The Press Club of Cleveland HQ, Hall of Fame & Visual Archives Now at Nighttown

By Bruce M. Hennes

In 2007, The Press Club of Cleveland celebrated its 120th anniversary and officially established Nighttown as its clubhouse. The restaurant/jazz club is located at the top of Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights’ fashionable Cedar-Fairmount Shopping District (http://www.nighttowncleveland.com). In addition to serving as the club’s HQ, The Press Club of Cleveland’s Hall of Fame and “visual archives” are also located at Nighttown.

The Press Club of Cleveland was founded in 1887. For many of those years, The Press Club maintained its own headquarters, located in a wide variety of historic hotels (mostly now long demolished, like the Hollenden House) and office buildings in downtown Cleveland. Recently, The Press Club was housed at The City Club and for a short time at the University Club (for a while, the building was known as Meyers University). Nighttown was chosen as the new “official home” of the Press Club of Cleveland because of its long and colorful history as a favorite haunt of local journalists since opening in 1965.

One of the real prizes of the Press Club's archives is a huge, oil-painted, full-color mural that formerly hung at Kornman’s, a restaurant on Short Vincent during its heyday, depicting the Damon Runyonesque denizens of the street at that time. This mural, painted by Bill Roberts, hung at The Press Club of Cleveland for a while and was ultimately donated to the Western Reserve Historical Society. Through the efforts of Cleveland photographer Tim Ryan and the courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society, an authentic, authorized reproduction of the mural now hangs at Nighttown. Also on Nighttown’s walls are “Vote for Schmoe” and “Fifi LaSalle,” two oil paintings from previous Press Club headquarters, now held in trust for the club by Tim Ryan and graciously on loan to Nighttown.

The “visual archives” of The Press Club of Cleveland now gracing the walls of Nighttown include large format photos from The Cleveland Press and The Plain Dealer depicting historic and iconic photos well known to all Clevelanders, though rarely seen. Included are such shots as Mayor Perk’s hair on fire, the Beatles’ first visit to Cleveland, Carl Stokes’ election as the first black mayor of a major American city, the Sam Shepard murder trial and John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the Kent State shooting in 1970.

For its June, 2007 issue, Northern Ohio Live Magazine did a cover story on The Press Club and Nighttown, featuring many of the abovementioned photos, which may be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/25nrh8

Over 150 Press Club members, Hall of Famers and guests helped commemorate the 120th anniversary of the club at Nighttown on Monday, May 21, 2007. You can see photos of the party, including a photo of the abovementioned mural, here: http://tinyurl.com/2ffpsd The Plain Dealer also covered the event in its PDQ section, located here: http://tinyurl.com/24t6vq

Bruce Hennes, Press Club Board Member, chaired and emceed the event. Hennes opened the event by stating that The Press Club is where journalism, publishing, public relations and marketing communications all come together. He said it’s a fact each cannot exist and do business, for the most part, without the other. He then welcomed the guests, offering special thanks to Tim Ryan, John Sheridan, John Betchkal, Lee Moran, Ed Byers, Maryana Bradas, Bonnie Godbey, Carol Saferin, Stuart Warner, Rich Osborne, Jeannie Chapman, Mary Gygli and Lynn Bracic for their help with the event.

Press Club President Dan Jacobs then took the podium, recognizing the efforts of the entire Board of Directors for their continuing support of the club. Jacobs also made mention of the fact that the club has a full complement of members and healthy finances. He was followed by Press Club Program Chair Bonnie Godbey who described the Press Club’s exciting upcoming roster of events. Godbey was followed by Bill Barrow, head of CSU’s Special Collections Library, where the complete archives of The Cleveland Press are housed, in addition to many other documents, photos and artifacts from Cleveland’s news history.

Returning to the podium, Hennes thanked Medical Mutual, along with Press Club board member Ed Byers, for printing gratis the 84-page commemorative booklet containing the history of The Press Club of Cleveland, originally published by the club in 1987, which was distributed to the guests in attendance. You can download a copy here: http://tinyurl.com/2ev3np

Hennes then read an email received earlier that day at the offices of The Press Club:

From: Terence Sheridan
To: Stephen G. Esrati
Subject: Press Club Moves
Date: Sun, 20 May 2007

Dear Steve,

Please let the Press Club people know that I'm leaving this very moment to attend festivities as a guest of my good friend and eminent PR man, Michael D. Roberts. How could I miss a bash held in a place named after the whorehouse section of 1904 Dublin in a marvelous novel written by a mad Irishman--an upscale joint that once had a mortgage that I and other drinkers (Robert G. McGruder, for instance) helped pay off when it was moderately lowscale?

Oh my, the Nighttown stories! Perhaps Tom Andrzjewski can regale fellow Hall of Famers about the night that Tom Vail's "daughter" slapped the shit out of me, and McGruder and Jim Clark, fearing for their PD jobs, took a hike on me--and I sent roses the next day to a thoroughly befuddled heiress.

