The Beltonian is turning 100 with Sinatra and Robin Williams tribute artists, a showing of Lonesome Dove and a Wings of Death eating contest.
The Beltonian Theatre will celebrate its 100th anniversary with four big events. The celebration isn’t until May, but tickets will go fast and space in the wings contest is limited. Wes Albanese photo supplied by The Beltonian
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
A Belton business is about to join the century club — an extremely rare milestone matched locally by no more than a handful of companies.
How rare is 100 years of business survival?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 36 percent of companies last 10 years and about 21 percent see their 20th anniversary. The US Census Bureau reports that only 12 percent of American companies are older than 26 years, and less than one in 200 businesses survive to celebrate 100.
So, forgive Zechariah Baker for planning a smoking-hot 100th anniversary celebration for The Beltonian Theatre.
“This is a big deal, and we’re going to have a huge three-day celebration,” said Baker, who has owned the Beltonian since 2017.
While the party is more than a month away, Baker announced his plans now to give customers a chance to register for an event that puts the fire in “smoking hot.”
“We have big plans for all three days — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — but I’m really excited about May 14,” he said. “That’s when we’re having the Hot Wings of Death food challenge.”
“There aren’t a lot of food challenges in this area, especially in theaters,” he said. “But this is going to be a good one.”
The brave souls who enter the competition will face five levels of searing heat, starting with a tabasco and habanero-based wing sauce with a Scoville rating of about 12,000.
The Scoville scale is a system for measuring the “heat” in hot peppers. A bell pepper, which has no kick, rates very low on the scale, and a jalapeno can rate up to 8,000. As participants will soon witness first hand, the scale goes much, much higher.
“The first round will be the mildest,” Baker said. “Contestants will eat five wings, then wait five minutes with no water and no other foods. Then, Round 2 begins and the wings will be significantly hotter.”
The final round will include a pepper sauce of up to 6 million Scoville units made with sinister Black Mamba peppers and pure capsaicin extract. The reigning bad boy of chili-pepper salsa, Black Mambas mixed with extract can be up to three times hotter than Carolina Reapers and Trinidad Scorpion peppers.
“Once the five rounds are complete, the tough part begins,” Baker said. “Contestants must sit for 15 minutes without drinking water or leaving their seat. The winner will get a year of unlimited free movies, their picture on our Wall of Fame and bragging rights. Second place will win three months of free movies and third place will get a month of movies.”
Contestants must sign a Wings of Death waiver and wear protective eyewear and gloves. Serious stuff!
The fiery wings competition is one of four events Baker has planned for The Beltonians anniversary weekend.
The fun starts at 6 p.m. Friday, May 13, with a Frank Sinatra tribute show featuring Bruce Carbonara, a vocalist who focuses on Rat Pack stars like Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and Sinatra.
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Bruce began his musical journey in rock ’n’ roll with a band called Contender.
“I was lead vocalist and played bass,” he said. “We actually released an album and did a lot of touring. We played the same venues as Cheap Trick and other bands of the day.”
Despite playing rock, Bruce always loved the Great American Songbook, and eventually began incorporating some of that Sinatra-style into his rock shows.
“One day I had an idea,” Bruce said with a chuckle. “I sat my father down and said I want you to listen to this. Don’t listen as my father — I need to know if I can pull off Sinatra.”
After he let loose with “I’m a Fool to Want You,” Bruce got his answer.
“Dad didn’t say a word, but the tear streaming down his face told me everything I need to know.”
So Bruce made a change: Instead of rock he was going to pursue a career singing with big bands. His first stop was an audition with the Bobby Sanders Orchestra.
“I was nervous, but I sang well,” he said. “But Bobby didn’t respond. So, I walked up and asked what he thought. His answer: ‘You own a tux, kid?’”
After a year with Sanders, Bruce tried out for a vocalist role with the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
“These folks toured 40 weeks a year and needed a vocalist,” he said. “They offered me a job, but I was about to get married and I was acting as my Mom’s caregiver, so I turned it down.”
Instead, Bruce and the new family moved to Waco, and now performs with big bands, smaller ensembles and by himself. Along the way, he met Ben Irom, director of jazz studies at Temple College.
Ben will join Bruce on stage at The Beltonian Theatre and accompany him on piano for several songs.
“We’re going to do a piano-bar journey of saloon songs,” Bruce said. “A Waco couple who frequently come to my shows will be here as well. They are terrific dancers.”
“One of the tunes I’ll be doing is a Sinatra/Martin duet, ‘Ain’t that a Kick in the Head,’ and I’ll be doing both parts,” Bruce said. “I’ll go back and forth between Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.”
Bruce points out that he is not an impersonator.
“I’m a tribute artist,” he said. “That means I perform his songs and sound like Sinatra. I look nothing like him.”
Saturday, May 14, will bring two big events — the Hot Wings of Death at noon and a performance by David Born, an award-winning impersonator of the late comedian Robin Williams. Born has been touring across the US and Canada for the past decade with a one-of-a-kind tribute to one of America’s favorite funny guys.
The laughs will begin at 6 p.m. and tickets are $15.
“David is highly regarded as the best impersonator of Robin Williams, and he has hundreds of live performances to his credit,” Baker said.
Another big treat during the anniversary weekend will be a free screening of the entire Lonesome Dove miniseries beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 15.
“We are anticipating a very large crowd,” Baker said. “The tickets are first come, first serve and will be available for pick up at the Box Office anytime the theatre is open.”
Lonesome Dove is an American epic Western adventure directed by Simon Wincer. It is a four-part adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry.
The novel was based upon a screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich and McMurtry, intended to star John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda, but the film was never made after John Ford advised Wayne against it.
The eventual television miniseries stars Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. The series was originally broadcast by CBS from February 5 to 8, 1989, drawing a huge viewing audience, earning numerous awards and reviving both the television western and the miniseries.
Doors will open at 1 p.m. Sunday and the miniseries begins at 2. There will be a 15-minute break between the four 90-minute episodes.
The Beltonian will have its full menu during anniversary weekend.
“We have black Angus hotdogs, sliders, boneless wings, and traditional items like nachos, popcorn and pretzels,” Baker said. “We also have local craft wine and beer, and we will deliver to your seat.”
Bruce Carbonara, a Frank Sinatra tribute artist, will perform tunes from The Great American Songbook on May 13 at The Beltonian Theatre as part of the theater’s 100th anniversary. Courtesy photo
MONDAY | APRIL 4, 2022
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