Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Fabulous Fox-Part 2

Welcome to my 2nd and final post devoted to the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, MO. 

I know it seems like I've been going on and on about this amazing place. How-ever, no matter how much I share with you on this blog, I can't truly convey the magnificence of this building.  

It has a 90 year history is filled with fortune, fame and an amazing resurgence. I'm not going to give you all the details here. Here's a link to what one source has to say. Fox Theater History

My goal in this 2nd post is to take you on a review of the tour that we took on the Saturday we were in town. 

This was a 2 1/2 hour tour with stops in just about every nook and cranny of this theater. I want to share as much of it as I can. So this is going to be a very detailed post with plenty of pictures. 

As you may recall, the tour started with a quick side trip to a newly built area of the theater. A lounge named, "Curtain Call" on the left side of the building. 

This is a shot that shows some of the posters and tables. 

Here are a couple more posters.

This shot taken through the archway that divides the split level room, shows the black piano. It's kind of hard to see. Look closely on the left. There's a candle setting on top of it. 
 And of course, no lounge would be complete without a full bar to provide the libations before or after the show. 

 Curtain Call reminded me of what a speak easy from prohibition days might have looked like. The posters give it that international touch. 

Once we were led back into the lobby, the large group was divided into 2 smaller ones each with their own tour guide. Our guide was an older gentleman named "Ted. S." Let me say from the very start that this guy knew his stuff. You could tell he had a passion and appreciation for the theater. I'm just sorry I didn't get a picture with him. 

We started out by filing into the showroom being directed to find a seat somewhere in the first few rows. One of the special touches is the back of the seats were embroidered. 

On the way down the aisle my head was on a swivel as I tried to take in all I could from this vantage point in the theater. Here are pictures of my two favorite views: The chandelier & ceiling... 
 ...and the raised stage curtain. 
There will be a better view of the facade above the stage later.

Sitting spaced out so everyone could have an unobstructed the front of the stage, our group got ready to see an integral part of The Fox Theater. Something that is only included on the Saturday version of the tour. 

An element that was just as impressive on this day as it was when it made it's debut on January 31, 1929. That's the day The Fox opened it's doors. 

Words cannot adequately describe this object. I have to show it to you. 

Because of the limitations of the blogspot website, I had to put the videos on You Tube. The first link is just below. First, I have a couple of things to tell you about it. 

The music you hear is being played live. It takes about 30 seconds for you to see just where it's coming from. But its worth the wait. Here's the link:
The Best Thing At The Fox

The organist, Jack Moelmann...
...was a talented and humorous host for this introduction to and demonstration of one of the hidden secrets of The Fox. 

Here are a couple more You Tube videos of the moments that had me mesmerizedThe Fox Theater Organ

Jack Moelmann Plays Music That's Not From "Phantom"

As part of his talk with us, Mr. Moelmann proudly announced that in his younger days he served in the U.S. Air Force. 

He then led us in a sing-along of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" followed by a verse of "America The Beautiful". 

Standing there singing those songs accompanied by that organ was so much fun. I loved it. 

After the sing-a-long was finished we were guided out of the showroom. We headed up to the 4th floor. 
Don't worry we took the very stylish elevator. We started at the top and worked our way down. 

A hallway at the top of the theater is a special area devoted to the history of the shows that have come to the theater. 

It's known as "Peacock Alley" because there is a peacock overhead at each end. 
 Along the sides of this hallway is a series of collages. Each is a composite of the shows that played the theater in a specific year ever since it's reopening in 1982. 
Also on the 4th floor was a special tribute that gave me a "Wow, I never knew that" moment. 

When I was growing up, Stan Kann was the very funny guy who appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and other talk shows. He would bring on inventions or gadgets that never worked right or fell apart. 

These "malfunctions" initially happened by accident during his initial appearance with Carson. Check out this link:
Kann On The Tonight Show

But, as you can see, his misfortunes quickly turned into his gimmick. Here's a link to a clip of one of his typical talk show appearances.Stan Kann With Bill Cosby

But this display paid tribute to Mr. Kann, a native St. Louis resident, for his many years as the official organist of the Fabulous Fox Theater. 

Among St. Louisians, he is considered a cultural legend and a master musician. 

