Christopher Radko has been an unabashed fan of HELLO, DOLLY! (1969) ever since his parents first took him to the film’s December 16, 1969 world premiere at the famed Greek palace Rivoli Theater in New York City.
For 9-year-old Christopher, the premiere of HELLO, DOLLY! rocked his world. The klieg lights, the plush velvet seats and sparkling crystal chandeliers let him know he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Christopher recalled the elegant audience arriving to this movie palace truly decked in their “Sunday clothes” and a thunderous applause greeted the arrival of Louis Armstrong and Barbra Streisand. The movie’s bright colors, lavish sets, finely crafted costumes and heart-lifting songs made this the perfect first film musical for young Christopher to see. Moreover, Christopher was inspired by the film’s themes, which came from the Thornton Wilder play The Matchmaker. As Dolly Levi explains, there comes a time when we have to decide if we’ll live apart from life or delve fully into it. Christopher discovered that life can be lived like a musical when we are guided by love and when we follow our hearts. Wilder’s liberating themes on gender roles, the redistribution of money to help “little things grow,” faith in a love that is more powerful than “practical” thinking and the transformative power of adventure, were all early and inspiring life lessons for Christopher.
A chance visit to the Hudson Highlands enabled Christopher to discover Garrison, NY, the actual location that HELLO, DOLLY! director Gene Kelly chose for his film version of Yonkers. In no time, Christopher moved to Garrison, near the actual “Vandergelder’s”, and created a yearlong 20 event community festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of filming there (www.HelloAgainDolly.com). This included a live costume parade reenacting “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” with guest Tommy Tune and an exhibition at the Putnam History Museum in Cold Spring, NY, that featured original artwork, set designs and many of the film’s costumes, including Dolly Levi’s long thought to be lost paisley gown. Christopher is the author of Hello Again, Dolly!, a lavish behind the scenes museum exhibit book on the filming of one of America’s last great musicals.
Christopher Radko is also a world-renowned holiday ornament designer. He’s been named “America’s Holiday Expert,” by Huffington Post, the “Czar of Christmas Present” by The New York Times, and the “Duke of Decorations” by Los Angeles Times. It was Dolly Levi herself, Barbra Streisand, who suggested that Christopher create Hanukkah ornaments to help expand the holiday cheer. Recently, Streisand’s character Fanny Brice was immortalized as a Christopher Radko ornament for Broadway Cares. Christopher’s handcrafted glass ornaments are cherished as heirlooms that connect us through the warm memories they contain. Christopher Radko can be followed on Facebook.