Wednesday, May 24, 2017

P. Martin, Erik Paulsen and More

CHRIS HEDGES CLASS, GREAT
The students’ participation today was memorable in Prof. Tapp’s class on Chris Hedges book, “Unspeakable.”  Several of us spoke about getting involved in local school district elections to identify possible candidates who want to revise history with their “special” books.  Tapp teaches in the U of M OLLI program. 

PAULSEN’S DELIRIUM 
Monday night on his “telephone town hall” Rep. Erik Paulsen made the outlandish statement that Republicans and Democrats agree on the major tenets in the tax reform bill.  But according to published reports the Democrats remain skeptical, oppose net tax cuts and will resist proposals that mostly benefit high-income households,
Listeners were asked to submit questions but Paulsen rattled on incessantly about the FBI Russian probe to visiting police chiefs from Minnesota in one breath.  
Paulsen spoke to a class at Chaska High School recently and one of the students summarized the talk in a letter to the Star-Tribune.  Here’s part of what Mackenzie Herring wrote:
“I am a senior at Chaska High School. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen visited. His answers to students’ questions had a prevailing and troubling theme. He was asked about not hosting town hall meetings, lack of women in Congress, actions to protect against hate speech, and the recent GOP health care bill. Paulsen would acknowledge the point, but then deflect the intent of the question to find a way to criticize the Obama administration.”

PATRICK MARTIN FOR CITY COUNCIL
Bloomington was founded by Europeans and American Indians in a spirit multi cultural cooperation and that spirit should be revived, City Council candidate Patrick Martin said Tuesday night at a meeting of Bloomington’s Progressive Issues group.
A fundraiser for non-profits, Martin seeks to bring aggressive programs to east Bloomington with problems that no longer should be ignored.  Outreach programs are needed to reach e east side residents don’t speak English and seniors ill poor health.  Lack of public transportation, affordable housing are other vexing issues.

Martin has done research and approaches these challenges with a solid background in the dynamics of communities coming together to improve lives of residents.

Friday, May 19, 2017

MAGAZINE PUBLISHES TERRACE THEATRE FEATURE


Robinnsdale’s Historic Terrace Theatre is featured in Classic Images (#504) June 2017 issue, pp. 44-45, with photos and other art work.  
“Terrace Theatre, One of America’s Finest,” was written by David Zarkin, Bloomington, a former writer for United Press International, Idaho Daily Statesman and University of Minnesota.  

To order this issue of the magazine, contact Classic Images, Carol Peterson, 563-262-0539 or carol.peterson@muscatinejournal.com

