Lorraine Arsenault Interview
(Three Rivers Inn)
It was the Premiere Showcase of Central New York that played host to the Biggest
Stars of the day.
The club was called Three Rivers Inn and was located just outside of Syracuse,
Some of the stars who performed there include Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, Bobby
Darin, Jimmy Durante, Al Martino, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Jayne Mansfield,
Frankie Laine, Sammy Davis Jr. and the list goes on and on and on.
Dom Bruno owned Three Rivers Inn and has passed on, but, his niece Lorraine
Arsenault has written a book about Three Rivers Inn and other memories of
growing up in Central New York.
Titled “The Long Run Home”, it’s published by Foothills
Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona, New York 14856. Website: foothillspublishing.com
Q – Lorraine, before there was Dom Bruno’s
Three Rivers Inn, there was Dom Bruno’s White Elephant in Canastota.
You mention 2 acts that performed at The White Elephant-----Perry Como and
Vaughn Monroe. Who else performed there?
A – The Fontaine Sisters and Johnny Ray were the big celebrities remembered
off-hand. They often left Canastota, for New York City by train at 2am after
their performances. The train station was a block from The White Elephant.
My aunt (Dom Bruno’s wife) remembers the image of The Fontaine Sisters
many pieces of luggage piled high on the cart outside the station. Local talent
like The Tosti Trio from Rome ( New York) also performed.
Q – What was on the property before your Uncle
opened Three Rivers Inn?
A – The property was a nightclub. I believe it may have called The Three
Rivers Inn. My Aunt remembers that Doc Sommers owned it. On an outing with
her bowling friends, she went to Doc Sommers Inn to see Tony Bennett when he
(Bennett) was starting out. She believes that may have been 1953 or so.
Q – How did your Uncle know that the public would
travel outside of Syracuse to the entertainment he presented?
A – My Uncle was an Entrepreneur-----First Class!! I think he thought
if he could “build it”, they would come. He traveled to many places-----from
Texas to Cuba: from California to Florida; from New York City to Europe. He
never expressed a desire to move out of the area. Instead he wanted Central
New York to grow. He wanted to bring to his home base what he experienced elsewhere.
I think he believed the public here deserved a First Class entertainment experience.
Q – Did your Uncle have a background in Show business
A – My Uncle, along with my father and their siblings grew up raising
onions on the muck outside the village of Canastota. My Uncle went into the
CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps.) in the 1930’s. Traveling around the
country, he learned about the idea of placing jukeboxes in dance halls and
taverns. After the CCC, he did establish a small route of jukeboxes. When he
went into the Army during World War II he left that route to his brother to
manage. After the War, along with the jukeboxes, he and my father ran the Georgetown
Inn, in Georgetown, New York. They hired entertainment to perform there on
weekends. They brought friends from Canastota to dance with the locals in Georgetown.
When they used to tell the story, it always sounded like a party not to be
Q – Just how expensive was it to launch Three Rivers
A – That’s a tough question to answer. The Inn grew in stages.
When my Uncle purchased the original structure he traded a house in Miami Springs
for it. I have the original mortgage papers for that house which showed my
Uncle borrowed $6,000 in 1953 to buy it. I don’t know the value of it
in 1955, when the trade took place. The original structure of the Inn was added
onto 4 or 5 times.
Q – I’ve heard the story that Frank Sinatra
offered to play Three Rivers Inn for 50% of the total House revenue, that
includes the price of admission, food and drinks, and your Uncle turned him
down. Is that true?
A – My Uncle would have done anything to have (had) Frank Sinatra play
The Rivers. But, the fact was, Sinatra was Big then. He played the Big venues,
Vegas, Atlantic City. The story I grew up with is that during the Kennedy years,
when Sammy Davis Jr. played the Rivers, it was rumored that Frank Sinatra might
visit him. They were part of the famous Rat Pack. I believe Peter Lawford came
to the Rivers, but to my family’s knowledge Sinatra never showed.
Q – You write in your book, “Mae West was
the first headliner of significance at the original Three Rivers Inn and
that was in 1956”. Three Rivers opened in what year? Who were some
of the acts that performed there prior to 1956?
A – My Aunt tells me The Three Rivers opened in 1955. When we were talking
about this today, she told me a little side story, that Mickey Haggerty was
Mae West’s bodyguard. Mickey Haggerty’s daughter Melissa Haggerty,
is one of the actresses on “L.A. Law”. My Aunt also told me that
The McGuire Sisters appeared at the Inn that first year.
Q – On Page 42 of your book you write that Paul
Anka was booked for 10 days at Three Rivers Inn in June of 1960. You had
a Junior-Senior Picnic at Green Lakes and your cousin Ronnie drove Paul Anka
to Green Lakes. Did Paul Anka get out of the car and go to the area where
your classmates were, to meet and greet them and sign autographs?
A – I was only in Junior High at the time of that picnic. Paul Anka indeed
got out of the car and participated in the picnic, rowing one of the boats
around Green Lakes, sitting on the beach with Ron’s classmates and enjoying
the refreshments. There are photos to document the beach scene. Paul Anka was
just another teenager that day, albeit a famous one.
Q – You write, “The Paul Anka Trilogy, ‘Puppy
Love’, ‘All of A Sudden’, and ‘What A Time To Cry’,
are specific to Three Rivers Inn”. What do you mean by that?
A – I mean that those stories in particular are specifically about the
Three Rivers Inn experience and my infatuation at the time with teen idol Paul
Q – Are you saying that Paul Anka was inspired
to write those songs based on his experience at Three Rivers Inn?
A – No. I believe those songs were written before Paul Anka performed
at the Inn.
Q – Did The Beatles and The British Invasion put
an end to Supper Clubs such as Three Rivers Inn?
A – I don’t know if The Beatles did that. I think a lot of factors
played into it. Entertainment became too expensive to hire. Celebrities of
note tended to play the larger venues where they could maximize the audience
and their pocket books and minimize performance time.
Q – When the original Three Rivers Inn burned down
in December 1973, why wasn’t it re-built in the same place? Why did
your Uncle move the club to a shopping mall? What was the thinking behind
that, do you know?
A – I saw tears in my Uncle’s eyes after the fire. He had put his
whole heart into that club. He moved the club to the Three Rivers Shopping
Plaza because he and my father owned that real estate. There was space there
already in existence.
Q – Was it ever determined what caused that fire?
A – I remember that my Uncle was told it was electrical. The Inn was
added on to many times by many different workers.
Q – Lorraine, do you believe we’ll ever see
the glory days of clubs like Three Rivers Inn again?
A – It is hard to speak for the future, but, I am inclined to go with
Ecclesiastes. “For every thing there is a season, and a time for every
purpose under the heaven”.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved