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Issue Date: October 2012

Best of Cleveland 2012: Entertainment & Attractions

Not-so-haunted House

The Hudson Haunted House has spent the last 40 years mostly scaring adults. But each year, a few ghouls come out in the sunlight for some fun. The event, Lights On, Masks Off, provides children with an alternative to typical haunted houses and late-night trick-or-treating. "It brings to the front that sometimes, what looks scary isn't always what it seems," says Derik Butkovic of Hudson Jaycees, which runs the house. On Oct. 14 and 28 from 1 to 4 p.m., children can compete in costume contests and tour the house while collecting treats. Butkovic wears several hats throughout the production, including Jed, a character visitors are sure to meet. "He's a pretty disturbing guy during the season, but for matinees, he's very welcoming and kind to children." 2250 Barlow Road, Hudson, 330-653-5252,

Unconventional Gallery

if two guys name their art gallery after an expression from some Bone Thugs-N-Harmony tracks, it's a safe bet they're not worried about their place in high culture. Recent college graduates and co-owners Joe Lanzilotta and Derek Maxfield opened BuckBuck Studio in April with a concert, art show and chili cookoff, a collaboration with Ohio City neighbor Palookaville Chili. "We really want an accessible creative space," says Lanzilotta. "We didn't want to close anybody out. We decided to just keep it loose and let there be room for change." Next, they staged Pffft!, an exhibition of cartoonlike art that included Sage Perrott's potty-humor-themed drawings and other art unafraid to depict embarrassing sides of human nature. They followed up in August with the more pleasant and sophisticated Hai•ku, which contrasted Janet Bruhn's small, bright, slightly impressionistic paintings of ordinary household and neighborhood objects with Andy Curlowe's large partial landscapes that reveal the geometry of geography. BuckBuck's storefront adds art to a not-yet-gentrified block of Lorain Avenue, while studio space in the rear adds working creativity. 3910 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, 216-407-9558,

'80s Cover Band

Rock of Ages' barely controlled, frenetic rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" proves the band knows how to command a stage. While the playlist is catered to whatever vibe they're getting from the crowd, one '80s song always gets the place going, according to lead singer and guitarist Tony Nolfi. " 'Don't Stop Believin' " [by Journey] does it every time," he says. "Usually you hear everybody yell for it before we even start playing our instruments." Nolfi can go from channeling Journey's high-pitched Steve Perry to the raspy Don Henley on "Boys of Summer" with ease. "We pick '80s songs that we think people will dance to," he says.


If a half day's worth of blood and gore, frayed nerves and cheesy scares sounds like your idea of a perfect date, head to the Capitol Theatre's 12 Hours of Terror Oct. 20. The all-night event is an annual celebration of watching horror movies to the point of exhaustion. This year's slate includes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Terror Train (1980), Fright Night (1985), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Slither (2006), as well as a secret film unveiled only at show time. "It may not even be decided until the week of," says Cleveland Cinemas director of marketing Dave Huffman, who selected the original Halloween as the 2011 surprise. The audience will also get to watch Jaws 3-D — a sequel that's as campy as the original is creepy. Remember when Jaws smashes into the glass of the aquatic theme park's underwater observatory while all the people are in it? You have to see that on the big screen again, right? 1390 W. 65th St., Cleveland, 216-651-7295,

Pop Art

You could try to write off George Vlosich's Etch-A-Sketch art as a gimmick, but your mind reels at the thought of creating such intricate portraits with a toy you last used to draw rectangles. The GV Art & Design founder's depiction of iconic Clevelanders on display at the Horseshoe Casino is his Sistine Chapel-in-reverse: a richly detailed mural that features Paul Newman, Superman, Bob Hope, Halle Berry, Bob Feller, Jim Brown, Austin Carr and Drew Carey — all shrunk to the confines of a 5-by-7-inch screen. After enjoying an up-close look at the original, step back and take in the larger, colorized print of the work splashed across the wall. So how does he create such detailed art without a mistake? Easy. He doesn't. "There are mistakes in every one, but from my standpoint, I try to make it as perfect as possible," he says. "I start over all the time."

World's Largest Drumsticks

These would make one loud drum roll. Unveiled in July to honor Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, a native son of Warren, the larger-than-life sticks match the rocker's stature in scale — each is 23 feet long and weighs 900 pounds. Joe O'Grady, the Warren policeman and past Main Street Warren president who successfully lobbied to rename a downtown alley after Grohl in 2009, came up with the idea for the massive tribute last year during a motorcycle tour of the western United States with his girlfriend. "If something is the biggest, we are going to go there and get a picture," he says. The $5,000 attraction, financed through sales of souvenir T-shirts and shot glasses, was carved from poplar by local artist Joel Eggert. The drumsticks currently reside at the Warren Community Amphitheatre; there are plans to move them to a spot in Dave Grohl Alley later this fall. At press time, O'Grady had not contacted Guinness World Records about certifying them as the world's largest. He's more interested in getting Grohl to sign them. "We're going to need the world's largest Sharpie," he jokes.

