As time passes seemingly insignificant events tend to shape our memory of historic figures. Mayor Ralph J. Perk is one such individual who is remembered mostly for events that had little to do with his influence on our City’s development. To read a well-rounded summary of Mayor Perk’s political life we suggest reading the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History’s article on his accomplishments. For the purpose of this post Cleveland SGS would rather focus on one significant and two trivial events of his life in hopes of elevating your spirits during these cold winter months.
Three events in Mayor Perk’s life stand out as typical of the missteps that have shaped the Nation’s perception of Cleveland. First, on October 16, 1972 Perk, who most likely was an avid user of Vitalis hair oils, set his hair on fire using an acetylene torch. Then, Perk’s wife Lucille received national attention when she declined First Lady Pat Nixon’s invitation to the White House in order to attend a bowling event.
Finally, there was Mayor Perk’s unhealthy obsession with the eradication of pornography within Cleveland’s city limits. After banning the sale of Playboy Magazine in Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Perk aimed his sites on the city’s vibrant and profitable pornography industry. Invigorated by the Supreme Courts’ landmark decision Miller v California, 413 U.S. 15, Perk sought to define our community’s standard of decency in hopes of eradicating Cleveland’s porn plague once and for all.
In 1977 municipal sanitation workers, on Perk’s instruction, distributed 260,000 questionnaires to city residents. This “porn poll” can only be described as one of the most unscientific sexual attitude surveys known to social scientists. The results of this survey were inconclusive yet Perk pressed ahead in his crusade to destroy yet one more source of vital tax revenue for the City. For your enjoyment we have reproduced the entire survey that was distributed to City residents; it can be viewed here.* Perk’s Porn Poll is perfect for holiday parties and family events, enjoy!
The bumper sticker above combines all three of these events into a splendid graphical display. It was lovingly submitted by Cleveland native and SGS contributor, Larry Collins. Without Mr. Collins’ generous contribution we most likely would never have thought to write this piece.
* Source: Strom, F. A. (1977). Zoning control of sex businesses: The zoning approach to controlling adult entertainment. New York: C. Boardman.