When John D. Rockefeller, Jr., decided to finance the construction of Rockefeller Center in the 1930s, he intended his music hall to be the pinnacle of showbiz. He envisioned lavish stage productions not unlike the wildly successful Ziegfeld Follies of the day. People would come for a spectacle, and nothing less. It’s safe to say that Radio City Music Hall, the Showplace of the Nation as it was once hailed by the papers, has lived up to the hype.
Through years as a concert hall, movie theater, and a venue for awards shows like the Grammys and the Tonys, Radio City was and still is one of the city’s busiest tourist destinations. Its unique Art Deco design, uncommon for a theater of its time, and its iconic neon facade have become a symbol of New York to rival the Empire State Building or Times Square. Furthermore, its synonymity with red carpet celebrity have tied it closely to the engineered magic of showbiz history in its 80 year run. Here are the top 10 secrets we dug up about the place.
1. The Music Hall’s Opening Night Was A Bit of a Disaster
Two days after Christmas in 1932, The Radio City Music Hall opened for the first time to New York audiences. Its program for the night was an extravagant show aimed at bringing back the high-class entertainment that had gone missing during the Great Depression. Ray Bolger, Doc Rockwell and Martha Graham performed in the show, but even their star power could not save the night, which most say was a disaster.
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The program was overly long and failed to generate any real audience interest. Primitive microphones that were being used were unable to project individual acts into the enormous atrium-like auditorium. At least in the early 30s, lavish stage productions would not stay for long at the Music Hall.