Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Ghost In You

Advance apologies for my lack of entries. Between winter ills, a busy month of work and a few other personal distractions, I've not been as focused as I would like to be.

This past Sunday I had the incredible honor to host Richard Butler live on stage at World Cafe Live. Of course Richard IS The Psychedelic Furs, having been their frontman for some 25+ years. He was performing with two other men in a somewhat-unplugged, chill setting. He sat on a stool and draped his hands over the mic, snug in its stand - and sang one song after another. Some new, some from Love Spit Love and some from the golden years of the Furs.

I introduced him to the audience by telling a story - this June marks my 25th anniversary of the first time I saw the Psychedelic Furs. It was June 26, 1981 at Emerald City, in beautiful Cherry Hill, New Jersey. This club was easily one of the best non-Philly spots in the region for live music at that time. It also had quite a history of its own.

The club was best known as the Latin Casino, then Emerald City, then Gatsby's and some other crap - and now HQ of Suburu America. When it was transformed into the Emerald City, it was in the theme of The Wizard of Oz. If I remember correctly, cover was $12 with two drink passes. Emerald City had a giant dance floor with a "yellow brick" road going down the center.

The Latin Casino was famous for showcasing entertainers like Jackie Wilson (who suffered a major heart attack on stage and lived comatose for 9 more years), Frankie Avalon (whose family owned "King of Pizza" directly across the street), Richard Pryor, (who recorded his 1975 album ...Is It Something I Said? there) and of course, Ol' Blue Eyes, Mr. Frank Sinatra.

The supper club originally resided on Walnut Street at Juniper in Philadelphia; in 1960 it moved to Cherry Hill, directly across from the Garden State Park racetrack. It was widely assumed that the club was mob-owned. Even after it closed as the Latin Casino and became Emerald City, which was in 1978, the word was the mob kept ownership of the land and the building.

Emerald City hosted major acts of the time which didn't have the drawing power to fill arenas and stadiums. It lasted until '83 when it became Gatsby's and that lasted into the 1990s when the building was torn down and replaced by Subaru's North American headquarters.

I had made a copy of the flyer shown here for Richard, since it lists his appearance at the club back in 1981 - when I went backstage into the green room to chat with him and showed him the flyer - he let out a scruffy laugh and said "oh, that place was run by mobsters!" Mobsters!! I love that word - especially said with a rich English accent as Richard has. He told me some fun stories of that tour and then did a great show.

I got to see him the following morning at wxpn as he swung by to record a session for the World Cafe radio program. He is one of a few singers that sounds just fine when he wakes up -- gruff has a place afterall.

I am off to Houston this weekend. Afterwards, I promise myself to get back on track with this online memoirs project. I have a pile of items I want to show you and I notepad full of stories I've jotted down that I want to share. First, it's time for some cold meds and bed. Nite!

1 comment:

brandy101 said...

wow. excellent story.

I would've died to see the Furs and SQUEEZE in a small club seeting back-in-the-day...*sigh*