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Theater braces for Sledge-O-Matic

May 16, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

The historic Maryland Theatre, which banned popcorn because of the mess it creates, underwent extensive preparations Friday to protect it from Gallagher and his Sledge-O-Matic.

A crew of 10 used duct tape and 6,000 square feet of thick, black plastic to wrap the theater stage.

"The stage is wrapped in plastic just like a construction site," said Gallagher Tour Manager Bradley Pickel. "It's all for about the last 10 minutes of the show."

The crew also covered the first 12 rows of chairs in plastic bags and laid down old carpet over the theater's carpet runners.

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Pickel said the theater's plush seats should be well-protected, even if they hadn't been wrapped. "The people take most of the garbage," he said.

The crew also brought a truckload of props, including the original Sledge-O-Matic and a newer version. Both are more than a decade old. "He's kind of superstitious," Pickel said. "He won't use anything else."

The climax of his comedy act, Gallagher uses the hammer-like device to smash watermelons, fruit and other produce, showering the audience with debris.

Other props include a water squirter that will go about 10 rows back.

The crew also has been busy buying food to feed the Sledge-O-Matic. "We keep the local produce company in business for a couple of days," Pickel said.

Pickel and his staff will spend about an hour hosing down the tarp and wrapping up before loading up the props and plastic onto the tour's 30-foot truck for the next stop, in Richmond, Va.

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