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So long, farewell . . . Minister of Culture over and out

December 28, 2018

So long, farewell . . . Minister of Culture over and out

CLEVELAND, Ohio – I saw Joan Jett at the Hard Rock Rocksino last week for a special reason. One of my very first columns was a humor/fantasy piece about what my life would be like if I were married to Joan Jett. Seeing her again seemed like full circle.

That first piece was 31 years and 1,488 columns or so ago. Now it’s Christmas Eve 2018, and I’m writing my last Minister of Culture column for The Plain Dealer.

What a sweet ride it has been.

I don’t remember whose idea it was for this column. The goal was to write entertainingly about entertainment. I always wanted to examine what our choices said about us a culture.

As for the name, Minister of Culture, I “borrowed” it from a San Francisco FM DJ named Michael Snyder who reviewed kung-fu and monster movies on the radio. I remember when I first put in for a business card that read: Michael Heaton, Minister of Culture.

Some nervous Nellie got hold of one of the cards and sent it to the publisher at the time, Tom Vail. He in turn sent it to my editor with a note that read: “I assume this is a joke.”

He was more right than he knew. The column has always been a great place to fool around about a wide range of topics, including myself.

But the stories weren’t all silly or sarcastic. I had the opportunity to produce some heartfelt tributes to people who passed on.

I wrote about the deaths of Miles Davis, concert promoter Bill Graham and Yippie founder Abbie Hoffman. I also honored late friends such as PD music critic Eddy Hill and, more recently, political satirist Barry Crimmins. Those two were among many I considered my unindicted co-conspirators in the war on excessive nonsense, of which there seems to be so much these days.

My three girls – named here Miss Thing, Peaches and Shorty – grew up in the pages of Friday magazine.

I’m happy to report they are all doing well now and living their best lives. Oprah would be proud of them.

My late father, Chuck Heaton, was a sportswriter at The Plain Dealer for 50 years. Between us, that’s 80-plus years of Heaton bylines in the paper. Feels like the end of an era.

Going forward, I will continue writing about movies, television, books and other forms of popular culture. According to federal law regarding retired journalists, I think I’m required to start a blog and continue my self-indulgent musings there. I want to call it “Critical Mass.”

But what do I say after 30 years to friends, colleagues and readers who have been with with me on this long, happy journey? It’s easy.

Can’t thank you enough. Spending Fridays together for all these years has meant the world to me. The pleasure has been all mine.

And hey, Joan Jett, if you’re not doing anything New Year’s Eve . . .

                                             -30-

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