The Emboyd Theatre, now known as the Embassy Theatre, was opened in 1928. The following spring, an unknown young vaudevillian named Bob Hope spent three weeks there performing as a master of ceremonies.
The world-famous comedian, who died in 2003, later credited the theater with giving his career its start.
Legions of other performers would follow. Louis Armstrong. Perry Como. Doris Day. Fats Domino. And Chaz Chase, a 1940s performer and film star known for eating almost anything, “including cardboard, flowers, and lighted matches, cigarettes and cigars,” according to a note on the Embassy's website.
Like most 90-year-olds, the Embassy Theatre has had some rocky times.
In 1978, during a Save the Embassy fundraising campaign, Hope was one of those who stepped up, returning to the theater for a benefit appearance, cracking jokes and singing “Thanks for the Memories.”
He also left a photo of himself, on which he inscribed, “To the Embassy Theatre patrons: Don't let it fall. It helped get me started. My Best, Bob Hope.”
The campaign, obviously, succeeded. Tonight, the Embassy will celebrate its 90th birthday with a program recreating a 1928 theater outing. There will be vaudeville acts, musical performances by the Fort Wayne Children's Choir, Farmland Jazz Band and Fort Wayne Dance Collective and the presentation of a silent, black-and-white movie starring Buster Keaton.
Mark Herman will lead the celebration on the Grand Page pipe organ, which was made by the Page Organ Company of Lima, Ohio – now known as the Lima Pipe Organ Company. The organ, one of two of its type that survive, has been part of the theatre since the beginning.
Happy birthday, and thanks for the memories!