By Robert Bernstein
Chubby Checker was the star of the Lobero Theater 150th Anniversary Street Party on Saturday, May 20. He performed for almost 90 minutes without even a pause between most songs!
I remember hearing “The Twist” on the radio when I was a kid. I didn’t realize he was just 17 years old when he sang it in 1960 and made the charts! If you don’t feel like reading the rest of my article, you can stop with his grand finale performance. With the La Boheme dancers up on stage with him. It was a total surprise for them.
They were there to do their own performance and he just brought them up to do The Twist with him!
For the rest of you, I will start at the beginning, at 5:30PM. Mayor Randy Rouse read a proclamation, declaring the day “Chubby Checker Day”.
The real star behind the scenes was Earl Minnis, off on the side. He helps make some of the biggest events at the Lobero a success. Often using his own money. That is him briefly on stage with the Mayor.
“Chubby Checker” was born Ernest Evans. He was given his stage name by Barbara Mallery, first wife of American Bandstand host Dick Clark. She invented the name as a take off on “Fats Domino”.
He eagerly jumped on stage, ready to rock the crowd.
Here he performed “Twist and Shout” and “Peppermint Twist”, getting the crowd in “The Twist” mood. He also brought quite a few people from the crowd up on stage.
This performance of “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” was all about audience participation.
Here he performed “Limbo Rock”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Rock around the Clock”. But he took a break to lead the crowd in the “Micky Mouse” song.
He took another break to tell the story of his one meeting with Elvis in 1971. His story seemed unbelievable, but a bit of checking validates it. He was not happy that Elvis kept him waiting for an hour. But when he finally got to the meeting, he also met Alice Cooper and Liza Minnelli. Alice Cooper validated the story. Most interesting: One other person at the meeting was Linda Lovelace! Famed star of the film “Deep Throat”, which appeared in theaters across the country to positive acclaim.
Near the end of this clip, Chubby Checker brings Earl Minnis up on stage.
Of course, John Palminteri was on scene for this major event.
So was Father Larry Gosselin of the Mission, who came up to dance on stage for “The Twist.”
What a memorable way to celebrate the 150th birthday of my favorite theater in Santa Barbara. As they say, there is no bad seat in the Lobero!