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Shoe Fetish 

On Sunday afternoon, Nike and Next hosted the LeBron James Block Party in North Randall to celebrate the release of the limited-edition Nike Zoom LeBron VI sneakers. One hundred pairs were available - 25 each of the four designs - which were fashioned after characters from the "LeBrons" commercials.

The event was originally scheduled for Saturday in concert with similar releases in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, but because LeBron was attending the Ohio State game Saturday night, the festivities were moved to Sunday to accommodate the chance that he would show up for the block party. While Wise LeBron, Business LeBron, Athlete LeBron and Kid LeBron - the four commercial characters - held court, The LeBron never showed. Some organizers groused that he should have been there, considering all the hoopla.

Inside the store, there was a barbershop doling out free haircuts, two flat screens set up with the new NBA 2K9 game and a DJ booth. There was another booth outside, as well as a stage with entertainment from Z107.9 and the Warrensville Heights marching band, all under heated tents.

But LeBron's absence, while notable, didn't put a damper on the party, as sneakerheads lined up as early as 8 p.m. the previous evening for the chance to drop $160 on the rare gems. First in line were Matt Lorenzo, 27, and Brian Stoll, 26, both of Canton, who survived the chilly overnight stay on the sidewalk with White Castle and coffee - a particularly dangerous combination, if you think about it, when camping out in a parking lot for 16 hours.

Later, sneakerhead blogs repeated rumors that no-show LeBron arranged for several pairs to be set aside for him. On its own blog, Next confirmed that Nike "had a last-minute request for 16 units (four sets) of shoes that they had to remove from our allocation," but didn't specify whether they were for LeBron.

He should've just shown up. - Vince Grzegorek

RETURN OF THE FRY

After mulling it over, one of Cleveland's most beloved barkeeps will stay in town. Town Fryer - the best place in town for gumbo and fried Oreos - closed in late September and will sorta return on November 10. The downtown restaurant will remain shuttered for now, but owner Susan Porter will become general manager of the Agora's Backstage Café restaurant. And she'll bring some of her food and entertainment with her. "It's gonna be awesome," says Porter. "The kitchen is huge. It's bigger, plus they have a grill. I can do daily specials like blackened catfish, some things I can't do here. I can even make alligator pizza."

The Backstage Café was recently reactivated as a full-time restaurant in the merger between the Agora and the Parma-based Jigsaw Entertainment Group. The Café will serve some of the Jigsaw's signature items, including pierogi and sausage sandwiches. But the bulk of its menu will be southern-fried comfort food from the Fryer's menu.

A former North Carolinian, Porter moved to Cleveland to take care of her ailing father. She opened the Fryer in 2003. With Porter's personal touch and hospitality as its soul, the club was like a New Orleans version of Cheers. Porter closed it in early 2007, when she moved to California to be married. After her fiancé suddenly passed away, she returned to the city and reopened the Fryer early this year.

In September, says Porter, the state pulled her liquor license due to a dispute over some allegedly overdue sales tax from years back. Her attorney is resolving the matter, but it took the wind out of her sails.

Porter plans to bring most of the Fryer staff with her. On Mondays and Tuesdays, she'll host happy-hour concerts by troubadours Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charanghat and G.S. Harper, respectively. Country and roots shows could follow. She may periodically reopen the Fryer for special events like her renowned Thanksgiving dinner too.

"It was great," says Porter of the Fryer. "I brought a lot of people together - great music, great conversation, great comfort food. And I don't think anybody in Cleveland has been able to replicate that." - D.X. Ferris

THIS WEEK IN WEIRD HISTORY

This month marks the 35th anniversary of "the Coyne incident", one of Ohio's most famous - and credible - UFO encounters. On October 18, 1973, at about 11 p.m., an Army helicopter piloted by Lt. Lawrence Coyne was approaching Mansfield when a cigar-shaped metallic object engaged the helicopter, according to a report in the Bucyrus Telegraph. When debriefed, the crew said the UFO hovered above the chopper but gave off no turbulence. A green beam of light emanated from the craft and seemed to scan the soldiers. When it shot off toward the horizon a few seconds later, the pilot discovered the helicopter to be 1,000 feet higher than it should have been, even though the controls were in the "down" position. The onboard compass was also fried and had to be replaced.

SPIRITS

Just in time for Halloween, CreepyCleveland.blogspot.com has posted a new chilling-but-true account of a haunted apartment complex on Wakefield Avenue in Cleveland. As the local story goes, a woman was murdered there by an intruder. During the assault, the woman's young daughter hid in the closet. Unfortunately, the murderer heard her and killed her too, leaving her body in the closet. One of the current tenants says the apartment is still haunted by the girl's ghost. She says that one night, her parents were waiting for her younger sister to go to sleep in her crib. "They could hear my baby sister making all kinds of normal baby noises, but then they heard a [6-year-old] girl's voice playing 'peek-a-boo' with her," she writes. When her parents entered the room, the baby was pointing at the closet. Ahhhhhh!

THE NAME RINGS A BELL

Coast-to-Coast AM, a weekly AM radio program that reports on alien abductions, sightings of evil clowns lurking in the Chicago area (no joke) and the reptilians that currently live among us (I, for one, welcome the reptilian overlords), has a discussion group that meets from 7 to 11 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, at Dimitri's Restaurant in Midtown Plaza (Snow and Broadview roads). There is no charge to join the group, but guests are encouraged to order something from the menu. Other "C2C" groups meet in the Solon and Youngstown areas. For more info, call 216.631.8367. That's no moon - it's an O Files item. Contact us at scene@clevescene.com

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