Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Santa photo sparks nice, naughty claims




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Well dang, we thought we had this mystery solved. Show's how much we know.

        Referring here to the 1960 photo Tempo published Christmas Eve in a photo spread on Christmases past. Remember? There was one of a little girl whispering in Santa's ear. We didn't have a name for the little girl.

        No name, that is, until one Sandy Grause Dyer called and said “That's me.” Eyeran a wee item saying same and thought that was the end of it.

        'Til the phone started ringing.

        “I don't mean to muddy the waters,” Eileen Shiller told our voice mail, “but that's me. I think my mom still has the dress, and I know she still has the Easy Bake Oven I was asking for. She's never thrown anything away.

        “She worked at Pogue's, but we always went to Shillito's because they had a better Santa. He was fatter.”

        Amanda Gruber also begged to differ. “It's my mom. Her name's Brenda Gruber. My grandma used to work at Shillito's and Mom did Santa there every year.”

        “True,” Brenda says. “My family agrees, too. I would have been 6 and I remember the dress. Moss green. My daughter has a similar picture of me in a family album.

        “You think we're triplets, separated at birth?”

        No, quads: Still another caller, this one anonymous and really cranky, also checked in with voice mail: “What are you, stupid? Anybody can see that's me. It was my eighth birthday.”

        Oh yeah, now we see the resemblance.

        SPLITSVILLE: Meanwhile, off in the Court of Domestic Relations, there's this news: It looks as if Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench and wife, Elizabeth, are splitting. It was his third marriage.

        The couple married, recall, in Nashville, in February 1997. At the time, Elizabeth was a stockbroker with her eye on a career in pro golf, which is what she's doing now. Traveling lots and lots.

        Anyway, according to the Court Index, which now refers to these delicate matters as “termination w/o children,” Bench filed Jan. 11, seeking divorce and division of property.

        As always, no one's talking.

        CHILI VISITS: So are we really about to see DJ Fontana, as in Elvis' original drummer, pitching local chili?

        Could be. He was in town twice last week — once to play ad exec Rob Riggsbee's annual media party with a bunch of Elvis impersonators, and once to play an Elvis tribute at the Taft with the same impersonators.

        His meal of choice? Newport's Dixie Chili, even though he didn't know the name of the place. He just told WGRR's Meme Wagner to “Take me to that hot dog stand near Chuke's place,” a reference to local Elvis impersonator Steve Chuke, who owns a jewelry shop a few doors down on Monmouth.

        Fontana knocked off a couple coneys and raved enough to impress the heck out of Dixie owner George Sarakatsannis. So much so, that there's talk of making Fontana Dixie's next spokesman.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        KNIPPENBERG ARCHIVE