Never saw this one coming!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Never saw this one coming!

Updated 07/09/2009 – 10:40 am

"Club Marakesh-Our First Reunion?!?"

The "First," presumably, of others planned.

Club Marakesh Reunion flyer

Club Marakesh was an extraordinarily success­ful phenomenon which actually stemmed from an evening on Broadway in early Spring 1975.

I had won a pair of tickets to a Broadway pro­duction as part of a WRCN-FM1 promotion by naming the show to which tickets would soon be given away.

(And it was all legit! My powers of ratio­cination, as rum-sodden as they were at the time, kicked in and I de­duced2 it was Harry Cha­pin's "The Night That Made America Famous.")

A hint that the show was in trouble: the day we were to attend... WRCN's Mike Fischetti sent over four (4!) complimentary tickets!

I asked my office neighbor Ned Dougherty if he and his fiancé Ginny wanted to take the other two Annie Oaklies and join us that even­ing, which is how four of us came to be at New York City's Ethel Barrymore Theater.

Back then Ned was an Oirish-Catholic kid from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, easily impressed by things which ordinarily wouldn't turn others' heads. We had eighth row orchestra seats next to an area from which two rows of six seats had been removed in order to accommodate what would come to be known as a "multi-media pit."

The Night That Made America Famous Playbill

It was both Ned's and my first ever "multi-media" experience3, and while we both enjoyed it immensely, he immediately deemed it to be "the greatest show I've ever seen!"

But Ned, real estate broker and fledgling im­presario whose all-time favorite film4 was the classic "Casablanca," envisioned his future unfolding, and set upon a course of action which ultimately led to 133 Main Street, the former Parlato's automobile dealership and garage.

First there was the abortive "A Night at Casa­blanca" at Dune Road's Port o'Kai, advertised two weeks running in Dan's Papers that June, unfortunately before Ned had formalized any lease with the landlord.

(Not surprisingly, the early advs. caused new terms to be offered which Ned's ex­chequer could not accommodate.)

But a year later, with Carl Johanson now very much involved, Club Marakesh sprang, much as did Hera from Zeus' brow, from the printing plant that music publisher Charles Hansen had demised on June 30th.

Opening night was Friday, July 30th, and while it was truncated by an oddly-timed police act­ion5, the multi-media disco was there to stay, and was an incandescent spot in downtown Westhampton Beach!

Almost immediately, it became the place to go, and stayed that way for many years!

The late Joe Rhodie, who owned La Ronde Beach Club, hated Club Marakesh from the jump, feeling it contributed to a "honky-tonk atmosphere" on Main Street.

(I liked Joe, but there is no denying that he exuded a certain palpable snobisme.)

For reasons beyond the scope of this mono­graph, Marakesh over-stayed its welcome... it never realized that the '80s weren't really an extension of the '70s, and it never quite got a handle on the ugliness to which it was catering at the end, and which ultimately brought the exciting party which began in 1976 to a violent close with one of the three terrible events to befall the area two decades later.

It was a helluva run, though.

And to Ned and his Mission of Angels founda­tion which will benefit from the July 25th "re­union," sincere good luck.

But I don't believe it can be recaptured or re-created in a converted potato barn6 in Tucka­hoe, so I'll pass and not disturb the dust of the years which has sifted onto bright memories of the pretty people dancing, Joe Chapuis at the rope in a role to which he was born, and Ron Buchinski and Ian Carson be­hind the bar, and those delightful post-Saint Patrick's Parade bashes Marakesh annually hosted.

As Karloff tragically utters in Bride of Frank­enstein: "We ... belong ... dead!"

Just so.

Coda

The inspiration for Club Marakesh, "The Night That Made America Fam­ous," opened at the Barrymore on February 26, 1975 following 14 preview per­formances. It closed on April 6 after 75 shows. It was nominated for two Grammy awards.

I still think it was a great show!

Notes
  1. Lest anyone suspect that the ol' fix was in, this was four years before I began re­viewing movies for that station.
  2. My sole clue was that I knew that Pro­gram Director Don Brink and Chapin's wife Sandy were friendly enough that Harry had done a gag promotional spot for Don's morning show.
  3. The closest I had come to anything like that would have been the Joshua Light Show at the old Filmore East in the late '60s!
  4. One of the advantages of my four years sequestered in the woods of Quogue without a 'phone was that I didn't have to field 1:00 am calls from Ned at Magic's asking me the name of Sydney Green­street's bar in that film. ("Blue Parrot.")
  5. Okay, it was a raid led by Police Chief Jim Doyle over a silly procedural matter... silly because neither Ned, Ginny nor Carl had taken care of obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy in a timely fashion.
  6. At one time known as "Great Scott!," the main feature of which was the singular illusion of a small aeroplane having crashed through its roof.

Comments

1. Pepper Mintz said...

Some things are better left in the past. I'm pretty sure this is one of them.

I just spoke to Ned... he is very enthusiastic about the upcoming event.
– Dean

2. Guy said...

I remember a few Club Marakesh reunions at The Patio in recent years; so what makes this one the first....... oops, they were Scarlett's reunions, duhhh! how silly of me to miss the obvious.

BTW, thanks for the history; I enjoyed it very much, as I did my trips to the club.

With all respect to Joe Rhodie, I thought that Club Marakesh was a big plus for the community 'til the last couple of years.
Dean

3. Rick Quinn said...

I bartended for the West Palm Beach Marakech{sic} from '81 'til '83 and it turned out to be the greatest time of my life with Skip, Tweety, Chuck, Dennis, Loretta Knap and George Trum. They will always be fond memories for me. TY Rick Quinn

Thanks for sharing your memories... now, go back and finish school.
Dean

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