Where Are They Now?
They were Cleveland's famous and infamous -- our stars and our also-rans, our crooks, coaches and kid-show hosts. Some burned as lifelong beacons while others flashed in the pan.
We picked up the threads of their stories to discover what happen
Barbara "Miss Barbara" Plummer, 73, still resides in the same South Euclid neighborhood where she, husband Gordon Plummer, now a retired TRW executive, and their two children lived when she began hosting "Romper Room" in 1958. After WEWS-TV 5 replaced the locally produced children's show with a taped counterpart in 1971, the Norwalk, Ohio, native and Wellesley College grad "jumped into the volunteer world," most notably to develop a fine-arts appreciation program that was implemented in several area schools.
"I did some commercials, stuff like that, after [the show]," she says. "But after a while, I really wasn't interested anymore."
"It's why I worked so hard," the former Miss America says. "I always wanted to host a show like this."
(In a case of "It's a small world," on the day we caught up with Carlson, she had just wrapped a segment featuring former Cleveland Magazine editor Liz Vaccariello, who now works as an editor for Fitness Magazine in New York City.)
Carlson, who has a 1-year-old daughter, says the best thing about her time in Cleveland was meeting her husband, a baseball agent. The second-best thing, she adds, was the excitement of Jacobs Field.
The 13-year marriage of former WKYC-TV television personalities Doug Adair and Mona Scott ended in 1992. Adair, 75, retired eight years ago as an anchorman for NBC affiliate WCMH-TV in Columbus, the station he and Scott left Cleveland for in 1983. He and wife Jean, a former nun, now divide their time between a home in the Columbus suburbs and a condominium in Venice, Fla.
"We've been giving some very serious thought to moving back to Cleveland," the Xenia native reports. "The times that I had in Cleveland were really special." Adair's hobbies include harness racing — he currently co-owns a 2-year-old horse, Medoland Carter.
Mona Scott retired from CBS affiliate WBNS-TV in Columbus in 1998. She writes a grammar column for News Blues, a daily Internet newsletter for those in the TV news media produced by her husband, former WKYC-TV reporter/ anchor Mike James, in their rural Reddick, Fla., home. She emphatically declined our request for an interview.
WMMS-FM's onetime morning drive-time team are leading relatively tame lives compared to the days when they hosted the rock station's top-rated "Buzzard Morning Zoo."
Jeff Kinzbach, 51, lives on a 150-acre ranch an hour's drive east of Dallas with wife Patti and 8-year-old daughter McKenzie. He and his brother rehabilitate and resell single-family homes; their own construction company does much of the work.
"We really were looking for a new adventure," Kinzbach says of the decision to move from Medina County a couple of years ago. "We liked living up north, but we were just getting so tired of the long winters. You don't have to shovel heat."
Ed "Flash" Ferenc, also 51, is a public-information officer for Cleveland Municipal Court. He moonlights as a public relations consultant and host of "America's Workforce," a talk-radio show devoted to unionized labor issues on WERE-AM from 7 to 8 a.m. weekdays. "In today's radio climate," Ferenc says of his work situation, "this is perfect for me." Home is in Independence with wife Debbie, daughters Jackie, Rachael and Stephanie, and stepdaughter Joy.
From Nov. 8, 1969 (when he debuted with a showing of the so-wretched-it's-funny Zsa Zsa Gabor clunker "Queen of Outer Space") until 1989, Supe entertained kids, teens and adults with a Saturday-afternoon sci-fi movie, goofy shtick and gentle wisecracking. The character made loads of personal appearances, rode in parades, signed autographs and delighted fans with his trademark giggle.
Before retiring in 1993, Sullivan spent 24 years at Channel 43, working variously as cameraman, audio technician, floor director, booth announcer, news reader "and floor sweeper." "Since it was a small operation, they wanted a lot more out of you than just your tonsils," he says.
Television pioneer Linn Sheldon might not hoof around a stage so spryly these days, but his humor is still pretty quick.
Now 85, the longtime Cleveland television fixture — known to generations of Cleveland children as Barnaby — has suffered two strokes in the last couple years, has diabetes and skin cancer that is in remission and has undergone open-heart surgery.
"If you can think of something I haven't had," he quips, "you win a prize."
The strokes, particularly the most recent one, left Sheldon with what he says is an impaired memory, but that's hard to detect as he recounts a television career that began 56 years ago and includes 20 different programs, stints on most Cleveland stations and 32 years as Barnaby.
