IN PRAISE OF THE APOLLO

This year, Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater celebrates its 80th anniversary. For Black History Month, the Apollo’s Billy Mitchell, in-house historian and director of tours, and Ade Williams, associate director of community programs, take us on a virtual walk through the iconic artistic treasure.

Aired on February 1, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

BEFORE THERE WAS STAR SEARCH, THE VOICE AND EVEN AMERICAN BANDSTAND, THERE WAS AND STILL IS AMATEUR NIGHT AT THE APOLLO.

LOCATED IN THE HEART OF HARLEM, THIS WORLD FAMOUS THEATER IS LIVING HISTORY, ITS WALLS ECHO WITH MORE THAN 80 YEARS OF BLACK HISTORY AND CULTURE.

SINCE OPENING IT'S DOORS THE APOLLO HAS PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE INFORMS OF MUSIC.

IN IT'S 80-PLUS YEARS AS A VENUE, THE APOLLO WAS ALSO THE LAUNCHING PAD FOR SUPERSTARS, MANY OF THEM SUCH AS JAMES BROWN, JIMI HENDRIX, THE JACKSON FIVE.

THE APOLLO HAS HAD HARD TIMES IN ITS HISTORY.

BUT HER MARQUEE STILL BGLOWS WIH THE BEST NAMES IN ENTERTAINMENT.

AND THIS WEEKEND WE'LL BE ABLE TO EXPLORE THE APOLLO DURING ITS OPEN HOUSE.

MR. APOLLO HISTORIAN BILLY M MIT MITCHELL.

BILLY, YOU FIRST, YOU'VE BEEN THERE FOR MORE THAN 50 YEARS, JUST GIVE US A QUICK SENSE, HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AT THE APOLLO AND WHAT'S KEPT YOU THERE SO LONG?

I FIRST CAME TO THE APOLLO IN 1965 TO RUN ERRANDS TO MAKE MONEY, I'M ONE OF 14 CHILDREN AND WE NEEDED SOME MONEY SO I STARTED COMING TO THE APOLLO THEATER.

THE THEATER CLOSED IN 1977, AND WHEN IT REOPENED IN 199 4, IT WAS REOPENED BY A MENTOR OF MINE, HE OFFERED ME A POSITION AS USHER AND HE GAVE ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW SO I HAVE BEEN THERE EVER SINCE.

ALL OF A SUDDEN THIS BECAME A MAGNET, IT WAS A PLACE THAT DREW AFRICAN-AMERICAN PERFORMERS, WERE THERE OTHER PLACES IN THE CITY THAT WERE DOING THAT OR WAS THE APOLLO DOING IT ON ITS OWN?

THERE WERE OTHER PLACES THAT WERE GOING IT, BUT THE APOLLO IS ONE OF THE FIRST THEATERS THAT WAS COMPLETELY INTEGRATED, IE, PEOPLE KNOW OF THE COTTON CLUB AND THE GREAT BLACK PERFORMERS THAT WERE ON STAGE, THE DIFFERENCE WITH THE APOLLO, IT ALSO WELCOMED A BLACK AUDIENCE.

IT AND I THINK TO ME THE APOLLO IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CREATE AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD.

WHAT'S SPECIAL GOT AMATEUR NIGHT IS IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT RACE YOU ARE, IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE, ALL THAT MATTERS IS REQCAN YOU DELIVER THE GOODS AND IT'S NTHE COMMUNITY THAT DECIDES.

ITTELL US HOW IT GOT STARTED AND HOW IT'S EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS.

OUR AUDIENCE ARE THE JUDGES.

WE GIVE PEOPLE AN OPPORTUNITY TO GO UP THERE AND PERFORM.

UNLIKE A LOT OF OTHER TALENT SHOWS, WHERE YOU HAVE THREE OR FOUR PEOPLE AT THE TABLE.

OUR JUDGES ARE THE AUDIENCE.

IF THEY LIKE YOU THEY'LL ABSOLUTELY GIVE YOU LOVE.

BUT IF THEY BOO YOU, IT'S NOT TO BE MEAN OR MALICIOUS, IT'S ALL IN FUN.

AND THE AMATEURS, IF YOU' 'RE BOOED, YOU'RE WELCOME TO COME BACK AND GIVE IT A TRY.

