Memories Of The Capitol

By Robert Tuomi

(WINDSOR, ON) – If it wasn’t for Dick Langs, famed American actors Richard Vincent “Dick” Van Patten, known for his starring role in the late 1970’s televised serial Eight is Enough, and Frank John Gorshin Jr, the Riddler in the old Batman television series, might still be roaming the streets of Windsor.

Langs, who has been involved in local theatre houses like the Tivoli, the Empire, and the Capitol for 60 years happened to be walking up Pelissier and spotted the lost duo trying to find the Capitol Theatre’s stage door. He won their admiration by pointing it out and they then remembered him at a post show reception, to his delight.

The Square caught up with him during an open house at the theatre which, as some might not know, is still being revised with small changes here and there, and restorations, continuing on the 93 year old Thomas W Lamb-designed former Vaudeville palace. Langs started ushering in the mid-50s and from the conversation with him seemed pretty proud of what went on before its early 1990’s sub-division.

Now the back of the Pentastar main hall has the fixed seat Kelly Auditorium and the Joy, which is home to receptions, plays and a host of other uses.

While showing off the main house he talks about its optical illusion.

During the slicing and dicing a wall put up at the back severed half of its impressive domed ceiling. However, mirrors were added to reflect what is left of the dome giving the illusion it is all still there.

Possibly famous Ukrainian thespian Luba Goy saw the illusion when running up the aisle during a rehearsal for a Royal Canadian Air Farce road show. She was frantically looking for a drink. Langs gave her directions and mentioned it would be free.

“In that case,” she told him, “make it a double.”

One of the distinctions of the theatre’s woman’s washroom, back in the day, was a weigh scale not found in the more rudimentary men’s. It was also complete with couches giving mothers a place of comfort to nurse their young.

Although he had his fifteen minutes of fame dancing on the stage with famed fiddler Natalie McMaster, he was in a Santa Claus suit, nothing was better in his mind than dropping into the basement to patronize Duke Fontana’s pool hall. The hangout, long gone, although clean was smoky, cigarettes were allowed back then, and the kind of place you’d expect to find hustlers like Fast Eddie Felson.

While Langs played a few games he was mostly there to munch on the dogs. Hot dogs rotated in a dog warming machine, common in the 60’s, and a favourite Saturday afternoon meal.

About the only thing Langs, who retired 12 years ago after teaching bookkeeping to high school students, won’t talk much about was the one-time plan by the city to demolish the historic building. He just shakes his head, saying, “That would have been a great loss.”

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.