SEASON ONE, EPISODE ONE: Channel One: The Beginning
Welcome to Boston venue. The channel podcast. This is the true incomplete story of the legendary Boston music club. The channel from its shaky launch in one of Boston's grittiest neighborhoods to the glory years of beer, so rock punk and reggae shows from an incredible roster of artists and its demise. At the hands of local mobsters after a spectacular run a demise that ultimately led to a murder that would take twenty five years to solve this podcast includes explicit language, and violent episodes, no sugar coating and no bullshit. Let's rock. On the morning of January twelve twenty eighteen Harry Boris was getting ready for his daily walk on the beach in the south shore, Massachusetts town, he lives in Harry's. A fit guy in his late sixties, the kind of guy who's done a lot of different kinds of business with a lot of different kinds of people. New England had just experienced what the weather channel's were calling a bomb cyclone which plunged temperatures to record lows for the last few weeks. This bombing morning was a break from the icy tempts, and Harry was going to take advantage of it as he was putting his sneakers on. There was a knock at the door. I opened the door and there's two guys there and back in black suits when guy flashes. A badge as I'm from the FBI, and I want to ask you some questions boy, not in trouble or anything. We just need to ask some questions about Steve sorrow sea Harry used to manage a legendary Boston club called the channel. After a good run in the eighties. Things got well weird near the end in the early nineties. We were having some fun. Financial difficulties, you know, increases in rent and insurance, and we find ourselves in position where we wanted to sell the channel it out of the business. So Steve desirable emerged as a potential buyer. And he put a group together with a couple of other people that we knew they decided that they were going to buy the club. They offered us a deal we accepted it. We thought we had a legitimate transaction. It turned out that the Sarah was a front man for a known, Boston mobster Cadillac pranks alumnae. He turned out to be the money behind desire on his group and through a series of circumstances. They managed to acquire the assets of the channel at a bankruptcy auction in they took over the club at its height. The channel would act as a center to Boston's musical universe. Here's Boston-based Grammy nominated singer, songwriter and guitarist John butcher when you enter the channel club through the front door. And then went through the lobby you pass through past the green rooms. They rooms to your left there. We were and where we're hanging out when who should come into the green room, but Steven Tyler himself. I wanted to talk to him. I thought about talking to him. He was cool. But clearly he came to see what all the fuss was about. We went on the three of us levitating on the energy and the and the vibe in the room having the time of our lives. I look over two stages, right? And there's Tyler I saw him yell into our buddies ear. I saw him out of the words that's rock and roll that endorsement from arguably one of the coolest Rockstars there. Ever was Steven Tyler happened at the channel club in Boston. It made my night. And that's how I remember the channel. I knew that we needed to get as many diverse crowds as possible. So we decided to try to book. Everything's I probably gonna win book chamber of music or stuff like that. But we decided that when it came to popular music they loosely defined as rock and roll. We will do it. We didn't want to be known as a punk club. Bre hydro. Rock club or a blues club or reggae club. We figured you know, that if we'd all of those, and we featured a lot of local music a lot of very talented local musicians didn't really have a lot of choices to play the plane a little tiny BAAs with bad sound systems and bad acoustics. So we figured, you know, give these guys the same paternity to play in front of a big crowd as the big bands kit, thousands of shows with thousands of acts before it was all said and done at least one man would be murdered and more than twenty five years later, they would be suspicious car. Fires threats lives will be changed and subpoenas would be served. This is the story of the channel. So they're they are Harry, the FBI agent and a Massachusetts state police detective, they informed Harry that they were investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of one Stephen Desario the guy who managed the channel. During those weird final days after the mob took over Desario had disappeared in nineteen Ninety-three. But the body was recovered in two thousand sixteen in Providence, Rhode Island the accused murderer Cadillac Franks. Lemme was being held on suspicion of disarms murder. I invited them in and they came in. And they started talking to me about the channel on about the sorrow. And when I first met him. And of course, the informed me pretty quickly that they were investigating the murder of the sorrow whose remains were found recently in a warehouse in Providence Rhode Island. They also got contact info. For Harry's brother. Peter Peter was a partner at the channel back. When Harry ran thinks the two brothers were about to get pulled back into a word. World they thought they had left long ago. So they called a few times after their initial visit. They asked me to drive out to a state office building that meeting Fred why shack who was the lead prosecutor is assistant US attorney in another prosecutor as well as the FBI agent and state police detective that I had spoken to my house with their and they said that they were prepping me for my possible testimony at the upcoming trial. So I was there for about an hour and a half, and they grilled me. Again, asked me, very similar questions. And they kind of prompted me to respond in certain ways, they would be speaking to Peter as well. And they asked me to get hold of them father and see if he'd be willing to talk to them, which I did. The FBI Asian called me. He said to me that he wanted to talk to me about the discovery of sours