101
May 1, 1998

Niagara

The story of Niagara Falls, a town that started with something huge—the falls—and built nothing lasting from it. During this hour, a special edition of our show: Stories about Niagara Falls, half of them from documentary producer Alix Spiegel, who went to the Falls and interviewed people living there; and half from playwright David Kodeski, who grew up in the town of Niagara Falls.

The classic story of America is the story of people who started with nothing, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and made something of themselves. The story of the town of Niagara Falls is the opposite. The town started with something huge—the Falls—and built nothing lasting from it.

Prologue

The modern history of Niagara Falls can be divided roughly into three phases: Schemers who came in trying to exploit the Falls for tourism and failed; schemers who came in and tried to exploit the Falls for hydroelectric power, who've all gone; and the people who are left in Niagara today. Our show is about this last group: People who live in the aftermath. Some of them have made their peace with what Niagara has become, some haven't.

Act One

Reporter Alix Spiegel and playwright David Kodeski tell stories about Niagara Falls.

During the hour we hear from Paul Gromosiak, a man who's obsessed with the Falls, writes about them, thinks about them all the time, but never goes there, because "they've ruined the falls." We hear a man who went over the falls in a barrel, and we hear the recordings he made inside the barrel as he went over. There's a man who picks up the bodies of people who've jumped over the Falls. A man who holds 2,000 weddings a year for tourists. And we hear David Kodeski's story—of growing up near the Falls, working as a tour guide, and being urged to work in the chemical plants where wages were higher. In all, nine different stories, interwoven. David Kodeski's portion of this show was based on his one-man play Niagara (You Should Have Been Yosemite), which played originally at the neo-futurarium in Chicago—home of the great neo-futurists.