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John Cusack still willing to “Say Anything” in (614) interview

J.R. McMillan

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If actors are fortunate, they’re remembered for one film that epitomizes the angst, anxiety, and aspirations of a generation. John Cusack has a career full of them. From cult to iconic, acclaimed to obscure, it’s perhaps impossible to overstate his influence or put him in a box.

Indelible ensemble performances in Sixteen Candles and Stand by Me, along with leading roles in The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead, earned Cusack an early reputation as a relatable and reliable talent just as the prospects for many of his teen comedy contemporaries were flaming out after puberty.

Then came Say Anything, which remains the anthem for every misfit who’s punched above his weight, and every girl who’s fallen for the one guy her friends and parents were quick to dismiss.

Cusack could have quit at the end of the credits and we’d still be talking about Lloyd Dobler and his boombox 30 years later. But instead of subpar sequels, he offered a second act we rarely see—one built on personal passion, purposeful projects, and the crisis of conscience that closely parallels the teen rite of passage that could have easily typecast him into oblivion.

“I had the luxury to work in film when it was a little less corporate. People who ran the studios were individuals. They would have a portfolio they’d take to shareholders and say, ‘Here are our tentpole films,’ ” Cusack explained. “But they had six or seven movies a year they would give to artists they liked. I got to make Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, Spike Lee got to make Summer of Sam, and Wes Anderson got to make Rushmore. It was because of the tastes of a guy named Joe Roth who ran Fox, and ran Disney. We never had to beg for money, and we never had to protect the cuts.”

Even if not for Roth’s old school style and reluctance to treat test screenings as more than just another metric, Cusack also wrote and co-produced Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity. Wearing multiple hats in Hollywood doesn’t always mean you get your way. But at the time, Cusack’s artistic vision and authority on both films were nearly absolute.

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“I sort of bridged the gap between the 60s and 70s filmmaking culture and from about 2000 on when the film companies became a very, very, small fraction of multinational corporations,” he recalled. “All I had to do for those movies was tell Joe, ‘We’re going to shoot this in 48 days.’ I wasn’t going to go a day over schedule or waste any of his money. We didn’t have to deal with financiers or studio interference. I never felt like any film I made with Joe was compromised artistically. It was a different era.”

Cusack has an impressive history of prophetic films that seemed to predict everything from the rise of mixed martial arts to the renaissance of vinyl records. And even though politics can be polarizing, his films never shy away from them.

“But I’ve always been pretty consistent about needing to say what you feel and the need to put provocative stuff, dangerous stuff into art.”

Have his outspoken opinions closed some doors, or opened others? If so, he hasn’t noticed, and doubts any such differences or decisions run that deep. Much like his earlier characters, Cusack still isn’t worried about winning a high school popularity contest or becoming prom king.

“Hollywood financiers have become far more shallow and the ethics are so transactional, I don’t think people pay attention long enough to consider politics as much as what’s hot right now,” he opined. “But I’ve always been pretty consistent about needing to say what you feel and the need to put provocative stuff, dangerous stuff into art.”

Cusack’s characters are often an everyman at odds with the status quo, though he can still pull off the affable anti-hero—as a serial grifter, a contract killer, and a political assassin. But Cusack is also an underrated chameleon, having transformed into a surprising range of real-life characters, from Nelson Rockefeller in Cradle Will Rock and Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven to Richard Nixon in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy. Inhabiting someone else’s skin is a challenge and responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.

“You immerse yourself in a character. Obviously Edgar Allan Poe and Richard Nixon aren’t going to give you any notes. But I hope the real-life characters I’ve played represent the essence of them, the spirit of them. You don’t want to do a literal imitation, but you hope you capture some part of them that’s eternal.”

With the advent of streaming services and digital downloads, Cusack’s earlier work is connecting with new fans, often the children of those who came of age in the 80s and 90s. And though some actors may cringe at the prospect of their earlier endeavors becoming easier to find and effectively lasting forever, the timelessness of Cusack’s films, old and new, still rings true.

