Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More Politics

DARK MONEY
Dark money (from the Hubbards and Kochs) may have been involved in last week’s Twin Cities election but we won’t know until January due to Minnesota’s lax disclosure laws on political campaigns.
That was the headline from MinnPost writer Peter Callaghan who gave an informative post mortem on the election at today’s UofM OLLI Minneapolis Government class in United Methodist Church.
At least $40,000 of that “dark money” was left on the table when the St. Paul Police Federation’s smear campaign blew up in their face and they had to abandon a sinking ship.  Melvin Carter, the victim of the smear, handily won the election and the $40,000 that could have helped his opponent Pat Harris was never spent.

PNW NATIVE PETER CALLAHGAN
It was an OMG moment today in class when I learned that Peter Callaghan knew my boss at UPI Spokane, Bobbi Ulrich, when she was covering the State Legislature for the Oregonian.

Callaghan, now reporting for MinnPost, covered the State Legislature in Olympia for the Tacoma News Tribune, a respected Puget Sound newspaper. I worked for the very patient and understanding Ms. Ulrich in the summer and fall of 1962 when UPI was in the KXLY (CBS) Building on Main Street, Spokane.  Even though I was quite green, she said I could have covered the legislature for UPI but the draft was threatening and I enlisted the Coast Guard Reserve. 

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES
Two Netflix documentaries deal with “bad daddy” families, “One of Us” and Trump (BBC).  In the former, people separating from ultra orthodox Hasidic families suffer depression and chemical dependency in Brooklyn, NY.
The later sheds light on the Trump family starting with grandpa who ran brothels and beer halls for miners in the wild west.  His son, Frederick, offered his children the winners/losers dictum and you better be a winner.  This was not a fit for Donald’s older brother Fred who succumbed to alcoholism and worked as a pilot and then maintenance man in Trump Tower.
Both documentaries are disturbing but “One of Us” is a fitting counterpart for the movie “Fill in the Void” about the emotional turmoil a young girl suffers in having to marry her brother in law who she doesn’t love. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Darko, Star Creatures, Dakota Jazz, Music Man

DANNY DARKO
Forget about the parallel universe interpretation and just enjoy the commentary on middle class suburban Americana with religious fanatics, racism and more.  Our Danny is now on Netflix and worth a view. www.themoviegoer.com/donnie_darko.htm

HILARIOUSLY BAD
In comparison to Bruno VeSoto, Ed Wood Jr. would be George Lucas in the bad movie world.  VeSoto’s “Invasion of the Star Creatures” is a comedy of sorts which is derivative of “Queen of Outer Space” and “Teenagers from Outer Space.”  Not a promising start with cardboard sets and creature costumes from Kmart.

Nevertheless, it noteworthy for its total badness.

DAKOTA JAZZ
Much thanks to Pat Jorgensen and the rest of the Y Silver Sneakers gang for making Monday night memorable at the Dakota’s Southdale Y fund raiser.  Pat, particularly, after we got back to the Y dropped me off at the Edina Westin Hotel where I could get a cab home since my car was in the shop.
We were almost on the stage at the Dakota where St. Paul Peteson and the outstanding Stokley Williams on drums gave jazzy interpretations to such R&R classics as “The Letter” and “Let’s Stay together.”  
Dakota’s main courses are very meager but the deserts (apple cake) are humongous and tasty.  Dakota’s relatively new address in downtown isn’t up to the spaciousness we remember when I saw Peter Cincotti at their former locale in 2004, Bandana Square.
Thanks to the Y for providing a charter bus to downtown which makes the hassle of 35 W construction and the downtown traffic nightmare irrelevant.  www.dakotacooks.com

FIRST NIGHTERS
Gary Hudson and I now have reps as knowledgeable theater goers in the eyes of music director Anita Ruth.  Certainly Gary knows musicals but I do treasure “The Music Man” which was discussed in today’s UofM OLLI class.  The children, Amerilus and Winthrop played by Kate and Josh, were most entertaining in class today.  
Who knew that the Meredith Wilson classic would be a sell-out hit for Artistry this fall?  It crosses generations with a well written skript and songs you know.  I think in these troubled cynical times we are are receptive to a con man who seeks redemption and love. We’ve seen too much of the other kind of con man. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hollywoodland, City Council, Blood Bath

HALLOWEEN MOVIE FEST
Possibly inspired by the German expressionism pioneers, the drive-in movie “Blood Bath” is a very pretentious American International effort and worth a view.  A beach scene in this vampire thriller is styled after a Dali painting.
I almost stopped the DVD but said this is crazy enough to be entertaining.  Stars William Campbell and Sandra Knight.  It is in the Comet Channel rotation this month.

