Showing 1 - 25 of 41 comments
TO: Jim Basnik and Chuck1231
The Avalon was located exactly where T. Hudak described — on E. 131st Street, north of Miles. (I also have that list of Cleveland theatres you refer to, and I can tell you that there are many, many errors contained in it — especially in the opening and closing dates shown.) Anyway, I worked briefly at the Avalon in about 1956. It was a fairly nice neighborhood theatre, all on one floor, and I’d estimate the seating capacity at 1200-1500.
I was long gone from the Mayland when you started work there, so I’ve never heard about any concession stand worker who might have died of a “massive heart attack” in the ladies room. (I do remember a couple of fat old drunk broads who’d passed out in the ladies room. We had to wake ‘em up in order to close up the place for the night!)
As for Rex Anderson, he was a very close friend of mine — and one of the nicest guys I ever had the pleasure of working with. Back when I worked there, (1952-56), Rex was as sober as a judge. He was a member of AA, and yes, I do remember one time when he “fell off the wagon,” but that episode lasted only a day or two. His wife and a couple of other family members saw to that!
I remember Rex’s backstage “office” very well. It was the larger of the two dressing rooms upstairs on the east side of the building. On the other side of the stage was the “band room” — the subject of several popular stories which identified it as the site of numerous nocturnal romantic trysts involving certain Mayland employees. (But being the “choirboy,” innocent-type of kid that I was, I have no knowledge of this whatsoever!)
One more thing: I never knew a theatre manager who had “real work to do.” Cliff Pegg was the manager when I worked there, and I can tell you that he never worked up a sweat in the 4-plus year that I knew him! Assistant managers and head ushers did most of what little work was required.
As for your Rex quotation, yes, I’d say that could be something he'd
have said. Rex was a very good man. God rest his soul!
You’re right, Dave: The city of Mayfield Heights has always been stupid! Not just about marquees, either. I wonder if there’s something in the water up there! They should realize that at the time the theatre was built, that marquee was the largest one in the state of Ohio. They ought to be installing a historical marker on the front of the building to commemorate it. But I guess they’d rather show off monstosities like Golden Gate Shopping Plaza and the maze of ugly apartments that the city has allowed to encroach upon what was once a community of almost entirely single-family homes. I’m glad I lived in Mayfield Heights when it was still a nice place to live. (By the way: I’d like to have a nickel for every time I was up on the “rolling scaffold” changing the letters on the Mayland marquee – in rain, sleet, snow and high winds. Makes me cold just to think of it! But hey, they were fun times!)
Hey Brustar: Is the food any good at the Boneyard?
TO: Jim Basnik: If you went to the Norwood, you probably also remember the Yale Theatre – which was a bit further out St Clair Avenue on the same side of the street. Seems like it was in the 8000 block, but I could be wrong about that. It was roughly the same size as the Norwood – maybe just a bit larger. As for Clark’s Restaurant being across from the Liberty, you’re right! Ditto for being across from the Kieth’s 105th.
To Bryan Krefft and SimplexLover: There was an earlier, much smaller Ezella Theatre on the same site, thus the difference in the seating capacity. Modern Theatres, Inc. built the “New Ezella' after tearing down the old one. I’m not sure when all of this took place. But I do remember hearing some of the neighborhood old timers talking about it.
TO Lost Memory: The "new” Ezella Theatre never had an organ — that I’m sure of! I’ve been over virtually every inch of the place and if ther’d ever have been an organ installed on the premises, I’d have known about it!
The Park/Studio One was operated by Knoxville-based Simpson Theatres, which also operated the Riviera Theatre, The Capri, The Capri 70, the Terrace Tap House Theatre and the Twin-Aire Drive-In —all in Knoxville, TN.
