Our Most Interesting People for 2005

They set the dance stage and the nightlife scene on fire -- and set themselves ablaze, too. They dress the stars and shoot rockets to the stars. They buck the political status quo and get buck nekkid in Playboy. Here's a peek at thos who pique our curiosi

Jeff and Ursula Allison
Ages: 40 and 35
Occupation: bar owners

Why they're interesting: They've opened the hottest new bar in Cleveland, the Garage Bar, a haunt for gearheads and rockers on West 25th Street in Ohio City.

Jeff's previous life: He played minor-league baseball in Miami and Salt Lake City, worked as a model, managed the Spy Bar and Mercury Lounge and co-owned Touch Supper Club with Ursula.

What Ursula did: Worked in retail for 11 years, joined Mercury as a bartender and co-owned Touch with Jeff.

Their roles at the bar: "He's the brains. I'm the frontman, the personality," Ursula says. "If I'm not here, it's always, •Where's Ursula? Where's Ursula?' I'm like the drug everyone's got to have."

How not to open a bar or club: "Too many people do one of two things," says Jeff. They copy a hot bar in another city and expect it to work here ("Is there anybody in Cleveland that likes it beside you?" he asks) or mimic a successful Cleveland bar. "I've always tried to find the biggest niche that no one was addressing."

The bar's signature drinks: Gas 'N' Oil, made of Blavod black vodka and RedFuel, a Red Bull-like drink; they settle into black and copper layers, look purplish-gray when mixed and taste sweet, like Kool-Aid. Also, the Espresso Injection, a "Starbucksy shot," is made of a Bacardi vanilla/coffee bean infusion plus half-and-half.

Inspired decor: Sheet-metal gas-pump replicas Jeff found on the Web became gas-pump taps. Double-stacked toolboxes in the pits at the Indianapolis 500 encouraged Jeff to build toolbox liquor stands. A striped Camaro at the Solon Car Show inspired the racing stripe on the Garage's bartop.

Their top-three Cleveland bars at which they haven't worked: Liquid/Fusion, the Velvet Tango Room and Johnny's on Fulton

Future plans: Have a baby together and open up new Garage Bars in other cities.

Something we can't live without: each other

Ursula's guilty pleasure: coffee

Jeff's work space: The Garage Bar

Richard Ambrose
Age: Turns 52 this month
Occupation: Cuyahoga County court judge

Why he's interesting: Remember former Browns linebacker "Bam Bam" Ambrose? Yeah, him. Well, now he's a judge who runs his courtroom the same way he called defensive signals back in the late '70s: He uses his head. Back then, his wits led him to 64 straight starts and a solid, 10-year NFL career. Now, his smarts have earned him a reputation as a judge who really does examine both sides of an issue carefully.

Campaign tactics: He was narrowly defeated in a bid to retain his seat, but is likely to garner another judicial appointment from Gov. Bob Taft. Ambrose printed a full Browns schedule on his campaign literature. Designed like a sports collectible card, it had a football photo on one side and the judge's robe photo on the other. "Most everybody kept those things for the schedule," he says, noting that not many were found on the ground after parades.

Favorite sports card while growing up: "The most sought-after card in any kid's collection at that time was a Mickey Mantle card."

Hobbies: A stamp-collector and builder of model airplanes and ships as a kid, he now prefers playing practical jokes on his three daughters. "They don't think they're funny," he says.

As a kid, he wanted to be: "A professional football player, but I was at a strange place in my life and I actually wanted to play for the Dallas Cowboys. Now that I know better, there is only one team: the Cleveland Browns!"

Loves living in: "Westlake. We've been there for 19 years."

Wouldn't love living in: Elizabeth, N.J. "I worked for Allied Van Lines when I was in high school and we had a delivery to Elizabeth — let's just say there are bad memories there."

