An ‘entertaining’ 45 years: The first columns

by Don Fowler
Posted 6/18/20

I wrote my first entertainmentcolumn for the Beacon/Herald onMay 31, 1978, back when movieswere $1.25 and the Bank Café andDriftwood were the popularrestaurants in Pawtuxet Village.Bob …

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An ‘entertaining’ 45 years: The first columns


I wrote my first entertainment column for the Beacon/Herald on May 31, 1978, back when movies were $1.25 and the Bank Café and Driftwood were the popular restaurants in Pawtuxet Village.

Bob Colonna’s Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre rehearsed in the parking lot of the Edgewood Congregational Church, and the neighborhood youngsters congregated for their first experience with live theater.

We called the column “What’s Doing This Weekend.” My love affair with the Warwick Musical Theatre began with a chance to be part of a group interview with Johnny Carson and Phyllis McGuire. I admit to being a bit star-struck and never got to ask a question, but I did get to shake Johnny’s hand.

Although we had been attending Trinity since 1965, my first review was in June 1978 when the summer season opened with “Vanities,” starring Melanie Jones, Amy Von Nostrand and Margo Skinner. I have never missed a Trinity production and review since then, and can’t wait for their return.

We have seen every “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity, with young and old, black and white, and male and female Scrooges. I sit there mouthing the words, still completely enthralled, and always amazed at how they came make every production fresh. While I’ve enjoyed the different spin the various actors have put on the role of
Scrooge, the late Richard Kneeland will always be my favorite.

This is the first summer without our beloved Theatre-by-the-Sea, where “The Fantasticks” was my introduction to that charming playhouse in Matunuck, back in the days when Tommy Brent hosted the press and supporters after the performance, serving them cheese sandwiches and punch.

I began reviewing movies in 1978, averaging 3½ films a week. We figured out last year that that came out to over 8,500 movies.

The Ocean State Theatre was saved from becoming a parking lot when it reopened for its 50th anniversary with Ethel Merman bringing down the house. Back then, the daily newspaper had seven journalists covering the arts.

I told them that I was doing the work of seven men (they were all men back then), while still holding down a full-time job with the Chamber of Commerce.

I had to sell myself to entertainment
executives and PR people because I was writing for weeklies. Surveys showed that many of the Providence venues, then the Civic Center, Ocean State Theatre and Trinity, drew a large percentage of their audiences from Cranston and Warwick.

One of my earliest profiles was Lon Cerel, a young Warwick magician who performed magic tricks and made balloon animals at Cub Scout Blue and Gold dinners. Cerel went on to national fame, opening for Henny Youngman, setting the Guinness World Record for most balloon animals made in a minute, and playing state fairs across the country.

Cerel is still doing his schtick, having moved on to mind reading, and can be seen on occasion at West Warwick’s Arctic Playhouse.

Frank Sinatra was living proof that great entertainers need to know when to hang them up. He gave a sold-out performance at the Providence Civic Center, but needed a teleprompter to remember the words, even blowing his all-time hit, “My Way.” Still, the fans gave him a standing ovation.

My first two columns were written under my byline, but when I decided to run for political office, I took the pseudonym of Donald Scott, taking my son’s name.

On my first day knocking on doors, I met the real Don Scott in Edgewood, and we became good friends and tennis partners.

Next week: Getting the hang of


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