Cathy Chester | An Empowered Spirit

What Do Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby And The Loew’s Jersey Theater Have In Common? Magic

The moment we walked toward the entrance of the movie palace I stepped back in time. It was the first time in over 45 years that I’ve been at this theater. I was a child again, holding my grandfather’s hand as he purchased two tickets to see the latest show.

Loew's Jersey City theater movies Frank Bing

As I stepped into the main lobby I’d forgotten the grandeur of the old theater, and how beautiful and glamorous the walls and ceilings were decorated.

Loew's Jersey City theater movies Frank Bing

We were at the original Loew’s Wonder Theater located in Journal Square in Jersey City. When it first opened it was a series of flagship theaters located in the New York City area.

Originally opening in 1929, I wondered if men and women got dressed up in tuxedoes and gowns for the premiere of the first film, Madame X, and its accompanying live music on the “Wonder Pipe” organ.

Loew's Jersey City theater movies Frank Bing

I was jolted back into the present when our guide, Paul Melia, the person who invited my family and me to the theater, introduced himself and gave us a backstage tour of the theater.

We were amazed as we walked down, down, down the stairs and into the bowels of the theater. I once again stepped back in time, into the 1930’s as we peered into old dressing rooms, rehearsal halls and a trap door.

This building is steeped in history, and was built for live performances as well as movies. Renowned vaudeville acts and great crooners like Bing Crosby performed here.

This was the place where a skinny kid from Hoboken decided to become a singer.

It was the 1930’s and Bing Crosby was performing at the Loew’s. In the audience that night was none other than Frank Sinatra who was so mesmerized by the great vocalist that he declared that evening to make his life’s goal to become a great singer. (NOTE: Nancy Sinatra confirmed this story.)

I think Frank Sinatra made good on his promise, don’t you?

Back upstairs, we found ourselves in back of the stage. I was ready to do what I’d come to do.

Step back into time again.

I took a deep breath, then slowly peered around the curtain to look out into the audience. After taking my first look the memories came flooding back.

The ghosts of the past were on my shoulder, and I felt it. I hoped the gathering audience knew how blessed they were to be able to share in the experience of this extraordinary venue. Because the Loew’s is not only a landmark, it’s also a piece of art history. Harking back to a time when going to the movies was more than seeing loud blockbusters, 3D technology and paying ten dollars for popcorn and a soda.

This building is steeped in history, and was built for live performances as well as movies. Renowned vaudeville acts and great crooners like Bing Crosby performed here.  This was the place where a skinny kid from Hoboken decided to become a singer.

The Friends of the Loew’s, the group who lobbied to save the building from being torn down, have worked tirelessly to restore the deteriorating building to its original Baroque-Rococo style.

Last night seeing the first movie to celebrate the theaters 85th anniversary was a treat. You can imagine how thrilled I was that the FOL decided to show classic films, and use the theme “movies about movies!”

We saw “Barton Fink” and today “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Sunset Boulevard” will be shown.

I’d like to thank Paul Melia, Colin Egan and The Friends of the Loew’s for providing a magical evening for my family and friends, and for me. It’s not every night we are treated to the music of a pipe organ that appears and disappears through the floorboards while we wait for our movie to begin.

Best of luck on continuing the restoration, with the hope that concerts, movies and theater at the Loew’s will bring more and more people to discover what I’ve always known.

 That this is a special place.

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18 thoughts on “What Do Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby And The Loew’s Jersey Theater Have In Common? Magic

  1. Helene Cohen Bludman

    Oh my, what a fantastic experience for you and your family! For a movie and theater buff like you this must have been nirvana. Wow!

  2. Carol Cassara

    I barely remember the old movie palaces, but they were so “of the era”. I saw Frank at Madison Sq Garden in the 60s with my mother, who in her youth was a bobby soxer. I just love the innocence of my parents’ era. I love it.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…Ideas become thingsMy Profile

  3. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs

    You’re so fortunate to have this amazing treasure nearby. Even more so that you got to visit it again.

    I have marble throughout my home (and covering my patio) from an opera house that was popular in the 1800s in Colorado Springs. Such elegance of bygone days! I’m delighted to have some of the parts saved when the place was (unfortunately) torn down in the ’70s.
    Lisa @ Grandma’s Briefs recently posted…Saturday movie review: ‘Blood Ties’My Profile

  4. Karen D. Austin

    That’s a beautiful performance space. I got to listen to a silent movie (Valentino) shown with a live organ performer doing the “soundtrack.” Thanks for the information on Sinatra and Crosby as part of this theatre’s history. Now I need to put one of their movies in my DVD queue!
    Karen D. Austin recently posted…Falling Upward: Book ReviewMy Profile

    1. shifrachester@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you so much, Karen!

      I love the remake of “The Philadelphia Story” that Bing and Frank made together called “High Society” with Grace Kelly. There’s one song they sing together when they pouring drinks for each other (of course!) that I can never quite get out of my head! Priceless.

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