There is something captivating about an empty theatre, and there is nothing like the thrill of standing on an undressed stage gazing out across the serried rows of empty seats. I am sorry to tell you that my self-indulgence knew no bounds, and I crept away from the convivial mourners in the theatre bar to wrap myself in the proscenium curtains. You see, I am an expert in tabs; there is very little about theatre curtaining that I don't know. Go on, ask me. A proscenium curtain can be lifted and lowered up to forty times each performance. No. 88 or 96 Fleur de Lys webbing is best for lighter weights. Operating lines should be of hemp sashlines or superfine manilla rope. Galvanised steel cables give long periods of trouble-free service. Would you like to see my drawings? I have kept them, filed away, all these years. This one is a sectional drawing showing details of the joining clamps to be used with tubular metal stage equipment. And this one shows a method of attaching a barrel fitting, and this one is a pulley fitting for carrying lines to the winch. My father was very proud of my technical know-how. He liked girls to be practical, and he was a complete pushover when it came to show-business. I have never met a more stagestruck man. There was very little about it that he didn't like, and he was easily impressed. At a Bray Studios charity gala long ago, he performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre on one of the Beverley Sisters when a cocktail sausage went down the wrong way. He oft times described that event as a defining moment.
In the theatre, when the house is full you say it is "Harry Packers". That was one of my father's favourite expressions; he used it all the time. Sorry I'm late, the surgery was Harry Packers this morning. Couldn't get near the station: the place was H. Packers.
When a show wasn't selling well, it was common to give tickets away, or to substantially reduce the price, just to get bums on seats. Very often, these freebies were given to nurses, or student nurses and doctors, for some reason. My father benefited from this scheme in his youth and never forgot it. This was called "papering the house". Rubbish crowd tonight; the house was full of paper.
I know this post is rather disjointed; I am not fully back to normal and I know it shows. I am sorry. My father had a wonderful life. He loved New York, and he was lucky enough to see the famous contour curtains of Radio City Music Hall. 2,000 yards of fireproof lining, a mile of metal cable and a weight of three tons. Some people have all the luck.