Makes me happy: my daughters, Rachel, 19, and twins Karen and Kristy, 16

Makes me angry: Annie the dog (but only sometimes)

Michael Bennett
Age: 45
Profession: Cleveland Museum of Art curator of Greek and Roman art

Why he's interesting: Bennett discovered the museum's biggest acquisition in years in an art gallery in Geneva, Switzerland. "Apollo the Lizard-Slayer" may be a rare ancient Greek bronze, possibly the work of master sculptor Praxiteles.

Apollo sighting: "The moment I laid eyes on it, I knew this was the most important work of art I'd ever seen for sale. • I started to see these technical details, noticed the eyes inlaid with stone and the lips and torso inlaid with copper, and noticed hallmarks of Greek workmanship."

What he wishes he could know about the statue: "Is it the very statue that Pliny the Elder saw in the first century A.D.? How close to Praxiteles' workshop is it? How close to Praxiteles is it?"

His response to the controversy over the statue's sketchy ownership history: "We're doing a service bringing it into the museum. Now, everyone in the world knows where it is. • If it were in a private collection, only a select few could see it."

The allure of antiquity: "There's so much you can know about this subject because we have wonderful written documents. We have monuments that still survive that you can actually go see." Plus, it's relevant. "We're still basically living in its shadow," he says.

Nice work if you can get it: Bennett takes regular art hunts to New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Germany, Switzer-

land, southern Italy and Greece.

Three favorite Greek and Roman pieces in the museum (besides Apollo): 1. "The Emperor as Philosopher," a headless Roman bronze; 2. "Female Worshipper," a Minoan bronze from Crete; and 3. "Sleep and Death Cista Handle," a decorative container handle from present-day Tuscany that shows Sleep and Death carrying Sarpedon, Zeus' son, off to Mount Olympus.

What kind of Most Interesting People party guest would Apollo be? The polar opposite of Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstasy in Greek mythology, Apollo "might be somewhat aloof, pleasant enough, with impeccable manners — charismatic in kind of a quiet way. Dionysus might be more fun," he says.

Makes me happy: my wife, Joey, and son, Aaron

My favorite place: Twinsburg Fitness Center

Ted Batchelor
Age: 46
Occupation: Estimator/project manager, Frank Novak & Sons painting company

Why he's interesting: In 1976, the Chagrin Falls native began a decade-long tradition by setting himself on fire and jumping off the falls into the Chagrin River. On July 17, the former stuntman broke the world record for longest full-body burn (2 minutes, 38 seconds) during the annual Gathering of the Juggalos rock festival at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park. (He's awaiting confirmation that it qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records.)

The initial spark: "One night I had this bizarre dream that I was on fire and jumping off the falls. The next day, in school, we had to write a poem about a dream. So I wrote this poem about guys betting me that I wouldn't dive off the falls on fire. Before I knew it, people were betting me to do it."

Dressing for the occasion: Two sets of long cotton underwear, two fireproof hoods and a pair of cotton-and-leather gloves, all slathered in a protective heat-barrier gel; a cotton sweatsuit; two pairs of cotton pants and two long-sleeved cotton shirts; a long-sleeved cotton jumpsuit; and ski goggles. "Natural fibers don't melt, drip and burn me," he explains.

True love: "My wife actually applies the fuel — I try never to fight with her."

Hottest moment of his life: Being lit by Crimson, the naked goddess of fire, at the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

Do his kids play with matches? "No. They're a little smarter than I am."

Guilty pleasure: cigars

Something for my time capsule: world-record time

Makes me happy: being on fire

Mike Burkons
Age: 29
Occupation: Attorney, entrepreneur

Why he's interesting: It may not rank up there with the whole solving-world-peace thing, but Mike Burkons has developed an idea that just might be his ace in the hole — literally. His creation, the ChariTee Hole-in-One Golf Monitoring System (second-place winner in the COSE Small Business Start-up Plan Competition), enables public golf courses to hold hole-in-one contests for extended periods of time, which hopefully will increase their volume. Manakiki is the first course to utilize the system, and Burkons has already had calls of interest from as far away as British Columbia.

