Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, New York, NY

The Beacon Theatre was originally conceived by film producer Herbert Lubin in 1926 as part of a projected chain of deluxe New York City movie palaces.

The planned Roxy Theatre Circuit was to be operated by Lubin and Samuel L. "Roxy" Rothafel with the famous Roxy Theatre as its flagship. Planned as the Roxy Midway Theatre, the future Beacon was designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager of Chicago, the architect of the 6,000-seat Roxy, as a smaller mate to the great Times Square theater [4]. However, the collapse of Lubin's fortunes doomed the Roxy scheme and the Midway was never opened.
The nearly completed theater sat vacant for a time and was eventually acquired by Warner Theatres to be a first-run showcase for Warner Brothers films on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The renamed it Warner's Beacon Theatre and opened on December 24, 1929.

Designed as a silent film showplace, the theater's delayed opening featured a talking picture (Tiger Rose with Lupe Velez), silent films having already become obsolete.
Later operated by Brandt Theaters, the Beacon continued as a primarily first-run movie theater into the early 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Gerald DeLuca

Glora Swanson, Beacon Theater, New York, NY (Photo courtesy Gerald DeLuca)

photo series courtesy of Ed Solero

In the mid 1970s Marvin Getlan and Allen Rosoff bought the theater and it began its new life as a major presenter of live concerts.

Miles Davis plays a gig here consisting of simple and emotional music. He was toying with the crowd, making faces at them.

Designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, the Beacon Theatre is a fantastic Art Deco treasure, built as silent pictures began talking and as vaudeville capitulated to the movie palace era.

This original design includes an open-air marble lobby trimmed in gold, which is entered into through the building’s original bronze doors. The lobby opens up to a set of stairs that lead to two large landings that open to either of two balconies. The landings provide plenty of room for fans to congregate in between sets. Both balconies provide a great look at the stage. The sound is just as crisp and clear from the balcony as it is from the floor, but the floor is still the preferred spot to be during a show.

The three-level auditorium is distinguished by 30-foot statues of Greek women on each side of the proscenium arch.

Other features include an open-air lobby, bronze front doors, ornate moldings, white marble floors, and corridor murals depicting elephants, camels and traders.
It had a gorgeous fountain in the lobby with a cupid or nymph.

An article in the March, 1930 issue of Moving Picture Review and Theatre Management claims that when Warner Brothers took over the as yet unused theatre, it completely gutted the auditorium and built a new one with Rapp & Rapp as contractors and Stanly C. Zoest in charge of the project, which took six weeks to complete by 200 workers on a day-and-night schedule. The new auditorium, which was eight stories high from ground floor to the dome in the ceiling, was described as a mixture of Byzantine and Moorish styles. Murals along the side walls were painted by the famous Danish artist, Valdemar Kjoldgaard. (Warren Harris)-cinematreasures)

The Beacon Theatre was the brainchild of Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel and is the "older sister to Radio City Music Hall." The 2,849-seat, three-tiered art deco theater, designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager, has been a favored New York City stop for top acts since it opened in 1929. Remarkably, the original sound-system still provides near-perfect acoustics today.

The theater's ornate neo-Grecian interior features thirty-foot-tall Greek goddesses flanking the proscenium arch of its curtainless stage, which can rise from its basement level carrying a full classical orchestra.
Under its marquee is an exterior lobby with tile flooring extending to the sidewalk along Broadway between 74th and 75th Streets. Entry is gained through its bronze-doored vestibule into an opulent two-story circular lobby. White marble floors give way to mahogany bars on both the orchestra and mezzanine levels, and two more levels provide access to both the foot and top of its steeply inclined upper balcony. Some climb many stairs, past the second balcony, to get to the projection booth. Exquisite detailing abounds throughout, including polished hardwood and terra cotta moldings, brass staircase rails, and corridor murals depicting Eastern scenes of trading caravans with elephants, camels and other animals depicted.

When Howard Stein decided to get out of the promotions gig and left the Academy of Music on 14th Street some of us that worked for him moved uptown to the Beacon. This was about 1974.  Ron Delsner did leave the Beacon for a short period when he took over the Academy of Music and changed the name to Palladium. Ron left there and came back to the Beacon again. When I was working the shows there was an elevator that went to the top floor dressing rooms. In the 70's it was not working. It was a real pain having to find someone when most of the lower dressing rooms were being occupied. From what I gather the elevator is now running. The stage is also at an angle where it is narrow on stage right and deeper stage left. The whole building is on an angle. This was another theatre where road cases had to get unpacked and then rolled back on to the trucks.

