WHO IS CHARLENE?
Augustus Kleist, owner of The Strand Theatre, opened the doors in 1921. He had many enthusiastic staff, but one, a plucky young lady named Charlene has a story of intrigue that we would like to share with you. Night after night, Charlene would take guests to their seats and sweep the isles. She worked quietly and diligently, but always with a smile on her face as she watched the performers.
After a sensational show by Detroit’s own Ida Cox, Kleist began to lock up the theater doors when he heard a faint singing coming from inside. The soft melodic voice was unlike anything Kleist had heard before. It was angelic but sharp. The voice carried him to the Theater’s stage where Charlene was sweeping and singing the last number of that night’s performance. Kleist was floored by the raw talent of Charlene and applauded. Charlene, startled, dropped the broom, and ran off stage.
As years passed and with the theater struggling, Kleist was able to convince The Jones Brothers to return home for a one night only homecoming show. On January 12th, 1934, the brothers were set to return to Pontiac for “The Bootleggers Bash: The Jones Boys Are Back!”.
News of the homecoming show spread like wildfire across the city and tickets sold out in minutes.
The night of the performance, Pontiac had one of the worst winter storms of the decade. More than 17 inches of snow blanketed Southeast Michigan, indefinitely delaying all incoming and departing trains. Despite the missing performers, a massive crowd piled against the large doors of The Strand, eagerly waiting for a show that would not happen. Kleist panicked. He could not cancel the show. The Strand would never recover. But who could he find this last minute? Kleist slumped in his chair with his head in his hands.
Just then, Charlene carried a broom and walked past Kleist’s office door. Leaping to his feet, Kleist scrambled out the door to catch the girl. “Wait! Charlene!” Pausing to take a breath Kleist said, “Put down that broom, I need you tonight.” Charlene looked confused, “What do you mean? Do you need me at concessions?” “No! On Stage. Performing. Tonight.” Charlene stared back blankly. “Listen, I have heard you sing. Your voice is captivating. With a voice like yours, well, they’ll surely love it as much as I did”. Charlene set down the broom and walked on stage.
Her performance was electric and memorizing. From when Charlene let out her first note, the audience fell silent. She charmed the crowd with jazz numbers and received not one, but two standing ovations.
After the show, Kleist scoured the backstage of the theater, thinking she may have been too nervous to meet her fans. But all he found was her broom and dustpan leaning against the hallway wall. After Charlene’s one and only performance, she seemingly disappeared. In the decades since, some people have claimed to have seen her in the theatre ushering guests or heard her sweet lilting voice wafting from the shadows behind the stage. However, no one has ever been able to officially confirm her whereabouts since that fateful night.