Saturday, April 8, 2017

Slow Saturday Flashback: Night at the Theater

"The Theatre District is Boston’s melting pot" by Jan Ransom Globe Staff  October 15, 2016

Last call at the bars neared, and police awaited the final exodus of nightclub patrons.

It was a typical Friday in the Theatre District, groups of vastly different social and economic backgrounds blend.

“At any one time you see people of any age and background going there, living there, and genuinely enjoying what’s going on in that particular area,” said City Councilor Bill Linehan, whose district includes the neighborhood. “It’s somewhat uniquely Boston . . . everything merges right there.”

Decades ago, the neighborhood was run down, and bordered the seedy Combat Zone, the city’s red-light district where strip clubs, prostitution, and crime flourished. But in the late 1970s, Mayor Kevin H. White sought to revitalize the neighborhood. The Shubert Theatre’s interior was renovated, better street lighting was installed, and sidewalks were improved. The state Transportation Building and a pedestrian mall — lined with shops and restaurants and linking Boylston and Stuart streets — were constructed.

At the edge of diverse neighborhoods, the Theatre District is full of art, entertainment, and history. Many walks of life cross paths on the streets that are home to a bustling nightlife.

In the late 1990s, entrepreneurs restored the theaters. Then Emerson College moved into the neighborhood, bringing a 600-bed dormitory and a $14 million restoration of the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

In the last decade, the neighborhood continued to evolve. The lavish W Boston Hotel and Residences opened its doors on the corner of Stuart and Tremont streets, followed by a 29-story luxury apartment tower.

Although flagrant prostitution and drug dealing have largely been pushed out by the new development, spurts of violence — such as the early-morning stabbing of seven people outside of a nightclub three weeks ago — occasionally still erupt.

Patrick Dillon, 43, a longtime parking enforcement officer, stood under the marquee of the Wang Theatre shortly before noon on a recent Friday and reflected on the changes.

Two blocks away on Boylston Street, on the opposite side of the street at St. Francis House, the largest daytime homeless shelter in the state, an afternoon brawl broke out and a woman was knocked to the ground.

Five hours later, nightfall ushered in a new wave of people coming for dinner or a theater performance.

A light rain fell through the evening, but it did not put a damper on Robert Lowe’s plans for his girlfriend’s first trip to Boston.

Lowe, 31, had traveled 45 minutes from Nashua with Jessica Spaulding, 25, who was visiting from Wilmington, Del., for a date night to see the Blue Man Group. Before the show, the couple waited at a lounge inside the Charles Playhouse, a small theater tucked away on Warrenton Street.

Further down Tremont Street, students, tourists, and locals gathered at The Tam, a popular dive bar known for its cheap beer.

“The Tam is my favorite place in the world,” said Jenna Montefiore, 21, a senior studying film production.

As midnight crept closer, men trickled into the Theatre District’s two remaining strip clubs.

The stabbing of seven people three weeks earlier after a fight in front of the Candibar and Royale nightclubs on Tremont Street did not seem to deter late-night clubgoers on this night. Women wearing tight dresses and high heels and men in slacks and button-up shirts waited in line to get in.

Ah, freedom!

As patrons flooded the clubs and bars, the calm of the afternoon and early evening was gone.

Two officers patrolled the sidewalk while bouncers checked IDs at the club doors.

Diana Pelletier, who had come from Marlborough with her sister and two friends, was in search of a place to celebrate her 35th birthday.

“I have two little kids. I don’t get out much,” she said. “I just want to dance. I don’t care about anything else.”

Time for me to dance out of here.

Before the bars and clubs were set to close, police officers descended. By 1:30 a.m. the streets were closed to traffic as officers waited for the unpredictable.

Over the past decade, police have cracked down on drug dealing, violent crime, and prostitution in the area. But the violent incidents, while less frequent, still occur.

“The music changes, but young people behaving badly doesn’t change,” said Boston police Captain Robert Ciccolo.


As clubs released hordes of people into the streets at 2 a.m., police rushed to break up a fight between two men in front of the W Hotel. On the corner of Stuart and Tremont streets, a man and a woman swayed in the cool night air, their eyes barely open. They tumbled into the street, then were helped to their feet by strangers. In an apparent drunken stupor, the woman leaned against the hotel while her companion hovered. Police called an ambulance.

At least they weren't smoking pot!

“We’re not here to lock anyone up if we can avoid it,” Ciccolo said. “We want to make sure they get home safely.”

As EMTs tended to the woman, one yelled at the man to get away.

“We may have just prevented a rape,” Ciccolo said after learning the woman did not know the man....

I'll bet it was, you know....