2017 … a MONSTER of a year!
Come on! Where did 2017 go? Really, doesn't it seem like this was the quickest year ever?
We had a banner year at Onesti Entertainment. Almost 300 live shows, corporate expansion into new properties and special events, and a record-breaking festival year. Am I tired? Naw, I'm just getting warmed up!
New Year's Eve 2016 into 2017 was pretty cool as we opened "Club Arcada," our 1920s Speakeasy and Restaurant located on the third floor of the theater. It was also pretty gutsy as opening a new restaurant on an important night like New Year's Eve is dangerous. Didn't scare me though! It was the best New Year's Eve everybody present had!
The following are a few highlights of this crazy year:
January began our concert calendar as it typically does, with the country's top tributes. It is a way that we can offer quality shows at a lower price, as customers are still feeling the Christmas budget crunch. Salutes to Led Zeppelin, Heart, Joan Jett, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan and Paul McCartney were featured that month, along with jam band Mr. Blotto, '60s legends The Lettermen and metal maniacs TESLA … talk about variety!
In February, we began our Arcada Theatre/CATOE Silent Film series. From Charlie Chaplin to Buster Keaton, to classic thrillers including "Nosferatu," the accompaniment on the original theater pipe organ has been a huge hit! It is really amazing to experience what is was like in the '20s and '30s as the theater first opened!
And having Mickey Dolenz do a concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Monkees was spectacular, especially his heartwarming salute to Davy Jones.
One of only 17 people to have earned an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy, the legendary Rita Moreno performed her career retrospective at The Arcada. What an honor to have her here! She is as much of a "firecracker" as her character is on the hit Netflix series, "One Day at a Time."
Livingston Taylor, James Taylor's brother, and Tom Chapin, the brother of Harry Chapin, came together and did a remarkable show, with career hits of their own, as well as nods to their legendary brothers. Speaking of brothers, Dave Davies, brother of The Kinks' frontman Ray Davies, performed an entire Kinks show that had everybody on their feet!
The Commodores came by, with all their "brick house" splendor. People are STILL dancin' in the aisles after that one! An annual tradition, Burton Cummings of "The Guess Who" performed a three-hour, four-encore spectacular! And probably our favorite band, America, did two nights!
The ageless Lennon Sisters performed their classic repertoire seen many times on "The Lawrence Welk Show." They were a favorite of my parents as we watched that show every Sunday when I was growing up. When I had the chance to bring them to The Arcada, I did it immediately for my mom. She was a big fan. As it turned out, it was the last show she saw at the theater before passing away shortly after.
Another highlight of 2017 was when we did a Beatles' tribute show with The Liverpool Legends. Angie and Ruth McCartney, Sir Paul's stepmother and stepsister, joined the fun and did a very informative Q&A with me and the audience.
Motown legend Mary Wilson of The Supremes performed hits and told the stories of how it was back in the days when "neighborhood kids" like Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Little Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Mary Welles and Aretha Franklin all hung around, just hummin' and sangin' while they answered phones and made lunch in the kitchen of the home-turned-music studio that Motown was.
And talk about highlights! I have always been a big Judy Garland fan. When I was contacted by Judy's son, Joey Luft, whom she had with her husband Sid Luft, to do an evening with the son of a legend Q&A, I was thrilled! But I wanted it to be an incredible audience experience, so I brought local superstar Angela Ingersoll in to perform as Judy. It was magical! A true behind-the-music experience. And by the time Angela performed "Somewhere Over The Rainbow," there wasn't a dry eye in the house … including Joey's.
There are also those shows that make eyebrows shoot up. Paul Shaffer was one of those shows. The former music director for David Letterman actually brought the "Late Night Band" with him! It was incredible! And when I met him, he called ME a legend! I couldn't believe it … a career moment for me.
When it comes to '80s "hair" bands, three of the top were Poison, Motley Crew and Twisted Sister. On three separate occasions we brought in the frontmen of these groups with their bands, Bret Michaels, Vince Neil and Dee Snider. All great guys, great performers and great with the crowds!
Our buddies Dennis DeYoung, Eddie Money, Jim Peterik and BJ Thomas also came back for command performances. Fabulous as always as they truly deliver to the audience the original songs, sung the original way, bringing back wonderful memories.
And a project that has truly "blown up" as it sells out every time we have it is the "Cornerstones of Rock: American Garage" show that features the Garage Bands of the 1960s including The Buckinghams, The Ides of March, The Shadows of Knight, The Cryan' Shames and The New Colony Six. What a night of hits!
Coming full circle regarding career moments, I was granted an onstage interview with Priscilla Presley! When I tried submitting preapproved questions to her, she called me personally to tell me that there was nothing "off limits"! We had a great time talking about her career and her history with "The King." By the way, Elvis was a boxer guy, not a brief guy!
We had our share of "controversial" performers as well. Corey Feldman, 1980s Hollywood heartthrob, brought his band of "Angels" with him. It is definitely an interesting show. It was great for Corey fans, for sure. Ted Nugent also provided for some "active" social media for us. You either love him or you hate him, no in between. Musically, he was incredible, a true rocker, through and through. And for the most part, he left his politics at home.
A bucket list guy for me was the Paul Anka show. Talk about legendary! He did all the hits, walked on chairs in the audience and played to standing ovations all night long. Neil Sedaka did his one-man show, another fabulous hitmaker. Deana Martin paid a musical tribute to the 100th birthday of her legendary father.
We lost one of our pillars in the company, our promotions manager, Dan Maas. Until the very end he ate, drank and slept all things Arcada. His soul will forever remain in the halls of the theater.
Yes, 2017 was a jam-packed year. I lost my mom, but she was able to enjoy one last show in the first row, where she always sat. She got to see "Club Arcada" Speakeasy, something we all worked very hard on. She will also be with all of us here at The Arcada, forever our matriarch.
Here's to an even greater 2018, wishing you as much enjoyment at the shows as I get putting them together for you!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.