AMERICA’S FINEST THEATER REMEMBERED by David Zarkin
Minnesotans for more than a year have been sharing movie-going memories and celebrating one of the nation’s outstanding mid century modern design movie theaters, the Terrace in suburban Robbinsdale.
“Few, if any, Twin Cities movie theaters ever attracted the kind of national attention that the Terrace received when it opened in 1951,” Dave Kenney wrote in his book, Twin Cities Picture Show.  The theater was demolished in early October by the property owner to make way for a Hy-Vee grocery store.
The Terrace Theatre, which was vacated 16 years ago and changed ownership several times, was a beacon to the community with a high tower topped by lighted letters that spelled out Terrace.  Looking more like a church than a movie house, the Terrace was a community gathering place where residents came together in this mid century modern building that set Robbinsdale apart from lager suburbs that were littered with dreary strip malls.
The Terrace Theatre was the vision of businessmen William and Sidney Volk, orphaned immigrant children who came to Minneapolis from Lithuania in the early 1920s.  Sidney attended the University of Minnesota and wanted to go to medical school but couldn’t afford  the tuition, said his niece Barbara Sidley.  
By the 1930s the brothers were well established Twin Cities movie exhibitors looking to make a big splash by building the Riverview Theater in 1949 near the Mississippi River in a residential neighborhood.  The Riverview was later remodeled to incorporate many of the modern design elements of the Terrace and remains a popular destination for Twin Cities moviegoers who want to enjoy the latest exhibition technology at bargain prices.
Architectural magazines raved about the Riverview, Will Hertz reported March 3, 1949 in the Minneapolis Tribune, while the brothers were building “the theater of tomorrow” in Robbinsdale.  Realizing that television was taking a toll on movie attendance in the late 1940s, the Volks recruited imaginative architects Liebenberg and Kaplan to design a modern unique space age movie house that would give Minnesotans compelling reasons to leave their comfortable living rooms. 
When the Terrace opened in 1951 showing Father’s Little Dividend,  the theater’s newspaper ad boasted that this new theater has “two spacious well furnished nursery rooms, special loge sections for ultra comfort, staggered seating for better vision, 100 percent temperature conditioner and the largest theater in the great Northwest with 1,300 seats.”
Volk brothers’ great grandnephew David Sidley said as a child going to the Terrace he was surprised to find a TV lounge on the side of the foyer which seemed out of place in a movie theater.  Boxoffice magazine on Aug. 4, 1951, reported that the TV lounge “gets a steady play from patrons who become perfect prospects for soft drinks and snacks served from the bar.”  Barbara Sidley, the Volk brothers’ niece, said the Terrace was the first theater to sell hot dogs in addition to popcorn and other refreshments.
Going to the Terrace was like coming home.  The theater featured a sunken lounge with a copper-hooded fireplace and a redwood smoking lounge was provided in the men’s room.  “Unique features included three garage stalls in the basement, a system of dumbwaiters serving the candy counter and coke bar, spacious refreshment storage rooms and two large private offices.  The theater tops a rise overlooking a surrounding portion of the countryside set with several of the sparkling lakes for which the region is famous,” Boxoffice reported.  
Years before the theater closed in 1999, it was divided into three screens, but competition from nearby suburban multiplexes sealed the fate of the space age modern building.  David Leonhardt of Robbinsdale worked at the theater where he met his future wife Alyssa and most recently headed a group that sought to preserve the building.  He and others encouraged developers  to incorporate  the theater in their plans for the site. 
“Everybody in Robbinsdale or from Robbinsdale has some kind of an emotional connection to the Terrace,” said Diane Jacobson, president of the Robbinsdale Historical Society. “It was the showplace of the town.”  
Efforts were underway before the demolition to list the theater on the National Registry of Historic Places and May 23, 2016, was declared “Historic Terrace Theatre Day” honoring the 65th anniversary of America’s finest movie house.
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

MEMOIRS, LOS ANGELES AND SPOKANE

UPI/NBC NEWS HOLLYWOOD
Side splitting hilarious is the 1971 teen fanzine “Spec” which must be short for spectator. My friend Babs gave me this rag and it brought back memories of my very short stay at the UPI Hollywood International Bureau in 1963 in the Los Angeles Mirror Building. 

UPI frankly didn’t know what to do with me so they shuffled me off to the Hollywood desk where I worked with a young woman who was a student in broadcasting at USC. One of her instructors was John Thompson who she referred me to and that bit of kindness landed me a job as a go-for editorial assistant at NBC News where Thompson was news director. (He was later fired for some improprieties; the details escape me.)
Working on the Hollywood desk got me out of firing range of Vernon Scott’s paper torpedoes. REMEMBERING UPI’s VERNON SCOTT
Paul Scorvino portrays United Press International Hollywood reporter Vernon Scott in 1964 in the Warren Beatty movie “Rules Don’t Apply.”  I worked with Scott at UPI in the Los Angeles Times Building on Spring Street in the summer of 1963after completing Coast Guard boot camp.
Scott was manic at times, throwing waded up balls of copy paper at me across the office that he would rip out of his typewriter in the course of knocking out his column.
“Rules” deals with an eccentric billionaire corporate deal maker who may be crazy and fears that his enemies may want to lock him away in an insane asylum.  Sound familiar?
More than a movie about Howard Hughes, it’s about “sexual puritanism in the late 1950s.”  Much of the story may be fictional but the character “Mamie” could be Mamie Van Doren who Hughes discovered at the Miss Palm Springs beauty contest and cast in “Jet Pilot.”  Ms. Van Doren was not acquainted with sexual puritanism, according to her autobiography.

