Street name, screenings may honor city native Doris Day

Cincinnati City Council will vote Sept. 27 on whether to honor Day with a secondary street sign in front of the Aronoff Center.

click to enlarge Street name, screenings may honor city native Doris Day
Photo: Public Domain

Movie and music fans may soon be able to take a sentimental journey along Doris Day Way and engage in a little Pillow Talk again. 

Cincinnati City Council will vote Sept. 27 on whether to honor Day with a secondary street sign along a stretch of Walnut Street between Sixth and Seventh downtown, in front of the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The designation will honor the former Doris Kappelhoff — the actress, singer and animal rights activist who was born in Evanston 95 years ago and now lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. 

Before she became known for songs like “Sentimental Journey” and such movies as Love Me or Leave Me and Pillow Talk, Day performed on WLW and sang with Cincinnati bandleader Barney Rapp, who suggested her stage name. Clips from her career will be played during a 1 p.m. reception at City Hall on Sept. 27, before Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld introduces the street-naming resolution at Council’s 2 p.m. meeting. 

“This is an opportunity to both generate nostalgia for her longtime fans and to introduce her to a new generation,” Sittenfeld says. “Having a prominent street in our arts district bear the name of Doris Day is a fitting tribute to an iconic Cincinnatian.” 

In the evening of that day, the Esquire Theatre in Clifton will show Pillow Talk, co-starring Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. Tickets for the 7 p.m. screening are $10 and available at esquiretheatre.com. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Doris Day Animal Foundation (DDAF) and pets affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

The Video Archive in Walnut Hills will hold a fundraiser for DDAF from 5-11 p.m. Sept. 28. Fans are invited to bring their dogs to the patio, where the Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much, starring Day and James Stewart, will be shown. Day’s films will also rotate on other screens at the East McMillan Street video store and bar, which will serve Day-inspired drinks. “Celebrate America’s most prolific actress,” co-owner Jacob Trevino says. There is no cover.

Dr. Bob Maltz, who confesses to a youthful crush on Day, is the fan who first brought the lack of a hometown tribute to Sittenfeld’s attention. The retired ear, nose and throat specialist calls Day “the greatest entertainer to ever come out of Cincinnati.” Film distributors voted her the No. 1 female box-office draw from 1958-64. 

Maltz can easily rattle off all sorts of highlights from Day’s life, but to back up his statement he points to just one. In 2004, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Since the nation’s highest civilian award was established in 1963, it has gone to only 26 people from film and theater, and just eight of them are women. “If that doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will,” Maltz says. 

A representative of the DDAF is expected to attend the council meeting, where the mayor also will proclaim “Doris Day Day.” A former secretary of Day’s who lives in Indianapolis will also be on hand.  Day has preferred to stay out of the spotlight since retiring from entertainment in the early 1970s, but she sent a statement: 

“I am honored and absolutely delighted that the city of Cincinnati has proclaimed a ‘Doris Day Day’ and named a street after me,” she writes. “My Cincinnati roots go very deep, and my childhood holds such fond memories.”

The city considered Evanston’s Greenlawn Avenue, where Day grew up, for the street-sign designation. But Maltz pushed for a more prominent location, especially near a performance venue. He’s also glad highlights of the singer/actress’ career will be shown before the ceremony in Council’s chambers.  “I said to them, ‘This is not a politician that you’re naming a street after, this is an entertainer, so give it a little pizazz.’ ”

Maltz, who spent two years making contacts for the tribute to Day, isn’t done seeking recognition for icons who found the city to be a nurturing or inspirational place.  He wants a Cincinnati Walk of Fame downtown for former presidents, entertainers, scientists, religious and civil rights leaders, and others who have a connection to the region. He has about 250 names in mind — from Rabbi Isaac M. Wise to baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to author Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

“I’m a dreamer,” Maltz acknowledges. Still, the former president of the Cincinnati Academy of Medicine hopes he can find enough business leaders and corporations to get behind his idea. 

And if he doesn’t?

He’s OK with knowing that he tried. Or, as Doris Day would say, “Que sera, sera.”

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