REAL ESTATE DILEMA
BLOOMINGTON — Nathan Coulter, my candidate for city council, last night at the forum admitted that he got backing from the real estate lobby to help in his campaign.  If you aren’t attending forums for city councils and school boards, start going now.
I have a long standing distaste for real estate agents and developers who hold public office because they don’t represent social justice issues.  This dates to my days as an Idaho Statesman local government reporter when I wrote an editorial saying the city should name a housewife to the Planning Commission because the architects and developers were setting the agenda.
In defense of Coulter he is campaigning for more responsive government and recognizes that “voices are not being heard.”  So let’s hope that the real estate endorsement is all “eyewash.”
Veteran council member Jack Baloga said the city should increase mailings of it’s newsletter from quarterly to monthly and I think that is a huge waste of tax payer dollars.  Information is now available on the city’s website.  
We need fresh ideas in city government and the candidate for the east side Peter Martin is exciting.  He agrees with me that plans for a new community center should be made with neighboring cities because there is a regional need for this facility.  Martin is a man to watch in Minnesota politics.
Shower down your take on local government. 

LOS ANGELES NOIR
One of the best of the new film noir is the 2006 “Hollywoodland” where Adrian Brody, Ben Afffleck and Diane Lane all give memorable performances.  Like “Sunset Boulevard,” this is a dark tale of desperate living in the Southland and no good comes from the struggle to survive.  

Did Superman TV star George Reeve commit suicide or was he murdered?  The question becomes irrelevant in this tale of deceit and disappointment.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

PALACE THEATER REBORN IN ST. PAUL


MOVIE HOUSE GHOSTS
The poster from this 1953 B horror movie must have been discovered at the Palace Theater by workers during the remodeling.  To go to the Palace is like digging up a grave — a chilling experience.  See the poster across from the bar in the lobby.

PALACE IS PITCH PERFECT
Even in nosebleed last balcony, the acoustics were perfect for Prairie Home Companion radio show live.  I don’t know how much of the younger audience for PHC appreciated that out of the ruins has come an artifact of a bygone era of vaudeville and much more.

SEE THE STAGE FROM THE LOBBY
The wall separating the auditorium from the lobby has been torn down, so beyond the huge bar you can see the stage and main floor at the Palace.  Emily King and Serena Brook were standout singers Saturday night at the Prairie Home show with MC Chris Thile who is a suitable replacement for Gary with blue grass and folk music prominently showcased.
BEAST IN MANHATTAN
Besides Trump another beast caused havoc in Manhattan in the 1953 scifi thriller “Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” with special effects by Ray Harryhausen.
About 20 minutes into this B&W epic, the beast nibbles on a lighthouse but you have to wait until the last 20 minutes of the movie where New York City residents, including a blind man, are trampled by the merciless dinosaur aroused from his/her sleep by the atomic bomb.
Rick Notch says “Them,” which is on the same disc, is a better film. 

FEELING ANTSY
Our casual acceptance of atomic bombs results in payback of biblical proportions in the 1954 thriller “Them!” where gigantic pantry ants devour people and buildings in Southern California.  
Edmund Gwen (Miracle on 34th St.) is the scientist who provides the narrative on the why and wherefore of the ant explosion while Fess Parker (Daniel Boone) plays a local gone loco over the bug epidemic.

Warner Bros. is the distributor which marks the transition from classic movies to drive in trash for the major Hollywood studios.  They don’t make ‘em like that anymore even with CGI. 


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS

Me with Huey helicopter at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley
VISIONS OF VIETNAM
Now is the teachable moment for Ken Burns’ massive Vietnam documentary on PBS with “lock & load” in the White House and the U.S. involvement extended again in Pakistan.
My Idaho fishing buddy and photo journalist Dave Frazier in his memoir, “Drafted! Vietnam in War and Peace,” said it succinctly:  “While there were . . . heroic acts on the part of American servicemen, it’s impossible  to claim much good came out of the war.  We didn’t stop communism, it didn’t rally the nation.  About 58,000 Americans died and millions had their lives altered because of the war.”