Chuck: The Alhambra was definitely open later than 1955. It may have closed for a time in 1955, but I know for a fact that it was up and running in 1957, 58 and 59. Those were pretty bad years for all of the theatres in the 105 & Euclid area. The Kieth’s 105th Street closed down at least twice during that period, as did the Circle. I think the Park and the University both stayed open at least into 1959, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
Carol: I’m afraid I can’t be of much help to you. I left Cleveland in 1960 – presently live in Tennessee — and I can’t really remember anyone associated with the nightclub. And I’m really not sure about ownership of the theatre either. Seems like Associated Theatres had taken over the management of the place in the mid-1950s, but I’m not really sure about that either. I have a foggy memory of the guy who managed it when I worked there, but I can’t come up with his name. (Old age does creep up on you, you know!) And you’re right about there being lots of Russos in the Cleveland area. I went to school with several of them, but none that had a tie with the nightclub, at least as far as I know. Anyway, good luck with your search, and HAppy New Year to you! (One possible tip: Russo’s was located almost next door to the Cleveland Police Department’s Fifth District Headquartes on East 105 St. It might be that old police records would pop up a file or two on the club’s proprietors. I’m sure CPD was well aware of them!)
You could say that Russo’s Restaurant & Night Club was “attached” to the Alhambra. It shared at least part of the same building, but was actually located behind and to the left of the theatre itself. You had to enter the Alhambra Bowling Lanes, directly behind the theatre, then walk down a long hallway at the rear of the lanes. You’d come to a door with a “speakeasy slot.” You knocked on the door, and a guy inside would give you the eye, and then open the door for you — if you looked okay, of course! Russo’s was a popular place for the late night college crowd, (yours truly included!)They had good steaks, occasional live entertainment, (jazz), and perhaps most important, clean, unadulterated booze! Russo’s must have paid off the right people too. Many of the late night boozing crowd didn’t look they were even close to being 21 years old!
As for a guy named Joe Russo being a manager at the Alhambra, I don’t remember that. But he could have been there either before or after my time.
NOTE: Even in 1957-58, the Alhambra and Russo’s were rundown and seedy. Yet they were both fun places to be on a Friday or Saturday night!
posted by Roger Stewart on January 2, 2006 at 5:45 pm.
Chris: I remember when Elvis appeared at the Circle. Back in the 50s, there was a country music show at the Circle every Saturday night. I can’t remember who the promoter was at the time, but he had a good thing going. He was appealing to the large audience of ex-West Virginia and Kentucky citizens who had moved to Cleveland to find work. Cleveland was loaded with these people in those days, and they crowded into the Circle to see their favorite stars every Saturday night. I wish I could help you with the name of either the promoter or the owner of the Circle — but I just can’t remember. You might check with some of the old station employees at WERE radio. Seems like they ran commercials for the show on their Saturday morning hillbilly music program. Tommy Edwards was the deejay/host of that show. (He later got into trouble during the Payola scandal.)
I haven’t thought of Gordon Cobbledick in probably 40 or even 50 years! The ex-Plain Dealer Sports Editor’s only tie to Cleveland theatres is that he used to eat lunch at the Theatrical Grill. Am I right?
TJ: Getting info about the other Cleveland theatres is like pulling teeth! The Cleveland Public Library will tell you they have little or nothing in their files concerning theatres other than the Playhouse Square four. I can’t believe that the newspaper morgues don’t contain lots of photos. I can remember seeing many of them when I was growing up back in the 1940s. But either the library has no method of retrieving such photos or the staff doesn’t care about doing so. I tried to get a copy of the movie ad pages from the Press or Plain Dealer in 1937, 1947 and 1957 editions. This would help in establishing addresses of theatres if nothing else. They never even replied to my requests. So, regrettably, it seems to be an exercise in futility
TO: Neighborhood Theatres: That’s great news! I’m standing by! If I can help in any way, just give me a shout. My email address is
TO: Jim Somich: Great pictures of the Roxy and Hipp! And yes, the Roxy certainly did have a booth and projectors. In fact, the last several times that I was there, they ran one burlesque show in the afternoon and one at night. In between those shows they ran movies — mostly westerns, as I remember — old ones like Johnny Mack Browne, Tom Mix and that genre. It was as much a movie house as a burlesque house in those days, so it ought to be included in Cinema Treasures.
