The growth and after effects of Chris Rock at the Hippodrome

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Our pal Ron Legler of the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center tells Nestor about Broadway life in downtown Baltimore after the epic Chris Rock on Netflix special and what makes the Charm City great.


hippodrome, people, baltimore, city, stadium, crab cake, broadway, walk, happening, thought, theater, downtown, talk, halliburton, stage, maryland, wife, market, teams, world


Nestor Aparicio

Nestor Aparicio  00:00

Welcome back, WN S T, Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive we are positively one of my favorite places. Every time I come in here lately I keep thinking it’s might be the last time it might be the last time it’s the old market. The new markets there, it’s open. I’ve been in it. We’re family so it’s all brought to you by our friends at the Maryland lottery. I’m gonna be giving away these fantastic scratch offs against the lottery. It’s the throwback here the wishbone to the first ever scratch off we’re failures. We were Captain Larry’s on Thursday, we will be out in the county and Middle River at the old Sioux Island. That’s the new MC falls oyster and reel on Thursday to win the Maryland crab cake Tour presented by our friends at window Nation. I’m gonna wear the fun hat today. 866 90 nation new offers in May and I’m bringing Lenin Rascon on this because he has this fun crab mallet that has a beer opener on the other side. Rascon global keeping a square keeping our money square in our American dream of Lamar Jackson had his American dream fulfilled this weekend in the draft and we’re here on the morning after it is a Friday morning. It’s raining outside, but it’s warm and sunny on our radio dial. Ron Legler joins us now he is the go ahead President President


of France Performing Arts Center home of the world famous Hippodrome Theatre Arts The

Nestor Aparicio  01:10

Hippodrome Han down here. And I’ve had you on the show many times during the plague. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever touched you. So elbow up. You’ve been very kind to me and my group and I’m going to tell my Calvin stadium story to you at some point, but in the in the interim, you’re here Damian is off camera. She’s gonna be you’re talking about catfish and probably bringing me fried oysters before it’s all over. Because you know, I’m in the mood and I’m in the right place. I thought we were gonna talk HC Hippodrome, I thought we’re going to talk at town. And whether I liked or didn’t like the latest shows, and I’ve been I’ve been able to have two or three times my fair lady. I was there. And your


regular now dude,

Nestor Aparicio  01:46


you don’t have any. You got the you got Vince. Vince is theater


Everyman Theatre, we got Downtown Partnership. We got the downtown bromo Arts District. We got the Shakespeare center. I mean, honestly, we’re

Nestor Aparicio  01:57

talking about the subscriptions and I just got the email. Nowhere in the


world that you can walk eight blocks and see the kind of cultural systems that are in place in Baltimore City. Nowhere in the world. We’ve got Broadway Shakespeare plays, concerts, we the new arena is just gorgeous. Like we’re welcoming 1000s 10s of 1000s of people and 10 block radius of our city

Nestor Aparicio  02:17

Friday night. I fortunately for me, woke up in Malli. Okay, so I was away for 10 days. And I was away the orals didn’t lose while I was gone. So it forced me to do radio while I was gone, which is great. good problem to have. But on Friday, about two in the afternoon, maybe one in the afternoon while I’m on the beach, right? It’s beautiful. And I looked down and I’m like, people were pre gaming for Chicago. People were coming to you, people. We’re going to the Oriole game, and Adam Sandler was at the CFG Bank Arena. And I thought that was so I lived downtown for 20 years. I thought that’s why I moved downtown and oh three, no offense to the money I lost selling the place. We won’t go through all that 19 years later. But when I moved downtown, those were options or options were Oh, there’s a show here in a game. They’re in a relevant baseball team in the harbors open. We can go to dinner here or we can go stroll there we go over to Fells Point. That felt to me from 1000 miles away, you know, an ocean away. I looked down and I thought hmm, I probably wouldn’t go into Chicago tonight. You know, although my son went to Adam Sandler. Well, my Chicago belt buckle for you today my Pacific belt. So and the Orioles are always the Orioles. Right? The city is coming back. And I keep telling people and they’re like, Well, you left and I’m like I’m gonna throw up here three days in a row. I’m here three, four days a week. You’re here all the time. And for anybody down here with a business. And I wanted to talk hippodrome and theater and all that with you. And you really want to talk about downtown because


you know, this affects you. We are the neighborhood like we’re not going there. Just like failure doesn’t go anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. Yeah, they’re moving 20 steps down the road. But I’m gonna tell you the future in downtown Baltimore is spectacular. We have champions in the city there. I’ve seen more in the last three years than I’ve seen in any time that I’ve been here almost 10 years. Where are you from? Orlando, Florida. Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania.

