Downtown Upswing: Talking Cleveland With a True Original

As the bell captain at the new Westin hotel at East 6th and St. Clair, Greg Blount gets to talk Cleveland with lots of people. He says each day is wonderful here. And he was saying much the same throughout his decades of work in Cleveland broadcast journalism as Greg Anthony. We caught up with him amid a morning of rock star business the day after the inaugural Alternative Press Music Awards. The Westin, and all of downtown Cleveland, was abuzz with activity.

The Westin seems super busy. What brought you to this job?

Well, the same thing as anyone else who takes these jobs. The economy in this country has forced us to do things that we normally wouldn't do. Simple as that. I've taken a lot of jobs. I've worked as a substitute school teacher in my years. I've been working for over 40 years, so I've done a number of different jobs, in addition to being a radio and television news reporter.

Who were you with when you were doing news?

I started in broadcasting here back in 1972 with the station WLYT, which would now be 92.3. That was my first job while I was in high school. I went to the WIXY School of Broadcasting in my senior year. I graduated from that the same time I graduated from high school in 1972. I went to Ohio University and got a degree in political science.

Ah, a fellow bobcat!

There I had a radio show daily, a three-hour radio show on WOUB radio. I came home and started working with WGCL in 1974. They were at 17th and Euclid. That was 98.5 — what is now WNCX. I became the news director. From 1974 to I'd say the end of 2007 I continued in broadcasting. My last job was as general assignment reporter for Channel 19 here. As I said, I had a good over-30-year run.

You've got that great radio voice, too.

Well, I've had that told to me 10,000 times. But that means nothing. A lot of guys have great voices. But can you work in a very competitive business? You know? A voice is part of it, but to be a great newsperson you have to be a great writer. I consider myself a broadcast journalist, and that's what my training is.

Both at the news desk and here at the Westin, you've got a front-row seat to Cleveland as it changes day by day. What big shifts have you seen over the years or more recently?

I think that Cleveland is a city in transition. If you look at the history of a city like Cleveland -- and I'm a history buff -- Cleveland, back in the 1920s, when many of the historic buildings downtown were built, was the fifth largest city. I mean, you had New York, Cleveland, Chicago. Here you have a city with a storied history, which experienced the same thing that a Pittsburgh or any of the other Rust Belt cities did. They took a hit. And many of the residents took a hit economically. One of the things, being a native Clevelander, that I give this city credit for is that the people here are honest. I've noticed that even in my interactions in covering stories. That's a positive. That honesty is one of the reasons they were so upset when LeBron James left. If we take you in, we love you, we put our heart in it. You're not gonna find that in a lot of other cities.

Not too often. There's a certain hardness out there. A front.

If LeBron had been at New York or some other place and done the same thing, "Ah, good riddance, we'll get somebody else. We got plenty of money." But Cleveland — a LeBron gives us hope. A Swisher gives us hope. Anything that comes here — the RNC — all of that gives Cleveland hope. And because we're all such honest, hard-working people, we're up-front. There aren't many cities like that. That honesty is what's going to keep this city going. That's why we're so resilient. When you have groups like the RNC or whoever decides to come here, one of the things that they like about our city is its honesty.

Didn't the RNC crowd spend time here at the Westin?

The Westin played a major role in garnering the RNC. They based many of their activities right from the Westin hotel. Right as we were new. I was happy just to be a part of it; I'm humble. One of the reasons I do this job is to help people. I have compassion for people, and that allows me to do a job like this. I can use the same people skills and knowledge that I used in broadcasting and translate that on a one-on-one basis with the people that I meet.

What are visitors saying or asking about Cleveland?

One of the things that they say is that they didn't know Cleveland had so much to offer. The RNC didn't know Cleveland had so much to offer and along with all of the different amenities we have to offer, they're also shocked with the, again, the honesty and the down-to-earth sensibility of Clevelanders. As the old folks say, we don't put on airs. We're pretty straightforward. When you come here, we make you feel at home. That's a consistent statement they make every time they come here.

You mentioned Cleveland being a city in transition. What lies on the other side?

I think it's obvious from what you see on paper that there's an upswing. I've lived long enough to see a lot of new projects and new ideas come on the scene, and once those projects are in place, it kind of fizzles away. What do you do next? The key, and I think Clevelanders have this, is resilience. As long as you keep, as people like to say nowadays, keep it moving, you move from that transition phase into a new era where you're recognized nationally as a city on the move. You just can't stop. As long as you don't stop, then you attract the groups that you want to bring here. That played a major role with the RNC. We kept it moving. We didn't give up.

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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