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‘Grand’ time for Grand project

April 19, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Community editor ( , The Herald-Star

I got a hug from Marilyn Monroe, a cheek kiss and a scarf draped around my neck from Elvis, and a smile from Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

That being said, it was not a typical Saturday night for me as one who nods off on the couch around 9 p.m., and certainly not in the midst of celebrities, excluding Better Half, of course.

But go to "A Grand Night in Las Vegas" I did Saturday at Froehlich's Classic Corner in Steubenville to enjoy another in a series of fundraisers to benefit the Grand Theater Restoration Project, this one specifically to go toward plumbing expenses to get bathrooms in working order so an event can be held in the near future at the Fourth Street theater itself.

Article Photos

Francesca Carinci with Vegas showgirl Julie Langille

The ever exuberant Francesca Carinci, who organized this with Scott Dressel, Billy Petrella and Donna Keagler - was dressed up as Marilyn in a signature white Monroe dress, blending right in with the other stars of the evening, including Julie Langille, a Vegas showgirl who was very sweet, very engaging and very accommodating, considering she had her picture taken a hundred gazillion times.

She walked around in her Vegas outfit, heavy headdress and all, never minus a smile on her face.

The evening combined live entertainment that was terrific with a capital "T" as the impersonators were all a credit to their famed counterparts. There also was great food, Vegas style gambling and lots of door prizes. (I took home a Marilyn tote, a pair of Marilyn slippers, a Marilyn nightlight and a set of Marilyn Monroe coasters.) That made it worth staying up past pumpkin time, too.

Another neat little attraction I wasn't expecting was a kind of photo booth where for $2 you could get four pictures taken and instantly printed out on a 4-by-7 print with a movie reel background and a marquee sign that read "Now Showing: Save the Grand Theatre. April 14, 2012." Sweet.

There also was the opportunity to order a CD of candid shots being taken throughout the evening.

So, yeah, it was a fun evening well worth keeping my eyelids up.

If you're not familiar with the Grand Theater Restoration Project, check out the Facebook page for status reports and happenings. It reminds visitors, for example, that the overall goal, is to restore the theater and open it as a performing arts center and museum.

The idea is to be able to show movies and hold events in the two ballrooms that are above the lobby.

The theater opened in 1925 and closed in 1979. The vision is that, once completed, "the Grand will be the focal point of an entertainment, dining and shopping district, bringing the core downtown four blocks back to life and to a more quaint 1925 era," according to the Facebook site words of Dressel, who launched the restoration two years ago.

Next up to benefit the Grand Theater Restoration Project is a family-oriented fundraiser - the Carson & Barnes Circus under the Big Top at the Fort Steuben Mall on July 9.

That gives me some time to rest up.

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