remains, and what I knew about, you know, the incident and what happened that the club knows a little bit on edge. But then something weird happened the day after the interview two cars in front of a pizzeria. Peter owned went up in flames. Local newspaper the patriot ledger. Ran the headline hellfire probe is mob boss heads to trial? The brothers are pretty shook up after all Cadillac. Frank served time in jail for blowing a Boston attorneys legs off with a car bomb. So yeah, this was unsettling so Sunday morning when the manager went to open up the piece of place he called me in his to 'cause caught on fire over here overnight. He actually took pictures of the Cosby, send me the pictures nine o'clock that morning, I look out my window, and I see three police caused in front of my house. I went out, and as he can help you guys they said, well, you know, the chief asked us come into a wellness. Check on you. I said, okay, we'll Salone choke for won't just to see if you're okay. Because you know, it was a couple of guys got burnt in front of your piece of place. We're going to be driving by your house on a regular basis. And there will be a car packed crush street in front of your house from time to time hot. Did the brothers get to this point for mining accessible music club in the eighty s to fearing for their lives decades after it closed to figure out how they got here. Let's go back to the beginning. Let's head back to nineteen eighty. In one thousand nine hundred Boston WBZ and ruled the airwaves as the legendary rock of Boston Aerosmith the cars Boston, and the J Gyles band had already exploded nationally hell even disco Queen Donna summer was born in Dorchester music was the pulse of the city's gritty working class. Neighbourhoods forced school busing and segregated neighborhoods. Created tension in the long brutal winters that spilled into sizzling summers. Kevin white was starting his fourth and final term as mayor after presiding over a decade of racial tensions that exploded in the city's neighborhoods especially in Southie. We're Whitey Bulger lorded over everything legal in town. Mayor white had helped revitalize the city's waterfront and downtown areas and his methods led to years long federal investigations into city hall corruption more than twenty city hall, employees and almost an equal number of local businessmen would be convicted in the end. But in nineteen eighty. This was just how you got should done in Boston. The rat in Kenmore square dominated the punk scene in all its sweaty DIY glory. The paradise featured all the upcoming rock-n-rollers, including Tom petty and the Heartbreakers and a little Irish band called you to disco clubs in Kenmore square catered to the young boogie crowd. But the drinking age had been raised to twenty one. The scene was fractured and an opportunity for a bold entrepreneur was evident through the boozy Hayes good timing. Because Harry Boras was restless I was working at Brian to northern airfreight pretty large if Wade company located Boston's Logan airport. I just been promoted to inbound supervisor. And it was a pretty good job, but I was unfit failed. It was boring nine to five every day. I've been entrepeneurship hot all my life. And I really wanted to do something for myself. I wanted a business of some sort I had some experience in the restaurant business and always had my ES to the ground looking. Some kind of an opportunity, and I was listening to WBZ n specifically Willie local Alexander. Hey, local act that I had never seen live in Boston. I wanted to why I used to look at the Boston Globe business opportunity section back in the eighties. And I found what I thought was interesting opportunity. There was a guy that had a nightclub bus someone Boston and was looking for manager with a chance to participate in the ownership of the club. So of course, I thought that was pretty interesting. I gave him a call. That's when I met Joseph aronie, the man that owned the acids to the nightclub that became the channel. Joseph aronie was running a club called the showboat. The place was located in the fort point channel section of Boston at that time famous for the Boston tea party and not much else. Ford point is a sort of conduit neighborhood that connects downtown Boston south Boston and the seaport, but many of the buildings were still uninhabited the four point was industrial. Area that had a lot of activity during the day packing Maheshwari while was full Gillette. Was right there and a lot of people used to work there. Hundreds of people after dark. It was pretty desolate. Everything would empty out the pike lots would empty out. There was no traffic there to speak of lighting was poor. The streets were routed a lot of previous century cobblestones poking through the asphalt. It was tough going there even driving how to drive real slowly and walking. There was no other light. So you had to be careful. He was a sketchy area after dark not someplace where you'd wanna be clot alone on the positive side, though, there's plenty of free parking. And it was just a short walk from south station in the sixties, the billing that would eventually become the channel had served as a theme restaurant called the warehouse which offered novel seating options guests could enjoy their meal in a jail cell a carousel a boxcar or the back seat of a Rolls Royce event. It eventually went out of business. The cause death by location. Then came the mad Hatter in the seventies disco was all the rage and sweaty young people. Fill the space for cheap thrills and cheap booze back, then the drinking age was eighteen so clubs like this were all over pack them in get them drunk. Let them dance send them home. Then in nineteen seventy nine the drinking age started to go up from eighteen to nineteen then twenty before hitting twenty one and nineteen eighty without teenagers to buy their G booze places. Like, the mad Hatter didn't stand a chance the music stopped death by location. So the warehouse became the mad Hatter which was in nineteen eighty now the showboat still with me when he took over Joseph's aronie, retained the gaudy bottomless dancefloor, and