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celebrity museums

The Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz, Ohio will be one of the beneficiaries of the telethon. Pictured, are Nan Mattern, director of the museum and Mike Cope, president of the Clark Gable Foundation during the museum’s 120th birthday celebration for its namesake this February. Photo by Angie Cope

By Tara Mae

Let them entertain you! In a time marked by social isolation, St. George Living History Productions strives to bring together entertainers and audiences in its 24 hour “SALathon,” a fundraiser to benefit celebrity museums and other nonprofit institutions hit hard by the pandemic. 

Beginning 8 a.m, Monday, May 17th, and running through 8 a.m., Tuesday, May 18th, the Zoom event will be hosted by pop culture historian and adjunct professor Sal St. George and feature the practical and artistic support of his son, Darren. Together, they manage the company and oversee all of its operations.

This occasion marks one year since St. George Living History Productions started providing comprehensive digital entertainment, like virtual lectures about legendary icons of stage and screen as well as virtual tours of celebrity museums. 

The museums, a number of which remain closed, have been adversely impacted by the ongoing pandemic and the celebration is designed to raise money for these and similar organizations, ranging in theme from the Phil Silvers Archival Museum in Coventry, England to The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. 

“[It] all came about simply because we started doing the virtual road trips to celebrity museums around the world. I recently realized that two of them had already closed their doors because of the pandemic. I know that all museums are suffering. My intention is to put together a special event for them. With all of the money going to museums, it may alleviate some of the loss of income. Many of the museums are mom and pop museums, only two or three working it,” Sal said. 

Dr. Thomas Manuel, founder and president of The Jazz Loft, views Sal’s programs as a way to make meaningful connections that will outlive the pandemic and continue to benefit nonprofit organizations. 

“It makes us think about things we otherwise wouldn’t. Sal’s [project] is a great example of this: people being able to virtually visit, make connections, etc. The pandemic will be over but those relationships will still exist. People who heard about the Jazz Loft, Jimmy Stewart Museum, Phil Silvers Museum, will patronize them later,” said Manuel. 

“I think what Sal is doing is really cool, trying to bring attention to museums, especially since  all proceeds are going directly to the museums. This is a big project … having done a lot of online programming, I recognize it is a huge production. It shows his passion for the arts,” he said.

Every hour of the SALathon will be presented by a different museum, and audience members will be provided a direct link to its website. St. George Living History Productions does not make a profit from the fundraiser, which is free to attend; audience members are encouraged to support the museums through online donations or gift store purchases. 

During the event, viewers will be able to enjoy trivia contests, games, opportunities to win prizes, a midnight screening of a classic movie, and virtual museum tours, according to Sal. Additionally the SALathon will feature live performances, including monologues, songs, and dance numbers, as well as lectures about celebrity and entertainment. 

“Everyone we reached out to agreed: actors, singers, dancers, from around the world will be with us. They signed up without hesitation,” Darren said. “Some of our talent is also coming on, some of whom dad has worked with for 45 years.”

“We have a very loyal following that has come to us over the years, especially through The Ward Melville Heritage Organization. We have tapped into many of the performers who have appeared there and sing a song or do a routine,” added Sal. 

Several  artists are reuniting with Sal for the first time since the pandemic began. 

“I met Sal many years ago via various theater connections … he cast me in one of his living history/interactive experiences … I played George M. Cohan. I was asked to participate in a discussion about my Sal experience, as well as my work and career — past, present and future,” said actor Bob Spiotto of Holbrook. 

For actress Mary Lauren, of Long Island City, who played cinematic icons such as Ginger Rogers and Natalie Wood, the fundraiser provides the opportunity to nurture her own interests and again work with Sal and Darren.  

“Working with St. George Living History Productions was a dream job for me. It mixed some of my favorite loves; history, old movies, musical theatre and drama! But more importantly, working with them felt like I was working with a family,” she said. “A family of warm caring people who put on shows of the highest caliber.” 

This family business also consists of Program Director John Higgins and Sal’s wife and Darren’s mother, Mary, who “does it all,” according to Sal. 

Having portrayed New York City mayor’s wife Augusta Gaynor, star Judy Garland, and other 20th century figures in previous St. George productions, years of working with the team in a congenial atmosphere is what drew actress Christine Jordan, of Greenlawn, to the project.

“I am participating in the fundraiser because of my collaborations and friendship with the entire St. George family; they are very special people and I am honored and proud to have worked with them over the many years. I can truly say that being a part of Sal’s shows holds a special place in my heart,” Jordan said. 

Spiotto, Lauren, and Jordan will each be performing a couple of musical numbers and chatting with Sal. There are also surprise guests, unknown even to Sal. “There are a number of them that Dad doesn’t know are participating,” said Darren. “We have some very special surprises throughout the day for him.” 

For more information about the Salathon and other programs or to attend the show, visit www.stgeorgelivinghistory.com. The 24-hour telethon will also be streamed through the company’s Facebook page, St. George Living History Productions.