UC MagazineUC MagazineUniversity of Cincinnati

UC Magazine

Tips from the top 'Nonconformists'

Wyant’s wife, Jane Feldman, was the UC grad's coach and guide at the World Blind Golf Competition, 2000.

Wyant’s wife, Jane Feldman, was the UC grad's coach and guide at the World Blind Golf Competition, 2000.

How to win the game even if you're playing in the dark

by Dennis Wyant, PhD (Ed) '74, blind water skier, golfer, champion

Have a good sense of direction. I have some peripheral vision, but it's total darkness straight ahead. I've been to all 50 states and probably as many foreign countries by myself for my work. When I take groups on tours, I always get them back to where we started because I have a good sense of direction.

Be willing to change. It helps to be good at the sport before you lose your vision. I had always been a good water skier, so it didn't seem that difficult for me to continue. But when I started getting older and getting more injuries, my wife, Jane, encouraged me to switch to golf. I find it a harder sport, but I am enjoying it.

Find a coach. You have to have a coach to line you up at the tee and tell you where the ball went. If your coach is a better golfer than you are, he can also help by telling you what you're doing wrong. In golf, it's not usually your sight -- or lack of it -- that gets in the way. It's a lack of coordination, of getting everything together.

Follow the leaders. The way I was introduced to competitions is that I discovered other people doing it. When the Blinded Veterans Association had a golf tournament, we found other guys trying it, and some were fairly decent players. We figured that if they could do it, we could, too. It was the same in water skiing. The American Water Ski Association has a disabled skiers division with a very nice network.

Know where to draw the line.
I ran in my first marathon last year -- and probably my last. Unfortunately, I was really sick with a sinus and lung infection at the time. For the last six miles, I was gasping for breath, but I was determined to finish. It turned out that my practice times in our neighborhood were better than my time in the real race.

A former Navy pilot, Dennis Wyant holds a black belt in karate, SCUBA certification and six USA Water Ski national championships among men with visual handicaps. He is one of two U.S. Blind Golf Team members selected to compete in this summer's World Blind Golf Championship, where he placed 12th in 2000 (and third in the British Blind Open that year). After losing his sight, Wyant earned his doctorate at UC under the GI Bill. He later served as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' national director of the GI Bill program, as well as veterans vocational rehabilitation and counseling services. In '99, he retired as the U.S. Department of Labor's deputy assistant secretary of labor for veterans employment.

Links:

Wyant co-founded the Blinded American Veterans Foundation and has written articles about the U.S. Blind Golf Association.

dancing

How to dance like Cinderella... but without the glass slippers

by Steve Percer, Ed '77, historical dance expert

Prepare for the big night. I tend to teach classes geared toward preparing for a ball. I teach only beginners because they're the only group I like to work with. People who can't dance but want to are not only a challenge but the most fun for me because they're the ones who make the most progress and you see the most joy from. They walk in saying, "Oh, I'm not going to have a good time; I'm just always clumsy with two left feet." I guarantee they will leave dancing.

Let yourself get swept away. When we have balls, we encourage people to come in some kind of period dress, but we certainly don't require it. I would never want someone to not come to a ball because they didn't feel like they would fit in. We also tend to do some things like going for the lovely period accessory of the ball card, when a gentleman and a lady exchange cards and reserve a dance for later in the evening.

You don't have to be a particular physical type. We're talking about historical dance, dance everyone would have done. I suppose you're either too old or too young at some point. But it's dance for everyone, so we have a broad range of body types.

And no research is necessary. Just show up, though you might want to check out the movie "The Age of Innocence." It was beautifully choreographed by Elizabeth Aldrich of the Library of Congress. She was my teacher and mentor.

UC alum Steve Percer is artistic director of Forget-Me-Not Historical Dance Co., which is based in Cincinnati and has been featured in the Civil War miniseries "North and South." The company toured Italy last summer and won a special award at the Dance Grande Prix in Cesana for preserving historical dance.

Ways to get serious about being silly

by Don Poynter, BusAd '49, novelty entrepreneur

Be entertaining. As a youth, I was a voice on WLW radio for "Father Flanigan's Boys Town" and also played with Doris Day. Years later, when I invented a talking toilet seat, I was the voice (saying, among other things, "Move over, you're blocking the light!").

Ignore the pain. I was UC's drum major for three years and twirled flaming batons and rode unicycles. One Thanksgiving, I marched in a loin cloth, moccasins and Indian headdress, twirling a knife sharp enough to cut a pumpkin in half. Unfortunately, the mud was so deep it sucked off my moccasins. I kept marching, but when I leapt to swing the knife under my feet, I slipped and slammed the knife into my foot. My feet were too cold to know how bad it was, but I felt the thud. I finished the show, then rushed to General Hospital.

Try the absurd. My first big novelty product, around 1954, was whiskey-flavored toothpaste. I needed $10,000, and fellow alum Bob Boeh (BusAd '51, current Alumni Association business manager) gave me a bank loan, although his father, who also worked at the bank, nearly killed him. It turned into the country's biggest novelty seller at the time. Life magazine ran photos, and I was featured on "What's My Line?"

Let people laugh at you. My next novelty was the "Little Black Box." When you turned it on, it vibrated and a little hand came out to switch it off. Reps at a New York trade show kept asking what it did. I said, "It does absolutely nothing, except switch itself off." Everyone thought I was crazy, but I sold it to Spencer Gifts. In one month, it became the hottest item they ever had.

Aim high. ABC wanted to use the box on "The Addams Family," but I said I had a better one; the hand snatched a coin. I gave them royalties, called it "The Thing" and sold 14 million. Next, I created a light bulb that lit when you put it in your ear or in your mouth. I called it "Uncle Fester's Light Bulb," and they used it on the television show.

Don't be afraid of controversy. Dr. Seuss sued me for $10 million over figurines I made from drawings he did in '32. For two weeks, the prosecution called expert witnesses like Chuck Jones, the Road Runner's creator, to testify in New York. Yet I had purchased the rights and ultimately won everything. (Theodor) Geisel vs. Poynter turned into a landmark case on copyrights, one that was still being used in textbooks a few years ago.

Stick with your first inclination. Once you decide to do something and start spending lots of money, nothing seems humorous anymore. You start having doubts. But stick with your first inclination.

Disregard naysayers. When I started, novelties cost only a dollar. People would say, "You can't sell anything for $5," but I said, "Watch me." Then I charged $9.98. Then $14.95. Eventually, I sold a giant radio-controlled Marilyn Monroe doll pushing a tea cart for $150. Johnny Carson put the doll on "The Tonight Show."

Once an 11-year-old maker of remote-control toy tanks and working cannons, Don Poynter incorporated Poynter Creations while a UC student to sell "Play Logs" -- similar to Lincoln Logs, but large enough for children to play inside. He later changed the company's name to Poynter International and spent nearly half his time in Asia manufacturing novelties.

Thanks to Poynter, the world got to enjoy the first basketball backboard for a wastebasket, "The Thing" coin box featured on the Addams Family (14 million sold), Uncle Fester's mystery light bulb (also featured on the show), crossword-puzzle toilet tissue and the Jane Mansfield hot water bottle. Later, when the bottle aired on TV, Jack Parr covered part of its "anatomy" with a handkerchief. Poynter also created the world’s smallest working record player, sold with 39 tiny records that Poynter recorded with real orchestras, and a Steer-N-Go landscape for Matchbox cars, which grossed $75 million in its first year.

Retiring in the late '90s, Poynter has held patents on 100 or so novelty items, admittedly a nebulous number because "I never really bothered looking it up," he says. He also built and currently owns Triple Crown Country Club in Union, Ky., and the new Widow's Watch Golf Course in Lexington, Ky.

LINKS:

Kilborn

How to be comfortable in your own skin

by Ralph Kilborn, BusAd '57, nudist-resort owner

Remember that it's not "dirty." As a family resort, we make sure that everyone behaves as if they were in church. My children grew up from the time they were born in this lifestyle, and they turned out to be wholesome.

Note boosted self-esteem. Both men and women -- especially women -- develop really good self-esteem. Most women are never satisfied with their bodies. But our lifestyle helps them realize they're no different from anyone else. Because of that, they develop really good self-esteem and get along better in society.

Live it 24/7. Once you have been at this as many years as I have, you're very uncomfortable when you're wearing clothes. The only time I really get dressed is when I have to leave the resort. But, you know, if it gets too darn cold, I’m not going to sit around freezing.