How it works: Similar to a self-serve car wash, "you punch in a code at a kiosk at the hole," he says. "You take a shot. And there are five cameras to get it on tape. It's easy. No one can lie. And you don't need someone standing around a hole all day watching every golfer."

Feeling a need: Burkons saw how golf courses increased traffic when they held hole-in-one contests — and how business dipped when the contest was over. He figured there had to be a way to maintain the excitement. "The beauty of ChariTee is you don't need a special event anymore," he explains. "These hole-in-one contests can be every day, at any time."

The future: Burkons says he's hoping to have five to 15 more systems in place by the end of this year — all within 120 miles of Cleveland so he can watch over them.

When people ask him what he does: "I tell them I went to law school and then I had an idea."

His dream: "I want this to be a regular part of every public course. Heck, when carts first came out, people thought it was the end of golf."

What inspires him: The challenges of business and constantly solving problems. "There's no guidebook. I like being a pioneer."

Ever made a hole-in-one? Not even close.

Guilty pleasure: Texas Hold 'em

Something for my time capsule: college hockey photo

Hernando Cortez
Age: 39
Occupation: Artistic director of VERB Ballets

Why he's interesting: Born in Manila, bred in New York City and, now, raising the cultural bar in Northeast Ohio. Since coming to Cleveland in 2002, Cortez has been committed to taking VERB Ballets (formerly The Repertory Project) to national prominence. The hard work is paying off quickly, as Dance Magazine recently named the company one of its "25 To Watch in the Nation." "It's exciting," says Cortez. "Now, we have to live up to it."

The biggest difference between Manila and Cleveland: "In Manila, there are 50 million more people, 50 million more cars and a lot more sunshine."

World-class dance • in Cleveland? Cortez did a lot of research before he took this job. "I saw that Cleveland had incredible cultural components and I knew that, given time, we'd succeed."

He started Dancers Responding to AIDS more than a decade ago because: He saw a growing need to mobilize the dance community and raise funds to help colleagues with the disease. "It was the least I could do to help."

Five years from now: "I want to be talking about VERB Ballets being overloaded with touring. And that we're never in town enough. And that we have too many dancers coming to auditions."

His biggest fear: To die unnoticed

When all is said and done, he'd like people to say: "What a terrific body of work he offered the world."

All-time favorite ballet: "The Green Table," by Jiri Kylian

His favorite dance besides ballet: "Anything at a nightclub at 2 a.m."

Five words to describe Cleveland: "Supportive. Gray. Cultural. Welcoming. Did I say gray yet?"

Something I can't live without: martini

Makes me happy: hot sauce

Carmella DeCesare
Age: 22
What she's known for: 2004 Playboy Playmate of the Year

Why she's interesting: What does it take for a nice Ohio girl to take her clothes off for the world? Quite a bit of mind-opening, according to DeCesare, who earned Playboy's highest honor last year. The folks at the magazine taught her that nudity is not bad. "It's not a disrespectful thing," she says. "It's how secure you are with it." Agree with DeCesare or not, you can't argue that her last 12 months haven't been interesting. Along with the Playmate title, she fell in love with Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia and embarked on an acting career.

What it's like knowing most men she talks to have seen her naked? "When it first came out, I was like, •Oh my gosh.' My worst fear was going into the gym. • I thought I would walk in and they're all going to look at me like, •I saw her naked.' I was completely petrified." She eventually got used to it.

Her favorite body part: Her abs

Her least favorite: At 5-foot-7, DeCesare thinks she's too short.

Is Jeff Garcia a good kisser? "Absolutely."

How being chosen Playmate of the Year changed her life: "You can't act like the normal person because everything that you do is under a microscope," she says. "There's always going to be someone that's watching and half the time it's what you don't even do that gets put into the media, so you just have to be really careful of your surroundings and where you hang out and who you hang out with."

