The phrase, “If it plays in Peoria” originally comes from Peoria’s deep connection to Vaudeville. You might ask how Vaudeville came to Peoria, of all places. Among other things, the Illinois River brought Vaudeville to Peoria.
In the Civil War era, show boats would cruise rivers of the country making stops at river towns like Peoria, Pekin, and Chillicothe. Around 1900, one of those showboaters – a minstrel singer named “Honey Bay” Evans – decided to stay bringing his act to Rouses Hall. By 1902, Rouses Hall changed its name to the Main Street Theater and was a bona fide Vaudeville house.
The Orpheum opened on Madison just north of Main about 1910. The Orpheum was part of a circuit of theaters created by Martin Beck of the New York Orpheum. If you could make it at the Orpheum in Peoria, you had a crack at the Orpheum in New York. Continue reading Will it Play in Peoria? →
Why Do I Call It “Center of The Universe”?
Scientists believe that the center of the universe is either a place you cannot reach or a place that you cannot escape. When you’re traveling by air to or from Peoria during Fall, Winter, or Spring it often feels like a place you cannot escape or reach.
Over the years I’ve traveled extensively. Whenever I introduce myself, I get those interesting questions and funny looks. I hear “Peoria, IL, Caterpillar, right?” Or “Peoria, IL, Richard Pryor, right?” Many say “If it plays in Peoria…” I find that everyone has misconceptions of Peoria, IL. In response to their misconceptions, I go into my pitch about how Peoria is such a great place to raise a family. Then, I drop little bits of Peoria trivia in order to change their perceptions. I’ve got quite a list.
Men in Black 1 – Agent K says ‘1,500 years ago, everybody “knew” that the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody “knew” that the earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you “knew” that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll “know” tomorrow.’
My hope with this site is that you will get to “know” Peoria the way I’ve come to know Peoria. Do you know where the term “If it plays in Peoria” came from? Do know how WBMD radio got their call sign? Did you know Peoria is the home of the first commercially available automobile? Continue reading Peoria, IL: Center of The Universe →