Like the lead character in “Full Metal Jacket,” Frazier was a public information rear echelon M.F.  He revisited Vietnam as a civilian several times.

REMEMBERING THE DRAGON LADY
Ken Burns’ documentary on the Vietnam War shows a news clip of the toxic Madame Nhu on her “goodwill tour” of the U.S.  Nhu was the wife of the South Vietnam security chief who was the brother of the corrupt S.V. president Diem.
The “dragon lady” brought her act to Los Angeles in 1963 when I was an editorial assistant at KNBC News.  Veteran reporter Bill Brown covered the volatile lady for KNBC while she was in the Southland. www.historynet.com/assassination-coup-madame-nhu.htm

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

EAST 38TH, OUR WALKING TOUR

Famous neighborhood residents are shown on this mural.  Prince attended Bryant Junior High School nearby where he was on the basketball team.

Last night several of us, some form the ‘burbs, walked through the East 38th St. area, an event sponsored by Preserve Minneapolis.  Here we saw a familiar injustice:  Government builds a freeway through a community of African American residents.  

East 38th Street has a reach cultural heritage where African Americans were entrepreneurs, clergy,  home builders and more.  The brick structures fronting this residential development are all that’s left from the stadium.

Destruction of Central High School was a political decision, replacing it with Green Elementary School.  Also the freeway went through this African American neighborhood where land values are less than elsewhere.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

DFL BOOTH AT VICTORIA ARTS FAIR

VICTORIA -- I joined Caver County DFL Chair Mary Leizinger Saturday Aug. 19 afternoon in greeting visitors to the Volksfest Craft Fair.  The monsoons subsided for a day to provide an ideal setting near a lake to meet local residents.  Mary charged me with registering new voters.  A life-long local Republican thanked Mary for giving the DFL visibility at a similar event.
This district has a promising candidate for the Legislature and may be a bit more blue now.
Victoria is west of Bloomington and near Prince's Paisley Park complex.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Motown DVD, Gene Wilder, 4th July, Gilda

First Friday July 4 @ Maxine's in St. Paul
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Young African American musicians are united with their roots in Motown R&B in the wonderful documentary about the Funk Brothers backup band, “Standing in the Shadows of Love.”  In DTS, this is a real treat.
Some of the artists include Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan and Montell Jordan with the legendary Martha Reeves providing a historical perspective.  It’s available on DVD and D-VHS from Artisan.  Like a rich desert, you can’t say no to this treat. 
GENE WILDER
My congregation asked me to do 45 minutes standup on Gene Wilder, but without an audio video presentation this would have been short and deadly.  So I bowed out.  To get Gene, you need  to see a scene with his blanket in “The Producers” or his summation on the ineptitude of adults in “Willy Wonka.”  
I lack skills to put together an audio video presentation with film clips.  I am sure there is an A&E Bio on Wilder worth a view. 
ALL ABOUT GILDA
Film noir historian Eddie Muller makes an interesting observation about the two male characters in the classic 1946 film “Gilda.”  So there may not be a femme fatale in what is commonly referred to as a film noir.  Check out the Criterion DVD interviews on “Gilda.”
4TH JULY

Bocce ball and root beer floats were the headliners Tuesday at the First Friday group picnic hosted by Maxine in suburban St. Paul.  I didn’t want to risk injuring anyone including myself by throwing bocce balls, a Minnesota tradition.  This BB@ is a tradition with Al, the hamburger chef.  Jesse and Sue were back from Arizona and Carol Berg continues to post on Facebook.