Ralph Kilborn is the 72-year-old owner of the Olive Dell Ranch Family Nudist Resort in Colton, Calif. A former C.P.A., he became interested in social nudism in the late 1950s and purchased the ranch in 1976. Kilborn, his wife of 45 years and their two grown sons live and work at Olive Dell, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

Link:

Olive Dell Ranch

How to take opera from stage to page (and make comics out of classics)

P. Craig Russell

P. Craig Russell

by P. Craig Russell, DAAP '74, graphic artist and opera buff

Follow your passion. I was always into classical music. I studied piano all through high school and just loved opera. I'm not sure where that came from. I wasn't particularly surrounded by that sort of thing growing up; I sought it out.

Draw what you like. After several years of working at Marvel Comics, I started doing opera comics because I wanted to do books that were more in line with the things I was interested in. Typical superhero books didn’t interest me. So, I started working for some independent companies. And while there wasn’t as much money, I had the freedom to do what I wanted.

Adapt a good story. The operas I do are the ones where the libretto has some literary meat. A lot of great operas would make terrible comic books because the stories aren't very good; it's just a lot of really great music. My adaptation of Strauss' "Salome" has a script by Oscar Wilde, and that reads well on its own. It's almost as much an adaptation of a play as it is an opera.

Recognize the similarities. The sort of operas I adapt -- "Parsifal," "The Magic Flute," Wagner's "Ring" -- have a lot of the same elements as traditional comics including larger-than-life heroes and villains. I had grounding through regular mainstream comics. It wasn't a real radical leap.

"Ring"

Let the music inspire you. With "Salome" and "The Ring," I listened very closely to the music while I was working to get the signature themes. In certain places, the music and leitmotifs influence the telling of the story. And that was the biggest challenge: finding pictures for what was purely a musical moment, but such a dramatically important moment that, if you didn't dramatize it with pictures, it would feel flat. Wagner had this idea of continuous music, and comics are a continuous web of pictures. Certain ones -- half page pictures that really bring home the goods -- are sort of like big arias.

Find an audience. I get good feedback from musicians and people in classical music, but they are not likely to wander into a comic book store. Traditional comic book audiences react well once they look at it. My opera adaptations surprise them because they say they don't like opera, they don't like the human voice in that register. But they are not singing here. This is paper; it's just a story.

P. Craig Russell began drawing for Marvel Comics while still attending UC. ("I would work on stories, get graded, then mail them to Marvel and get paid. It was a terrific way to do my senior year.") He inked more than 300 pages of "Star Wars" comics for Dark Horse while adapting Wagner's "Ring." The 14-book "Ring" series will be collected in two trade paperbacks later this year. He has won several Eisners, the Oscars of the comic world, and received the Harvey Award for Best Artist in 1997.

Links:

Golden Age Comic Book Stories (type in Phillip Craig Russell in the search box)

P. Craig Russell Wikipedia listing

What are the Eisner Awards?

The Harvey Awards

corbin

How to go the distance (even after 80)

by Ted Corbitt, Ed '42, record runner

1. Be born healthy, and get off to a good start with guidance from family, schools, friends and heroes.

2. Be willing to work
as hard as necessary.

3. Be willing to risk failing
if necessary.

Ted Corbitt first excelled as a runner on the UC track inside Nippert Stadium.

Ted Corbitt first excelled as a runner on the UC track inside Nippert Stadium.

4. Refuse to quit, and be willing to suffer.

5. Learn to observe
your body's response to training, and be wary of fatigue symptoms.

6. Get help from experts
by reading and observing.

7. Learn from the experiences of heroes
from the past and rivals from the present.

8. Develop a progressive full-force training program
for speed and endurance that includes running mechanics, weight training and flexibility exercises.

9. Stay hydrated,
and master recovery techniques.

10. Be willing to give up entertainment and non-essential activities to make time for an all-out training program.

Ted Corbitt, 83, has completed approximately 200 marathons and ultramarathons, including last year's 303-mile walk in six days, an age-group record. The first black U.S. marathoner in Olympic history by age 33, he became a 100-miler by 50 and ran 134.7 miles in 24 hours by age 54, an American record.

Back to the full list of UC experts