Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Fabulous Fox

One morning we went downtown to take a tour of the Fox Theatre. DH had taken me to a Gordon Lightfoot concert there when we were dating. I was excited to get inside again as it is without a doubt THE most ornate theater I've ever been in.

Mr. Fox reportedly built 5 theaters around the country in the late 1920's. All were named "Fox Theatre." The St. Louis Fox was built in 1927-28 and openend in January of 1929, nearly 11 months prior to the stock market crash of Oct. 29, 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression. Hard to believe when you step through the golden doors......

and into the lobby......

When the theater opened in 1929 it was a movie theater. Can you imagine?? There was an older woman with us on the tour who had grown up in St. Louis. She had gone to the movies at The Fox as a girl/young woman. She didn't say an exact date/era, but did report that when she went, the price of admission was $.35 (thirty-five cents!)

The theater holds 4,425 people. The original Wurlitzer organ which was played when the theater first opened (the films were silent movies at the time!) is still at the front. Turns out this is the theater where the famed Stan Kann played the organ for decades. He made many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. (Often had a vacuum in tow!)

Today, the movie screen has been removed and the theater houses live productions. It was nearly demolished in the 1970's after a series of rock performances had "nearly trashed" the interior. Thankfully that didn't happen.

This is the stage from the first of three/four balconies.....

The chandalier is 12' across. The little basket above the front curtain was used in the Fox's production of Phantom of the Opera. The phantom swoops down in very dramatic style to take the audience and cast back to the 1800s.

We got to stand on stage and tour back stage. It was interesting to see the signatures of all the people who've performed there on the walls. I photographed a Santana and Richard Harris who performed in Camelot there. We got to see the five stories of dressing rooms.

We got to walk through the Fox Club, which is the second floor of the theater. It costs member corporations $20 to $25,000 a year to belong. For that they get to bring 8 people per night of a show to dinner 1.5 hours before the show and sit in box seats. We got to try the box seats, and frankly I didn't think the view was very great as the top part of ths stage wasn't visible because of the balcony above.

It was all very interesting. (Even the kids seemed to enjoy the tour.)

Today there are only three Fox Theatres remaining: Atlanta, Detroit and St. Louis. The Atlanta theater is purportedly quite ornate, but a different style altogether. The Detroit Fox is said to be a near duplicate of the St. Louis Fox.

The Fox is in St. Louis' "Arts District" which also houses the Powell Theater (now home to either the symphony or opera, I can't remember.) Here are a few scenes from the blocks immediately surrounding the Fox Theatre.

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