Events manager remembers famous faces at SavageWritten by Aya Khalil | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By Aya Khalil
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
When Bill Cosby told Deb Driscoll to hold his leg so she could have an original photo of the two, she burst out laughing.
Cosby was just one of the many famous people to perform at Savage Hall, formerly Centennial Hall.
Driscoll, events manager from 1985 to 1999, said Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Metallica and Barney the Dinosaur were among the many who have made appearances there.
Driscoll, now director of special events, said the first performance at Savage was in 1976 by Bob Hope. The first sellout — 9,572 — was Elvis Presley’s concert on April 23, 1977. The busiest year she worked there was in 1997 and included performances by KISS, Reba McIntyre, Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, Smashing Pumpkins, Phil Collins and Barney the Dinosaur.
Savage was listed as one of the top 10 facilities in the world by Amusement Business Boxscore in 1997. It ranked No. 8 with a gross of $2 million.
Driscoll said one of the most memorable concerts was Pearl Jam on Sept. 22, 1996.
It was a sellout that was the fastest ever for Pearl Jam, selling out in two minutes and 30 seconds. Savage was one of the few arenas in the Midwest that hosted Pearl Jam, according to Driscoll. Because people didn’t have tickets to attend the concert, $150,000 in merchandise was sold in the parking lot that night.
“People didn’t have tickets … so they would just come and party in the parking lot and hang out in the parking lot and bought merchandise. That was very, very unusual.”
The largest crowd at Savage was 10,059 for Kenny Rogers on April 23, 1983. He was also the most popular at Savage, playing 14 shows from 1979 to 1995. Other popular acts were: Alabama, seven; Chicago, five; The Beach Boys, five; and John Denver, five.
Driscoll said concerts were performed year-round; summers were “a bit slower” because people would attend outdoor concerts in the Detroit and Cleveland areas.
“A lot of times people wanted to be outside in the beautiful summer, evening,” she said. “We didn’t have as many concerts in the summer for that reason.”
Driscoll is excited about the newly renovated venue and thinks it will attract students, concertgoers and basketball fans.
“The old Savage Hall was the largest public assembly facility in Northwest Ohio,” she said. “[The new facility] will make a huge difference.”
Savage will continue to host circuses, wrestling, high school basketball games and commencements, in addition to famous faces, she said.
Driscoll has many photos in her office that she took with artists. One of Driscoll’s favorite celebrity meetings was with Jay Leno in 1989, prior to his television show.
“I liked Jay Leno,” she said. “He was the nicest guy.”