Glenside’s Dino’s Backstage and The Celebrity Room held a final private, exit-stage-right event June 23 to mark its closing on the cusp of the venue’s third anniversary — and, more surprising to longtime audiences, owners Dino J. Kelly-Cataldi and Michael Richard Kelly-Cataldi announced they are no longer together.
The couple had been together for 21 years and got married in Massachusetts in 2004, and then again in their newly minted Glenside backyard in 2014, when gay marriage finally became legal nationwide.
Dino is a legendary Philadelphia restaurant owner whose Napoleon Cafe, at 15th and Locust streets, was a sensation in the 1990s. Michael is a cabaret vocalist whose “Forbidden Broadway” was a hit when it came through Philly’s Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in the mid-’80s.
On stage last Sunday, Michael recounted how he and Dino met in 1990, fell in love, bought vintage cars and tailor-made suits and made pilgrimages to cabaret hot spots around the globe.
Four years ago, the couple told PGN their real dream was to open an old-school, Hollywood-themed supper club — retro but with modern twists, like a YouTube channel live-streaming the club’s performances.
In 2016, next door to the iconic Keswick Theatre, they fulfilled their dream, with the tagline, “Bringing back glamour, one cocktail at a time,” crystal halo chandeliers, black and white photos of family and familiar Hollywood stars on every wall, indoor leather banquettes, black cabana lounge decor outside, digital stage lighting, an intricate Peavey sound system and renovations coming in just under $2 million.
They brought in the crème of cabaret vocalists, from Marilyn Maye to Billy Stritch, Ann Hampton Calloway and Nellie McKay, as well as locals like Paula Johns, Mary Ellen Desmond, Wendy Simon, Eddie Bruce and Deirdre Finnegan. Michael — co-owner and entertainment director — would sing for supper most weekends, backed by a handful of the area’s finest musicians.
The couple lived that dream until it became unsustainable. Cabaret is a hard sell outside of Manhattan — even harder in a bucolic but sleepy suburban town — and pricey, considering the top-tier talent and white-linen dining on offer at Dino’s Backstage. Those glamour-topped cocktails don’t come cheap either.
The closing included a soiree filled with laughter, love, tears, local vocalists, business machinations and drama.
The biggest surprise was that the marriage between the Kelly-Cataldis had ended. Still amenable friends and business partners, the two welcomed each other’s new significant others to the closing party.
Another surprise was the news that this may not be the end for Dino’s.
“So many people asked me what they had to do to keep it open — people in Glenside too — that I’m definitely considering a different next move,” said Dino.
Then again, he may not. Dino added that he has other employment opportunities and started taking singing lessons.
The Kelly-Cataldis opened countless bottles of wine, served fine food and were on stage together introducing Bruce, Desmond, Johns, Finnegan and Simon to sing their goodbyes to the Backstage and Celebrity Room space.
The owners cut up on stage while Dino emulated Michael’s signature stage moves and Michael teased Dino about which microphone to use while singing the duet for Dino’s theme song “It’s Time to Go to Dino’s (Backstage).”