Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. This year’s ceremony was held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the Hall of Fame itself is in Cleveland, the site of next week’s Republican National Convention.
It’s easier to imagine Hillary Clinton singing Cheap Trick’s 1979 hit, “I Want You to Want Me,” than Donald Trump — who would probably sing, “You Want Me to Want You.” And the choice of proletarian Cleveland by the supposed party of the one percent seems counterintuitive.
In fact, Cleveland was also short-listed for the Democratic National Convention, but the Republicans got there first. Second choice for the RNC? Dallas.
Cleveland was in demand by both parties on account of Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. The state has some kind of inside track: since 1964, it has picked every winner, Democrat and Republican.
On top of that, the birthplace of James Garfield (in the suburb of Moreland Hills), Halle Berry and Drew Carey knows how to open its wallet to bring high-profile projects and events to town. Yes, it’s the birthplace of rock and roll, but Cleveland made a too-good-to-turn-down offer of cash and land, right on Lake Erie, for the Hall of Fame and Museum.
And the governor of Ohio is Republican John Kasich, a presumptive non-nominee for president.
The RNC will be held July 18 to 21 at Quicken Loans Arena, home court of the NBA champion Cavaliers. On the lakefront near the Rock Hall, as it is locally known, the arena is a short walk from the Public Auditorium, where Alf Landon was nominated at the last RNC in Cleveland, in 1936.
The drawback of Cleveland for the convention planners was the hotel inventory, on the small side for the 50,000 expected delegates, hangers on and journalists (including The Georgetowner’s Mark Plotkin). But many new hotel and infrastructure projects got underway in a hurry.
The strikingly designed (by I. M. Pei), densely informative and thoroughly entertaining Rock Hall has a new exhibition, “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics,” which will travel to the Newseum here in D.C. for the inauguration. Courtesy of AT&T, admission to the museum is free during the RNC.
What else is there for Republicans to do in Cleveland after they’ve sat through the best of “American Bandstand,” admired Bob Mackie’s dresses for the Supremes and watched a clip of Frank Zappa testifying against album censorship?
Just west of downtown is the Warehouse District, several blocks of bars and restaurants, many with outdoor seating, in the city’s historic garment district. Another in-town restaurant cluster is the pedestrianized part of East 4th Street, where visitors will find Lola Bistro, chef Michael Symon’s celebration of his hometown’s butchery heritage.
Other fine-dining options are in and around University Circle, Cleveland’s cultural hub, where the city’s world-class art museum and symphony are located. Among several special exhibitions, the Cleveland Museum of Art is showing “‘Stag at Sharkey’s’: George Bellows and the Art of Sports.” The nearby Western Reserve Historical Society is also worth a visit, to see an exhibition about northeast Ohio’s influence on national politics and the more than 100 antique automobiles and 10 aircraft in the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection.
Depending where they’re staying, the delegates to the DNC, July 25 to 28, may not even know they’re in Philadelphia. Though some events will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Center City, nearly all the action will take place at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the 76ers and the Flyers. The Wells Fargo Center is about seven miles south of Center City, near the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia International Airport and little else.
As famous as Boston for its intact 18th- and early 19th-century brick neighborhoods — Old City, Society Hill and Rittenhouse Square (now built up around the perimeter) are comparable in character to Georgetown — Philadelphia has had a downtown revival, with a lively restaurant scene and many new and renovated hotels.
The presence of major corporations such as Aramark, Comcast and Urban Outfitters has helped, as has an influx of millennials, but a lot of the upturn is due to a massive investment in tourism. The once lawn-like Independence Mall leading from Independence Hall is now the setting for multimillion-dollar facilities: the Independence Visitor Center, the Liberty Bell Center, the Constitution Center, the President’s House and, facing the Mall, the National Museum of American Jewish History (a few blocks away, a Museum of the American Revolution is coming in 2017).
Along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which leads to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, are the Franklin Institute science museum, the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Foundation, its incomparable, idiosyncratically hung collection relocated from Albert Barnes’s Merion estate in 2012.
Despite its mostly successful efforts to give the City of Brotherly Love some of New York City’s hip, upscale ambiance while retaining its historic charm, Philadelphia is still suffering, 40 years after the original “Rocky,” from the Sly Curse (it didn’t help that last year’s “Creed” did well). For many visitors, the number-one attraction isn’t Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell or Betsy Ross’s House; it’s those darn art museum steps, with a statue of Rocky at the bottom. With or without Stallone, will Hillary pose at the top?