Where she can't hang out: The downtown bars

What really happened between her and Garcia's ex at one of those bars: At press time, she said she couldn't talk about the case before it went to trial, but offered this: "I don't think that if I were like a normal person right now that any of this would be happening. Unfortunately, you get to a certain point in your life at times and there are people who want to bring you down."

Does she read the articles in Playboy or just look at the pictures? DeCesare reads the first couple of pages of party pictures. "They're so fun to look at, especially when you've been to the parties."

Makes me happy: my love, Jeff Garcia

My work space: Von Dutch party I hosted

Capri Cafaro
Age: 26
Occupation: Politician

Why she's interesting: Politics is hardly the domain of young women, especially in Northeast Ohio. But Cafaro always has done what she wants, regardless of whether it's conventional or popular. She graduated from high school at 15, from Stanford at 19 and from Georgetown with a master's in international relations three years after that. After starting her own public-relations firm for nonprofits, she took on five-term incumbent Steve LaTourette in a bare-knuckled race that included many jabs from both LaTourette and the media about the wealth she was born into, as well as her father's role in the James Traficant bribery scandal. As a campaigner, Cafaro became known for her boundless energy, putting in 18-hour days and going door-to-door in the

farthest reaches of her district.

On being a young woman in politics: "I expected it to be a disadvantage, but it's turned out to be more of an advantage. I keep hearing from people: •We need fresh blood. We need a new perspective in government.' "

What her friends thought about her Congressional bid: They were supportive. Some even traveled from as far away as San Francisco to help her.

Campaign trail memories: Seeing a man driving a tractor while carrying a shotgun in northern Trumbull County and being chased by dogs while door-knocking in that same stretch of the county.

Her political role model: "I've always loved Andrew Jackson," she says, "because he was a populist and laid down the roots of the Democratic Party." But there's no one politician she aspires to be like.

What's next: Create an economic-development council for the region — and run for Congress again.

My work space: the campaign trail

Thomas Sayers Ellis
Age: 41
Profession: Poet, English professor at Case Western Reserve University

Why he's interesting: The Washington, D.C., native, who's been teaching at Case since 1996, has his first full-length book of poems — "The Maverick Room," a wild mix of narrative poems and verse evoking musical rhythms and sounds — coming out in January. It includes a 10-poem sequence about go-go, a funk-influenced dance music born in Washington in the late '70s with heavy bass beats and bursts of jazz and soul (not to be confused with early '60s go-go dancing).

On writing about music: "Writers tend to owe too much to the musical genre," he says. "So often, the poet has fallen back into this last-century place of celebrating the other arts." Instead of just describing or mimicking music, "you want to create something that is triggered by the musical energy," he adds.

The evolving artist: "My voice began in a very simple, linear place. My writing [created] narrative from experience: what happened to me, what I felt." Experiencing art and reading widely convinced Ellis he could be abstract, removing himself and relying on image and painterly devices such as sketching, brushstroking and collaging.

No purebred: "I don't feel akin to any one style, so •The Maverick Room' is mongrel and maverick."

The one thing in Cleveland he thinks most deserves a wider audience: The Cleveland Cinematheque. Film, he says, can be "the gathering place for all the arts."

Hear him read: Stop by his book party Jan. 19, at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Legacy Village in Lyndhurst.

His next projects: Ellis recently finished editing "Quotes Community: Notes From Black Poets," an anthology of "600 fragments, comments, lies and aphorisms from black writers" that he hopes will be published this year. He and some friends are starting a new band of poets and musicians, Soul March, which should debut this spring.

