Monday, January 28, 2008

Obscure Brooklyn Rock Venues: Loews/Universal 46th Street Theatre

Sure, you knew about the famed Fox and Paramount theaters downtown, where lots of early rock and pop acts performed. Even 9th Street's Prospect Theatre (now a C-town between 5th and 6th avenues) hosted the Dave Clark Five, among other groovies.

But did psychedelia ever make its way Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn? Sure enough, it did.

From November 11 through November 14, 1970, a fantastic double bill featured Hot Tuna with the Grateful Dead as an opening act at the "46th St. Rock Palace - Brooklyn, NY". This shows the early prominence of the Airplane and its personnel (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady), while the Dead were still relatively less known, before becoming the enormous cultural phenomena (and pop cash machine) that it did in larter decades until guitarist Jerry Garcia's death in 1993.

I vaguely remember seeing a later version of Garcia's bluegrass spin-off, Old and in the Way, only with another musician substituting for Jerry Garcia on banjo, along with Peter Rowan and David Grisman, at Brooklyn College's Student Union (SUBO), in the early 70s, but my details are hazy.

But the idea of a Tuna/Dead show in Bensonhurst is fabulous. The 46th street theatre was located at 4515 New Utrecht Avenue. According to,
Loew's 46th Street Theatre, now closed, seated 2,675 with a single screen, and an atmospheric theatre style. Architect: John Eberson. Closed in 1973, the Universal Theatre, better known as the 46th Street Theatre, was converted into retail space.

Theater photo courtesy of The John Chappell Collection


  1. i was a the show,,it was jamming til sunrise ,,,vito ,,,

  2. I went to the Grateful Dead shows at the "Rock Palace" on the 13th and 14th of November 1970. I do not recall Hot Tuna opening , but the New Riders of the Purple Sage did. I do know that Papa John, Jack, and Jorma jammed with the Dead on the first night only, second set, as the Airplane were in town playing there later that week, on the 15th.

    On the 14th, a sold out weekend show, a buddy of mine and I snuck in via a rooftop window into the maintenance room above the theater, after climbing a rickety fire escape in the rear and finding an abandoned crowbar on the upper roof (we had to climb a small ladder to get there from the lower roof) and busting the wooden slats that were nailed to the window leading to the upper section via the air conditioning room. We were busted by two ushers with flashlights, but unbeknownst to us a bunch of heads had spotted us from below and they clambered in before we could be evicted. As we then outnumbered the ushers, they told us to be quiet and they, well, "ushered" us in for the rest of the show. Pigpen ripped up the joint, from what I can recall through the acid haze...those were my first shows and I stayed on the bus all the way to 1995.

    The venue later became known as Bananafish Gardens, managed by promoters who owned a Bay Ridge club called Bananafish Park, which my friends and I frequented. A TV show (Howard Stein's I believe) later used the Rock Palace for some memorable shows with Jerry Lee Lewis, The Byrds, Hot Tuna, Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Steve Stills, and God knows who else, who played there for the cameras while we suffered the bright lights used for the taping. The whole place was smoke-filled, and for the Dead's run the lobby was a drug-filled den of iniquity. Those days are sorely missed! Rest in Peace Jerry.

    1. AH a correction is in order-the TV show taped there was Don Kirshner's Rock Concert!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I was fortunate enough to grow up there and was able to work behind the scenes.Looking back it is unbelievable to me that I experienced those events.
    Grace slick was there pregnant at the time. Peter Boyle was also backstage for one of the shows. Papajohn jammin. Sitting in on sound checks and seeing the musicians in their environment was awesome.They filmed shows for Don Kirshner in concert series as far as I remember ,I never was good on details back in the day.Those were the days, alot of peeps from the neighorhood got to enjoy some real good memories first hand.Being in the right place at the right time always helps.Guys like Mark Riviera, Jimmy Destri, Carmine and Vinny Appice all came out of that neighborhood. Boro park and its surrounding areas,nothin like it at least in my simple mind.Peace out all!!
    Little John P

  5. Regarding the 13th & 14th of November, 1970, I was there too. I remember so many people trying to sneak in via the fire escape, and one person falling off the ladder and getting hurt. Allison Steele, an FM radio announcer was there that night; must have been an MC or something. Someone that sneaked in ended up in her dressing room, and was promptly ejected. After a while, the management let most people in for free, as they wanted to fill the theater and didn't want any one else to get hurt. It was a fun time for all. I wonder if the show was ever taped.

  6. I was at the Dead show where the New Riders opened for them. The concert went on until the morning. I also saw the Byrds there. The 46th Street theater was in Borough Park and not Bensonhurst. It later became a furniture store called Rubinstein's.

  7. i saw every concert held there, and I opened for the Chambers Brothers sept 1970


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