Monday, May 14, 2007

Come See The Paramount Fall Down

In October 1979, after the illustrious Paramount Theater had tried a short-lived second run as a dinner theatre ("Theatre Fabulous"), the decision came to raze the structure. Its sibling showcase, the Des Moines, had already been demolished 10 years earlier. Both places hosted the gigantic world premiere of "State Fair" in 1945, but the excitement had long since ebbed for the two giants of Grand Avenue.

Jerry Tormey has generously shared his SLR sequence of the Paramount's destruction, shown here in three excerpts. (I am busily sewing together all 23 pictures in After Effects to create a motion version.) Thanks, Jerry, for these amazing pictures.

Large crowds came downtown to witness the Paramount's final show--if you look closely at the first photo, you can see a line of spectators along the top of the building to the east, like all the surrounding buildings that afternoon. They all heeded the last call ever to be seen on the Paramount's ageing marquee: "COME SEE THE PARAMOUNT FALL DOWN".

10 comments:

Otto Mannix said...

i saw movies in every theater that i can think of in DSM in the late sixties through the late seventies, but for the life of me i cannot recall one movie i ever saw in the Paramount. i remember the building well. I haven't lived in DSM since 1979 but i routinely search for images of the city. i've found some great ones, but the very best is the shot you posted of JOHN CARRADINE on Locust Ave. i lived three blocks from that spot from 72 to 76. my old man used to drag me into that bar on the left with the HAMM's sign so he could hang out with his billiards buddies. and you can see the sign for SKIG's restaurant. i remember that old dude Skigarelli. i played pinball in there all the time.

i ordered The Hostage for ten bucks from Amazon.

i'm also interested in getting a copy of your movie about the cinemas of Des Moines. i'll check your blog now and then.

Anonymous said...

My father had an office in the building across the street to the east (Insurance Exchange) and suggested that we watch the implosion of the Paramount Theater tower from his office. I did not think highly of the idea lest the implosion go wrong and some of the debris fly in the direction of my father's office. Nonetheless, I wish I had done so, both for the fun of watching an implosion and for learning how to use that single-lens reflex camera which I had just gotten (even though it did not have a motor drive).

Randall Dana said...

Shame to see. Found ya on a Register link. I'm a collector of architectural ornaments as well as sculpt replicas of Victorian and Art Deco facade sculptures. I have a huge terra cotta lion from the Pantages theater in Seattle- demolished, and I've replicated 3 Art Deco pieces from the Nortown theater in Chicago also demolished.

Here's a couple of them;

http://i23.photobucket.com/
albums/b375/Randall2/D6-R-done.jpg

http://i23.photobucket.com/
albums/b375/Randall2/lion-1.jpg

Randall
http://www.lostnewyorkcity.com
Lake City

Anonymous said...

Well, its proof you can never go home again. I was a member of the Theatre Fabulous dinner theatre ensemble (under the direction of Dick West and Musical Director Scott Smith.) Cast members were told: The Paramount was started as a "legitimate theatre," possibly a concert hall as well, complete with pipe-organ that ascended mainstage from the below on a system of pulleys. The theatre later morphed into a movie theatre. During the Silent Film Era, the pipe-organ remained in use as musical accompaniment to then-soundless movies. Later, the Paramount sat vacant and was occasionally leased for religious gatherings and revivals. It sat unused again until Dick West and Scott Smith (sidekicks who worked together at the club "Captain's Corner,") founded Theatre Fabulous - also very short lived. Total productions: "Sweet Charity" (which featured Des Moines own Claiborne Carry - Cloris Leachman's sister,) "The Owl and the Pussycat," and "Guys and Dolls" (featuring Des Moines famous Burlesque Queen, Rosa Chagnon aka Babycakes.) After the show, another began in the lobby which converted to a nightclub lounge with a drop of an electric scrim. Theatre Fabulous opened and closed its doors in 1973. She was a fabulous space, even though we actors cracked ankles, knees, and heels off our shoes running up and down stairs from below-stage dressing rooms. I am imagine there a still quite a few alum of TF in the Des Moines area, and should step up with a few memories of their own.

Meridee said...

In the 1960's a friend of mine would often get us in free to a theater production, etc. at a theater in downtown Des Moines. I'm thinking it was the Paramount, but your history of the place doesn't seem to jive with my memory. I remember seeing Hello Dolly with Carol Chaning. I'm wondering if it was the Paramount or some other forgotten (from my memory) theater.

Mark said...

Meridee, it could well have been the Paramount, Des Moines (its next-door neighbor), or the Galaxy--those are the main three that were left operating in the 1960s. -mh

Aunt Deedee said...

I didn't mention -- I'm Deirdre Moore (Aunt Deedee).

Anonymous said...

I can recall around 1970, I took my girlfriend to see The Godfather at the Paramount and there was Babe Bisigano walking back and forth in front of the theater with a sign. He was a one man protester claiming the movie was unfairly representing Italian Americans. I'm an Italian American and I thought Babe was just trying to get free publicity. What a guy.

WatersEdge said...

I have fond memories of the old KRNT Theater. That's where Carol Channing did HELLO DOLLY and Robert Preston did THE MUSIC MAN. In the 60's I saw Dave Brubeck, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry James, et al, performing there. Built in 1927 (as the ZaGaZig Shrine Temple), with over 4,000 seats, I believe it was one of the largest legitimate theaters in the world.

PKBeam said...

I have a piece of sheet music which has on the cover "Jimmy" Ellard, Master of Ceremonies Capitol Theatre Des Moines. Does anyone know anything about this person or what it meant to have a master of ceremonies at a movie theater.