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#KnowYourLand: Luxurama saw stars of stage and screen

Published Sep 24, 2018


Cape Town - If you drive down Park Road in Wynberg today, you will pass a rather sad-looking building that you'd never guess once saw the likes of Taliep Petersen, Zain Adams, Connie Francis, Percy Sledge, Dusty Springfield and Engelbert Humperdink.

This was the Luxurama: a spectacular venue, a theatre, a cinema, a Cape Town icon and the playground of documentary filmmaker Liesl Priem.

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Priem's mother, Margaret Corker, started working at the Luxurama in 1980 when Priem was six months old, and so as she grew up it was her second home and is an important part of her family's history. "The red velvet curtains, the black rubber floors, the 1 144 seats, watching the Goonies and Ghostbusters, all my birthdays were spent at the Luxurama."

But she knows that the Lux is beloved of many more people so Priem, her husband Nicki and Cape Town performing arts legend Alistair Izobell are working on a documentary to capture the history of the Lux.

"It tells the story about a theatre that was a building of hope for many performers trying to catch a lucky break. If you had the opportunity to be invited to perform at the Luxurama - it was a great honour to share the stage with many of our great performers," says Priem.

"There are so many memories in this place, that we need to tell the story, we need to do this documentary about the Lux. It involves people like The Rockets, The Flames, Pacific Express, Zain Adams, there's Taliep Petersen. International acts include Tom Jones, Connie Francis, Peaches and Herb."

Nicki and Liesl Priem

Built by the late Ronnie Quibell in 1963, the Luxurama opened with the pantomime of Cinderella.

"Quibell built this venue so that the people of Wynberg could have something, because there was no cinema, there was no theatre, there was no place where these people could all come together. So this venue was built by a white man in a coloured area and it was a big mistake for the apartheid regime, because now you had this man bringing in all these international acts and it's for the coloured people. But white people also want to see them, so they came. There was white people coming. There was black people coming."

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In an interview with Independent Media some years ago, Quibell's son Derek recalled: "There was a time you had a white band with a coloured or black artist and you had to hang a curtain between them during a show. Depending on whether the artist was white or coloured, those who were white or coloured in the audience had to stand in the back of the theatre. It was crazy, but we eventually got permits for people to perform or sit together."

The building is set to be converted into an educational centre by the area's Darun-Na'im Educational Institution, which bought the "Lux" for R5.5 million a few years ago.

Priem says finding photos and footage of the Lux in its heyday has proved difficult, so she is appealing to the public to contact her if they have anything to share.

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"You can't find anything, there's hardly anything in the archives and that was the problem. There's a dearth of information and we are doing the story to document the lives of those who are still alive, first-hand accounts with people like Connie Francis, Molly Baron and Steve Fataar. We are doing a preservation of history for future generations."

* Contact Liesl Priem at [email protected]

WATCH: Capetonians remember the Lux

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