April 21, 2000: Rock legend Elton John followed the “yellow brick road” to First Union Arena at Casey Plaza, but his journey to the Wilkes-Barre Twp. venue wasn’t a smooth one.
The bumps happened shortly after the February announcement that John would play the arena on Friday, April 21 — which also was Good Friday, a day for Christians to reflect on the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Following the concert announcement, the Most Rev. James C. Timlin, bishop of Scranton, spoke out publicly about the scheduling coincidence, saying that planning the show for that date was “an insulting spectacle to Christian living” and “a further erosion (of religion by) this whole worldly culture.” Timlin also suggested that promoters should not schedule concerts or events on major religious holidays.
“We understand and respect the position of Bishop Timlin and meant no disrespect by hosting this show,” Andy Long, the arena’s executive director, responded. “However, we are a public venue that is no different than all other businesses in the Wyoming Valley, like restaurants and movie theaters.”
The issue grew. People shared their opinions in letters to the editor in The Scranton Times, some agreeing with Timlin. Some of those who disagreed with the bishop brought up the fact how, in the past, Timlin offered dispensation from eating meat on a Friday if the day also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day.
In the end, Good Friday arrived, and the show went on. The arena was filled to capacity with enthusiastic fans ready to rock with the “Rocketman.”
John opened the show by playing “Your Song” and followed with many of his hits, including “Daniel,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” “Crocodile Rock” and “Candle in the Wind.” He also performed songs from the films “The Lion King” (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) and “The Road to El Dorado” (“Someday, Out of the Blue”). Additionally, John paid tribute to the students and teachers killed in the shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, by performing his 1974 song “Ticking.”
John returned to the area later that year with another performance at the arena in October. This time, the show was a warm-up for an upcoming appearance at Madison Square Garden to record a live album called “Elton John — One Night Only: The Greatest Hits Live.” Long called the return visit “a tribute to the fans of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the reception he received in April.”
After the two performances in 2000, John returned to the arena in October 2008, April 2011 and September 2016. In September 2018, John kicked off his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Global Tour” at the PPL Center in Allentown.
Fans can catch a new biopic about John starting this Friday, May 31, in theaters. “Rocketman” stars Taron Egerton as John, Jaime Bell as Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as John Reid and Bryce Dallas Howard as Sheila.
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May 5, 1949: Tension was high in the final round of the Lackawanna County Spelling Bee at Koch-Connelly Post 121 of the American Legion, Scranton.
Lorraine Rozaieski of West Scranton and Marie Boyle of North Scranton entered the round after defeating 14 other spellers from around the county. Rozaieski went first and misspelled “squawk.” Boyle spelled it correctly, but she misspelled “bogus.” Rozaieski spelled it correctly and then captured the championship by spelling “bodkin” correctly.
For her win, Rozaieski, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Rozaieski, received a $100 cash voucher from the Scranton Times, the bee’s sponsor. Boyle received a $50 cash voucher for second place, and Charles Berger received a $25 cash voucher for third place.
Rozaieski had the honor of representing Lackawanna County in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., from May 23 to 27. She and her mother, Anna, left for Washington on May 22 aboard a Lackawanna Railroad Pullman car. Once in the capital, Rozaieski and other spellers saw the sights, including the Smithsonian Institution museums, the Capitol, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the FBI and the Department of Justice.
On May 26, Rozaieski and her mom spent time with U.S. Rep. Harry O’Neill of Dunmore. O’Neill took the pair to visit the office of Vice President Alben W. Barkley, then for lunch with fellow Congressman Francis E. Walter and a tour of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. That night, the Rozaieskis joined O’Neill and his daughter at a Washington Senators vs. Cleveland Indians game.
The national spelling championship took place May 27 at the National Press Building. Rozaieski went up against 48 other spellers from around the United States. In the end, Kim Calvin of Canton, Ohio, won by spelling “onerous” correctly. Rozaieski placed 18th.
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Aug. 1, 1991: With lights and glitz, Debbie Gibson opened her show at F.M. Kirby Center with songs from her debut album, “Out of the Blue.” When she finished “Only in My Dreams,” the crowd of over 1,000 people began chanting “Debbie, Debbie.”
Gibson thanked the crowd and told them they were “the most enthusiastic” she had encountered since the tour began.
She continued by treating the fans to songs from another of her albums, “Electric Youth” and her new album, “Anything Is Possible.” At one point, she invited the crowd to come dance on stage with her. The Kirby Center’s staff kept that from happening.
Tickets for the night with Gibson were $20.50. Singer Chris Cuevas opened for her.
Prior to her performance in Wilkes-Barre, Gibson, 20, spoke with The Tribune over the phone and said she wanted people to know that her show was “not only a show for kids. And there is no other way to say that. I’ve been performing for 16 years.”