Sheldon was performing in the city's many nightclubs, entertaining between such acts as the Dorsey Brothers and Gene Krupa, when he took his first TV gig: reading aloud the day's programming list as a sort of talking TV Guide. He brought humor and fun to this routine role, which led to "The Linn Sheldon Show," presented by Rogers Jewelry Store on WEWS. He believes it was one of the first sponsored shows in Cleveland. He began "Barnaby" in 1956.
Sheldon retired and, in 1990, moved to Florida. He found that, as a 70-year-old, he was the youngest guy in the state. He told a reporter that a woman came up to him and said, "My God — Soupy Sales!" He returned to Cleveland soon after.
Even now, though he's been off television for more than a dozen years, people recognize him — as Linn Sheldon or, more likely, as Barnaby. "Gray-haired ladies come up to me and say, 'I used to watch you when I was a girl,'" he says.
He still misses the stage, if not television. "While I was on television, if there was a room of more than 10 seats, I spoke to it. I miss that," he says. "I haven't done much since [the last stroke], but I sure would like to. My wife would me to be able to, too." He'd like to do speaking engagements again, but says he can't commit to a date because he never knows if that will be a good day or a bad day.
He stays close to home, an apartment on the Gold Coast he shares with his wife of 12 years, Laura. Sheldon is working on volume two of his biography (Gray & Co. published the first, "Me and Barnaby," in 1999).
He freely admits to his ups and downs, including a pretty serious drinking problem that he tackled three decades ago.
Liz Richards, the 58-year-old former WEWS-TV 5 "Morning Exchange" co-host, has spent the last decade as an attorney in St. Petersburg, Fla. The decision to move her two children south in 1981 was prompted in part by her bitter divorce from late WWWE/WHK radio personality Gary Dee, and in part by her parents, who retired to Venice, Fla. The career change, however, was inspired by late Plain Dealer society columnist Mary Strassmeyer, who attended Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University while Richards was still in town.
"I had always wanted to go to law school," Richards says. "I thought, You know what? If she can do it, I can do it."
In 1993, Richards graduated from St. Petersburg's Stetson School of Law, set herself up in private practice ("I had trouble finding a job in a large law firm") and began taking family-law cases referred to her by other attorneys. "A lot of attorneys, particularly men, don't want to handle messy divorces," she explains. "I would handle anything that came in the door."
In 2000, Richards bought a "crackhouse" in St. Petersburg's re-emerging Kenwood neighborhood and moved her offices into it after an extensive renovation. The project spawned a new hobby: She now spends her free time buying, fixing up and selling other run-down houses in the area. "You make a mark on the city," she says of the result. "And it makes money." Her Shih Tzu, Truffle, and Maltese, Scrappy, provide companionship at home.
Wayland Boot, Channel 3's sports sensation of 20 years ago, was as much entertainer as anchor. "A little traveling music, please!" he'd say, then read the out-of-town scores as blues tunes played in the background.
"Even Stymie couldn't believe it!" Boot exclaimed over amazing plays, and he'd cut to footage of the "Little Rascals" character Stymie, blinking in shock. Another clip, of a toddler eating a biscuit and grimacing, introduced his "Burnt Biscuit Award" for sports bloopers, "to the team or jock worse off than a plate of burnt biscuits."
"I always wanted to do sports for people who don't really care about sports," Boot explains.
Boot came to Cleveland in 1984 from Portland, Ore., home to only one major-league team, the NBA's Trailblazers. So his years here electrified him.
"I watched pro football all my life," he says. "I always liked the Cleveland Browns because of Jim Brown." Echoes of the Browns' glory years thrilled him. "Going down to the old stadium, walking down the old tunnel, you could just picture how it was inthe '50s," he recalls. He met Marion Motley and Otto Graham. Lou "the Toe" Groza was his insurance agent.
But Boot's star fell here after an Oregon reporter called to do a story about what he'd been up to. "I said all these wonderful things about Cleveland," Boot remembers, "but he asked me to compare the differences in society or lifestyles [between] the Pacific Northwest and the Rust Belt of Cleveland. I said — and I'll never forget it — 'Comparing Cleveland and Portland is like comparing a Ferrari and a dump truck.' "
He didn't mean to put Cleveland down, he says now. "The Ferrari being, it's just a faster pace in the Pacific Northwest; •dump truck' just being a 'roll up your sleeves, go to work' mentality." But word reached Cleveland talk-radio hosts, who tore into Boot for dissing his new town.
Boot apologized twice on the air. Even so, when his contract expired in January 1987, Channel 3 didn't renew it.
Later that year, Boot's old station, KOIN/Channel 6 in Portland, asked him back. He's been sports anchor there ever since.
His segments are "pretty much the same" as his work in Cleveland: "A few more wrinkles, few more pounds," says Boot, 55. Stymie's still a regular and Boot still plays the blues over the scores and gives out Burnt Biscuits.
