NorShor

Tonight the Duluth City Council will consider suspending the Norshor “Experience” liquor license.

Here’s a picture of among other things, future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Link Wray who had one of his last public performances in the United States at the NorShor before he died a few months later. He played with a number of Duluth rockers, some of you were there, it was pretty amazing.

I was involved with the NorShor Theater for most of 2005 and part of 2004 as concessions manager, chief bottle washer and some other things. As we (the people of Duluth through their elected council) consider taking away a business’ license to operate, something I do not take very lightly at all, I am considering some of the things that happened at the theater while I was there. Its just one year, out of nearly a hundred that have come and gone now. Also, my year, was one of the more spectacular failures, so I don’t claim it as a success. And if you ever hear my trying to say it was successful, slap me, I get confused about it sometimes. It wasn’t a business success anyway, possibly a creative one for the community, though, and certainly a success for the people I worked with, the people that loved and shared and experienced joy and beauty during that time. It felt like a success to me in many ways even though I lost more money than I could even count trying to make it happen and there were tremendous private, personal losses, too. It nearly finished me, actually.

I thought I’d share a few things I found squirreled away on a barely visited corner of my hard drive today. It’s stuff I don;t want to look at all the time, but I have still been saving it, because these things matter to me. One time when I was arguing with someone, possibly the city’s liquor license board, I figured out that during that year we had done several hundred events of all kinds, often two or three on the same day, or even simultaneously. So this is just a fraction of that …

I have some more, too, but I’m not tech saavy enough to get them all out. Would be nice to have an online scrapbook someday, since I’m sure you all have lots of photos and programs and such, too.

35 Comments

Sconnie

about 13 years ago

The Norshor of 2005 is hardly the Norshor of 2009. If somebody were to open a music and movies based business there again, it would probably get more support. It's a shame that it's not.

Starfire

about 13 years ago

Jim Gradishar is a creepy guy and I wouldn't mind if they yanked his license. Too bad Ringsred didn't take the Zeppa offer, imagine what could have happened.

Tim K

about 13 years ago

None of the various incarnations of the Norshor have been a "business" success- including it's current operation. If the previous attempts at art house cinema, rock venue, theatre and dance venue and plain ol' bar with semi-regular live music had made money, they'd still be going on now. Most were, in my humble opinion, a smashing creative success. A second rate strip club is hard for me to quantify, but I'm guessing it won't last long even if the license is not yanked. Let's remember the good times and look forward to the other new venues working to make a go of it. In fact, let's go spend some money, too!

zra

about 13 years ago

death knell.

Pete

about 13 years ago

The Norshor should have teamed up with the First Ave. people in Minneapolis. I am sure some of the acts that play at First Ave. would draw the crowd at Norshor. Minnesota's own Soul Asylum woudl ahve sold the norshor out,hands down! It could ahve been sucessful if the right people were handling it. Now it just plain sucks.

Starfire

about 13 years ago

Adam beat me to it.

Calk

about 13 years ago

Glad. It's an eyesore -- a strip club on the coolest block of Old Downtown. I miss going there --thank god for Carmody.

Carla

about 13 years ago

I used to really respect Eric.  But now i just think he's crazy.

Calk

about 13 years ago

Sadly, I agree with you, Carla. I just don't understand him. The Norshor could have been so great, and it's just a big disaster.

Jim M.

about 13 years ago

When Ringsred tears that dump down, I call dibs on the handrails.

Resolutionary

about 13 years ago

I don't have anything against naked dancing women per se, but it's a pretty shoddy and shortsighted use for the best venue in town.  

The Norshor is currently a divisive place for Duluth, but it was designed to serve as a community-building catalyst.

How have other cities Duluth's size successfully used their old downtown theaters?  I know Superior demolished their's.

Calk

about 13 years ago

Doesn't Fargo have a gorgeous Art DEco theatre in the middle of their downtown? My hometown had one, it was absolutely gorgeous and I spent many afternoons and evenings there, watching double feature movies. Sadly, it was damaged during the Loma Prieta earthquake in '89 and demolished.

