As part of Cleveland Magazine's 30th anniversary celebration, the editors have chosen 52 of their favorite stories from the magazine's archives, and wish to share them with you.
A new story will appear every week at Clevelandmagazine.com. It might be controversial, comical, nostalgic or nonplussing. But it will be Cleveland.
From Cleveland Magazine, April 1973
Dorothy Fuldheim had a beard, a three-inch goatee, an unbelievable indignity that sent shock waves through the Channel 5 studio on Euclid Avenue. Production supervisor Phil Parisi, usually jubilant, was slouched dejectedly in a chair off in the shadow to the left of Miss Fuldheim. The soundman, a cable running like an umbilical cord from his belt to the camera, a rubber-wheeled pedestal with a hydraulic lift, studied the hooded ceiling lights clinging like a colony of vampire bats to a cave roof. The cameraman was also preoccupied, being diligently careful not to dolly in beyond the prearranged spot on the pale green floor about six feet out-far enough out that the camera would not accentuate the star's indistinct wrinkles yet close enough that she could read the inch-high script on the teleprompter attached to the camera as it focused on the ochre studio desks, the brown chairs and the powder blue walls.
The teleprompter script had been typed earlier that afternoon by Mendes Napoli, a slender young man with a preRaphaelite face and elegant fingers. He typed it from Miss Fuldheim's handwritten commentary, round full letters in red ink on eight-by-five-inch notepad paper. Sometimes he and Miss Fuldheim, in conference, make last minute changes, moving scissored sentences around like a Scrabble game.But there were no changes this afternoon and Napoli typed the script rapidly on a teleprompter typewriter for video taping at 4:30 p.m. and airing six and a half hours later on the Eyewitness News show. Spread across one wall of the newsroom, in clear view of the WEWSTV reporters and Napoli, was a blue and white cardboard banner: "WHO IS GOING TO TELL IT TO MOTHER?" -- the station's discreet reminder that the totem words are "warmth" and "sincerity" when broadcasting daily confirmation of our worst fears about our neighbors.
In the studio, Parisi, sincerely solicitous, asked, "What's the matter, Miss Fuldheim?" But she was looking at the monitor, her chin cupped stoically in her left hand. Miss Fuldheirn stared grimly at the TV set on the floor to the left of the camera, She was wearing a blue satin dress with a beaded bodice, low-heeled silver slippers and a. martyred look.
"There," she said finally. "There." She moved her right hand through the air as if it were the cutting edge of a light sword, or a wand perhaps.Parisi looked at the TV set, too. "I don't see it-"
"There," she cut in. "Right there under my chin. It makes me look like I have a beard."
"I really don't see it," Parisi protested limply, wondering if those damn lights were causing trouble again.
"Well, I see it," she said. "It looks bad ... bad. I'm not doing it again. All I know is that prior to yesterday I did not have a beard. I'm not going to bother with it ... it is not my problem."
"I'll take a look at it," Parisi said, getting up quickly. A friendly man with a keen sense of survival, Parisi was not about to buck a 79-year-old grandmother making forty grand a year, a woman who has buried two husbands, an exactress, a superannuated Juliet who yellow-bricked it off mean Cleveland streets into the Oz-land of primitive television 25 years ago, beginning a new career when most people that age are thinking about social security.
Just as some dudes of this generation feel, so may Parisi and his hip young assistants: that this aging but temperamental coquette should not be allowed out except on Halloween, but they weren't going to say it. They weren't going to say anything to this woman who in 1937 braced Adolf Hitler himself outside the Brown House, the Fuehrer's headquarters in Munich, after his future gauleiters with Teutonic terseness had told the blue-eyed redhead, a Jewess yet, that the Fuehrer didn't care to be interviewed about the possibility of war in our time. (It was a confrontation of small consequence to the Third Reich but one that Channel 5, a Scripps-Howard station, has cunningly promoted for 25 years as though it were historically significant.) And not long ago a Cleveland taxicab driver, a woman, told her: "My husband asked me why I ain't as smart as you, and I asked him why he ain't the President of the United States!"
