Apollo Theater

Apollo Theater

Infobox_nrhp | name =Apollo Theater
nrhp_type =

caption = Updated Apollo Theater marquee, c. 2006
location= New York, New York
lat_degrees = 40
lat_minutes = 48
lat_seconds = 36.17
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 73
long_minutes = 57
long_seconds = 0.54
long_direction = W
locmapin = New York
area =
built =1913
architect= George M. Kaiser
architecture= Classical Revival
added = November 17, 1983
governing_body = Apollo Theater Foundation
refnum=83004059cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
The Apollo Theater in New York City is one of the most famous clubs for popular music in the United States, and certainly the most famous club associated almost exclusively with African-American performers. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


An Apollo Hall was founded in NY in the mid-1860s by former Civil War General Edward Ferrero as a dance hall and ballroom. Upon the expiration of his lease in 1872, the building was converted to a theater, which closed shortly before the turn of the century. However, the name "Apollo Theater" lived on. The Apollo was designed by the architect George M. Kaiser, who also patterned the First Baptist Church in the City of New York at 79th Street and Broadway.

Founded in 1913 in a different location, the new Apollo Theater was owned by various Jewish families up until World War II. When the Apollo first opened, it was one of New York City’s leading burlesque venues, opened and operated by two of the city’s most influential burlesque operators — Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon. Open to white-only viewers, the Hurtig and Seamon’s (New) Burlesque Theater would remain in operation until 1928 when Bill Minsky took over and transformed it into the 125th Street Apollo Theater. Sidney S. Cohen, a powerful theatrical landlord, purchased the Apollo in 1932 upon Minsky’s untimely death. The Apollo Theater finally opened its doors to African-American patrons in 1934, 20 years after the building's original opening, showcasing "a colored review" entitled "Jazz a la Carte".

Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at seventeen on November 21, 1934 at the Apollo. Fitzgerald's name pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its "Amateur Nights". She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead, in the style of Connie Boswell. She sang Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection", a song recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of US$25.00.cite news| url=http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9606/15/fitzgerald.obit/index.html |date=1996-06-15 | title=‘First Lady of Song’ passes peacefully, surrounded by family | author=Jim Moret | publisher=CNN | accessdate=2007-01-30]

One unique feature of the Apollo was "the executioner"" a man with a broom who would sweep performers off the stage if the highly vocal and opinionated audiences began to call for their removal.cite news |title= Show Time for Sad Time at Apollo |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CEED61239F934A3575BC0A964958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=print
publisher= "New York Times" |first=Lynette| last= Holloway |date= 1992-08-07

Transformation and renovation

The theater is located at 253 W. 125th Street in Harlem in what is now one of the best-known black neighborhoods in New York City and probably in all of the United States. When the Apollo re-opened in 1934, the area around 125th Street was a transitional neighborhood. In the decades before the Apollo, the theater had catered to white audiences with white shows featuring burlesque. When Sydney S. Cohen and his partner, Morris Sussman, reopened the Apollo on January 26, 1934, they published an ad in the "New York Age" which referred to the Apollo as "the finest theater in Harlem".

The first show was called "Jazz a la Carte". All the proceeds of this show were donated to the Harlem Children's Fresh Air Fund."Showtime At The Apollo", Second Edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983.] After Sydney S. Cohen's death, Morris Sussman and Frank Schiffman got together. Schiffman ran the Harlem Opera House and a merger between the two theaters was formed.Schiffman's motivation for featuring black talent and entertainment was not only because the neighborhood had become black over a two-hundred year period of gradual migration, but because black entertainers were cheaper to hire, and Schiffman could offer quality shows for reasonable rates. For many years Apollo was the only theater in New York City to hire black talent. The Apollo Theater is still a large and working theater today.cite book
first= Ted
last= Fox
year= 1983
title= Showtime at the Apollo
edition= 2nd Ed.
publisher= Holt, Rinehart and Winston
location=New York, N.Y.
pages=60, 61
id= ISBN 0-03-060534-2-0

The song "I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)" by Harry Sullivan and Harry Ruskin, written in 1929, became the theme song of the theater.

The Apollo grew to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the pre-World War II years. In 1934, it introduced its regular Amateur Night shows hosted by Ralph Cooper. Billing itself as a place "where stars are born and legends are made," the Apollo became famous for launching the careers of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, and Sarah Vaughan. The Apollo also featured the performances of old-time vaudeville favorites like Tim Moore, Stepin Fetchit, Godfrey Cambridge, Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham, Moms Mabley, Marshall "Garbage" Rogers, and Johnny Lee.