Terence Sheridan

After reading the above email to thunderous laughter from the audience, Hennes brought Brendan Ring, owner and proprietor of Nighttown, to the podium to receive thanks from the audience. “Bringing The Press Club’s headquarters to Nighttown is perfect. Nighttown has been hospitable to journalists since 1965,” said Ring.
Mention was also made of the fact that Nighttown now and into the future offers a 15% discount off the food portion of the bill at Nighttown upon presentation of a valid Press Club membership card (please see below for full details).

Press Club Board Member John Betchkal then came to the podium to introduce Press Club Hall of Famer Dan Coughlin who delivered extemporaneous remarks, making passing reference to the consumption of alcohol and the posterior of a horse (for full details, check page 12 of the 120th anniversary commemorative booklet, referenced above).

Subsequent to the event, Sun News Editor Mary Jane Skala (daughter of Hall of Famer Charles Day) wrote a touching tribute in her weekly Sun News column to the Press Club and her father:

Cleveland's Very Good Air Days
By Mary Jane Skala, Sun News Editor

May 24, 2007

I wish Susan Goldberg had been with me at Nighttown Monday night. I'd have guided her over to the Press Club of Cleveland's Hall of Fame plaques, which were unveiled there that night, and pointed.

Memorize those faces, I'd have said. These are the masters in this town who preceded you.

I'd have pointed at Dorothy Fuldheim, Mike Douglas, Jimmy Dudley, Bill Randall, Nev Chandler, Louis B. Seltzer, Windsor French, Virgil Dominic, Jane Scott, Bill Gorden, Wayne Mack, Bob Dolgan and Philip W. Porter.

They will be watching when you sit down as editor of The Plain Dealer Tuesday, I'd have told Goldberg. They don't give a fig that you're the first woman in that job. They'll be waiting to see if you earn a spot on this wall.

Goldberg wasn't with me Monday, but nostalgia was. It jerked me back to the last century's golden media days because my father, Charles Day, hangs on that wall too. As news director of WGAR, he was the dean of Cleveland newscasters in the '50s and the '60s, before TV bloodied radio in the early '70s.

Cleveland was a tough old bird back then. She was one of the country's 10 biggest cities, a gritty, ornery, belching steel town, and the people who covered her - Milt Widder, Wally Guenther, Bus Bergen, Dick Feagler, Doris O'Donnell and Don Bean - knew her intimately. They loved her and sparred with her, and my father did too.

Cleveland's history is my history too. Because of his job, I was literally fed Cleveland at the dinner table. My father did newscasts at noon and 6, then came home and told us about his day over supper. I breathed this stuff in like oxygen. He knew George Voinovich, Art Modell, Jim Stanton, Ralph Perk, Carl Stokes and Dennis Kucinich before Kucinich was mayor. He covered the Sam Shepard trial, the Kent State shootings and school desegregation. One night in 1966 he called my mother from the roof of a building in Hough. He was watching the riots from up there. And I still remember the groggy dawn Paul Brown got fired because Brown called my father to tell him.

My father met the Lone Ranger, John Glenn, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Phil Rizzuto and Lyndon Johnson. He trained newsies Jack Perkins, Doug Poling and Bill Beutell, who went on to New York. He covered the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and went to Russia with Vice President Richard Nixon during the Cold War in 1959.

My father was troubled when newspapers began courting reporters and editors from out of town. They don't know this city, he'd say; and he said the stories showed that. Since he died seven years ago, I don't know what he'd say about Goldberg coming here from San Jose. He might have said the paper should have promoted from within. But instead, I think he'd have said that journalism is changing, and this is the way it's done now.

Even after he retired - he did PR for Ohio Bell after his radio career - he never lost his passion for news. He'd get upset because TV news just stole stories from The Plain Dealer instead of unearthing fresh ones. He said that was lazy.

Indeed, journalism is changing. Fifty years ago, the media and its personalities stitched Cleveland together. We all watched Captain Penny, Barnaby and Ghoulardi. Today, the masses share only Mike Trivisonno, Joe Tait and Tom Hamilton; otherwise, we scatter like dandelion seeds to NPR, John Lanigan, Jim Rome, satellite radio or the Internet. Our media habits are fractured, much like our town.

I hope Goldberg can help reunite us. Of all our institutions, only newspapers still hold the unique power to shape, to inform, to educate, to enrage, to lead and to unite. Newspapers are bruised, but they're still breathing, and I believe they always will, even in bold new forms. People hunger to know what is going on. They need a place to debate ideas. And if we journalists don't keep tabs on our government, who will?

I wish Goldberg well. I believe my father, Seltzer, Fuldheim and the entire Hall of Fame does, too.

© 2007 Sun Newspapers

The Press Club of Cleveland is an organization for print and broadcast journalists and editors, public relations and advertising professionals, and anyone who works with them. The club serves its members by providing social and educational opportunities, promoting excellence in journalism, attracting and educating high- quality candidates to enter journalism, and maintaining a history of journalism in Cleveland, Ohio. The Press Club of Cleveland can be reached at 440-899-1222. For more information about Nighttown, click here: http://www.nighttowncleveland.com.

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84-page commemorative booklet containing the history of The Press Club of Cleveland