(The City of Cleveland should put a plaque on the sidewalk at the former location of the Roxy on E. 9th Street to honor the old bawdy house for its service to mankind.) After all, the youth of Cleveland learned a lot about hucksterism, churlish behavior, corny jokes and the female anatomy – for many decades, all at an affordable admission price!
TO: neighborhoodtheatres -Jim Somich is right! There are many that would find your pictures interesting. Put me on the list if you ever decide to share them, rent them or even sell them. I’m interested! I only wish I’d taken a camera with me when I worked as a stagehand back in the 1950s. The theatres you mentioned brought back a lot of memories. The ones that come to mind that don’t appear in Cinema Treasures are: The Euclid – which was on Euclid between Noble Road and Ivanhoe; The Ambassador – on Superior at E. 124th St; The Shaw-Hayden, on Hayden at Shaw, of course; The Lexington – E. 55th & Lexington; the Hough-79th – at guess where? The Astor, E. 86th & Hough; the Yale, St Clair and E. 84th, (I think); the Norwood, St Clair and E. 74th – or thereabouts; the Regent – on Buckeye Avenue (the Hungarian section of town); the Mayfield – in the heart of Little Italy on Mayfield Hill; the Union Square, Union Avenue at E. 79th; the Doan, St. Clair at E. 105th. The Avalon, E. 131st & Miles Ave; The Stillwell in downtown Bedford; the Vine on Vine Street in Willoughby, Ohio; the Oriental – I think on E. 105th between Euclid & Chester —– and I’ve probably forgotten 7 or 8 more. There’s also several more on the West Side, but my memory is really fading on those. I’ll have to think on that for a day or two! As for the Colonial Theatre, my great uncle either owned or managed that theatre at one time. I think he also owned the Oriental – out on 105th. His name was Bert Todd, and he later managed the Upper & Lower Mall Theatres downtown. As for the Roxy, I snuck into that place when I was just 14 years old – after being refused admittance numerous times. Your grandfather was right! The hawkers sold stuff in the aisles after the pitchman made a long-drawn sales presentation from the stage. He pushed opera glasses especially — so you could see EVERYTHING when the girls came out! The old men in the audience would get tired of listening to him and would start throwing things at the stage. They’d stand up and yell, “BRING ON THE WOMEN!” The Roxy was a real fun place. I got to see the world-famous stripper Tempest Storm there in about 1954 or 55. Good memories! Let’s hope your comments generate more stories from some Cleveland old-timers!
TJ: If the air conditioning went out in the Hipp’s last days, I’m not surprised. I can’t remember what kind of a/c system they had, but I seem to remember several Airtemp compressors humming along in the basement. This was in the 50s, and the Hipp was a first run house back then. But it was not a “first-rate” house, simply because management would never spend what it took to keep the place up and running properly. Even so, it would have been unthinkable to try to operate that huge, cavernous building without air-conditioning. I’m glad I wasn’t around at the time of the Hipp’s horrible demise.
TO: Jim Somich; It was great to see the picture of the Ezella! That’s the first time I’ve seen it in almost 50 years. Of course it looks nothing like it did when I worked there. I used to change the marquee and keep the light bulbs under it changed, too. By the way: One of the hairiest jobs I had at the Ezella was to change the bulbs in the auditorium lights. We did that using an A-ladder, and it was the biggest A-ladder I’d ever seen. When you changed the lights down front, (next to the stage), you had to put that ladder up as far as it would go. The job was not for the faint of heart, I can tell you!
TO: Jim Somich: Yes, I remember Silverthorne’s office, and his loud, irritating voice pouring out into the lobby. He was “difficult” – to be sure. I got into the balconies, but not via the elevator. It was not, as far as I know, working when I was assigned on infrequent occasions,to work at the Hipp. I guess my momory is fading fast, but I was thinking there was a third balcony. I don’t remember anything unusual about the balconies, other than the fact that they were not used much in the late 50s. I remember that several sections of seats had been removed — maybe to have the seats re-upholstered, (or retaped – given the penny-pinching nature of the ownership!)
TO DAVE-BRONX: According to Cleveland Magazine, the New York Spaghetti House closed a few years ago, and then reopened last year. Sounds like the parking garage was built on the site of the old Carter Theatre.
Dave: A “shotgun house” was one where an armed guard was an integral part of the theatre’s management staff. The Standard was one of Cleveland’s first “adult theatres.” But prior to that, it had a rather sleazy reputation for running films that came from the “10-cent rack,” and then charging a low admission price that would attract bums and other “street people” who would then use the place to warm up in winter/cool off in summer. The Carter Theatre was between Euclid and Prospect on E. 9th Street. I’m not familiar with the Cleveland Trust parking garage, so I don’t know if that’s where it was built or not. While we’re at it, Dave, we should also mention that the good old Roxy Burlesque House was also on East 9th, north of Euclid. It doesn’t qualify as a “shotgun house,” even though there may have been a hired gun on the premises from time to time. The Roxy did have motion picture projectors, so it does qualify as a “Cinema Treasure.” The slogan of the Roxy was, “If you want to be foxy, go to the Roxy!” (As a young whippersnapper, I went to the Roxy many times, but never worked there. I also never became “foxy.”)
TO: Jim Somich: You’re right on target with your info! I started at the Ezella in 57. Bill Nobbe was the projectionist at that time. But I remember that Local 160, IATSE had several members by the name of Fitzgerald. I don’t remember Emerson Fitzgerald, and he was not at the Ezella after 1957. I did know a Tom Fitzgerald, who was the senior operator at the Lake Theatre, E. 222nd and Lake Shore Blvd.
TO: Jim Somich: I think you were right the first time. But I thought the Hipp had 4 Super Simplex projectors w/Peerless lamps. And Jack Silverthorne was the manager back in the 50s too, (Ugh!).
To: jlove: Only Loew’s Stillman was considered to be a first run house. Keith’s 105th Street and Loew’s Park were old vaudeville houses, and for may years were part of Cleveland’s second-run theatre group, which also included the Alhambra, the Circle and the University theatres — all of which were located on Euclid Avenue, from 101st to 107th Streets. I’m aware of the fact that the normal Cleveland reference sources have very little information on any but the downtown first-run theatres. The Uptown, Granada, Knickerbocker and Carter were never first run venues. Loew’s Granada was on the west side. The Carter was downtown on E. 9th, and was known back in the 1950s as a “shotgun house” – along with a couple others: the Standard on Prospect Avenue and the Embassy on Euclid. As for the Hanna, I read a report that I think was in Cleveland Magazine during the past year. It stated that Playhouse Square Association had opened a cabaret of sorts, and that the theatre had also been reopened. Maybe I got my wires crossed re “reopening” and “renovation.” I no longer live in the Cleveland area, so I can’t check out what has actually taken place. I only know that I was happy to hear that the Hanna had returned from the dead! I last worked there in the late 50s — on a play that starred Karl Malden. I’ve long-since forgotten the name of it. Anyway, if my info was incorrect. I apologize.
Dave: You’re right on the money! The State, Ohio, Allen & Palace were and are the best theatres in town. The Hipp had already become seedy in 1956. Years of little or no upkeep and maintenence really began to show up back then. I can’t even imagine how bad it was when the first wreecking ball started to swing. By the way: You’ll be happy to know that the Hanna is now fully restored. I understand they even put in a small cafe/restaurant, so if you visit, they might provide you with some tea and crumpets at intermission! Happy New Year!
I second Don Lewis' remarks!
TO: Brucec: I would swear that the Hipp had 4400 seats – but there seems to be some controversy about the actual number. The auditorium did undergo some changes over the years, and I do know that some seats were removed in the top balcony and in the orchestra section back in the 1950s. As for a picture, you really can’t appreciate how big the theatre really was from looking at shots of the marquee on Euclid or the one on Prospect. But surely some news photographer snapped some pictures back in the alleyway when the building was being torn down. If I lived in Cleveland now, I’d spend some time at the library going through the newspaper morgues. Surely either The Press or The Plain Dealer published some Hipp photos. Happy New Year, Bruce!