Credit needs to be given to the original venue for all aspiring singers and talents to start a possible career. There are shows everywhere now with judges and possible winnings of money if you are voted worthy enough to stay in a competition. There must be an entire population of people who have had their dreams torn down on some humiliating video. Life should not be so harsh and so public. But with popular shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent and all those food wars shows it can be depressing.
Years ago there was the Ed Sullivan Show where you saw talent for the first time. If they were good you would then see them everywhere , if they were bad the act would just disappear. Both acts still got treated with the spotlight and applause. It was a bit more dignified then. Then there is the talent competition that has been around for some 80 years. Many who appeared here didn’t get great careers but they all were proud to say they appeared at the Apollo rich or poor famous or not so famous. I remember staying up late to watch a show at the Apollo on TV when growing up. It was unlike any other show you ever saw.
The famous announcer, usually a comic would introduce someone to the stage. They would rub their hands on a log for good luck and then either magic happened or it didn’t. The audience was full of critical people who simply waited on line to get a seat but once there, they could be the loudest loving or harshest judge ever. They were no million dollar demanding personality boasting how much prettier or richer they were than you judges. The Apollo audience would boo and yell you right off the stage and if you refused to get the not so subtle hint, a tap dancing guy with a hook would escort you off. It was the funniest thing and the most entertaining because most of the people on stage were pretty good. No one left humiliated and in tears.
The Apollo is known for its amateur competition. The list of amateur winners include Billie Holliday, The Isley Brothers, Jimi Hendrix and the Jackson Five. Ella Fitzgerald was one of the first to win and her prize was $25 dollars and a weeks work. The Apollo is the oldest continuing amateur competition ever in entertainment and is still part of the popular shows. Dick Parsons is Chairman of the Apollo Theater Foundation. He is a big shot business man who was also Chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner. He is not interested in making it a museum of sorts although it is part of musical history. The 1500 seat theater on 125th street in Harlem, New York opened as an entertainment mecca for Harlem’s black community in 1934.
Count Basie and Aretha Franklin who was also first seen there gave the place the slogan “where stars are born and legends are made.” Gladys Knight was 15 years old when she and the Pips first played the Apollo. Where would all this American talent be if it wasn’t for this theater? Knight came back to help celebrate the theater’s 80th birthday. It is a simple system. The amount of applause determines a winner. Yes applause not criticism. Now the winners receive $10,000 and a lot of encouragement and guidance to take their talent to the next levels. For the winners a night at the Apollo is life changing still.