When four students were killed by National Guard bullets at Kent State University, she called it "murder." The month before, Jerry Rubin, Yippie standard bearer for the revolution, was kicked off her afternoon show. She ordered him out and made it look dramatically spontaneous, Last April she boycotted the Eyewitness News show in protest of WEWS's decision to report Howie Lund's interview with a naked man and three naked women at WERE Radio. She is intransigently opposed to the death penalty, but once advocated castration of "sex fiends."
Wendell Willkie made a pass at her and she made one at the Duke of Windsor. The late Horace Liveright, the first publisher of Ernest Hemingway, beguilingly strewed her path with lilacs, her favorite flower. Unquestionably an entire generation has never loved or laughed or cried as has this five-foot-three redhead, alert and engaging, who dreams of living another life as a woman with long legs but settled for one in which she, Ohio's best known media person and the nation's first lady of teevee, interviewed the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman (who presented her with an Overseas Press Club Award for reportage on Taiwan), Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Helen Hayes, Beatrice Lillie, Tennessee Williams, Muhammad Ali, Willy Brandt, Albert Speer, Kerensky, Mikoyan and, as one of her lecture circuit publicists put it with intellectual shorthand conciseness, "etc., etc."
Besides, darnmit, despite her allegedly weak eyes, she could see the beard, and they couldn't.
So Parisi took a look. "Camera flash," he announced after a few minutes. Miss Fuldheirn nodded decorously and the clacker board signalled another take. "Stand by," said the soundman and Miss Fuldheirn did one minute, ten seconds of commentary titled, "Representative George Mastics Is Starting An Investigation In The Cost of Hospital Fees and Also Doctors' Fees."
Leaning forward, as if to confide in the estimated 200,000 viewers of Eyewitness News and, coincidentally, to see the teleprompter words, Miss Fuldheim laid it on them: "Right here in Cleveland, St. Luke's, a superb hospital, has just raised the price of a two-bed room to $197 a day. Now, mind you, that does not include the doctor's bill ......
Afterwards Parisi and Miss Fuldheim watched the re-run on the monitor. Then Parisi, rather anxiously, said, "It looks much better, Miss Fuldheim."
Of course it does," she said pleasantly. "Thank you very much." She walked regally from the studio, the silver shoes echoing down the hall to her small office. Parisi, looking like a man who had narrowly escaped being turned into a frog, said cordially, "The light, you know. It, ah, has to be a little softer because she is . . . well . . . older, But she's a very accomplished reader. She very seldom kicks it around. You put that in the article and she will love you."
During an assignment in Columbus with Miss Fuldheim, Ted Ocepek, veteran WEWS cameraman, had trouble eating a steak in a restaurant. "Every little old lady from every women's club in the state was lined up, like in a receiving line, to talk to her," he recalled. Before returning to Cleveland, Ocepek suggested that Miss Fuldheim. and a WEWS reporter, Bert LeGrand, get in the back of the car and go to sleep, that he would drive. As Miss Fuldheim dozed off, LeGrand, a man as improbable as his name, chortled, "I'm going to tell the world that I slept with Dorothy Fuldheim."
"LeGrand," said Ocepek, "if you ate a salami sandwich on the steps of the White House you would tell the world that you had dinner with the President."
Miss Fuldheirn opened her eyes and smiled. "Beautiful," she breathed. "Beautiful."
The afternoon of the beard, Miss Fuldheim, flushed with righteous victory, sat in her office and talked about it. "A new light showed that I had a beard," she said. "A three-inch beard and nobody could see it, but I could. Dammit I know I am not young but that is no reason they should put a beard on me. In the end they all had to admit that there was a beard. This happened before, so I watched Maude, gave it my full attention, then I watched the show on TV after that, and I didn't see a beard in the carload. If they can be beardless, there's no reason why I shouldn't,"
"Of course," she added quickly, "I have to admit it was getting funny."
The small office had barely enough room for two full bookcases, a desk, three chairs, a love seat and two vases of artificial flowers, yellow roses and tiger lilies. "The flowers are the only false things in the office," she said, smiling meaningfully.
The phone rang and she told the caller to call back, that she was busy. "I take all my calls personally," she said. "I don't believe in all that phoniness about secretaries. I'm really a very simple person and I think that is my strength, that common people can confide in me, can feel free to call me." The phone rang again and she said, "I'm busy ... can you call me back?"
"A little trick I learned," she said, brushing back from her forehead the hair that on TV looks wiry but in fact is a translucent tangerine-red lightly touched with a mild rinse. "I've learned," she went on, "that if you tell them to call back, they tend to calm down, the initial glow fades, and they forget to call you back."
She was born Dorothy Snell in Passaic, New Jersey, and reared in Paterson, the "love child" of her lawyer father who took young Dorothy, the eldest of his three children, to courtrooms to listen to the words of lawyers.
"He had a great reverence for learning and for the beauty of the language," she said. "He was a man with a great deal of sex appeal. Women liked him and my mother was always putting on scenes. He always told me I was his love child. He tried to sell insurance; he tried to sell clothes. He wasn't very good at it; he was pretty bad."
Her doting father, in fact, like her late husbands, lawyer Milton Fuldheim and businessman William Ulmer, was chronically broke. Early on she began earning money: first as a teacher, then as an actress, a book reviewer, a lecturer on all subjects, a radio personality, and finally a job with WEWS-TV in 1947, the first station in Ohio to be granted a Federal Communications Commission television license. Actually, WEWS was more interested at the time in receiving an FCC radio license and in anticipation of that hired Dorothy Fuldheim away from WJW Radio, a new station in town.
"I'm sure they didn't intend to use me," she said, "because television was supposed to be for the young and the beautiful and God knows what."
And although she was acutely aware of her attributes ("I have the gift of eloquence when I speak but I also have a timing for humor"), there were others who had doubts, including the advertising agents representing the new sponsor, Duquesne Beer. The agents first met privately with WEWS executives and expressed their misgivings, then condescended to let Miss Fuldheim hear them in person, telling her that the beer company wanted the 15 minutes of prime time but didn't want Miss Fuldheim, who for three months had been doing "interpretation" of the news -- something "nobody was doing" on the new medium.
"Maybe nobody is doing it because you haven't found anyone qualified to do it," she said fiercely, angry and hurt because they had snubbed her. But when WEWS executives backed Miss Fuldheim, the ad men reluctantly gave in, with the proviso that she use film clips as visual aids to her freeform commentary, the first across-the-board TV news show by a woman. Three weeks later the station was told to drop the film clips because "Miss Fuldheim doesn't need them."Duquesne sponsored the show for 18 years.
But she has had her share, more than her share, of sorrow. She has been widowed twice and six years ago lost her brother ("a real genius"), David Snell, who once headed MetroGoldwyn-Mayer's music staff. Her only child, a daughter, is also a widow. Her husband committed suicide shortly after the birth of his daughter, a polio victim before she was a year old. Life, says Miss Fuldheim, has "chiseled" her-"chiseled me like you do with a piece of marble." "It has disciplined me," she said tearfully.
The daughter, Dorothy, a teacher of Russian and contemporary literature at Case Western Reserve University, and the granddaughter, Halla, live with Miss Fuldheim.
She left the office that night at 6:35 p.m., after nine hours at the station. She left after saying that her life was like a tree stripped of its leaves. She left after apologizing for crying, used tissue paper on her eyes, gently reproved a visitor for wearing blue jeans ("I don't like men wearing blue jeans") then smiled and said, "Have you noticed how men look at women? They start with the legs going up. Well, the trip on mine is short. If I ever live again, I'm going to have the longest legs any woman ever had."
As she left the station the Vermilion Harborettes, eleven young girls, were practicing dance steps in the hallway before taping of the Polka Varieties show. As Miss Fuldheim walked through the glassed front door, the pre-pubescent plankton, patriotic Munchkins in red, white and blue tutus, swarmed to the door and pressed their noses against the glass.
