The Cherry Playhouse: Gone But Never Forgotten
Growing up my parents would take me up to Traverse City religiously every summer for about ten days. To this day I love Traverse City. There is so much history and nostalgia. People associate Traverse City with the Cherry Festival every year. Plus, great fishing, hunting, water sports, shopping, food and fudge. But my fondest memory was of the Cherry Playhouse adjacent to the legendary Park Place Hotel.
Now, the Cherry Playhouse was synonymous with past summer stock shows for many years. Big time movie stars and comedians would come to put on entertaining shows. This true gem of our state was golden. The Cherry County Playhouse was founded by Cincinnati socialite and soap opera star Ruth Bailey in 1955. Bailey moved the Playhouse to the Park Place Hotel in 1964. My parents started taking me there in 1971. That’s when I was hooked.
It was the summer of 1971 and the MLB All-Star game was going on that night in Detroit. It was July 13th 1971 to be exact. My parents and I were watching the game in our hotel room in the legendary Shadowland Hotel which no longer exists. The game was on before we left for the live show at the Cherry Playhouse. Superstar Reggie Jackson crushed a towering home run off of Dock Ellis that hit the light facing on the roof of old Tiger Stadium. You don’t forget those historic sports moments.
After we watched the monumental Jackson home run, my parents took me to my first summer stock show at the Cherry Playhouse. This is where the story gets really awesome. The show we attended starred Buddy Ebsen aka Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies. I thought to myself, I’m going to see Jed Clampett in person. After the show they introduced Frank Sutton aka Sgt. Carter from the Gomer Pyle Show. Sutton was sitting five seats from my mom. Then they announced people with specific tickets could attend a meet and greet. Well my parents (Corky & Ed DeMarco) had bought those tickets and I met Jed Clampett. Never will I forget this.
Other stars I saw there were Bob Crane and Phyllis Diller. But that night was one for the ages. The Cherry Playhouse was sold to comedian Pat Paulson and another man in 1975. What year it closed I’m not sure. But two years ago they tore down the domed theatre. The Cherry Playhouse may be gone now, but it'll never be forgotten.