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Clowes Encounters: 5 Backstage Celebrity Tales

Clowes Memorial Hall turns 50 this year. And while the theater has hosted some big names over the decades, the backstage stories steal the show.

Judy Garland, 1967

“This was during Judy’s wild period, and everyone was on pins and needles to make sure she got to Clowes Hall. When she got off the plane, I said, ‘Ms. Garland, I’m Sid. I’m here to pick you up.’ She threw her arms around my neck and said, “Well, pick me up then!” I carried her through the airport all the way to the limousine. Afterward, she told me ‘I could play here all year long.’ The next weekend she locked herself in the hotel room and they had to break in to get her.” —Sid Weedman, former Clowes production manager

 

 

Bob Hope, 1967

“When Bob was headlining at Clowes during opening weekend, the staff unwittingly ordered him a Rolls Royce. But as the spokesman for Chrysler, Bob couldn’t be seen driving anything else. So they found him a Chrysler and the Rolls Royce followed him around all weekend with only his golf clubs in the trunk.” —Christine Thacker, Clowes archivist

 

 

Vice President Spiro Agnew, 1972

 “When Mr. Agnew visited, a helicopter landed right in front of Clowes Hall. Someone who looked like Agnew walked in the front doors, but the real vice president entered through the back. One of the Secret Service members told me they needed someone in the projection booth. When asked why, he replied ‘Haven’t you seen the The Manchurian Candidate?’ Their security strategies were based on old movies.” —Sid Weedman

 

 

Hal Holbrook, 1981

“Hal was doing his Mark Twain show, and early in the afternoon, his makeup artist realized the Twain wig was missing. That thing was critical. When we called Hal and told him, it was just 30 seconds of silence. Then he remembered he had left it in a closet in New York. He called his mother-in-law there, and we immediately scheduled a flight for her. She got to Clowes just in time. She gave Hal the wig, he kissed her, and she headed right back to New York.” —Sid Weedman

 

 

Faye Dunaway, 1997

“Faye had so many demands that her performance of Master Class started 50 minutes late. She made the chorus dressing room [intended for 30 people] her own, and wanted a day bed brought in with specific linens. She ordered a steak from St. Elmo’s, then sent it back. I remember people told her ‘That’s the best you’re going to get in Indianapolis.’” —Lisa Whitaker, Clowes business manager


Portrait illustrations by Parker Myers

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue.