The Madrid Theatre's neighbors shun the glorious restored venue and its patrons.

Exile on Main Street 

The Madrid Theatre's neighbors shun the glorious restored venue and its patrons.

After years of planning and painstaking renovation, Kerry Duffin realized his dream -- the glamorous Madrid Theatre, complete with an indoor fountain, a hardwood dance floor, a balcony with unobstructed views and classy decorative touches galore. Soon after it opened, "the distinctive theater" started attracting impressive crowds, drawing roughly 300 people to its weekly salsa/ballroom nights and near-capacity turnouts for an eclectic mix of live performances, while filling open dates with lucrative corporate events. It's a Midtown success story, providing tangible hope for Kansas Citians who still harbor visions of pedestrian-packed streets and vital big-city nightlife.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels good about this feel-good tale. "The million-dollar question is, 'Why wouldn't anyone want you to restore an old theater?'" Duffin says, recapping the inquiry he often gets from patrons who've had to endure harassment from Madrid protesters. The answer, astonishingly, is that people who live in the homes and apartments on Baltimore and Wyandotte, the side streets bordering the venue, are shocked that traffic from a thriving Main Street might spill over into the surrounding neighborhood. Old Hyde Park Neighborhood Association president John Gladeau and Baltimore Place Condominium Association president David Morris have each voiced their displeasure about the situation, and Hyde Park-area activist Lydia Carson has even taken to video vigilantism, capturing infractions both small (open container violations) and smaller (parking in areas ostensibly -- but not explicitly -- designated for residents).

Fighting fire with fire, Duffin enlisted an employee to videotape Madrid staff members in the act of directing concertgoers to the venue's designated parking lots, with a secondary focus on Carson and other save-our-spaces rabble-rousers. Footage taken on November 3, the evening of the sold-out Puddle of Mudd show, depicts anti-Madrid demonstrators parking directly in front of the venue, nabbing the strategic location to berate patrons and verbally abuse the venue's workers. "Some of it is downright hilarious," Duffin says, watching his nemeses blow gaskets over the prospect that their guests might have to stroll an extra half block to visit them at home. (At Baltimore Place, residents have off-street parking, with one guest spot for the ten units to share.) "You have to take it with humor. Otherwise, it would drive me crazy."

Morris, an easy-mannered lawyer and classic-rock fan (he lists Neil Young as a favorite), also made the rounds on Puddle of Mudd night, but he didn't make a melodramatic show of his indignation, so his work doesn't show up on camera. Morris did take note of several goings-on he found suspicious, all of which he documented and sent in letter form to Duffin, Mayor Kay Barnes, councilman Jim Rowland and others. Among his findings: several concertgoers hosting minitailgate parties on side streets, a fellow vomiting on a lawn, a man who claimed to be "with Puddle of Mudd" downing a beer in the Madrid's parking lot and someone who remarked to an individual exiting a tour bus, "You're smoking something a lot better than me." Mildly shady business, to be sure, but anyone who's been to a concert knows that what he's describing ain't exactly Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

Kansas City Star music critic Timothy Finn, who attends a fair amount of shows, witnessed nothing out of the ordinary on his way to review the Puddle of Mudd gig. "I saw no one drinking anywhere, nor anyone puking or acting unruly," he reports. "They only served soda and water inside [it was an all-ages, alcohol-free performance], and everyone was pretty orderly."

This orderly assembly patiently waited in line to get patted down at the door, a detail Morris notes with dismay in his letter. "Any crowd that must be body-searched and warned not to bring weapons onto the property stretches the definition of 'upscale'," Morris writes, referring to the venue's oft-stated goal of catering to an upscale clientele.

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