DL 2045 at Steamtown on Saturday afternoon.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Monday, April 29, 2019
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Saturday, April 27, 2019
Friday, April 26, 2019
Thursday, April 25, 2019
The Electric City Trolley Museum excursions start today and run through October 27, Thursdays through Sundays at 10:30 AM, 12:00 Noon, 1:30 PM and 3:00 PM. Here Philadelphia Suburban 80 arrives at Steamtown on Saturday afternoon on one of the pre-Easter Bunny Hop trips.
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Monday, April 22, 2019
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the passing of my friend Willie Moore who led one of my favorite bands of the 80's. Also in the group were, Michael Dee, Roy Pekoc, Mark Pekoc and "Perfesser" Dan Mahoney. They played throughout the Greater Cleveland area, but Andy's on Buckeye Road was the best place to see them. I'll always remember Willie sipping VSQ brandy during breaks at Andy's, walking around chatting up the girls. The place would be packed to the gills and rockin' every night Willie was there. It was quite the experience.
From the Call & Post, September 12, 1981.
Call & Post, May 3, 1984.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
Saturday, April 20, 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019
Thursday, April 18, 2019
The calendar page flips to August 1975, a dark cloud seemed to descend on Playhouse Square. I don’t know what it was, but it was palpable. The show goes on, Rascal in the State lobby, Coca Cola in the State auditorium, and shows at the Allen. The always great Donald Byrd and the Blackbirds hit the Allen Saturday, August 9, with the always annoying Bruce Springsteen the following day. I think I was the only one in Cleveland who couldn’t stand him, really one of the reasons I quit listening to rock music on the radio, plus most of this stuff was starting to sound like a lot of loud noise to me. The Springsteen show was also broadcast on WMMS-FM, bootleg copies can be easily found today.
Labor Day weekend 1975 was slow, for the first time in memory, nothing on the boards. Coca Cola closed on August 31, and Rascal went to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland at the beginning of September, where it won an award. The show briefly returned for a few weeks before going to Broadway where crix didn’t quite dig it. Meanwhile P-Funk hit the Allen on September 21 as the fall season started heating up, featuring Chick Corea - Return to Forever, Richard Pryor, Peter Panic, Todd Rundgren, Ramsey Lewis/ Herbie Hancock, Pure Prairie League, 10CC, and Ted Nugent all in pretty quick succession.
Meanwhile, early rehearsals for Berlin to Broadway started after Labor Day in the Palace lobby, no director, just the cast learning Kurt Weill songs. The cast led by the great Providence Hollander, also included John M. Hinds, Lissy Heller, Richard Estes, and Ed Dixon. As rehearsals went on Dixon left and was replaced by Tim Tavcar, who fortunately was available. I seem to remember Tim working on a one man show around this time, I think he was also rehearsing it in the Palace lobby around the Berlin rehearsals.
Sometime in September, probably before Rascal returned on the 17th, rehearsals were starting for Bullshot Crummond, not sure of the exact timing, but it was still warm out. I was constantly telling people to keep doors locked, and as rehearsals started I was telling the cast, the same cast as Coca Cola, “Keep This Door Locked!” referring to the State Theatre Stage Door on 17th Street. There were nefarious characters always about looking for some door that wasn’t locked. I would sometimes sit out on the Loew’s State fire escapes on 17th and watch a guy walk by and try every one of the exit doors on both the State and Palace, a little after midnight usually. So early one evening I’m in the Palace Cinerama booth where I was living, talking on the phone to Tom Kalish when one of the Crummond cast cuts in and says they need police. Tom says he’ll be down pronto, I hang up and run next door.
