THE BOOK HOLLYWOOD DIDN'T WANT PUBLISHED
Studio "D" Publishing Company Presents
THE GOSSIP COLUMNIST
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I leased the Michigan Theater in Saginaw, Michigan. I still had Le Stag Shoppe in Flint. I also had a bookstore in Saginaw, but was closed down by the police (adult paperback books and nudist magazines). The Michigan had been a Butterfield Theater and had been closed for a couple of years. Through the owner of Dutch's Bar (at that time they only gay bar in Saginaw), I learned that someone was planning on reopening it. They had cleaned it up, painted the lobby, etc. The only problem was that the new owner had never been in theater exhibition and the way he was using his newspaper ads, I knew he wouldn't make it. And he didn't. The most people he had in one night was 200. It was a 1600 seat theater.
I arranged to lease it and I booked two of my favorite films, "The Last Voyage," and "Imitation Of Life." (This was in 1963). It did real well with a few hundred people buying tickets. A few other films I booked, filled the auditorium. We popped so much popcorn we burned out the popper and had to make an emergency call to Don Wilder, the Butterfield theater's concession's field manager. He came by and fixed the popper and told me I had a goldmine there. (Yeh, gold like in the Golden Years!) I booked a few films that the Butterfield Circuit didn't want to play, the so called art films like, Genet's "The Balcony." I double billed many second run films too. When President Kennedy was killed, I wanted to book "P.T.109," the film based on his life. But, Warner Bros. wouldn't let me book it. Today, they would have booked it in 2,000 theaters. I wanted to make money exhibiting the film, but I also wanted it to be a tribute to him. Everyone remembers where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. Well, I was in the law library researching laws on obscenity.
I ventured into "live" stage shows and used a group from Flint called "Ray Emmett and the Superiors," who had been playing at Contos bar, and had been very well received. I wanted to try and copy the Cowboy Jamboree, the format that Max Henderson used at the Palace in Flint. I called it a "Hootenanny." What do you get when you cross an owl with a goat? A Hootenanny. Well, the show went over as well as the joke. The first show was an hour late getting started. It was their first stage appearance, other than in bars, and they were scared. Everything went wrong. Finally, after half the audience left, I pulled the ropes to open the curtains, and with a spotlight on them, they finally started playing. They were well received. And to this day, I don't know what the delay was, but it was a catastrophe. I only tried it a few weeks. The group was good, but not for a theater. I must admit that I had a lousy speaker system that wasn't quite up to date.
Max's talent show at the Palace was called The Cowboy Jamboree:
"Now gather round folks, and join our party.
It's called the Cowboy Jamboree.
It's fun and frolic, for all who listen,
Then I started to book some name acts. I decided on Brian Hyland and Lou Christie. Brian had a hit with "Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," and "Sealed with A Kiss," both of which were on the charts. Lou Christie had a hit with, "A Gypsy Cried," and "Two Faces Have I." Brian was a handsome, cute guy, who turned me on. So, I featured him in a large newspaper ad with his photo in it. Lou Christie was pissed because he was "supposed" to be the headliner. I had booked them for a Monday, because it was a date that cost me less money to book. It was between their larger weekend engagements. Well, I soon learned, what had been known throughout the entertainment industry, "Don't play Saginaw on a Monday." A lot of bigger names had bombed in Saginaw on a Monday.
The second mistake was having Brian go to a local music store to sign autographs, the afternoon before the show. So, many of his fans got to see him "free" and got his autograph, and didn't have to buy tickets at the theater. Brian had taken his guitar with him and sang a few songs. I took him to a radio station for an interview and along the way, naturally, (with just the two us in the car), I had to ask him if he had ever had a "blow-job?" Leave it to old hot pants me. But, he said, "Yes, even on a New York subway." This blew my mind but I never tried anything further. He also told me that I reminded him of the man who discovered him. (I suppose many guys discovered him).
The second show of the evening was as bad attendance wise, as the first had been. I even let most of the first show stay over for the second show. Better than having an empty theater. I had worked the spotlight on the first show and the band told me how well they liked it. The projectionist ran it for the second show and it lost some of the effect. I changed the spotlight colors, to the beat of some of the songs, with fade outs, etc.
