No one has analyzed the lure. It ought to be sex, but one visit makes that doubtful. Whatever it is, Harvard-men meet with Boston on common ground at the Old Howard--leer almost as luridly at the flesh as do the natives, shudder with them at the chorus, and blush a slightly darker shade of pink at the comedians.
A poll of the Senior Album several years ago showed that the average scholar in the Class of 1940 had attended three Boston performances (including one midnight show).
The questionnaire also showed that some twenty men had been present for over a dozen performances. One man was even an usher at the strip house for six months, and a question mentioning the ideal location of the theatre (halfway between the Charlestown Navy Yard and Harvard Square) was entered on a Geography 1 exam.
The famed edifice was born under less profane circumstances. Father Miller (which Father Miller is evidently unknown) started a tabernacle there in 1841. He won large fame by convincing a huge Boston congregation that:
"The end of the world will surely be In Eighteen Hundred and Forty-Three".
Unfortunately for the prophet, in 1844 he had to revise the calculation and his fickle flock deserted him. A group of prominent Bostonians bought the building and converted it into an opera house after changing the name to the "Howard Athenaeum." There, in 1846, genuine Italian Opera had its New England premiere with a performance of Verdi's "Ernani," and Sheridan's "Rivals" played to toney audiences from Beacon Hill until a fire gutted the wooden auditorium.
After the days of the proud, heavily-gilded, soft-cushion Athenaeum, the Howard sunk to playing cheap variety shows in 1868. Ever since the name Old Howard has been used. For years the blue-lighted anatomical soloes have brought the crowds past the box office.
Once in a while the long arm of the law reaches to hold up a slipping brassiere or a dropping G-string, and occasionally competition has threatened the leadership of the Old Howard, but never did its loyal following of beardless youth and balded age fall away.
Here, with a bottle of Scotch and large cigars, fresh-from-prep-school Yardlings matched their manliness against each other. And, quite different from Boston's more pretentious musical revues, dress was informal, even on opening nights, at the friendly little theatre off Scolly Square.