Gibson entered the pop music scene at 16 when she released “Out of the Blue” in 1987. That album produced such hits as the title cut and “Shake Your Love.” She followed that album up with “Electric Youth” in 1989.
Her tour appearance in Wilkes-Barre was in support of her new album, on which she co-produced and co-wrote several songs with Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier.
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April 4, 1972: Screaming fans filled the Catholic Youth Center in Scranton to see singer, actor and teen idol David Cassidy.
Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge in the popular ABC comedy “The Partridge Family,” was in the city as part of his nationwide tour. When a Scranton Times reporter asked what he really wanted to do in his show business career, Cassidy responded with “I like doing these concerts — they’re fantastic.”
And people loved seeing him. In March, ahead of his appearance in Scranton, Cassidy played before 21,000 fans at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Five-thousand people attended his Scranton show, paying between $5 and $7.50 for tickets.
Kim Carnes and Dave Ellingson opened for Cassidy, for whom they also wrote songs and sang backup. Cassidy then wowed his teen fans for two-and-a-half hours.
“You never heard so much screaming, crying and shouting in all your life,” a spokesperson for the Catholic Youth Center said.
That sentiment was echoed in a parent’s review of the concert that appeared in the Times a few days after the show. Ellie Rosen of Clarks Green attended the show with her children and called the noise level “monumental.” On Cassidy’s performance, Rosen said he “seemed most comfortable during the medley of ‘Partridge Family’ songs, but, nevertheless, his contrived movements seemed to me to be the gargantuan contortions of an ungainly apprentice stripper.” Despite her thoughts on his dancing, Rosen added that “seeing David Cassidy, or a reasonable facsimile, is an experience everyone should have once in a lifetime.”
Cassidy returned to the region in October 1991 with his television brother, Danny Bonaduce, for a concert at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre and then again in August 2016 to perform at the Schuylkill County Fair.
Cassidy died on Nov. 21, 2017, at 67 from liver failure.
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Aug. 6, 1962: Heartthrob Fabian hit the stage at the Pocono Playhouse in Mountainhome in the comedy “John Loves Mary.”
The play, written by Norman Krasna, deals with a young soldier marrying his best friend’s English girlfriend to help her immigrate to the United States. But once here, he finds that his best friend has married someone else. Starring alongside Fabian were Molly Ardrey, Bruce Brighton, Elisabeth Hoffman, Walter Miller, Ed Bordo, Mary Harrigan and Don Shomers.
A review of the play said that Fabian was “astonishingly good as the victim” of circumstance. The reviewer went on to say, “I think he shows great promise,” and “I hardly think his attractiveness will be the sole reason for his success as an actor but it won’t be a deterrent.”
During the short run of the play, Fabian paid a visit to Scranton, where Mayor William Schmidt presented the young star a key to the city of Scranton in a ceremony at City Hall.
Prior to his turn at Pocono Playhouse, Fabian starred in the movies “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation,” “North to Alaska” and “The Longest Day.” He also appeared on the television show “Bus Stop” and “The Gertrude Berg Show.” Fabian was a popular singer with several Top 10 hits to his name, including “Tiger” and “Hound Dog Man,” and he also is credited with appearances on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.”
Fabian wasn’t the only star to appear at the Pocono Playhouse in the summer of 1962. The summer stock season started with Gloria Swanson appearing in “The Inkwell” by Harold J. Kennedy. Tallulah Bankhead performed in “Here Today” by George Oppenheimer, and Carleton Carpenter and Pat Finley starred in the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.”
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Dec. 15, 1913: Scranton welcomed back burlesque at the Star Theater after a very brief absence.
The theater’s manager, G. Nelson Teets, arranged for a night of “Nightingales” at the venue inside the Assembly Hotel, 314 Linden St. The “Nightingales” consisted of Millie DeLeon, aka the queen of American burlesque, and Dorothy Collins. Also performing were William Jennings, Artie Lewis, Ernest Fisher, Larry Doyle, Billie Leonard and Kittie Morris.
This big show washed away the fears of just two weeks earlier when Teets went missing. It was believed he went to New York City to arrange bookings for the theater, but he left no definite word about his plans with his employees. They feared that they would not be paid and would be out of work. But to their surprise when they got to the theater, they found their full wages.
DeLeon’s act, “The Girl in Blue,” gained the attention of the Rev. Dr. George Wood Anderson, D.D., pastor of Elm Park United Methodist Church. Anderson was in the audience when burlesque came back to the Star.
The next day, Anderson penned a letter to Scranton Mayor John Von Bergen expressing his thoughts on the show and asking Von Bergen do something about it. Von Bergen didn’t respond to the letter.
Anderson then brought the matter to the Scranton Ministerial Union. The ministers decided that they would attend each performance of the show until the city closed it down or their presence caused the loss of patrons at the theater. The group sent Von Bergen a letter to let him know their plan but again received no reply.