Nestor Aparicio  04:03

You traded up here. I had an ex girlfriend from Erie. I’ve been here for you with Baltimore and falling in love with it. And I actually talked to Maura yesterday over Captain Larry’s in Fourth Avenue. Because to me, she’s been in Baltimore 17 years. I thought she was appalled. She’s from Rockville. And I’m thinking that somebody from Rockville fall in love with South Baltimore, you know, and I think there’s a charm here that is lost on me in the same way people are now you’re like, it’s just a rock with mountains and blue water like we hear. People come to Baltimore from Erie and say, I can’t go to see Hades town in Erie. I can’t go to an Oriole game in Erie. I can’t have crabcake and you know, I can’t do that in Orlando in some cases, right? So people come to Baltimore and for us who beat it up, and I ain’t going downtown and why are we beating it up that it’s it’s a self fulfilling stupid


prophecy styling stops us I got here. I know. But as soon as I got here, everyone’s like, Oh, why’d you ever leave? Listen, this is a beautiful city Harbor City. It’s a world historic American city, that we just have to change what we say when we talk about it. It’s as simple as that. It begins right there. You don’t have to do anything. I’ve spent any money. Just think about the positive things that are happening and talk about those. Well, that’s simple.

Nestor Aparicio  05:16

There’s no way you’re here. You’re here to talk about everything other than we’ll talk about the theater in a minute. You have a whole litany of all the stuff that’s going on around here. What are you most excited about? In this dish? I would say the new market, the old market last 200 years. We were two months into the new market. Jamie’s excited about it. She’s going in


there doing a beautiful job and honestly I feel like a market without failures isn’t Lexington market period. I don’t think I’ve ever had a guest that came to visit me in Baltimore. They didn’t bring over here and I don’t have a picture of that sign and that sign with them because it really is an institution of Baltimore. Literally jumbo crab cakes or crab cakes jumbo lump crab cakes began here. I don’t care what anyone says. And I know it’s controversial. There’s nothing like a family’s crab cake. Nothing.

Nestor Aparicio  06:02

I admitted that yesterday because Captain Larry’s we got into we I talked about tartar sauce because I don’t like tartar sauce. Except when it doesn’t taste like tartar sauce. So she brought me some fresh tartar. It was delicious. It was like sort of Dilly and lemony and like in all of that, and I’m thinking about and I said to her, this kind of little mustard in and I’ve never had a tartar with monster. And of course I talked about money and families comes up. I’m like, this is the only crab cake that’s like this. If you don’t like mustard, you might not like the family’s crab cake. I don’t like mustard. I’ve admitted I don’t I’ve never put mustard on the hotdog. And I’m the ketchup eater. I’m the 12 year old. I’ve never eaten mustard on anything purposefully, right? But I love Dijon mustard in things and I like dry mustard and things. And this crab cake here. You have to come here to I’ve had 184 crab cakes 184 Different places I’ve been in the last four years having crab cakes not in Maui always in every it was on every menu. I’m


like, No way am I kind of crap. I don’t eat crab a

Nestor Aparicio  07:00

picture of it on Google and I’m like I’m getting I’m getting the Mahi. So, but but for the city and for people to come down here and to be a part of this. It’s not a one. They don’t just come to the Hippodrome park their car on the back end walk in and walk out. It has to be a richer experience than that and you’re selling that she’s selling. We’re all selling that and it’s becoming that again after a plague and the plague stuff on everywhere.


