35th Anniversary: Splash! Return to the Ritz

T-shirt mogul daffy dan gray remembers well the photo shoot that put him not so much over a barrel as in one.

“I wasn’t wearing anything underneath there,” he says.

Really? “You believe whatever you want to believe,” he answers.

The goofy attire suited him well — he is, after all, named Daffy, and his hangdog looks have always made him seem like a living cartoon. Still, he admits he took a lot of ribbing from people after the “Splash!” cover story appeared in January 1992. “ ‘Nice legs,’ they’d say.”

Plain Dealer “Minister of Culture” columnist Michael Heaton appeared waist-deep in the treacherous Ritz waters in full gonzo getup: a manual typewriter set poolside next to a cup of black coffee and an ashtray, a Marlboro dangling from his lips, dark shades, Reggae-style knit cap and a black motorcycle jacket worn over a long-sleeve angora sweater.

Huh? Oh, wait — that wasn’t a sweater — that was the bountiful harvest of hair on his bare skin, in the days before metrosexuals taught men to shave, wax or cover up, for mercy’s sake.

“I always dressed like that,” Heaton explains.

Actually, Heaton protests that it wasn’t an accurate depiction of him: “I would never drink coffee.”

Heaton, who in October published “Truth and Justice for Fun and Profit,” a book culling 40 newspaper and magazine stories from his 20 years as a journalist in Cleveland, points out that the shoot foreshadowed that he would someday buy a house with an indoor pool, which he covered over.

“Now it’s my office where I sit and type.” He recalls that he really took something away from the experience: a Ritz-Carlton Hotel bath mat, which he kept in the grungy bathroom of his Clifton Avenue apartment (he’s since upscaled to Bay Village).

Like Gray, Heaton had no reservations about doing the shoot.

“I regret it now that they’re bringing it back up again,” Heaton says.
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