I definitely was not up to the challenge of fabricating a piece on Ricky Nelson who was recently married to Mark Harmon’s sister and they were expecting their first born. These features were distributed by mail to newspapers worldwide. Since the Nelsons did not allow interviews, I needed to make up something benign out of thin air. I had difficulty rewriting a news release let alone make up some garbage about them shopping for strollers and diapers. As if I really cared. I did a quick count from the marriage date to when the little cherub was due and said to my coworker, “there’s our story.” She was not amused. I did not last long at Hollywood UPI.

BOWL & PITCHER

Nestled in the bends of the Spokane River amongst the huge rock formations was the heavenly Bowl and Pitcher Park where we celebrated July 4th with cap guns and a picnic.  It was a kid’s wonderland which I looked forward to every summer until we got the lake cabin which was a different kind of July 4 .

Although Gramps didn’t observe dietary laws, he avoided eating pork.  And Mom warned us kids that we weren’t to say anything about the canned pork and beans.  So at the picnic I left slip that  I wasn’t supposed to say anything about the p-o-r-k.  We had a good laugh about that one.


The park was down river from the famous Natatorium Amusement Park where summer brought rides on the Jack Rabbit and dodgem cars.  I also lived the “nut house” fun in he dark ride and the Merry Go Round with the huge clown’s head where you could throw the silver rings.  I was too nervous to grab for the brass ring which would bring you a free ride.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

YET ANOTHER BAD ONE, THE ROOM


“THE ROOM” — PERFECT DATE MOVIE
“You drive me crazy.  Don’t worry about it, I still love you,” whines Tommy Wiseau as the romantic lead in the midnight cult classic “The Room” playing once a month at the Uptown.  The DVD is more rewarding wherein an interviewer interrogates Wiseau, a middle age freaky no talent with a German accent and a Tiny Tim wig.  This contemporary Orson Welles credits his success to “meticulous planning.”

“This is getting worse and worse,” one of the actors observes and after few minutes of this soft core porn mess I couldn’t agree more.  Wiseau is not only the romantic lead but also the writer, producer and distributor of “The Room.”  In Wiseau’s film, actors open and close doors frequently, interspersed with some nudity.  

Guys in tuxedo’s toss a football around in a scene reminiscent of the charging buffaloes in Ed Wood’s “Glen or Glenda.”  Cutaway shots are frequent and out of context.  

This is a “weekend movie” where an erstwhile director rents a camera and assembles a few drunken friends to “act” in his apartment.
In this era where incompetent people aspire to high profile positions it’s no wonder Wiseau has achieved some notoriety.  In fact, the quirkish actor James Franco plans to make a biopic on Wiseau and “The Room.”

Is this worth staying up till midnight and paying $8 at the Uptown?  Probably not. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Recommended Movies, TV May 2017

GREATEST FILMS
Of the 100 “America’s greatest films” on the AFI list, I own 15.  Three are on DVD and the others are VHS. http://www.filmsite.org/afi100filmsA.html

3 FALLEN LADIES
“I like the world better drunk than sober,” says Madame X played by Lana Turner in the 1966 Universal tear-jerker of the same name.  Words  to live by in the tragic world of scorned film women also portrayed in “Stella Dallas” and “Rain.”  
Bring Kleenex to the climatic death scene with X and her “son” in the jail cell.  For “Stella Dallas,” you’ll also need tissue as a forlorn Barbara  Stanwyck  stands on the sidewalk behind the fence’s iron bars as she watches her daughter’s wedding.  (Imprisoned by her imprudent ways.)
The defining scene in “Rain” comes at the end when Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson dressed for barroom rendezvous with torch music blaring shows no remorse at the untimely demise of the Rev. Davidson.  