Listen to this for the last 20 years. The Hippodrome brings 250 300,000 people to the Hippodrome every year, right? The fans from our performing arts center. This market closed at five o’clock. So you there was no connection to people that 87% of the people that go to Broadway go to dinner before they go 87% 87% Because it’s a night out. It’s it’s an experience, like the drive to get here, the parking, the restaurant, the theater, going home, leaving the garage, it’s all part of the experience. So what we’re really out doing is working with the market to say, Listen, if you could stay up until eight, find some vendors that would be able to service, the 2200 people that come to the Hippodrome for a show and they’re getting a liquor license. It’s all coming together. We have a security wall cream and yeah pregame right. We have a security walk plan that our security teams and the market security teams will walk people down pack, enter into Lexington market, enter into failures and be able to have dinner and walk 78 steps back to the entrance the Hippodrome. 78 setup. You’ve done this. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Several tickets,

Nestor Aparicio  08:26

short legs. 780. Okay. All right. Just checking, you know, might be 100 for me before it’s all over with Ron Legler is here from the Hippodrome. It can I just say that you have to do France Merrick


Park? No, no, no, everyone knows it. But drum right on

Nestor Aparicio  08:37

the I don’t know. I mean, I knew the Morris mechanic. Right. So I mean, there’s a long heritage. And you know, with Don, we’re here he would talk about his love of Broadway and going up the Broadway. I was in my fields. I want to tell you my story. I don’t know if Amy knows your story, either. So I’m watching football, because that’s all I watch in December, usually. And I saw an ad on TV. I guess there’s a big ol ad or whatever. And it was from my fair lady. I’ve been in six or seven shows when I was a kid. I was in Pippin. Oliver. I can name them. All right. Fantastic. So look, I love The Fantasticks. I was I was the Artful Dodger in Oliver. You know, I think consider yourself the whole deal. Right? I do anything for you. We spun the umbrellas like the one you brought into the rain. So in in seventh, eighth and ninth grade, I went the Halliburton middle and I want to paint the whole picture because it’s an important thing. We had no African Americans, dude, I was the darkest skin person in my middle school with 650 kids in Dundalk and Archie bunkers Dundalk in 1979. Okay, so we had this African American we only probably had two African American teachers in the whole school. I think we yeah, we had two. He was the music teacher in the Corps teacher who grew up in turn. I didn’t know all this stuff. I had him on the show. Like all of his background, he was Mr. Stadium to me 1979 81 recruiting hero. Oh my God. They did. And it was born out that he’s everybody’s hero. Right? I found this out. So my fair lady. The ad comes on. I said to my wife you ever seen my fair lady? My wife likes a theater. She’s like, No, it’s the movie Rex Harrison. She lipsync to you. No, no, no, no. I’m like, oh, I should take you down for this. It’s January will go down be a cold night will go down and do it. And I thought to myself, I wonder how Mr. Stadium is because Mr. Stadium was the one that put the show on Halliburton it at two. And his sons, my Facebook friend, and I’ve been trying to get together with Mr. Stadium for 15 years. I ran into him in the IHOP with my mother having breakfast. My wife was battling cancer. So we never kind of got together and I hit Patrick. And I said, I need your dad’s number on McCollum. So I called Mr. Stayed in the SUV. He’s at 2345, something like that. He answered phone. Joy, yes, as always. And he’s legend now, Mr. Stadium, played the piano in the state of singers. He played the piano on the road for a very famous gospel act in the 70s. In the summer, he would travel and tour doing gospel and his wife had a singers and they will come to my middle school. For African American gospel. I mean, straight out straight gospel music in our auditorium and Halliburton 1981 singing gospel music, it was our only entree to this other than maybe channel 45 At nine o’clock in the morning on a Sunday morning, right? And 40 years later, I’ve never really known him as an adult. I called him up. I said, mistake, my fair lady is playing down at the Hippodrome. Would you like to go he’s like, oh, you know, I don’t know if I said I had a friend that knows him real well, so we’re gonna we’re gonna double team him. We double teamed him. I bought five tickets. Me my wife, Jerry Laurie. And we picked Mr. Stadium up Ron and then you left us some VIP to go up and have a drink. And my wife had never met Mr. State and from the minute she met him she’s like, this man should be in our life. You know, there’s no question. So we spent the evening when we sat down and my family I a third row tickets, you can see the breadth of the singers and as the curtains opening and it opens he elbows me. He’s like, it’s more relaxing to watch it from here. Oh, yes, he was elbowing me the whole time. And I gave him such a hard time because I wanted to be Freddie. And he didn’t cast me his Freddie’s he he cast me Zoltan Karpati, so I had to wear this beard. I tell them I’m still getting the flu. Oh, my it was terrible. Don’t sweat rash. 13 year old boy to have a beard glued on my face four days in a row. So we did the show. And then I had him back at a trunk city on the crabcake tour, of course. And we got his whole life story. And when I put the picture up, turned out he taught at Pikesville for 10 years, one of my partners in NST said I had Mr. Stadium in Pikesville River in the 70s. And so he taught for only 56 years, only 56 year, that’s all that and we bought him a keyboard out and played the piano and we sang of sentimental journey, which was one of our eighth grade songs. And so this is a it’s a wonderful stories about my teacher. It’s about race. It’s about growing up in Dundalk. And it’s really about how theatre brings people together. It’s and Broadway brings people together. And it had me reach to a man I love who everyone loves. And we love him because he was an incredible taskmaster, and making sure that what went on that stage. You’re your pride and our pride in it. And I’ve taken that I’m on stage every day, right? You take that for a lifetime with you special people involved in theater. I guess that’s what I wanted to say to you.