“There’s a great story about one of my favorite films, Sweet Smell of Success. It came out and got savage reviews. People can’t see new art when it comes out. So it sat on a shelf until someone at WGN said, ‘We have this Burt Lancaster/Tony Curtis movie. Why don’t we start playing it?” It got a cult following being screened at 10 o’clock or midnight on,” Cusack explained. “Then Barry Levinson had one of the characters in Diner quoting from the movie all the time. It finally started to get looked at again, and it’s a classic. It’s easily considered Lancaster and Curtis’ best work, but it was gone for 30 years. Now, you can’t kill a film. No matter what you do to a film, it’s going to find its audience sooner or later.”

CAPA will be presenting a live Q&A with John Cusack following a screening of High Fidelity at the Palace Theatre on February 15. Visit www.capa.com for details and ticket information.

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The heart and sole of C-Bus sneaker scene

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“Me and my Adidas do the illest things.”

Run-DMC’s “My Adidas,” an homage to their love for the sneaker brand, created an urban fashion craze in the mid-eighties and set the stage for the sneaker explosion. Each member of the hip-hop pioneers wore a three-striped Adidas tracksuit with gold “dookie rope” chains dangling from their necks and black fedoras on their heads. But what tipped the fashion scales were the unlaced white Adidas shell toe Superstars that would “Walk through concert doors […] and roam all over coliseum floors.”

It was no coincidence that the same year “My Adidas” was released, Dionte Johnson was born in Columbus, Ohio. He is the owner/operator of the only niche retail sneaker boutique in Columbus: Sole Classics. And he is at the forefront of the hot sneaker scene in Columbus.

 “I walk down the street, and bop to the beat.”

Hipsters, students, and hip hop heads bob to the beat down High Street and walk into Sole Classics to check out the latest. Located in the Short North, Sole Classics has the Run-DMC-style Adidas track suits, Vans, Nikes, Adidas, hoodies, G-Shocks and other “fly wear.” Artistically curated, every inch of the two-room fashion gallery is meticulously crafted to reflect the Short North arts scene. (The newly-opened second store in Dublin pays tribute to the area’s Irish attitude with a pub vibe.) “We want the stores to embody the neighborhood we are in—Short North more urban, Dublin more Irish,” Johnson says.

“I like to sport ‘em that’s why I bought ‘em.”

Johnson bought Sole Classics (originally opened in 2006) from the previous owners ten years ago and has been in its current location since 2014. As a former Ohio State fullback, Dionte had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but when that plan fell through, he put his Business Marketing degree to work. “I was looking for the next challenge […] and heard about Sole Classics being available,” Johnson says, wearing his signature black hoodie and jeans. “Growing up in Columbus and going to high school [in the nineties] I worked in retail at Big Daddy’s, the first to carry urban street fashion stuff—and I was hooked.”

“And now I just standin’ here shooting the gift.”

What Big Daddy’s (now closed) taught Johnson was the importance of community—about creating a space where people come for the experience, to hang out, shoot the shit and share their love for sneakers. It’s the barber shop minus all the hair on the ground. “You can go buy your shoes from anywhere, but with a store like ours, you get to sit down, spend two hours talking and maybe buy something, or maybe not,” Johnson says as he sits behind the self-designed wood cash wrap desk that is the centerpiece of his Dublin store. “The person who comes in and knows exactly what they want gets treated the same as the person who stops by to say, ‘What’s up?’ ” 

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“Now the Adidas I possess for one man is rare. Myself homeboy got fifty pair.”

The Columbus sneaker scene has grown exponentially, with more options than ever. Sole Classics is a retail shop that is linked to the sneaker companies. But up High Street, less than a mile away is Premium Kicks, a consignment sneaker store. “There is plenty of room [in Columbus] for sneaker shops to coexist, “ Johnson says. “Yes, we’re in competition, but theirs is always a place for a consignment shop to do their thing. We are a little more beholden to the sneaker companies, whereas they have a little more freedom.”

What is also helping the sneaker scene thrive is the innovative chances sneaker companies are taking (see the re-release of the Air Jordan 4 and the new Nike line of kicks called Have a Nike Day), combined with online media. When new kicks get released it’s a feeding frenzy. “Once upon a time you had to go into a store to hear about the release date; to find out what was dropping that weekend, “Johnson says. “Now, with the internet, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in rural Ohio or in New York City, you’re going to know about the product at the same time. It has expanded the sneaker community exponentially. Tons of people now know about a sneaker they would normally not.”

