Monday marks the 78th anniversary of the opening of the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. The Apollo is a national landmark and still stands in New York City as a symbol of black music and culture. Its significance is perhaps best exemplified by the many entertainers who got their start there in keeping with its reputation as a place “where stars are born and legends are made.”
In 1934, the Apollo opened as a showcase for black artists after previously being an all-white music hall and burlesque house. According to the Apollo’s official history, the opening-night show featured a number of acts, including 16 dancers billed as “Gorgeous Hot-Steppers.”
The Apollo was declared a cultural landmark in 1983 and two years later reopened as the Apollo Theater Television Center. It was also home to the syndicated TV show It’s Showtime at the Apollo.
Over the years, Apollo audiences became notorious for boisterous behavior and booing performers off of the stage with the help of characters like Sandman Sims, who would tap dance failed acts toward the exit. Those that managed to survive the theater’s Amateur Night crowd have included some of music’s most legendary figures.The Apollo Theater was a launching pad for acts such as: Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown,the Jackson 5, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Lauryn Hill and Jazmine Sullivan, among others.
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