Don Saltsgaver was first in the long line on Arch Street outside of the Trocadero Saturday evening. He was among hundreds waiting for the last show at The Troc, as it is commonly called.
The Trocadero opened as the Arch Street Opera House in 1870. In the early 20th century, it became a Vaudeville destination. Burlesque arrived mid-century followed by life as a movie theater, dance club, live music and comedy venue. Through its various incarnations over 149 years, it became a landmark of the Philadelphia entertainment scene.
It also hosted its share of quirkier events like the Zombie Prom. During recent decades, it had become the go-to destination for events in the LGBTQ community.
Salsgaver, a regular at the Troc’s Movie Mondays, had also seen his share of shows there, often for bargain prices and sometimes for free. For $32, he saw the Wallflowers, the alternative rock band fronted by Jacob Dylan, and after winning a raffle, scored free tickets to see comedian Andrew Dice Clay.
The Saturday evening performance was by Big Mess Cabaret, a loose assembly of local performing artists. The show began with a haunting rendition of “You Only Live Twice,” the theme of the James Bond movie.
It was followed by the entrance of the evening’s hostess, Carlotta Tendant, the revered figure of the LGBTQ community whose activism and career as a drag artist have spanned decades. Carlotta introduced a variety of acts from, drag, neo-burlesque, and Vaudeville to the quirky and avant-garde.
Jonna Pang, the owner-operator of the Troc over the last 20 years, has cited the theater’s ability to embrace multicultural genres and its impact on the local and national music scenes as her greatest accomplishments. She said the recent rise of larger venues has made the Troc difficult if not impossible to operate.
The Filmore, The Met and World Cafe Live have all siphoned off the music fans who used to go to The Troc.
Lulu Lollipop, a performer in the audience who has appeared at the Troc in the past, summed up her feelings, “It was death-defying coming down the stairs that led from the dressing rooms to the stage, but it was also an honor walking in the steps of those who walked before in showgirl history.”