The club fell into decline in the 1960s and 1970s, but was revived in 1983, when it obtained federal, state, and city landmark status. It fully reopened in 1985. The Little Rascals, produced by former actor Jimmy Hawkins, performed at a fiftieth anniversary show at the Apollo in 1985. In 1991, the Apollo was purchased by the State of New York in 1991. It is now run by a nonprofit organization, the Apollo Theater Foundation Inc., and draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors annually. In 2005, Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama released an album "Live at the Apollo" in honor of the Harlem music scene.

It is the home of "Showtime at the Apollo", a nationally syndicated variety show consisting of new talent.

On December 15, 2005, the Apollo Theater launched the first phase of its refurbishment, costing estimated $65 million. The first phase included the facade and the new light-emitting diode (LED) marquee. Attendees and speakers at the launch event included President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons.

To date, the Apollo renovation is America's most expensive and advanced refurbishment of a landmark theater.

On December 28, 2006, the body of James Brown ("Soul Brother #1"), who had died a few days before, was displayed at the Apollo Theater as a memorial to his life and career. The memorial was covered heavily by both television and print media. This tribute to Brown once again brought the legendary Harlem theater back into the public spotlight.

On August 16, 1957, Buddy Holly was allegedly the first white rock and roll performer to play at the Apollo. [ [http://www.history-of-rock.com/daily_events_1957.htm Daily Events - 1957 ] ] That claim is challenged by Jimmy Cavallo and the House Rockers who say they performed there in December 1956, [ [http://www.hoyhoy.com/artists/cavallo.htm Jimmy Cavallo ] ] and Dale Hawkins, who says he performed there in July 1957 about a month before Holly. [ [http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4310 Dale Hawkins (1936–) - Encyclopedia of Arkansas ] ] [ [http://weeklywire.com/ww/10-26-98/boston_music_4.html Music: Still 'Q'-ed Up (The Boston Phoenix . 10-26-98) ] ] [ [http://home.att.net/~freebizak/Spaniels/spaniels.html Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks - SPANIELS ] ] Daryl Hall & John Oates played the grand re-opening in 1987, which was released on an album that year. Other rock groups that have played at the Apollo include Korn in 1999 premiering their album "Issues", The Strokes in 2001, Damon Albarn's project Gorillaz in April 2006, [ [http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1525131/20060301/gorillaz.jhtml Gorillaz To Play New York's Apollo Theater - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News ] ] Björk in May 2007 and Spiritualized when they performed their Acoustic Mainlines gig at the venue in November 2007.

In popular culture

*The Cosby Show intro theme for the 6th (1989) and 7th (1990) seasons shows pictures of the Apollo in the background.
*Lou Reed makes a reference to the Apollo in his song "Walk On The Wild Side".
*Immortal Technique references the theater in his songs, "Crossing the Boundary" and "You Never Know."
*The song "Without Love," from the Broadway musical "Hairspray", contains the line, "Without love, life is Doris Day at the Apollo."
*In the Broadway production of "Dreamgirls", the Apollo theater is where the Dreamettes enter a talent competition.
*In the "Futurama" episode, "Anthology of Interest", crustacean Dr. Zoidberg is grown to giant size and wreaks vengeful havoc on New New York. When he reaches the "famed Apollo Theatre" (his words), Zoidberg angrily yells, "Boo me off stage on Open Mic night, huh? I'll show you!!" and then kicks it to pieces.
*Substantial parts of the film "Down to Earth" featuring Chris Rock take place at the Apollo.
*In one "The Simpsons" episode, Krusty the Klown-- who on his show usually changes "C's" to "K's"-- held his unfortunately titled Krusty Komedy Klassic (KKK) at the Apollo Theater.
*Robot Chicken did a segment setting a spelling bee at the Apollo.
*Jimi Hendrix won the first place prize in an amateur musician contest here in 1964.
* Episodes of the television show "Family Guy" featured the Apollo Theater.
*A battle between the Hulk and the Abomination in "The Incredible Hulk" takes place outside the theater. [cite news | author = Shawn Adler | title = 'Incredible Hulk' Trailer: Shot-By-Shot Analysis Shows Green Guy Has Control Issues | publisher = MTV | date = 2008-03-12 | url = http://www.mtv.com/movies/news/articles/1583271/20080312/story.jhtml | accessdate=2008-03-13]
*The band Cobra Starship has a song on their album "While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets" entitled "It's Amateur Night at the Apollo Creed".
* Comedian Paul Mooney claimed Michael Richards needed to take his racist diatribe to the Apollo.


External links

* [http://www.apollotheater.com Official Apollo Theater website]
* [http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/01/youre_a_long_wa.html The Dick Davy Story]

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