Thursday, December 08, 2005

Orwellian Times? Nah! RIOPELLE-ian!!

Anyone who has been in the Valley since the early 1970's knows that Jerry Riopelle is a favorite son. Bill Compton (2005 AZ Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee) did much to promote Riopelle's music. Since then Jerry Riopelle has continued to be a bonafide Arizona legend. His New Year's Eve shows at the Celebrity Theatre were the place to be for many years.

This New Years eve you can join Jerry Riopelle at the Celebrity Theatre for his 30th Anniversary New Years Eve blowout. I can say with authority that you won't find anything more entertaining to do this New Years Eve. Riopelle will perform a long awaited and sure to be spectacular reunion date at the historic Celebrity Theatre, the Valley's only intact original indoor rock venue.

The Celebrity claims a unique place in the Valley's rock and roll history book. In the late 1960's the Arizona State Legislature had collective cardiac arrest about Jim Morrison's performance at the AZ Veterans Memorial Colisuem. After the Door's performance, the alarmed legislators voted to close the AZ Coliseum doors to rock concerts. Thankfully it didn't take long for the new Celebrity Theatre to come to the rescue. The Celebrity gave us our first glimpe of a REAL venue for our music. The acoustics were fantastic. Seats were great. The line of sight couldn't be beat. Concerts were always packed.

In the 1970's the Celebrity, then known as Buster Bonoff's Celebrity Theatre, hosted greats like George Carlin (you can see this one on HBO!) Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Harry Chapin, Genesis, Loggins and Messina, Scherazade, and Loudon Wainwright III. Those are only a fraction of the Celebrity Theatre concerts that kept us groovin' in those days.

The theatre's revolving stage was a source of curiosity back then. Watching each artist react to the revolving stage was sometimes hilarious. Some said they would prefer to perform strolling around the circumfrence themselves than to be slowly orbited around the theatre. Once in awhile it came down to one of two things being stopped: the revolving stage or the show. I vividly remember George Carlin's raised eyebrow accompanied by a momentary look of paranoia as he realized the stage was revolving.

Cruising that circular path around the stage was an event for the audience members as well. Greetings would be hollered out by early bird fans as they spotted their laid back counterparts casually ambling across to their seats. The scene would have made a good R. Crumb cartoon. And though the Celebrity Theatre eventually closed for a few years when Bonoff sold it, it reopened and continued, although for awhile not as the premier venue it once was.

The Celebrity is now in its best incarnation since the theatre's heyday. A great time to come and visit this beloved Valley of the Sun stomping ground will be on Dec 31st for Jerry Riopelle's New Year's Eve concert. In the parlance of the times, it will be a happening, man! Even the AZ Republic newspaper is getting into the spirit by asking readers for their fondest (wild or mild!) memories of a Riopelle New Years Eve show. So, if you can talk about them, email your memories to the newspaper at Your comments might make it into an upcoming article on Riopelle.

In addition to the 30th Anniversary New Years Eve concert there's also some very hip stuff happening with Jerry Riopelle and Radio Free Phoenix. Jerry, Paul, "Sweet" Naomi, and Jeff Hollie (Riopelle's sax player) will be guest dj's on the Valley's own progressive internet radio station Radio Free Phoenix. The show is scheduled to air on Saturday Dec. 17th at 5:00 pm and again on Sunday Dec. 18th at 3:00 pm on 

If you haven't yet heard the incredible stream of non commerical music that comes forth from this "radio with a heart and a conscience" you don't know what you're missing. True to the station's self description, RFP's Cheryl Sweet put an ebay auction together to assist New Orleans street musicians who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The auction, which ends on December 15th, features some rare and funky items.

Auction items include an original KCAC poster, original KZON memorabilia, some 60's era Top 40 KRUX and KRIZ mementos, and souveniers from the Wallace and Ladmo show (Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald were inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005.) Well known artist Tracy Dove also donated two original works of art which beautifully embody the spirit of a generation.

Leave it to Riopelle to donate one of the coolest items to the Radio Free Phoenix auction: a pair of wild pink Doc Marten shoes that Alice Cooper gave Jerry when he mentioned that he liked Alice's shoes! You can get more details and take a look at all the auction items on the site.
Riopelle's 4 CD anthology set is currently being manufactured. It will be ready in time for fans to snap it up on New Years Eve at his Celebrity Theatre gig. The title of the anthology collection is Jerry Riopelle/The Works 1970-2000. For those of you who can't make it out to the Celebrity Theatre for Jerry's 30th Anniversary New Years Eve show, you should be able to purchase the CD set online and in Phoenix area stores in late January.  

To pick up your tickets to Riopelle's 30th Anniversary New Year's blast, go to or call 602-267-1600
See you there!

Mariah Fleming,
Radio Free Phoenix
AZ Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame 

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