In this era of television, and high-bucks movies, most theatergoers don't realize that -- from the 1920s into the late 1940s -- the first downtown movie houses often featured live orchestras and stage shows.
Washington's Earle Theatre, which under its later name of Warner has just been given historic landmark status, was one of the places where local folk went to enjoy stage and screen in the same house.
Reporting on the 40th anniversary of V-J Day earlier this week, we noted the concurrent disbandment of the Roxyettes, precision dancers who had entertained on the Earle's stage since 1938. We asked whether any were still around.
Babs Robertson Shankman of Somerset said she was one of the original Roxyettes who left to get married after four years to a man who is a Washington lawyer. Billie Kaufman of Potomac, who danced under the name Wini Nine, said she left the troupe in a dispute with her boss, but with fond memories. Both said none of the original dancers who stuck with the group from the beginning in 1938 to its disbandment in 1945 still live in the Washington area, but one, who used the stage name Ruth Minroy, lives in a Richmond suburb.
Both remember regular appearances by comedian Red Skelton, who advocated the historic landmark status for the theater.
Billie Kaufman also recalls Rise Stevens as a singer there before her ascent to operatic superstardom.