In Portland, he's known as Ed Whelan, a broadcast name he adopted when he deejayed at an easy-listening station and the manager told him Wayland was too much of a rock-and-roll name.
When Cleveland's belovedly decrepit Cleveland Municipal Stadium died at age 65, it received an honorable burial at sea. Today, a quarter of the concrete from the former stadium rests peacefully at the bottom of Lake Erie, split up into three reefs: one near the Cleveland-Euclid border, two off Edgewater State Park. Each lies in about 30 feet of water. You can't see them from land, but you can from an airplane.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources built the reefs to give fish spots to rest, feed, take shelter and lay eggs. Perch, bass and walleye are especially fond of the old stadium. Vitas Kijauskas of Discovery Dive Charters and Tours in Wildwood State Park takes scuba-diving students to the reefs for diving practice. He used to see pieces of the bleachers among the concrete, he reports, but scavenging divers (violating state law) have taken them as souvenirs.
"Super Joe" Charboneau can still swing the bat, though, and he's teaching other pro wannabes tricks that catapulted him to stardom in that one phenomenal year in the major leagues. As the owner of Charboneau Baseball, he travels all over the country teaching hitting: holding clinics, teaching at camps, giving private and group lessons. He also serves as hitting instructor for the Windy City Thunder Bolts of the Frontier League.
After his 23 homers, 87 RBI and .289 batting average made him the American League Rookie of the Year in 1980, Charboneau spent just half of the 1981 season in the Bigs; back surgery forced him to split time between Cleveland and Charleston. He played 22 games for the Tribe in 1982. His big-league career was over after one incredible year and pieces of two others.
Charboneau says he has let go of some of the more colorful habits that made him a fan favorite. Opening beer bottles with his eye socket? Drinking beer with a straw through his nose? Dying his hair outrageous colors?
"Nah, I've retired from all that," he says. "My head's shaved now for summer, but when I let it grow out, it's a natural gray-brown color. Doing all those kinds of things isn't unusual anymore; all the kids do stuff like that. I had to become conservative to be different now — that's the only way you stick out."
Ted Stepien, the former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers is — just ask him — doing the same thing he's always done. "Work, work, work," he says. "I didn't disappear. I'm still here."
Stepien owns Classified USA, with offices in the Cleveland, Toronto and San Diego areas, and he's owned Brook Park Softball World for 20 years. Stepien, who built Nationwide Advertising before he owned the Cavaliers, calls the former, not the latter, his proudest achievement. "I started an ad agency from zero and took it to 60 offices and $93 million," he says. "But if I walk down the street, nobody says, 'There goes the guy who owned Nationwide Advertising.' They say, 'There's the guy who owned the Cavs.' "
That's probably because during his three-year reign as Cavs owner, he became hard to forget. He was publicly described as "unpredictable," "disastrous" and "notorious." He traded away so many first-round picks that the NBA voided some of his deals and drew up a rule that no team could trade first-round draft picks in two consecutive years. It still stands today as The Stepien Rule.
The last time any of us saw Kevin Mackey, he was in a spot of trouble. Riding the strength of his Cleveland State hoops success — the Vikings were 142-69 in his tenure and 29-4 in that magical Sweet-Sixteen season of 1985-'86 — Mackey staggered out of a Cleveland crackhouse with a prostitute and was arrested shortly after he drove away -- on the wrong side of the road. His fall was swift — shortly thereafter, he was relieved of his duties and sent to rehab.
It's been 14 years since Mackey left Cleveland. You're not the only one who hasn't been able to keep up with him through the dense underbrush of his self-described "Alphabet Soup League" experience, during which he coached in the USBL, the IBL, the CBA, the IBA and the UPBL, to name just some of them.
But he's back in the big leagues now, working in the league with the only three letters that matter: the NBA. After 13 years of desperately wanting a second chance, Mackey was given one by Larry Bird, who hired him as a scout for the Indiana Pacers. Bird said he'd always admired Mackey's hoops knowledge.
So far, Mackey has drawn high praise from his bosses and seems settled into his new surroundings. "I'm very happy and grateful to be in the NBA," Mackey says. "Since I was a 7-year-old kid dribbling a basketball, I wanted to be in the NBA. I'm very grateful to Larry Bird for opening the door for me. I couldn't ask for more than that."
Mackey still wants another shot at head coaching, but he's learned to take great care of the opportunity that's right in front of him right now. "Sure, whatever [other] opportunities might present themselves, you look at that, but right now, this is a dream come true for me," he says.
