The Florida Theater in Downtown Jacksonville first opened its doors in 1927. A masterpiece of Art and Moorish architecture with French import marble railings, huge amber balcony lights and chandeliers, it was knee deep in elegance. In 1935 at the age of 16 my father Harvey Garland was an usher and popcorn boy here. During the 1950s he was promoted to head Booker where he chose what movies played at specific theaters and occasional live acts.
My mother had dropped me off at Dad’s office on the 7th floor of the Florida Theater building, Talking with my father, Elvis and Colonel Parker stepped into the door. As Colonel and Dad negotiated a 50/50 split on the concerts, Elvis took me to an ice cream fountain downstairs where we had banana splits and chocolate sodas until about 20 screaming girls saw him and he took my hand out the door. Back in the office they had knocked out a nine day, seven city, 25 show Florida tour, mostly large movie theaters. Three shows a day at $1.50 a ticket. The Florida had 1900 seats. I actually have the desk that this deal was signed up on.
At a concert earlier in Jacksonville fans nearly ripped the clothes off Elvis. A local judge told Colonel that your kid will be arrested if he does those hip swiveling moves and suggested body movements, and he will be charged with impairing the morality of minors.
Those were the moves that got fans riled up. Elvis told my dad he had been a churchgoer “since I could walk” and “my family were Holy Rollers”. Seeing the tour falling apart, my dad asked a friend of his, Clarence Wood a local attorney, to represent Elvis. With the judge in the audience at every performance Elvis behaved like a perfect gentleman. He was so frustrated that he couldn’t move that he wiggled his little finger suggestively and drove the audience wild. That scene in the ELVIS movie reallytook place at the Florida Theater. Clarence Wood got so caught up in the excitement that he forgot to bill Elvis.
After many old movie houses went into a decline in the late seventies, the theater closed in 1980. Dad bought the marble statue in the lobby La Vergognosa “the Blushing Girl” and placed it at the entrance to our home. When the theater reopened in 2002, as a non-profit, Mom and Dad gave it back.
Dad continued to move up the corporate ladder to become President of the American Broadcasting Company, the largest theater chain in the world. My love for movies led me to Hollywood where I was a marketing vice president at Paramount, Disney, and Fox.
Nearly a century old now, this iconic venue is still remembered for one thing: that sinful young singer from Tupelo… THE KING.
David Garland FL Jacksonville Nov 21, 2022 Beaches Movies Music
Location: Jacksonville, FL
David Garland Nov 21, 2022
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