How a local group of men called the Liar’s Club inspired a Yellow Springs artist
By Lara Donnelly
In many parts of the country, breakfast at MacDonald’s means more than just hash browns and McMuffins. Socializing seniors are grouping together at their local Mickey D’s to swap stories and keep in touch.
One such group is the Liar’s Club of Xenia. The men of the Liar’s Club are friends who get together to drink coffee and, according to them, tell outrageous lies.
“They say about 15 percent of their stories are true,” said Michael Fleishman, “but it’s really more of a ‘good will’ club … a time to get together and stay focused and stay in touch with their buds. If you go to any McDonald’s in the morning, you’ll probably find a group of guys like this.”
Fleishman is a Yellow Springs artist and writer who is working on a comic book about the Xenia Liar’s Club. He discovered the Liar’s Club one morning when he and his wife stopped for a bite to eat at the McDonald’s on the corner of Kinsey Road and North Detroit Street.
He said he noticed the Liar’s Club and thought they looked interesting.
“You heard little snippets of their conversation,” he said, and they sounded interesting too.
Fleishman said he had been brainstorming an idea for a project called “Senior Moments,” a book of interviews of seniors to be conducted by young kids. The idea had been on the back burner for a while, but this group of men in McDonald’s sparked Fleishman’s inspiration. He asked them if he could return with some equipment and interview them.
“I’m not sure they understood what I was really interested in,” he said, “but they agreed to be interviewed.”
He came back to McDonalds with a recorder, several cameras, pens and pencils, and drawing pads to capture the essence of the Liar’s Club.
He settled on three subjects: Charlie Bath, Jack Newhouse and Earl Ellis, ranging in age from their late 80s to early 90s. All three were widowers but, according to Michael, deeply devoted to the memories of their wives.
“They said they’re not going to date anymore,” he said. “They have ‘lady friends,’ but they’re not interested in dating.”
The three men were also veterans, like many of the other Liar’s Club members. Most fought in World War II and some had fought in Korea.
“Once you got to talking with them,” Fleishman said, “they really had a lot to say about their lives, and society, and the culture of the time. They had a lot to say about life in general.”
Fleishman said he hopes that when he reaches his 80s and 90s, he will be as vital and as sharp as the members of the Liar’s Club.
Fleishman recently finished the Liar’s Club comic book, thanks to the funding he received from the Greene County Council on Aging (GCCA). “The council loved the project,” said Fleishman. “They fully embraced the comic book format.”
The GCCA organized a showing of the art at the GCCA building in Xenia, on November 9. The walls were decked with enlarged images from the pages of the comic book, and 500 copies of the book itself were available for purchase, some of them signed by members of the Liar’s Club. All proceeds will benefitted the GCCA. The Mayor of Xenia attended, as did veterans from all across the region. A few of the members of the Liar’s Club attended as well, though Earl Ellis sadly passed away before he could see the completion of the comic book. Fortunately, Fleishman was able to show Ellis a pre-press copy a few months before he passed.
“Everything just came together around Veteran’s Day,” said Fleishman. The show was a fitting tribute to the veterans of the Liar’s Club.
Following the Xenia event, Fleishman has moved the art to a show with the Yellow Springs Arts Council at 111 Corry St. in Yellow Springs. The exhibit there will run from November 11 through the end of the month. It will have blown up pages from the comic, books for sale, and also some of Fleishman’s other paintings and drawings.
For those who are so taken with Fleishman’s book that they want to experience the reality of the Liar’s Club, it couldn’t be easier. Walk into the Xenia McDonald’s (or any McDonald’s, really) and look for the guys in the corner talking over their morning coffee.
Fleishman’s art will be on display at the Yellow Springs Arts Council’s gallery at 111 Cory St. in Yellow Springs, until the end of the month. For more information on the Yellow Springs Arts Council and the show, visit www.ysartscouncil.org.
Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at LaraDonnelly@DaytonCityPaper.com.