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Maurice W. Shinners, who ran dinner theater, dies at 78

Maurice W. Shinners, who ran the landmark Showboat Dinner Theatre for some 20 years, has died at 78.

Mr. Shinners, who retired as producer and president of the Showboat in 1987, died Monday (Nov. 18, 2002) at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater. He had cancer, his son, Paul, of Clearwater, said Tuesday.

"It was the most successful dinner theater in the United States," his son said. "He was responsible for being the first and the most successful in bringing in big-name stars to dinner theaters. It was really his claim."

In its prime during the 1970s and 1980s, the Showboat was a theater to be reckoned with, a leader among several professional dinner theaters in the Tampa Bay area for what was called the "beef and board" trade.

People dressed up for big nights out at the theater to see glamorous personalities such as Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour and Myrna Loy.

A massive paddlewheeler shaped building on Ulmerton Road, the Showboat had one last big production in 1995 when its contents were auctioned to help recover about $60,000 in back rent and property taxes. Although no longer part of the theater, Mr. Shinners was on hand for the auction.

"This is like old home week," he said as he chatted with former staffers and performers, friends and associates near the spot by the front door where he always stood to greet patrons.

Mr. Shinners was born in Chicago and served in the Marine Corps in World War II. He moved his family to Florida in 1956. He lived in Clearwater.

His wife, Alice, died in 1995. In addition to Paul Shinners, survivors include sons Craig, of Dallas, and Mark, of Los Angeles; a brother, James, of Daytona Beach; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes, Belcher Road Chapel, 693 Belcher Road, Clearwater.

_ Information from Times files was used in this obituary.