Tim K

about 13 years ago

The Fargo Theatre in Fargo, was designed by the same guy who did the Norshor. It was used continuously enough to have prevented major structural problems- like a bad roof. It was "restored" by a non-profit community group in the early 80s and ran a regular schedule of 2nd run and art films. I haven't kept up with them since, but I'm guessing they are not making serious money. As for Ringsred, he's just so fed up with how he has been treated in this city, that his Gradishar deal is pretty much about stickin' it in your eye. I don't care for how this has turned out, but the building would be a parking lot right now if he hadn't bought it.

samh

about 13 years ago

If Duluth could do with the Norshor what Fargo has done with the Fargo Theatre I would have faith in humanity.

Starfire

about 13 years ago

Tim K,

I agree that early on Mr. Ringsred saved many great buildings in town but to what end? He invests nothing in them so they are slowly rotting into the ground. Look at what Mr. Zeppa is doing with the old Red Lion building. If only Mr. Ringsred could have set his big fat fucking ego aside and sold to Zeppa we would have a jewel of a theatre plus the Red Lion would still be open.

heysme

about 13 years ago

Didn't PDD speak/promo a dance club or something that was in the same building and you had to go through the Norshor to get to it? Is is still in business?

Tim K

about 13 years ago

I'm not defending what Eric has done with any of his properties. BUT, they are HIS. If you had tried to save interesting and historic buildings with your own money, does everybody in Duluth get a say in what you do with them? Eric has done more for this city than most folks realize. If it wasn't for the efforts of Eric and the Stop the Freeway group back in the 70s, the entire south side of Superior St. between 5th Ave W and 8th Ave E was going to be razed. Every single f'ing building! Lake Place Park and the Lakewalk were CONCESSIONS on the part of the DOT! Once, when Dr. Ringsred went to court to stop the demo of the building that used to be where the bingo ramp currently sits, the mayor had a cop waiting for him outside the courthouse to give him a ticket for garbage in his yard. He has given many people numerous opportunities to try to start businesses or art venues or whatever in the buildings he has saved from the wrecking ball. At some point, he just got fed up with the amount of crap he's had to take from the City, the DNT and the community. He really doesn't have an ego about it- he's just tired of the BS and does not care what happens. Seriously, be glad for the cool stuff that we all shared at one point or another- and participate constructively in what ever can be done for the future of this Perfect Duluth!

ian

about 13 years ago

I've made the trek out to the Fargo Theater for shows and know there are many, many people who would do the same to Duluth if there was a quality venue that would bring in acts that have loyal fanbases.  Could bring some more money into town.

chris m

about 13 years ago

You said it Lunt. It seems like a true preservationist would have been like " wow, a guy with a lot of cash and a penchant for the arts- what a perfect fit for my white elephant old theater here!!" and sell it to the guy. Instead, the nice indy theater is now across the street- which is cool- but too bad for the beautiful old Norshor building. The "preservationist" doctor seems motivated here by something else other than his love of old buildings. Is it greed? ego? I have no idea. Basically, he has signed the death warrant on the Norshor. He missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with Zeitgeist.
I used to love the Norshor, and support it with my money, time, and art. Now, with Dr. R's loving guidance, I couldn't care less about it.  A strip club....his way of thumbing his nose at "the man?" Very mature. You are also thumbing your nose at a lot of good people who don't deserve it. Kind of like your building doesn't deserve it. Good work.

chris m

about 13 years ago

Also, his yard looks like crap. In some places he's get a yard garbage citation weekly.

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

I am ambivalent about Eric Ringsred.  As far as I am concerned, everything you have said here about about "the Doctor" (as I affectionately call him) is totally true.  Including the conflicting accounts.  Tim K, Starfire, Calk, even Carla, you are all correct.  He is a puzzle of a man.

Calk

about 13 years ago

Chris M nailed it. How cool would it have been if Zeitgeist had been in the Norshor, financed by somebody who seriously could have made it work? Dr. Ringsred is my landlord, and I appreciate he keeps the rent on my office nice and low so I can be one of the "cool" tenants in his building, but, damn, I love the Norshor, but will not step foot in it as long as it's a strip club. The action for me has moved across the street.

Paul Lundgren

about 13 years ago

This might be a small point, but my understanding of what happened four years ago is that Dr. Ringsred and Arno Kahn wanted something like $4 million for the NorShor and Mr. Zeppa thought that was too much. So, to clarify, it wasn't that Ringsred refused to sell, it's that he set a high price and negotiations broke down.

Also, had the sale gone through, the NorShor wouldn't have just been spruced up and opened in its current layout. The main theater and lobby would have probably been turned into two theaters, or something like that. My understanding is that Dr. Ringred's high asking price reflected a dissatisfaction in the renovation plans. 

