Tommy Fello boasts that he's Cleveland Heights' most passionate arts patron. And on the first day of the year since 1999, he's proved the claim by flipping hundreds of flapjacks at his Coventry Road restaurant for Tommy's New Year's Day Pancake Breakfast which benefits the Heights Arts studio. "It's become a ritual now for all the local residents," says Fello, who opened his eatery in 1972. "They look forward to eating some good food and contributing to the arts. You see people you haven't seen in awhile, and it's a good way to start your New Year off."
To pull off the fundraiser, gallery volunteers step into the roles of waiters, cashiers and dishwashers. Fello mixes 13 gallons of pancake batter and scrambles 20 dozen eggs to go along with a breakfast of sausage, bacon, juice and coffee. "The nice thing about making pancakes from scratch is the formula for the flour: baking soda, sugar and salt. As I need to, I add the eggs, milk and a little bit of oil and water," says Fello. "These aren't little Bisquick things. These are nice, fluffy, beautiful pancakes."
Fello started the all-you-can-eat fundraiser to help a group of cash-strapped painters and sculptors create an art piece for the nearby Coventry School playground. The benefit netted $2,000 the first year; this year, he expects to match last year's goal of $4,000. "This is my way of thanking the artists for making our district something special with pieces of artwork, benches, fences and the archway," says Fello. "Coventry has always been known as not being a cookie-cutter place to go shopping. We've always been different, and they help us in a most beautiful, artistic way." Dig in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tommy's (1824 Coventry Rd. in Cleveland Hts.). Tickets: $7 ($5 for kids). Call 216.321.7757 or visit tommyscoventry.com. - Cris Glaser Friday 1.2
The Cleveland Animal Protective League isn't simply a shelter for stray and unwanted pets. Since December 22, it's been making love connections between cats and potential owners with its Meet Your Match Feline-ality adoption program. "We're excited that we now have a tool that gives us more information about the animals in our care so we can match them with people," says Ayse Dunlap, the kennel's operations director. "Now we can show anyone who wants to adopt that these animals can be everything they can expect."
Here's how it works: Every time an adult stray cat comes into the shelter, behavioral specialists use a 12-point assessment survey to determine its personality traits. They then color-code a cage green if thecat is an adventurous "party animal," orange if it's a lap-sitting "sidekick" or purple if it's a shy, quiet "love bug." "The majority of cats tend to be in the orange range," says Dunlap. "They're fairly outgoing, fairly confident and fairly social but not the most boisterous or shy."
Potential adoptive owners also fill out a one-page survey describing their home environments. "We ask the family, 'What's the activity level in your household? Do you want a cat that's going to jump in your lap every time you sit down?'" says Dunlap. "Based on the survey, we can tell them how a particular cat can meet the needs they're looking for."
The league claims the program will increase cat adoptions by 40 percent. It plans to soon start a "canine-ality" survey to match dogs and their potential owners. "I think the survey takes a lot of the judgment off the old-school adoption process, where people have to fill out a three-page application," says Dunlap. "We haven't had that in awhile, but I think a lot of people think of shelters that way. So there's no judgment, no screening, no pass-or-fail. It's all about what you're looking for and how we can help you find it." The matchmaking takes place from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays at the Cleveland Animal Protective League (1729 Willey Ave.). Adoption fees: $30-$95. Call 216.377.1618 or visit clevelandapl.org. - Glaser
To Michael Mack, the benchmark of a great comedy act is if a comedian can work a musical instrument or two into his act. That's why the Tampa comic incorporates his beloved guitar into the show-stopping bit "The Faces of Rock," in which he and a cast of puppets re-enact classic music videos, from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." "I always liked Steve Martin, his characters, the banjo, the props," says the 47-year-old Mack, who's at the Improv for a five-show run this weekend. "So I decided I would create something at the end of the show that would be big and in your face."
