Friday, July 17, 2009

Remembering The Brook Theatre

I had lunch at the Brook the other day with some friends. Some of the non-Tulsans asked if anyone had ever gone there to see a movie. That sparked some memories for me, but not really so much of movies, although I do recall seeing The Sound of Music there.

A little history:
The Brook Theater at 34th & Peoria opened in 1945.

As the news clipping notes, the Brook’s lobby had drawings of Tulsans famous in the entertainment world etched into the cinder-block walls. I’m told you can still see the top half of some of the faces on the walls upstairs. The first movie shown there was “Father Was a Fullback” starring Fred McMurray.

Loews, a large movie theater chain, bought the Brook and Delman theatres back in the 70’s. You can see Louis Meyer’s book store on the corner (click on photos to enlarge):

The Brook served as the home of the American Theatre Company for awhile. They tried to raise the money to buy the Brook, but legal wrangling with the owner over asbestos removal put an end to that dream. The building sat empty and slowly deteriorated until Tulsan Jim Glass’s company renovated it. The area we were eating lunch in was where the bookstore used to be, but the original beams and textures are still there.

The lunchtime discussion had me remembering some crazy times and interesting musicians. Crazy times: American Theatre Company’s Joyce Martel – an “Adult-Oriented Cabaret Show” that Melanie Fry starred in and was hilarious! Then there was ATC’s Eddie and the Ecclectics, which began in 1980. It was the musical story of Eddie Edwards- a legend in his own mind who claimed to have written all of the great rock-n-roll hits. The show revived about 60 of those golden oldies and had a 7-member cast that changed some over the years.
The first Eddie was played by Bob Bethell from 1980-87 and again in 1989.

Gene Crose was Eddie for the 1988 run and Michael Silva played Eddie in a couple of special performances. My sister joined the cast at the same time the late, great Tyrone Wilkerson came on board as the 4th Eddie in 1990. She was LuLu LaRue (far left), one of the Eddiettes. By this time the shows were at the Brady, come to think of it.

Then there were the interesting musicians. Two of my favorite “underground” singers in the 70’s and 80’s were the late Jimmie Spheeris and Shawn Phillips (if you haven’t heard of these guys you are in the majority, believe me) I remember thinking it was so great that these little-known artists came to Tulsa to give us a thrill and memories of a lifetime at the Brook.

some photos courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society, others as noted


Mike Ransom said...

I have a bit about Jimmie Spheeris on the "Honest John's, Starship and Oz" page by Wilhelm Murg on my site:

Unknown said...

So Eddie and the Ecclectics began in 1980 and ran 2 nights a week for the next 10 years? That's a long run. Not quite like The Drunkard, but a long time. Great pictures by the way. You have good sources.

Dave said...

"The Sound of Music" got an exclusive engagement there that went on for a couple of years. The newspaper ads said something like "Now in its 63rd week!"

Nancy said...

My sister is going to love you for that. She's been saying over and over that TSOM played for an incredibly long time there but I couldn't find anything (or anyone) to verify it. Thanks!

Nancy said...

Eddie ran for 2 nights in the summers, not all year long.

Jim Reid said...

Not only did The Sound of Music have a long run, but it took over after a long run by Mary Poppins and then another long run by My Fair Lady. The Brook had about a 4 year run where they ran three films. I was there for all three.

MJ said...

I remember going to film festivals at the Brook in about '81 or '82. They showed classic movies on Tuesday or Wednesday nights. I saw The Creature from the Black Lagoon there (with 3D glasses!), and also The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, lots of Katharine Hepburn movies, and... Barbarella. :-) I couldn't drive yet, but I used to go with my sister and friends.

I think my high-school sax teacher, Les Ewing, is in that top pic of Eddie and the Ecclectics. That sure looks like him on tenor, in the middle of the back row, and I seem to remember that he was in the show.

Suzanne Bond Spears said...

