As Elvis Costello put the final touches on his set list for his Friday night performance at The Paramount, the owners toasted town officials for allowing their grand vision for a state-of-the-art theater in downtown Huntington village.
Brian Doyle, one of four partners in The Paramount with Stephen Ubertini and Dom Catoggio, presented Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone with a black-and-white guitar with each of their signatures on it. As he and other dignitaries took pictures, he mock-strummed his musical gift and playfully sang a few bars of "Hound Dog."
After presenting the guitar, Doyle led his guests upstairs to a champagne toast at one of the four bars in the Paramount. On the other side of a black curtain, Costello was tuning up and getting ready to open The Paramount, running through his set list, his Spectacular Spinning Songbook towering over the stage as he prepared for an audience that would include former Cold Spring Harbor resident Billy Joel. As Costello warmed up in the background, Doyle thanked the town for welcoming The Paramount and helping make their vision a reality.
"Without your support and without your belief and without your vision to say yes to us, this would never have happened," Doyle said, his champagne flute aloft. "From the bottom of our hearts, we say, thank you. We're going to make you proud, and this town is going to come alive."
While the event was focused on The Paramount's future, there was a nod to the past parked right in front — a 1927 Ford Model A, representative of the year The Paramount's building was erected.
Petrone said The Paramount's owners came to the table with a big vision as soon as the Inter-Media Arts Center shut its doors in June 2009. The idea for The Paramount went before the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals in late-July 2010 — the proposal was to overhaul the 700-seat Inter Media Arts Center into a 1,500-seat, state-of-the-art concert venue.
"You've made more than 200,000 people very happy, you're going to be a shot in the arm for our economy and certainly, what a great venue we're going to have and what great show's are forthcoming," Petrone said, adding special thanks to Councilwoman Susan Berland for introducing the board to The Paramount's owners.
The town's newest tenant was an object of admiration and curiosity in the hours leading up to show time, the loop of a heartbeat still pounding in the lobby as it had for months. Passersby and business owners looked on with interest, took ^pictures and recorded video as work crews applied the finishing touches. As about a half-dozen photographers blocked traffic to get pictures of elected officials piled into the Model A, they held tight and took the delay in relatively good spirits.
"It makes us feel amazing, it really does," Doyle said of the interest.
Mike Rzonca, of Huntington, was one of those gathered across the street recording the grand opening. Before it started raining at about 7 p.m., passersby gathered outside Meehan's on New York Avenue to take pictures of the marquee and check out the new concert venue.
"I can't believe Elvis Costello is playing in Huntington," he said. "Huntington needs a venue like this to attract big artists like Elvis Costello, and it's nice because we don't have to travel into the city to see it."
The heaviest activity was within several square blocks of the venue, as conccrtgoers arrived via trolley service from the Huntington train station or parked and hoofed it to New York Avenue. On opening night, traffic seemed to be about what one would expect during the Friday night rush hour on New York Avenue, and was chugging along, slow and steady.
Bob Pawlak, of Huntington, and his friends were among the luckiest motorists — they were able to park on New York Avenue near Book Revue, leaving them just a short walk to the theater. They heard about the venue a few months ago and couldn't wait to check it out.
"We saw the list of the concerts, especially Elvis Costello, we jumped on it," he said. "It's going to be a great venue, it's going to a great spot and it's going to be great for the town."
Restaurants along New York Avenue, like Honu and Meehan's, were packed leading up to show time, but it might be difficult to accurately judge a "Paramount bump" for restaurants immediately. Alex Moschos, owner of Neraki on Main Street, did not report a perceptible increase in table turnover, and said some of his Friday night regulars complained of a tough parking situation. But he said it wouldn't be fair to wholly credit the traffic to The Paramount. On the same night the theater opened, the first night of the Huntington Fall Festival was under way and a downpour snarled traffic around 7 p.m.
"You'd be able to get a better picture next week after [Yom Kippur,]," he said.