Uneven Kiel

Local Quixote Ed Golterman tilts at civic windmills in his quest to rehabilitate Kiel Opera House

"They were heading to destroying it or bastardizing it or turning it into anything but what it is. I got going with a small group; we began attending these Urban Land Institute meetings, began telling the other side of the story, that this is an asset. And I believe this group marshaled enough influence to stop that study in its tracks."

For two years, Golterman has been tireless in his crusade but, in the process, has managed to alienate as many parties as he has drawn to his cause. A professional marketer, he reveals no taste for diplomacy. Name-calling is not beneath him. Mark Sauer, of Kiel Partners, and David Fay, formerly of Fox Associates, he called "bastards" and challenged to a boxing match. He referred to the perceived alliance of St. Louis 2004, the Regional Chamber and Growth Association, Kiel Partners and NationsBank (now Bank of America) a "death squad."

Golterman admits his own ego has been involved in his mission. In his 20-page synopsis of the opportunities for Kiel Opera House, the wish list for a restoration- and operating-management team includes Ed Golterman at the very top. In a "commentary" he delivered to the RFT, Golterman describes a future in which the veil is lifted from the eyes of Bill and Nancy Laurie (the new owners of Kiel Opera House): "They will see benefits for all, especially the people of St. Louis. They will assure city officials that this can be done and will be done at great benefit to the city, with no undo burden. And they will go before the people and announce that the Kiel Opera House is placed in the hands of Ed Golterman."

"And they will go before the people and announce that the Kiel Opera House is placed in the hands of Ed Golterman," writes Ed Golterman.
Jennifer Silverberg
"And they will go before the people and announce that the Kiel Opera House is placed in the hands of Ed Golterman," writes Ed Golterman.

Yet Golterman also possesses the quality of self-effacement. At the end of the document, he includes a two-sentence bio, noting his distinct lineage and then adding, "(Golterman) is also proclaimed by others as a complete pain in the ass."

During an interview with the RFT, Golterman reveals both his good humor and his lack of political grace. When asked about the concerns voiced by Dance St. Louis executive director Sally Bliss -- that there is a lack of money and a lack of political will to get Kiel Opera House open -- he dismisses her as a novice: "I don't think Sally has any business talking about cost or money or anything else. We're not asking for Sally's money. I'm not even asking for Civic Progress' money. I think that other investors, new investors, would open this if given a chance, and I'm just asking the city to say, 'We want this done.'

"The city should be taking the lead in this, but for Sally to be a spokesman about the economics of all this is inappropriate. She can talk about dance."

Such displays alienated Golterman from the very organization he founded, Kiel for Performing Arts Inc. In December 1999, he left the group, claiming the organization had "lost its will and courage." Members of the organization feared that Golterman's tactics were more offensive that progressive.

Finally, on March 6, a new addition came to the Golterman fax pile, the announcement that he had given up the Kiel Opera House cause to "work toward development of a quality musical dinner theater in St. Louis County."

How could Quixote abandon his Dulcinea? "A couple of factors, positive and negative. I think the positive factor is a very stated awareness of, a desire to increase tourism in this Central County area -- that's been stated by the Chambers of Commerce, by the hotel and motel people. They're getting some bus-tour business accidentally from people going to and from Branson. I'm saying a classy dinner theater out here will bring more of those bus tours to the St. Louis area. You have that and Stages working together.

"From the negative standpoint, I think the people who control the Opera House are the wrong people. They're sports people. It's as if the Muny controlled the hockey team or the Met controlled Busch Stadium. I think the wrong people are in power, and that has been frustrating. They're people who don't know what other cities are doing in the arts downtown."

The recent Arts Forecast 2000, an open discussion of St. Louis arts administrators at Powell Hall in which a call for greater regional arts marketing was extolled, dispirited Golterman, as well. "That our arts leaders could think that the best thing they could do now is do a brochure. That kind of blew me away."

Now he's pitching the blue-plate Man of La Mancha special. "Meal/show combination is very, very attractive, especially for seniors during the day on their travels. It's working in other areas. There are three or four in Kansas City. There are four or five in the Washington, D.C., area. They're an attraction when you can combine the two. The meal and the show -- to me, they both have to be good.

"Then to add a piano bar would keep people in the facility longer; people from Stages could come over. You know how people like to mingle and mix. I've seen very good, energized piano bars elsewhere. I don't see any good ones here. I don't see any quality dinner theaters here. I think we should have those."

That one windmill, however, is not far from his mind. "I'm not breaking with Kiel in any way," he emphasizes. When the fools see the errors of their ways, he says, "I'm available to them as a consultant."

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