Submitted by Roldo on Thu, 01/21/2010 - 20:19.

My best laugh on a trip out West for warm air came when I read on line Sam Miller’s tribute to himself as part of Cleveland Magazine’s take on Cleveland’s most powerful people.


Sam’s powerfully funny. He may have lost a few steps at 88 years old but he’s still got the great one-liners. Possibly to some he’s even believable.


The man’s a genius of humbuggery. A combination of 2 percent Will Rogers and 98 percent P. T. Barnum. Maybe a touch of Henny Youngman. (The doctor says, “You’ll live to be 60!” “I AM 60! “See, what did I tell you.”)


What I can’t understand is why Cleveland Magazine doesn’t do the top charlatans in town. It would be much more interesting. Maybe it did. You just change use your imagination and switch. From Power to Faker.


“I hate journalist,” says Miller. Are you kidding? What journalist ever gave Sam some treatment other than deferential? He loves them as much as he loves politicians. Why not? So serviceable.


“Power is the ability to do good or evil. Once you depart from the path of goodness, you are now using your power for evil. You’re pulling God’s beard when you don’t have to,” he said.


Sam’s been one of the most evil men I’ve known in Cleveland. He’s done so much damage to Cleveland you couldn’t even hope to record it all. His fights with Dick Jacobs were a double dose of greed. The town didn’t matter to either of them as they grabbed whatever they could.


I hope I’ve at least recorded some of it.


I think I have. One night out for a sandwich with my wife, we went to the Eddie Sands Blueline restaurant at Van Aken shopping center. A receptionist always accompanied you to your seat. The place was empty on this Friday night. Except for one booth. So wouldn’t you know she takes us to a booth right next to the occupied one?


Occupied, yes, by Sam Miller. He sees me and gets up to shakes my hand. And he says, “Let me shake hands with the most inaccurate reporter in town.” Sam is truly a one of a kind.


Of course, I had recently written about Sam’s (and Forest City’s Ratner family) escapades at the Halle’s building downtown. It was highly subsidized by the city as have most their downtown projects.


Government has been very, very good to Sam.


The Halle’s project shows well how the game works. The city was to share profits on its $7 million loan to renovate the building. It never made a penny.

However, Victor Voinovich, brother of the saintly Mayor George Voinovich, got the job as leasing agent. The politically connected Climaco law firm got new fancy digs. The city share helped pay the salary of Forest City executives.


The city even helped pay for umbrellas in case it rained the day of the opening. Officials did disapprove the cost of a piano for the opening, however.

Give a little; get a little. Sam knows how it works. He’s perfected the concept.

Sam loves Catholics. Especially those with power. He has a wall in his office he calls his “Catholic wall.” (He has a Jewish and social wall, too. Didn’t tell about the fourth wall.) He used to deliver bagels to Bishop Anthony Pilla’s mom. Every good deed should go rewarded. Somewhere. You’ll note in his Cleveland Magazine he brags about a crucifix from Pope Benedict. “Would you like a crucifix bless by Benedict XVI?” I guess he has a bushel full of such trinkets. People love trinkets. Sam provides.


Sam’s a common man. He tells us so. Once he called me to complain that I had counted up his loot too cheaply. I hadn’t counted certain holdings he had. His wealth was larger than I had reported. Inaccurate reporting, you know.


But you have to hand it to him. He’s truthful sometimes. He tells us that you should buy politicians early. “The very person that, let’s say, is a precinct committeeman, a relative nobody politically – one day, you wake up and discover he’s a senator for the state. When you helped him as a precinct committeeman, that he’ll never forget.” Buy early, he tells us. But Sam buys early, later and latest.


I noted back in the early 2000 when a then young Joe Cimperman ruled the downtown ward how generous Sam and his cohorts were. Al Ratner gave $500; Sam $300; other family members another $3,200. Forest City was pushing Council for a convention center on its land at the time.


Yes, Sam is common guy. A man who gets his economic data from cabbies and parking lot attendants, humility lessons from Big Jim Rhodes - another charlatan - and telephone ideas from the Wall Street Journal – “answer my own phone and never ask who’s calling.” It is the common touch.


Sam says that “my power is diminishing…”


I guess it is. He lost the County administration building deal to Jacobs when the Commissioners bought the old Ameritrust buildings instead of his Higbee’s. Then he lost the Med Mart to Tim Hagan’s buddies in Chicago. Slipping?


So Sam’s power may not be what it used to be. At least not here. Elsewhere, Forest City seems to be still active and alive.






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write a book on Sam Miller

Roldo, welcome back to the big chill by the lake.

You say above that you hope that you covered some of the escapades of Miller et al. You could put the various coverage in chronological order, have it bound, and call it a book without doing anything other than a preface.  You could title it something like "Play me again, Sam, the chronicles of the power shakers and makers of Cleveland".

A problem

One of my problems in taking up your suggestion is the lack of an index to my work. I unfortunately have to rummage through hundreds of issues of POV and countless columns in the Free Times (which never revived the material it had on line) or other alternatives.


So, I guess there will be no book. Thanks for asking, though.

where is the FT stuff Roldo?

Does FreeTimes still have that stuff? Do you?

Other readers may have noticed that your material here is in a "book". I have been doing my best to keep up with you. However, this may not be the best way to organize it for searchers and others. Some websites have tags. Does Realneo have tags or something similar for content managing?

You and I discussed some time back making chapters for your Realneo book content. This site has tags, but try medmart and note that it only returns two articles. We know you have written more than that and so does google.

