The Variety Theatre, the Lady on Lorain

Opened on November 24, 1927, the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio was built by Sam Stecker, Meyer Fine and Abe Kramer of the Variety Amusement Company. It was designed in the Spanish Gothic by Cleveland-based architect Nicola Petti, who also designed the Cedar Lee Theatre.

The theatre was sold to Warner Brothers in 1929 who ran it until 1954. It was then run by the Community Circuit Theaters Co. until 1976 when it was purchased by Russell Koz. Koz ran the theater as a second-run movie theater until the early-1980s when it was used as a music venue, primarily rock bands.

Many known bands played there while it’s short stint as a music venue including Metallica, the Dead Kennedys, Slayer, R.E.M., and Motörhead. During Motörhead’s show on December 2, 1984 the music was so loud, it cracked the ceiling and plaster rained down onto the crowd. The last song played was the Hawkwind cover of “Motorhead” before the power was cut, ending the show. In 1986, an article was published in an issue of Spin magazine entitled “Motörhead is the Loudest Band on Earth”, claiming that the band reached a reported decibel level of 130.

That marked the beginning of the end for the theater as a judge ordered its closure in 1986 due to multiple complaints from the neighborhood. It was last used as a wrestling gym called the Cleveland Wrestleplex before closing for the last time in the late-1980s.

Since 2006, the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre have been in the process of restoring and renovating the theater.

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