Makes me happy: drums

Jere Hinton
Age: 70
Occupation: "Proprietor" of Molly Gallery

Why he's interesting: In 2001, Hinton turned his Lunn Road home in Strongsville into Molly Gallery, an art center dedicated to the memory of his late wife (www.MollyGallery.com). The gallery has staged art shows, poetry readings and performances of Hinton's plays for audiences topping out at 30 to 40. Local artists (as young as 2) displayed their works on walls already covered with Hinton's detailed murals that depict subjects ranging from the neighborhood to Dante's "The Divine Comedy." In August, Strongsville took Hinton to court for violating zoning laws by running a business in a residential area. He was fined $100 for a minor misdemeanor, but is appealing his case.

The verdict: The judge "started by saying, •It's great, an old guy like you doing this work. It's a beautiful thing, ta-ta-ta. However, I find you guilty.' Businesses should be in business areas, that was his conclusion," he says. He hopes to return to court to appeal in five to six months.

Some business: Hinton never took a cut of art sales, only asking artists to donate 10 percent to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. (In 39 years of marriage, he and Molly adopted two daughters and cared for 26 foster children.) Admission to plays and readings was free. Most expenses came out of Hinton's pocket.

Who complained? A neighbor who lives a half mile away, someone with whom Hinton has never spoken. Hinton's closer neighbors were willing to appear in court on his behalf, but his attorney (his brother Jim) thought they wouldn't be necessary.

Will the murals eventually fill the entire house? "Oh yeah. If I live that long."

Talent deferred: Hinton studied art in Liverpool, which is where he met Molly, a British nurse, in the 1950s. They married in 1959 and he brought her back to the States, where he worked as a city planning consultant for 40 years.

Liverpool in the late '50s. By any chance•? Yes, he attended art school with Beatle John Lennon. "He wasn't really that good an artist," recalls Hinton. "He was a wild sort of a guy. You have a nude model and he'd come in and pinch her ass, that sort of stuff. Finally, they threw him out. And that was the best thing that ever happened to him."

What does Molly think of the gallery? "She's smiling," he says.

Something I can't live without: my back yard

Dwight Hollins
Age: 45
Occupation: Assistant athletics director for general operations at John Carroll University

Why he's interesting: As a hoops player for Cleveland Heights High School, Hollins was told he didn't have the mental game for college. He dunked these discouraging words, graduated from Xavier University and served a short stint as a free agent for the Philadelphia 76ers, later playing on international teams. He eventually became head coach for East High School. As director of the Cleveland Academy of Finance school-to-career program, Hollins headed up a National Academy Foundation campaign drive that increased its scholarship and work-force development endowment fund by more than $1.5 million.

Hoop dreams: A stranger who regularly watched Hollins' 7 a.m. workouts in Cain Park approached him one morning to ask if he planned to attend college. When Hollins said no, the man offered to make a reference phone call to a college on his behalf under two conditions: He must read the newspaper every day and help someone else if he found success. Later that week, Hollins learned he'd gotten a scholarship from a junior college in New York. Though Hollins fulfilled his promises, he never heard from or saw the man again to thank him.

Star students: In his eight-year tenure as head coach at East High, Hollins graduated 97 percent of his players.

Pep talk: "Within each seed lies that which determines the fruit."

On the side: Through his organization, True Believer Inc., Hollins launched a nonprofit athletic and academic mentoring program this fall. T.E.A.M. (Teaming Education and Athletes through Mentoring) prepares athletes for the ACT test and exposes them to career opportunities.

World-class coach: As co-coach of Team Cleveland boys' basketball team for the International Children's Games, Hollins helped 10 area players bring home the bronze.

Makes me happy: my fiancee, Jacqueline Dalton

Ali Kazemaini
Age: 41
Occupation: Soccer instructor/coach

Why he's interesting: His soccer knowledge is immense, but his heart is bigger. About three days before last summer's International Children's Games, Kazemaini, an Iranian immigrant and soccer chair on the games committee, got an SOS call: The Afghan girls' soccer team had arrived without a coach. "I made some calls for them and without much luck," he says. "So I knew what had to be done. These poor kids had come all the way across the world; I decided to do it myself."

Diplomatic compromise: The Afghan girls' team played three games during the tournament, but since the team came over for cultural rather than sports purposes — "This wasn't really about soccer; it was about life," Kazemaini says — the coach worked out a deal with opposing coaches to mix the players up and scrimmage. "For tournament purposes, you can have the win," he proposed. The coaches all agreed.

Speaking the same language: "When I first met with the team, I said, •Do you speak Farsi?' and I think that was the highlight of the whole thing for them. Their eyes popped wide open when they heard me speak it."

Olympic dreams deferred: Kazemaini was a two-time All-America soccer player at Cleveland State and was the MISL Rookie of the Year in 1984 while playing for the Cleveland Force. He is currently the highly successful varsity soccer coach at John Carroll University. He was selected to the 1984 United States Olympic soccer team, but didn't participate in the '84 Games because of his citizenship status. Now, as president and founder of the Cleveland Soccer Academy in Willoughby (based at Lost Nation Sports Park), he runs a soccer school for all levels of ability.

His own gold medal: He has one child, a year-old daughter named Zari Gabrielle; Zari means "Golden."

If he wasn't so good at soccer: He might be a body-surfer or an airline pilot.

My work space: the soccer field

Makes me happy: my daughter, Zari

Olga D. Gonzalez-Sanabria
Age: 48
Occupation: Director of engineering and technical services, NASA Glenn Research Center

Why she's interesting: One of only three Latina executives currently at NASA, Gonzalez-Sanabria oversees the work of 650 people, including the 6,400-acre Plum Brook Station near Sandusky. In her 25 years at NASA Glenn, the chemical engineer by training has developed technical contributions sent into space aboard the shuttles, including key work on the nickel-hydrogen batteries that power the International Space Station.

The fork in the road: Gonzalez-Sanabria chose the engineering path at career day during her senior year of high school in Puerto Rico. It allowed her to combine science, math and working with others, but especially promised the desired opportunity for problem solving.

If she wasn't an engineer: She'd be a science teacher, but says she's just as glad now that she didn't. "I don't think I am as proficient or patient to deal with transferring knowledge at that level," she confides.

But doesn't dealing with federal bureaucracy require a hefty dose of patience? "Oh God•" (laughter)

The transition from hands-on engineering to management: "You always miss the hands-on work," Gonzalez-Sanabria says, "but there are periods in your life when you know you're ready to stretch and do things differently."

The next generation: The latest work at Plum Brook is testing and development for the James Webb Space Telescope (scheduled to replace Hubble in 2010) and the Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter.

In the blood: Both her daughters are engineers, too — one a Case biomed grad working toward a Ph.D. in polymers for application in the human body at UMass, the other studying to be a civil engineer at the University of Toledo.

Would she venture into space herself? "No. I don't even go on roller coasters. I am not a good friend of heights."

Any taste for Tang? "It's too sweet, too artificial."

Makes me happy: my collection of Nativity scenes

Guilty pleasure: shopping

Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr.
Age: 50
Occupation: Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio

Why he's interesting: Earlier this year, Hollingsworth moved to Northeast Ohio from New England to became the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. Serving more than 100 congregations in the state, Hollingsworth's support of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has raised a few eyebrows in the pews. "The bishop's ministry is a ministry of unity," he says. "I think we're challenged to make as much room for one another in the church as there is room in God's heart."

What drew him here: "The diocese here represents the true breadth of the Episcopal Church. From liberal congregations to conservative to everything in between, I found it to be a unique challenge to balance the diversity of all our congregations," he says.

Does this place look familiar? Hollingsworth says he can understand why it's called the Western Reserve: "There's a very similar feel to New England."

Has the welcome mat been out? "The communities here have been remarkably welcoming, enthusiastic and supportive."

History will remember him as: "A faithful husband, loving father and servant to God."

