The Apollo Theater held its 2014 annual Spring Gala Tuesday night, an epic birthday celebration in honor of the storied Theater’s 80th anniversary. Departing from its tradition of inducting legends into the Apollo Hall of Fame, this year’s Gala celebrated the eight decades of artistic brilliance presented on the Apollo stage since 1934. The evening included special tribute performances by the music industry’s biggest artists, including Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, The Isley Brothers, Joss Stone and more, hosted by Emmy Award-winning and Grammy nominated entertainer Wayne Brady.

“I’m proud to be able to be here at the Apollo,” Wayne Brady told EBONY from the red carpet beforehand. “I tried to explain to someone earlier in terms of what the Apollo is, even [to] Americana. In terms of show business, the Apollo has produced so many acts and has been consistently here. You can’t name too many other theatres or comedy clubs that have been around for X amount of years and done this.”


Additionally, the Apollo presented Richard D. Parsons with the Leadership Award in honor of his many years of leadership and service to the Apollo. Parsons has served as Chairman of the Board for the Apollo Theater Foundation since 2001, during which he’s played an integral role in the revitalization of the Theater. Revlon billionaire Ronald O. Perelman presented Parsons with his Leadership award, dropping playful F-bombs in the process.

“Everyone had to start at the Apollo,” BET CEO Debra L. Lee reminisced. “Stevie Wonder and Prince [were] here a couple of years ago, that was pretty fabulous. But everyone talks about the history and how many people got their start. So every year when I come to this gala, or when I come to other events at the Apollo, it’s always great.”

—Red carpet reporting by Eeshé White