Yeah. And honestly, like we do free camps every summer. Kids are terrified. They come in, they’re crying to go to the bathroom, they stand there for an hour. By the end of that camp week. They’re onstage singing, dancing, learning all the songs that are coming. They’re all together, they’re helping each other they’re throwing lines to each other

Nestor Aparicio  13:36

it is it teamwork, it’s a team, that’s something that I, you feel it when you’re at the theater, and you see professionals working together, it’s like seeing a band come together, right. And I play baseball, football, you know, I play team sports. It’s an ultimate team sport. It really is.


And you know, it takes you out of your comfort zone, which is just a good life skill to have to be able to speak in front of an audience to be able to have confidence. It builds a lot of different characters. And people I just, I think anytime you can see a live experience, you know, you’re in a room with 2200 people, you’re sharing the same exact thing all of you together, it brings community together. You know, it really is transformational. And I’m, you know, I’m so proud because the Hippodrome is been around for 11 decades. And, you know, there’s a lot of weight on my shoulder as the person who has to take care of that beautiful building, but I do it with pride. And I tell people all the time, it’s like, in these four walls, whatever happens outside, it doesn’t matter when they come in. You give them the experience they’ll never have anywhere else. And you know, everyone else says the Hippodrome is a bright light in a maybe Dark City. And I just said we’ll continue to be that we will always be that for this community. And you know, our thing is everyone is always welcome. Yes, points of sale that we do now that are walk up to the door. $30 Ticket $15 Student

Nestor Aparicio  14:54

I see them all Yeah, I get the offers, you know,


I mean, we’re doing all kinds of different things to make sure Are that everyone has a chance to walk in the door and you don’t have to be a millionaire. You don’t have to be dressed up you don’t have to be just be there and be ready to experience Broadway and and live live entertainment. Yeah,

Nestor Aparicio  15:11

Mr. Stadium sat next to me Freddie takes the stage I have off. So he says, That guy kept saying, Man, you know, like, you know something about seeing perfect.


So we get, you know, Tuesday happens. And I was like, Man, this is way better than I thought it was. I really did was unexpected by that. And everyone’s like, you know, I couldn’t understand allies in the beginning. Like I couldn’t understand. What should they do? That’s the whole point. She has such a British bro. Yes, that you don’t, you’re not supposed to understand her like,

Nestor Aparicio  15:42

I look. I’m a playbill, reader.


