Monday, March 17, 1997
Did you hear the one
about Cincinnati?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Buz Buse has a fun job. He gets to promote the lighter side of Cincinnati.

Probably takes him all of five minutes a day to do. Wonder how he spends the rest of his week.

''We are a city with a sense of humor,'' he maintains. With a straight face.

Hmmm. Never thought of this place as Fun City, U.S.A. I always figured Cincinnati's motto was ''We are not amused.'' But I've had fun thinking about it.

So, maybe Buz Buse is on to something when he insists he is not promoting a concept that doesn't exist. He swears it's a full-time job and hands me his card.

Raymond L. Buse, III

Manager, public relations

Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

He laughs when he gives out these cards. It's his way of ''hoodwinking Cincinnati into believing that I actually work for a living.''

This is what Buz does: He sends tins of popcorn from Walnut Street Popcorn & Sweets everywhere.

He puts yo-yos and cans of Cincinnati chili in the mail, too.

Is that work? You bet. Good work that needs to be done. It draws a silly mustache on Cincinnati's stuffy image.

The popcorn (in tins decorated, depending on the season, with Reds or Bengals logos) and yo-yos go to network TV news anchors. Notes about such Cincinnati events as the Oktoberfest Chicken Dance are often enclosed at no extra charge.

Buz will make sure popcorn-stuffed tins are placed in the hotel rooms of ESPN crews in town for next week's NCAA Women's Final Four.

Visiting celebrities - like Martha Stewart, the diva of design who's set to speak at the Cincinnati Flower Show in April - will get a can of Skyline Chili. And instructions for cooking up a 3-way.

For Opening Day, Buz has a secret plan to get weatherman Al Roker to mention the Reds' game on the Today Show. ''It's tucked up the sleeve of my Reds' jersey.''

When City Hall needed a proclamation poking gentle fun at Cincinnati, he helped write ''The Top Ten Reasons Why the Late Show with David Letterman should Visit the Queen City.''

The No. 1 reason: ''Whereas, We promise not to arrest Dave's mom, even if she does feed all the parking meters in town.''

Lighten up

The real-life meter-feeding granny, Sylvia Stayton, and the attention she's attracted in the national media - she surfaced on Oprah last week - are a touchy subject with Buz.

He swears he's not a spin doctor.

''I don't like medicine of any kind,'' says the Cincinnati native who grew up in Hyde Park and lives in Covington. ''And, I don't put a spin on the truth.''

But, when Cincinnati gets bad press, he works harder to accentuate the positive.

''We have to keep our antenna up for the good things,'' he says. ''Because, we do a pretty good job of reminding ourselves of the negative things.''

That comes with our territory. The Midwest breeds fragile self-esteems. We're overly sensitive.

Our German genes make us want things to be neat, clean and correct. We know when we make a mistake. And, we don't need the world to point it out to us.

In Cincinnati, when grannies feed meters, get arrested and do Oprah, we take it to heart. We do not smile. We are not amused.

''We take ourselves too seriously,'' Buz notes. ''It would be good if we laughed at ourselves more often.''

He knows what really matters in life and the value of laughter. His 7-year-old son Corey has had three heart operations. Each time, he's come out smiling.

''I've seen the tragic side of life,'' Buz says.

He's seen the bright side, too.

''Believe me, the bright side is better.''

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.