I go over to Loew’s State, running down to the stage, to find that Patty and Claudia’s purses had been stolen! Tim was there and spotted the guys as they went out the stage door. The police soon arrived, not much could really be done, they took a report, but did say to go and look around. The thieves usually grab the cash and dump the purses behind a building. Kalish arrived as we started to go out to look around. Tom Kalish and I were walking through the parking lot at the south east corner of 17th & Chester, next to Emerson Press, we saw a couple guys, didn’t think much, until Tim came running down the street yelling, “That’s Them!!! That’s Them!!!” Tom and I turn around and started following the two guys, they split up, one heading towards Dodge Court, the other towards the Greyhound Bus station on Chester Avenue. As Tom and I start to close in on one guy, Tim is leading a posse of angry actors/actresses down Dodge Court. Out in front of the Greyhound Station Tom K catches up with our prey and tackles him right in front of the main entrance. Within seconds it seemed a policeman was there and he starts asking a lot of questions. The handful of people out in front and a couple taxi drivers all watched as the policeman marched us into the small Cleveland Police office inside the station. The guy claimed we attacked him for no reason, we told him our story. I think the policeman might have known who we were, not sure. We knew a lot of policemen, Third District mostly, because they worked security at all the shows. So he takes down our info, neither Tom nor I are wanted criminals. However, this guy had a bunch of warrants, a one man crime wave; they came and took him away. But he didn’t know nothing about any other guy, didn’t know nuttin’ (sic), yeah right. On the way out I spotted a Wanted photo of good old Bugs on the wall, Solomon Alexander, I say “Hey, I know that guy.” Policeman says "Know where we can find him?" I say "no" and I tell the story of how Bugs had worked for us, and for reasons beyond comprehension tried to grab cash out of a Halle’s cash register and was promptly arrested. Ray threw his bail, and he disappeared, December 1973, hadn’t seen him since. He would end up reappearing later.
We go back to Loew’s State to find Tim’s posse cornered the guy in a dead end alleyway behind the Hotel Allerton on 13th (then the Parkview Apartments), he pulled the old “downtown fake,” and they let him walk. Very disappointing actors got faked out, but what can you do, when they pull the fake is when you move in and kick their ass. Any member of that cast would have been capable of bopping that little punk. We always liked to send a message, “don’t mess with the theatres.” Downtown Cleveland was a bit on the wild side at times, so you wanted the undesirables to stay away.
Meanwhile Berlin to Broadway was supposed to open on October 3 in the lobby of Loew’s State, the Playhouse Square Cabaret. I don’t know what the deal was, but this show never seemed to gel, it had a dreadful vibe about it. Individually the cast was strong, we all knew how great Prov was, Lissy was a great singer as well. But put together it was like death warmed over, really hate to say it, like the cast recording to the dark clouds alluded to earlier. By late September rehearsals were in the State lobby, it didn’t sound good. Kurt Weill isn’t one of the more upbeat song writers to start with, and as they added/dropped/reshuffled songs/directors, it sounded like a wake. The opening was pushed back at some point. It previewed once, a lot of people walked at intermission, and it was done.
Sometime that October, maybe early November, a few of us spent the day down the street at the Hippodrome Theatre poking around. Tom Kalish, Weldon Carpenter and myself, wandering the dark dusty corridors of the mammoth theatre. Vince the manager allowed Weldon to take an old collage someone put together years earlier that was on canvas attached to a dressing room wall. This annoyed the stagehand so he cut the lights off on us. No problem, we had flashlights. There were always rumors circulating that the Hipp was on the verge of closing, however it would still be open for four more years. More on the Hipp here.
Throughout October rehearsals went on for Bullshot Crummond in the auditorium of the State. This was far more upbeat and had a better vibe than the disaster unfolding in the lobby. We all loved this show, previews started on Wednesday, October 29, opening Saturday, November 1st. We were really blindsided by negatives in the two dailies. Crummond closed on November 2, and a general bad vibe really seemed to permeate the cold empty space. More on Crummond here.
At some point that fall scaffolding went up on the house right side of Loew’s State where the boxes once were. The top level of the scaffold was more or less level with the floor of the organ loft. To access this organ loft there was a short vertical ladder on the top fire escape on the 17th Street side. I had to saw the lock off to open the door and when I did, the door literally fell apart, crashing onto the fire escape below, the smaller bits hitting the sidewalk. I totally did not see that coming. It was a tin sheathed wooden door, and there must have been some spots where water got in, turning the wood into what amounted to soggy cardboard.
The restoration work, led by Rick Trela, along with brothers Tom and Bob Bindernagel, had finished the house left side and the proscenium. The intricate plasterwork that Loew’s unceremoniously sprayed deep purple just a few years earlier was starting to really pop. Stepping from the organ loft onto the scaffold was a bit unnerving for me at first. I’d climbed around those places a lot, but the shaky scaffold took a while to get used to. These three were true artisans, lots of intricate work on those walls and ceilings.
