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Backstage with the Arcada Theatre’s Ron Onesti: Has It Been That Long Already?

Ron Onesti: Has it been that long already!

Here we are, fourteen months since the initial “Lockdown” was ordered.  Who would have ever thought this would have been possible?  The Vatican and Vegas strip shut down, no sports, no concerts or festivals, nobody in school, classic hotels shuttered, no travel, on and on.

So many lost their lives, so many suffered.  Then there were those who tragically could not be with their loved ones during their final moments.  How horrible was that?

But somehow, we remained strong.  We endured the unthinkable-physically, mentally and morally.  We all did the best we could to stay healthy, and to stay positive.  We found new ways to engage-ZOOM meetings, Livestreaming music, car parades and curbside service.

We also watched more movies than ever, read more books than we had in years and became engulfed in more mini-series episodes than we ever would have expected.

Some worked out more, cleaned generations-old junk drawers and found the top of the tool-table in the garage that has not been seen in decades.  And we shook our heads while cleaning out closets, happening upon those bell bottom polyester pants of the 60’s, the silk shirt from the Disco days of the ‘70s or that skinny tie of the ‘80s.  Some even tried to resurrect those concert shirts from Zeppelin, RUSH or Sabbath, only to give up after just trying to fit that L shirt on our XL bodies.

I am not sure of the lasting effect the Pandemic will have on all of us.  The financial loss may never fully be recouped for so many.  The personal loss will remain a tragic memory for others.  Will Chicago’s Magnificent Mile ever be a shopping Mecca again?

But through and through, I believe our only option is to do all we can to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and get back into the game.  I know I make it sound so easy, but really, we cannot let this thing hurt us any more than it already has.

I think the best thing that came out of this was the intensification of our appreciation for things we may have taken a bit for granted before.  As my daughter turned sixteen years old this year, I was able to be more involved in her life during these formative years.  I cleaned in places I hadn’t seen since Clinton was in office.  I walked more, and breathed fresh air more.  I realized I had a tree in my yard that I don’t remember seeing before, even though the trunk is about three feet in diameter.  I even befriended a squirrel!

I also spoke more regularly to artists.  They were so bored they would call just to see what I was doing.  Some wrote some new material, or recorded parts for other entertainer projects.  The new music that is going to come out of all this is going to be incredible!

Industry-wise, I really felt for the support staff of the artists.  Each cancelled show grossly affected the families of agents, managers, sound engineers, lighting techs, guitar and drum techs, merchandise sellers, stagehands, bus drivers, caterers, backline providers, ticket sellers and bartenders.  They are all unsung heroes of the entertainment world.

Just like in the film, “Wizard of Oz,” when Dorothy opened the door and went from black and white to Technicolor, it seems the sun is coming out and we are close to moving past this thing.  People are ready to see live music and dance their troubles away, dine in groups and hug friends.  Fifty-six weeks ago, we began at the tip of our own “Yellow Brick Road” with Elton singing “Goodbye” to that, and now we are close to those grand doors that open to the “Land of Ozzy” (Osborne).

And we are getting ready too!  We are polishing our silverware, re-working our stage lights and tuning up our sound systems.  We took advantage of the Lockdown time to renovate, upgrade and re-build.  The changes to all our venues are truly remarkable!  New restrooms, kitchens, HVAC, dressing rooms, restaurants and bars are just a few of the new features we have.   Hotel super -suites, Rock ‘N Roll pinball machines and upgraded VIP experiences are also about to be unveiled!

All in all, I was brought up to concentrate on the gifts we were given, rather than to focus on what we didn’t have.  My dad was an Italian tailor, my mom a seamstress.  We had humble beginnings, but our family always had a roof over our heads, clean clothes (patched-up and passed on from generation to generation), dinner at six o’clock and good schooling.  We spent hours kicking cans filled with rocks, throwing a rubber ball against the back of a garage with a strike zone spray painted on it or riding our bikes around the same block, over and over again..

And we were happy.

So now, a bit over four hundred days after the initial quarantine, things are beginning to open.  It looks like we will have festivals and parades this Summer.  It appears there will be no limits on the amount of aunts, uncles and cousins we can see on the Fourth of July.  We can see live music LIVE, not just from our cars and computers.

And in those gut-wrenching times that our loved ones approach their final journey, they won’t being doing it alone.

So thanks to all who hung in their with us with countless letters of support.  It was those texts, emails and letters mailed in envelopes (which has actually became a thrill to see in the stack of bills the mailman left for me daily) that has kept us with hope in our hearts and the will to come back stronger than ever.

I so look forward to sharing music and meatballs with you all again very soon!  And please, lets continue to appreciate the gifts we have been given, the time we have together and the power of music.  If we don’t, then the Pandemic wins.  And just like those who survived wars, civil unrest, 9/11 and other tragedies, we must emerge with bigger hearts, greater respect and deeper love.

For me, other casualties of the Pandemic were The Lone Ranger and BATMAN.  I can never watch another movie or TV show featuring a “masked” character again.  And how I long for someone to yell “FREEBIRD” from a packed house at a rock show.  Never thought I would say THAT again either!

See you soon!