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Brooklyn Paramount Theater Subject of Conference “Magnet for the Masses: When Theater was Paramount in Brooklyn”

Free Panels, Performances and Exhibitions on Friday, April 15 at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus


Fatima Kafele,Deputy Director of Public Relations
Brooklyn Campus,
Long Island University
(718) 488-1014

Brooklyn, N.Y. – The legendary Brooklyn Paramount Theater at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, along with other grand theaters in Brooklyn, will be celebrated during of a one-day conference at the Campus on April 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Magnet for the Masses: When Theater was Paramount in Brooklyn” — a free event that is open to the public — will feature musical performances and a star-studded cast of panelists that includes radio and television personality Joe Franklin and famous Hollywood movie maker Norman Steinberg, who helped write the screenplay for the Mel Brooks classic “Blazing Saddles.”

The conference will take place in the historic theater located at 1 University Plaza (at DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues in Downtown Brooklyn). Reservations are required and can be made by calling (718) 488-1185 or sending an email to

Other panelists scheduled to take part in the morning panel discussions are Joseph Boskin, author of “Rebellious Laughter;” performer Mary Favia; David Harmon of Harmony Productions; singer/comedienne “Dr. Sue” Horowitz; screenwriter Ron Hutchinson of “The Vitaphone Project;” theater historian Craig Morrison; producer Richie “O” of “The Joe Franklin Show;” Don K. Reed of WCBS FM’s “The Doo Wop Shop;” Brooklyn historian Ron Schweiger; vaudeville historian Travis Stewart; and architecture and theater engineering expert Peter Tymus, an administrator at the Brooklyn Campus.

Registration begins at 8 a.m., followed by panel discussions from 9 a.m. until noon. Topics will include “Bright for Day: Theatrical Lights, Show Business and The Transformation of American Popular Culture in Brooklyn” and “Performers and Audiences: The Making of New Americans and The Remaking of America in the Brooklyn Paramount and Other Theaters in Our Borough.”

Performances by Joe Amato on the Paramount’s “Mighty Wurlitzer,” the Sammy Saxx Doo Wop Group, vaudeville performer Travis Stewart, and The Giacomo Gates Quintet featuring Sam Newsome, Greg Lewis, Carlos de Rosa, Eric Wyatt will follow the morning discussions, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

About the Paramount Theater

Designed by the storied Chicago firm of Rapp & Rapp, the Brooklyn Paramount Theater opened in 1928 as a showpiece for its namesake studio. Considered a “proletarian palace,” the rococo-designed theater had approximately 4,000 seats covered in red velvet. Its sky-blue ceiling featured painted clouds, and the decor included extensive Renaissance-imitated statuaries and sculptures. The 60-foot stage curtains were decorated with satin embroidered pheasants and in the lobby were huge chandeliers and fountains with goldfish. In addition to moving pictures, the theater also offered great vaudeville performers, and later, major stars like Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. In the 1950’s, the Paramount created a sensation with Alan Freed’s famous Rock ‘N’ Roll show with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and others musicals stars. The Paramount was also a central place for jazz in New York. Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis are just some of the legends that performed on the stage.

After the Paramount building was sold to Long Island University in 1950, it continued to function as a theater for two more decades. Gradually, the structure was converted into college administrative offices and a gymnasium. Still, many signs of the theater’s decor are intact, as its legendary nine-story auditorium and the magnificent lobby. The “Mighty Wurlitzer,” second in size only to the organ at Radio City Music Hall is still operational and features more than 2,000 pipes and 257 stops that imitate a variety of sounds: a brass brand, percussion instruments, train whistles, bird calls, horse hoofs and all the sounds necessary to allow the organist to accompany a movie.

“Magnet for the Masses” has been organized by Brooklyn Campus Professors Michael Hittman (Anthropology) and Joseph Dorinson (History). It is co-sponsored by the Theatre Museum Project (Helen Marie Guditis, Director), The New York City Council for the Humanities and the John P. McGrath Fund with support from the Long Island University Brooklyn Campus Anthropology, Sociology, Journalism, Media Arts and Social Work departments.

The Brooklyn Campus is distinguished by…
dynamic curricula reflecting the great urban community it serves. Distinctive programs encompass the arts and media, the natural sciences, business, social policy, urban education, the health professions and pharmacy, and include the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics, the D.P.T. in Physical Therapy and the Pharm.D. in Pharmacy. A vibrant urban oasis in downtown Brooklyn, this diverse and thriving campus offers academic excellence, personalized attention, small class size and flexible course schedules. In 2006, a $45-million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center was opened to serve the Campus and the surrounding community. In 2007, the Cyber Café was launched, providing a high-tech hot spot for students and faculty members to meet and eat.

Posted 03/14/2011

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