Bailey’s to celebrate 100th on March 17
Sat, 03/12/2016 - 05:00
Raymond L. Daye
If the Bailey clan is looking down on Marksville, sure and their Irish eyes be smilin’ as the Bailey Theater prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day.
The historic theater, now a popular nightspot known as Bailey’s On The Square, will be the site of a fundraising birthday party on March 17. Doors open at 7 p.m. on St. Paddy’s Day. The admission charge of $10 will benefit Riviere del Soleil’s Relay for Life, which supports the American Cancer Society.
The Bailey family was from Bunkie, and there are historic structures in that city bearing their name as well.
The Marksville theater that bears their name was built in 1916 and was originally called the Palace Theater.
The site is near where Marc Eliche built his store, the beginning of what is now Marksville. Judge Ralph Cushman -- who signed the order granting Solomon Northup his freedom in 1853 -- had his office where Bailey’s now stands.
Silent movies were shown in the theater, with local musicians providing accompaniment.
The big movie of 1916 was D.W. Griffith’s epic Intolerance, widely regarded as a masterpiece of the silent era and running 3 1/2 hours.
There were also numerous short comedies by Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. A young director, Cecil B. DeMille, decided to try his hand at epic historical dramas, releasing Joan the Woman, about Joan of Arc.
The theater also served as the site of the Marksville High School graduation ceremonies until 1927.
“My grandmother actually used to play the organ for silent movies here, so the building and my family go way back,” co-owner and general manager Van Roy said.
It was one of Avoyelles’ main movie houses until it closed in 1974 -- the year we were scared senseless by the Exorcist and laughed ourselves silly at Blazing Saddles. A few of the many other movies released that year were Chinatown, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Death Wish.
Fell into disrepair
Roy said the building fell into disrepair for many years, with its walls crumbling and red velvet seats tattered until it was resurrected in 1991 by Catherine Roy.
With the help of her family and friends like Keith Manuel, Glenn Wheeler and Donny Gagnard, the building was gradually restored to an entertainment venue in 1999.
“Everyone told me I was crazy,” Ms. Roy said, recalling times she worked in the rafters into the early morning hours to build a balcony supported by sycamore logs she personally pulled from Red River.
That incarnation of the Bailey was a New Orleans-inspired nightspot where the likes of the Boogie Kings and Irma Thomas performed.
Ms. Roy’s daughter, Ashley Miller, managed Bailey’s until 2006, when Van Roy -- Catherine’s brother -- took over that task.
Dispute with city
After a dispute with the city concerning local bars and nightclubs, the Roys closed Bailey's in 2013 and reopened six months later with a revised operation -- Baileys On The Square.
“All we knew was that we didn’t want to do what already existed here,” Van Roy said. “We let the building light the path and we set our sights on offering something to a demographic that can sometimes be neglected here.”
He said the building is intended to reflect a “rustic yet elegant venue with all the charm of old New Orleans.”
Bailey’s still provides a variety of live music and events -- and it is a popular watering hole for the night life in Marksville -- but it is also in demand as a place for wedding receptions, office Christmas parties and other private events.
“We’re blessed to have had so much support from the community,” Roy said.
Although the Baileys on high might prefer a different play list for the March 17 party -- jigs, “songs of the Republic” and “Danny Boy,” perhaps -- those taking part in the St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans will be entertained by the spirited funk/R&B band Tyler Kichen & The Right Pieces. The New Orleans group played at the Arts & Music Festival two years ago.
Roy said the green beer will be flowing and a $100 prize will be awarded to the party participant with the most festive green-themed costume.
Roy asks that anyone with an old photograph of the Bailey Theater or personal stories to share call him at 240-3495.