Over at the Allen the beat went on, Leo Sayer, KC & the Sunshine Band, Rick Wakeman, Strawbs/Gary Wright, Shawn Phillips etc. Work began to transform the part of the State basement, off the lobby where Mr. Ryder’s Shop and the usherettes dressing room was, into Kennedy’s. This would be a small performance space, named after the recently departed Kathy Kennedy. I can’t remember who all emptied out the space, Todd Reeves, Jed Ellis, Randy something, I think, possibly Doug Broome as well.
There was a rush to finish off the new Kennedy’s space by mid November. Oh! Coward, a snappy little Noel Coward revue which opened on November 15, was the first attraction. At last the crix smiled upon us and this show would run in this small space until mid December. In order to connect Kennedy’s to the kitchen in the former LaMar’s space, a hole was cut into the main lobby floor of Loew’s Ohio to remove fill from unexcavated space and create a new room. This allowed a back exit into the Loew building/Bulkley building truck drive, and it was a flight up the stairs into the kitchen. This newly excavated room also served as a buffet space, it was/still is a neat little set up. This project ended up becoming a bone of contention with me. Technically I was the night watchman during this period of time; I started at 11 PM and went to 7 AM. The work on this project went from 8 AM to 6 PM, and I had to lock up and let them in every day. I started to feel like I was being taken advantage of, I’m making about $75 a week, and I’m working seven days a week for the most part. I’m also doing some roof work during the week along with other miscellaneous tasks as they come up. In 1975 I couldn’t have taken more than four or five days off, and remember this job has no benefits of any kind outside of helping to save some local landmarks (and ending up with great stories most people don't believe, but they are true). I’ll never understand why we couldn’t have given someone from that company a key to Loew’s Ohio. It wasn’t like there was anything to steal over there, it was little more than a rotting carcass at the time. A few of us were always there, like Todd Reeves and Jed Ellis, ready to make sure that things got done. Going more than an extra mile gets tedious after awhile. By this point I wanted to drop the watchman part, but nobody else is crazy enough to wander around the empty buildings with a watchmen’s clock and a dodgy flashlight. Sometimes the flashlights would run out of batteries, a common problem. A bigger problem was wandering around the Loew building in the dark, with an open elevator shaft. It was squabbles over minor things and weird problems like these that were adding to the general malaise at the time.
Another major issue was Loew's State, we were in the middle of a five year lease, and we needed to find a way to purchase the Loew building with the two Loew houses. Ray had been negotiating with a Spaghetti Restaurant to turn the State Auditorium into a restaurant, and this did not sit well with some, including me. This was also an issue of intense debate that led to a few heated debates.
It was also late in 1975 that Solomon "Bugs" Alexander reappeared. One day he was knocking on the door of the Cinerama Booth, he wanted to borrow money from me. I reminded him he still owed me $50 from two years previous. He left, but came back a couple times, becoming a bit menacing. I ended up telling him to go and not come back. Meanwhile Ray is yelling at me, he don't want Bugs around, well neither did I. Last time I saw Bugs was on Prospect, summer 1977, again he wants to borrow money, I told him to scram, never saw him after that.
In to save the day came the first of many Brel revivals, opening December 3 to January 4, this time in the State auditorium. Of course we still had some cast recording available so you could “Give a Gift of Brel to Those you Love.” Five Weeks Boffo!!! Sometime during the run I had dinner with Rick Trela, his wife Terry Piteo, along with Tom and Bob Bindernagel and a couple others out at Joe and David's place in Brathenal. It was cold out, some of us walked to the end of the road to look at the frozen lake, and we fled back inside quickly, wicked cold winds off the lake. Great party on New Year’s Eve, somebody sent a bus pan filled with many splits of champagne and ice to the Cinerama Booth, and it was a happy new year. Although no one was looking forward to the cold days ahead.
Palace Theatre auditorium, 1975, William Gesten/Foto Arts Inc.
The previous installment of this saga can be found here.
The previous installment of this saga can be found here.