His best trait: Patience and attentiveness to others

His wheels: A 1947 Harley-Davidson flathead

What gets his motor running: "Riding gives me the illusion of freedom and independence. Emphasis on illusion," he adds.

His favorite junk food: "I'm a big fan of Skor Bars. Let's just say I eat a fair amount of them."

Makes me happy: 1947 Harley-Davidson with my children Eli, 6, and Lily, 5

Tim Mack
Age: 32
Occupation: Athle

Why he's interesting: In August, this 1990 St. Ignatius grad and former Westlake resident captured Olympic gold, silenced his critics and earned the adoration of Northeast Ohioans young and old. He did it by clearing 19 feet, 6 1/4 inches to set an Olympic pole-vault record. And he wasn't done there. At a September meet in Monaco, Mack cleared 6.01 meters, making him one of only six men in the world to vault higher than 6 meters. While he currently lives and trains in Knoxville, Tenn., Cleveland still claims him as its own.

The Mary Lou Retton effect: Mack has a new legion of young fans. "I think you're going to see a big influx of pole vaulters from Cleveland in the next 10 years," he jokes.

Olympic-sized gift to himself: In his case, Mack says it'll be a boat, a Jet Ski or a 1988 old-school Porsche. Plus, he wants a bulldog.

What's next? Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and a few more records

Can he do it? He says he can, but it'll take "raising the bar," literally and figuratively. "You have to keep doing things differently to raise the bar. Every year, you have to do more than you did before. You can't get better results with the same amount of work."

Not always No. 1: "The little kids can kick my butt," Mack says of his gymnastics training, which teaches him flexibility and body positioning.

Favorite sports movie: "The Legend of Bagger Vance"

A golf flick? A "big-time" golfer, Mack says the sport teaches the same lesson as pole vaulting: "You have to be in the moment all the time. If you think too much, you're dead meat."

Podium thoughts: "It's a culmination," he says. "I thought about the people who had something to do with it, about my family and coaches who were a positive influence in my life."

Is pole vaulting a metaphor for life? Mack thinks so. "You have to have goals, do the basics all the time and keep taking the next steps. You have to learn to deal with failure and persevere."

My work space: The pole vault pit

Makes me angry: McDonald's

Makes me happy: Dave & Buster's

Steven Litt
Age: 48
Occupation: Plain Dealer architecture critic

Why he's interesting: Love him or hate him, there's no mistaking Litt's bold and unflinching voice. A leader in the PD's coverage of the arts, the convention center and lakefront development, he's working at the junction of many of our city's biggest issues.

His story: Born in New York City, Litt was an art major in college. He came to Cleveland through a succession of newspaper jobs, covering everything from cops to nuclear power plants. Has been at the PD for 13 years.

If he weren't a journalist, he'd be• "Maybe a documentary filmmaker or maybe a landscape architect."

Three favorite works of art: "The Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer, "Primavera" by Sandro Botticelli and "Lavender Mist" by Jackson Pollock

What will become of our lakefront? "I have no idea. • The problem is the uncertainty. It seems to me that we have so many competing interests on the lakefront that they will cancel each other out and we will end up with nothing. Already, I can see our lakefront plan drifting in the direction of compromise and indecision • despite the very best efforts of the city's planning staff."

Latest project: Learning Italian

Where he lives: Shaker Heights — 15 minutes from both Severance Hall and the Cleveland Museum of Art, he points out.

Where he would never live: Las Vegas

Favorite architect: "The minute I name somebody, I think of somebody else. Life is so wonderful. There's so many things to choose from."

To what should Cleveland aspire? "I like what Peter Lewis is saying: We should try to be the best small or medium-sized city in the country. When we make an investment in the physical environment, it should be the best we can possibly make it so that it's a lasting impression. The big danger is to shortchange the future."

Makes me angry: no-fishing sign on Lake Erie

Something I can't live without:

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