Despite the appearance that Von Bergen was ignoring the clergy, he was looking into the matter. On Dec. 23, Von Bergen had Scranton Police Superintendent Lona Day check on the theater and ask to see its operating license. Teets told Day that the license had expired Oct. 1 and that he intended to renew it immediately. Von Bergen, however, said the license would not be renewed.
On hearing the news, Anderson told The Scranton Times that “it is undoubtedly a great victory and I am glad that it came through the regular channels, the city authorities, and that the union did not find it necessary to resort to legal action.”
On the morning of Christmas Eve, Teets went to Von Bergen and asked that the order be rescinded. But Von Bergen said it was not up to him and that Teets should speak to the Rev. Dr. Griffin W. Bull, another member of the Ministerial Union. Teets did and promised that if they allowed him to keep the production running until Dec. 27, he would make sure they put on a “clean and decent show.”
After the mayor learned of Teets’ assurance, he told the police superintendent to allow the theater to operate until Dec. 27.
The Star reopened in the new year, but by Feb. 20, Scranton’s new mayor, E.B. Jermyn, had revoked the theater’s license after reading a transcript of the dialogue in the acts.
The Star rose again in December 1914 under the management of H.W. Storm, who said its shows would “be clean and refined.”
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Jan. 17, 1941: Hundreds filled the Masonic Temple on a Friday night to listen and dance to the big-band sound of Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra.
In addition to the orchestra, the night also featured performances by a young New Jersey crooner named Frank Sinatra, singer and actress Connie Haines, drummer Buddy Rich, trumpeter Ziggy Elman and the singing group the Pied Pipers.
The show in Scranton came on the heels of Dorsey and his group’s four-week booking at the Paramount Theater in New York City. The music started at 7:30 p.m. and went until 1 a.m. Tickets for the star-filled night cost just $1.
Following their performance in Scranton, the singers and musicians headed to Quantico, Virginia, for a performance at the Marine Corps base on Jan. 18. This performance was the start of a tour of military bases on the East Coast.
Months later, Dorsey, Sinatra and the rest of the group returned to Northeast Pennsylvania for a performance at Fernbrook Park in Dallas on May 18.
Dorsey was no stranger to Scranton. He and his brother, Jimmy, were born in Shenandoah in the early days of the 20th century. The brothers made their way to Scranton and, in 1921, formed a band, Wild Canaries, that played at the Poli Theater on Wyoming Avenue. Later, the brothers joined the Scranton Sirens, a big-band group fronted by Billy Lustig. Another future big-band leader, Russ Morgan, also was in the Sirens with the Dorsey brothers.
The Dorseys eventually left the Sirens and joined different groups before forming their own separate orchestras in 1936.
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Close to 120,000 people converged on Pocono International Raceway, Long Pond, on a Saturday, July 8, 1972 not for fast cars but for rock ‘n’ roll.
Called Concert 10, the day of rock featured acts such as Three Dog Night; Faces with Rod Stewart; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Humble Pie; the J. Geils Band; Cactus; Edgar Winter; Mother Night; Clare Hamill; Ramatam and Bullangus.
The audience started arriving July 6, and by the afternoon of July 8, state police reported that traffic was backed up all the way to Delaware Water Gap. Some concertgoers using Route 115 to get to the show abandoned their vehicles and walked to the racetrack because of the traffic congestion.
The concert started with sets from Claire Hamill, Mother Night, Cactus, Ramatam and Edgar Winter. When the music started, so did the rain.
The music and rain continued. At night, concert organizers paused the show because of the precipitation. It started back up at 4 a.m. with Emerson, Lake & Palmer taking the stage. Next came Faces with Rod Stewart, Humble Pie, J. Geils Band and Three Dog Night, with the music finishing at 8:30 a.m. the next day.
Despite the large number of people attending, the concert stayed pretty peaceful. On-site medical staff reported treating 15 people for bumps and scrapes. The state police only arrested one person, on a charge of malicious mischief. The individual smashed a window with a rock at the nearby state police substation in Fern Ridge. However, Dennis Ferment, 17, of Wallington, New Jersey, died in a traffic accident on Interstate 80 while trying to reach the concert on July 7.
The audience did leave behind a lot of trash once the concert ended Sunday morning. One-hundred Boy Scouts worked alongside maintenance workers to clean the racetrack. A spokesperson for Pocono Raceway said some concert-goers stayed to clean up as well and that the racetrack gave them money for a ride or food for their help.
Bernard Ruttenberg, one of Concert 10’s promoters, reported that they sold 100,000 tickets to the show.
“This looks like the first rock concert that worked,” he told The Scranton Times.
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While reading back issues of the Times-Tribune in preparation for the daily feature “Day in History,” I came across this headline – “Man Attacked by Cat In His Home May Have Rabies” in April 12, 1944 edition of the Scranton Times.
The cat’s victim was named Garfield.