EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 11, 1981 – 1986 OFF-BROADWAY, RUTH ECKERD HALL ACHIEVEMENT PT. 4 1984-1986
HE WROTE IT, THEY DID IT, HE SAVED IT; TRANSFORMING AMERICA!!
“JOE SEFEKAR’S INSPIRING STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE HEALTH, WELFARE AND ARTS OF UNITED STATES.”
ANOTHER OPENING, ANOTHER SHOW
January 7, 1984, the Date for the Gala Benefit “Night of Stars.” Well the big day was fast approaching but the preliminaries would prove to be almost as much fun as I explained previously. Excitement was building to a feverish pitch Clearwater, Florida was now far, “From the maddening crowd.” It would forever remain in the mainstream of South Eastern United States entertainment and culture; rivaling the spring break throng. It seemed like light-years away in Canarsie, Brooklyn and my earlier recollections as a young boy Chapter 2 what I titled “45 minutes from Broadway.” Little did I know that I would be 17 hours and 1156.8 miles from the glitter and lights of Broadway and the “Great White Way,” here on Opening Night. It was quite the “First Light” and “Love at first sight,” when the curtain went up I could indulge myself being there, Thelma by my side in these freshly adorned, plush seats.
You can see from the program of events star-studded list of famous entertainers Ella Fitzgerald and Peter Martins New York City Ballet. People from my era remember Betty Comden and Adolph Green and many have seen Mary Martin and Donald O’Connor with their successful careers on Broadway and in the movies. Mr. O’Connor among his many notable career triumphs was his role in “Singin’ in the Rain,” with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Their famous rendition of “Good morning, good morning, good morning,” graces our breakfast table, lunch table and dinner table with the Tropicana orange juice commercial.
There were so many of these star studded favorites that we just sat and absorbed in awe this great evening as one of our true highlights here in Florida.
Opening Night Ruth Eckerd Hall Program: Figures 11.42, #11.43, #11.44.
“NIGHT OF STARS” Figure #11.45 #11.46 #11.47
Figure #11.48, Program Acknowledgement and #11.49 “Family Photo”
Figure #11.50 Me with Arnold and his Wife Linda; PACT PREVIEW 0CT. 15, 1983
Figure #11.51 Dancing with the Stars or Time Dances On.
Overview of Ruth Eckerd Hall Project, Figures #11.52 and Figures #11.53
Figures #11.54 and Figures #11.55 Performing Arts Center Celebrates its first year
The first year developed a positive reputation among performing artists, nationally and inter-nationally. And Arnold Bremen stressed that Ruth Eckerd Hall was “well on the way to becoming a backstage name.” There’s something special about being on that stage and looking out at the audience was one of Arnold’s favorite expressions.
Eckerd Hall’s much touted acoustics have also brought praise from performers. Pianists Ferrante and Teicher wrote: “A beautiful hall but more importantly, tremendous acoustics. It’s a joy to play here.” Guitarist Carlos Montoya wrote: “The acoustics are the best of any modern hall; also it is the perfect size.” Or as impressionist Rich Little put it: The sound was perfect. All 180 of me had a ball.”
Figure #11.56 LIU Alumni Newsletter, Fall 1984
My stint at Ruth Eckerd Hall (popular name for the Performing Arts Center), was one of my self-satisfying jobs. In 1985 and then following into 1986, the theater was operating on an even keel – the shake-down cruise was over and the Operation was Center Stage.
The evaluations from the Accountant’s reviewing the budgets and projections came back with glowing grades. It was a nice way to finish launching this icon of entertainment for everyone to see and hear.
Figures #11.57 and Figures #11.58 Arthur Anderson & Co. Review and Financial Statements
Arthur Anderson’s Financial Statements Auditor’s Report was issued on September 30, 1986. It examined the balance sheet of PACT, Inc., and the related statements of activity, fund balance and changes for the financial position for the year ended. In the opinion of Arthur Anderson, the financial statements referred present fairly the financial position of PACT. Inc.
Figures #11.59 Projected Expenditures and #11.60 Earlier Auditor’s report
One of the preliminary Auditor Reports that was reviewed and approved by the Accountant giving an A-1 rating with sound fiscal practices.
The following are a sampling of the up and coming Programming Announcements that show the wide range of entertainment and shows scheduled to grace the stage and Ruth Eckerd Hall long after I had left this World Class Performing Arts Center.
Figures #11.61, #11.62 and #11.63
Figures #11.64 and #11.65
When Arnold Bremen had hired me (at 63) he said, “Joe, you work here will be until your 70.” When I wrote to him in 1980, I was only thinking of a two-year period, during which time the theater would be built and that would be the end of that. 70 comes around pretty fast when you’re having fun. Arnold gave me a choice of a farewell party (the first of the new organization), or I could work another year and phase out.
My salary had increased to $25,000 annually, following my job philosophy “leave them when everything is going smoothly,” I opted for the farewell party. It was really an “artsy” affair. All the staff joined in a sing-along to an early model of the player piano which Arnold acquired for this occasion (see pictures below)
Figures #11.66 and #11.67 Going away party; A Gala Event complete with player piano
Figure #11.68 Going away party; complete with signed by Staff of Official Robert Rauschenberg REH Print
I revel on the camaraderie that was built up on the staff that Arnold Bremen put together. It was our good fortune that Arnold and his wife Linda found a place to live in a development in the same area about a half a mile from where Thelma and I lived. On a few occasions Arnold would host a gathering at his house for the staff and I remember one such gathering on July 3, 1984. My son Bill had moved down the year before and was also invited as there were a lot of staff that would be considered his contemporaries. One such couple was Nancy Siebert and her husband Steve who would later become the Atty. Gen. of the State. What made this particularly memorable was that Steve had to bow out gracefully from the evening’s festivities to participate in the Midnight Madness Run. The race was held on July 4 at midnight, but participants had to arrive at least a half hour before on July 3 to get ready for the 5K, 10K and one K walk. The reason I mention this now was that surprisingly enough with my son’s encouragement I actually participated in the one K walk eight years later. And received an award as the oldest “living” person to complete the race. This of course of the 1K walk. It will be presented in an upcoming chapter.
All in all things fell into place. There was time for traveling up north visiting Bonnie and the grandkids. We did have our friends and family nearby. We did spend a lot of time with them as my time became more readily available.
Figures #11.69 My brother Al his wife Edna, my sister Becky, brother-in-law, Danny and sister Sophie with me and Thel,, #11.70 Thelma’s side with her sister Renee next to Thelma in the front the, “I love Lucy,” red heads.
Figures #11.71, #11.72 and #11.73
Figure #11.71 Congratulatory letter from Al Lerner still the Curator at the Hirshhorn. Figures #11.72 Letter sent to my very dear friend Ben Elzweig, wife. Ben passed away in 1985 and I needed to express my sadness at the loss of my life-long buddy. Figure #11.73 Letter written to Mr. Olga Hirshhorn and talked about what had transpired since my retirement and my correspondence over the years with Al Lerner.
Figures #11.74 Picture from the 30’s with my very dear friend Ben Elzweig
Copyright © 2016 William Sefekar
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