Saturday, May 6, 2017

Allen Theatre: A Few Days in May, 1972

45 years ago this weekend.

Cover of The Plain Dealer Action Tab, May 5, 1972.
From the Plain Dealer, April 30, 1972.

 The first weekend in May, 1972 was a big weekend for us. On Saturday, May 6, there was a double feature benefit for the Next Generation group. The Next Generation were a group of high school seniors from Garfield Heights who would often help out at the shows in early ’72. They got to use the Allen for a fundraiser. Two films were shown that afternoon, “Dracula Prince of Darkness” and “The Devil’s Bride” for a dollar admission. I sold tickets out in the boxoffice, and it was a windy day. Some kid’s dollar blew away, but I gave him a ticket anyway. Ray said that was okay to do, however Ceil chided me for being a softy. There were a lot of small children there that afternoon. Following the films, we did a quick clean up to prepare for the Jeff  Beck Group concert that night.  A little before 6 PM, as I was walking back into the Allen with my favorite meal, a Royal Castle Royal Trio, I noticed an altercation just inside the lobby doors. One of the Next Generation kids mouthed off to one of the off duty policemen who questioned him when he walked in. The kid said “Fuck you Pig,” and was getting the crap beat out of him as a result. I went and got Ray to intervene.

Glass Harp, from Akron, was the last minute opening act that night, followed by the main attraction Jeff Beck. This was a pretty wild night. One of the concert goers ripped a railing from the stairway going to the top balcony from the east side of the mezzanine.  I chased after the guy, luckily I didn’t catch him. Anyone who could snap one of those railings in half could have easily killed me. A few members of an Akron motorcycle gang tried to crash the show at the stage entrance, injuring a policeman in the process. Stagehands waged battle with the bikers, leaving a pool of blood in the alley as evidence. The bikers were beaten back with belaying pins from the pinrail on stage. Back up police came in through the front doors, and raced backstage, startling a number of concert goers.
From the Plain Dealer, April 30, 1972.

The following day, Sunday, May 7th, was one of great anticipation. For the previous few weeks Ray kept saying "and that's the truth, ppllugghhh". Ticket sales had been fairly brisk, and Lily even blurbed the appearance on Laugh In. We had tons of flyers and posters for the event. I remember cutting off the Allen Theatre part of the flyers and gluing them to the posters from Polydor Records. I remember someone cursing me out about a week before the show when I couldn’t sell him front row seats. Smitty scrounged up some mirrors from one of the Ohio Theatre restrooms and installed them in a newly painted dressing room. The massive clean-up effort from the Beck show was well underway when I got there that Sunday morning. The set for the show was pretty basic, a large piece of carpet, a stool and a mike stand. When Lily arrived she had much fun getting the stage hands to move the carpet repeatedly, much to their annoyance.  Not long after 7 PM, singer Ellen McIlwaine opened the sold out show. Things ran rather smoothly that night, quite different then the night before.

From the Plain Dealer, May 8, 1972.

Things started to slow down a bit after that, A Count Basie/Austrid Gilberto show scheduled for Sunday, May 21, was cancelled. A week or two after the Lily Tomlin show Ray and I went over to the Ohio and State poking around for a while. I think this was the fourth or fifth time I was in the Loew’s theatres. Loew's Ohio had a moldy odor back then, the wooden auditorium floor was warped and littered with chunks of broken plaster. The picture sheet had a huge hole cut in it on the house right/stage left side evidently to make it easier to access the stage. We climbed the vertical ladder up the back wall of the Ohio stage. We noticed an unusual amount of light coming from the organ loft on the stage right side. Upon closer inspection, we found the roof had caved in on the room, letting abundant amounts of sunlight and rain into that part of the theatre.  We continued the climb until we reached the room at the top, under the water tank on the roof of the stage.  There was quite the spectacular view of the lake from up there.  We climbed down onto the roof of the auditorium and inspected the large hole in the roof. A few months after this Smitty and I would spend a week or two up there boxing it in with plywood and 2X4’s. We never stopped that leak, but at least we slowed it down considerably.  We then went over to the State for a while. The State was in much better shape, but still had some problems. A big leak in the back house right side had water running down the stairs to the balcony. The water caused a short in the mezzanine cove lighting, which was a red neon color. Sometime when you’d flip those lights on there would be a wicked crackling sound, and you’d shut that circuit off pretty quickly. The State was pretty well stripped of its main lighting fixtures. The lobby was primarily lit by three strings of floodlights strung across it’s width. A year later Brel would be drawing huge crowds there, but at that point, only the echoes of footsteps could be heard.
Note: This was revamped from a May 2013 post.

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