In Good Company

Legendary Cleveland Magazine editor Mike Roberts watches over me.

So do Ned Whalen, James Wood, Diana Tittle and Frank Kuznik, all staffers during the magazine’s glory days in the 1970s. In the framed black-and-white photo that hangs above my desk, they’re in a bar, most with beer mugs in hand. Mike has his glass raised somewhere between a sip and a toast. Ned wants to say something. All the men wear thick, oversized glasses. Diana has on a perfect smile.

For the longest time, I just kept the picture in my office, unsure where to hang it. I didn’t want the pressure of them always looking over my shoulder. But earlier this year, sometime after April (our actual anniversary), I decided it was time they got a place of honor on the wall, a good reminder of all those people who have helped make this magazine what it is and what it can be.

Not that it’s hard to find inspiration around here. The magazine’s founder and first publisher, Lute Harmon, still occupies the corner office.

His letter introducing that first issue of Cleveland Magazine continues to set us straight, a reminder of where we’ve been and what we need to accomplish: “We don’t think the way to make the magazine interesting is to tell what’s right and beautiful about Cleveland and forget that it’s a slum-ridden, financially poor, ethnically divided city filled with stubborn people, none of whom seem to know all — or even very many of — the answers. Meanwhile, however, we live here and when we find new ideas, new areas of interest, people who can talk intelligently about what’s happening here, we’ll pass it along.”

But don’t let Lute’s growl scare you off. He conceived of the magazine’s 1972 “Power of Positive Print” campaign for supporting the city (see some examples on page 139) and used his column to promote and prod our town.

This year, the Press Club of Cleveland honored Lute with induction into the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. Naturally, he makes several appearances in this anniversary issue, including his introduction to the 1970s. My favorite of those stories involves a Hough Bakeries lemon meringue pie (see page 136).

Joining him in this year’s hall of fame class was Richard Osborne, who served as Cleveland Magazine ’s managing editor in the early 1980s. A consultant at the magazine when I started here (and my father-in-law), Rich has been an incredible mentor to more staffers than I can count. (Then again, editors aren’t very good with advanced math.) His classic interview with former Browns owner Art Modell in September 1996 is one of the magazine’s best.

Now the publisher of our sister publication, Ohio Magazine, Rich is the perfect person to pair with one of our favorite cover subjects, Dick Feagler, for a Q&A in this issue (see page 137).

Looking back at some of the amazing stories was part of the joy of putting this issue together. Every time someone picked up an old issue, there was something to share: from our coverage of Ralph Perk (page 134) and our obsession with Wilma Smith (page 146) to the quirky “Great Cleveland Magazine Mustache Contest” (page 135) and the realization that some things just don’t change (see page 143).

We caught up with lots of characters from our past, too, such as Greg Pruitt (page 139), Lynda Hirsch (page 151) and Benny Bonanno (page 147). While Liz Vaccariello, editor from 1993 to 1999 (and current editor of Prevention), returns to introduce the Comeback Decade.

And what anniversary issue would be complete without our inaugural cover boy and perpetual presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich. Senior editor Erick Trickey (with photography from longtime contributor Steve Vaccariello) explores the magazine’s relationship with Kucinich through the years, delves into new revelations about his past and personality, and poses the question, “Why is Dennis Kucinich running for president?” (The answers just might surprise you.)

It’s no surprise that we owe a huge debt for this issue to Mike, Ned, Lute, Rich, Liz and so many others who have worked here during the past 35 years (see page 16). And current staffers Amber Matheson and Jennifer Kessen did a great job editing and designing our 35th anniversary coverage.

No doubt, we have a lot to live up to, but in a city as rich and as challenging as Cleveland, we have a lot to work with as well.
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