Thursday, March 1, 2018

Playhouse Square: Winter and Spring 1975

1975 got off to a slow start, Brel went dark for a few weeks, and things were slow at the Allen following the disastrous Linda Ronstadt show on January 20. I spent a good chunk of January freezing in the Palace Cinerama booth. I had two or three electric heaters going full blast 24/7 to keep it fairly warm in there. Good thing the booth had plenty of circuits for the heaters.

Things started to pick up in the beginning of February with a roadshow of Jesus Christ Superstar running February 4-9. Business was pretty brisk for JC Superstar. I watched the final performance from the Allen projection room. This was the performance where Judas was almost hung for real. The harness snapped, and he was really strangling on stage before 2,800 people. No one noticed, and the show went on without any other problems. Afterwards Judas was more than a little annoyed, and went on and on at the party afterwards.
From The Plain Dealer, January 19, 1975.

LaBelle rocked the Allen on Sunday February 16, they had a hot record out and did pretty good biz. Next up was another disastrous show, this time the headliners were Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel on Saturday , February 22. There was a ton of hype surrounding this show, these guys were supposed to be the next big thing. Man was the opening act, and put on a good show, but Steve Harley was unable to live up to the hype. The show ended with Harley trying to get the audience to sing along. “Oh Lord, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues…”  The audience was less than impressed and headed for the exits, with Harley at center stage yelling in his thick Cockney accent, “You don’t need us… you don’t need Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel….” At least he had that right.
From the Plain Dealer, March 9, 1975.

March saw Brel back in full swing in the State, while at the Allen shows came by in rapid succession, Ramsey Lewis on Saturday March 1, Blue Oyster Cult and the Strawbs on Friday, March 7, and Rare Earth with the Commodores on Sunday March 9. The Strawbs were outstanding, as were BO Cult, was never much of a Cult fan, but the end of their show was great, with all the smoke, the entire band with guitars at the front of the stage playing an extended version of Born to Be Wild.
From The Plain Dealer Friday magazine, February 21, 1975.
From The Plain Dealer Friday magazine, February 21, 1975.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was scheduled for Saturday, March 8, but that was postponed until Friday, March 14. That show was again postponed until Tuesday, March 25 when Alex finally made it to the Allen. It was one of the best shows there. We had a party up in the Allen booth, a bunch of people were there, Tom K., Todd Reeves, Nancy G, and a bunch more I can’t remember now. We got a barrel of ice from the kitchen, the old LaMar's space, and hauled it up to the Allen booth, filled it with beer. Alex put on  a great show, they did Hot City Symphony, Next, Faith Healer, and played Gangbang for the encore. Alex left no doubt that Vambo Rooled! The next night was Robin Trower, another great show and another packed house. The month came to an end with The Average White Band.
From The Plain Dealer Friday magazine, March 14, 1975.

April kicked off with Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea, cool show on Friday April 4. The next night was a pair of sold out Golden Earring shows. We had quite the party in the Allen booth for that show.  Aerosmith appeared on Saturday April 12. This show was supposed to be at Cleveland State, but was moved to the Allen on less than 72 hour notice. I remember Tom K painting one of the organ lofts so they could set up a buffet. When Aerosmith got there, they pretty much smashed everything they came in contact with, mirrors, shelves, beer bottles against the wall etc. They even ripped up the carpet, and mashed cake underneath. We were glad to see those assholes leave. Kraftwerk stopped by on Wednesday April 16, with Nektar on the 27th. The always annoying Kiss with Rush was on Tuesday April 29. Hawkwind, Lou Reed and Jesse Colin Young all crossed the boards in May.
The Plain Dealer May 4, 1975.

Meanwhile over in Loew’s State Brel continued to hold forth in the lobby. In late April columnist Don Robertson wrote in his Cleveland Press column that El Grande Coca Cola would be a great attraction in the auditorium of Loew’s State. Don had seen Coca Cola at Tri-C and thought the State resembled El Club Grande. Soon work began to transform the space. The set-up was pretty funky, tables and chairs on a sloping auditorium floor, a stage built in front of the real stage. The echo was pretty intense, so we used an old curtain hung on battens above the stage to help kill some of the echo. Most thought the curtain was to keep plaster from falling onto the patrons, but it really was because of the sound. Coca Cola previewed for two days and opened on Friday, May 9 to rave reviews. The talented cast, led by director Fran Soeder, included Patty Johnson, Mark Passerell, Claudia Conrad, Chris Ritchey and Ralph Gunderman were uproariously funny in the best show that summer.
Coca Cola cast, l-r, Patty Johnson, Mark Passerell, Claudia Conrad, Chris Ritchey(bottom) and Ralph Gunderman (top). Barney Taxel photo.
Auditorium of Loew's State with the Coca Cola stage, photo by William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc.

May also saw us up on the roof. On the auditorium of Loew's State was a crack that ran top to bottom, above the dome. I don't know how many times we patched that, but it kept coming back. We tried everything, even using a mesh material, and coating it with roofing cement. Within a few weeks it would be back. That particular leak haunted us for years. We all had a go at trying to fix it, but it would never stay fixed.
From The Plain Dealer May 25, 1975.

Sunday June 1 saw the Bee Gees at the Allen. This show didn’t go over very well, apparently Cleveland wasn’t ready for the Bee Gees new sound. They played to about 5-600 people. About a week before the show, promoter Howard Stein gave me a block of tickets to give away, I found few takers. A couple years later the Bee Gees sold out the Coliseum in Richfield, but on this night the Allen was practically empty.
The Plain Dealer, May 11, 1975.

Meanwhile back at the State, the long run of Brel finally came to an end on Sunday, June 29th, after a run of 522 performances. Plans were underway to open Conversations With An Irish Rascal in a few weeks. Other big things were in store for that summer, Marvin Hamlisch at the Palace, and a new book on Playhouse Square, by Kathy Kennedy was about to be released

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