Bohemian Hookah Café on Ludlow Avenue


Partly because there were no windows in front and the outside was pretty nondescript, even though the gay bar called the Golden Lions was in the heart of the Clifton business district it was easy to forget it was there—and I’ll bet ya that even lots of Cliftonites have no idea that it closed. What’s replaced it, though, won’t stay under the radar for long. Cleary the Bohemian Hookah Café, located at 340 Ludlow Avenue and open from 2 pm to 2 am daily, wants to connect with the community—you can tell by the sandwich boards out front and the open front door and, on some nights, the music flowing out into the streets…more on that later.

Already people are starting to sniff it out. I know, because I pop in and out of the Bohemian Hookah Café so often that, as customers have started to filter in, I’m beginning to feel like I’m watching time-lapse photography of a budding business. For me the burning issue right off the bat was the fact that the folks had an acoustic piano left over from the Golden Lions that at least to these ears sounded pretty much in tune—close enough, anyway. I’ve actually been huntin’ ‘round for a place to play chords while I sing the songs in my folder labeled “My Songs.” When I broached the subject Blackie, the owner, said cool, no problem.

What I could tell right away as I looked around the room was that I had found a perfect place to chill. As you can tell from the picture, the owners painted the place some cool colors and threw in some comfy couches and chairs, so that even non-smokers like me will want to hang there. (The front door has always been open when I’ve dropped by, so you don’t get smoked out.) Along with all the sweet-tasting tobacco there’s lots to drink, including espresso, cardamom ginger chai, loose mint tea and the drink that intrigues me the most, Turkish coffee. At one point I had a roommate from Turkey who made me a cup of Turkish coffee, and by the time that wore off I’d written the first half of a novel, filled out my tax forms, cleaned the bathroom and changed the muffler on my car—I can’t wait to try it again. I should also note that the first time I visited the café they were playing Thelonious Monk, which left a good first impression.

Recently when I popped into the café the proprietor told me some jazz musicians would be performing there that evening and that I might want to sit in with them. At that point I sat down at the piano and said, “You don’t understand. Now listen closely.” At that point I began to tickle the ivories—except that’s not the right expression. When I play the piano I sound a bit like a robot would if you told it to play a simple sequence of chords; someone once compared my internal rhythms to those of a Russian marching band. After a short audition the proprietor agreed that perhaps for this event I might wish to be an audience member.


You may recall me mentioning in Bohemain Hookah Cafe Part 1 that a band was slated to perform one evening, although I had no idea who they were. When I slipped inside I came to learn that they were the Last Boppers (what a great name for a band), who I’d heard of but never actually seen. (They’ve played before at the Loft Society, where I’ve seen lots of great jazz, but not these guys.) They were between sets, so I had a chance to chat with them. I should note here that the ensemble consisted of three people that evening but the size and instrumentation varies. One constant is Kenneth Leslie, the leader of the band, and the person I spoke to the most.

“We’ll be here on a regular basis,” he said. Reluctant to pigeonhole their music as solely jazz at the same time that he was wearing a t-shirt with images of jazz icons, Kenneth said, “We’re creative artists. We do creative music, mostly spontaneous, real spontaneous. We try to create according to the environment.”

“We’re all visual artists,” he added. “Our approach to the arts is basically in the same spirit.”

Sitting down, I watched people mosey into the café and start smoking from giant hookahs, an image that always puts me in mind of a great Marx Brothers poster that I used to see on the walls of headshops. The place was starting to fill up when The Last Boppers began their set. At first two guys were playing keyboards with preset rhythms while Kenneth blew the trumpet. The sound reminded me of the kinda funky early 1970s sound of say Les McCann or Bob James—something along those lines….Then Kenneth played some keys while someone else played sax….While listening to the music and looking around the room Leslie’s comment about creating according to the environment came back to me. This was definitely music for chilling out and smoking hookahs; even just drinking a vitamin water, I knew I had come to the right place. I got the feeling that I was watching three old friends who loved playing music together and hanging together; there was nothing but good vibes in that room. The door was open, and at times people peeked in off the street with “what the hell” faces—we call that free advertising in the business.

