A new documentary about Charlie’s Place is in the works and will tell the story of the historic music venue that hosted performances by the likes of Billie Holiday and Marvin Gaye.
South Carolina ETV, the state’s public broadcasting channel, will produce the documentary. The channel announced the new program in a letter to the city of Myrtle Beach requesting a $10,000 grant for the project.
“The Charlie’s Place documentary and its broadcast on SCETV will complement the ongoing efforts of the City of Myrtle Beach to preserve Charlie Fitzgerald’s legacy and create a museum on the site of the Fitzgerald Motel,” Coby C. Hennecy, executive director of SCETV, wrote in the letter.
The documentary will chronicle both the highs of Charlie’s Place, as iconic black entertainers performed there, and the lows, like the 1950 attack on the club by the Ku Klux Klan. Betsy Newman, the Emmy-nominated producer on the project, said the story highlights South Carolina’s important place in the history of black music.
“It has so much,” Newman said. “It’s such a rich, rich story.”
Newman said SCETV is still fundraising from multiple sources for the project and that she hopes to start production soon. The program could highlight South Carolina history nationally if it is picked up by other public broadcasting stations, she said.
SCETV’s request came during a Tuesday morning workshop as 17 groups, ranging from the American Red Cross to the Rape Crisis Center to Sav-R-Cats, requested grants from the city. Requests for the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year totaled $508,250, eclipsing the budgeted amount of $150,000. City council will further discuss the requests at its budget retreat in March. The city has supported SCETV programs like “Carolina Chefs: Myrtle Beach” and “Big Band” in the past.
Herbert Riley of the Carver Street Economic Renaissance Corp. presented SCETV’s proposal Tuesday. He said that his group and the city are continuing to work on a plan that would convert the existing Fitzgerald Motel, the lodging that sat next to the now-demolished Charlie’s Place, into a museum. Myrtle Beach demolished half of the motel’s rooms last summer.
“It’s taking longer than we really wanted but that’s okay,” Riley said. “We’re moving slow, but sometimes you get it done right the first time.
Councilman Mike Chestnut, who Riley has credited with saving the motel’s remaining structure, said that the planners could have a presentation ready for city council to consider within the next few months.
“There are some meetings that are taking place and there is some planning that is taking place, and before we go out and say ‘Hey, this is what’s gonna happen,’ we want to make sure we’ve got all our ducks in a row and Is dotted and Ts crossed,” he said.