Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Remembering Ray Shepardson

Today at 4 PM a memorial service will be held for Ray in the lobby of Loew's State Theatre, 1515 Euclid Avenue at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland.
Ray at the opening of Brel, April 18, 1973. From the Cleveland Memory Project.

A brief reminiscence:

I can still remember one of the first things Ray said to me. It was on the mezzanine of the Allen, by the upstairs concession stand, just before the Richard Harris show. He shoved a cash box into my hands and said “you’re in charge” and disappeared as quickly as he appeared.  I didn’t even know what the prices were, fortunately Gordon Bell did.

 During the lead-up to the Lily Tomlin show at the Allen, Ray was always walking around saying “and that’s the truth.” A week or so after that we spent a Sunday afternoon climbing all over Loew’s Ohio. We climbed up that vertical ladder against the back wall of the stage, stopping off at the rigging lost on stage left and going into the organ chamber. That was when we saw the giant hole. We continued up to the roof, emerging from that room under the water tower, and inspected the hole. A month or so later when Smitty and I were up there trying to figure out how to box in the hole, we didn’t want to get too close. Ray goes to the edge and jumps up and down saying “don’t worry it’ll hold.” That fall when we put “Home of the Playhouse Square Assn” on the front of the Allen marquee the bulb behind the “n” in Assn burned out, and there was debate on who the "Playhouse Square Ass" was.

There was a frenetic energy about Ray, excitement in his voice when he talked about the theatres and what the next plan was, it was quite infectious. That exuberance was always there whether we were sweeping trash up after some show in the Allen, or drinking hot chocolate in the frigid lobby of the Ohio. Later during the early days of Brel in the State we’d rearrange the seating every day, when any of us said the seats are too close together, Ray would say “they’ll be happy just to be here,” and they were for the next two years.

In a much simpler time I’ll always remember Ray and Ceil, playing badminton on the stage of the Allen, that magical summer so long ago. 
At the beginning, the Allen marquee, November 1971. Photo by William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc. Note the Loew's Ohio marquee, about two years earlier Ray was looking for space for headquarters for the school district levy and the Ohio was it. This led to Ray forming the Playhouse Square Association.
 From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 24, 1987.
The Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine, June 11, 1995.
Plain Dealer, March 19, 1972.
Ray on the cover of the PD Action Tab, June 1, 1973. This was about 6 weeks after Brel opened.
Ray leaning on a fireplace in the main floor ladies lounge of the Palace, from the Plain Dealer, March 19, 1972. I always thought this was a good photo of Ray, wish I had a better copy.

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