It was really funny because I was like, well, that’s kind of the point of the story is that they take someone who they thought had zero chance, and they invested in her and they made her something spectacular. And then at the end, she showed that you can’t take that away from me. I already have it now. And that’s what education does, right? Oh, something no one can ever take away from you. That’s why I would say like, the more you can learn, the more you can experience, the better off you’re lacing because that’s one thing they can take your mortgage in your car and everything else would your education, they’ll never be able to take it away

Nestor Aparicio  16:18

all Walt Disney wouldn’t be


liking of Oliver. They’re they’re rehearsing right now in New York for the next,

Nestor Aparicio  16:25

sell some hippodrome for Me Before You Go selling the rest of the city. And we’ll do all that same.


Funny thing. It’s the one thing I didn’t bring was the whole hippodrome stuff, but I have that. Okay, go ahead. All right. So let’s talk about

Nestor Aparicio  16:36

I got an email yesterday, and I talked about the


mechanic. Okay, so now let’s go back to 1974 the Morris mechanic opened a show called The Wiz the first time it had ever been on brought ever been on the stage. Andrea shields is the Whiz opening night 1970s on down the road. Yeah. So goes right from Baltimore, straight to Broadway, is credible show does incredible business now. And 2023. We’re going to open the wiz on the stage of the Hippodrome. And that production is going to get built in Baltimore, thanks to Maryland theatrical tax credit that we helped get passed. They’re gonna have to spend four weeks all the producers all the creative teams, rehearsal rehearsal before it goes anywhere, it’ll land on Baltimore stage, it will then go for a full week and production and our subscribers will be the first people that audience to see it in the world. And then it goes on tour and it goes straight to Broadway from there. So that’s happening in our state in our city, because we have an incredible ability to make all this stuff happen. And even our state like, like Larry Hogan or not, he was a great governor for the arts. He he helped us through the pandemic, he helped us get this tax thing settled. He signed that bill into law. And now we get 12 to 16 extra weeks of work for union workers, our stage hands that have been out of work for two years. It was a it’s a shot in the arm that we needed. And I’m so excited. So that’s coming. In the fall of this year. We have the national launch of Peter Pan brand new production, gorgeous. It’s going to be through the Hippodrome. Oh, they’re going to spend a week just teaching them how to fly through the Hippodrome. So yes, that’s absolutely gonna happen. You know, the energy that’s happening Spring Hill suites just opened right across that bank building sat vacant for years and years and years. The saddest thing you’ve ever seen, right? The ceiling had collapsed. Just like the Hippodrome, the ceiling collapsed. The foundation got ruined. They invested a ton of money. It’s a beautiful hotel, stunning, literally one street across from the Hippodrome. So that is fantastic. The cast have been staying there. They enjoy it. They’re going to the market. They’re getting breakfast, they’re getting coffee, they’re going to lunch, they’re they’re coming back to the stage door. They’re like, This is amazing. Where do you get this like? Amazing, amazing experience. So that’s another great thing. Lexington market being rebuilt, the energy, the excitement, I know that phaleas has fought for a lot of those vendors that are there. They’re building a beautiful new home. I just, I gotta tell you, it’s changing. And we got to stop talking poorly about it. Because people like Shalonda Stokes have put her life into making this different. She I’m telling you, if there was ever a Super Woman of the city, Shalonda Stokes is it. There’s not one time I was so stressed when Chris Rock came, and Netflix is like trying to film the streets and it was a windy day and in the Baltimore that means that the garbage could fall over and go out and she had teams of people cleaning and street cleaners and they worked around the clock security checking in on us every day now. They walked down they the University of Maryland, please knock on the door is everything good? You guys checking in, like neighborhood police officers walking the streets. I suppose today University of Maryland has a new program right on Utah Street, the Phoenix program, they have taken 150 people off the five block radius of where the Hippodrome is to say, Hey, do you need a job? Do you need a driver’s license? Social Security card? It’s not about Hey, get off the street. It’s about hey, What can we do to help you make a better life in our city? And that program? No one talks about it. It’s, it should be talked about a lot more. It’s done an incredible job of cleaning up the neighborhood and making people feel like, I’m not just here to survive. I’m here to thrive, and it’s a different feeling. And you know, we police officers walk with social workers here, right downtown, like it’s happening, it’s starting, and we can’t listen, there are setbacks. You know, there are things are going to happen.


Just watch the news tonight. In every city, it’s not just Baltimore, go to Pittsburgh, they’re


talking. So in the Broadway Across America network, we have 46 cities, the United States, Canada, and Mexico. We talk to the partners, it’s happening in other cities. We’re just looking channels, we’re looking at our own city and thinking it doesn’t happen other places. It absolutely is happening. And what we have to do is, keep coming together, keep showing them that we won’t allow this to be the way that we want to live. And that’s man. I’m gonna tell you I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert. I walked out of that arena like I parked in my hippodrome spot, I walked one block to the Hippodrome, from an arena like, and I was like, there, where do you do this? And the streets were vibrant and people were excited today. It was your morning. Edible, it was so incredible.

Nestor Aparicio  21:15

$50 lottery winner at the back table there did


you know you got the Paramount opening right next to the Horseshoe Casino, which is right next to the stadium, which is right next to you know, m&t Bank. Where do you get that? Where do you get a world class? You know, even casino to be a part of the mix top golf now entering in, you can walk this is 10 blocks people. 10 I

Nestor Aparicio  21:36

love down here. I know where


I mean, I can’t tell you can’t do it in New York City. Can’t do it in LA. Can’t do it in Chicago. Can’t do it in Miami. Can’t do in Boston can’t do it anywhere. Yeah, well, you can’t do it anywhere. Like we got to remember and honestly, for people that live in the county, talk about the city all you want, you will never find more cultural institutions packed into a small area than anywhere else, anywhere.

Nestor Aparicio  22:02

It was designed that way. That’s why it thrives. Right? I mean, we go back to Mayor Schafer, and we talk about the aquarium and the science center and using the water. I mean, I was a kid I came down that wharf it was just it was fish and rats and, and warehouses. You know, all that’s changed. Look at what’s happened with the patter rack is family just under our eyes. And then poor Covington, listen, or Baltimore Peninsula moved to never be called that by me.


But, but it’s a spin. You know, that’s what we do here. If it’s not working, we just spin it into something that we want it to work.

Nestor Aparicio  22:32

Yeah, I mean, and you can rebrand it all you want, but people have to come down and rebrand it for themselves. They have to have the experience that I have with Calvin stadium. And My Fair Lady, they have to have the experience that you had Springsteen that I had the next night at the eagles that that other people had for Chris Rock,


right? But here’s what I’ll tell you. They built it, people are gonna go there. It’s not part of our landscape. And it will become an important place for people to live work and play in our city. So it’s there. So whether it was successful in the beginning and now not so terrible, now they’re trying to regain momentum with it. It’s part of who we will be. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And by the way, it’s a wonderful location. It’s easy to get to, it’s easy to get out of, and it’s close to there


next, but I might live there too. I’m

Nestor Aparicio  23:15

gonna call it port Covington by proper name. We’re you know, down down at the cruise terminal. Legler is here. He runs all things hippodrome but we talked about everything but your theater kind of sort of at some point. We’re gonna take a break. We’re going to do two segments down here. Bill Henry is going to join us controller Henry. Also have some other friends stopped by game he’s going to be here as well and Peter Jensen from the Baltimore Sun. The editorial captain is going to be down here a little later on to first time I’ve had him live crab cakes will be involved oysters will be involved. It’s all brought to you by our friends at the Maryland lottery giving away some instant lottery scratch offs when we open the doors here not open yet. But we will be and of course our friends at window nation 866 90 nation make sure you get your windows you buy two you get two free I bought mine last year they get people better deal than I got. They get five years 0% financing. I did not get that deal last year. I’m not upset about it but you should take advantage of it. And we’re taking advantage of a Windows they’re open now it’s spring is sprung run likely from the Hippodrome will be our guests when we continue on. I am Nestor. We are live and doing things that the old market it fails. Come on down have crab cake it’s fried oyster stay with us.

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