Take note of the similar slutty costumes for both Stanwyck and Crawford and Turner’s transformation from glamour queen to bag woman is amazing.  -  Zarkin

YOU KNOW DORIS
If you live in the Midwest you have to know at least one or more Doris — people who have put their lives on hold and don’t know why.   “Hello, My Name is Doris” with Sally Field as Doris and Max Greenfield as the object of her desires, is a provocative dramedy,  
Max was born in 1980, almost 20 years after Ms. Field’s sitcoms were airing on TV.  The key scene in the movie is when she is removing her makeup.  You either cry or laugh.
There’s no Hollywood ending for Doris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6vBnnryIug

RED SCARE
The PBS documentary deals with the 1930s when the Communist Party was most active in the U.S.  Great concentration of wealth and unskilled laborers demanding higher pay and better working conditions were prominent issues then.  Sound familiar?  Compelling viewing.   www.americanreds.com

WHILE YOU SLEPT
Matronly Gertrude Berg sews the loose buttons on strangers clothing while she dispenses unsolicited grandmotherly advice in the sitcom “Mrs. G. Goes to College.”  What’s supposed to be hilarious about this ill-advised TV show is the idea that a granny might want to further her education.  
Well, it’s happening everywhere now through the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota, UC Riverside, Boise State University and more.  Seniors take non-credit classes on campus, at community centers and senior residence communities.

WHILE YOU SLEPT
Matronly Gertrude Berg sews the loose buttons on strangers clothing while she dispenses unsolicited grandmotherly advice in the sitcom “Mrs. G. Goes to College.”  What’s supposed to be hilarious about this ill-advised TV show is the idea that a granny might want to further her education.  
Well, it’s happening everywhere now through the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota, UC Riverside, Boise State University and more.  Seniors take non-credit classes on campus, at community centers and senior residence communities.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

REMEMBERING RADIO

RADIO, A KID’S BEST FRIEND
“I am the Whistler and I know many things for I walk by night.  I know many strange tales hidden in the hearts of men and women who have stepped into the shadows.  Yes I know the nameless terrors of which they dare not speak.”

With the lights off every Sunday night on KXLY CBS I would get creeped out listening to my Sears Roebuck little radio in bed.  Signal Oil Co. was the sponsor and the intro theme was whistled by Dorothy Roberts, according to “The Big Broadcast 1920-50.”  Yes the Whistler could give you nightmares so don’t tell Mom.  I should have been sleeping but who could sleep with the Whistler on.

Old time radio was the drug of choice for kids and Spokane, in fly over land, was spared television’s introduction until 1953.  So at an age when I could appreciate radio drama I was into it with CBS, MBS, NBC and ABC.

Sunday afternoon was big with the Mutual Mysteries:  The Shadow and Nick Carter, not to be missed. With “Inner Sanctum” and “Gangbusters” there was no reason to leave the radio.


I actually participated in a radio play reading when I toured the BBC on Regent St. in London in 1998.  The Brits in the tour insisted on doing a western which was a strange choice, I thought.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

LALA LAND, SO. AFRICA, HOPKINS MANN

HOLLYWOOD IN SOUTH AFRICA
“Untamed” is a Fifties romanticized Hollywood whitewash of the “taming” of the native African continent by whites.  It’s best to cheer when a Zulu heaves a spear that lands in the chest of an unwelcome white.  

A related documentary in 1993 is worth a look: “In Darkest Hollywood:  Cinema and Apartheid.”

DIM IMAGES AT CINEPLEX
At the Mann Hopkins yesterday for “LaLa Land” we experienced a very dim image on the screen which makes us think that Mann is trying to save a few nickels on electricity.  If you were home you would select “dynamic” on the remote.
This has happened elsewhere, including the AMC Rosedale.  But the Riverview is consistently brilliant.

LALA LAND REVISITED
A good reason to revisit this movie is the argument between the two leads about whether she should accompany him on a gig in Boise.  Having been a Boise resident, I appreciated the humor in that.  Also watch for the symbolism about the importance of taking the right exit ramp from the freeway (of life.)  
Cues about the retro life in the arts community include the references to the Rialto Theater (So. Pasadena) and the audio cassette deck in Ryan’s Olds.
The ending is reminiscent of Bogart and Bergman in “Casablanca” and dancing on the stars is from the MGM Fifties musical “Lovely to Look At” which is a lame remake of the RKO hit “Roberta.”