I remember as a small child watching the Apollo with my father. We would pop popcorn and sit back to see who had the guts to get on stage and entertain the audience. It was amazing to see the impeccable talent and those who had dreams and goals to meet them. This in return, inspired me to stay steady on my feet towards a successful and rewarding career.
As one of the newest additions to the Charles H. Wright Museum team, I had the opportunity to visit the exhibit titled “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment.” The bright red lights spelling out “APOLLO,” film recordings, historical photographs covering each wall, artist interviews and songs echoing throughout the exhibit, newspaper clippings advertising for Pearl Bailey, and more were a breath of fresh air. There were individuals that I had never even heard of, like Buck & Bubbles (Ford Lee Washington and John W. Sublett). This dynamic duo was considered one of the best entertainers in vaudeville. Their talents ranged from singing and tap dancing to comedy. Each was a showbiz pro, when they teamed up at the young ages of ten and six in 1926.
As ignorant as this may sound, I had no idea that the “Apollo,” was not always owned by African Americans. In 1935, Sidney Cohen and his manager Morris Sussman purchased the Apollo and completely transformed it into an amazing place for raw talent to be viewed. Many entertainers believe that acceptance from the Apollo Theater’s audience is like a right of passage on the path to stardom. There is a plethora of information in the seven walls of the exhibit and I would encourage everyone to go and see it. What do you have to lose? But to gain knowledge of those before us who have set the stage for great accomplishments and hard work.