Photo of the filmmaker, a man with a red Mohawk, wearing a black T-shirt with a yellow "radiation symbol" graphic. He is sitting on an organ bench in front of a 3-manual console outfitted with multiple touch screens running virtual pipe organ software.

Meet the Filmmaker

Greetings, all. I wanted to share a little bit about why I’m doing this project. My name is Bob Richardson. I’m a videographer and occasional web/app developer in Portland, Oregon. I’m also a bit of an organ nerd – as the photo above readily demonstrates.

In 1973, when I was just 4 years old, my parents took me to a new restaurant experience which, at the time, I didn’t realize was quite unlike any other in the world! I was instantly hooked, and through the 70’s and into the mid-80’s, we dined there dozens of times (I would often literally beg to go).

I was off to college in the late 80’s, and didn’t get a chance to visit the Organ Grinder much. In 1996, when I heard it was closing, I hoodwinked two friends into driving 100 miles with me through a snowstorm to experience it one last time.

I always wondered – how did it come to be, and what happened to it in the end? In mid-2023, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Organ Grinder’s opening, there were press accounts about the state of the building, which got me interested again. There was also a 50th anniversary concert to benefit music programs at Cleveland High School. I went, and saw a number of the original Organ Grinder performers. The founder was also there.

Since then, I’ve been a major pest to all involved (OK, a gentle nudge), asking them to tell their stories. The co-founder of the Organ Grinder, Dennis Hedberg (the man who built the organ and later owned the place outright, but that’s just part of the story) shared all he knows, and made his extensive archive available to the project. Other original people have come forward as well and we will be conducting many interviews in the coming months.

It turns out there is much to this story that most people don’t know, and some facts and incidents that have never been told. My goal is to put it all together into one film that enlightens, entertains, and synthesizes all the wacky coincidences and moments of drama and color into a fun but accurate story.

This is where YOU come in… the complete story involves the patrons and fans who loved this place (or hated it!) and all that goes with it. I want to hear about first dates, playing hooky, hiding terrified under a table, did you meet the monkeys, all of it!

Thanks for reading, I look forward to what comes next.

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