'90s Cover Band

State Road has managed to remain original by staying true to the tunes it copies. "A lot of people like when a cover band's philosophy is to do it their own way, put their own style into it, and I respect that," says Jim Tobbe, the band's lead singer. "We really try to keep the tunes very true to the music, but especially vocally." The proof is in the sound, particularly on songs that first rang out in the '90s. State Road shines on tracks such as R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," the Foo Fighters' "Learn To Fly" and "Rain King" by Counting Crows. It's not as if they slack on the other decades either, playing everything from "Lonely Boy" by the Black Keys to "Can't Get Enough" by Bad Company. "It's really important to me that you play to the audience," says Tobbe. "When you're a bar band, the name of the game is getting people up and getting them dancing and getting them thirsty."

Bowling Alley Makeover

With its manual scoring and 1960s-era pinsetters, the bowling at Mahall's Twenty Lanes remains pleasantly retro. But Mahall's bar menu is as unexpected as picking up a 7-10 split. When new owners took over the alley in December, they added upscale, locally sourced bar food, including fried chicken, vegan tacos and hand-rolled soft pretzels. Once a month, guest chefs — including Eric Williams of Momocho and Steve Schimoler of Crop — take over the alley's kitchen duties, making appetizers such as Mexican street-style tacos and black bean burgers. "Some of the people who come to Mahall's don't even go bowling," says co-owner Kelly Flamos. "They just come for the cocktails and food." The new owners have even stripped the billiards lounge of its tables and turned the room into an airy, live music venue, hosting four to seven shows a week. Some of the bands, such as Sonny & the Sunsets, a surf pop group from San Francisco, take to the lanes before the show, making it possible to be both rocking and bowling all night long. 13200 Madison Ave., 216-521-3280,

Pro Day

The bases are 90 feet apart and the pitcher's mound is exactly 60-feet 6-inches from home plate, just like every regulation baseball park. But at Avon's All Pro Freight Stadium, the field is covered in artificial turf, a 35-foot-high scoreboard in right center field displays the runs, hits, errors and velocity of each pitch, and the in-ground dugouts have their own bathrooms. Oh, and your kid's youth league team can play there. "It's a professional baseball stadium," says Daniel Helm, vice president of business operations for the Lake Erie Crushers. "It's hard to get on a Major League field, whether it's just to check it out or to play on it." But about 20 youth league teams played on the Frontier League field last summer — at a cost of about $1,000 for five hours. "We really try to give them the best experience possible," says Helm. "It gives everyone a chance to feel like a professional." 2009 Baseball Blvd., Avon, 440-934-3636,

Poetry Debut

Whether he's writing about Sasquatch hiding inside the silver circle of a Sears coat rack or the hounds that find a girl's bones, Brad Ricca's American Mastodon is the sort of poetry that makes you want to comb through it over and over, hoping to further decipher the clues left along the way. "I wanted to talk about stuff that happens to everybody," Ricca says. "Whenever there's kind of a hole in the center of things, what do we fill it with? Do we fill it with sadness or do we just make things up to try to explain things away?" Ricca, an English teacher at Case Western Reserve University who won the St. Lawrence Book Award for an unpublished collection of poems or short stories, wrote the pieces that appear in American Mastodon over the course of 10 years. "It sounds weird to say you write in secret because it makes it sound so romantic, like you're locked up in an attic or something," he says. "But that's kind of what it was."

Blues Trio

Butch Armstrong's clean-shaven head, long goatee and leather boots make him look more like a biker than a blues musician. But when he and his Armstrong Bearcat bandmates Michael Barrick and Billy Coakley rip into a 10-minute blues jam, it's easy to see why this trio revs up local barrooms. Though they have some original songs, the trio mainly puts their own spin on blues classics. "No matter what we do," says Armstrong, "we inherit it ourselves and make it our own way." While Armstrong delivers a Clapton-esque guitar solo on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," everyone gets in on the act. Barrick powers through bass solos several times a night, and Coakley usually wraps the show with an avalanche of drums you can feel reverberating in your chest.

Kids Dance Party

A whole new generation of hipsters have been getting their groove on at the Beachland Ballroom. Started by former Beachland cook Kimberly Homan, the first Cleveland Kids Dance party in January drew 220 tiny dancers. Since then, the fun has been amped up with themes including the Wild Rumpus & Dance Party — inspired by Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are — and the Superhero Dance Party, where kids dressed up as their favorite characters. "We had little superheroes running around all over the place," Homan says. For $5, toddlers to 10-year-olds can enjoy raffle prizes, crafts and kids-oriented snacks and drinks. This month's party lineup features Kiddie Karaoke on Oct. 6, where the pint-sized rockers can make their own instruments out of recycled materials, and the Halloween Spooktacular on Oct. 28. Homan says her own 3-year-old daughter, Larkin, can't get enough of the fun. "You can't even say the word party around her anymore," she says. "She's like, 'Lets get in the car and go to the Beachland!' " 216-383-1124,

Winter Festival

While we're known to complain about snow, we've recently found a reason to embrace all of that white stuff. The Brite Winter Festival, founded four years ago by a group of Case Western Reserve University friends, has evolved into the season's biggest festival of arts, culture and lights. Head to West 25th Street in Ohio City on Saturday, Feb. 16 as the festival plans to shine even
brighter — last year GE donated more than $7,000 worth of lighting for shop owners to string in their windows. "We want to strip away the dark and cold and fill the air with light," says organizer Thomas Fox. Visit neighborhood spots or make your way to the bonfire. "There's a certain playfulness in having this event in the middle of winter," says Fox. "It re-creates that feeling you had as a child when you had an unexpected snow day."

Radio Theater

The warm glow of those cabinet-sized radios has long been re-placed by the digital readout on your iPod. But at the Old-Time Radio Theater Nights, hosted at Visible Voice Books, you can still feel like Ralphie listening to Little Orphan Annie in A Christmas Story. "In a world of being constantly acoustically over-stimulated, this is a change from all of that," says host Robert Carillio. "[It] sharpens your listening skills, stimulates your imagination." Held approximately once a month, the events feature a pair of classic radio programs — such as a Jimmy Stewart appearance on Lux Radio Theater from the 1930s or a CBS Radio Mystery Theater episode from the 1970s — Carillio has found online or borrowed from a fellow radio theater enthusiast. Set in the Tremont bookstore's cozy upstairs room, the free event can even make for a romantic night out. "It's a great date," Carillio says. "This is something that actually requires a little bit of interaction, and I think people really appreciate that." 1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland, 216-961-0084,

Tribute Band

Admit it, you sing along to it when no one's watching. So it should come as no surprise that Arrival — The Journey Tribute's most common request is "Don't Stop Believin'." But it was lead singer Vic Harris' rendition of "Faithfully" that snagged him top prize in a cruise ship karaoke contest four years ago and gave him the idea to create a band that pays homage to the '70s and '80s rock powerhouse. "This is my first effort at being the lead singer," says Harris. Arrival starts its shows off with a bang, performing "Separate Ways," but there are plenty of power ballads to go around. "We get a lot of dancers with the soft ballads," Harris says. "It's like when you're a kid at the high school dance, kind of waiting around for the soft songs, because that's when you can get closer to your girl."

Picker's Paradise

The Bomb Shelter is where the gloriously huge, the dazzlingly garish and the just plain large leftovers of a former era come to retire in style. "We deal in a lot more bulky items," says co-owner Kevin Royer. "Cars, auto fenders, large signs, freezer doors from the '50s that are brand new and never used." In case you're wondering if there's a market for old/new freezer doors, "you would be surprised," says Royer. Meanwhile, a Krispy Kreme sign — salvaged from a nearby scrap yard — at least 15 feet long rests against one wall, while over in the "automotive" department a white '71 VW bus is set up in a camping vignette. With so many random, aging pieces strewn through the space, it's a sort of post-apocalyptic wonderland where browsing is most of the fun, and for Royer, buying is a bonus. "We're trying to offer an experience," he says. "A lot of people come here to just kind of relive their past." 923 Bank St., Akron, 330-258-0088,

Mountain Bike Trail

A nine-mile, 24-inch-wide dirt trail winds through Strongsville's Mill Stream Run Reservation, offering a walk in the woods for hikers and something tantalizing for bikers. As one of Northeast Ohio's only Metroparks-sanctioned mountain biking trails, Royalview Trail has set the handlebars high for any future sites. Trail development manager Ralph Protano and a village of volunteers and workers spent all summer crafting a course for beginners and veterans alike. "[It's] a prevailing 8 percent grade the whole trail, so you're not really climbing or descending too much," he explains. For those experienced bikers, good turns and a tight corridor keep it challenging. The trail winds through a hardwood forest packed with deer and Virginia bluebells, and by next spring there'll even be a skills course (think log riding, maybe even a jump or two) tacked on to one end.

Theatrical Photo Collection

The greatest Shakespearean actor of the 1920s, a star of silent and talking films, John Barrymore spent his last years in alcohol-drenched self-parody. But just inside Otto Moser's, Drew Barrymore's long-dead grandfather still poses in his regal prime. The 120-year-old restaurant and bar owns around 1,400 vintage photographs of theater stars, a collection begun by Otto Moser himself when he opened his bar in 1892 on East Fourth Street, then Cleveland's theater district. When Moser's moved to PlayhouseSquare in 1994, co-owner Dan Bir saw it as a sort of homecoming. "We should be here because of the theaters," he says. Actors from touring shows come by to gaze at the sepia-toned photos, picking out a young Helen Hayes, Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice, and bandleader John Philip Sousa, stern and bespectacled. "Some of them are in awe," Bir says. "They walk around for hours." 1425 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, 216-771-3831

Monday, September 24, 2012 12:43:30 PM by Anonymous
So glad to see you have State Road on the bill. These guys rock! The do old, new and everything in between. No one trick pony's here. Something for everyone! Can't wait...
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 6:34:15 PM by Anonymous
Armstrong Bearcats photo taken by Lisa Parsons. :-)
Thursday, September 27, 2012 11:01:50 PM by Anonymous
Spooky Ranch has one of the country's best haunted hayrides and haunted attractions. It appeals to the masses. Go there and see what everyones's talking about. I went last week and it was outstanding!

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