Jerry Summers: Unclad At The Tivoli Theater

Thursday, January 13, 2022 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

On January 23, 1992, the patrons of Chattanooga’s famous Tivoli Theater were entertained with the sounds of the “sexually explicit vignettes” from the long running Broadway play in New York City, “Oh Calcutta.”  The show had been “derided by critics, excoriated by censors, but enjoyed by audiences” and had logged 5,959 performances in the theater district of New York City starting on June 17, 1969, closing on August 12, 1972, and was revised in 1976 and finally closed in 1989.

Habitants in the “Dynamo of Dixie” (1992’s city motto) wondered if curious and broad-minded citizens would attend a public showing of conduct which at the least would have to be described as “risqué”.

In 1992 the showing of “Oh Calcutta” did not enjoy a warm reception by the leadership of the city that was then described as “the best midsized city this side of Boston!” (Sound familiar?)

Armed with a new city ordinance that prohibited public nudity and obscene conduct under Tennessee law the legal battle for the show that featured the works of the Beatles John Lennon and others went to the Chancery Court of Hamilton County before the Honorable R.

Vann Owens for an interpretation of “free speech” under the federal and state constitutions.

Ably represented by assistant city attorney Phil Noblett and the city’s legal staff who put up a vigorous legal fight but after Chancellor Owens heard live and specific testimony as to the availability of adult-oriented material in the now “Gig City” he reluctantly allowed the production to be imposed on Chattanooga’s citizens.

The High Chancellor after being informed of the content of the second-longest running play in Broadway history allowed it to be presented at the historic Tivoli Theater in spite of his opinion that “this crude, vulgar and tasteless production has little artistic, literacy or political value” that included nude dancers who frolicked across the state in unclad status.

After being given a warning by local Chattanooga Times columnist, Bill Casteel not to go near the Tivoli he admonished the public that attendance was not compulsory which meant that “you don’t have to go unless you want to,” and a large crowd responded accordingly!

Coincidently the popularity of the Ray Stephens’ song “The Streak” is available on YouTube with its famous line, “Don’t Look Ethel” and is one of the classic comedy songs from that era that relates to the subject of nudity from a different perceptive.

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)


Weekly Road Construction Report

Friends Of Hixson Announces Community Impact Award Recipients

Kiwanis Club Of Chattanooga Honors Dr. Edna Varner With 2021 Distinguished Service Award


Here is the weekly road construction report for District 29: BRADLEY COUNTY SR-60 widening from the 4-lane north of I-75 (LM 17.2) to SR-306 (LM19.9): During this reporting period, the contractor ... (click for more)

The Friends of Hixson honored this year’s Community Impact Award recipients, Mayor Jim Coppinger and Front Runner Athletics Owner Chad Varga. Community Impact Awards are given to individuals ... (click for more)

The Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga will honor Dr. Edna Varner with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at The Westin Chattanooga with an award ceremony and lunch. The event is ... (click for more)



Happenings

Weekly Road Construction Report

Here is the weekly road construction report for District 29: BRADLEY COUNTY SR-60 widening from the 4-lane north of I-75 (LM 17.2) to SR-306 (LM19.9): During this reporting period, the contractor will be mobilizing equipment to the project site and will being clearing operations and installation of erosion control measures. Crews will also be working on foundations for a new ... (click for more)

Friends Of Hixson Announces Community Impact Award Recipients

The Friends of Hixson honored this year’s Community Impact Award recipients, Mayor Jim Coppinger and Front Runner Athletics Owner Chad Varga. Community Impact Awards are given to individuals and businesses each year that have exhibited outstanding services and leadership in the Hixson Community. The Friends of Hixson’s Community Coffee Meetings are on the third Wednesday ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Riverbend Festival Announces Lineup For 2022; Headliners Include Brothers Osborne, Cage The Elephant & Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

Riverbend Festival, Chattanooga’s original music festival, announced their entire lineup for this year’s festival. With performances scheduled for the Coca-Cola, Bud Light and Chevrolet stages, this year’s lineup features over 20 acts from local fan favorites to legendary performers. Country duo Brothers Osborne will kick off the festival on June 3. The duo recently won ‘Best ... (click for more)

County Schools To Give Stipends To Staff Who Work Extra Due To Lack Of Subs; Child Care Pay Going Up Along With Charges For Child Care Services

The county schools is improving pay for staff members who put in extra time helping students while there is a dire shortage of substitute teachers. The school system is also improving pay for child care workers and will begin charging more for child care service. Officials said, "Hamilton County Schools recognizes the sacrifices our employees make when teaching vacancies remain ... (click for more)

Opinion

I Remember Chattanooga’s First March For Life

This Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, Greater Chattanooga Right to Life will hold its March for Life assembling at 10:30 a.m. at the Coolidge Park Pavilion. I hope you will attend. I remember the first March for Life in Chattanooga held 35 years ago on Jan. 22, 1987. The march consisted of 14 people: Dan Martino, Doyle Ratterree and his wife who was carrying their infant daughter in ... (click for more)

My Family Is Afraid And So Am I, A Tale Of American Healthcare

My father fears what I’m about to say will make me unable to find a job in the future. He may be right. My whole family worries about my health, as do I, and we have good reason to do so. I feel now more than ever that I must speak up regardless of consequence or retribution because to remain silent about this truly and uniquely American experience would be wrong. I did all the ... (click for more)