Cheese and OJ

Dodging ’cycles, risking life for a bite to eat

By Marc Katz

I’m not going to cry because the Montgomery County Fairgrounds is moving. I mean, in my youth, I always looked forward to going to the Ohio State Fair, which featured the famous Butter Cow.

By the time I arrived in Dayton, I was a little more sophisticated. OK, I wasn’t, but I didn’t go to many fairs.

I did have one memorable day at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. I’m thinking it was in the mid-1970s or early 1980s.

We had the Charity Newsies then, a night of charity motorcycle races, and the Dayton Daily News duly sponsored and covered it.

When my turn came, I went to the Fairgrounds, where a 2-3-story wooden tower was erected in the infield area, facing the grandstand across the track.

That’s where the officials for the races were, and the media.

The actual races were held on the dirt track, which made for a dusty evening, and participants were working on their ’cycles everywhere.

At some point in the early evening, I was getting hungry (OK, I was hungry going in) and decided to go across the street to Denny’s, which has since been razed.

I had to make sure the track was clear, of course, and waited for all the ’cycles to drive through. I made it across the track, went into the nearly empty restaurant, and asked the woman at the counter if I could get a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches for takeout.

She said “yes” and a few minutes later, I watched her load two large takeout containers into a bag you’d expect to see at a grocery.

I looked around, wondering who ordered so much. No one else seemed to be in the restaurant placing an order, and I didn’t see the woman take a phone order. She plopped the bag in front of me.

“Here you are,” she said, or something like that. I told her I only ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches, and this looked like a lot more than that. She said, “Well, our grilled cheese sandwiches come with French fries and coleslaw.”

Of course they do.

OK, I made it back to the viewing tower without getting hit, and I ate both sandwiches and both orders of fries and slaw and survived. It was annoying opening those little packets of ketchup, but, as I said, I survived.

Those motorcycles were taking practice laps between races. I’m not sure how close I came to cashing in what could have been another close call, which I realized after the fact.

In 1976, I went to the major league All-Star game in Philadelphia. A few months later, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel was in the news when several American Legionnaires, who stayed there for a convention, died. It was said they ingested something from the air ducts in the hotel.

I didn’t think much of it until a friend called and asked how I felt. I said, “Fine, why?”

“We stayed at the Bellevue-Stratford, remember?” he said.

Oh, yes. It finally dawned on me. The Bellevue-Stratford was one of the sponsoring hotels for the All-Star game, and where much of the media stayed.

It didn’t take long for the hotel to go out of business, be sold, and then be remodeled.

The hotel has been restored, and I’ll be in Philadelphia this summer at a wedding.

I’m not staying at the Bellevue.

I’m also finished watching O.J. Simpson stuff on TV, by the way.

I invested too much of my time watching the trial years ago, so I basically shunned his parole hearing recently, when he was granted a release after spending nine years in prison for robbery.

That’s not why he was on TV. His hearing was aired live because he was believed to have murdered his ex-wife and a male friend of hers in a bloody incident in 1994. He was acquitted of that crime at a jury trial that came to a stunning conclusion.

I heard Dan Patrick recently talk on his radio show (980 WONE, 9 a.m.–noon, weekdays) about Simpson, saying he interviewed the former football running back after that verdict.

Simpson was trying to convince people he didn’t do it. He only convinced the jury.

“We were doing an interview, which was to be only about football,” Patrick says. “When my cameraman changed film, O.J. said, ‘Do you think I did it?’

“I said, ‘Did what?’” Patrick says.

“‘Kill those two people,’ O.J. said.

“‘Yes,’ I said.”

There followed silence.

And more silence.

Patrick said Simpson didn’t even use his ex-wife, Nicole Brown’s, name. He just called her and her friend, “Those two people.”

The cameraman changed his film. He said he was ready to roll. Patrick wasn’t, but returned to football anyway.

“I thought I could talk football with O.J. after this verdict,” Patrick says these many years later. “It’s one of the dumbest decisions I ever made in my career. I wish I could take it back. I was embarrassed by it.”

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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