Some people in Alabama still remember their first visit to the Lyric, the magnificent old vaudeville and movie palace at Third Avenue and 18th Street North downtown, where MAE WEST once wowed the audience.
• • According to a local scribe Jesse Chambers: Built in 1914 when Birmingham, Alabama was a raucous young boomtown with a thriving entertainment district, the Lyric Theatre once played host to the greatest names in entertainment but is now all but forgotten — — in urgent need of both renovation and public rediscovery. . . .
• • The people of Birmingham get a rare opportunity to visit the Lyric and, perhaps, to experience the same thrill of discovery that Burrow did [i.e., Holly Burrow, Director of the new Hill Arts Center], this Sunday, December 7th, 2008, from 2 — 4 p.m., during the 2008 Christmas Open House at the Alabama, the Lyric, and the Hill Center. On hand to answer questions about the Lyric . . . will be Dan Liles, a former history instructor at Marion Institute who is now the unofficial historian of the Lyric and the Alabama. . . .
• • For event information, phone: (205) 252-2262.
• • Legendary theatrical promoter Jake Wells built the Lyric as a top-tier vaudeville house, with 1,200 great seats, magnificent acoustics and elegant decor, and it quickly became the premier venue in Birmingham. Vaudeville was the name used to describe the wildly eclectic, often bawdy variety shows that were the most popular form of entertainment in America before the coming of radio and sound films. All the greats played the Lyric — Mae West, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Buster Keaton, George Burns, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Sophie Tucker, Billie Burke, and the Marx Brothers.
• • The good times for the Lyric, and for vaudeville, came to an end with the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Wells lost his theatres, including the Lyric, to the mortgage company. The Schubert organization leased the Lyric and continued to present vaudeville, but the form was dying and, by the mid 1930s, the theatre was sold to the Waters family of Birmingham and became a second-run movie house. It closed in 1958 and has been largely unused since then. . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "The voice of the theatre: Holiday open house to showcase the Alabama Theatre and the lovely Lyric"
• • Byline: Jesse Chambers
• • Published in: Birmingham Weekly — — www.bhamweekly.com/
• • Published on: 5 December 2008
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •