Sunday, December 29, 1996

Police spray a chemical on a partygoer after shutting down Jammin' on Main '96.
(Kevin Miyazaki photo).
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No fun city

Jammin' on Main '96 was a real gas, thanks to the volatile combination of popular rock band Seven Mary Three, a rowdy, rain-soaked crowd and some overzealous riot police.

After moshing, crowd-surfing Seven Mary Three fans tore down the flimsy bicycle-rack barriers in front of the stage, the cops stopped the show, closed down the festival and pepper-gassed anyone who seemed reluctant to leave. The national press picked up the story and, deserved or not, Cincinnati's reputation for quashing fun and youthful exuberance was alive and well.

Lost in space

Local diva LaKeisha Berri was primed for national stardom with her song ''Like This and Like That'' set to be on the Space Jam soundtrack. But at the 11th hour, Michael Jordan decided that if new artists from his production company couldn't be on the album, neither could Ms. Berri. Her song was dropped from the project. Undaunted, she's preparing a national album for 1997 release, a disc that probably won't include any love songs to a certain gazillionaire basketball icon.

An unpredictable note

Cincinnati Opera surprised cognoscenti coast-to-coast when it hired opera director Nicholas Muni to take the company into the 21st century. (As if Cincinnati could never hire anyone with an ounce of taste for the avant-garde?)

If Mr. Muni's reputation follows him, his productions will be shocking, controversial, partly nude and pack the house. Don't be surprised if Hamilton County Sheriff Si Leis develops a sudden interest in opera.

The Stanley J. Aronoff Center for Design and Art at the University of Cincinnati. Or is it a giant box of Neapolitan ice cream melting in the sun?
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Design your way out

University of Cincinnati officials say the new $35.3 million Stanley J. Aronoff Center for Design and Art is worth every penny because it will attract top students to the school. Not only will it bring them there, it will keep them there. Architect Peter Eisenman's pastel-hued building is such a labyrinth of criss-crossed passages that once students get inside, they can never find their way out.

That's a lot of bread

The Tristate is rolling in the dough: brioche, boule, baguette and other specialty breads. At least two new retail bakeries - GTC Bakehouse and Breadsmith - opened. And Big Sky Bread Co. (formerly Stonemill) opened three new area locations (a Symmes Township store features a drive-through window), with another set to open in Blue Ash in January.

Cincinnati got a bite of the specialty bread boom late, but sooner than Mark Twain might have predicted. The trend began in other parts of the country during the late 1980s.

Big Sky co-owner Roger Elkus sees no end to the pang for crusty, European-style loaves.

''Like many in my generation, I was raised on Wonder Bread,'' he says. ''But now, people are beginning to trade up to the good stuff.''

Breakup scene

Will there be any local bands left in 1997?

A flurry of breakups decimated the local band scene. The Psychodots, Plow On Boy and Over The Rhine all called it quits, while the Afghan Whigs, having said goodbye to yet another drummer, decided to take the winter off.

Moving vans lined up

Children's Museum of Cincinnati wants to leave Longworth Hall and move into Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Contemporary Arts Center wants to get away from Walgreens and get close to the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The School for Creative and Performing Arts wants to snuggle up to Music Hall. If all this moving doesn't solve everybody's problems, maybe next year they'll all move to Kenwood Towne Centre.

Puffed-up cigars and beer

Who would have thought that beer, Joe Six-pack's drink, and cigars, the air pollutant of choice among back-room politicians and fight promoters, would become the darlings of connoisseurs? But in 1996, their prestige only increased. No fewer than four new brew-on-the-premises establishments opened in the Cincinnati area: Watson Brothers Brewhouse, Rock Bottom Brewery, BrewWorks at The Party Source and Holy Grail Brewery, added to a list that already included Main Street Brewery, BarrelHouse Brewery and Oldenberg Brewing Company.

This may be the year that saw the peak of the fad: Who could top BrewWorks, a veritable castle of beer drinking? And the presence of a national chain on the list (Rock Bottom of Boulder, Colo.) indicates a dulling of the cutting edge. One beer-themed micropub, BABES in Blue Ash, has closed.

But cigars may just be getting started: It is de rigeur for new restaurants to cater to the new class of cigar-chompers. The more expensive the restaurant, the more likely they are to offer humidors and cigar dinners.

Harrelson: Coffee achiever

Former Lebanon schoolboy-turned-movie-star Woody Harrelson lived a full, rich life in 1996. He worked on four movies - Kingpin, Sunchaser, The People vs. Larry Flynt (due for a Cincinnati premiere Jan. 7) and Sarajevo (due in 1997), and made a guest appearance on the ABC series Spin City.

Apparently inspired by the title character he plays in Larry Flynt, Mr. Harrelson during the course of the year: withheld $10,000 in income taxes to protest environmental devastation; was arrested and tried in Kentucky for deliberately planting four hemp seeds to challenge the commonwealth's law against industrial hemp (a judge's ruling is pending); was arrested for illegally climbing the Golden Gate Bridge to protest the threat to an old redwood grove, and wrote to the London Independent to protest Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey's approval of a ''gentle slap'' for child discipline.

Mr. Harrelson wondered in print: ''How long I have to wait before I can start slapping my newborn? Should I wait until she is out of infancy or should I get started while she is in the crib?''

He and companion Laura Louie welcomed a new daughter, born in Costa Rica where the couple now maintains a home.

Blink and you missed him

Wunderkind concertmaster Alexander Kerr, 26, the youngest concertmaster in CSO history, turned out to be the most short-lived - hired in November 1995, resigned in November 1996. Mr. Kerr is the first American concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, a post reserved for world-class talent.

Trouble on Main Street

As business continued to boom and the Main Street entertainment district expanded west, Tommy's On Main closed in August. Owner Gary Westfall blamed the slump in business that followed the death of local musician Michael Bany, killed in a robbery after a Tommy's gig in a nearby parking lot.

''I was always hoping that the next weekend would turn it around, but it never did,'' Mr. Westfall said.

Before year's end, Webster's, a club across the street, also shut its doors and the Main Street revival seemed stalled north of Kaldi's Coffeehouse.

Better late than never

Cincinnati Art Museum is doing Brooklyn Museum of Art a big favor. They're publishing a lavish catalog for Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt that will be ready when the exhibition opens in New York in February. The catalog, intended to accompany Women in Ancient Egypt while it was in Cincinnati, took so long to produce that the show will have moved on before the book goes to press.