of course, the Ubad Mira ball. He added a stage, but still no one was coming. I met Joe we met inside the showboat and we talked about. What he was doing. And why was working? I felt that there was three primary reasons why the concept that he had put forth at the showboat. The old mad Hatter was working number. One was the building the building wasn't conducive to a cocktail lounge with a high end audience. The second problem who was the location as I said before it was die was dismal. It was desolate, and it was kind of sketchy. It would be hard to get people to go there on date nights. And of course, the third problem who has the programming and all these banned attracted, no audience usually on weekends. The wasn't a big drinking audience, and they would come once. And that was about it all in all it was a blues in Cranston. But I saw the potential because the place had a huge capacity sixteen hundred it had a entertainment license, and it was a on premise licensed the way you didn't have to serve food. So you could do general admission your need seats. And I figured it would be great as a car. Insert slash dance club. So I saw the opportunity, and I got a couple of friends together or a guy was working with who is in the trucking business in an old friend that worked for me the restaurant business between the three of us. We raised forty thousand dollars, and we made a deal with Joe by half the acids of the red e corporation, which was the name of the company we went in as partners fifty percent for us and fifty percent for him. I was the head of the group that brought in with Joe we bandied about a lot of named as far as what we would call the club. There was a discussion that maybe we should just keep it the showboat and just kind of play on the publicity that they had. I thought that was a mistake because they didn't have much positive publicity. So I came up with the name channel one because I figured it would play up on the location being right next to the fort point channel. And I just thought the channel one might represent that. It's a conduit for entertainment. So Harry in the group are in now, they just needed one thing. Customers. Harry had a plan it involved. Two key principles one was booking diverse acts. The other was to make your ears bleed. If you visit for point today, you'll see a vibrant and bustling part of Boston seaport district restaurants, museums tech companies of five hundred thousand square foot convention center in short, billions of dollars of development money over the last thirty years, but in the seventies and eighties. Hit was pretty dead. Almost nobody wanted to hang out there. Fourth point was miles away from popular spots in Boston and Cambridge because of the remote location every single customer had to be convinced to come there. No foot traffic and no drive bys. So the challenge was getting people to come to the fort point area to come to conscious at the channel we had almost no budget for paid advertising radio newspaper television. So we had to get the word out in other ways after some debate. The owners developed two key principles the first was to have an open booking policy while. Primarily known in promoted as alive rock club all established and emerging popular genres were welcome during that time. Boston did one thing is good as almost any city in the world. Music. Boston has always been known for its world class music scene. In nineteen. Eighty disco was dominating the pop charts and kids could go to dozens of clubs like Jason's Boston Boston and narcissus to get their rocks off to Shalimar or Diana Ross black clubs like walis the sugar shack in the western front featured jazz blues and reggae ax while country and western had a New England home at the hillbilly ranch as for rock, you had the rat bundy's the paradise just to name a few. But even in a crowded musical landscape the team noticed that there was very little genre crossover so nineteen eighty I looked at the club scene than to meet seemed it was a good reflection of the scene in Boston. Generally the seventies had seen a period in Boston. With those a lot of racial intolerance. Boston went through a period when schools were forcibly desegregated, and I thought in the early eighties the club scene. Was similar. There was very little genre crossing that he wanted to see black music you go black club with a played reggae and blues and a little bit of rap at the beginning. If you wanted to dance the ABA or known a Hendrix, you'd go to a disco and rock and roll clubs where a little compartmentalized to the rat featured punk music very much alternative music. Moretti's was a little more open booking, but it was small, and it was in Brighton, and you had the paradise which was a constant club been. They did some pretty good acts who wasn't a great place to see a concert after some debate. The owners developed two key principles the first was to have an open booking policy while primarily known and promoted as a live rock club all established and emerging popular genres were welcome. From the beginning. The guiding principle at the channel was diversity. We were known as a rock and roll. And eventually we became known as Boston's best live rock. We welcomed all types of popular music loosely. Find his rock and roll everything from reggae to wrap to world music to straight ahead rock and roll punk new wave garage, grunge you name. It we booked the second thing arena grade sound Peter venero Leah and Dave to Desi who ran a local sound and lighting company were brought in to do sound Peter remembers that time well Sony, the side of the stage, we had four JBL style based bins. Double fifteens fifteen speaker in each been sixteen speakers on your side above those. We have two twelve inch mid range cabinet a couple J B O horns and a couple of Eltek horns, and then build out a bigger monitor system, we can handle most all of the shows occasionally if a really being named ban came in that one a lot more equipment, even though they really didn't need it that want to appease them would have to do it in order to get them to comply the room. Terry Hanley like bought some horns and things from Terry. How to brother? Bill, and he did the sound for Woodstock, and he did the Beatles. Shea Stadium back in the sixties. He was like the grandad of rock and roll audio years later, I got a whole bunch of J B O fifteen inch baskets from him. So at any given time at the channel you might have been playing through the same speaker that was used at Woodstock or that was used by the Beatles. We had one of the better sound systems in Boston. I think most people will agree with that. I think we certainly had about the biggest loudest system and one of the biggest rooms to you know, you you can't compare the channel sound system with the rat sound system. The biggest comparison that really pissed me off was one year. Boston magazine voted the channel sound system. The worst sound in Boston. But they raided the best sound system Boston symphony hall, and I was like up come on. How can you even make this comparison? This is stupid nonetheless. I'm still flatter to have been the worst sound in Boston. Most of the local bands liked playing the channel. I think it was a big. Room of the sound system that they didn't get to use often the younger bands, the newer bands were thrilled to be there because they some some of them they never had an experience like that before the channel was the big club. So you know, when you came into the channel you knew you a big night for the local band, the club also provided lights and a house sound guy now with the sound in place and the policy set to revolutionize the Boston music scene. There was only one thing left to do books of shows and get the word out. Before we go any further. Let's take a moment and talk about the team by this point. You know, Harry, he was the main guy running things then there was Peter. Harry's brother Peter was the club's manager. He had a lot of restaurant and club management experience and almost no capacity for dealing with bullshit with the possibility of up to sixteen hundred drunken patrons nightly Peters. No nonsense approach was needed. I knew needed a good operations manager. So I convinced my brother pita to take on the job of night manager at the channel, and he had a no nonsense approach to management. I knew that. That's exactly what we needed at the channel at the time who had a club to open within. No, we're going to bring in fifty people five hundred a thousand fifteen swear everything had to be in place for courtesy. I had to have drank tickets in my hand to be able to hand them out to the VIP's the stage manager had to have. I've the backstage passes we had to make sure that all of the backstage area was clear all of the equipment was in place out of the filings. The security had to be in place where to make sure that the dressing rooms were properly handled the cash that was coming in from the cashiers booth had to be taken out how to be counted. How to be stacked have been in the rest of the team came together the calendar began to fill up the strategy was working in the channel was set to have a string of debut shows for the record books. So there we were getting ready to open the largest nightclub in Boston all the other members of the group had day jobs. It was pretty much up to me. So the first team came together pretty organically on the entertainment side peat of Anneli are and Dave to desk who had done the sound on the first weekend stayed on. They installed a permanent sound system and took care of all the production side of the operation. Keeping the building. Together. Literally was cost us menounos are all around the handyman and maintenance person cost us alarm with his wife. Lisa did a great job keeping the place together under what turned out to be a lot of challenges dealing with a roof leak during the sold-out spinal tap show to make an emergency repairs in bathrooms buyer's cost. Could I was be dependent on to come through in any situation and to top off the team? There was Phyllis Phyllis was able to keep order in the office dealing with advanced ticket counts answering calls greeting visitors dealing with a bands, they riders working in the box office when we needed her. And generally keeping the operation for descending into total chaos. All in all the team manage to do what needed to be done given some challenging circumstances. Over the years. A lot of new members joining a lot of people left pastas Manos Peterborough's, and I remained on the team until the very end the entire space was transforming as well. So the stage was on one end of the building the building was almost two hundred feet long. The throw of the sound was better. But we saw that especially a sold out show. Everybody would crowd up near the stage. A lot of people in the back of the room. Couldn't really see. I had an idea that we could cut in the area in front of the stage which was about as big as a stage, maybe even a little bit bigger lowered by about eight inches, which was the local step size. The fought was that that would improve the sight lines. And for the people that came early in crowded along the stage to get a bit of you and destroy your ears. It was okay because the people towards the. The back of the room or able to see the band a little bit better that became known as the pit. And it's a good thing. The team had gotten the place ready. They were about to have some very unexpected visitors on the next episode of Boston venue. The channel podcast opening night may thirtieth nineteen eighty money like blood in the water attracts their sharks Boston venue. The channel was conceived and created by Harry Boris executive producer, David Ginsburg, written by Chris O'Keefe, engineered by Tori, lamb, produced by Chachi Pratt, edited and mixed by Tony Begley. Oh music featured in this episode life takes a life was provided by Jon butcher axis, contributing storytellers for this episode where Peter Boris Peter venero Leah and John butcher graphic design by Lisa's Saint John Bennett. I'm your narrator. John the Renton don't forget to subscribe and tell your friends to check us out on the channel story dot com. On Facebook, Boston venue. The channel story. Leave your comments and share your stories.