GIVE US SOME NAMES?

I FIRST SAW MICHAEL JACKSON WHEN HE WAS ONLY 9 YEARS OLD.

I'VE SEEN JAMIE FOXX, ADAM SANDLER, DAVE CHAPPELLE, LAUREN HILL.

LUTHER VANDROSS.

AHAV I HAVE BEEN SO FORTUNATE.

TALK ABOUT THE OPEN HOUSE, AGAIN, IT'S AN ANNUAL EVENT THE APOLLO THEATER'S BEEN DOING.

WHAT'S THE IDEA BEHIND IT?

WHAT WE WANT TO DO IS CREATE THE ATMOSPHERE WHERE PEOPLE CAN COME FOR FREE AND GET A SENSE OF THE WONDERFUL HISTORY THAT BILLY MITCHELL IS GIVING AND SEE SOME OF THE PERSONALITIES THAT THEY SEE ON TELEVISION, 'METROFOCUS'S' OWN RAFAEL P.

RAMON IS GOING TO BE ONE OF OUR HOSTS ON SUNDAY, THEY GET TO SEE PERSONALITIES FROM TV, THEY GET TO SEE COMEDY, DANCE, WHAT HAVE YOU, ALL FOR FREE.

AND GIVE YOU A SENSE OF NOT ONLY WHAT'S HAPPENING AT THE APOLLO THEATER AND WHAT'S HAPPENING IN HARLEM, WE'RE ACTUALLY PUTTING A SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK HISTORY MONTH THROUGHOUT NEW YORK CITY.

SO WE'RE EVEN HAVING OTHER VENUES TO COME AND EXPLAIN WHAT THEY'RE DOING FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH.

BUT THEY COME HERE TO THE APOLLO THEATER, WHICH IS AN APPROPRIATE VENUE TO TALK ABOUT BRACK BLACK HISTORY.

WE WANT THEM TO GET A SENSE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING THE REST OF THE SEASON, AND WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING IN THEIR OWN BACKYARDS.

LET ME ASK THIS QUESTION OF BOTH OF YOU, IT'S BEEN PART OF THIS COMMUNITY FOR SO LONG NOW, BUT IT'S BEEN A CHANGING COMMUNITY, WHAT HAS BEEN THE ROLE, DO YOU THINK, AND BILLY, I'LL ASK YOU, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ROLE THAT THE APOLLO HAS MADE IN USHERING THE --

WE HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY.

YOU KNOW, WITH THE COMMUNITY CHANGES AND THE INFLUX OF NEW PEOPLE COMING TO THE COMMUNITY, YOU CAN COME TO A SHOW ON MY NIGHT, YOU MAY SEE PAUL McCARTNEY, OR YOU MAY SEE SMOKEY ROBINSON OR PATTY LABELLE.

IF YOU'RE INTO THEATER, WE GO OPERAS AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

ALD A LOT OF PEOPLE AREN'T AWARE OF THAT.

SO THERE'S SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY AT THE APOLLO THEATER.

IF YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN PLEASE COME JOIN US.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT DO YOU THINK, JUST IN TERMS OF BEING EMBLEMATIC OF THIS COMMUNITY THAT THE APOLLO IS THERE, NOT JUST STILL STANDING, BUT THRIVING?

I THINK HARLEM IS ALWAYS GOING TO RESONATE, HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF BLACK AMERICANS ESPECIALLY.

WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A RACIALLY DIVERSE COMMUNITY AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THAT.

BUT THAT'S BEEN THE CASE FROM OUR INCEPTION, AND WE HAVE ALL BEEN A COMMUNITY THAT'S BEEN RICH ECONOMICALLY, AND I THINK PART OF WHAT'S MADE THE APOLLO WORK, WHAT BILLY'S TALKING ABOUT AND WHAT WE'RE DOING FOR OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND, REFLECTION OF WHAT THE APOLLO IS.

I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE A GREAT WEEKEND FOR YOU AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO CHATTING WITH YOU AGAIN.

AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WOULD LIKE TO TAKE PART IN THE EVENTS HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND AT THE APOLLO, GO TO ME'METRMETROFOCUS.

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