When Monte Rio held its first variety show, the top pop song in the nation was Sophie Tucker’s “Some of These Days.” It was the year the Philadelphia Athletics beat the New York Giants to win the World Series.
It was 1911, and the show has been going on ever since, even through world wars, going online only the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The show has not been interrupted for 111 years,” said organizer Michele McDonell.
The beloved Monte Rio Variety Show returns to the Monte Rio Amphitheater on July 28, hosted live by late-night TV talk show host Conan O’Brien, who served as host of last year’s virtual show.
“Conan O’Brien will be onstage for the entire show, introducing the acts and providing his comedic commentary,” McDonell said.
The entertainers, provided by the nearby annual Bohemian Grove encampment, are seldom announced in advance, but McDonell confirmed that harpist and violinist Carlos Reyes will return this year. Charles “Chip” Wiser, president of the Bohemian Club, will welcome the crowd.
Singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett made a surprise appearance at the last live Monte Rio Variety Show, which drew 2,000 fans in 2019.
Bohemian Grove performers such as Clint Black, Zac Brown, Roy Rogers, Billy Valentine and Kix Brooks have appeared at the shows in other years.
Past Monte Rio Variety Shows were hosted by Ray Bolger and Art Linkletter. The most famous entertainer reputed to have hosted the show, but never did, is Bing Crosby.
“Bing Crosby hosting there is a fallacy. It’s a legend,” McDonell said. “He never performed there. He attended the Bohemian Grove encampment, but he never graced our stage. I often don’t correct that story because people get mad.”
The annual show began when a group of men from the Bohemian Grove, at their annual forest retreat along the Russian River, teamed up with the local Catholic parish to build a church in Monte Rio.
“My family has been involved with the show since 1915,” McDonell said. “That’s when they moved to Monte Rio.”
The show has been held at various locations over the decades, and settled at the Monte Rio Amphitheater in 1997, she said.
The show has always been a fundraiser for Saint Catherine’s Catholic Church and since 2004, also for the Monte Rio Fire Services Foundation and Monte Rio School Foundation. It will include a raffle and online auction, which starts July 22, at mrvs2022.ggo.bid and ends during the live pre-show. Food and drinks will be available.
“This is the show to come to,” McDonell said. “It’s the best ticket on the Russian River. We’re so happy to be coming back live.”
Conan O’Brien to host 111th annual Monte Rio Variety ShowConan O’Brien to host 111th annual Monte Rio Variety Show