Shades of Larry Flynt! When the porn magnate started Ohio Magazine in the late '70s, it seemed like the ultimate absurdist business fling -- that is, until Cleveland Magazine Publisher Lute Harmon acquired the magazine last month. According to a report in The Columbus Dispatch, Harmon traded 25 percent of his company, Great Lakes Publishing, for Ohio Magazine, which has devolved to an in-state travel guide for the geriatric set. "It's a weird move," says one competitor, noting the magazine's weak financial reputation and the massive amount of work involved in a makeover. And a makeover there will be. Harmon marched into the magazine's Columbus office and declared, "I'm coming down here -- you guys are stuck with me," before outlining plans for a revamping that looked suspiciously like Cleveland Magazine's advertiser-friendly special sections. "He didn't even ask us what we think," moans one staffer, who says previous similar efforts to retool the magazine fell flat. Harmon did not return calls by press time, perhaps preoccupied with the dilemma of owning state and city magazines that now force him to compete with himself.
Speaking of overly ambitious publishers, Cleveland Edition founder Bill Gunlocke was in town over the holidays, looking remarkably tanned and fit for a New York urbanite. Gunlocke recently left his managing editor job at the Manhattan Spirit and Our Town weeklies, and plans to spin out writing assignments from his East Village apartment. "Cleveland looks beautiful," he enthused, waving off N.Y.C. as a bigger version of the same thing. "The city government there is just as silly and ineffectual."
How many people can afford to take out a $3,000 ad just to soothe a wounded ego? In the case of former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien, money was never a problem. But 17 years after he sold the team, Stepien's ego is still so fragile that, when a recent Plain Dealer article characterized his three-year ownership as a laughingstock, he felt obliged to respond. "I had to get it off my chest," Stepien says of the New Year's Day ad he ran in the PD sports section, recasting his tenure in agate type and a rather more flattering light. The ad is vintage Stepien, recounting not only his wacky trades, but his maligning by the local media and many personal and professional accomplishments. "By all measures," he modestly concludes, "I have lived a full and successful life." Stepien, 74, is back in the classified ad business with a new company called Classified USA, as well as the proud owner of Softball World on West 130th. "It's a 25-acre sports complex with five softball fields," he boasts. "Except for stadiums and arenas, we sell more beer than anyplace in Ohio." Some people live only in superlatives.
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