Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Diving back into history may be delightful or dismaying. KNKX's Nick Morrison delivers a daily dose of it with his signature humor and skepticism. Here's what happened on this day.

March 6: A beloved opera bombs and The Millionair Club opens

Martin Johanson sweeping steps at The Millionair Club, ca. 1925.
Staff Photographer, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
University of Washington, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Martin Johanson sweeping steps at The Millionair Club, ca. 1925.

MARCH 6 — Yes, today’s a big day for opera-lovers. It’s the day that, in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi debuted La Traviata, one of the world’s most beloved operas, at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy. Because of its great popularity today, it’s a bit stunning to learn that at its debut, it bombed.

There were, let us say, "casting issues" that made it impossible for some audience members to suspend disbelief and they gave immediate voice to their feelings as the show was in progress. This was back in the days when opera fans were apparently a bit more like today’s soccer crowd.

After that performance, Verdi took his opera and went back to the drawing board. When he re-debuted it a year later with a new cast, the audience bought it hook, line and sinker and a classic was born.

Here’s the drinking song from La Traviata, with subtitles. Cheers.

On this day in 1921, Martin Johanson, a real-estate agent with a heart of gold, opened the doors to what he called The Millionair Club in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, with the goal of providing food, services and job opportunities to the homeless and unemployed. He called it "The Millionair Club" because, he said, helping people who were down on their luck made him feel like a millionaire. However, he dropped the ‘e’ in ‘millionaire’ to keep it from seeming at first glance as if it were a prosperous men’s club. (Little chance of that, seeing as how it was located in a Skid Row-adjacent basement on 1st and Main.)

In 1941, The Millionair Club moved to its long-time home on Western Avenue in Belltown and continued to expand its services to those who needed them. According to, as late as 2014, “with less than 20 staff members and scores of volunteers, the building opened at 6:30 a.m. daily and welcomed 400 people on weekdays for hot breakfasts and lunches.”

In 1973, Mayor Wes Ulman named Martin Johanson as ‘Seattle’s First Citizen.’ Johanson served as the Millionair Club executive director for fifty-three years, retiring in 1974.

And the Millionair Club is still a Seattle resource. In 2020 it was renamed Uplift Northwest and continues in the spirit that Martin Johanson exhibited and intended.

Nick began working at KNKX as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KNKX’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KNKX’s jazz and blues programs.