Using a cheap little Kodak digital camera, I have yet to win any photography awards, but I must say that on that evening I outdid myself. Check out this photo of the artists at work. I have no idea how those bubbles ended up in the photo, but it certainly underscores the far-out vibe that was in the air.


And last, but not least, for the first but not the last time in this blog, the overheard Quote of the Night: a woman walked in and sat down with a man who had been hookah smoking by himself for a good twenty minutes and said right off the bat, “Why do you look fancy when you don’t have to anymore?”


Esquire Theatre Now Serves Alcohol


I’m sure that most people reading this blog feel as if they’re living in a utopia, but something happened recently that will make our world even better. For what seems like years (maybe it was just the anticipation) rumors have been circulating about a change at The Esquire Theatre on Ludlow Avenue that will add a whole new dimension to movie-going, and it finally happened. That’s right, folks: our very own movie theater now has a bar!  Continue reading “Esquire Theatre Now Serves Alcohol”

Sorry, Charlie

Lincoln penny - obverse ("heads") hesign used since inception.

After putting if off forever, the other day I finally starting counting up my coins and slipping them into the paper coin wrappers I grabbed at my friendly neighborhood bank. Counting the coins took some time, but no problem: in my mind it was like free money. When I arrived at the friendly neighborhood bank I walked up to a teller and showed her my vast array of coin rolls, and she looked at them and said:

“You know we have a machine for that now.”

“No kidding?”

“And it doesn’t charge you or anything.”

“Sounds like a bargain.”

“Do you mind putting them in there instead?”

“I’d be happy to.” Continue reading “Sorry, Charlie”

Where to Be on April 28: The 5th Annual Annunciation Gaslight Gala

Rarely in this blog do we announce events more than a month in advance, but there’s one event that readers need to mark on their calendars now. Located in the heart of the Gaslight District, Annunciation Church has been a centerpiece in Clifton since it was built in 1910. Right next to the church, at 3545 Clifton Avenue, is the Annunciation School, which is nearing its 100-year anniversary (it opened in 1914). All the proceeds from the 5thAnnual Annunciation Gaslight Gala benefits this preschool and K-8 school. The Gala gets bigger every year, and although I rarely make predictions, I’m just going to come out and say that this one will break all previous records. You’ll be hearing more about this event, but for right now here’s some information so you can mark your calendar:

Saturday April 28, 2012
6 p.m. – Midnight Father Klug Center, 221-1230
Clifton Attire: “T-shirts to Tails”
$50.00/person or $350.00/table of 8
Includes gourmet dinner, open bar, & music
Large Silent Auction that includes tickets, art, & more
For Ticket Sales call 706-3149 or 221-1230
ALL proceeds benefit Annunciation School

An Art Show in Clifton

Even if you’ve seen the signs out front, you may wonder what goes on at the downstairs space behind the canopy at Tudor Court Apartments near the corner of Ludlow and Middleton. When I lived in the Tudor Court the basement dwelling was a bar where grumpy old men complained about life and drank, not necessarily in that order. Then it was a coffeehouse that went by the name The Cove Cafe, which then moved and changed names to Sitwells. Now it’s home to Clifton Performance Theatre, a performance space that’s been around since 2010 and by now is on the radar in both Clifton and the theater scene for Cincinnati in general. More on that later, as it also has other functions when plays aren’t being performed, and there’s an event coming up on Monday April 2 to Monday April 9 that’s worth checking out. Tom Lohre is an artist who lives in Clifton and has a long history as a portrait artist. His abstract reality show combines a level of abstraction with identifiable and sometimes even iconic images. For example, take a look at the image to the right. Do you recognize it? If you can’t make it out right away, here’s a hint: it appeared during the opening credits for WKRP in Cincinnati.