It's a far cry from the nightmare of the double life he lived in Cleveland, which ended when his two selves, coaching whiz and drug addict, finally crashed into each other. He still believes he has the coaching whiz in him, but that he's excised the addict from his life.
"That time has passed. It's over now," he says. "I loved Cleveland. The people there were great to me and we had a wonderful love affair. Whatever mistakes that were made there were my fault."
These days, Mackey drinks a lot of Diet Coke. "They've taken all my drugs away, and caffeine is all I have left," he says in his still-thick Boston accent. "I used to smoke cigars, but I lost the taste for that, too. One day, they just didn't taste good anymore."
But his taste for the game has not faded. If he hadn't loved basketball so much, he would not have fought his way back this far. "Don't get me wrong, I had a great time coaching in the minor leagues," he says. "We worked hard and our success was tremendous. But there's always that element of instability in the minor leagues — in the NBA, you know that every second Friday, the eagle is going to fly. In the minor leagues, you're never really sure about that. In the minors, you're always saying, 'Where's our next gig?' "
Mackey, who is unmarried, has three children and five grandchildren. His time in Cleveland ended abruptly, but he still holds fond memories.
"I think the people of Cleveland knew that I appreciated them, and that's why they appreciated me so much. Now I'm in Indianapolis, and I've got a job to do here. It's a different job, but it's in the NBA, and this, being in the NBA, is terrific."
They toppled a General, but couldn't sink the Admiral. Oh, what a run Coach Kevin Mackey and the 1985-'86 Cleveland State University Vikings basketball team had in the 1986 NCAA tournament. After their stunning triumph over Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers and then St. Joseph's in round two, the Cinderella Vikings lost on a last-second shot by Navy's David Robinson. Now, 18 years later, the team still ranks on many experts' lists of biggest upsets in tournament history and holds a place in our city's heart.
No. 23, Hersey Strong: (Ohio) Works as a broker for Great Lakes National Mortgage Co. Still plays basketball for recreation.
No. 42, Patrick Vuyancih Jr. : (Ohio) Teaches seventh-grade world history at Euclid Forest Park Middle School and is the summer-school principal for grades 7 through 12. He also directs Big City Hoops Instructional Basketball School and coaches teammate Hersey Strong's child.
No. 31, Tyrone Kingwood: Unknown
No. 24, Clinton Smith: He was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the fifth round (No. 97 pick overall) of the 1986 NBA draft. Smith played 41 games for Golden State in 1986-'87, five games for the Washington Bullets in 1990-'91, and spent several years in the CBA, most recently with the Fort Wayne Fury from 1995 to 1997.
No. 22, Vincent Richards: (Ohio) Works in human resources and financial services for Staffing Solutions. Previously, he worked at the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers Association and the Cuyahoga County department of employment services.
No. 33, Eric Mudd: (Kentucky) A production supervisor of Ford Kentucky Truck Plant. He played basketball in Europe for 11 years.
No. 50, Elgin Womack: Died Nov. 14, 2001, of an apparent aneurysm, in Queens, N.Y. He was working as a teacher and studying for a master's degree.
No. 4, Shawn Hood: After six seasons as CSU basketball assistant coach, Hood became an assistant coach with the University of Wisconsin and then the University of Rhode Island in 2001. He was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at CSU that same year. He resigned after being charged with assault and battery, but in 2003, a court found him not guilty on all charges. Hood is currently out of coaching.
No. 40, Bob Crawford: (Maryland) A juvenile corrections officer and youth counselor in Washington, D.C., where he still plays pickup hoops.
No. 5, Edward Bryant: From 1987 to 1998, he worked at the Cuyahoga County Treasurer's office.
No. 32, Warren Bradley: (Ohio) Currently works as a corrections officer at the county jail of the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center.
No. 34, Ray Salter: Unknown
No. 30, Paul Stewart: Died April 30, 1986, of a heart attack during a pickup game in Woodling Gym. He was 19.
No. 44, Clinton Ransey: From 1991 to 1998, he worked at the Ohio Turnpike.
No. 21, Steve Corbin: (New York) Worked for his father's construction company, then subcontracted with Con Edison electric company while owning his own business, Scales Contracting Ltd., before taking a full-time post with a labor union in New York state. He played basketball until last year, when he suffered from a blood-clot condition that is now under control. He has a 25-year-old daughter, a 2-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old grandson.
No. 12, Martin Sweeney: (Ohio) Cleveland's Ward 20 councilman and majority leader, Sweeney still plays basketball every Thursday at the West Side Family YMCA.
No. 10, Ken "Mouse" McFadden: (Ohio) Currently works part time in marketing for National City Bank in Cleveland. After graduating, he spent time playing basketball in Australia, the USBL and the CBA. He also worked in marketing for CSU's sports department.
Doing what he loves best is still a way of life for World B. Free. In his four years with the Cavaliers, he was a freewheeling, always-confident guard who never met a shot he didn't like; from 1982-'86, Free averaged 23 points per game and was about the only thing going for the team until the glory years of the early '90s.
One era's hero can be another era's villain. So The Cleveland Clinic discovered in the late 1990s, when its celebratory bronze of Art Modell suddenly seemed out of place.
The bas-relief sculpture/portrait, which honored The Cleveland Clinic Foundation's former president and benefactor, remained on display in the Clinic's Heart Center for four years after Modell infamously spirited the Browns away to Baltimore, though the Clinic had to post a guard to protect the bronze from the backlash. It finally retired Modell's mug when it remodeled the center's atrium. The timing — late summer 1999, just as the new Browns were about to debut — was supposedly coincidental.
Today, the Modell bronze "remains in storage," says Clinic spokesman Cole Hatcher, who wouldn't say exactly where it's being kept, or allow us to photograph it, or reiterate the reasons it was taken down, or say whether Modell still donates to the Clinic. Sometimes, when you're caught between loyalty and public opinion, keeping quiet is the best strategy.
Gamble's firm handles mostly baseball players, but he says he's hoping to move into football soon. "We wanted to start with baseball, because I've been through that as a player and we know the business," he explains. "Right now, we're representing a lot of minor leaguers, and we hope that they will stay with us when they get the good contracts in the big leagues."
Gamble didn't take much time to get to the Bigs himself. A promising outfield prospect, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 16th round of the 1968 draft; by August 1969, the 19-year-old was in the Windy City. Cleveland got him at age 23 and, in his three seasons here, he hit .274 and contributed 54 home runs.
Living in Montgomery with his wife, Lovell, and two young daughters, Gamble says his memories of Cleveland are positive ones. "That's where I got my real opportunity," he recalls. "I didn't play much in Chicago and Philly, but I got to play in Cleveland, and I think I did a good job there. The fans appreciated me because I was outspoken. I had my own ways and I felt like I was free. I did what I wanted to do and if I made a mistake, they booed me, but I understood that. We all knew I was playing hard."
And they loved the afro, which often caused his batting helmet to fly off and which was mimicked by Tribe second baseman Ronnie Belliard during a throwback game this season.
"Well, yeah," Gamble laughs. "They did like the hair, but it's gone now. Well, not completely gone, but let's put it this way, the afro won't be growing back."
David Modell was the president and CEO of the Baltimore Ravens essentially because Daddy owned the team. Now that Art Modell doesn't own the Ravens anymore, what happened to Junior?
Actually, nobody's quite sure.
Ostensibly, Modell still works for the Ravens as a consultant, but that doesn't mean that the Ravens know where he is at any given moment.
Brian Sipe remains one of our most beloved athletes because of his never-say-die attitude with the Kardiac Kids. We loved that he was the NFL MVP in 1980 with a league-best 91.4 QB rating. We loved him because he was never uptight, always loose.
Not much has changed for Brian Sipe. He still lives in the San Diego area and he's still in real estate design and development (an example of his work is Timberfire restaurant in Chagrin Falls). He balances that work with being the head coach of Santa Fe Christian High School, which he calls "the most pleasant surprise of my life, along with being selected to play for the Cleveland Browns."
To a generation of Clevelanders bereft of champions on the gridiron and the baseball diamond, he was the guy who showed that the town could still produce a winner. For the better part of six years, Mariano "Mushmouth" Pacetti reigned as king of the weekly "Pizza Fight" on Channel 8's "Hoolihan & Big Chuck Show."
In the summer of 1971, Pacetti had just graduated high school when he got on "Hoolihan & Big Chuck" as part of a "hillbilly jug band." Hearing that Pacetti had wowed a high-school talent show by downing a Whopper in one bite, co-host Chuck Schodowski recruited him for a new pizza-eating bit.
Pacetti was a natural. Occasionally defeated, he always bounced back, often hammering his foe in a rematch, stuffing his flexible saxophonist's cheeks full and working the mass of pizza down his throat.
His secret? "I don't have a gag reflex," he explains.
Now living in Fayetteville, Ga., Pacetti teaches jazz improvisation and jazz combos at the State University of West Georgia, as well as running the rental program at a local music store. He still plays the sax, both in a band and as a sideman-for-hire.
He still has family in Cleveland and visits his hometown about once a year. He and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter, but "she barely eats anything at all," he chuckles.
For 30 years, Shamu
12:00 AM EST
July 20, 2004