Wednesday, August 06, 2014


One wise person---was it Lillian Hellman?, Gertrude Stein?, Spike Jones?---once observed that the aesthetic opinions that one held while a child were probably correct and would still hold true in adulthood. I'm not entirely certain that necessarily holds true of my over-abiding love, whilst I was still but mere protoplasm in Buster Brown Shoes, for Abbott and Costello. (Way back then, every year I kept waiting for them to win an Academy Award.) But every time I return to Chas, WV I make my routine homage to the city's Municipal Auditorium to see if a.) it's still there (it still is and, most likely, forever will be!) and b.) if this 1939 art deco creation truly is the Mt. Olympian jewel that I recall from my childhood.   

Well, I'm happy to report that the way it appears in the postcard depiction below is exactly what I recall from my callow youth and how I continue to perceive it "live" today. In other words, Hellman, Stein, and Jones (or whomever?) are spot on when it comes to my timeless adoration of this architectural wonderwork. And lest you who are reading this right now might be a member of that ill-informed lot that still clings to the image of West Virginia as some of sort low-normal IQ backwater, here are but a few of the artists, in addition to the print ad below, who I saw at the M.A. in various permutations of touring road companies in my childhood and early-to-mid teens: Carol Channing, Betty Carter, Anita O'Day, R&H's first national tour of Oklahoma, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Betty Grable, Al Hibbler, Gene Autry and---as a goof---Miss Billy the Graham. And that's all just for starters! 

Curiously, ironically, and wonderfully, at the all-black jazz shows that were presented there, in a reversal of social tradition whites had to sit in the buzzard roost (i.e. balcony) and blacks held the main floor rights! I seldom (honky that I am) paid this barrier any mind, though, and at the Ray Charles concert I sat on stage, close enough to touch his shoes! Can't recall whether I did or not. 

Another occasIon, when I triple-dated at a show featuring R&B singing great LaVern Baker, she was so raunchy (grabbed her vaginal area and rubbed it whenever she sang the word "sugar plum") that all three girls with us were mortified---"Eeeeekkkk!"--- and insisted on fleeing the place before we even got to see Duane Eddy . (Mind you, this was the mid-1950s.) And then. . .there was the time that Frankie Lymon explained to me, at the stage entrance, what "kitchen" was ("What's that on your head?," I dumbly asked.). I could go on and on about, oh, how Carol Channing offered to take me on the road with her (I'm pretty sure she was serious). But I'll save that for some other Municipally  reflective occasion.

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