"It's the lady on TV,- squealed one of the girls, still too young to fantasize about sleeping with immortality in the form of a rock star."It's Dorothy!" cried a second Harborette.
A hypoglycemic, Miss Fuldheim at breakfast should eat eggs and bacon, but she loathes eggs and the hens that, produce them, so instead she eats protein-fortifying gingersnaps, dunking seven of them each morning into her French, coffee, delighted that they have "character" and a taste, to her palate, somewhere between an apricot and a sunflower seed. So delighted is she with the taste that she composed an ode -- An Ode To A Gingersnap.
Chicken-induced nightmares, odes to gingersnaps, hypoglycemia -- granddaughter Halla put down a book she was reading and, with quiet eloquence, said, "Why don't you just say to hell with proteins, grandma?"
The morning after her hospital cost commentary the doctors, displaying the fraternal instinct for which they are famous when someone questions the high cost of medical care, were being heard from. They were calling and writing. For three days the letters came in, questioning the logic and accuracy of the Mastics commentary, pointing out that Miss Fuldheim's facts were wrong. She took care of their little program that night, commenting: "I would like to make a correction. Last night I said a two-bed room at St. Luke's was $197. That's incorrect. The $197 price is the price charged by another hospital in Cleveland. St. Luke's is $122. That's not cheap either ......
But at 11 p.m. the main man, the "talent" on 5, is John Hambrick, who makes even more money than Miss Fuldheim. He tells the bad news to Mother, a refinement of Happy Talk TV news, a phenomenon that swept the country a few years ago and found a home in big city TV newsrooms. TV newsmen steadfastly deny Happy Talk TV while practicing it to one degree or another. It is a way of making atrocities tolerable, even to making them go away with a hit and a lick, a smile and a frown, when you invite friends in for news at night.
When Hambrick came to town five years ago the competition took one look at the handsome face, the antic eyebrows and the semaphoric hands moving to their own Method System and, inevitably, dismissed him as an Equity card holder who would be far happier back playing the lead in a small town production of The Rainmaker.
Even in a semi-show business renowned for epidemic maliciousness toward rivals this was a cheap shot, unfair, to say the least, for Hambrick is a good old boy from Conroe, Texas; in his words, a "half-assed" athlete, a former calf roper and high school fullback, the son of an oil field roughneck who worked his way up to a clerkship in the Humble Oil empire.
Anyway, Hambrick was not doing the news much differently than other slick TV anchor men, most of whom appear to have soaked for a year or so in a vat of corn oil before signing opulent contracts. And surely it is not Hambrick's fault that he looks the way every mother would like her son to look. It's not been easy for him, the father of three. They come out of the woodwork, middle-age groupies with blonde hair, dark roots and thick ankles to stare devotedly at him, making interminable small talk while he tries vainly to drink his Jack Daniel's, the good down home sour mash sippin' whiskey.
And always there, not too far away, is the ego-diminishing awareness that it is "Dorothy's station" -- that when the young reporters, the anonymous infantry of the WEWS newsroom, go into the streets, there are times when "Channel 5" means little and "WEWS" means nothing, times when only Miss Fuldheim's name elicits response: "Oh yes, Dorothy's station!"
Despite this, Hambrick, who considers himself a "total communicator," has hung in. He has written songs and sung them. His first record album, Windmill In A Jet Filled Sky (with John on the cover, wearing a Western style hat and sitting in high weeds near a forlornly abandoned Bonnie and Clyde frame house) was recorded last year by Brown Bag Music in Nashville. The trades, Cash Box and Billboard, graciously compared it to John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Gordon Lightfoot and Dylan.
