By Jeff Gallatin
Like any good storyteller or journalist, Bay Village native Michael Heaton knows how to grab his audience.
Speaking at the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the recently opened Cleveland Ale House, Heaton kept his audience laughing at times, as well as listening raptly to a combination of tales of the women in his family and his work as a journalist. The stories included a combination of his years growing up in Bay Village, as well as his time with People magazine in New York, in San Francisco and his many years with his hometown paper, The Plain Dealer.
“It’s been a lot of fun through all of it,” he said afterward while signing copies of his books, including his most recent, “Truth and Justice for Fun and Profit.”
Chamber of Commerce Director John Sobolewski said he was glad to bring Heaton in as a speaker.
“He’s always interesting and entertaining to listen to,” Sobolewski said. “People really enjoy getting to hear him.”
In discussing the various women in his life, Heaton noted he was the only son of famed Cleveland football writer Chuck Heaton, who was himself an only son.
Heaton blended both humor and facts in noting how both his paternal grandmother Heaton and maternal grandmother Hurd are memorable people to family and all those knew them.
“She’s responsible for all the Heaton kids having nervous conditions,” he said in affectionately noting Grandmother Heaton’s worries about people.
Recalling his grandmother Hurd visiting the Pope, he said the pontiff “should have kissed her ring,” noting all the children she had successfully raised while also being married to a judge.
He talked about his mother Patricia, as well as his stepmother CeeCee, his wife Nancy and their three girls, as well as talking about his sisters, Sharon, Alice, Fran and Patricia, the noted actress.
He said some people are surprised to find out that Sharon is now a Dominican nun.
“She’s all in, whatever she does,” Heaton said. “That’s how she is.”
He noted that sister Alice actually had been the first sibling to get heavily into acting. But he also chuckled in recalling a visit from his sister Patricia while he was working for People magazine in New York.
“She really liked the bright lights,” he said. “She went back to school and changed her major from journalism to theater after that. So I always love reminding her that I’m responsible for all the success in Hollywood and acting, because she visited me in New York.”
He also spoke of his admiration for his youngest sister Fran, who works at a medical rehabilitation center helping the patients and residents.
He also told tales on himself, talking about one visit to Patricia on the West Coast, where he spent a good bit of time hoping to catch a glimpse of one of his favorite actors, William L. Petersen of the hit TV series “CSI” and the movie “To Live and Die in L.A.”
“I’d be looking out the window hoping to see him come out and get the paper or something so I could run over and meet him,” he said. “She (his sister) finally convinced me to stop stalking him.”
Heaton also said when asked by an audience member that he still has not met Petersen.
He recounted one Westshore-flavored anecdote about getting to meet, and ultimately interview, Dan Aykroyd of “Saturday Night Live” and movie fame. He said that began because a close friend of his from Fairview Park was a body double for Aykroyd.
He also sighed in noting that when he mentions Aykroyd and fellow “Saturday Night Live” alum and movie actor John Belushi to some younger audiences now, they don’t know who he is talking about.