By Russell Crawford for
The following is
a first-hand account of then-teenager Russell Crawford's experiences as an
extra at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, during filming of
Phantom of the Paradise
in December 1973!
THE MAJESTIC ON $10 A
I was 17 in December 1973 and my experience with Phantom of the Paradise
was a gas!! I was there during some of the filming in Dallas, but I missed the
wedding scene/party and the concert scene. At my job I was making $2 an hour as a janitor
at a mall, so I wasn't there for every day of filming. They were paying $10 a day for
stage hands, and a few of us janitors wound up there.
Most of the time we would just
sit around watching/toking...occasionally they would have us get on the stage, stand
there, while they looked through light meters and adjusted the lights. It wasn't work at
all! It was fun! I was in the upper balcony when they blew the car up. From
what I remember the explosion caught something like a curtain on fire and they used
extinguishers. They had big fluorescent Swan Song signs hanging on both sides of the
auditorium. A few months later when Bad Company's 1st album came out on Swan Song records,
I thought that somehow Phantom got ripped off!
ZEN AND THE ART OF
I am the one on the ladder behind Beef's band during the Dry Up Tubbo
scene. I was put up there to look like I was checking the lights. I honestly thought the
actors were having an argument rather than following the script. You probably noticed
Beef's snakeskin outfit with the buckle, a baby rattlesnake encased in plexiglas, but did
you notice the baby crocodile heads that are where the buttons are supposed to be? On his
pants he had this snake that was sewn in going up his leg.
I remember the band (Colin Cameron) at one point playing Sly & the Family Stone's
"Thank You Fallettinme B Mice Elf Agin" with some wild looking black chick in
costume dancing around, although that never made it onto the film.
Harold Oblong [now Peter Elbling] was doing some schtick walking around
as if he were constipated, trying to crack everyone up. I think they were
trying to get the crowd into the mood before shooting.
They went out to Dallas-Ft
Worth Airport before it was opened & filmed the press conference scene there. I
overheard Gerrit Graham say that it was difficult opening his eyes wide for that shot and
holding the expression on his face because of the bright sun going into his eyes. If
memory serves, Beef was wearing platform boots with mirrors on the heel. I also
remember the red haired girl with the Bowie like hair style that was part of Swan's
entourage. At the time she looked very modern/futuristic to me. Most girls at
the time had the same look, long with straight hair. She stood out because her hair was kinda short for the times.
In the film,
where Swan is auditioning singers/groups, the C&W cowboy is none other than
former Paul Revere & the Raiders bass player
Keith Allison, using
the same guitar that he used in the mid sixties on the television show Where
the Action Is.
Paul Williams was always
wearing these fancy threads with a kind of flat pancake hat with a duckbill, maybe a golf
or driving hat. Oh yeah, and the platforms. He actually looked like rock royalty when not
The Swanage is the
old Dallas County Courthouse built in 1890. It is called Old Red and sits across the
street from Dealey Plaza, the site of the Kennedy Assasination and the "birthplace of
Dallas" where the first settler/ founder built the first cabin. It is also across the
street from the old county jail where Jack Ruby was kept and even David Crosby who was
busted here in '85. Old Red actually has gargoyles on the top. Kind of a
snake/dragon with wings and erect phallus. Whenever a tourist asks where the assassination
site is, I always direct them to Dracula's Castle.
I didn't get to see the film
for the 2nd time until 1988 when it was put out on video. My only regret: not getting
autographs!! I had no idea who Paul Williams was! Or that DePalma would become
a very famous director. I saw at the end credits that
Sissy Spacek was there as a set
The Majestic is an old Vaudeville house that
was built in the early 1920's by
Karl Hoblitzelle. In 1983, it received historical
landmark status and millions were pumped into its restoration. There is a lot of gold leaf
around the mirrors and on the walls. I have been back and looked for the mirror portal
that Swan goes through. Now that area has doors with a reception room behind
the area. Maybe there really was a secret passage at that time.
Have read the
Majestic is haunted, ie., the switchboard coming on in the middle of the night lighting up
& freaking the security guard, the smell of food cooking when nobody is there. Harry
Houdini played there in the 1920's. Mae West, Duke Ellington, Amos & Andy. We saw King
Crimson, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Procol Harum there the same year as Phantom.
Received my first traffic ticket right out in front of the theater when they were filming!
For more information on the Majestic Theatre visit their website: www.liveatthemajestic.com.
They don't have their history pictures set up yet, but there are a couple of
pictures there. On the film, it shows a marquee with "Juicy Fruits Tonite". That
was there in '73, however it's no longer there and they put a marquee replica from the
20's or 30's now.
I think the Phantompalooza thing is really
cool, I wish I could be there and get to meet all of you. I really got a big
kick out of the picture on the website of the
Garrick Theatre with all of you in front and I noticed the Phantom on top of the building
manning the spotlight as in the scene with Phoenix on stage!! It looks like you have
put your heart & soul into this, and that the hippest people of your city
are responding really well.
I read all the messages
everybody left on your site, and came to the conclusion that there must be a lot of really
hip folks in Canada--home of Shania, Rush, 1970 Festival Express, Burton Cummings and the
Guess Who, BTO & PHANTOMPALOOZA!!!
Hats off to you and Best of
Russell Crawford /