And who among you old-timers remembers the Saturday afternoon serials (I tried to explain the concept of "serials" to my nieces & nephew after they became confused about what Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies had to do with the movies)?
And who recalls the Duncan Yo-yo contests that happened maybe once or twice a year with a brand new Schwinn bicycle as the grand prize plus lesser prizes of movie tickets and spiffy new Duncan yo-yos? Also the funny little Phillipino gentleman who would carve your name or fancy initials in your yo-yo in about 10 seconds in the lobby?

Suzanne Bond Spears said...

Who remembers Bill Donaldson, manager of the Brook and the personification of "curmudgeon"? (Best not to let him hear you call him "Curly" or suffer the consequences). He did not suffer the snot-nosed, sticky-fingered denizens of Saturday afternoon, gladly.
And neither did Lewis Meyer and his wife Natasha. For that matter, even their cat, "Chat", kept a fearsome sneer on his "puss."

Anonymous said...

Does anybody have experience with D.H. Griffin for asbestos removal ?

Anonymous said...

I played "Johnny Valentine" in Eddie for the last four years of the shows run. I was only around to perform one show at the Brook. Performing with some of Tulsa's favorites in "1940's Radio Hour" at the Brook is one of my performing highlights.

John Riggs

Anonymous said...

I love the internet. Back in the '70's, I think I saw Harry Chapin at the Apollo Delman. My husband who is a Tulsa boy, says he doesn't recall the place. Did they have smaal intimate concerts there?Charlene Deacon

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, us Eddie horn section guys never got in the photos.

Mike Moore hired me early on while Eddie was at the Brook and Randy Weimer ran the band until his move to Cincinnati. We made the transition to the Old Lady and Ken Nelson directed the music. He and I arranged most of the music.

I played behind the black (Wilkerson) Eddie and the Gene Crose Eddie. Bob Bethel had to step aside because of a serious back ailment and a failed surgery. His comeback had him on a chair for many songs.

I was Barry Cuda, saxophone. Mark Robinson to my friends.

Nice website.

Anonymous said...

My introduction to ATC was during the Joyce Martel days via the most excellent Wardrobe Mistress Jo McClelland. Wonderful lady.

When I was younger the only theater close enough to bike or walk to was the Brook. The entire time I lived in that neighborhood the only film on the Brook's screen was The Sound of Music. It's a wonder I didn't burn the place down after the first few months.

- Lazzaro said...

I grew up just a block east - my mother still lives there.

I remember seeing Rocky at the Brook, and George C. Scott in The Day of the Dolphin, when my best friend and I were finally old enough to see a PG movie and leave our younger siblings behind.

On the other side of Peoria and north just a block was an ice cream parlor in the 60's. I can only just barely remember it.

My mom used to have her hair done at the Brookside Beauty salon, which was also frequented by the young wife of a then state senator, James M. Inhofe.

Robbie said...

I remember the summer movie specials from Disney, couple of shorts and a flick..."The Longest Day" played there forever...the old guy who ran the ice cream spot across and up the street taught me how to prep my paper route money. A wonderful neighborhood to grow up in!

Anonymous said...

My mom Pam Curtis was one of the costumers employed by ATC and I attended Eddie for many years at both the Brooke and Brady, I truly cherish those memories and miss the golden days of theater in Tulsa.

Cori Curtis

Anonymous said...

Hey! Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to do your great blogs! I really enjoy your posts! Keep it up! MORE!!! Melanie Fry

karlschneider said...

In 1949 & a little while beyond, admission for Saturday matinees at the Brook was ELEVEN CENTS. I don't recall the price of popcorn but it was probably a nickel. I do remember that a quarter would buy an afternoon of air conditioned entertainment...a fairly rare opportunity back then. Several of us kids would walk to the Brook from our neighborhood around 37th & Lewis and of course we terrorized most of Brookside then and for several more years, eventually discovering Pennington's. Another story.

Kittymama916 said...

Great times and fond memories in the Grand old Brook! In a repressive OK era of BYOB and MOR movies, This place was an oasis of great schlock sci fi films,Sincere improv and the ever sassy Joyce Martel.Not to mention serving ice cold 6° beer and tolerating a little "Medical herbal inhalation in the back row crowd after midnight!