Life of Di
A traveling exhibit dedicated to “The People’s Princess” will end its 11-year run with a final stop at the Cincinnati Museum Center
February 2014 Issue
February 2014 Digest
A tribute to Princess Diana visits Cincinnati, a Beatles tribute returns to Cleveland, and Ohio native Louie Vito talks snowboarding.
The worldwide popularity that surrounded Diana, Princess of Wales during her life has evolved into an aura of immortality in the 15 years since her death at the age of 36. The former kindergarten teacher who once told reporter Martin Bashir, “I want to be the queen of people’s hearts,” has become just that, an iconic figure who continues to fascinate admirers from all walks of life.
“Diana, A Celebration,” an exhibition chronicling her life and work, concludes its 11-year world tour at the Cincinnati Museum Center Feb. 14–Aug. 17. “This [exhibition] supports the notion that this was an incredible individual who died before her time and was such a positive force in the world,” says John Norman, president of Artists and Exhibitions International. “We’ve had over a million people come to see this, and to those people, this is a very important and personal experience. This was an ordinary girl who lived an extraordinary life.”
Norman, a Cleveland native, has produced exhibitions of King Tut and Cleopatra, but “Diana, A Celebration” takes
on a more personal tone. “No one ever met King Tut or Cleopatra, but they feel they know Diana,” says Norman. “She somehow related to the average person.”
The exhibition has nine galleries containing 150 objects including Diana’s legendary wedding gown with its 25-foot train, two tiaras, 28 designer dresses, personal mementos and rare home movies — all on loan from the Spencer family’s 500-year-old ancestral home.
One section is dedicated to Diana’s philanthropic accomplishments, most notably her work with AIDS patients, the homeless and her efforts to help eradicate land mines.
“Her brother Charles told me she used her celebrity to bring attention to some very uncomfortable causes,” says Norman. “Those organizations were very dear to her.”
A popular gallery in the exhibition covers Diana’s childhood, which contains letters, toys and photo albums in addition to old movie footage.
“These are personal items people can really relate to,” says Norman. The wedding gown remains a source of wonder, as does a tribute to Diana’s funeral that includes Elton John’s handwritten lyrics to “Candle in the Wind” and a condolence book made available to attendees.
“The majority of the audience is women, but this is a
fascinating historical experience for everyone,” says Norman. “Everyone
has different reasons for being there because it covers such a wide
range of her life. It’s pretty powerful.” — Barry Goodrich
For more information about “Diana: a Celebration,” visit cincymuseum.org.
We talk to snowboarder Louie Vito about the growing up in Ohio, the Winter Games and more.
When Louie Vito dropped into the half-pipe at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, the Team USA snowboarder took a little piece of Ohio with him. The Bellefontaine native grew up learning to ride at Mad River Mountain in Zanesfield. He has since traded the hills of Ohio for the mountains of Utah, becoming one of snowboarding’s most recognized and respected competitors. Late last year, we talked to the Olympic hopeful about the possibility of heading back to the Winter Games this month. — Jim Vickers
One doesn’t expect an Olympic snowboarder to get his start on a hill with a vertical drop of 300 feet, but for Vito, his love affair with the sport began with family outings to Mad River Mountain, located about 50 miles northwest of Columbus. “I started with my dad … [he’s] a big influence,” Vito says. “He’s the reason I got into this.”
Vito attended the revered Stratton Mountain School for snowboarding in Vermont. It wasn’t long before he made a name for himself on the professional snowboarding scene at age 17 by completing a backside 1080 (the rider spins three full rotations) at the Australian Open, making him the first snowboarder to pull off the move in an Australian competition.
2013 bronze medalist at the U.S. Open in Vail, Colo., 2013 half-pipe bronze medalist at World Cup at Copper Mountain, Colo., four-time Grand Prix overall half-pipe champion (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012) and five-time Winter X Games medalist (two gold, one silver, two bronze)
Where You May Have Seen Him Before:
Vito was paired with professional dancer Chelsie Hightower and appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009. The notoriously grueling training schedule for the hit television show coincided with his training for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
What He’s Learned:
Vito noticed during his trip to Vancouver in 2010 that Olympic athletes are always in the spotlight, whether they’re competing or simply hanging out in the Olympic Village. “People are always asking you questions,” he says, adding that it’s made him mindful of his responsibility while representing the United States. “[With social media] things you say can quickly become a story.”
