Mr Z. DAVIS. was the House manager for many years at the Little Theatre on Broadway, later named the Helen Hayes. These are his recollections.
In the old days everything on Broadway was like a fraternity. If you wanted to see a show and you were on the inside, meaning you worked there, you went over to the boys at the box office and they got you an empty seat or you stood at the back of the house and nobody paid you no (any) mind. That was the way it was. Today, not so much. Try asking for Hamilton and see where they sit you.
When I started at the Little Theatre it was in a hell of a mess. It had been a ‘legit’ theatre then it was used for the Merv Griffin TV show and with all the lights and AC units the place was in shambles. And to top that off there was no money to do it right. (Ever heard that one before)
I was brought in by the legendary ‘Broadway Trudy Brown’. Trudy (rest her soul) was a company manager and needed someone she could trust, I became that guy.
Now in those days the Broadway Theatre District stretched from Times Square all the way to the high forties on the west side. Usually between Broadway and Eight Avenue and from 44th to 48th…forget these new joints in the low fifties they didn’t exist then.
The “Little”as it was known then, is at 240 west 44th right next door to the world famous Sardi’s and directly across the street from Schubert Alley. That was a good thing because you could catch the end of a matinee on 45th street run through Shubert’s Alley, hit Sardi’s for one of their gorgeous martinis and pop back through the stage door of the Little in time for the evening show. Which we did almost every night!
In those days broadway was the High Life. Everything you ever wanted was there…even the beer you drank was inspired by Broadway.
Those days were great… but they’re gone the way of the 10 cent shave. If you want a wonderful little tour that works right now try this one on for size.
Start at the North East corner of eight avenue and 45th street walk east….there are so many theaters that you can only see a few, but here are some choice ones. Don’t worry when you get a bit weary there are several classic watering holes to accommodate your thirst. Up on 45th Street stop in at the Imperial Theatre, big and beautiful The Bernie Jacobs is right there too… it’s a newer version, but still a jewel in the Shubert crown..the Hirschfield is wonderful.
And a tiny gem right there on 45th is the Booth….now walk down to the middle of the block to the world famous Shubert Alley.
Shubert Alley was originally built in 1913 as a fire ally, or so they say. In reality it was built by the Shubert Brothers Lee and Jacob to park their cars when there were no other places in mid town to park. “When you got dough you got convenience”..
The alley was once gated and locked and it was a perfect place for the two millionaires to leave their limos. Shubert Alley runs between 45th and 44th Streets, 300 hundred feet long. As you leave the alley on 44th you will be starring at the world famous Sardi’s. The restaurant was opened in 1927 (234 West 44th) and everyone who is anyone has dined and drank at Sardi’s. Try one of their Martinis, you can’t go wrong…the food, well… maybe not.
(One night long ago in the dark ages a group of us musicians and performers snuck into ‘the Little’ at midnight to do our own show. To class it up a bit we gave the Sardi’s doorman $50 to be our doorman for the evening and went about proving we had all sung and danced on Broadway…but that’s another story!)
The David Belasco Theatre is on 44th as is the Broadhurst Theatre unfortunately Barrymore’s Restaurant has gone the way of all flesh, closing its doors earlier this year. But if you are still up for an adventure go up to 46th street (326 West) to Joe Allen.
Try it between matinee and evening performances or after the show. It’s a great place and most of the broadway people eat and drink there. You will find everyone from leading ladies to stagehands around the bar and the joint does get jumping…there’s plenty more places to see and imbibe at, but you can find your own if you start here….
And by the way when you’re all done with all the drinking and show going, stroll along 44th street to Times Square, it still is the greatest light show in America.
And that’s all I got for today, going home to the Mrs.