In 1979, the historic venue was designated a national landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here's a news article from December 7, 1995:
Thursday, December 7th 1995, 1:95AM
Pop superstar Michael Jackson, his blood pressure dangerously low and his body dehydrated, collapsed on the stage at the Beacon Theatre yesterday while rehearsing for a much-hyped international television concert.
Emergency medical technicians found the singer semi-conscious and mumbling.
"We would characterize this as a serious condition based on our initial findings," Emergency Medical Service spokesman John Hanchar said.
The superstar's sister singer Janet Jackson rushed to his side in the intensive care ward of Beth Israel Medical Center's North Division on East End Ave. Doctors said he was in stable condition and would be held overnight.
Looking deadly pale, Jackson was wheeled into the intensive care unit his stretcher surrounded by his guards wielding walkie-talkies past nurses excited by the unexpected celebrity appearance. The 37-year-old star was lying on his back under a white sheet, breathing through a mask.
Jackson's private doctor jumped on a plane in Los Angeles and was due in New York after midnight.
The singer, who had been working punishing hours practicing for the Home Box Office special, slated to be aired Sunday night, collapsed just before 5 p.m. as he rehearsed the song "Black or White," witnesses said.
"All of a sudden, the music just stopped," said Mindy Shuss, manager at Joe's clothing store next to the Beacon Theater at 74th St. and Broadway.
Shuss, 35, was huddled in the bathroom at the back of the store, listening to Jackson's singing coming clearly through the wall, when the star fainted.
"He has sounded great for the past three days, but today he didn't sound like he was singing as much as yesterday and the day before," she said. "But it didn't sound like he was going to be taken away in a stretcher."
The HBO show, "Michael Jackson, One Night Only," was to have paired the self-dubbed King of Pop with legendary French mime Marcel Marceau. HBO said 250 million people worldwide were expected to tune in.
EMS received the first, anonymous call at 4:51 p.m. saying Jackson had collapsed and wasn't breathing a symptom that made the call Priority 1.
Emergency Medical Technicians Kevin Barwick and La-Shunn Knight were first on the scene and found Jackson lying on the stage, semi-conscious and very pale.
Jackson's thick face makeup was "peeling and running. It made him look weird," Barwick said."He was lethargic. He was speaking slowly, mumbling."
Jackson was given oxygen and fluids intravenously.
Jackson's wife, Lisa Marie Presley, was immediately contacted.
"She's totally aware of it, and she's been in touch with the doctors. She's dealing with it and taking care of business," said her publicist, Paul Block, who refused to reveal where Jackson's wife was.
Janet Jackson, who arrived at the hospital about 6:40 p.m., was whisked away just after 9 p.m. in a livery van. She had no comment.
Jackson's lawyer, Carl Douglas, learned of the singer's collapse as he headed for the airport in Los Angeles to come see the show's taping in New York. "He's been working himself very hard," Douglas said.
It was not known if the show which has been promoted for weeks would be canceled. "We really don't know. The concern right now is his health," said HBO spokesman Quentin Schaffer.
Jackson's manager, Bob Jones, told the Daily News on Tuesday that the superstar has rehearsed seven hours a day for the past two weeks, shuttling between the Sony Studios on W. 54th St. and the Beacon Theater.
"I think he's just tired," said James Hall, one of Jackson's backup singers, who was not in the theater when the star collapsed. "He should be okay. We are praying for him, that he gets a speedy recovery. It's really a shock to everybody."
The painfully shy former child star had been scheduled to appear with his sister at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards last night at the Coliseum. Tina Turner accepted a career achievement award on his behalf.
Before Jackson's collapse, a handful of fans waited outside the theater, watching the sickly superstar his face covered with black gauze go back and forth to a white trailer, escorted by a phalanx of guards.
"Yesterday [Tuesday], he was in the van for like three hours, and he came back out and his eyes were red and glassy. I don't know if he was sleeping or crying or what," said Jackie Wallrath, who had been keeping tabs on Jackson for days.
Low blood pressure can be caused by dehydration, internal bleeding such as from an ulcer, lack of food, an infection or heart or neurological problems.
It also can be caused by pain medications, tranquilizers and narcotics. Jackson has said he kicked a long addiction to pain pills.
One music industry source said Jackson's honchos were abuzz all week, trying to find a way to hype the concert.
Schaffer frowned when reporters asked him if the collapse was a publicity stunt. "That's really sad," he said.
Inside the theater, stagehands continued to rig the lighting for the event, which was scheduled to be taped tomorrow and Saturday.
The heavily hyped special is seen as something of a comeback attempt. Jackson's latest album, "HIStory," wasn't the chart phenomenon his previous records ha ve been.
Jackson's rocketing career hit a few speed bumps in the last few years, with allegations of child molestation, a stilted marriage and a bizarre television interview in which he vowed not to stop allowing young boys into his bed.
A 1986 proposal to convert the 2,600-seat, three-tiered theatre into a disco was blocked when a judge ruled the change would irreparably damage the building's architecture
Many of the greatest names in music have played the Beacon including the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Radiohead, and Queen. The Allman Brothers hold an annual rite of spring concert series known as “The Beacon Run.” In the past 10 years, they have performed over 150 shows here.
The theatre has also hosted such operatic events as “Madame Butterfly” (1988) and “Ballet on Broadway” (1978) and was the first concert hall outfitted for IMAX for the film “The Rolling Stones at the Max,” December 1991.
In 2006 Bill Clinton ended his 60th birthday celebration at the Beacon with a private Rolling Stones concert.

That same year the theater commenced a 20-year lease by Cablevision, owner of Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden. The company announced a planned a $10 million renovation of the theater.

The interior of Beacon Theatre was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1979.
Despite the career changes the Beacon has gone through, it has still retained its original look and design. This is due in large part to the theater being a nationally registered Art-Deco landmark, which means that the interior is protected from any alteration or destruction. Any work that is done has to maintain the integrity of the original design.
Today, the Beacons chief reputation, amid a curtain-less stage and flawless acoustics, is as a fierce concert house.

National Register #82001187 (1982)

Jerry performed here on
10/28/75 Early and late shows Jerry Garcia Band
6/14/76 Grateful Dead
6/15/76 Grateful Dead(3)
4/21/82 Early and late shows John Kahn (acoustic)
12/9/83 Early and late shows Jerry Garcia Band(6)

1.)^Strasberg, Hadiya, New Beacon Shines Brightly, 2010-08,
2.)^Haas, Howard B.,
5.)^Covell, Anne B., (September 1982). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Beacon Theater and Hotel". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation