"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

Dennis Hedberg and the Organ Grinder

Portland’s Organ Grinder

by Grace McGinnis 1988

Catch the starlight in a child’s eyes. Chase the laughter of the children of all ages as they watch Laurel and Hardy try to sell Christmas trees In California. Share with a little, white­ haired lady her joy at hearing the 1919 “Mickey” again “after all those years.” Feel the power of the pipes as the whole restaurant shakes during “Star Wars.” Share with us the magic of the Organ Grinder.

Much of this magic is generated by Dennis Hedberg’s “ulti­mate toy,” his passion since he was sixteen years old and the “working laboratory” for his research on the physics of tremolos (this organ has 17) which was explicated in the THEATRE ORGAN The 3/13 Wurlitzer from the Portland Oriental Theatre inspired this creativity andis now the nucleus of the Organ Grinder’s Wurlitzer

ATOS members heard this Wurlitzer at the 1973 National Convention when Lyn Larsen and Jonas Nordwall presented concerts on Its first 17 ranks. It was also heard during the 1981 Convention when Seattle brought the group to Portland for a day. This summer, fifteen years and 30 ranks later, conventioneers will hear Paul Quarino and Walt Strony per­ form on this awesome music machine.

The Organ Grinder Wurlitzer has, from its beginning, been Dennis Hedberg’s brain-child. Starting with the 13 ranks, he added the 32′ Diaphones from Portland’s Liberty Theatre and has subsequently obtained pipes and parts from all over the country.

. . . the organ as it stands is the largest of its kind in the world . . .

The 32′ Contra Bourdan example, is from the Old North Church (of Paul Revere fame) in Boston, the four-manual console came from Boston’s Metropolitan Music Hall Theatre, and other components were once heard in Cleveland, Chicago, Denver and Brooklyn. This instrument now contains an example of every major voice ever used in Wurlitzer pipe organs. It also has the thirteen-note tympani (some call them garbage-can lids) from the Brooklyn Fox, and a rare set of Swiss Bells from a theatre in Maine. A close look at the toy counter will reveal an authentic submar­ ine “dive” horn which can probably be heard on the other side of town.

Because all of its pipes are contained in glass chambers, so they may be viewed from outside as well as inside the restaurant, it is difficult to maintain a constant temperature (for tuning stability), so twenty tons of refrigeration equipment are employed to keep the chambers and blower from overheating. The wind for this machine is generated by a three­ stage turbine blower powered by a 60 hp electric motor which develops over 6,000 cubic feet of wind per minute at static pressures of 37 and 69 inches of water displacement. A totally solid-state electronic relay and power supply was created for the organ. This system utilizes about 35,000 diodes, 4,000 discrete tran­ sistors and thousands of tiny components. Dennis Hedberg’s quest for the finest theatre organ of its kind in the world actually began when he first heard thepipes in the Oriental Theatre and con­ tinued through his years as an electronics engineer for the Rodgers Organ Com­ pany in Hillsboro and, for a period of time, as manager of the Oriental Theatre. When the Oriental closed, Dennis was able to buy its Wurlitzer, and finding a new home for it led him into the restaur­ ant business. In April of 1985, Hedberg became the sole owner of the Organ Grinder and, while the organ as it stands is the largest of its kind in the world, it is very possible that it is not yet finished! Organ buffs in this  area have been avid “Organ Grinder Wurlitzer Watchers” as the various components of the organ were added, and we have concurrently been privileged to hear some of the finest organists in the country. Regular staff organists in the seventies were Jonas Nordwall, Paul Quarino, Jack Coxon and Don Simmons. While no longer on the staff, Jonas presents occasional “Classic Night” programs which never fail to fill the house. In August 1985, Paul initiat

A Sunday afternoon program of Old Time Gospel Music which has been ex­ ceptionally well received and manages to fill the tables against such competition as the Super Bowl. Organists Dan Bel­lomy, Don Feely and Russ Chilson, complete the staff of musicians and pro­ vide musical entertainment which appeals to all ages and tastes. As we have heard styles and sounds created by different artists, we are reminded that the theatre organ is perhaps the most versatile instrument in all of history.

The versatility of the Organ Grinder Wurlitzer and of the artists who play it may well be the key to the enchantment of the restaurant. When patrons can experience popular, classical, Gospel, or rock music in an ambience aug­umented by thousands of lights, hourly silent movies and a friendly dancing mouse, there is clearly something there that appeals to all who have experienced it – that magic which we hope to share with you.

Maila Nurmi and Me

Photo: RadioTripPicturesCC-BY.

In Astoria, Oregon, later this year there will be a Maila Nurmi event. She grew up there, born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, although claiming to be born in Finland, and later became Vampira on TV. She also starred in the Ed Wood film Plan 9 From Outer Space. Recently a a new biography was published about Maila, Glamour Ghoul: The Passions and Pain of the Real Vampira, Maila Nurmi, written by her niece Sandra Niemi. I found all this out when I was talking to my friend, the lawyer, Kohel Haver. He brought up Maila in conversation. He was not surprised when I said I was familiar with her. He had been brought into the Maila realm when he was consulted on copyright issues in the book. I will be part of the Astoria event. So, what did I have to do with Maila? Here is that story.

On March 28, 1996 I flew from New York to Stuttgart.  There it would be the start of my second tour of Europe showing films. This time I had no girlfriend with me to share the fun.  I did have Vampira with me.  Earlier in March I played the film for two weeks, