“Seattle's vaudeville history comes alive”
In mid-1981, Volotin Investment Company bought The Paramount for $1.4 million. The Theatre had become so shabby that The Seattle Times reporter Don Duncan compared it to “a good woman forced to do menial labor for survival.” With visions of offering Las Vegas-type entertainment, the new owners, Norman Volotin and Eulysses Lewis, decided to brighten The Paramount’s dreary appearance. They closed The Theatre in September 1981, repainting about twenty percent of the facility, cleaning the public areas, installing bright red carpeting, and installing a sound system. When this work was completed, the community was invited to a free concert on October 11 sponsored by The Theatre’s owners, the Seattle Arts Commission, and the Music Performance Trust Fund. An organist played the Wurlitzer, and the Seattle Concert Band performed. That first season featured eight acts, including Mitzi Gaynor, Tom Jones, Dionne Warwick, and Juliet Prowse. The Theatre received additional publicity later that month when producers of the Jessica Lange film Frances used The Paramount to recreate the 1936 premiere of Come and Get It, starring Seattle native Frances Farmer. Ms. Farmer had worked at The Paramount in the early 1930s as an usherette before moving to Hollywood. Gradually the Volotin Investment Company broadened the scope of the acts seen at The Paramount, offering many different kinds of music: the Beach Boys, the Grateful Dead, the Grand Ole Opry, Duke Ellington, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Frank Sinatra, Fleetwood Mac, Raffi and Bette Midler all came to The Paramount. Comics included Bob Hope, Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams. Patrons enjoyed musicals such as “South Pacific,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Les Miserables,” and “Evita.” The Krasnayarsh Siberian Dancers and The Rockettes were featured, a Poetry Jam was held, Oprah Winfrey spoke, and Mr. Rogers performed for children. The Paramount even hosted a Star Trek Convention, and had the distinction of being Madonna’s first stop on her first world tour in 1985, aptly named “The Virgin Tour.”
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Seattle Theater Group- Paramount
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