Here’s the when and where for Tom Lohre’s show:  Continue reading “An Art Show in Clifton”

Nelson Slater Pays a Visit

I had a nice visit today with Nelson Slater, who dropped by to trade two LPs of particular interest to me for a box of 45s of particular interest to him. If you don’t know Nelson, he’s a fellow Cliftonite who has done contract work for Gaslight Property. Nelson attended Syracuse University in the early 1960s, where he befriended and played music with a guy named Lou Reed, who ended up forming a band that was pretty good and then went on to have a solo career as well. Nelson also penned a couple great song in the soul vein that have become what I will refer to as obscure classics: “Get Out” by Tommy Sears and “Symphony” by Andy & the Marglows. Here are youtube links to hear those songs:

In 1976 Nelson released an album called Wild Angel on RCA; Lou Reed produced the record and performed on it. He continues to perform all over the country and release new music. While Nelson was here I had a chance to catch up with what was going on musically and otherwise.    Continue reading “Nelson Slater Pays a Visit”

Willy and Haneef: Street Musicians Extraordinaire

Willy and Haneef: Street MusiciansYou may have caught wind of the fact that UC beat Syracuse in the Big East semifinal game; there may even be a reader or two who watched the game on TV. I caught bits and pieces toward the end, but it happened to be taking place during a phase of the day when cabin fever was getting to me. My cure: walking up and down Ludlow Avenue with no particular destination. (I’m good at that, by the way; I think a lot of people are.) Along the way I saw through windows people jumping up and down and cheering whenever a ball went through a net on the end of the court where they wanted it to go through. Even a light winter tends to make us a feel a bit rusty when it comes to revisiting the places we visit much more frequently when the weather is warm, and as I walked up Ludlow I wondered if I’d end up feeling like George Bailey did when his guardian angel takes him on a tour of Pottersville.    Continue reading “Willy and Haneef: Street Musicians Extraordinaire”

The “Boss Cox Booksale” at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center

Clifton Cultural Arts Center booksale(2012) Every day hundreds of people walk past this building, but few of them know its history. They don’t know who built it and they don’t know who lived there. That will change, though, now that the space is being converted to a library that will replace the charming but much smaller space on Ludlow Avenue.

Located on Jefferson Avenue across from Burnet Woods, the Parkside Manor was designed by Samuel Hannaford, a famous architect who also built Music Hall, City Hall and over 300 other buildings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The person who originally lived there was no slouch, either: historically George “Boss” Cox has earned his place at the Mount Rushmore of crooked Ohio politicians, a place that also includes, of more recent vintage, James Traficant (who got in a lot more trouble, by the way, for his actions; maybe it was his hair).    Continue reading “The “Boss Cox Booksale” at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center”

Clifton: One of the Best Neighborhoods in Cincinnati

The Gaslight Property blog isn’t primarily about me but about a neighborhood in Cincinnati.  Because it’s close to a university, Clifton houses lots of undergrad and graduate college students who stay a few years and then move on, but there are also people who choose to live here because it’s a vibrant and colorful neighborhood. That would include me.  I love Clifton, and one of the things I like about it is its convenience. There’s so much you can buy here and do here without traveling to the burbs. So I was saddened the day  I walked past the grocery store and noticed it was closed. Not for a day or two, either—permanently, unless someone found a way to save it.

Above is a picture I took one day when a crowd of Cliftonites got together at a neighborhood church to discuss how to save Kellers IGA or come with a Plan B. Clearly they were upset as well, and plans began to be hatched that day.

The grocery store in the heart of Clifton Gaslight Business District has long been a key element in the community.  New stores have appeared since the grocery store closed and old stores have remained, and you’ll hear about them and other  things Clifton- and Cincinnati-related  in the Gaslight Property blog. The new grocery store, a new Goessling Markets, will be here soon, and when it does it’ll have lots of happy neighbors, some old, some new, all contributing in some way to making Clifton one of the best neighborhoods in Cincinnati.