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11 Sound Facts About the Apollo Theater

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Before The Voice and American Idol, there was the Apollo. Since its opening 82 years ago, the Harlem, New York house of entertainment has helped jumpstart the careers of innumerable singers, dancers, rappers, and musicians. But the institution behind those stories of rising fame has a pretty impressive tale of its own.

1. IT WASN'T ALWAYS CALLED THE APOLLO THEATER.

In a little over 20 years, the structure we know as the Apollo Theater changed hands a number of times. In 1913, Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater opened on 125th Street in Harlem. At the time, the neo-classical auditorium, designed by New York architect George Keister, was owned by Sidney Cohen. A year later, burlesque theater owners Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon took over and solidified their hold on the building with a 30-year lease.

But the long-term lease was never fulfilled. The duo found themselves out of business when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia banned burlesque in New York City in 1933. A year later, Cohen got his building back and renamed it after the Greek god of music. And in 1935, Frank Schiffman and Leo Brecher bought the Apollo. They would go on to run it until the late 1970s, putting the famed variety-show format on the map.

2. IT DIDN'T CATER TO AFRICAN-AMERICAN AUDIENCES AT FIRST.

As the home of the Great Migration and the birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem is known to many as the Black Mecca. But the northern Manhattan neighborhood hadn’t yet developed that reputation when the building was erected. Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater adhered to a whites-only policy in its audience and onstage. And even after the building became the Apollo and integrated its audience, performances were controversial. Up until the '50s, black actors would don blackface makeup and exaggerated, painted lips in skits, despite backlash from the NAACP. Still, the Apollo is known for becoming one of the first theaters in Harlem to allow black performers on stage and to welcome mixed-race audiences. The 1500-seat venue was also one of the only performing spaces to employ African-Americans as backstage hands and theatrical workers.

3. IT'S WHERE LEGENDS ARE BORN ...

Ralph Cooper, an actor and producer, began Amateur Night in 1934, broadcasting the performances on the radio. Since its inception, the themed show has taken place every Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Rappers, singers, poets, comedians, and musicians as young as 5 years old are required to audition before they can take part. The ones lucky enough to pass auditions compete for the title of Super Top Dog, a lucrative prize of $10,000 ($2000 for children), and a spot in a pretty impressive alumni class.

They have to act fast, though—only the first 300 acts in line are able to audition, and if they make that cut, they'll only have 90 seconds to perform. Jimi Hendrix, the Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald, the Isley Brothers, Patti LaBelle and Lauryn Hill are among the stars that began their careers on the Apollo’s stage. Another notable is Gladys Knight, who currently cohosts BET’s Apollo Live.

4. ... AND MEMORIALIZED.

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James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, also competed in Amateur Night. When he died in 2006, it was only right that he be returned to the place that he called home. Thousands of mourners and fans lined up for hours to get one last glimpse at the Godfather of Soul. Brown’s memorial service has been the only one held at the theater so far.

5. THE LUCKY STUMP HAS DEEP ROOTS.

Ice Cube and actress Aleisha Allen rubbed the Tree of Hope stump in April 2007.
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Everyone from Michael Jackson to Beyoncé has rubbed the stump—a 12-inch shellacked log that sits atop a gold pillar in the wings of the right stage. Before it was a stump, it was part of the Tree of Hope, rooted six blocks away. The tall elm was considered a good luck charm in the community for years before it was chopped down in 1934. Ralph Cooper Sr., the Apollo’s host at the time, purchased a piece. Two new trees have been planted in the original’s place since 1941—but the tradition of rubbing it for luck still remains intact.

6. THE SANDMAN HAD MANY HATS.

Howard “Sandman” Sims was best known for shooing unpopular acts off the stage once the audience's collective jeers got loud enough. The Arkansas native got his start on the same stage. As a tap dancer, Sims won Amateur Night 25 times—a record impossible to match today. (He was still able to sympathize with the people he “swept” away: He was booed off stage five times in a row before his first win.)

