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Cincinnati Pop Culture

Cincinnati gained a popular culture plug in 1978, when the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” aired. There’s no point in looking for its Cincinnati locations, though. It wasn’t filmed here. Only the opening credits that featured Cincinnati’s skyline were. “Rain Man,” filmed in 1988, put Cincinnati on screen in several scenes. Who can forget Charlie Babbitt’s meltdown episode at the airport? When Tom Cruise unleashed on Dustin Hoffman’s character Ray for his refusal to fly any airline but Qantas, they were at the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport. The mosaic murals in the background, the same style as those in Union Terminal, are a giveaway. The cast and crew spent four weeks in Cincinnati, actually filming in the neighborhoods. Another recognizable scene is Ray’s look upward as they drive over the Ohio River via the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. It’s the one painted blue that makes a singing sound when a car drives across it. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is not the only novel set in Cincinnati to tackle the issues of slavery. Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Beloved,” is another. Morrison weaves Cincinnati details like the hog-packing industry and sections of the city into her narrative about a slave and her daughter’s ill-fated flight across the Ohio in an attempt for freedom. On the music end, listen to Cincinnati May Festival Chorus’ award-winning recording of Franz Liszt's “St. Stanislaus.” The festival, a yearly event since 1880, is the oldest continuous choral festival in the western hemisphere, and is the reason the Music Hall was built. Each May, amateur singers and a mix of professional and amateur musicians come together in a classic music series where Cincinnati’s vocal talents shine. Although Rosemary Clooney, George Clooney’s aunt, was from Maysville, Ky., her start as a singer was in Cincinnati, when she and her sisters performed in a spot on radio station WLW in 1945. Country singer Connie Smith isn’t from Cincinnati, either—she’s from Elkhart, Ind., but her song “Cincinnati, Ohio” became #4 on the country charts in 1967.

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