But Mack's favorite gag is the one about car dealers, whose disclaimers cover up the lies they tell about the lemons they're selling. He's even designed a T-shirt around the joke. "It says, 'You're hot,'" says Mack. "Then the disclaimer says, 'Actually, you're ugly but I'm drunk. And you're the only person around dumb enough to sleep with me and leave by the time I sober up.'" Showtimes are at 8 and 10:15 p.m. tonight and tomorrow and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Improv, 2000 Sycamore St. on the West Bank of the Flats. Tickets: $11-$16. Call 216.696.4677 or visit clevelandimprov.com. - P.F. Wilson Saturday 1.3
The Cornell University Glee Club will probably raise a few eyebrows during its Cleveland concert tonight, when it announces that the stop is the first on its "Tour of the South." After all, Northeast Ohio is technically southwest of the choir's home base in Ithaca, New York. "We're looking forward to the looks we're going to get when we hand out the programs," laughs 22-year-old tenor Kevin Gammariello, the club's president.
All jokes aside, the 56-man ensemble of tenors, baritones and basses has taken its choral work seriously since it was founded shortly after the Ivy League school opened in 1868. Since then, it's trumpeted the distinction of being the first American college choir to perform in London in 1895 and in the former Soviet Union in 1961. These days, the group's repertoire consists of pieces that mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, with 19th-century staples like "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "Waiting for the Dawn of Peace" about two brothers in the Civil War. "In this day and age, there are fewer and fewer all-male college choirs, particularly in the Ivy League," says Gammariello. "All the larger ones have gone coed. It's a special thing for a lot of the guys that we still function as an all-male organization."
The concert is also a reunion of sorts for alumni in the Cornell Club of Northeast Ohio before the choir continues its two-week tour to venues in Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. It also plans to perform in March at the annual American Choral Directors Association conference in Oklahoma City. And members hope to bump into Cornell grads at their concerts. "One of the neat things is that we pick major cities where there will be a Cornell Club wherever we go," says Gammariello. "We can bring Cornell to them while meeting them too. So it goes both ways." The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Cathedral (2230 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $5-$10. Call 917.974.2325 or visit ccneo.com. - Glaser
Ken Prendergast looks ahead to the day when Amtrak can trundle down the tracks from Cleveland to Cincinnati, with stops in Columbus and Dayton along the way. You can hear reps from Ohio's rail-development commission and transportation department make their pitch about the proposed rail line over a scrambled eggs-and-sausage breakfast at this morning's 3-C Corridor/Cleveland Summit. "It's been a tough uphill battle," says Prendergast, who's the interim director of the All Aboard Ohio transit-advocacy group. "But things have changed over the last few years that have favored this project, not the least of which are environmental and energy concerns that shape the fate of our cities as places to live and do business." The train line mirrors a system that operated in Ohio until 1971, when it went belly-up after the construction of I-71. But recent studies show that Ohioans are driving cars less than at any time since World War II. And Amtrak now carries more people than the Greyhound bus service and all but four airlines.
Reports also show that the average 15-cents-a-mile train fares would cost less than the 55-cents-a-mile gas price to drive from one end of the state to the other. And the Ohio Department of Transportation has already asked lawmakers for $100 million to build the Cleveland-to-Columbus leg by the end of 2010. "If people take a look at the facts and the reasons for doing this, then they're going to ask, 'Why haven't we done this before?'" says Prendergast. "That's what we want our Christmas present to Ohio to be in two years." Learn more at 7:30 a.m. at the Corner Alley (402 Euclid Ave.). Tickets: $25 for All Aboard Ohio members and $40 for nonmembers. Reservations are required by calling 216.288.4883 or visiting allaboardohio.org. - Glaser
The B-Side Liquor Lounge's lack of a business plan didn't hurt when it conceived its weekly $2 Mug Night. That's because the rules are fairly straightforward every Wednesday: The mug or pitcher you bring from home must have a handle on the side. "There is absolutely no catch as far as quantity goes," says club manager Brad Petty. "The price is set for any size mug at all. Each time we fill it, it's only going to be two bucks." As the club pours PBR or the occasional Stella Artois and Hoegaarden from the tap, DJ Chris thumps the house with hip-hop, '80s and indie-dance hits. The bar also screens seasonal movies and throws in free popcorn all night long. "The combination of all these things may not make much sense, but it seems to work," says Petty. "We may add whiskey specials, but giant mugs of beer seem to be sufficient for now." Drink up from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. at the B-Side Liquor Lounge (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd. in Cleveland Hts.). Call 216.932.1966 or visit bsideliquorlounge.com. - Chad Felton