MY URBAN AFFAIRS COURSE

Race and Real Estate offered this summer for University of Minnesota OLLI scholars is the class I wish was offered in 1969 when I was a graduate student at the U of M.  I could have written about urban renewal in terms of racial discrimination and historic preservation in my star paper.
Dr. Brittany Lewis of the UM Center for Urban Affairs Thursday (July 6) drew a distinction between gentrification (bad) and revitalization (good.)  She also dispelled popular notions about “white proximity” as a model for community development.  
Shrinking availability for affordable housing for people of color is the issue I hope to pursue with the Bloomington Coalition on Affordable Housing.
Look for a Star Tribune feature this week byline Randy Furst on the U of M mapping prejudice project.
Derek Thompson has written in The Atlantic magazine that “ the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.
Lewis recommended the book, “How to Kill a City.”
More from Thompson:  “The Minnesota state legislature passed a law requiring all of the region’s local governments—in Minneapolis and St. Paul and throughout their ring of suburbs—to contribute almost half of the growth in their commercial tax revenues to a regional pool, from which the money would be distributed to tax-poor areas. Today, business taxes are used to enrich some of the region’s poorest communities.
Soon after publication of Thompson’s article, responses began appearing, challenging his evidence and arguing that Minneapolis’s success is not shared with its residents of color. A recent study by WalletHub, a personal-finance site, found that Minnesota has the largest racial poverty gap in the nation. Black residents in the Twin Cities live below the poverty line at a rate three times greater than that of white residents. Banks in the Twin Cities have been found to be nearly four times more likely to give high-income black residents subprime loans than their poor white counterparts. Minnesota consistently earns top national rankings for its students’ reading, math, and college-entrance exam scores, but it is one of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are of the worst states in the nation for non-white students. While the studies are fresh, the Twin Cities’ communities of color—where most of Minnesota’s non-white population resides—have known and lived with these disparities for much longer.

Today, the non-white population of the Twin Cities has grown to 20 percent. Affordable housing developments are concentrated in only a few pockets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, creating the ghettos that mid-20th century policies avoided so well. If growing racial inequalities are not addressed, Minneapolis could find itself as one of the nation’s poorest cities when it comes to racial politics and urban decline.

Monday, June 26, 2017

PRIDE EVENT, PIRATES OF PENZANCE

Frederic & Mabel, Pirates of Penzance 6/24/17
PENZANCE AT PRIDE WEEKEND
On a river island near downtown St. Paul Saturday the GLBT One Voice Mixed Chorus performed the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “Pirates of Penzance” in a gender-bending fashion.  A rain storm preceding the play didn’t dampen our spirits.  

Given the technical limitations of performing outdoors on a stage, Penzance was a delightful event; one of the most memorable of the summer.  The temp was in the low 60s; very unusual late June Day.

A giant chorus backed up the principal singers in Saturday’s Penzance performance on the Mississippi River, St. Paul.  This is the realization of the urban river as an attractive recreational resource, an idea being pursued by Boise City when I was a reporter there in the mid to late Sixties.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

3 For the Show, Shining, Teacher's Pet

“Three for the Show” (1955) is one of the best and sexiest of the 50s musicals.  Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon and Gower Champion are super.  I love the Swan Lake ballet with Marge Champion and the tropical/congo number is quite memorable.  I had my doubts about a Columbia musical but this one was worth the 15 cents at Goodwill I spent and even more!
Meanwhile, I bought a D Theater D VHS which (like advertised) won’t play on my VCR.  This is a totally phantom system.  What a discovery!

THE SHINING
Before they moved into the haunted hotel, Jack and Shelley were inadequate parents.  In the opening scene, the kid is engulfed in smoke from Shelley’s cigarette and soon we learn that Jack, when not working on his novel, is a drunken abuser.
So when all hell breaks loose in the Colorado mountains resort hotel, we don’t have much sympathy for the hapless couple.
Director Stanley Kubrick borrowed generously from wide angle techniques Gregg Toland used in RKO’s “Citizen Cane” so that everything is in focus in the long shots down the endless hallways to hell.
Reviews are dismissive of “The Shining” in Halliwell’s book, but audiences ate it up in 1980.  “Here’s Johnny!” 

GAY PRIDE 2017
Appropriate for the Gay Pride celebration underway today, I am reading Clive Jone’s autobiography, “When We Rise” where we learn how he rose from street hustler to a resourceful leader in the 1970s Gay Rights Movement.  
For those of us who didn’t live in California in the Seventies, there’s more than we need to know about local political figures in this book.  Jones can thank Milk for pressuring him to stay in college and get a degree.  He later achieved political prominence as an aide to a Democrat legislative leader.
Jones’ book would have benefited from economical editing.  The title is the basis for the ABC documentary which aired in February.  