One of the album's songs, Me and My Friend, is about Hambrick and a WEWS buddy, Fred Griffith, the man being quietly groomed to replace Dorothy when that time comes.Me and my friend
We talk all the time
Sometimes get drunk
And we sorta unwind
Have a hell of a time
He's a friend of mine
Griffith, the only Channel 5 employee other than Miss Fuldheirn to do "commentary" (the station's excuse for not running editorials), is the host of Morning Exchange, the 8 to 10 slot that at times rises above the level of an electronic geek show to be both entertaining and informative. Griffith, Mr. Warmth of WEWS, is assisted by toothy Liz Richards. Her Mansfield friends remember her as Liz Wolford, the effervescent cheerleader who had minor roles in class plays at Malabar High.
Miss Fuldheirn was asked if lively Liz, a theater and telecommunications major at Kent State who recently received from a fan a "real nice" portrait of herself in pastel chalk on velvet, could, with guidance, become another Dorothy Fuldheim. Miss Fuldheirn appeared momentarily stunned. "Are you kidding?" she asked, after a long pause.
In addition to Miss Fuldheim, Hambrick and Gib Shanley (recipient of the Ohio Sportscaster of the Year award three of the six years it has been presented), other members of the Eyewitness News team are newsman Dave Patterson and weatherman Don Webster. Patterson, who worked his way through Vanderbilt by operating a computer five nights a week and working 10 hours Sundays in a radio station, has a solid bom-in-Alabama, raised-in-Georgia look about him. So when he says off camera that "Dorothy is a person larger than life -- she really is-and I personally feel we need someone to be in awe of," you believe him.You believe him then in a way you can't believe him when he comes on the tube, as management's spokesman, to subtly warn Mother with warmth and sincerity to get the kids to bed because Goodbye, Columbus is coming on and it's a dirty flick.
Before becoming Channel 5's weatherman, standing in the parking lot to lend credibility to his reports, Webster was the midcult emcee of Quick As A Wink, a quiz show, TV Bingo and the Upbeat Show, the ultimate in teenybopper TV-discotheque.
Miss Fuldheirn joins the team by video tape. Hambrick used to introduce her as though she were there, sharing their smiles and jokes, but sometimes she was turned the wrong way on the screen, and besides the FCC frowns on faking video taped productions as if they were live.
But Hambrick and the rest of the team have come a long way. They now meet the competition, Channels 3 and 8, as equals at I I p.m., with the same number of viewers, more or less.
"I'll tell you frankly," Hambrick said one night over a glass of Jack Daniel's. "I like that woman. She is truly our strength; what older viewers we have at I I o'clock, she's the main attraction."
Then, speaking almost entirely in italics, he said: "In all due respect, let me phrase it this way -- and I don't mean to sound ... ah ... well -- let me say that even Walter Lippmann may be an anachronism . . . but I think anybody in communications, no matter how progressive, no matter how prolific, is on her -- or his -- way to becoming, ah, an anachronism. Because I believe -- and I am not suggesting that Dorothy is limited in any way-that it is ... ah ... the nature of our business -- TV, that is. We can't adhere deeply to a story. We don't have the time. It must be done in such a way-yes! dramatization-and I use the word cautiously-that inspires the audience to go to a total information source, whatever that source may be: a newspaper, a magazine, a book or the Bible. t's why we are cognizant of how we present the news. That's what the 'Mother' symbol, the banner, means. That someone must tell it-and sometimes it is a tragedyto Mother, tell it to her so she will accept it with the least amount of trauma."
"Dorothy is a real person," Perris, a man with a smile like cracked plaster, said.
"The kindest person God has put on earth," Jim Lowe nodded affirmatively.
Lowe's business card identified him as the director of public relations, advertising and press information for WEWS. He has pale skin, moderately long hair, splendid clothes and a unique way of handling press relations. A newspaper reporter once wrote something Lowe didn't like and Lowe threatened to punch him in the mouth. A catastrophe was averted only because the reporter, a man of genteel Kentucky antecedents who regards the symbol of honor as being a handcarved box of matched dueling pistols, declined to roll around in a tacky alley.
