Rosemary Novellino-Mearns (otherwise known as “Rosie”) took us on a journey: a slide presentation of the story of her life, and her gargantuan effort to save Radio City Music Hall from demolition in 1978.
At age 18, Rosie became a member of Radio City’s Ballet Company. Few people know there was a Ballet Company since they were overshadowed by the Rockettes.
By 1978, the Music Hall was hemorrhaging money, so it was decided by owner Rockefeller Center to demolish it. Ludicrous suggestions were made to replace it: an amusement park or perhaps a shopping mall!
Rosie told us the history of the Music Hall. It opened in 1932. The opulence and splendor of the Art Deco style was everywhere: even the Ladies Room seemed straight out of a Fred Astaire movie. It was the showplace of the nation.
Entertainment was dazzling through the years. There were movies such as An American in Paris. And of course, there were the Rockettes, the Ballet Company and musical entertainment of all kinds.
When the announcement was made to demolish the Music Hall, Rosemary tore into action. She organized the performers and backstage workers, who would all lose their jobs. She gathered countless celebrities and supporters. She wrote to politicians and newspapers, spoke on radio and TV shows, telling her heartfelt story: “The Music Hall is an institution; the Rockettes are an art form; it would be nothing less than criminal to lose them!”
Even more important, she met with The New York City Landmark Commission. On the morning of that meeting, the Rockettes danced on the steps of City Hall. When they were finished, an audience of 6000 people jumped up, threw flowers, and shouted, “Don’t close, don’t close!”
Meanwhile, Rosie presented the Landmark Commission with a petition of 150,000 signatures from all over the world. Only two weeks later, the Music Hall attorney called: “We’re in business, we’ve been saved. We will soon be a National Historic Landmark!”
You can read more about Rosie’s story in her book, SAVING RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL: A Dancer’s True Story. Do not miss this tribute to the power of intention, to the power of one person who can literally change the world.