This month’s Know Your Venue edition features The Hawthorne Theatre and its century-long journey from Masonic Lodge to eclectic, and often all-ages, venue.
The classic Aladdin Theater overlooks a large stretch of Milwaukie Avenue at Powell Boulevard in the SE Brooklyn neighborhood of Portland. Within the venue, the stage, chandeliers and organ grilles maintain the same appearance as they did when the venue was first constructed in 1927. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have enjoyed performances there, thanks mostly to the building’s creator and original owner, Ike Geller.
Born in Russia in 1894, Geller opened his first theatre, Walnut Park, in NE Portland at the ripe age of twenty-nine. A man of taste, he longed for a more modern show house with a “Golden ‘20s” aesthetic. With assistance from architect Edward A. Miller, he achieved his goal, opening Geller’s Theatre on Christmas Day, 1927.
Seven years later, the 630-seat house was renamed the Aladdin and provided a stage for vaudeville acts such as Jack Benny, until the mid 1930s, when the demand for cinema overtook that for live performance. The Aladdin remained a successful all-ages cinema house for the next 40 years until a decision was made for the theatre to serve a very different audience. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Aladdin was exclusively x-rated, and even achieved the inglorious honor of being the number one exhibitor of the notorious flick, Deep Throat. Thankfully, a benefactor with a love for music and repair, ushered in a new era for the building.
Paul Shuback (of Shuback’s Violin Shop) purchased the property in 1991, renovating both the exterior and interior, and reopening Aladdin as a performance venue and art-film house. Within the next couple of years, Shuback worked with concert promoters Steve Reischman and Sally Custer to begin a healthy legacy of quality concerts and events at the theater. Reischman would later leave production company Showman Inc. to launch Bear Concerts, where he employed another savvy entrepreneur, Mark Adler.
Working as a talent buyer for Bear Concerts, Adler saw the potential in the historic Aladdin and completed purchase of the building in 2001. Forming his own production company (True West LLC) at the same time, Adler and his team have since hosted a wide variety of musicians (Beck, The Black Keys, Lindsey Buckingham), comedians (Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Handler) and performers (Dita Von Teese). While True West books events at a handful of venues throughout Portland, the crown jewel remains The Aladdin.
For more information and a list of more of the amazing performances at the Aladdin, please visit: www.aladdin-theater.com »
– Richard Lime