SHOWMAN DICK WALTER PASSES
With the passing of Dick Walter an era of entertainment closes its door in the heartland of America.
Dick loved his travelogue audiences and the travelogue filmmakers. He loved them more than any other theatrical promoter. He loved travelogue programs and considered our shows equal to the major events he brought to Omaha. He was adamant that this was show business and the live presentation was what it was really all about. He introduced every show at the Joslyn and always wore a tuxedo and expected the same of the speakers. “We are giving the audiences something special, so dress special for the occasion” was a comment Dick frequently make at our conventions.
Dick’s travelogue series extended far beyond Omaha. In addition to his flagship show at the Joslyn Art Museum auditorium, he had shows in over a dozen towns. At its peak in the 1980s, Dick’s travelogue circuit was two and a half weeks of shows for each speaker – all in Nebraska.
My friendship with Dick goes back to 1969 in a hotel meeting room at the Statler Hilton in Detroit with all of the travelogue sponsors. I was showing a clip of my first film and Dick was one of the first people to both encourage me and book me. Over the years I showed every film I ever made on his series.
We shared similar politics, a love of travelogues and travel, but our tightest bond was Broadway. We both shared an endless passion for Broadway musicals. Dick presented the road companies for years in Omaha (He had to move “Hair” to Lincoln because of an outcry in Omaha over the nudity.)
We would talk for hours about the new shows, I would report on what I had seen, he would come to New York once or twice a year and we would go to the theater together. We talked about the shows from a creative standpoint, but also from a business standpoint; how well they would do on the road, was the show for his audience, etc. To be honest, of all the friends I have in New York, nobody could talk Broadway better than Dick.
He brought not only the travelogues, but also the best of ballet, classical music, and Broadway to Omaha.
The world of people like Dick is long gone, Corporations rule the road today and people like Dick, and David Merrick, and Alexander Cohen (all people he worked directly with) have been replaced by Broadway Across America, Live Nation and so forth.
The smiling face of Dick at the front door of Joslyn welcoming his travelogue patrons in to see our shows or at the Orpheum welcoming people with a handshake to see Carol Channing do “Hello Dolly” is gone and will never return.
R.I.P. Dick, I will miss my Broadway chats with you. Maybe you can get a road company of “Hamilton” to play the cosmos, and “God” knows heaven could use a travelogue series!
Editor’s Note: Dick Walter appeared as a guest speaker at an Intrafilm Convention in Las Vegas, December 5, 1995 and talked "Broadway.” His address was filmed by travelogue historian Stan Walsh. https://youtu.be/-JMz9ayOltA