Prior to the show, a girl who came into the theater early, was talking to Brian through a partially opened stage door. They talked for a long time and I overheard Brian trying to get her to "feel his cock." He kept saying, just touch it. She was embarrassed, but infatuated, and he could have fucked her right there, if Brian had wanted to. I finally broke it up. After the second show and the audience had left, I decided to show some stag films on the screen using a 8mm projector. Of course it only took up a small portion of the big screen. We also had a couple of cases of beer and sat there a couple of hours drinking and watching the films. Bob Cline, who was related to the late Patsy Cline, went out and bought the beer. I ended up giving the band a few films to take with them. Brian had left the auditorium and had gone backstage. After a few minutes he called for me to come to the front of the theater by the stage. I talked to him about something irrelevant but felt he wanted me to come backstage with him for a quickie. I think the movies and the beer had turned him on. But, I never had the nerve and I have regretted it ever since. I believe he now lives in Hollywood and I could have looked him up, but didn't.
I had to post date some checks for the show, since it was a flop and I had depended on the ticket sales in order to pay them. And the checks eventually bounced. So, Brian and Lou, I owe you both a couple hundred dollars. I had watched them on TV a while back, and they both still look good.
That afternoon, Brian, Lou and I, went to a fast food restaurant and got into discussing a few entertainers. Lou said he heard Annette Funicello gave good head. (Richard Pryor, a few years ago at the Comedy Store, said he had heard the same thing). It was a long discussion that led into that subject.
I booked through the General Artist Corporation in Chicago and was offered a group called, "The Beatles." They were arriving in the states from England, This was before their Ed Sullivan show appearance and their records weren't even being played here. I said I needed a "known" group and decided on Lou and Brian. I had booked Chubby Checker to follow Brian and Lou but when word of the previous turnout was bad and Chubby heard about it, he backed out. I was told he was getting married and couldn't make the date.
Although I had an apartment in Flint, I also had a hotel room in Saginaw. I met an agent in the hotel bar, who was trying to book a hypnotist into the area. We decided to try it at the theater. The hypnotist went by the name of Dr. Kit. He would bring people from the audience, on stage, and hypnotize them. I was skeptical but he actually hypnotized my cashier, who had volunteered to go on stage. And through watching his show, I learned to hypnotize people and did it to the cashier, doorman and usher. I would later do it at Studio D too. Somehow, I have lost the touch over the years and haven't been able to do it in years. But, when I was able to, it really gave me a feeling of power. You could do incredible things with people and make them do things that were funny, like "when you wake up you will be Jayne Mansfield. You will walk, talk and be Jayne Mansfield." Then I would say, "One, two, three. Wake up." And the guy would actually act like he was the famous movie star. You can take people back, in their mind, to when they were children and they could remember things that only their parents could confirm later. Like the color of the wallpaper on their bedroom walls, when they were a baby. Hypnotism is a powerful thing and it's what makes people follow todays cult leaders. It's the power of suggestion.
Lafayette Yarborough had a band in Flint. And this guy could have been a superstar. He used to play at the Beecher Gardens, north of Flint. He was handsome, and he could have been a movie star. I wanted to take him on the road (among other things), but he was married and didn't want to travel. Even though he was married, between sets, he would often be in the back seat of a car "fucking a fan." He was happy enough and getting enough, without superstardom. In looks, he was a cross between Fabian and Elvis. I heard that he still plays clubs in and around Flint. Bob Houston, a friend from school, learned to play the steel guitar at the Honolulu conservatory of Music, where I had gone for lessons later. And he was very good and played with Lafayette's band at another club called the Yellow Jacket, which was also in the Beecher area. It was known for its rowdy crowds and fights, although I never saw any when I was here. Bob was a very good guitar player and in school he had been the bashful type. I never imagined that one day he would be in a band playing in public. Bob's grandmother learned to make chili from a recipe book students made at grade school. Everyone had to take a recipe and this would be made into a paper recipe book. It was a like a class project. Bob told me how much he had enjoyed my grandmother's chili recipe. He had never eaten chili before. The recipes in the book, had the students names on them so everyone would know who brought them. Mary Spivey, my grandmother, gave me the recipe to take. Grandma was a good cook. I follow that recipe yet, today.
(link:the-gossip-columnist-25.blogspot.com) Studio D. A gay non-alcoholic club in Flint.