Maybe the person or persons who have said that a "book" is not the right way to organize this can give us a better suggestion. And maybe this winter would be a good time for you to consider which realneo articles might go in which chapters and what those chapter headings might be. I have time to work with you on that - implement your organization - now while plants are under snow.


Roldo's writings

Susan, I was having Roldo withdrawal while he was on vacation so  I went back to the older stuff and saw that you have reorganized and updated the listings. Thank you for doing this.

The realneo book content is an excellent idea and I hope that Roldo takes you up on the offer while the ground is frozen.

I see that Roldo now has a cult following, sort of like the Rocky  Horror Picture Show. Maybe we can have a section for cult fan mail.

Scan, Adobe pdf, and Google does the rest...

Just take all the POVs and scan them with Adobe PDF.  Load all the pdf's up on Realneo's server.  Done.   Every word is searchable.   MedMart or MedCon.   Doesn't matter.   Susan, you can use the gear I have to do this. The job will take some time.  Should be done. 

Roldo, where'd you go?

Cleveland Memory Project???

Roldo, Susan and Jeff

Isn't the Cleveland Memory Project at CSU undertaking this archiving of Roldo's material?  If not--it should be.  Perhaps, these digital collections need an endowment.  I would still like to see Ed Hauser's research collection similarly indexed and archived.

As for the Free Times--the online index to the publication died when the web site expired. I was very concerned, because it was the only way to narrow down article searches using the microfilm collection--FILMED and HOUSED at Cleveland Public Library.

Is it an issue of digital rights or an issue of time/money/staff to archive the materials?

microfilm to digital

It appears that CPL may have the entire collection or is it just the first edition? But in another collection's description, I find this:

"While online digital collections are gradually replacing microfilm access, it is important to note that only a small percentage of existing historical documents are available online due to the high cost of making extensive collections available in digital format. Most of the collections included in this guide are not available online."

I can find only commercial services for migrating microfilm to digital media. Any suggestions here, Laura or anyone?

Film vs. Digital

I really think that the discussion should be filming of digital material not the other way around...I have no faith in digital archiving. Just because information is EASIER to find on line, does not mean that it is GOOD information. 

Storage, archiving and preservation of material is something that we should all know more about

Many Clevelanders and Cleveland institutions have played a role in this great drama.  I wish I had the time to write a book :)  In the meantime, read Robert Edsel's Monuments Men and see

knowledge underground

This is fascinating, Laura. Thanks for the link. I also note that "a positive copy for Library patron use is on site,"

Am I correct in assuming that CPL's microfilm is stored in Main? That's where I have used it for research in the past. God forbid there is some disaster, because if that "server" goes down... well what might we lose?

I find all this democratization of information via the internet fascinating. I admit that I have often had to phone you in utter frustration to "find" something. And I always assist CPL with their erroneous cataloging of audio visual materials whenever I find a mistake.

I still feel that Roldo's history of Sam Miller and the Ratner legacy may one day be of interest to antitrust and local corruption legal beagles. Will they have to access the materials in a cave somewhere? By the way, on an unrelated topic, should anyone wish to know about my former company's history, good luck finding anything. Since it existed before digital media, the archives (all paper and photos) are somewhere in a black hole at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

Does CPL have any plans to digitally archive Roldo's works?

Everything's a secret

  Erroneous cataloguing...? Huh? I don't want to go there Susan--catalogers are human, and thank god for that! Our libraries still have CATALOGUERS and they are amazing people.

As for Roldo's archive--I can not say what is on the agenda for digitization.  You will have to talk to the folks in that department, but my understanding as I said before would be that CSU had that project in the works. 

linked in roldo's book at realneo

Yes, Laura, Realneo's "book" for Roldo has a link to the Cleveland Memory archives of POV. Here's how it is though:

"The following issues are in PDF format and may be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader.
They represent only a small portion of the individual work created by Roldo Bartimole over 32 1/2 years."

Try searching a bit-o-text from one of those pdfs via google.

And Jeff's suggestion provides this google search roldo sam miller within cleveland memory the results for "sam miller" are even fewer. In this search roldo medical mart it is obvious that Roldo is trying to get the word out in as many venues as possible. You can't say that this elder statesman of real journalism hasn't got jiggy with the digital age. But the digital age doesn't seem to handle all his writings in one easily searchable place.

I would be happy to scan more articles. I did that arduous task with Roldo's 1996 article, Pander. Winter is a slow time for gardeners.

But someone please tell me how to search with more accuracy. My search skills require more acumen. Would that there was a search within her at realneo or a way to see all a member's comments by accessing their profile and then search within those entries.

Oh and Ed Hauser's archives are at Cleveland Memory now. Volunteers who will be trained to scan them into the archive are welcome. Contact Bill Barrow at Cleveland Memory.

  • Bill Barrow, Special Collections Librarian
  • Office: Main Library, Rhodes Tower 321A
  • Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 am to 5 pm
  • Telephone: (216) 687-6998
  • Email: w [dot] barrow [at] csuohio [dot] edu


I didn't see this activity until this a.m. I got a bug of some type that knocked me down.

CSU Memory Site has said it would like to copy all POV but that hasn't moved at all since the original posting of a few issues several years ago.

When the Free Times was sold to the people who ran Village Voice and a number of other alternatives, they took down the entire web side and I assume from what little I've been able to gather it's gone.

I have many - most likely - copies of my columns from the Cleveland Edition, Free Times and City News, none of which to my knowledge are available through the internet. 

It's a problem for me naturally when I try to go back since it sometimes takes hours to find what I'm looking for when I write.

I have no problem with material being copied and thus saved and accessible to others.

Hope this helps.