Monday, April 11, 2011

Smitty, Dragonwyck, and the Allen Theatre

The recent passing of Dragonwyck's Bill Pettijohn had me reminiscing:
Smitty claimed to be Dragonwyck's manager for the first year I was at the theatres. Maybe he was, there was some connection with the group. They played at his "Save the Allen" benefit on Sunday, April 16, 1972, along with a number of other Cleveland bands.One time that spring we found these old lanterns in the basement of the Ohio, under the stage. We brought them back to the Allen, they were so old that when he filled them with kerosene the glass globes crystallized. He got one of those Cinerama screen ribbons and lettered it Dragonwyck, and let it dangle from one of them (Draggin' wick!) I know he used to hang out with them at the Viking Saloon on Chester across from CSU.

One Sunday morning the big story was how everyone was at a party in a building around the corner from Public Square the previous night.The building with that big Cinzano sign on it. For some reason the police came, someone leaned against a window to see what was going on, and it fell onto a police car. Unfortunately I was a bit young to be at such events, but I sure heard a lot about it that morning!

Dragonwyck played an unauthorized concert/rehearsal in the Allen sometime that summer, probably late June/early July, 1972. What made it unauthorized was there were no stagehands present, which was a big no-no with the union. They had a rented truck they pulled around that little bend in the alleyway so that it wasn't visible from Dodge Court, lest some stagehand happen to see it. They then went out to dinner. Unknowingly they blocked a limo from those IT&T people that had offices, and an entrance from the Bulkley Building Annex alongside the Allen. I'm sitting in the office, by myself and one of those IT&T people storms in, demanding I move the truck. Of course, I can't do that, I'm 15, don't know how to drive, and don't have the keys. That guy cursed me out for a good 10 minutes before storming back out. Everyone had a good laugh at that when they returned.

One evening that July, I'm in that office on the mezzanine, the one Bert Legrand used, and Smitty calls me on the phone. He's roaring drunk, telling me about the big tour he's planning for Dragonwyck. It was around when the Stones played the Rubber Bowl, so there's probably not a coincidence. He was going on and on about how they guys in the group all like me and want me to go along with them in some capacity. I seriously doubt those guys knew who I was, other then the "Kid from the Allen," maybe. But either way that didn't happen.

The other incident I recall is when they played at the new Mad Hatter, on 18th, right around when it opened. For some reason they wouldn't let Smitty in without an ID. Smitty was around 40 then, no way he even looked close to being 21, but he couldn't enter.

I always remember the people in that crowd. Smitty's much younger girlfriend Vera-Lynn, those Lakewood hippies, Poe, Kevin, and the rest whose names I forget. It was quite an introduction to show-biz for me.

For a taste of Dragonwyck, check this out:

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