Because of Sims, the theater initiated a four time limit for winners. His skills catapulted him from stage manager to his self-titled role as the theater’s “exterminator.” Outside of the theater, Sims mentored famous dancers like Gregory Hines. He also gave Muhammad Ali a hand in developing his footwork, as Sims was a former boxer. And his influence extended outside of the venue. He once said that The Gong Show got its concept from the Apollo—removing contestants from the stage while providing comic relief.

7. MANY CELEBRITIES HAVE LEFT THEIR MARK AT THE VENUE.

About 27 years ago, the Apollo’s crew started The Wall of Signatures. Visitors and performers often sign the wall located behind stage right. It touts tags from President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, and many more.

8. YOU CAN RENT THE THEATER.

Want to party with more than 1000 of your closest friends? The Apollo welcomes patrons to borrow their space for weddings, graduations, fashion shows, photo shoots, and more. Rates start at $1000 and max out at $30,000.

9. THE APOLLO DEFIES GENRES.

While its legacy is shrouded in soul, the Apollo is important in other music genres as well. In 1999, Korn played a one-night show for an audience of 1400 fans—the theater’s first rock concert. Paul McCartney performed a 2010 two-hour set for a celeb-filled crowd including Matt Damon, Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Bacon, and Alec Baldwin. And three years later, Metallica frontman James Hetfield jokingly expressed his disbelief of the Apollo letting the band play there. Other visitors include Justin Bieber (whose band used so much power that he caused a power outage and had to play an impromtu unplugged set), comedian Amy Schumer, and Kacey Musgraves, who was the theater’s first country headliner.

10. IT WILL WELCOME ONE DEATH-DEFYING ACT.

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Famed jazz songstress Billie Holiday graced the Apollo with her presence nearly 30 times during her reign. Now, with the help of Hologram USA, she’ll have an encore presentation. The Apollo plans for Holiday’s hologram to serve as a tour guide of sorts—she’ll be able to explain the theater’s backstory, answer questions, and of course, sing a few songs.

11. IT REALLY IS A PIECE OF HISTORY.

Harlemites aren’t the only ones who consider the Apollo their pride and joy. In 1983, the venue was deemed a federal and city landmark following a few decades of financial turmoil. The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and developing the theater, was established in 1991—and to ensure its longevity, the Apollo was given a 99-year lease for $1 a year.

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13 Tricks and Tips to Get the Most Out of Google Maps
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It’s hard to imagine life without Google Maps. Memorizing routes and printing out driving directions seems like a distant memory in a world where a detailed map of any location is available at a moment's notice. Still, you could be using it more. Google’s popular software is packed with secrets, tricks, and Easter eggs beyond what you might expect. Ahead of the popular tool's update later this year, here are 13 ways to get the most out of Google Maps, from one-handed use to offline location tracking.

1. CHECK WAIT TIMES AT YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT

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Before you head out for dinner, use Google Maps to see if you’re about to waste an hour standing in line. Just search for the name of the restaurant on your desktop browser or in Google Maps for iOS and Android. Then, scroll down to the Popular Times chart and select a specific time. There, you'll see how long the wait usually is at that time and make your plans accordingly.

2. SEE HOW STEEP YOUR BIKE RIDE WILL BE


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There’s nothing worse than unexpectedly hitting a big hill while riding your bike. Next time, plug your route into Google Maps and ask for biking directions. You’ll see a graph that shows the steepness of each part of your trip and be able to avoid those big inclines in the future.

3. ADD MULTIPLE DESTINATIONS TO YOUR TRIP

Google Maps typically defaults to simple point-A-to-point-B for directions, but it’s easy to add an extra stop to your trip. In a browser, press the “+” icon under your destination. On Android or iOS, tap on the three horizontal dots in the top right corner to pull up a menu and then select “Add stop.”

4. TRAVEL THROUGH TIME WITH STREET VIEW

Street View is a fun way to explore neighborhoods all over the world, but it’s also a treasure trove of old photos. Just launch Street View in your browser and click on the clock-shaped icon in the top left corner. From there, you can browse through all the pictures Google’s taken over the years for any specific spot.

