AE Pickard

Eccentric millionaire

 BILL CROUCH continues the saga of the man who owned the theatre where Stan Laurel made his stage debut in 1907 

After 1910 Pickard began a gradual process of switching the Panopticon over to the new medium of film shows, interspersed with live acts. The museum and zoo remained open for business. Pickard’s bizarre approach to advertising is evident in this 1914 photograph of the Trongate where his large posters say

‘Worst advertised show in the world’ 

and below that

‘The only freak museum in Britain’.

Gradually it became evident that film was the most effective and profitable medium. Cinemas began to take the place of the old type of amusement, and auditorium audiences began to diminish. 

Pickard, because of his shrewd business sense, was able to build up a circuit of theatres and cinemas .

He continued to promote himself by making gestures in the grand manner. At the opening of his Norwood Cinema in the 1930s he rushed at the entrance with a giant prop, a huge crowbar, to open the doors.

The reopening of his Seamore Cinema in 1926 was accompanied by the snappy slogan - ‘You’ll see more at the Seamore’. - indeed you would. Inside the large auditorium were a series of ceiling paintings of female nudes in various shapes and sizes!

Cinemas were being purpose built rather than adapted theatres like the Panopticon, which by 1922 was primarily a cinema but with variety acts. 

The waxworks and Panopticon did not survive the depression of the 1930s. They were both victims of a change in public taste.

Pickard transferred ownership of the Panopticon to his son Peter in 1935 and by 1938, when it was no longer profitable, it was sold to a tailoring company, Weaver to Wearer. 

Pickard made most of his wealth on land speculation, buying and demolishing decaying properties to sell the sites for development. He built up a very large portfolio of housing, commercial properties and real estate.

In 1938 The Sunday Post reported that Mr Pickard was leaving Glasgow for a time to visit America and quipped...

 

“Unlike another famous comedian, Mr Pickard does not belong to Glasgow. Nevertheless, Glasgow belongs to him, or at least as much of it, temporarily, doesn’t belong to somebody else.”

The article called him ‘Glasgow’s leg-puller‘- but everything he did was aimed at winning publicity for his ventures.

He was one of Scotland’s greatest showmen, a flamboyant business man and perhaps the last of Glasgow’s great ‘characters’ who brightened the Glasgow scene for many, many years.

He died, aged 90, as a result of a fire at his home at Belhaven Terrace in the city’s West End, and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance of the Western Necropolis.

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