35th Anniversary: Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll

The ’80s were crazy. The Me Decade. People tried to slurp up as much life as they could at autobahn speeds. Cleveland Magazine kept pace (or did we encourage it?).

“Cleveland Magazine readers only go ’round once in life and they grab for all the gusto they can — between snarfing down a potion called the Kamikaze at D’Poo’s in the Flats or throwing down a Jelly Bean at Karb’s on the South Side,” Greg Sticharchuk explained in the April 1980 cover story “Boozin’ and Cruisin.’ ”

Personal ads bloomed in the back pages of the magazine; a contingent of Cleveland Magazine ’s Most Interesting People jumped in the pool at the party two years running; and the Flats started to draw the crowds.

The ’80s had their own brand of fuel to keep the party going, too: cocaine. By 1983, it was prevalent enough for the magazine to do a cover story, “The White Plague,” by Edward P. Whelan. “Cocaine is big business here,” he wrote. “Hundreds of millions of dollars a year in sales place it on a financial level with Cleveland’s largest corporations.”

By 1986, it had become “The Cocaine Nightmare,” and 23-year-old Don Rogers, the Browns’ new safety, overdosed on cocaine after his bachelor party.

In the midst of it all, the magazine’s singles coverage got bigger and bigger.

It started with a doozy: Writer Ellen Schulz interviewed psychologists, sociology professors, and single men and women over age 35 for “Middle-Aged and Singled In” to help readers overcome the “stock image of the over-40 singles scene in Cleveland: a weird and pathetic world of white patent shoes and Holiday Inn lounges, of social misfits and would-be swingers.”

In 1984, the magazine covered the singles scene no less than three times, with a kissy cover in February, a toothy cover in May and truly terrible cover in September. Cleveland Magazine was obsessed with helping readers find “the one.”

“We’ve come from ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to ‘The Waltons’ to ‘Archie Bunker’ to ‘Three’s Company’ to ‘Charlie’s Angels’ to ‘Dallas’ in our thinking,” said Father James Becherer, a Catholic marriage counselor, in the February story. Frank Kuznik tried (half-heartedly) to overcome readers’ biggest beefs with the singles scene in “The Mating Game ’84”: “Another complaint: There’s nothing new happening in Cleveland. Again, a statement of some validity.”

September brought the results of “A Survey of Change.” Seven hundred readers had responded to the poll, and they showed a distinctly new-wave trend: “Ruth Clough, 28, Cleveland: ‘I made a conscious decision that I’m not going to get married just for the sake of getting married.”

Clough’s opinion was echoed across the survey — it seemed that in this decade of decadence and indulgence, there was, perhaps for the first time in the city’s history, nothing wrong with being single and loving it. The party would last into the ’90s, but the true heyday of Cleveland’s party scene will always be the ’80s, synonymous with the rise of the Flats, the quest for love and the need for one more hit of speed.
Getting Personals (warning: they can be creepy)

Faded beauty (40), on prowl for sugar daddy with pet gorilla. Hurry.
— April 1980

Dreamer (27), searching for a goddess. Legends will be made from our desires. Goddesses aren’t camera-shy, so be sure to send a photo.
— Sept. 1980

Siren seriously suggests sensational soiree with suave stud spending substantial cents for superbly satisfying sortie. Those with lisps need not apply.
— Nov. 1980
The ’80s Personified

As we rediscovered the concept of gender after the grungy, unisex ’60s and ’70s, we turned to writer James M. Wood on the topic of “Real Men” in our April 1982 issue. Acting more like a woman than a “real man,” Wood proceeded to blab on and on about what it meant to be a real man in the early ’80s. Then he picked a real woman to identify all the rest of the real men out there: “No nonsense, Real Woman Jenny Crimm, the 6-foot-tall-with-heels-on anchor of Channel 5’s “Noon News.” She is also a streetwise reporter on the evening news who is not afraid to ask any man the toughest question on-the-air.”

Sadly, she didn’t exactly pick the men Wood figured she would, choosing instead men such as 61-year-old banker (ahem — chief executive officer of AmeriTrust) M. Brock Weir: “Suave, debonair, tall. Impresses both men and women with his manner, not his money;” and Michael Stanley: “When he is not on the road, Michael shares the housework.”

Now that’s a real man.

Tom Cousineau sports a super-tight, cut-off, purple T-shirt advertising the Cleveland Ballet on the opening page of our 1984 story. For that feat alone, he makes our cut as the male emblem of Cleveland in the ’80s. He was living the life.

Our trusty battle-of-the-sexes expert James M. Wood tackled this story with enthusiasm.

“Thomas Richard Cousineau is different than you or me,” he wrote. “He has more money, a tattoo, dimples, green eyes, and blond-tipped curls. He bench-presses 325 pounds twice a week and sleeps in a canopied bed with a milky white dust ruffle. Those differences mean the 27-year-old Cleveland Browns linebacker, called Tommy by his closest friends and family, can skip the American Dream and work on the American Fantasy: marketing the magnificent flesh of a millionaire athlete as a celebrity personality.”

Now that’s a real man, right James?
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