The folks at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com are a creative bunch, to be sure. I usually tip my hat to them for their writing, their graphics, their entire approach to serving the community. That stopped, unfortunately, when they came out with their final Cleveland Top 100 list.
Truth in advertising is sorely needed.
Not that it's a bad thing to showcase the Top 100 movers, shakers and thinkers from greater Cleveland. There are, in fact, plenty of them as well-documented by the panel that came up with this list. Paul Newman, Bob Hope, Halle Berry, Drew Carey, Henry Mancini, Patricia Heaton -- all with bona fide credentials and bona fide GPS coordinates as greater Clevelanders.
I should have seen trouble coming, though, when they selected Tom Hanks #7.
The actor got his start in the Great Lakes Theater Festival and it made a huge impact on him; his one-man show revealing his love of those days, and watching Cleveland Indians games with old Municipal Stadium almost all to himself, certainly put Cleveland front and center. But Cleveland's Tom Hanks? Let's be honest, he's as California as they come. Maybe with a dab of Ballpark Mustard thrown in, but Cleveland?
This is the kind of thing that would lend itself to code breaking worthy of Robert Langdon of "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons," but those were only roles Hanks played based on the Dan Brown books.
Hmmm...Dan Brown, Clevelander? Yeah, we know he's a New Hampshire native but he does have the same last name as our football team, right? He does have the same name as Jim Brown, #59 on the list.
#32 would have been more appropriate, by the way.
Nah. Never mind.
Moving on down the list: Devo? Akron. The Black Keys? Akron. Marilyn Manson? Canton. Toni Morrison? Lorain. John Lithgow? Akron. Hugh Downs? Akron again. Trent Reznor? Sure, he made his mark in Cleveland but he's from Mercer, Pennsylvania. Grew up there. Left there to come to northeast Ohio. Left Cleveland for New Orleans and L.A.
Especially galling, trying to claim credit for The Black Keys. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney.
Both graduated from Firestone High School, where they started playing. You might remember them from the Grammy Awards last week. They're the only ones who gave a shout-out to their home town. It wasn't Cleveland. In the words of Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, it's like I woke up to find my city was gone.
Oh, and by the way #8 Chrissie Hynde isn't from Cleveland. She's from Akron. Same as Dan and Patrick, she's a graduate of Firestone High School. In Akron. Not to be confused with Firestone High School in Cleveland, because there is no Firestone High School in Cleveland. Google Firestone High School; all Akron. It sometimes includes Hynde, Auerbach and Carney because...well, they're from Akron, too.
The list continues with Macy Gray at #52 (Canton); #53 Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove (Akron); #54 Ed O'Neill (Youngstown) and so on.
Guy Lombardo, at number 70? The folks in Cleveland picked him, they say, because he first became famous in Cleveland. But this is the bandleader who led the "Royal Canadians" orchestra with their famous New Year's Eve national radio broadcasts -- from New York's Waldorf Astoria.
At this point I gave up. I couldn't force myself to even look at the next 30, fearing they would take credit for Neil Armstrong (after all, isn't Wapokoneta close enough to call on short long-distance?) or George Clooney (wait a minute, it IS another Ohio city that starts with C!) to be claimed by the Cleveland Top 100 judges.
What actually qualifies one to be claimed by Cleveland? It must be you either ate lunch there once, played a gig there, maybe flew in and out of Hopkins on your way to somewhere else.
An entertaining list to be sure, but not Cleveland. Northeast Ohio, yes. Cleveland, not quite. If you're going to take a broad view of the region as more than just the city on the lakeshore, it would be nice to start with the acknowledgement not all of the other cities downstream (or, to be geographically correct, upstream since the Cuyahoga River flows from the confluence of East and West Branches at Burton in Geauga County then into Kent, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron...) are in fact considered Cleveland.
Maybe that's one reason why those "Cleveland Plus" campaigns seem to land with such a thud once you travel out of the land of 216; we're not all the same area code anymore. There's 440, 330 and even 740 and 234 to contend with. You want people to start embracing the region? Start by respecting where we live, rather than assuming we're just the folks on the other side of the Turnpike.
Start by taking a bold step and recognizing your Cleveland Top 100 is really the Northeast Ohio Top 100. We like Cleveland. We root for the teams in Cleveland. We watch TV that comes from Cleveland. Sometimes we even read the newspaper that comes from Cleveland. But we're not in Cleveland. The rest of us are in northeast Ohio.
Except for Dean Martin. Dino's still Steubenville. See how far that gets you down in Big Red country.