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Shea’s and the Riviera: A tale of two organs

Both organs were built in the world-famous Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda. They both made their local stage debuts in 1926. But The News’ Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich reports that organ experts familiar with both Wurlitzers say there’s a world of difference when it comes to how they have been maintained.

The larger of the two is the Mighty Wurlitzer of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, a pipe organ that was hand-picked by theater icon Michael Shea for his newest movie house that staged its grand opening 93 years ago on Wednesday. It was purchased for what would amount to $1 million in today’s dollars. The organ remains the lone surviving Wurlitzer “285 special” in the world. But the organ is in rough shape.

“When I was at Shea’s in mid-December after 'Hamilton’s' run, it was barely playable," said Allen Miller, a theater organ restoration technician who had worked on the organ for decades and regularly travels from his Connecticut home to do so. "It sounded like a singer with a cold. It was not concert-ready, it leaked air so badly."

The region’s other Wurlitzer? It resides at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda. As a kid, I attended many organ recitals with my dad, evenings that often included screenings of silent movies and audience singalongs. Radlich reports the Wurlitzer at the Riviera has been “pampered” over the decades and is “acing the test of time.”

The global spotlight will shine on both instruments next summer when 500 organists from around the world will attend the American Theatre Organ Society’s annual convention in Rochester. The event will include side trips to area theaters to offer attendees the chance to hear and play the region’s finest pipe organs.

That gives Shea's a few months to reverse what Miller called “benign neglect.” And Shea’s officials say they’re up to the challenge. At the end of the month, a step-by-step inspection of “every key, stop and pipe” will be conducted by consultants.

“Our main focus right now is getting the organ ready for the national convention," said Bill Hedrick, Shea’s production manager. “Our goal is to have the instrument in the best shape it’s ever been.”


Trump national emergency could jeopardize local waterfront projects: If President Trump declares a national emergency to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, several key public works projects could be in danger. They include dredging the Buffalo Harbor to keep it navigable and the building of new seawalls aimed at preventing flooding in Hamburg and protecting LaSalle Park.

Hunter sentenced to one to three years for killing Sherman woman: A judge in Chautauqua County called the case “tragic in every sense.” Thomas B. Jadlowski fatally shot Rosemary "Rosie" Billquist on the day before Thanksgiving of 2017. He thought he was shooting a deer as the woman walked her dogs in the backyard of her home. Jadlowski apologized in a written statement, saying that “not a single day goes by that I do not think about what I have done.”

McKinley Mall’s value slashed by 75 percent: “Things are worse at McKinley Mall,” writes Samantha Christmann. You may recall the mall fell delinquent on a nearly $26 million loan payment last summer. The latest economic blow for the Hamburg shopping complex: It has been put into a receivership by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge and had its value dramatically reduced.

Gasoline prices remain higher than neighboring states: True, the cost of a gallon of gas has gone down recently. But Buffalo Business First reports that prices in Western New York remain considerably higher than in nearby states. For example, gas is slightly more than $1.95 in Cleveland – about 64 cents less per gallon than in Buffalo.

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End-of-week snowstorm added to Buffalo's "hazardous weather outlook": Chances appear to be growing for a "significant winter storm" this weekend, but details remain yet to be defined. "There is a risk for heavy accumulating snow and strong winds," the National Weather Service posted in its hazardous weather outlook.

Winter's about to get real around Western New York: Meteorologist Don Paul says "up until now, we've had it easy," but "my first evidence-based fuzzy estimate leans toward moderate snowfall on the Niagara Frontier with a better chance for heavier amounts in the Southern Tier" this weekend.


Conlon’s feeds South Buffalo again – two days a week: Many customers mourned the passing of Conlon’s Bar & Grill when it closed last spring. But Andrew Galarneau reports the owners have regrouped and reopened the Abbott Road tavern on Thursday and Friday nights.

Left Coast Taco brings a taste of San Diego to East Aurora:  Emeri Krawczyk tells us the menu is brief, but loaded with great choices. The interior? Artistic, with funky wall art and great music.

Favorite spots for comfort food: “Buffalo does comfort food well, and we eat it up,” writes Syrie Roman in Forever Young. She lists several of her favorites, including a couple of recipes that might not be on your comfort food list. Sticky toffee pudding, anyone?


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Blowout loss has Sabres looking for answers: Phil Housley used the word "alarming" to describe what went on late Monday night in Alberta. Marco Scandella even used the net to snap his stick in half. The Sabres' 7-2 loss in Edmonton had that kind of effect.

Game details: Lance Lysowski has all the news and notes from the carnage in Edmonton.

(These items courtesy Jeff Neiburg and the [BN] Hockey newsletter. Sign up here.)


We told you on Monday about a renewed push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to impose a statewide ban on plastic bags. WBEN Radio’s Brian Mazurowski spoke with Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper about efforts to reduce plastic waste.

Hey, it worked for food trucks. Why not put a stress-relief business on wheels and head for spots where people are looking to release pent-up frustrations by breaking stuff? Some entrepreneurs have capitalized on the rage room craze and launched Smash Relief Headquarters. Spectrum News Buffalo reports the U-Haul is equipped with everything people need to safely smash plates, glassware and other stuff. But this brand of tension relief is a bit more pricey than jogging your stress away. The fee starts at $200 for parties. Spectrum’s Breanna Fuss says if Smash Relief Headquarters is stationed at a larger event, the tab for releasing your rage is $25 for 20 minutes.

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Six dogs are being sprung from prison. But these pooches aren’t offenders. Since October, they’ve been obedient students. They will graduate next week from a program at the Orleans Correctional Facility, a medium security men’s prison in Albion. The Daily News in Batavia reports the dogs have been enrolled since October in a program called the Path to Home Program. Each dog has two inmate handlers. A trainer helps inmates provide the dogs with socialization and obedience skills to get them ready for adoption. A dog named Dakota will have a new home with a Buffalo family.

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