrama taking place at the center of the activity.
If you have never been at a convention, then you have limited knowledge of what is taking place.
You can read about it and watch it on TV, but there is nothing like actually being there to make you appreciate the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, so to speak.
I have only one convention under my belt, but I have been able to extrapolate my experiences into a total knowledge package of big picture.
If you think I don’t know everything there is to know about conventions, go ahead, ask me. I will give you the inside dope.
The one I attended was the Democratic convention in Miami Beach in 1972. That was the memorable occasion at which George McGovern gave his acceptance speech to run for president in a nationally televised stem-winder at 3:20 a.m.
It was a masterpiece of bad timing. The campaign went downhill from there.
Since I was there, in person, soaking up the proceedings while a national TV audience of dozens, perhaps hundreds of insomniacs watched in awe, I am sure you can understand why I am considered an expert in such matters.
I became good friends there with one of the greatest political writers who ever lived, Hugh McDiarmid of the Dayton Daily News. He later moved on to Lansing, Mich.
We spent the nights in the convention hall, furiously taking notes so that we could dispatch stories back to our readers in Ohio, and afternoons sitting around the pool at our hotel, soaking up sunshine and watching one of our colleges from the former Cleveland Press attempting to set the world record for drinking Bloody Marys in one sitting.
Obviously, I am leading up to something. It is this: The Republican National Convention, at which the party’s candidate for president will be nominated, will be held in Cleveland in July 2016. I believe it starts July 18, and that is a ways off. But it is a big deal. A  VERY BIG deal. And it is also a big deal for us in Lake County. Here is why:
A political convention attracts huge masses of people. Only a small fraction of them are delegates. Most of them are family, friends, political types, office holders, influence peddlers, hangers-on, close observers, observers from afar, and the like.
They will take up every available hotel room in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and spill over into all the adjoining counties. At least four large motels in Lake County will be solidly booked with people attracted by the convention.
This represents a marvelous, one-time opportunity to do land-office business for all of our attractions that are a lure to visitors. So open the gates and invite them in.
Nobody knows this better than Bob Ulas, head man of the Lake County Visitors Bureau. He and a large group of helpers have been meeting regularly for several weeks to try and figure out how to put the county’s best foot forward.
These are business people, office holders and other politicians. If you think they are all Republicans, you would be wrong, because the sweet aroma of dollars coming into the county from outside knows no political parents.
(The best meal by far served at one of the meetings was at Classic Park in Eastlake.)
So yes, both Republicans and Democrats are plotting ways to get convention followers to stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants, visit our wineries, ride our Laketran buses, play on our golf courses, swim at our beaches, indulge in our night life, visit our tourist attractions and, of course, spend a few bucks in our fair county.
The fathers and mothers of all this planning are not merely Republicans and Democrats. They are people with an eye toward promotion, people who want to see a great week take shape in our county.
In other words, people like you and me. Or, as the illiterate among us would say, people like you and I.
Sorry. If you are a regular reader, you know I couldn’t resist it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dale H. Fellows earns well-deserved honor from Willoughby Rotary Club

I would be hard-pressed to tell you how many Monday meetings of the Willoughby Rotary Club I have attended since 1961, when the club was chartered, but I have no trouble choosing the one which is my favorite every year.
It is the last meeting in January, because that is the one at which we honor a distinguished citizen and a distinguished civic organization.
This year that meeting will be Jan. 26 (it is always a Monday) and I want to tell you something very important right up front before we proceed.
That would be when and where it will be held, how much the tickets are and the fact that it is open to the public, meaning you and your friends are invited.
So mark this down in your date book. But don’t delay, because time is of the essence.
It will be a luncheon meeting, beginning at 11:30 a.m., at Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe. Tickets are a bargain – $20 per person.
You can reserve a place by calling Kelsey at the Merhar Insurance Agency, 946-2040. Or send a check to her at 4077 Clark Ave., Willoughby, 44094. But hurry, time’s a-wasting.
The honorees this year are very special, which is to say they are in the long-standing tradition of selecting only the very best citizens and organizations as “distinguished.”
The distinguished citizen is Dale H. Fellows of Willoughby Hills. He embodies the very essence of true distinction.
He is possibly best-known as chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, a role in which he has excelled for many years.
(Why, you may wonder, would the Republican chairman be honored and not the Democratic chairman? Well, Dale lives in the western section of the county, which is the area served by the Willoughby Rotary Club. The Democratic chairman lives in the eastern section of the county. It would be some other group’s responsibility to honor him).
The list of Dale’s accomplishments is virtually endless. He has served as a Lake county commissioner, 20 years as a member of the Lake County Board of Elections, a trustee of Lakeland Community College, where he is a member of the Hall of Fame, several boards and commissions in Willoughby Hills, and that is only the beginning.
