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We're 20 Years old... Warn the Duke!
by John Gillespie

20 years ago today, January 29, 1997, Mark Bakalor flipped the switch and Talkin' Broadway ( went live on the World Wide Web. There are so many memories that I will always cherish.

In The Beginning

In the spring of 1996 the American Theater Wing opened their website and had a message board called "Broadway Talk." I was one of several people who first found a media voice there. I would post my Broadway stories and got a lot of encouragement to write more. The board was only monitored between 9am and 5pm and after hours it got chaotic with crazy posts throughout the night, some of which were libelous. So, I thought, I can build a better place for my stories.

I, of course, knew nothing about designing a website. But, through the Tony Forum, I met Mark Bakalor, a young college student who was a true whiz at web and graphic design. We went into contract and he took my ideas for the site and magically made those ideas into a visual paradise for me.

One thing I did not want was a message board, but Mark and his brother had other ideas and created a message board as part of Talkin' Broadway. I warned about the problems of the Tony Forum, but Mark assured me that he would monitor Talkin' Broadway's forum 24/7 ... and so I gave the go-ahead. I gave it the name All That Chat because of my love of the musical Chicago. All That Chat debuted five days later on February 3, 1997. So, really, Mark Bakalor and I created Talkin' Broadway—I could not have done it without him.

Then We Grew

Then, we grew too big for our britches. Traffic to the site was amazing. Mark was running and several other websites. I needed help. I knew of Ann Miner of and asked her to become our webmaster, and she agreed and she has held that position ever since. Mike Reynolds, a talented writer who wrote a wonderful series of book reviews for us came on board as the third administrator and All That Chat monitor. The two of them have been invaluable and continue to manage Talkin' Broadway to this day. Me, today, I'm just the patriarch, retired, and living in Patzcauro, Mexico.


I suppose I have three best theatre memories of the last 20 years. The first is when we got a writeup in the New York Times. I read it and thought we have arrived.

The second was when Gerard Alessandrini, in Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab, included a song parody of "All That Jazz" titled "All That Chat" (available on

As you might expect, my first really favorite moment in the last 20 years was a show—a big Broadway musical. They said Broadway was dead, that famous invalid, but it had been dying since the 1960s. Still, she survives and will not give up her dying breath. And during the period of the last 20 years, one of the greatest musicals ever, with perfect music and lyrics, was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty: Ragtime. It was to open the new Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway in December 1997.

I was so taken with it I could not wait for the Broadway opening. I flew to Las Angeles to catch Brian Stokes Mitchell and La Chanze from the front row, front mezzanine. Lights went down and that opening number left me in awe, with my jaw wide open. )

Broadway dead? I don't think so. This was thrilling! (Is anything in life ever really as thrilling as a new Broadway musical?)

Onward And Upward

Ah, so many memories in the last 20 years. And Ann, Mike and I are still discussing what will happen to Talkin' Broadway and All That Chat after we are gone. The only thing we know for sure is when we get to meet our maker, we'll still be talkin' Broadway!

This Rialto is my final column. I dedicate it to John Mitchell, aka The Cosmic Anchovy.

V.J. (John Gillespie)

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