HAMPTON BEACH, NH (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — I have been reviewing one Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom show per week all summer. When I wrote this, it was Thursday, July 24, the night I was scheduled to review the George Carlin performance.
The Casino went dark that night. No show. Carlin died on June 22, leaving plenty of time for the booking manager at the Casino to find some aging 80s metal hair band with a Wednesday show in Boston and a Friday show in Portland and plug them into the date. Casino management elected to leave the theater dark, in the middle of its short season, out of respect for Carlin.
I was moved by this gesture on the part of the Casino. Rather than slap something together, the Casino took a financial hit, all in the name of decency and decorum. Carlin had played the Casino every summer for close to the last 20 years. He loved the venue and the venue loved him. Some performers get adopted by the places they play with a bit more fondness than is common, and such was the case with Carlin and the Casino. Carlin’s death broke a lot of hearts in Casino Ballroom staff and management, and they were expressing their grief in the most eloquent way possible.
I had the option of scheduling myself to review a different performance that week, but the WWF presentation was sold out, and the only other shows were a comic I didn’t care about, The Fools and The Stompers (both local bands that I have been seeing for 30 years) and Badfish, a Sublime tribute band. I think I’d rather snort a line of ants than see that kind of musical necrophilia. So, no show review this week, but I thought I’d take this time to write about the Casino itself.
I have been going to Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom music presentations for 30 years now, and a lot has changed, all for the better, and Casino management’s decision not to seek a replacement show for Carlin’s night reflects what a class act the Casino has become.
Back in the late 1980s, I was working for a local music store that sold Hampton Beach Casino concert tickets. One of the perks of working at the store was free tickets to shows that weren’t sold out. I saw Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, BB King, The Righteous Brothers, Jimmy Cliff and too many more great artists to mention. In those days, the bouncers were steroid-stuffed iron-pumpers in white shirts with little red bowties who had license to boot patrons with utter impunity.
They were obnoxious, and seemed to revel in the doing. You couldn’t stand holding a drink, or stand up by your table, and if you had it in your head that you might want to dance, you might as well just say hello to the concrete. They were brusque, rude, and intimidating, and they seemed to get their personal jollies by being rougher with people than they had to be.
Fast forward to 2008. The security staff is courteous and attentive, and more focused on innocent people potentially getting hurt in a crowd crush or at the hands of an inebriated concert-goer than they are gratuitous expressions of personal frustration. I have seen people get bounced out of there this year for bogus IDs and drunkenness, and there is none of the bullying that was once endemic to the Casino staff.
The will call workers are helpful, the bartenders and waitresses are smart and organized, in particular a pretty, fey, blond, college-age girl who has been my waitress for most of the shows I have reviewed so far. There are some fishy rules surrounding alcohol purchases, notably that you can’t go up to the bar and buy two drinks while your date waits at the table. It is a bit frustrating to stand in a line for ten minutes, then be told that you’ll have to do it again if you want a second drink, but they are simply being careful. New Hampshire is a morass of arcane liquor laws and above all else, the Casino needs to keep its doors open, so they will not risk violating any of these many picayune statutes.
The sound system is spectacular, the staff is courteous and friendly, and the entertainment is top notch. The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom is a superb venue for summer entertainment, and the class they displayed by not replacing George Carlin should tell you all you need to know about whether or not theirs is an arts schedule worth patronizing. – by Chris D. Elliott