Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dylan and The Orpheum

"There's no business like show business..." ~Irving Berlin

Orpheum Theater courtesy Minneapolis Public Library
This past November Bob Dylan returned to his home state to perform three nights at The Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. It was an interesting venue selection for more reasons than one, for Dylan was formerly an owner of the historic theater at 910 Hennepin Avenue, from 1979 through 1988, overlapping a few of the years I myself lived in Minneapolis.

At the time (last fall when the Never Ending Tour was rolling through) John Bream of the Minneapolis Star wrote a nice piece about Dylan's relationship with the theater.

Bob Pratt was working as a security guard at the Orpheum in downtown Minneapolis in 1979 when he got an unexpected invitation to meet the theater’s new managers. They wanted to hire Pratt away from the firm that employed him.

He shook hands with Fred Krohn and David Zimmerman, then noticed a quiet, curly-headed guy sitting off to the side: “Did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Bob Dylan?” Nice thing to say to your new boss.

Bream's article has a lot of interesting details about how Fred Krohn, a promoter and entertainment lawyer, was able to resurrect the shuttered 1921 vaudeville-venue-turned-moviehouse. His aim was to bring the Broadway musical "A Chorus Line" to the Twin Cities, but it needed a stage and he believed The Orpheum, if renovated, would be ideal.

Farm Aid, 1985
For a good read, and a host of insightful details about Dylan the family man and ordinary citizen, check out The silent partner: Bob Dylan's days as owner of Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre. A friend of mine at that time went to the dentist for a checkup and discovered that Bob was in the chair there. That is, the shared the same dentist.

What the article doesn't touch upon is how Dylan's interest in owning a theater had a little background. While reading Daniel Mark Epstein's The Ballad of Bob Dylan I came across the following passage:

Robert's mother, Beatrice, came from a family of Lithuanian Jews who settled in the nearby town of Hibbing, Minnesota, ... Her father owned a clothing store there; her grandfather Benjamen H. Edelstein owned and operated several movie theaters. (p. 45)

In other words, young Robert Zimmerman (now Dylan), had family in the theater business. Last May David Edelstein, Bob's cousin, submitted a mini-history of his grandfather's relationship to the Hibbing Theaters -- the State and the Lybba, as well as the drive-in. What's especially interesting is that David Edelstein's parents, Mel and Revenn, went to work for Bob when he and his brother owned the Orpheum.

You can read the details by following this link to the story "Hibbing theater history recounted."

David Edelstein, the author, went into a different line of work. He is currently a successful orthopedic physician in Texas. He left the theater interest in the hands of his cousin Bob.

Let's go to the movies!

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Farm Aid photo courtesy Bill Pagel

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