Saturday, January 07, 2006

Backstage pass to the past



From Asbury Park Press:

Backstage pass to the past
Auction recalls nights out from long ago at Passaic's Capitol Theatre
Posted by the
Asbury Park Press
STORY BY
SHANNON MULLEN
STAFF WRITER

Hey, great news: There still are a bunch of tickets available for the Grateful Dead show at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic on March 1! Front row seats, no less!

The only catch is that the show took place in 1980. Even so, the 20 never-used ducats will be up for grabs Saturday at the Island Heights fire hall during a public auction that features a treasure trove of memorabilia from the Capitol Theatre, a hallowed rock 'n' roll venue in the 1970s and '80s.

The items include backstage passes, concert programs, tour buttons and a handful of electric guitars the roadies evidently forgot or abandoned. Diane Martino, who worked in the theater's box office from about 1980 to 1985, and her late husband, Harry Newkirk, head of security for promoter John Scher, who owned the Capitol in its concert heyday, collected all this and lots more during their affiliation with the theater.

In 1980, around the time Martino started working at the theater, Billboard magazine called the Capitol, which had about 3,200 or so seats and functioned during the day as a pornographic movie house, as "the No. 1 concert hall in the nation under 6,000 seats." In the '70s and '80s, it was a popular tour stop for such artists as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band, U2 and the Dead, among many others.

Now, like a lot of people this time of year, Martino, a 47-year-old yoga instructor who lives in Passaic Park, has decided to pare down.

"I have enough of this stuff," she said in a telephone interview. She's holding on to some of the more special items, including bowling shirts from Van Halen, an Eric Clapton concert poster and Art Deco fixtures from the theater, which was built in the 1920s.

Because she technically worked for Scher, Martino handled ticket sales for concerts not only at the Capitol Theatre but at venues throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Those were some hard-rocking times, she recalled, but she doesn't sound very wistful now. A job is a job, after all.

"After a while, it was like, "Oh, god, another show,' " Martino said. The Capitol Theatre, located at 326 Monroe St. in Passaic, was damaged by arson and eventually demolished in 1992. Martino said a strip mall now sits on the site.

After she decided to sell off some of her collection, a friend put her in touch with Jersey Shore auctioneers Mark Csik and Jerry Manganello. Csik, 49, of Lacey, owns North River Antiques, and Manganello, 69, of Dover Township, runs Jersey Shore Auction Service. They work together on estate sales and a monthly auction in the area. They are more accustomed to handling antique furniture and collectibles than they are with rock 'n' roll memorabilia, and neither would hazard a guess what Martino's collection might be worth.

"There's no reference we can look at to tell us what 20 unused Grateful Dead tickets are worth," said Csik. "The market is going to tell us what it's worth."

Prior to the auction, Csik and Manganello and Manganello's wife, Shirley, were organizing the items by artist and genre so they can be sold off in blocks the day of the auction, which also will include more traditional auction content, such as antique furniture and artwork.

Csik said those who aren't familiar with how auctions work needn't feel shy about participating. He and Manganello pride themselves on making sure their auctions are accessible to everyone.
"After you raise your hand one time," Csik promised, "it's very easy."

Csik came of age in the '70s, so he appreciates the significance of Martino's collection. But names like The Pretenders, Little Feat and George Thorogood and the Destroyers don't resonate with Manganello at all.

"It means nothing to me," Manganello confessed. "My generation was Chuck Berry — the 1950s."

Editor's note:
The Dead played Passaic's Capitol Theatre 3/30/80, 3/31/80, and 4/1/80. The Jerry Garcia Band played an
early show and a late show 3/1/80. -SLC Library Boy

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