5. MEASURE DISTANCE

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If you’re using Google Maps in your browser you can easily measure the distance between any two locations. Right click somewhere on the map and select “Measure Distance.” Then, click anywhere else to see how far away it is.

6. USE GOOGLE MAPS WITHOUT AN INTERNET CONNECTION

If you’re traveling and you know you won’t have any internet, you can download a map of the area ahead of time. Pull up that location in Google Maps on your phone. Then, open the settings menu and select “Offline maps” to save it. When you arrive, you’ll be able to view the map without any service and even track your location thanks to GPS.

7. SEE YOUR ENTIRE GOOGLE MAPS HISTORY

Google Maps tracks you everywhere you go, and you can pull that information up whenever you want. Head to this website to see a detailed map of all the places you’ve ever been. If that creeps you out, you can also click on “Manage Location History” to switch this feature off.

8. ZOOM IN AND OUT WITH JUST ONE FINGER

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Pinch-to-zoom works fine most of the time, but if you only have one free hand it’s not that easy to do. Thankfully, there’s another option that only requires one free finger: Tap twice on your smartphone screen and then hold your finger down on the spot you want to get a closer look at. Google Maps will zoom in, and from there you can adjust the scale by sliding your finger up and down.

9. REMEMBER WHERE YOU PARKED YOUR CAR

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The next time you park your car, boot up Google Maps and tap on the blue dot that shows your location. When a menu pops up, select “Set as parking location” to leave a marker on your map for later so you can easily find your car when you’re ready to leave.

10. TURN THE STREET VIEW ICON INTO A UFO

If you want to have a little fun with Pegman, the yellow Street View figure, just search for Area 51 in Google Maps. Then, grab the man-shaped icon and hover it over the map to make him transform into a flying saucer.

11. SHARE YOUR LOCATION WITH FRIENDS

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If you’re meeting a friend, this feature makes it easy for them to track you down. Open Google Maps on iOS or Android and pull up the options menu (located in the top left corner) and select “Location sharing.” From here you can decide how long to reveal your location and who to share it with.

12. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS.

Google Maps makes it easy to store all your favorite restaurants (or parks or book stores) in one spot. Tap on a location and hit “Save.” Then, select “New list” and give it a name. Now, you can add new locations to your existing lists. You can also share lists with friends, and they’re even accessible when you’re offline.

13. CHECK OUT SKI ROUTES.

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Google Maps has information on almost 100 ski routes from across the United States and Canada. Head to this webpage to start planning your next ski trip.

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Shopping Malls Might be Dying, But Miami Is Planning to Build the Largest One in North America
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Shopping malls and the "American Dream" are two things that are often said to be dead or dying, but one developer sees it a little differently.

Part shopping outlet and part theme park, American Dream Miami is slated to become the largest mall in North America when it opens in Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Indeed, "mall" might not be the best word for this mega-complex. In addition to retail outlets, plans are in the works for an aquarium, water park, ski slope, live performing arts center, Ferris wheel, submarine ride, skating rink, and 2000 hotel rooms.

The project is being developed by Triple Five Group, which operates the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada—currently the two current largest shopping and entertainment centers on the continent. It also owns the American Dream Meadowlands in New Jersey.

This announcement comes at a time when shopping malls are being shuttered across the country. More than 6400 stores closed last year, and another 3600 are expected to go out of business this year, according to Business Insider.

American Dream Miami will cost $4 billion and cover 6.2 million square feet. Developers hope it will attract tourists as well as local thrill seekers who want a closer entertainment option than Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. Developer Eskandar Ghermezian was reportedly inspired by a comment made by his daughter, who complained there was nothing to do in the area when it rained.

Critics of the project, however, called it "American Nightmare," arguing it would harm the environment and cause traffic congestion. The developer still needs to obtain several permits before construction can begin.

[h/t Sun-Sentinel]

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