GALLIPOLIS — Folk from near and far gathered at the Ariel-Ann Carson Dater Performing Arts Centre Saturday evening in memory of famed Gallipolis columnist and pop culture reporter Oscar Odd McIntyre.
A question and answer session was held by author R. Scott Williams, chief operating officer of Washington, D.C.’s Newseum, over his recently published book “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York.” Area actor Seth Argabright, who would later do monologues in character as McIntyre as if he were alive during the concert performance, led questions with Williams.
McIntyre started as a Gallipolis writer before being read by millions in the 1920s and 30s era, growing into the most popular syndicated columnist of his time. Williams said towards the end of McIntyre’s life, the columnist’s syndicate reported he had around 100 million readers a day. McIntyre began working as a journalist but would eventually regard himself more as a writer for entertainment and was featured in publications across the country. His wife, Maybelle, served as the engine of the McIntyre brand business and she would argue for McIntyre to have one of the highest syndicated columnist contracts of the day. He and his wife for a period of time lived in the Hotel Majestic with free room and board due to his publicity work.
“Odd was from here in Gallipolis and he moved to New York,” said Williams during his question and answer session. “He never forgot about Gallipolis and never tried to be better than (it). In fact, he positioned himself as small town boy who was in the big city and if he encountered Charlie Chaplin in the street he wrote from the way that someone would write as if they weren’t jaded. He wrote about how excited he was to see him … I think people in small towns were fascinated by what he was writing. They could relate.”
McIntyre’s column was titled “New York: Day by Day.” He would make friends with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, Meredith Willson, Charlie Chaplin and more. He also wrote for publications “Cosmopolitan” and “Life.”
“I went on this long multiyear search trying to find this (musical) suite,” said Ariel Opera House Executive Director Lora Snow. “And I finally got it. It was hidden away in Williams College in Pennsylvania. We just felt it was very appropriate to play on an evening like this.”
Snow said the search took roughly 25 years to find the McIntyre Suite, written by McIntyre’s friend Meredith Willson. The same Willson who would go on to be known for such works as “The Music Man” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”
“Sunday Night in Gallipolis” was a piece commission by Willson after it was requested by Paul Whiteman, a popular dance band leader. According to a letter by Willson, the piece was meant to convey the image of a little girl playing “Chop Sticks” as her sole musical piece as entertainment during a Sunday night parlor gathering. McIntyre was reportedly fond of such gatherings.
Maestro Ray Fowler led The Ohio Valley Symphony in the night’s music. Bidwell native Phillip Armstrong took the stage in the second half of the evening’s performance. Armstrong is noted to have recorded with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and has served as a member with the Central State University Singers. Snow commented that Armstrong was the ideal choice to help headline such a performance as a fellow local who made good, as McIntyre would often describe himself.
Armstrong led the audience in a group gospel encore of “Amen” with the crowd singing. The performance ended with a standing ovation.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.