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TEN YEARS WRITING ABOUT ARTS....
Mixed emotions flowed when I was asked to write a column for "Graffiti's " anniversary.

My arts involvement began when I reviewed films/plays for "The Parthenon." Later, I would edit/publish "The Entertainer."
During these times , three individuals profoundly affected me: Al, "Bill" and Walter. They now "break legs" in a heavenly domain.

The late Allen "Mayor of Fourth Avenue" Cross managed the Keith - Albee. He peaked my interest in the golden age of movies with his colorful oral histories. Al told tall tales in between tearing tickets. He reminised about accepting chickens for admission to the State Theatre during the depression, about the 1937 flood, about a tunnel between the Orpheum and Keith , about "bank night" promotions, about a "ghost" or two in the Keith, and about some of the stars who performed on its stage . The Scotch-Irish Presbyterian did not this, but his tales provided an asthmatic with needed air conditioned comfort.

Early on, Cross stressed that "art is a poor boy" i.e. you make little money around here with artistic endeavors. My relationship with Al helped solidifiy my on-going friendship with members of the Hyman family who own the theatres. After retiring from the theatres, Al finished his life occasionally ushering at First Presbyterian Church and loving the horses and Anna-Belle.

Those familiar with Huntington arts surmised that "Bill" is the late Estelle Bellenger, who adopted a male pseudonym for her writing in the 40s when it was improper for women to be journalists. The long-time fine arts editor for the Herald-Dispath often encouraged my critical writing endeavors; however, I didn't get to know her adventuresome and penchant for gossip until after her heart attack. Once upon a time, an arts director invited my then girl-friend/fiance (affectionately known as "Sunshine") for an Italian dinner with Bill. Somehow we ended up on this "mission" to return a dog to an estranged-husband.(It was an incredible turning point in our r/s: She had to choose sitting on my lap or lettering the dog sit on hers!) Everything became dramatic. Would he be there? Would Bill have another heart attack? Would "Sunshine" miss the 9 a.m. deadline on her English essay? And, if all of the above happened, could a couple of English experts, PR people, and journalists "fake" a suitable English essay? Well, the canine made it home without any disturbance, Sunshine got an "A" on HER essay, and we started sitting with "Bill" at the Artist Series receptions where she robustly shared artsy gossip.

My last two contacts with "Bill" were melancholic. She delivered a brief eulogy , along with four others, at the funeral of a seemingly friendless murdered journalistic colleague and arts enthusiast who had been estranged for 20 years from his mid-Western family after they vetoed his planned marriage to a Latin bride. The final time I spoke to "Bill" was at a chaotic dinner where she prodded me about a broken engagement. I suggested that she approach my "ex" and see if a reconciliation might be feasible.

Finally, the slightly eccentric Walter Lewis II founder of the Mountaineer Dinner Theatre with Mary K. Michelle, urged me into the publishing. Everyone thought he owned "The Entertainer," actually he provided strong advertising support and invaluable mentorship. Both of us survived violent car accidents. After a speeding pick-up crunched my vehicle into flames, I lost my fiancÚ and then became fearful of driving. Walter severely injured his leg. Instead of "slowing" down, he jumped into a Lexington dinner theatre venture to inspire rehabilitation. That business decision eventually cost him both the Bluegrass Dinner Theatre and the Mountaineer.

Once the Mountaineer closed, "The Entertainer" became "irregular" containing all the entertainment news we could print go after the advertisers paid their bills. Occasionally , I would see Walter at Huntington Mall. He talked about re-opening the venue in various capacities. My fiance "Sunshine" dreamed of operating a dinner theatre. I approached Walter about the condition of the dormant facility. My heart sank when he told me that the chairs, tables, and kitchen had been liquidated and that the elevator stage had broken.

ADDITIONAL CAST & CREDITS: Ramona, my long-time assistant editor , who stood with me as a friend, pasted endless ads together on the dining room table , developed film in her parents bathroom and arranged for me to sit in the VIP section for a couple of national talk shows; Marilyn-look-a - like, Tiffany, who taught me to be skeptical of grandiose promises; Derek, who's laudable loyalty and business integrity are rarities, Jim, who has been endlessly generous with his time and knowledge during traumatic times; Soupy, who told me when writer's block hits [at a typewriter ] grab a notepad and go anywhere comfortable and write in long hand ; and "doc," my long suffering "chauffeur" dad. ) ***

A YEAR ROMPING ON THE BRIDGE A year ago in August, my "gentleman" diabetic irish setter, Brian, passed to the rainbow bridge after only eleven and a half years on Earth. Sorry, during your last month you had to be moved from your living room carpet. I guess you still lay upside down with one paw extended upward praising the Lord. And, Brian, if you're munching on Bonz up there, yelp at Sage, Sir Sam, and that female irish a naughty shelter in Texas euthanasized after a "rescue" crew claimed her. Although he's not irish, you'll recognize Bullet. He 's a half shepherd and half huskie who climbs fences like a chimp.
Meanwhile, Danny, our rescued irish, could stand a course in courtesy. Where you barked politely to argue, Danny whimpers until he gets his way. Maybe , you could drop by and teach him just a few manners. Aside from that, he's a precious, precocious, and affectionate "red head" who steals hearts, shoes, ice cream, and kisses as he drags me across campus occasioally attempting to climb a tree after a squirrel! **** FINALLY....Al, "Bill" , Walter break wings for me at your next heavenly performance. Sunshine (and thespians everywhere) keep breaking legs and not the props!