Tony Mauriello might not be known in the local jazz community today, but for 25 years, he was an influential player on the Boston entertainment scene. His most noteworthy gig? For twelve years he co-owned the fabled Back Bay nightclubs Paul’s Mall and the Jazz Workshop with Fred Taylor. Mauriello died a year ago, away from the public eye, on December 14, 2017. I missed it, and thus I’m a year late with this remembrance. As they say, better late than never.
Tony Mauriello’s early experience was in corporate accounting, but when he turned 30 he decided to chase a dream. He bought a struggling nightclub on Harvard Avenue in Allston called Luke & Rennie’s in 1960 (the Wonder Bar occupies the building in 2018). He renamed it the Starlight Lounge, and began offering live entertainment seven nights a week. The Starlight quickly moved into mainstream jazz (Sir Charles Thompson, Joe Bucci) and R&B/soul (Ben E. King, Bobby Hebb). That’s when Mauriello met Fred Taylor, who at that time was an artists’ manager and booking agent. The two became good friends.
Tony Mauriello also managed the Forum in Kenmore Square in the mid-sixties, which had the distinction of being Boston’s first discotheque.
Long story short: in 1965 Mauriello and Taylor starting managing Paul’s Mall on Boylston Street. A year later, they bought that club, as well as the Jazz Workshop next door. Taylor booked the entertainment and Mauriello managed the finances—Taylor called Mauriello “Mr Facts & Figures.” They ran those cellar clubs, and the Cinema 733 theater upstairs, until early 1978. The changing economics of the entertainment business rendered their small operation obsolete.
From Boylston Street to Harvard Square
Mauriello liked the film business, and he took the lead in negotiations to first lease, and then purchase, the Harvard Square Theatre. He and Taylor ran it for ten years, through countless double features, first-run foreign films, and Woody Allen marathons. They also reconfigured the theater, going from a single auditorium to a five-screen multiplex. They sold it to Sack Cinemas in 1986. Says Taylor today: “The worst business decision we ever made was selling that theater.”
With that, Mauriello left the entertainment business and moved to Arizona. He found it culturally barren, though, and moved back a few years later. He eventually found work as a financial manager in nonprofit organizations. While he was with the Committee to End Elder Homelessness (now Hearth, Inc.) in 2002, he reunited with Taylor to stage a fundraising concert on their behalf. They proposed booking Tony Bennett. CEEH balked. Recalled Taylor: “Tony told them what he told me at Paul’s Mall years before—you’ve got to spend some money to make some money. Back then I was losing sleep over what we were paying Erroll Garner, but Tony knew he’d be a big draw and we’d be okay. He was right. And Tony was right on this, too. We brought Bennett to Symphony Hall, and the concert sold out, and CEEH did pretty well with it.”
Tony Mauriello was 89 at the time of his death. The last surviving sibling from a large family, he was twice divorced.
To the music. Tony liked Bill Evans. Here’s something by Tony Bennett and Evans, “Lucky to Be Me,” taken from a 1976 Canadian television broadcast.