JOURNALISM 101
When I was a teen watching “Teacher’s Pet” at Spokane’s Fox Theater with my friend Paul, little did I know in 1958 that I would pursue a journalism career.  Professional virgin Doris Day portrays the professor who uses the same overhead projector to critique students’ news writing that my instructor used in Journalism 101.  Gig Young is a college psychology professor who can’t hold his liquor.
Writers Fay and Michael Kanin crafted an insightful exposition on the importance of a college education for aspiring journalists.  It’s the “old pro versus the egghead” story and the later prevails.  The romance between Day and Clark Gable as the city editor is curious but then maybe Gable still had some fans from his Rhett Butler days 18 years earlier.

“Teacher’s Pet” is remembered for Mamie Van Doren’s torrid bump and grind in “Girl Who Invented Rock n’ Roll.”  Ms. Van Doren later got a college teaching appointment in Allied Artists’ comedy “Sex Kittens Go to College,” where a computer selects a stripper to head the mathematics department at a small college.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Monday, June 05, 2017

Sen. Franken, Poverty "Report"

Sen. Al Franken doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Instead he writes about simpletons like senators Ted Cruz and Tom Corbin and former senator Jeff Sessions in his new book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”  
Frankekn  was interview by Prof. Lady Jacobs Friday night at the Ted Mann Theater on the Minneapolis campus.  “Cruz is the guy who microwaves fish,” Franken said about the senator who annoys many people regardless of their political leanings. 

SAD MESS, REPORT ON POVERTY
MINNEAPOLIS — In a forum Monday night at the University of Minnesota, the School of Public Affairs asked: is a left-right bargain on poverty possible?  My answer:  NO.
The evening was saved by Federal Board Chair MayKao Hang, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation president and CEO.  She graciously pointed out to Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, and Robert Dour, American Enterprise Institute, that their two-year old report omitted any mention of racial discrimination.  (Ms. Hang is Asian American.)  Talk about ignoring the elephant in the living room!
Two of the whitest men on the planet, Haskins and Dour, pimped the “Opportunity, Responsibility and Security” report, to a large gathering in the Cowles Auditorium.
The usual platitudes about supporting early childhood education were voiced with the caveat that fears about our “national debt” precluded any progress.  In fact, Haskins stated the obvious, that Congress “does not want to spend money on universal pre-school.”
None of what was aired Monday night by the Brookings and AEI representatives would pass muster as credible academic research anywhere on the planet.  Also missing from this “study” is a mention of the concentration of wealth in this country and the educational needs of immigrant children.  
Sixteen, mostly white guys, gathered to prepare the poverty report but only 15 signed off on the finished document.  Other speakers were critical of the report but no one framed it as a patently offensive mess that wasn’t worthy of discussion. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

PERSONABLE DEAN PHILLIPS DEBUTS HIS ACT


EDINA — An overflow crowd Tuesday night at the Southdale Library Community Room heard Third District Congressional District candidate Dean Phillips in his first public presentation.  Thankfully it didn’t include a power point or the dreadful robot-like recitation that is so common with other politicians here.
Phillips, who owns a coffee shop and has managed his family’s foundation, has that “Wellstone-Franken” self-deprecating charm that served him well before a crowd that wasn’t always friendly.  It was evident in the way that he answered questions that he had done his homework.
Those that came to the meeting hoping for a lambasting of Trump and the incumbent Erik Paulsen must have left disappointed.  Phillips is not a hell raiser or spellbinder in the Humphrey mold, but he comes across as being sincere.
Global warming was a major theme in his response to questions about the environment and he advocated for the “carbon tax” so that we can leave the planet better than we found it.  You can be sure that the word “tax” was recorded by Paulsen’s team and will be used in upcoming commercials.
Phillips faces a formidable task in that a DFL candidate hasn’t won the district since 1958, but the west metro is considered a swing district where Mrs. Clinton won here by 10 points over Trump.
The question and answer period ended on an emotional note when a woman in the audience recalled the lack of response from Paulsen when she asked for his help related to her gay son.  For his response, Phillips got a standing ovation. 

Before the meeting, two young people outside the building displayed signs reading “Unqualified is spelled D-E-A-N.”  An avowed Republican sat under Phillips nose the entire evening and it didn’t rattle him in the least.  The crowd was eager to hear from a politician that didn’t spew hate or body slam a reporter.  Someone in a SUV tailgated me out of the parking lot, honking the horn.  An excited citizen, I suspect?  — Dave Zarkin

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.
-30-

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.