Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Playhouse Square

Another autobiographical theatre story.

Sometime in late June 1973 Russell and I decided to hang out all night at the theatres. Since Brel had opened in April we'd always be hearing these wild stories about what was going on when we weren't there. So one Friday night we just stayed behind after Brel. I'm not exactly sure of the actual order of events, but we went over to the Royal Castle on Euclid, by 17th, around midnight. We're in there and there are these two weird guys, probably on some kind of drugs. They're both acting pretty weird. One guy has a plate he filled with catsup, and then he's putting a face on it with mustard. He's saying "he he he that's Satan." then he's sprinkling salt on it saying "Satan like's pussy." The guy working there isn't terribly amused. (I remembered seeing that guy over in the Royal Castle at 13th & Chester the previous fall, when we were skipping a lot of school.) He's pretty annoyed, and he's like "what the fuck are you guys doing?" and he flipped the plate onto the one guys shirt. The one weird guy is standing up going "oh wow man...look at my shirt..." By then the Royal Castle dude was around the counter throwing these guys onto the street. So we leave a few minutes later and walk around the corner onto 17th. Lurking in the shadow is the condiment shirt guy ( who would become known to us as "He" because of the frequent retelling of the story later) and he's like "hey man where you guys going?" For what ever reasons we didn't want to go back to the Palace, and then not let this guy in and have some sort of weird confrontation, so we walk down 17th with this guy. We end up on the next block between Chester and Payne, where I believe Moe's bar is still located, and there was the Don Juan Chinese place and some nondescript storefronts. So He opens the door to one of these storefronts, some Chinese guy chases us away, and we end up in Dodge Court, behind the State & Ohio. Parked there is Chuck Fleming’s car, and He decides to start rifling through it. So we get him away from the car somehow, fearing Fleming's wrath. We get to behind the Ohio stage, and I jump up and grab onto that ladder that came down the back wall of the Ohio, saying lets go this way. I think that may have been the only time I ever achieved that feat. Russell can't jump quite that high, but I scamper up onto the roof of the Ohio, and come back down through the theatre and back out onto the alley between the Ohio and the Buckley Building Garage. Meanwhile, Russell takes He down the alley and back up into those fire escape alleys behind the Allen and loses him back there. So we ended up meeting back up in the alley and got back inside.

It wouldn't have been too long after that, half hour, hour, I don't recall now, but we got into the wine room. It was that room in the basement of the State which had been next to Cecil Ryder’s shop in the Loew days, and which later became Kennedy’s. I took a metal grate off the bottom of the door, reached up and unlocked it. I replaced the grate and we selected a couple bottles, then we crept back around the block to the Palace. That passageway between the State lobby and the Palace auditorium wasn't built yet. Needless to say we picked wine with the finesse of any typical 16 year old, and we couldn't drink whatever it was that we got. We abandoned the partially consumed bottles in the Palace alleyway. I don't remember what other kind of trouble we may have gotten into that night, but those were the two main events.

The next day we go back to the State to start our usual routine of emptying trash and filling ice buckets etc. Fleming is super pissed, someone had rifled through his car the previous night. We played stupid and shared his outrage that such a thing could occur. I don't know if we ever told him the story of He. But we did repeat the story endlessly over the next few weeks. I seem to recall Russell seeing He a few weeks or maybe months later.

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