Saturday, May 21, 2011

Billy Ray Cyrus Meets a Ghost...at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, KY!

The Paramount Theatre's opening night was September 5, 1931.  It was originally intended to show silent films made exclusively by Paramount Studios, but early during the planning stages, "talkies" replaced the silent films.  As a result, plans changed, and the Paramount was slated to be a model transitional theater, again showing exclusively Paramount's films.

The Great Depression set construction back, and Paramount wanted to scrap the project.  An Ashland based company picked up the project, and used Paramount craftsmen to provide the interior furnishings.  The original plans called for the building to be at least one-third larger, but again, the Great Depression caused plans to change.  The building was then leased to the Paramount Publix Corporation. 

The original contractor of the building was Ashland citizen, Wade Gates.  The designers were Rapp and Rapp, who utilized the popular Art Deco style.  Seating was for 1309 people, and for a time, the Paramount was the only theater in the area that showed talking movies.

The theater was closed in 1971, and was picked up a year later by  the Greater Ashland Foundation for use as a community theater.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. 

The following story is from the History section of the Paramount Arts Center homepage:

It is said that during work on the Paramount Theatre, in its early stages, a death occurred there and the man's ghost has forever since haunted the Paramount. A group of construction workers who were working inside the auditorium had gone to lunch except one man, a guy named Joe. When the others returned they found Joe hanging from the stage rafters, dead. It is not known whether his death was an accident or suicide. But since then, sounds have been heard, things have gone missing, cold drafts have been felt, and some folks even claim to have seen the image of a man appear on occasion.

However, it is by all means a "good ghost" - one who seems to look out for the benefit of the theatre and its occupants. When Billy Ray Cyrus was here filming his video for "Achy Breaky Heart", he was told about the legend of Paramount Joe. Between breaks, Billy Ray would talk to Joe, laughing and joking with him, sometimes even asking for his help.

It is customary to get 8 x 10 photographs signed by each performer that appears at the Paramount and then hang the photo on our 'Wall of Fame' in the box office. Well Billy Ray personally autographed large color posters to each of the female employees working here at the time - and one to Paramount Joe, whom he now had a fondness for. Each lady put her poster near her desk and Joe's was hung in the box office, near all the other performers.

As time passed and the walls in the box office became too full of 8x10's signed by other performers here, the executive director felt that some of the pictures and posters needed to come down. Since there were so many of Billy Ray, she asked the women to remove their posters since they were all so similar. Nobody wanted to take their personally autographed picture of Billy Ray down so they took down the one he had signed to Paramount Joe.

The next day, when the ladies came to work, every single 8x10 and poster that had been hanging neatly on the walls the night before was now lined up against the wall on the floor, their glass frames still intact! It was as if someone had carefully removed each one. To this day, Paramount Joe's poster still hangs in the Paramount, in a very special part of The Marquee Room.

There is another story about the time two new employees wanted to investigate the basement in the Paramount and some old items that had been stored there. To reach the basement, you must go through a door that is located just inside the lounge outside the ladies restroom. This brings you to the top of the stairs. At the top of the stairs is a lightswitch which will light the first section of the stairwell for you. As you progress, there is a switch that will light each area in front of you. And, there is no partner switch. In other words, you must turn the light off at the same place you turned it on.

The marketing director had offered to take the two new female employees into the basement and turned on the lights at the top of the stairs. The ladies hurried down the steps. At that moment the marketing director was called to the phone by someone inside the office. He told the other two employees to hold on, he would be right back. In their excitement however, they did not hear him and they continued on. Recounting the story later, it was at this point they called up to him to turn on the next light for them.

As it turned out, he was on the phone longer than expected and met the ladies as they were coming back up the steps. "Thanks for turning on the light for us," one of them said, "but we can't get it to turn off." Puzzled, he explained that he had not turned on the light for them. The expression on their faces revealed that they were not kidding with him.

They lead him back into the basement, only to met by darkness. 'Someone' had turned the light off again as well. "Well, thanks Joe," called out one of the ladies, as she shivered.

2 comments:

  1. I played guitar in Billy Rays band right after he got famous and took his guitarist (Terry Shelton) with him and I took his place. I'm coming down there from Charleston, West Virginia on December 10th to see Steve Earle. I would love to also see Paramount Joe as he sounds like one heck of a nice guy to meet. Thanks for the stories, perfect for around Halloween.

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    1. Thanks, Mykoe. I hope you get to meet Joe!

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