Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom - Act VIII: John Perrault

Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents

1899 - 1999

A Broken Heart

At least one press report from the past described the dress code enforced by former Casino owner John Dineen as "Draconian." This means that it was restrictive to the point of being painful. Dineen was a former FBI agent when he acquired the club in the 1940s, and it is rumored that he made band leader Tommy Dorsey put his jacket back on after Dorsey had removed it during one particularly hot night on the beach.

At least Dorsey got inside the Casino. Not so with John Perrault, a Portsmouth lawyer who has also carved out a busy niche for himself playing folk music all over the Seacoast.

John Perrault

John Perrault, Portsmouth lawyer
and folk singer, has opened for national
acts at the Hampton Beach Casino.
[Photograph by Ralph Morang.]

In 1959, Perrault was a star struck teenager whose main goal one night was to see the Kingston Trio. Although it's hard to realize today, the Kingston Trio, with their famous Ivy League College look, was just about the hottest ticket in the country at that time. And Perrault, who was a senior at Biddeford High School, was going to see them no matter what.

"I came down with my best buddy and my cousin and my sister," he recounts. "We had our high school sweaters with us. Oh, we were so excited."

Before the show they went and got some fried clams and then the boys split with the girls, leaving Perrault and his buddy to go into the concert by themselves.

"We were really excited" as they waited in line "but then someone pulled us aside and said you can't go in there," remembers a laughing Perrault. The problem was they had no suit coat. So the two went back to the car to get their sweaters, which they felt were dressy enough, but found the car was locked. His sister or cousin had the key, he can't remember which.

"We went into a local shop and got a coathanger to break into the car," Perrault recalls. And then things got a little bit worse.

"The cops came."

It took all their verbal prowess to convince the police they weren't actually breaking into a car. Well, they were, but; in any case. They were able to get their sweaters. Perrault picks up the story: "We go back in and the same guy looks at us and says, 'Those don't count.' We tried to convince him that the sweater suffices. We were panicky."

Still didn't get in.

"We were out of our minds crazy to see Kingston Trio. We could hear the concert starting. Hear the screaming," recounts Perrault. "And we have the tickets."

However, the Dineen dress code stuck. Dejected, they sold the tickets outside the Casino. Perrault and his cousin then sat on the bleachers in the back and listened to the concert outside.

"I did see the Kingston Trio six months later in Boston," says Perrault. "I wore a jacket."

Perrault, who has also played at the Casino three times during his long career here on the Seacoast, went back and did see, among other acts at the Casino, Louis Armstrong. "This could have been the same summer I went to see the Kingston Trio. I saw Louis Armstrong with a small combo. The thing I most remember about the concert were the solos," remembers Perrault.

He also remembers that Armstrong had "a pile of white linen handkerchiefs on the piano. He had on a dark blue suit, with a white shirt, starched. I could see all of this from the bottom of the stage. I got there early and my jacket on" - that again - "and it was just unbelievable."

Perrault has played the Casino three times, with Jonathan Edwards, folk singer Tom Chapin, and Emmylou Harris.

And what is his overall impression of going to a concert at the Casino?

"Just going in and seeing a performer going on stage and electrifying the audience," Perrault says with a smile. "To me it was just a like a shot of something good."

The last movie to play at the Hampton Beach Casino was Steven Spielberg's "E.T. - The Extraterrestrial" in 1982.
Back to previous section -- Forward to next section -- Return to Table of Contents