Perris worked for a short time as a copyboy and reporter at the Cleveland Press, followed by jobs covering breaking news for the Springfield Daily News and the Dover Daily Reporter. He came to work as a newsreel writer for WEWS in 1948, the year after Miss Fuldheim was hired. In 1967 Miss Fuld heirn dedicated her book, Where Were The Arabs~ to "Donald Perris, a doughty warrior himself." With Al Rosen, former Cleveland Indians third baseman as her "unofficial bodyguard" from WEWS, Miss Fuldheirn in 1967 went to Israel. The book, a I 10-page extolment of the Israelis, is her personalized report on the Arab-Israeli conflict and after math. Miss Fuldheim's autobiography, I Laughed, I Cried, I Loved, had been published the year before. Perris and Miss Fuldheim have been through trying times together, but none like the day in May, 1970, when she said soldiers shooting unarmed students was murder and red alert citizens accused the station of harboring a rad-lib fink who was selling out America. "We've had some biggies, but that was the biggest of all," Perris said. "She came to me that night and said, 'I hope I haven't gone too far. I've been able to say what I thought without trimming my sails for over 20 years, but I've never gone so far, so far that my judgment is impaired by my emotions.' It was the first time I've seen her really shaken." "But then we heard from the others " Perri said, smiling economically. "The others who saw it differently. . . . She's super in everything. And her temper is super too. I've seen strong men flinch. Sparks come out of those eyes."
Perris somberly folded his hands in his lap and stared at them. The American flag outside his second floor office licked toward the window, a window facing on the First Methodist Church across the street. "I just don't want to think about it," Perris said very softly. "Obviously I have thought about it. . . . It just has never been mentioned. I've tried to think about it ... but ... I can't."
"The answer is," he said, unclasping his hands and holding them palms up, "the answer is ... is that there is no answer."
A few nights later Miss Fuldheim discussed the problem. "I'm getting tired of it," she exclaimed, laughing jovially. "Awards, awards, awards . . . everytime I turn around, another award of some sort. My God! It is like an obituary already. I am, as you might say, 'on to them'.""But I feel fine and I've no plans for retiring," she said lightly. "But some silly things do happen. Just the other day some journalism group wanted to give me an award. Know what else? They wanted to give a prize: me. Dinner with Dorothy Fuldheim. Have you ever heard of such nonsense? Who would want to have dinner with Dorothy Fuldheim?"
She was sitting in the corner of a large blue sofa in her apartment in Shaker Towers, a Cleveland apartment building illuminated by the Fuldheim Lights within spitting distance of Shaker Heights. A couple of years ago an unsuspecting man was mugged outside the apartment building and Miss Fuldheim, in one of her more colorful TV pronouncements, made it sound as if the Golden Horde was riding again, raping and pillaging in one of our finest neighborhoods.
Soon after a street crew arrived and installed bright lightsthe "Fuldheim Lights," as grateful neighbors refer to them, lights that turn night into day. Unfortunately the lights can do little to prevent violence from occurring inside the building.
So the evening that Miss Fuldheim, nestled to the point of disappearing into the armpit of the massive sofa, talked about her life and the sometime rampant silliness in the news business, she was interrupted by a commotion downstairs. A quarrel erupted in a first-floor apartment. There were blows, howls and a door slammed. The efficient custodial crew, using soap and water, quickly cleaned most of the blood from the entrance stoop but quarter-sized crimson spatters on the apartment walkway and the city sidewalk plainly showed the path taken by the loser.
But there are other occupants with admirable capacities for touching thoughtfulness. The morning after the Kent State commentary Miss Fuldheim awoke to find bouquets of flowers outside her door. The night before a party had been going on in the building. When it was over the celebrants removed the flowers from the vases and placed them like ceremonial offerings outside Miss Fuldheim's door.
Miss Fuldheim, whose appreciation for stylish clothing is discussed beyond the corporate limits of Cleveland, was wearing one of her loll outfits, a navy blue pants suit with a heavy chain necklace, an excellent replica of a Dior.
Last December Women's Wear Daily, the paper dedicated to separating the movers and shakers from the poseu