Thursday, March 07, 2002

Just think!

City's so messed up, O.J. shines

        You know things are crazy in Cincinnati when O.J. Simpson starts making sense.

        About the boycott.

        About saving our city.

        O.J., former football star and murder suspect, made the rounds of local talk-radio shows over the weekend. He was promoting his appearance as a celebrity emcee at a concert in Music Hall.

        He talked about the boycott and entertainers avoiding Cincinnati on Andy Furman's WLW show.

        This is what O.J. said:

        “It would seem to me that entertainers around the world, around the U.S., if they care about it, they would come to Cincinnati and try to get involved.

        “I'm a little surprised that they would try to avoid it.”

        For a guy who's dedicated his life to searching the golf courses of America for his ex-wife's killer, O.J. sounded up to speed on local issues. Insightful, too.

        He mentioned the entertainers participating in the boycott organized by the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati.

        The boycott has triggered cancellations of shows starring Bill Cosby and Wynton Marsalis at the Aronoff Center and a planned Temptations-O'Jays concert at Music Hall.

        The Cincinnati Arts Association brings acts into those venues as well as Memorial Hall.

        The nonprofit association known as the CAA plows the money it makes on concerts back into the community. Profits go toward presenting shows for tens of thousands of area school children.

        No profits, no school shows.

        The boycott's grievances were not caused by the CAA. Nor can they be solved by the association.

        The cancellations are aimed at City Hall. Yet, if the rate of cancellations continues, CAA President Steve Loftin told me, “It'll kill us.”

        And, innocent school kids will suffer.

Home to roost

        O.J. is giving the performers who canceled their shows way too much credit.

        Coming to town to solve a problem, to make a stand, takes courage. These entertainers aren't courageous. They're chickens.

        They missed a golden opportunity to speak out on the issues. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

        They could have held press conferences, promoted unity, made statements from the stage.

        Instead, they issued statements through their press agents. And stayed away.

        These chickens failed to realize the repercussions of their actions. Boycott-inspired cancellations at the CAA's venues wound children.

For our future

        The CAA's concerts serve schools in 22 Tristate counties.

        Many of those schools are in low-income areas. The CAA finds ways to subsidize tickets and transportation for schools in need.

        So far this school year, the CAA has entertained and enlightened 95,788 students with shows at its venues and in-school performances.

        That number is up from last year's total of 84,439 for those two components of the CAA's educational programs.

        For many students, shows at Music Hall and the Aronoff are times of wonder.

        “You see a lot of kids looking straight up when they walk in the door and going "oooo' and "ahhh,'” said Steve Finn, CAA director of education and community relations.

        Notice, he said “up.” Not down. And dejected. But “up.” And elated.

        Cancellations spawned by the boycott limit the CAA's ability to make money. And stage shows. Harm this organization and you hurt innocent children.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail


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