But yeah, pretty much everyone wishes the NorShor was functioning exactly the way he/she wants it to. Maybe things will change there for the better some day. 

For now, let's appreciate what's going on across the street. The cafe and movie theaters are opening soon!

adam

about 13 years ago

From memory, I seem to remember the word "punish" being used in the DNT interview explaining why the Zeppa deal didn't happen. I'd have to check the clipping archive, but that sticks in my memory. (I think it was #2 or #3 of a series?)

pH

about 13 years ago

Fargo, Green Bay, St Cloud, Red Wing, Sheboygan, Rockford, Eau Claire, and even the cultural mecca of Ironwood, Michigan.  All of these small regional cities have successfully restored similar theaters. Seems most were also defunct basket-cases, taken over in the 1980's by community non-profits.  Restored with contributions and grant money, then operated as centers for the arts.
 
It is lamentable, even surprising, that Duluth does not have a historic theater space  (functioning).  Maybe the earlier Depot project sucked some of the oxygen out of the room, as far as pursuing another regional arts center / big restoration project?  Perhaps if the Depot returns to passenger rail service, some of their arty tenants will be looking for a new space? A storied, landmark theater with a checkered past? Perhaps? 

Agree we shouldn't wring our hands too much, with the Zeppa project addressing the needs. Can't wait!

Sconnie

about 13 years ago

Is there any potential for the building to be purchased and subsequently administered by a major arts organization? The city in service of local arts organizations? UMD? Not everything needs to be in the DECC, whiners' complaints about parking space aside. Perhaps that's the way forward for the space now.

Renovation costs aside, the Norshor is actually a more attractive space now than it was five years ago, what with the Zinema across the street, more restaurants and nightspots, and an increase in hotel rooms in the hood, all of which combine to create a more vital arts and business environment downtown. Ringsred can complain about "gentrification," but this kind of development is exactly what downtown Duluth needs, and the area along the Lakewalk and downhill from the hospitals is about as obvious of a space for this as there can be. 

Duluth needs this kind of "gentrification," and if it doesn't happen here, you won't get any countervailing entertainment dollar force against the ongoing sprawl atop the hill. Preservation is a worthy goal, but operating a strip club in the Norshor is doing absolutely nothing to secure a vibrant future for the theater.

Fluff

about 13 years ago

Helping out at the Shor at that time was the best thing I have ever done.  From the Papa Roach show, steve-o, link wray, frankie bones, trampled, poetry slams, solent green, open mic, and all the black label drunks such a diverse spectrum of gigs.  The only place in town with charm.  Miss all the martini makin' days.  The afternoon drunks and dick of course.  Speak of it fondly.  p.s Trampled in Florida?

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

Fluff,

I thought you were dead.  Great memories of you during that time, too, my dear red and bushy friend.  (no politics intended with the descriptors, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar after all.  Give us an update when you can, you should be able to find me easy enough.  

PS: I talked to the Dr. on another matter yesterday, I still like him even when I just don't get him.  Kinda like my brother, so maybe he's kinda like family.

ann klefstad

about 13 years ago

Yes, the doctor is a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma--or maybe the other way round--but is a force for good in general, in my experience. I would like to see the Paul Robeson Ballroom open for business.

wildgoose

about 13 years ago

Reprieve

http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/56376962.html

Steven Yasgar

about 13 years ago

The "Eyes + Hands" festival was one of the best times of my life. Thanks for the reminder..

As a former Duluthian now living in Minneapolis, I'm happy to see the new movie theater, and have been totally bummed about the 'Shor. I will be keeping my eyes peeled to see what happens..

farglebargle

about 13 years ago

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it's my impression the Norshor's death knell was pretty well sounded when Tech Village went up and the scenesters (I know, I hate that term too) flocked to Pizza Luce. People didn't abandon the Norshor entirely but its income was drastically cut. In which case A & L killed the Norshor and y'all collaborated.

Dave Kerr

about 13 years ago

I worked at the NorShor in the early 60s. It was a nice 1st-run downtown movie theatre. U think it is terrible what Eric Ringsred is doing to it. I have lived in Minneapolis the past 45 years and they revived the State Orpheum & Mann into live Broadway shows. I don't see why they couldn't do the same thing with the NorShor.

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