Run-down playhouse theater in Boston that was first built in 1842 by Archibald Dudley. It was very popular throughout the 19th century and had many renovations until the very last in 1896, when business started to wane because of the growing popularity of cinema. The owner at the time, the same man who built the theater, put in a moving picture screen and projector in order to keep up with the trend, but other theaters offering expensive luxuries such as air-conditioning and beverage stands were more appealing to the growing audiences, who were moving quickly away from the old-fashioned live performances.
The playhouse had a limited success in the all-popular vaudeville, but it never recieved the attention it deserved. In 1898, when Mr. Dudley was 82 years old, he decided to put the Amazon through another conversion -- this time, planning to turn it into a dance hall, catering to the growing fashion of the sentimental ballads such as "After The Ball", and the Irish immigrants that were coming over to the United States and looking for a good time.
Before Archibald Dudley could realize his grand dance hall vision, he died, leaving the theater to his 51 year old son, Verne Dudley who had been born only a few years after the theater had been built. Verne wanted to continue what his father had started and began work on transforming the once-magestic theater to a grand ballroom. Hard times hit, though, and Verne was not able to finish what he had started, but somehow kept the theater afloat by showing films and holding plays as it had been.
Verne Dudley now is 78 years old and a goofy, bumbling old man who spends his days spinning reel after reel through his projector and living the glory days of the Amazon Theater.9/14/2011 #1
Russ and Jane entered the lobby of the Amazon Theater. Russ had gone to work at the Jazz Club monday morning and had asked Jane to come along with him to find a place where his newly-formed band could practice. Jane suggested taking a look at the Amazon, as it had been run-down ever since she could remember, and when she had visited before, there had hardly been anyone there.
Russ believed her as soon as he saw the formerly ornate decorations, the walls once eggshell white with gold trim, but what was only gilded compared to the now-deteriorated state.
"Gee." Russ said. "This place could be beautiful if it had a little work."
"Who's there?" An elderly voice called from a grand staircase that twisted toward a second level that led obviously to balconies. An old, hunched-over man with white hair came hobbling down the stairs toward them, a Civil War era revolver in his thin and trembling hand.
"He's got a gun!" Russ shouted. He pushed Jane behind him and held his hand out toward the old man. "Wait a minute! We don't want trouble!"
"Don't want trouble, do you not?" The old man replied, hobbling toward them with the revolver leveled at Russ's chest. "Who are ye, a reb?"
"A reb?" Russ replied in amazement. "No! I'm leading a band! We wanted to know if we could use this space to practice."
The old man lowered his revolver and grinned. "It isn't loaded. It hasn't been since the War Between The States. Found it on a dead Johnny."
"You found it?" Russ replied, extremely interested. "You weren't in the war-"
"Sure was. Was in from '64 to '65."
"Gee, that's swell!" Russ cried.9/14/2011 #2
"So what do you want?" The old man suddenly growled in a serious chancge of tone.
"I have a band," Russ repeated, "and we want a place to practice."
"Why should I let you?"
"Well, perhaps we can play here and bring in more business."9/14/2011 #3
"What makes you think you'll bring in more business than I am?" The old man replied.
"I'm not entirely sure." Russ said. "But there's no harm in finding out. We'll - we'll even help you with maintenance and repairs. We'll paint and clean up and take care of whatever you need us to if you let us practice here."
The old man thought on it. "What's your name, young man?"
Russ grinned. "Russ Stafford. This is my friend, Jane Kennedy."
"Verne Dudley. I suppose there's no harm in letting you practice here if you'll do as you said."
"Oh, yes sir, we will!" Russ said, pumping Verne's hand excitedly. "I'll tell the fellows! When can we practice?"
"Sundays are usually the slowest."
"All right!" Russ cried. "Sunday it is! Thank you, Mr. Dudley! We'll be back next Sunday!"
They exchanged farewells and Russ and Jane exited the theater.9/14/2011 #4
Russ, Eddie and Jane sat in the first row of seats in the great auditorium as one of the auditioners left the stage in disappointment. Eddie sighed.
"Say, Russ, can't anyone play the sax?" He exclaimed.
"Sure." Russ replied. "Just no one in Boston."
"There's three more guys." Jane said, looking over toward the stage stairs.
"Next guy!" Russ called.
A young Latin walked up to the stage with a saxophone hanging from his shoulder by a leather strap.
"Great." Eddie said. "A wetback."
"Hello." The young man said.
"How are you?" Russ said.
"Swell. What are you going to play?"
"I can play whatever you want."
"Play "For Me and My Gal"."
"Okay." The young man adjusted his sax and started playing. Eddie grinned at Russ.
Jane touched Russ's arm excitedly.
"You're in!" Russ shouted over the sax.
The boy lowered the instrument. "What?"
"I said you're in."
"Say, that's just wonderful!" The young man replied.
"What's your name?"
Russ grinned. They had a band.9/19/2011 #5
"No, that's not it at all." Russ said, waving his batons for the orchestra to stop playing "I'm Just Wild About Harry". "Not at all."
Fourteen boys sat on the stage of the Amazon with their instruments, and Jane Kennedy sat on the edge of the stage, bored. George Wagner had brought in his drum set and was sitting to the rear of the orchestra. Archie Stone sat on the other side with his guitar in his lap, and started aimlessly plucking the strings. Chester Phelps, Ross Kreuger and Clinton Mathis sat at the front of the orchestra on clarinets. Harry Payne and Cecil Gould sat behind them on trumpets. Eddie Connelly, Marvin Harris and Aubrey Hampton sat next to the trumpets on trombone. Leslie Rose on bass was next to Archie Stone, and Enrico Pomeras and Ben Robbins were holding up the rear of the horns on saxophone, next to George Wagner.
"Let's try again, huh?" Russ said.
"We're short on reeds." Chester complained.
"And everything else." Aubrey Hampton added. Some of the fellows laughed.
"That's why we have to make it up with talent." Russ said. "Now come on. "Wild About Harry". Let's do it over."
"We need you on piano." Eddie interrupted. "How the hell are we going to do it without piano?"
"I'm leading the band."
"Come on, Eubie Blake." Clinton Mathis said.
"We've got to drag the piano up from the basement later." Russ said. "And get it tuned. Let's do without for now."
Everyone piped down and Russ led them in.9/19/2011 #6
Russ swept his fingers along the keys after the band finished "I'm Just Wild About Harry". It had taken a long time, but they were really swell. Jane Kennedy was on vocals and was sweating in the hot auditorium.
"I think we're ready to play our first joint." Russ said.
"We'd better be." Aubrey Hampton said. "But later. I've got something to do. Come on, Clint."
"See you fellows later." Clinton Mathis jumped out of his seat and he and Aubrey Hampton jogged out of the theater.
"That was really hot, Jane." Russ said. "Really jumping."
"You think so?"
"Sure I do!"
"Hey, Russ, what about me?" Enrico asked.
"What about you?" Everyone laughed at that. "All right, fellows, that's all for today. I'll try to get us a gig and I'll see you again. I'll let you know if I get something."
The band dispersed and Russ said goodbye to Archie. That made him think of Archie telling him that he had seen Lillian.9/21/2011 #7
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