For 13 years, Phil Barone— better known in Toledo as the owner of Rosie’s Italian Grille, Rosie’s Rolling Chef, and the and president of the Toledo Food Truck Association— has wowed and entertained audiences at the Crescent Tavern in Put-in-Bay with his performances emulating the late, great Jim Morrison. Backed by the Maxx Band and performing every other weekend, Barone’s tribute to the legendary Doors singer came to an end when the Crescent was sold and converted into a country western bar.
But just like Morrison himself, Barone’s tribute would never truly die. In recent years, Barone has begun revisiting the role in a variety of charity benefit shows. The latest will take place on Friday, December 22 at the Maumee Indoor Theatre on Conant Street, beginning at 8:00 pm. The show will benefit Unruly Arts at the Toledo Botanical Gardens, a studio which aids people with developmental disabilities to express themselves through artistic work.
“A client that comes into Rosie’s, Joan Brown. And I’ve talked to her for years, she comes in all the time,” Barone said. “She retired and helped get this charity off the ground. She was explaining it to me when I said, ‘I’m thinking about coming out of retirement,’ I haven’t done the show in a couple years and I’m thinking of doing something.”
Barone first came to the Doors at a young age. Surrounded by brothers who were big music fans, he grew up with the sounds of the Allman Brothers, Eagles, Joe Cocker, Led Zeppelin and more. But Morrison’s haunting vocals and words always stayed with him.
“Their lyrics are just awesome, I think they’re timeless. And I think that’s why— Jim’s been gone for 40-something years, and you still hear them on the radio quite a bit. It’s just timeless music.”
He began dressing up as Morrison for Halloween parties and performing a mini-set with a small backup band, one of whom was Gino Demilio— a member of the Crescent Tavern band at Put-in-Bay.
“And he said, ‘Come to Put-in-Bay and do your Jim,'” Barone said. “He thought, if we could entertain at these Halloween parties, then we could entertain the mobs at the Crescent Tavern in Put-in-Bay. I didn’t do it for a couple years because I didn’t feel like getting hit with a beer bottle.”
Nowadays, many of the original group from Put-in-Bay have retired from performing— only lead guitar player Pat McDonaugh remains, as well as the members of what Barone calls the “Lizard King Horn Section.” So a whole new group of musicians, some of whom are still college-age, were recruited to join the nine-piece band called The Cruisers.
“We’ve turned into a garage band,” Barone said. “We have a garage that we’ve been playing in, and it’s kinda cool to go back to those garage band days.”
Barone said he can’t wait to blast out the sound at the Maumee Theatre, and he hopes that the audience there gets the same rush that he gets when the spirit of Morrison takes over him— almost literally.
“My job is to entertain that crowd and bring them all together and see where it goes because I get my energy from them. It’s still scary to go up there when you don’t do it all the time. But I feel the energy from the people, and that’s when I really kind of turn into Jim. I feel the energy from the people, I feel the adrenaline, and it just kinda channels through me and Phil Barone goes bye-bye, and he’s gone, and Jim comes out.”
$25 for general admission.
$45 for VIP tickets, which include three drink tickets.
Tickets can be purchased at Rosie’s Italian Grille (606 N. McCord Rd.) or the Maumee Indoor Theatre.
8pm. Friday, December 22.
Maumee Indoor Theatre
601 Conant St., 419-897-8902.