Does he see the internet ruining the brick-and-mortar, mom and pop shops, more than it already has? “Retail will settle back down,” he says. “Convenience is what people are into—paper towels delivered to your front door—but nothing can replace human contact. Life is about what you’re experiencing, and it’s not usually sitting behind a computer.”

“We took the beat from the street and put it on TV.”

When I ask Dionte who his biggest influences were when he first started out in the sneaker/fashion world, he cites his favorite nineties’ shows and actors: Martin, Will Smith, and even Seinfeld (with those dope white running shoes and jeans—not!). “I was heavily influenced by what I saw on TV because they were setting the trend. It was how I saw what other people were experimenting with.”

 “My Adidas only bring good news.”

Run-DMC is from Hollis, Queens, and Dionte from Columbus. Big difference. But nobody can deny they both have a love for the squeaks of their sneaks. Their collective “sole” has brought communities together and left an indelible footprint.•

Sole Classics is located in the Short North at 846 N High St. and in Dublin at 6391 Sawmill Rd. Visit soleclassics.com for all the latest sneaker looks.

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Prost! Inaugural Maifest to offer bier, brats this weekend

614now

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Move over Oktoberfest, Maifest is here! Yes, that does mean maypoles and queens and bier (lots of bier). A tradition that’s been cast aside for a while is a last being revived here in Columbus.

This Sunday, stop by the Valters at the Männerchor for wine and beer tastings, drinking games, food, raffles, and more.

Maifest is hosted by the Columbus Männerchor, a German singing group that began in 1848 with 12 immigrants bound by the motto: “Harmony—in song and in life—holds us together.” The choir has rehearsed every Tuesday night since its first chilly October meeting as the members huddled around candles.

So maybe you have a nostalgia for the Homeland. Or maybe you studied a couple years of German in high school. Or maybe you just really like beer and brats. In any case, here’s your excuse to put all that to use in German Village this weekend. Prost!

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Book it to Indie Bookshop Crawl this weekend

614now

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Sure, you could buy that book online and save a few bucks, but by doing so, you’d be stealing away from the dream of any one of Columbus amazing independent book stores.

Don’t be a dream stealer. No one likes a dream stealer.

Instead, celebrate National Independent Bookstore Day this Saturday, April 27! Worm through local shops, browse through stories to find your favorite stores, and Dewey Decimal the hell out of your weekend with these amazing events planned for the holiday! Just don’t overbook yourself, mmkay?

Bookshop Crawl | Multiple locations

Gary Lovely of Harpoon Books, Harpoon Review, Write Bloody, and The Book Loft, has put together a bookshop crawl for all the indies in town. The Book Loft, Two Dollar Radio, Prologue Bookshop, Cover to Cover, and Gramercy are all participating. Stop by and and all of the shops for great deals and a chance to win a giant gift basket!

“Also if you mention amaz*n in this store on that day we’re legally obligated to set you on fire,” warns Lovely.

Two Dollar Radio HQ | 1124 Parsons Ave., Columbus

Two Dollar Radio will be hosting an Independent Bookstore Day celebration of their own with special guests like bookseller Elissa Washuta, a DJ set from Megagenesis, Trivia with Regular Aaron, and a reading in the evening by acclaimed poets Edgar Kunz, Kathy Fagan, and Keith Leonard. Plus, a FREE Two Dollar Radio tote bag when you buy 5 books (while supplies last).

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Prologue Bookshop | 841 N High St., Columbus
Sat, April 27 from 11am – 9pm

Prologue invites you to drop by for exclusive merchandise, a talk by Conrade C. Hinds at 4pm, and FREE Tupelo donuts (while supplies last).

Ohioana Book Festival | Columbus Metro Library, 96 S Grant Ave.
Sat, April 27 from 10:30am – 5pm

Join the Columbus Metro Library and the Ohioana Library Association for the 13th annual Ohioana Book Festival. This year, over 150 authors will be present for meet-and-greets, programming for children’s, teen’s, and adults, food trucks, and much, much more.

Side note: Have you seen The Book Loft’s Twitter account? If not, you’re missing out on some amazing content—some book related, some not, but all funny. Read media coverage here.

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