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Musician helps keep old tradition alive at St. Louis movie theater

Gerry Marian has had a decades-long career as an organist.

ST. LOUIS — At the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas, lost time has been found again.

It's the show between shows in Theater number 3, where the Conn 652 electric organ is in experienced hands.

Once upon a time before movies could talk, almost every theater in the country had its own keyboard accompanist.

And here, because the owner wanted to stand out when people came in, they still do.

"I'm a small businessman and an independent exhibitor and there aren't too many of us left," said theater owner Harman Moseley.

And there aren't too many left like the man at the keys, 73-year-old Gerry Marian.

Marian's love affair with the instrument goes back more than six decades. His dad was an organ repairman.

"For my seventh birthday, he bought me a Hammond organ,"  Marian said, recalling.

That gift changed his tune forever. He found his calling.

His mentor was Stan Kann. "He was an inspiration to me," Marian said.

Kann was seen often on KSD-TV in the early 1950s and later became a national celebrity. He played the massive Wurlitzer pipe organ between shows at the palatial Fabulous Fox Theater.

"Stan needed an assistant," Marian said. "Because at back then he was landing guest spots on shows like the Mike Douglas Show and later on, Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin. And, that's how he found me to fill in for him."

Marian filled in during weekday showings and took gigs all over town until the 1980's when theater organists became just wistful remembrances.

Then in 1999, after years of doing odd jobs, Marian was offered a spot at the new Chase Park Plaza Cinemas.

"It's just another thing that a small business can do to tell your customer thank you for coming, "explains Moseley. "It's something that's kind of been lost in the shuffle. "

There, in addition to popcorn, candy and Hollywood's newest releases, you get old standards.

Marian also composes his own music for special events like an upcoming silent film showcase.

"Rudolph Valentino's, the Son of the Sheik from 1926. I'm working on it now," he said, gleefully.

Though he's at an age where he could trade in the organ bench for a rocking chair, Gerry has no plans to retire.

"I feel like I'm still youth," he said, laughing.

"He loves what he does and people love him," Moseley said.

Keeping the past a present for movie goers.

Gerry Marian and the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas, making sure every show is a double feature.

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