Once upon a time, in 1986, a pre- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Keanu Reeves and a young Drew Barrymore starred in the not-so-much-a-holiday-classic made-for-TV movie Babes in Toyland , a role in which they sang a totally bodacious Christmas-coated Cincinnati tune.
Directed by Clive Donner, the musical flick also stars Richard Mulligan and Eileen Brennan and follows 11-year-old Lisa Piper (Barrymore) who, instead of playing with toys like other kids, cooks and helps take care of her siblings. On a very weird Christmas Eve, she's transported from Cincinnati to a magical Toyland. But I'm not here to give a summary. This is about the song.
Let's set the scene: A Jeep drives through a blustery snowstorm down a wooded road. It's the night before Christmas and Lisa, Jack (Reeves) and the rest of their crew should be spooked. Icy conditions! We Cincinnatians freak out about this stuff! Lisa claims that this Christmas is going to be the best "ever in the history of the world" — although their current conditions point to otherwise — before Jack adds "right here in Cincinnati!"
"Welcome to glorious Cincinnati! Queen of Ohio's alpine ski resorts!" shouts a very eager Reeves.
I have a few questions from the get-go. Is he talking about slopes at Perfect North? Not to be nit-picky, but that's in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Or is the Queen City so snowed-up that it's basically one giant ski resort? So he's being metaphorical? I want to point out that Babes in Toyland was actually filmed in Munich, Germany, home to hundreds of alpine resorts. Maybe they were confused? But I digress.
If you're looking for a way to pester your relatives during holiday travels, try belting "I come from C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I, Cincinnati! The best town in O-H-I-O Ohio, USA!"
Perhaps most telling that a Cincinnatian wasn't behind the song's lyrics is the claim that "when it comes to ball teams, the Reds and the Bengals maul teams." Then again, this was the mid-’80s, when Cincinnati sports weren't quite as frustrating as they are in 2019.
The lyricist, Leslie Bricusse, in fact, grew up in England and now resides in California. I appreciate his plucky enthusiasm about our Midwestern abode, though. I mean, just take a look at these lyrics: "That Cincy is invincible! Yaaaaa know what I mean?"
I do, Leslie, I really do know.
If you really want to get nuts, one Reddit user suggested taking a shot every time the movie mentions Cincinnati. You'd be sloshed from this song alone, so I can't really recommend with good faith.
Thanks for taking this journey with me into an oft-overlooked Cincinnati tune. This holiday season, remember to be excellent to each other. Sing it with me: "Cincy's more than merely natty — she's Ohio's Maserati! Cincinnati is at the center of the scene."