It just goes to show you that you never know what you don't know. There's a lot more to share about Stan Kann. I'll be doing that in a future post. 

Next we worked our way down to the next level. Here's a unique look down through the theater's spiraling stairs. 
Our next stop was on a floor that's somewhat exclusive. It's the Fox Club level. 
This is the level that is for those special theater supporters. Among the perks is the availability of an exclusive lounge. 
The Fox Lounge has a full bar and food available. It's a place for Fox Club members to sit and have a drink after the show or something to eat before. There's several balcony tables that over look the theater lobby. 
Fox Club members also have their own luxury box seating area in the showroom. It is on what is normally considered a mezzanine level and gives you a great view of the stage.  
You can also order food and drinks from the wait staff throughout the performance.

Sounds great right? But you'd better get out your wallet. A full season membership for a group of 4 seats costs over $34,000. I think I'll pass.  

During our time in these luxury boxes I took this shot of the full sized elephant's head that's above the stage. 
Also, as promised, here's a shot of the entire stage. This is the view from the seats at the Fox Club level. 
Once we left the lap of luxury, our guide stopped us on the 2nd floor and had us look over a balcony at the showroom vestibule for us to see this. 
Ted explained that we were looking down at the Fox's ghost light. 

He told us that, traditionally, it is kept burning at all times to keep away the condition of total darkness in the theater. Supposedly this would keep the theater's ghosts quiet when the place is empty.  

Although he has never seen any, there are other people who work in the theater who claim to have encountered The Fox's resident haunts. 

He went on about them a little too long for me. My guess was that he was trying to promote interest in the "Ghost Tours" they have around Halloween.  

We took the elevator down to the basement and after a quick stop in the screening room headed for the stage. 

On our journey through the basement passage ways and rooms we were introduced to a Fox Theater tradition. 

Since it reopened 1982, any act or show, or company that performs at The Fox leaves their mark on the walls in the hallways of backstage area. This is usually done with a painted logo or representation unique to the show and signed by the cast.

There are hundreds of these works of arts throughout the theater. They are every where you look. Here is a video spanning just one of the many rooms with walls covered with this commemorative art work. 
Here are some of my favorites. 

Paula liked this display that was painted on the back of a stairwell because it included real branches. 
And we were both impressed with this memento left behind by the great comic Red Skelton. 
Finally, after snaking through the basement and backstage area it was time to step onto the stage. 

We were fortunate enough that no show was set up on the stage. That would have made it off limits. 
I thought it was really cool to be on the same stage as the hundreds of shows and artists represented by the drawings we just walked past. And of course, most recently, the two comics we had seen just 2 nights earlier, Martin & Short. 

Ted showed us, the locations of the 2 lifts. They lower a section of the stage floor down into the basement and allow sets and props to be moved during a show. He also literally showed us the ropes that allow stage crews to manually raise and lower scenery.  

We also got to see what the showroom looks like from the performers perspective. It was yet another awe inspiring view of an amazing place. 
Here's a video panning the room. You can hear our tour guide giving us instructions. I tried to get a close up view of the organ but it didn't quite work out. 
From the stage we went back up to the 4th floor where we saw the dressing rooms. After that it was back down to the main floor. 

After close to two and a half hours of exploration, we were back in the lobby. I was tired and needed to sit down. But in the Fabulous Fox Theater even sitting down can be something special. 
So there you have the highlights of our tour. It was a great time and I can't really convey the feeling of wonder and anticipation at almost every corner. 

I have only shared a small portion of what we saw on the tour and a fraction of the detail that makes the Fox a true monument to this country's past. But I had to give you at least a taste of this magnificent place. 

There are ornate and intricate details literally everywhere you look. 

I want to thank my wife, Paula, for her contribution in helping me capture some of the amazing things we saw that morning. If she hadn't taken pictures I wouldn't have been able to share them with you. 

Because my first experiences with The Fox Theater were so compelling I will make it a point to get back there the next time I'm in St. Louis. 

I sure hope you enjoyed this post and what I shared in it. I know it was extremely long, even for this blog. But I had to give you as close to a complete picture of just what a great experience it was.  

Thanks for taking the time to come by. I'll see you at my next post very soon. For now, good-bye everybody. 

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