Vito returns home to host the “Louie Vito Rail Jam” each year at Mad River Mountain. The event benefits young riders by giving them an opportunity to compete without an entry fee and the chance to use premium gear.
Even though he now resides in Sandy, Utah, with his pit bull dog Gucci don’t think for a minute that Vito didn’t pay his dues on his climb to the top of his sport. “I’ve [snowboarded] landfill hills in Michigan,” he says. “You work with what you have.”
Follow all things Olympics this month at teamusa.org and nbcolympics.com.
The online version of this story is different than the one that ran in our February 2014 print and digital editions. Despite his plans to be in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Games, Louie Vito was not among the four qualifiers to represent Team USA.)
Fascinating Objects from our Past
George “Buck” Warshawsky, oil on canvas
Archibald Willard became famous in 1876 when his iconic painting, “The Spirit of ’76” was overwhelmingly declared the most important work at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Returning to Cleveland a celebrity, Willard inspired a growing group of artists and their wealthy patrons. The Cleveland art scene’s accomplishments in the following decades included the development of the Cleveland Art Club, the school that would become the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. But the perpetual friction between the city’s conservative constituency and artists eager to embrace avant-garde techniques tempered the progression of the art market in the early 20th century. Artists often established a base of knowledge and then left for a more welcoming climate in Europe or New York. George “Buck” Warshawsky and his brother, Alexander, were among the artists who experienced success in Paris. As two of nine children born to Jewish immigrants from Poland, both Warshawskys ultimately settled in California but maintained strong Ohio ties. The oil on canvas shown here was painted by Buck Warshawsky and portrays four generations of women making lace. Owned by his niece prior to its sale, it’s a beautiful example of the older Warshawsky’s impressionist influence.
— Amelia Jeffers
Sold at Auction:
Amelia Jeffers is co-owner of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Delaware.
Meet The Beatle
As the golden anniversary of the Fab Four’s American television debut arrives this month, Mark Benson talks about his 30 years of portraying John Lennon.
Mark Benson was among the 73 million Americans who tuned into the “Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, to watch four lads from Liverpool usher in a new sound from across the pond that made the Beatles a household name.
Five decades later, Benson presents the version of John Lennon he witnessed all those years ago as part of “1964 … The Tribute,” an act that keeps the magic of the Fab Four alive by both looking and sounding the part. Last month, the group played Carnegie Hall, and the band returns to Cleveland for a show at PlayhouseSquare’s Palace Theatre on Feb. 21.
“Can you believe we’ve been doing this for 30 years?” Benson, 60, asks in amazement. “In the beginning, we thought we’d perform once every couple of months and that would be it. We never ever intended for this to become full time. It’s proof that doing something you love has benefits.”
The Tallmadge resident’s foray into Beatlemania began while he was a student at Cuyahoga Falls High School. Avid guitarists, he and classmate Gary Grimes formed a band that played for dances and other special events. “Like most people, Gary and I were captivated by the Beatles’ cocky-but-not-offensive wit and the confidence they exuded,” Benson explains.
So he and Grimes developed an act filled with Beatles music and mannerisms. The idea took off, first at colleges, then at corporate parties and, finally, at theatrical venues around the globe. The band even played at England’s legendary Cavern Club, the dance spot where the Beatles’ career started to skyrocket.
Sadly, Grimes, who portrayed Paul McCartney, died in 2010. Benson’s longtime pal, Mac Ruffing, who lives in Hudson, has taken on the role. Tom Work, who hails from Portage Lakes, and Bobby Potter from Melbourne, Fla., round out the ensemble as George and Ringo.
The members of the band have each Beatle’s idiosyncrasies down to a science, perfected by studying hours of movie footage followed by practice sessions. Benson says Lennon’s gestures have become second nature over the years.
“I always liked his smart-alecky ways,” he says with a chuckle. “I can say all these smarmy things and people think, oh, it’s just him being John. If they only knew.”
Benson says he has been surprised by how the music can bring generations of family together for the band’s shows.
“Every Beatles song has to do with love in some intricate or common form,” he says. “It’s a subject everyone can relate to on some level.” — Linda Feagler
For more information, visit 1964thetribute.com.