Palace Walks

On the Road With the Theatre Historical Society

"I went to the Roxy in 1956, straight from high school. D-Day, The Sixth of June was my first picture there. We had inspection every morning. It was like the army, with military-type pants. The ushers' officers were tough. It was actually more like being in the marines. I didn't brush with celebrities often, but I did take Sonja Henie on her skates up in the elevator when she was performing there. When AMC shows Anastasia, they precede it with a Fox newsreel of its premiere at the Roxy and you can see me in uniform opening the door. I was there during the last gasp of the glory days. It was impeccably maintained, right up to the end. When the Roxy was demolished, it was like losing a member of the family."

He continued: "But I had really grown up in those movie palaces. My dad, Moe Saltzman, was a pit musician, he played in the orchestra for The Birth of a Nation. He was a theater organist, but also played piano and clarinet. I went to union meetings with him and made friends with all his cronies who were playing in movie theaters around town. Both my parents were in the business. My mother worked for a milliner for Broadway shows. She was sent to South America to buy plumage for hats and fell in love with my dad who at that time had his own orchestra on the Cunard Line. I was also an usher for a while at Radio City Music Hall, which is a bit funny because my mother went into labor with me while she was looking at Bette Davis in Jezebel at Radio City. From that I attribute my love of Bette Davis movies.

"Being able to revisit some of the great picture palaces up here— now that just about all of those in New York City are gone— supplies a kind of closure to the era I grew up in."

illustration: Rachel Stuart

For info: Theatre Historical Society, 152 North York Road, Elmhurst, IL 60126.

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