Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Visible Voice Books

 We stopped by Visible Voice Books, 2258 Professor Avenue, on Saturday afternoon, cool spot in a neat neighborhood.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Despina's Bakery

 We find it had to resist stopping at Despina's Bakery, 11823 Detroit Avenue, such a great place.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Ray Shepardson

 Ten years gone...

Ray Shepardson in the RKO Palace ladies' room, from the Plain Dealer, March 19, 1972.

It's hard to believe over half a century has passed since I first walked into the Allen and encountered Ray's enthusiasm. There weren't many who thought those four theatres were worth saving, but Ray had a vision of a reborn theatre district and worked tirelessly towards that goal, with little help at first. I have many fond memories of the two of us cleaning the Allen after shows or climbing around Loew's Ohio and State, surveying the roof leaks, and Ray and Ceil playing badminton on the Allen stage. I can still picture him on that cold night at Loew's State running around the empty lobby explaining how we were going to transform it into the Playhouse Square Cabaret and run a show named Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris for a few weeks, then figure out what to stage next. No one could have imagined the runaway hit it would become, because after all "no one is going to go down there anymore." That show really quieted the crix as the Playhouse Square area started to slowly rebound.
Few now remember how bleak Playhouse Square looked back then, empty theatres, empty storefronts, even the streetlights didn't work. From The Plain Dealer, February 7, 1972, the RKO Palace is out of view on the right, shorn of its marquee, the front boarded up.

Early on, there weren't many others working to support the project, money was pretty much nonexistent, cash flowed from the few memberships Ray or Burt LeGrande could scrounge up along with the take from concessions at the many rock and roll shows booked at the Allen in the 1971-72 timeframe. There were few paid employees when I arrived on March 25th, 1972. Ceil Hartman was the business manager, Ralph D. Smith known by all as "Smitty," was a general handyman, Victor Villimas worked the BO and did other odd jobs such as walking up and down Euclid Avenue in a Yogi Bear costume to promo a show, Solomon "Bugs" Alexander who did general maintenance but was gone a few weeks after I got there. Weldon Carpenter had already been there and left, only to return a few months after Brel opened. In late 1972 Dennis Wild (sp?) would be hired to fill the void. The only people who hung around for more than a month or two really believed in Ray's vision, this job did not pay very well, often not at all, and the working conditions were horrendous, cold and dirty more often than not, but we persevered. A brief overview of the beginning of the rebirth can be found here.

Volunteers were few and far between, aside from Ray's college friend, Gordon Bell, Veralynne Bosko would have been the first, meeting Ray in 1970 at the law firm where she worked, when Ray had come to incorporate the Playhouse Square Association. Veralynne's friends would often come down to help out; "Poe" (pronounced Poe-ee) Ken Plocica probably the tallest person I've ever known at around 6'10", Kevin McAndrew, Pete Weber, and "Flemo" Chuck Fleming were the main ones helping usher shows at the Allen and clean up afterwards. Later on, these guys would help clean out the Loew's theatres as well as helping Smitty, Dennis and I take down the massive Cinerama screen in Loew's State. I have vivid memories of Veralynne, Ceil and a few others selling popcorn and soda at 25¢ to swarms of rock concert goers at the Allen throughout 1972. There was also a group of Garfield Heights High School kids known as the "Next Generation" that would help out at the Allen as ushers in 1971-72. Later on, my friend Russ Richards would come down to help out as well, then work on the run up to the Brel opening. Nick Spontelli, a retired Loew's engineer came down to put Loew's State's heating system back into order, without Nick's expertise we would have had no heat for the Cabaret.
Hard to believe now, but a very real possibility then, The Plain Dealer, May 25, 1972.

Aside from Ray, all of these people have been forgotten, there's fewer of us every year, only Ceil and I remain from the summer of 1972. From time to time, I still have some very vivid dreams about these theatres, and all these people from so long ago. It would be rather nice if some of us could get a look at the place every so often, without having to purchase tix. It's been impossible to get any kind of access the last few years, a condition not likely to change anytime soon, I fear.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Madison Avenue

 Looking west on Madison Avenue from near Quail Avenue last Saturday afternoon.

Base Ball

 A couple things from the archives.

Friday, April 12, 2024

STEM Handmade Soaps

 We stopped by STEM Handmade Soaps, 12405 Madison Avenue, on Saturday, always a great place for soap and related products, and it's always good to see someone from NEPA.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Westbound Freight

 A westbound NS freight. led by 4054 at Hird Avenue on Saturday morning, a few hours later an eastbound train blocked crossings for hours.