He has served in leadership roles with the Friends of James A. Garfield Historic Site, the Adoption Network of Cleveland, the Lake County Farmland Preservation Task Force, as a lector at St. Noel Parish in Willoughby Hills, as a board member of the Salvation Army and Boy Scouts of America, he has been a cubmaster and a scoutmaster, a member of the Lions and Rotary Clubs and so many more that I don’t have the space to list them all.
The list of special awards and recognitions he has received is equally as impressive.
Suffice it to say that he hasn’t missed much in the last 60 years. And his wife, Nancy, is a member of Willoughby Hills City Council.
I don’t know what they talk about at the dinner table, but it is unlikely there is ever a lull in the conversation.
Recipient of the second “distinguished” award, the civic organization, is the McKinley Community Outreach Center, at the former McKinley Elementary School on Lost Nation Road in Willoughby.
The spirit of goodness, mercy and helping those in need exudes from the center.
I hope you read the feature story about the center by Amy Popik in the paper Jan. 8. To say the story was comprehensive would almost be an understatement.
One of the good-hearted people who run the center is Pastor Mike Currier, but he has plenty of help. It is not in any sense a one-man operation.
He is pastor of the Body of Christ Church in Willoughby. Also meriting top billing are Don Perks, pastor of Willoughby United Methodist Church, and Eric Leissa, associate pastor of the Body of Christ Church.
They and their associates dispense food, clothing and tons of paper products to the deserving in the community which find themselves in need and have no place to turn.
I have been through the facility, and I cannot find the words to describe the multitude of good deeds that are performed in the name of charity, human decency and help for God’s creatures who are in desperate need of a helping hand.
If charity begins at home, it also begins at the northern end of Lost Nation Road.
The school was a great place when I went there in eighth grade, and it is an even better place now because of the good deeds and generous acts of kindness being done there on a daily basis.
I hope you can find the time to attend the “distinguished” luncheon at Pine Ridge Jan. 26.
And since the food there is catered by Dino’s,  you just know that it is going to be first rate. It could be the best $20 meal you’ve ever had.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Being grammaticality correct is not easy

When it comes to reading material, we all have our favorites.
Some like historical novels, some like poetry, others like anything that’s within reach, for example, the side of a cereal box.
A friend of mine once read an insurance policy simply because there was nothing else at hand and he was desperate for something to read.
I have a lot of favorite reading materials, but nothing beats a list – any kind of a list – for a little light reading matter to brighten up the day.
The first thing I saw when I turned on this computer was “The Top 25 Most Played Stories of...” I couldn’t wait to find out what they might be.
The thing about most lists is, we can all think of items we’d like to add. For example, if you were to read a compilation of the most fabulous movies all time, I am sure you could think of a couple you’d like to include.
The best vacation spots? The ugliest haircuts? The dopiest politicians? There’s a list for everything.
I saw a list the other day of “The Most Annoying People.” A great topic!
It started off with Johnny Manziel and Al Sharpton. The lady of the house said lists like that are not fair, because their mothers undoubtedly loved them, and would be terribly offended to find their sons so “honored.”
Well, OK. But I thought to myself, I hope I never get put on a list by someone who doesn’t like the way I part my hair.
The laugh would be on that swell person, because I don’t part my hair. I just put a little grease on it and brush it forward so that it looks like a cross between Frank Sinatra and Mark Hatfield.
If the latter name doesn’t ring a bell, he was a long-ago U.S. senator who was my role model for the well-groomed look.
But let’s think for a moment about most annoying habits. What would your friends say is your most annoying characteristic?
Ranking right up near the top for me, people might say, would be my obsession for correcting the grammar of people who fracture the king’s English.
I’m sorry, but when someone fractures a phrase, I cannot help but to point it out. I’m sorry, but it must be done. The lapse cannot pass without taking note of it.
Case in point: We were at a rather large gathering the other evening occasioned by the anniversary of a gentlemen’s social club to which I belong.
The man next in line to become international president of the organization was introduced.
After the applause subsided, he said: “I am glad that you invited my wife and I to be with you tonight.”
I leaned over and whispered to the lady of the house: “My wife and me.”
She looked at me quizzically. “He should have said, ‘my wife and me,’” I said.
The grammatical test is simple. You break the sentence down into its basic parts. You wouldn’t say, “Thank you for inviting my wife and thank you for inviting I.”
Of course you wouldn’t. You would say, “Thank you for inviting my wife and thank you for inviting me.”
Thus: “Thank you for inviting my wife and me.”
The example just cited is probably the most frequent assault on the language that is heard on a daily basis.
I went over and mentioned it to my friend, who had introduced our next president. It was not my intention for me to be overheard, but of course I was.
I’m sorry that I put it so crudely. What I said was, “I’m sad to say that our next president is illiterate.”
That was most unkind of me. And of course, when he  got up to speak, he pointed out in a very kind and gentle tone of voice that he had been “corrected by the editor.”
From now on, when I am offering words of wisdom, I must be more careful, lest I offend someone or hurt a person’s feelings.
That is the very last thing I want to do.
All I want to do is correct small errors of grammar so that we can all go about communicating in a way that will not offend your high school English teacher.