Sunday, March 28, 1999

PIP mural stars face their faces

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Listening in on this and that around town . . .

        “Well would you look at this? The New York Times got eight inches, we get 100 feet.”

        That would be Ed Stern, producing artistic director at Playhouse in the Park, talking about the Chris Payne mural in the Mickey and Dr. Stanley Kaplan Lobby.

        That mural. The one above the picture windows that Payne and illustrator Craig McKay spent two years and 1,200 hours creating. Unveiled last week, it tapers from 14 feet to three feet with more than 40 caricatures of theater folk who have played a role in PIP's history.

        Stern's eight-inch remark came as he was holding up last week's New York Times Review of Books with Payne's cover illustration — about 8 inches wide — of Henry Kissinger.

        And that's not all we heard at the unveiling . . .

        • The mural everyone thought was finished isn't. It's a work in progress. “The Playhouse wanted a living thing, and I agree. So now and then I'll add something,” Payne says.

        • First addition? A Payne interpretation of a cartoon by the Enquirer's Jim Borgman. It will join two already there: An interpretation of a Ted Kluszewski caricature by former Enquirer cartoonist Jerry Dowling; a William Howard Taft (with an “Ask me about my grandkids” pin) cartoon done by the Post's Jeff Stahler, redone by Payne.

        No decision on which Borgman cartoon or when it goes up, but count on it because “I couldn't do this without paying tribute to Cincinnati's great illustrators.”

        • Stern and PIP public relations manager Peter Robinson pop up in a segment with Cicely Tyson and a dog. Psst! was hoping Payne would use a horse in honor of the time Stern collided with a Cincinnati Police Department horse (no injuries) and destroyed the front of his car. But nobody's supposed to know it happened, so a dog works better. As far as we know, Stern's driving hasn't terrorized dogs yet.

        • Payne included a self-portrait. He pops up in the last panel, looking for all the world like one of those Easter Island statues.

        • He also turned the thing in to a family affair. His 9-year-old son, Evan, did Oscar Wilde's eyes.”

        • Al Vontz Jr., who paid for the project, was delighted to find himself in there, though he's not sure why he's surrounded by a flock of penguins. Payne's answer? “Because.”

        CANCEL? NEVER: No president, no party, right?

        Wrong. You throw an even bigger one. Ask Stan Chesley.

        President Clinton was to pop in Thursday for lunch with 40 supporters at Chesley's Amberley Village home. But the crisis in Yugoslavia forced him to cancel.

        Meaning Chesley was stuck with a mountain of food, flowers, empty tents and grumbling guests?

        Nope. He sent the flowers to Cedar Village nursing home. There were no tents, because he was doing it in his dining room; the caterer, the Phoenix, had enough notice to put the brakes on the menu so there was no food to unload; and the guest list, all 40 of them, said they'd come when the heat's off in Yugoslavia.

        Despite the presidential no-show, Chesley was in a partying mood. Why not throw one anyway?

        Indeed: “I hosted lunch (pizza) for 150 of the Tristate's finest — firemen, police, Secret Service — and had a great time. These are the people who make it happen, make it possible for the president to come here and get around without incident. They deserve a great big thank you. Beyond that, they're a great bunch of people.”

        So great they surprised Chesley with a birthday cake. Fridaywas his 63rd.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.