Thursday, May 22, 2003

Knip's eye view


Coaster fan races toward 1,000th Kings Island visit

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Here's one way you know spring has sprung and summer's only a step behind: Don Helbig is going downhill fast.

Ring a bell, does it? Helbig is the Mighty Ducks' development and communications VP. Come fall, he'll also be the team's play-by-play voice on radio.

He's also a nationally known (Good Morning America, People, USA Today) roller coaster fan who used to visit Paramount's Kings Island daily but nowadays only gets there 25 or 30 times a season. It's that inconvenient job thing, you see. Some time this summer, though, he'll record his 1,000th visit to PKI - he stands at 974 right now - since he began doing this 22 years ago.

All to ride coasters, and keep careful track of the number of rides. His dance card currently lists 11,541 rides on the Racer - backward and forward - 2,828 rides on the Beast and 1,001 rides on the Vortex.

Helbig used to go it alone, but now he has company: His 8-year-old daughter, Maria. "She's fearless. Her favorite ride's Drop Zone," he says. Since she now reaches the height requirement, she rides Beast, Son of Beast and the Racer. Helbig's wife, Laura, likes some rides, but not enough to become a frequent flier.

Meanwhile, in the interest of research, Helbig's also promising to visit Cedar Point and ride the dreaded Top Thrill Dragster (420 feet high, 0 to 120 mph in four seconds) any minute now.

On the screen: And this for everyone who thought there wasn't much happening on the Cincinnati film scene: Big things. Big awards. To wit ...

Festival Bound: Seems Limelight, Cincinnatian Terry Lukemire's mocumentary about a whole bunch of karaoke fanatics, has been tapped to compete for the New American Cinema prize at this summer's Seattle International Film Festival. It's one of only nine selected.

This is pretty major: Seattle is one of those festivals where reputations are made, and the selection committee is already pretty high on the film: "Terrific cast of unknowns plays to the gallery and brings down the house," it says here in the festival program.

The film, an offbeat cross-country karaoke adventure, began life as a short, then grew into a full-length feature as Lukemire began seeing the huge potential for fun. It stars local souls Greg Shields, Lauren Matthews, Ernie Heffner, Mia Lee, John Foley and Darlene Houston.

The fest runs now through June 15. Limelight screens June 11 and 13.

Another award: One local film, a much shorter and more sober one than Limelight, has already won a whole batch of awards. That would be Just One More, an anti-drunken driving film aimed at teenagers and starring former Bengal Dave Fulcher.

Created by Lonzo Jones and Steve Grothaus of the Hamilton-based Dreamline Productions, One More recently picked up the jury award for best youth-oriented short at the Bare Bones Film Festival in Oklahoma. It joins a couple of other awards on Jones' and Grothaus' bookshelves: One from the Columbus International Film and Video Festival and one from KidsFest in Miami.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com



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