This week's Patch Portraits was produced and edited by Philip Downie, Carrie Porter, Quintin Slovek and Allison Williams. Check back on Mondays for the next installment.
Also showcased, a long-running square dancing caller who talks to Morton Grove Patch.
The marquee of the Skokie Theater may be a landmark of the Village of Skokie, but the man in the office, operations manager Al Curtis, is perhaps its biggest characters.
After attending DePaul University, Curtis got his start in the entertainment business during the mid-1960s meeting old-time comedians from Jack Benny and Jimmy Durante to Bill Cosby and George Carlin.
In his long career, Curtis booked shows for musicians from Styx to Stevie Wonder in venues ranging from high school gyms, to the Illinois State Fair and the Palmer House Hilton’s Empire Room.
Curtis’ characteristic dry humor came out in his discussion with Patch, which ranged from a discussion of the business of trying to sell, “four walls” to Curtis’ continued passion for live entertainment. The economic downturn’s impact on local businesses was, as might be expected, frequently discussed, as was one of Curtis' favorite business philosophies: “Dollars earned elsewhere,” the idea that live entertainment generates income for local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
When Curtis was asked how long he expects his Skokie Theater Music Foundation to remain open, which is now in receivership, he replied by saying, “I don’t know, but couldn’t you ask that same question to the guy across the street.”
If anything, Curtis is a firm believer of getting people out of the house and that live entertainment has it’s medicinal uses in a continually moribund economy.