Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Delta News & Review Publisher Featured In Newspaper Series

Kennedy High alumnus discusses new local dinner theater, other endeavors


Steve Masone is enjoying his role in bringing new dinner theater productions to the Sacramento area. Photo by Lance Armstrong
Steve Masone is enjoying his role in bringing new dinner theater productions to the Sacramento area. Photo by Lance Armstrong
Note: This is part one in a series about 1970 John F. Kennedy High School graduate Steve Masone.
Steve Masone has been involved in many projects since he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in 1970. And his latest project is to bring new dinner theater productions to Sacramento.
With Steve’s assistance, the musical, “Starry Evening,” which will be performed by the Phoinix Players of Eugene, Ore., will be presented in the grand ballroom of the Red Lion Hotel at 500 Leisure Lane on July 11 and 12.
Steve said that the theater group from Oregon will be performing in Sacramento “with their eye on relocating here to establish a permanent home.”
“Phoinix Players are internationally acclaimed and known for their ability to mount seven or more musicals a season,” Steve said. “This is good news for Sacramento, if they are welcomed and supported. Word is they may also perform at Tommy T’s (comedy dinner theater at 12401 Folsom Blvd. in Rancho Cordova), and are negotiating with a Pocket-Land Park venue for shows at the end of summer. They also will be performing at the (Clarion Inn at 1401 Arden Way) next to Arden Fair mall, July 18 and 19 through Aug. 3 on weekends.”
During an interview with this publication last week, Steve spoke about details of his life that led to his current efforts to present dinner theater productions in the Sacramento area.
Steve, who was one of the six children of the Phoenix, Ariz.-born Rita Campbell, and Michael Louis Masone, a second generation Italian-American, explained that he became part of a broken family during his childhood.
“(Michael Louis) got on with the Army as a civilian because my great-grandfather was also working for the Army, and they came from Fort Huachuca, Ariz. to Sacramento to Sharpe Army Depot (then Sharpe General Depot) in Stockton,” Steve said. “They (later) came to the Sacramento Army Depot, and that’s where my mother and father parted ways.”
Steve, who was born in French Camp, just outside of Stockton, recalled that his life suddenly became more difficult following his parents’ separation.
“It got tougher because my stepfather talked my mother into putting me and my brothers into an orphanage,” Steve said. “We went back to a church-run orphanage in Phoenix, Ariz. It belonged to a church that my family had attended. We were there for two years.”
Following their time in the orphanage, Steve and his brothers came to Sacramento to live with their grandmother, who was then employed at the Sacramento Army Depot.
In speaking about his schooling, Steve said, “I was in Sacramento in the first grade, second grade, third grade, went to Arizona for fourth and fifth (grades) and came back for the rest. I attended William Land (elementary) School (at 1116 U St.), and then Freeport Elementary (School at 2118 Meadowview Road), and also Ethel I. Baker (Elementary School at 5717 Laurine Way). I went to (Baker) for a minute. I went to reform school during my freshman year to get straightened out. And, of course, I went to Kennedy (High).”
Steve recalled his early interest in music and theater, saying, “I was involved in music in high school, in theater and drama. I sort of led a double life. I would go out with the guys and then I would disappear and not tell them I was involved in theater and dance. My mom had put me in ballet and jazz when I was really young, too, so, I did that, but I didn’t tell the guys that I was in community theater.”
Steve also mentioned that while he was attending Kennedy, he was a member of the Raw Jam Blues Band.
“I started playing with them in 1968, but then in 1969, I went through a windshield in an automobile accident,” Steve said. “I was playing trumpet with them and I lost my trumpet lip. And so, then I picked up the harmonica. That’s why we phased over into a blues band because I went blues. Between the orphanage and a few other life difficulties, I learned about the blues. I could relate. I got turned on to a few blues artists (such as) Sonny Boy Williamson, the harmonica player, of course, and B.B. King, of course. And even though she was blues-jazz, Billie Holiday was a favorite of mine. Just a lot of them (blues artists). Little Walter on harmonica was another one. I styled my harmonica playing after him.”
After graduating from Kennedy, Steve was drafted into the Army.
And in recalling that time in his life, Steve said, “Of course, it was at the tail end of Vietnam. My duty station was in Fort Kobbe canal zone down in Panama. I went to basic training at Fort Ord. I went to my advanced training at Fort Polk, La. That’s called AIP – Advanced Individual Training. And I went to a specialized (training) down in Panama. I was with the JOT – Jungle Operational Training. It was run by the (Army) Special Forces. That’s where we taught jungle warfare, jungle survival to all the guys going overseas, and we also taught South American friendlies. I went over there, not actually in Vietnam, but in Laos and Cambodia. I was three and a half years in the Army.”
After leaving the military, Steve became involved in playing music again.
Steve also became involved in managing and booking bands.
He fondly recalled working as a stringer for the local deejay Bob Castle (1949-2007), aka the “Blue Whiz” on radio station KROY 1240 AM.
Additionally, Steve spoke about eventually working with Castle at a local concert featuring the popular Sacramento band, Redwing.
“My first major concert as a concert promoter in Sacramento (was with) the band called Redwing,” Steve said. “They were pretty popular. They had that big hit called ‘California Blues.’ I got (Castle) to be my co-host and I produced (the) concert with him (in the ballroom above) the old Fox (Senator) Theatre (at 912 K St.), and it was pretty successful.
“I started having some success after that, and the next thing you know, I joined George B. Hunt and Associates (of Los Angeles) as a licensed booking agent, which you had to be to work with the (American Federation of Musicians Local No. 12 in Sacramento). And so, I became the only licensed union booker in Sacramento. Anybody that was working a union gig in Sacramento had to go through me. And back then there were a lot of union gigs. And that’s where I got into the dinner theater business, also because of my background in theater.”


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