It’s been show time at the Apollo for almost a hundred years, and in that time, some of the biggest celebrities in the business have launched their careers at the famed theater, located in the predominantly black neighborhood, Harlem, on 125th street in New York City.
Originally a burlesque theater for white-only crowds, things would change dramatically in the early 30’s when Sidney Cohen bought the theater and opened its doors to African-American performers and guests. A long-standing tradition was started as The Apollo started hosting amateur nights to give up and coming performers a chance to show their stuff to an audience that wasn’t shy about giving a raucous yay or nay.
One of the first amateur performers to win the crowd’s approval was a young dancer with an amazing voice named Ella Fitzgerald. She was the first of many to launch a career after a stellar performance at the Apollo. Billy Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, James Brown – the list goes on. If you could capture their hearts at the Apollo, you were golden.
The club fell on hard times during the 60’s and 70’s but a massive renovation effort was launched 1983 after, similar to Carnegie Hall, New York City purchased the Apollo and designated in a historical landmark. It began yet another facelift in 2005 and today, is in the process of being restored to all of its former glory.
For the past two decades, the television show “Showtime at the Apollo” has been broadcast to give up-and-comers a national, as well as local, audience to judge their abilities. It can be a harsh and unforgiving crowd but if they love you, they love you. And thus has been the story of the famed Apollo Theater for most of its colorful history.
If you ever had the opportunity to visit this iconic theater, or if you are particular fond of one of the many historic performances that have taken place there, we’d love to hear your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to a venue equally as famous as those who have performed on its stage.