From The Plain Dealer, Action Tab, Friday, July 12, 1974.
The summer of 1974 saw Brel in its second year, still packing them in night after night. That summer it seemed like Brel would run forever. By then I was spending most of my free time in the upstairs booth in the Palace. I was always fooling around with those Simplex projectors up there, taking them apart and putting them back together again. It was great fun, as was blasting Beatle, and Kinks records at deafening volume through the remains of the old surround sound system in the middle of the night.
One of the more unpleasant tasks was shoveling massive amount of pigeon droppings from the enclosed fire towers in the State. This was mostly done by Todd Bemis and Chuck Sudetic, with a small assist by me. These droppings were a good three to four feet deep in places. Now a day’s people would don “moon suits” for such a task, but not then, just a couple guys with brooms, shovels and a bucket. There was no money back then for such extravagant things like dust masks. It’s a wonder we all don’t have respiratory problems as a result.
One person who I haven’t said much about from back then was Dennis Wild (sp?), he first came to the Allen in late 1972, and managed the maintenance department, Overworked and underpaid like the rest of us he did his best to keep our motley group in line. I recall he grew tired of tracking us down in the massive complex. At one point he demanded to know where we all were so he could find us when needed. We could be anywhere at any given time, on one of the roofs, basements, crawl spaces or any of the numerous rooms, lobbies, etc. At times it could be hard to find someone in there. Dennis is another one of the unsung heroes from way back then. None of us had big money to contribute; all we could do was spent blood, sweat and tears in those theatres. We might not have had any recognition, but all our blood and sweat is forever there, above the ceilings and down in the crawlspaces.
One of the daily activities involved hauling equipment to the Huron Road Mall for the noontime concerts. These were sponsored by local business and the musician’s union. Usually Chuck Sudetic and I would load up the old Brel sound system, amps and mikes, along with electric cables and haul them over in the old grey cart. It was always tricky dodging pedestrians who would fail to yield to the bozos with the rickety cart. It was left up to us where to set up at; we tried different spots, but eventually settled on the area by the Spot Coffee Shop. This was good for two reasons; one, they would let us plug in there, two, they would give us free lunch. Basically all we did was haul stuff there, set it up, eat lunch, read the NY Times, tear down and haul the stuff back, all in about an hour-and-a-half. The entertainment covered a variety of music, country, rock, pop, etc. Our favorite was Art Broz who until a few weeks earlier had been the organist at Muny Stadium. Art was the scapegoat in the Beer Night fiasco; he played “Three Blind Mice” which allegedly provoked the drunken crowd into rioting. He had a great Polka band and sometimes his son would drop by and sing a couple MOR type songs. It was great fun.
New people started arriving around then. Jed Ellis came from Connecticut and ended up working there for the summer. Tom Kalish was first introduced to me by Todd Reeves sometime that summer, probably around July, we became good friends. We all spent time working on the roof, trying to stop the never-ending leaks on the 20 year old roof. The roof was also a good place to take a break, maybe have a smoke and look out on the lake. There was a good view from up there, and it didn’t matter which one you went to, they all had scenic possibilities.
From the Plain Dealer Action Tab, June 21, 1974.
There were a number of shows at the Allen that summer, The New York Dolls and Kiss on Sunday June 14, the Dolls were great, but we mocked Kiss for days afterwards, calling them a “clown act,” an opinion I still hold. ZZ Top along with Rush and Locomotive GT hit the Allen a couple weeks later, promo copies of the Locomotive GT long player were handed out, wish I still had one. They might have been the more interesting of the groups that night, having come from Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain. The most infamous of the shows that summer was Brownsville Station with Golden Earring as the openers on July 12. It had been about six months since Brownsville had a hit, and the Earrings had a hot record on the charts that summer. Once the Earring finished their opening set, most people left, leaving Brownsville to play to an almost empty house. Brownsville had one of the best starts to their act, three motorcycles, headlights cutting through the darkness, then vroom, vroom, great stuff. The Ohio Players rocked the house with their Jive Turkey record, along with Tavares a couple nights later. Hawkwind and Elephant’s Memory appeared at the end of the summer, September 4, I have no memory of this, must have been busy doing something else.
Years later this book came out in Holland.
By July, I was living in the Palace booth, the back room providing semi-comfortable surroundings for me. I was living off the small paycheck and a drawer full of quarters from the Brel coat check left over from the previous winter. At some point that summer, maybe late July or early August Chuck Sudetic and I moved a refrigerator from the basement of Loew’s State, up to the Palace booth. I think it was an old GE or Westinghouse model, a little over four feet high, it weighed a ton. Chuck and I hauled this thing out from under the State stage, in the machinery room, out the stage door on Dodge Court, around the back of the building, up 17th Street into the Keith Building freight entrance. The building manager (whose name I can’t remember, but he was a great guy) of the Keith Building let us take the freight elevator up to the sixth floor, then we move the increasingly heavy fridge down a half flight of stairs into a storage room of MCI’s and out onto the top of the Palace Balcony. That elevator shortcut sure came in handy a couple of times. From there we hauled it up to the booth. The stairs to the booth were narrow and fairly steep, we were sweating like pigs by the time we triumphantly reached the top. I was on the bottom; the fridge was on its side at the top of the stairs, al we needed to do was wiggle it through the doorway. Alas it didn’t quite work that way, we didn’t have it in far enough, the blasted fridge slid back down the stairs. I was running backwards down those steps and reached the bottom a split second before the fridge slammed me into the radiator at the bottom of the stairway. I pushed the fridge away from me and hobbled back and forth the top of the Palace balcony. Sudetic was down those stairs in a flash and was saying “are you alright, are you alright?” I allegedly replied “bring me marihuana.” Whether there was any around, I don’t recall, (apparently I was aware of its medicinal qualities 20 years before anyone else). I had a couple nice gashes above my knees, but was fine otherwise. A couple hours later Bob Rody helped Sudetic haul the fridge up to the booth. We plugged it in and it still worked, they sure don’t make them like that anymore. The last time I was up there, in the summer of 1982, it was still working.
A couple of outings I remember from that summer included going to the Emerson, Lake & Palmer show at Muny Stadium on Sunday, August 4, and Crosby Stills, Nash & Young at the stadium on Saturday, August 31. Since some of us had to work, Todd Reeves and I both got there late. Fortunately Bonnie Milne, and Heather Milne, who both had gone to school with Todd had a good spot staked out early, so we had decent seats in the stands for both those shows, right behind the first base dugout. I also went to a Muddy Waters show, sometime in July, I think, at Blossom with Sudetic and Todd Bemis.
The Brel cast recording came out at the beginning of the summer (PHS-CLE 2S-101). I believe this was the first cast recording by a Cleveland show. Several times a week there would be autograph sessions after the shows. It was a double record set, with a nice booklet, still worth a listen every now and then.
From the Plain Dealer Action Tab, May 24, 1974.