Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The IMA auditorium Flint, Michigan




Must be 18 years old. Rated "R" for expletives

Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other Internet book sites
Retailers may order at INGRAM Book Distributors

ISBN  978-0-615-37758-2

Published by Studio "D" Publishing Company


(This is the manuscript. The book has all the photos with the chapters)

I guess every city has a large auditorium for different live venues. I guess the IMA was like a second home to me. I was always going there to see something. I can remember when they had "free" movies for whomever wanted to go. When I was about eleven I went a couple of time with my Uncle Charles, but we had to sit way up in the upper balcony. The place was filled, but it was comfortable, like a real theater.  And the movies were "old" films. Now-a-days those old movies have become "collectibles" on tape and DVDs.                   

Years later I would go to see "The Big Beat Show." It was a Rock and Roll show sponsored by disc jockey, Alan Freed. The program featured Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Brenda Lee, 'Screaming' Jay Hawkins, the Big Bopper and many others, whose names I cannot remember. Once again I managed to get backstage. I knew the stage hands, who also worked at the local theaters. So, I got to watch the show, "with the performers," backstage. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis walking on the piano keys and the stage manager, Jack Mann, was cussing him because they had just gotten the piano tuned. Then a girl jumped up on the stage and ran over and hugged Jerry Lee. Jerry wanted her to stay but the police led her away. Jerry Lee's father was there too, and was giving someone hell for letting her get on the stage. A year or so later, Jerry Lee married his "thirteen year old cousin." That was one of the first and biggest Rock and Roll shows of that era, and I'll always remember it. Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper would die soon after in a plane crash.

Three big bands played on three consecutive nights. Ray Anthony, Billy May and Stan Kenton. I don't know why there aren't many big bands around today. I guess the cost of traveling and with so many musicians, it's hard to make ends meet. But, I loved to hear them play. The Ice Capades also played there and the shows were beautiful. It was the biggest thing in downtown Flint.

Art Mann was a local stage hand who was a member of the stage hand's union and the brother of Jack Mann who ran the IMA. Art was the maintenance man at the Capitol theater and he had also worked at the Palace and had a photo developing room in the basement. He changed the letters on the marquee and the lightbulbs in the theater. When there would be a big show at the IMA most of the stage hands would be working there too, especially when the circus came to town. Art told me that when Oral Roberts' crusade came to the IMA, and he supposedly healed the people in the audience, many of whom were in wheelchairs, and that after the show ended the stage hands had to load the wheelchairs into Robert's van to haul them to the next town. The so called healed people were hired actors who traveled with the crusade. When I asked why they hadn't exposed him, he said it would be like attacking god. Nobody would believe Roberts was a fraud.

The IMA would be used for a venture called Auto World. I wasn't living in Flint at that time, so I don't know how the interior was changed. The whole idea of an Auto World in a town where most of the people worked in the automobile factories, was a dumb idea. People there knew all there was to know about automobiles and it sure wasn't a destination for tourists to go see either. It failed and instead of restoring it back to its original use, a place for entertainment, it was razed, completely destroyed. For what it cost to tear it down, a few million I heard, it could have been reseated and still operating today bringing 5,000 people to downtown Flint. Now they want to build a new one, elsewhere!

Johnny Mathis was a big star when he appeared there. It was a rainy evening and the audience turnout was low because of the rain. But, what a showman and what a singer he is. He even sang extra numbers because of the warm reception he had received. I led some of my gay friends backstage, (knowing how to sneak past the security guards), so they could get his autograph. But, Johnny was late catching his train, so he was told. Yes, they traveled by train in those days. And his manager wouldn't let him stay to sign autographs. I had already learned that the train would be late and tried to convey this to his manager. Johnny started to come back, but decided to follow his manager's advise and left. We all knew Johnny was gay and wanted to talk to him. I'm sure he knew we were all gay too. He probably regretted having to wait at the train depot. The station was named the Grand Trunk Railroad and the Rock group Grand Funk Railroad was from Flint and "borrowed" or put a twist on the name for their group.

( The Actor's Studio - New York