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Lori Holladay, First Cincy Film Commissioner, Dies At 59


Long before Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Don Cheadle or Michael Douglas shot movies here,  Lori Holladay helped Hollywood discover Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Holladay, who died July 21 at age 59, scouted locations for John Sayles’ “Eight Men Out” in 1987 and the Tom Cruise-Dustin Hoffman “Rain Man” in 1988.

Local production companies joined forces to help those films, which resulted in the creation of the Cincinnati Film Commission with Holladay as first executive. Soon followed an impressive list of films shot here through the early 1990s.

Four Academy Awards for “Rain Man,” including best picture and actor (Hoffman), “definitely put us on the map,” Holladay told me when I wrote about the 25th anniversary of the film two years ago.

“All I had to say was, ‘You know, where Rain Man filmed!’ and all of a sudden I got appointments,” said Holladay, who for many years was membership manager at public radio station WNKU-FM (89.7), and host-producer of the Sunday morning “VOICES4theSoul” show.

Holladay told me that in early 1988, she was in Los Angeles with two Ohio Film Bureau executives awaiting an appointment with producer Mark Johnson (Barry Levinson’s partner in “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Diner” and “The Natural”) when he got approval to make  “Rain Man.”

“He said, ‘Cincinnati works logistically, because they have to make a cross-country trip.’ ” She returned home and quickly took photos of possible locations, including St. Anne Convent (now a Diocese of Covington retreat center) in Melbourne, and Pompilio’s restaurant in Newport.

Soon two set designers arrived from Los Angeles, and Holladay spent three weeks driving them around town. Next came Levinson and Johnson (best known today as executive producer of “Breaking Bad”). Levinson liked her choices of St. Anne’s convent and Pompilio’s, and also shot at the Roebling Suspension Bridge, Dixie Terminal Building, Columbia Parkway, Southgate’s Evergreen Cemetery, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and the big WCET-TV studio.

Much of the Babbitt brothers (Hoffman and Cruise) road trip also was shot here on back roads, the I-275 exit for Petersburg, Ky., and at the Hearthstone Inn (and former motel) near Metamora, Ind.

“The Hearthstone Inn near Metamora was what we called the Rain Motel - where they got stuck for several days since Raymond (Hoffman) wouldn’t go out in the rain. There were little cottages to the right of the restaurant. They were so small, the movie company combined two and built a room in between. The cottages are torn down now, and it’s just a restaurant,” she told me.

Within a year of “Rain Man,” Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and Teri Hatcher were making “Tango & Cash” here and Tom Selleck was starring in “An Innocent Man.” Soon came Forest Whitaker, Danny Clover and Gregory Hines for “A Rage in Harlem,” Jodie Foster for “Little Man Tate” and Joe Morton for “City of Hope” (all 1990); David Strathairn and Mercedes Ruehl for “Lost In Yonkers,” Joe Pesci for “The Public Eye” (both 1991); and Melanie Griffith for “Milk Money” (1993).

Surivivors include her husband, Larry, and sons Evan and Emerson Holladay, and her mother, Ginny Deckert.

A memorial service will be 3 p.m. Sunday, August 9, at the Ft. Thomas Mess Hall, Tower Park, 801 Cochran St., Ft. Thomas. Visitation starts at 2 p.m.

Memorials may be made to Cancer Family Care, WNKU-FM or Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.