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Central Standard

Aptly Named Gem Theater Celebrates 100 Years

It started as the Star Theater in 1912.  Back then it was a one-story building presenting silent films.  Just one year later it was renamed the Gem Theater.

In its 100-year history the Gem Theater has witnessed the trials and tribulations of the 18th and Vine District.   On the first part of Tuesday's Central Standard, Jabulani Leffall talks with Pat Jordan and Queen Bey about the theater's changing role in the historic area, from silent-movie house to baroque-style landmark to centerpiece of the District's renovation efforts in the 1980's to its current role as performance venue for the American Jazz Museum.

Celebrate the Gem: To honor the 100th anniversary of the Gem Theater, Queen Bey will star in "A Tribute to Bessie", a performance dedicated to the legendary Bessie Smith.  The show will be held at 8:00 pm, Saturday, October 27th at the Gem Theater.  Tickets are $15.00 for General Admission and can be reserved by calling 816.645.1052.

Pat Jordan  is the CEO and Executive Director of Gem Cultural and Educations Center, Inc. which has a mission to develop and promote multicultural visual and performing arts programming as well as to become a leader in providing results-oriented after school arts-in-education programming.  It focuses on promoting and developing visual and performing artists and Making the Arts Accessible especially for those in disadvantaged neighborhoods. When Queen Bey was twelve years old she entered a talent show called "Stars of Tomorrow" on a radio station in Kansas City. In the legendary Orchid Room jazz club where the contest was being taped, Queen sang "Double Crossing Blues". Marty Graham, the owner of the Orchid Room, heard her performing and offered her a job on the spot singing on Monday nights. Queen's mother signed a waiver allowing Queen to appear on stage as a singer.  As part of the waiver, she needed a constant stream of chaperones. Most singers and band members were delighted to "look after" the teenager with the big voice.  Jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Linda Hopkins became her chaperones and her teachers. Queen has since performed with B.B. King, The Platters and the late jazz pianist Earl Garner. She received rave reviews in the national entertainment magazine Variety and The New York Times for her act at New York's Michael's Pub. In 1980, Ms. Bey received the Kansas Governor's Arts Award and was one of the honorees at the 1991 induction of the Elder Statesman of Kansas City Jazz, Inc. She is officially recognized as Kansas City's Ambassador of Jazz and each year travels internationally promoting jazz and blues music on behalf of the United States and jazz organizations. Queen recorded her first album "Comin' Thru" and followed this recording with a second album "Dues Paid in Full" in 1990. Her most recent CD is entitled "So This is London".  Ms. Bey has acted on stage and television and in film, including Broadway musicals - "Ain't Misbehavin"," One Mo' Time" and "Blues in the Night." 

As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.