I sang, live, at The Apollo.
Of course, I sang very poorly. But that’s beside the point. Taking the tour at The Apollo with the amazing Billy Mitchell was worth every sour note required of me.
Heading to Harlem and the legendary Apollo Theater
I was in New York City for the launch of The Traveler’s Handbooks, including the 2nd edition of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook. Tracey, our associate editor of Solo Traveler, was there too. I stayed in Manhattan thanks to DoubleTree by Hilton and Tracey stayed at the trendy new Aloft Harlem. So on the morning after our launch, another friend and I (this trip was not solo) headed north to meet her. I had never been to Harlem before and looked forward to it as I had heard good things in recent years.
The goal was to meet for brunch but we got side tracked. On route was The Apollo Theater. Fascinated, we stopped in and discovered a tour about to start. $16? Yes!
The Billy Mitchell tour of the Apollo Theater
Billy is energetic, vivacious, open and fun. His tour of The Apollo is a combination of the theater’s history and his personal history. By the latter I mean his personal history with the theater and his personal life. We got to know how he came to work at the theater as a kid and how he met his wife. Who he has met at The Apollo and the birth of his daughter. Who he has introduced on The Apollo stage and his struggle to give up cigarettes.
And Billy is a talent. Maybe he’s not the caliber of Michael Jackson or James Brown but he can give a great impersonation of both. (Watch the video below for his “I feel good” bit at the end.) And he encourages all the people on his tour, which takes place on the Apollo stage, to do the same. We were all required to choose a stage name, rub the “Tree of Hope” and perform. Even the most shy of us.
Well, Tracey, I and a solo traveling woman from Australia teamed up as The Superbs and sang “Stop in the Name of Love.” Unfortunately, we only new the chorus but that wasn’t a problem. Billy jumped in as our Diana Ross and led us through the entire song. He was there to help everyone so that all had a great experience.
Tours of places like the Apollo are often informative but dry. Billy’s tour of The Apollo was the former but certainly not the latter. It was a fun time and highly recommended.
Now watch the video for a taste of what Billy offers.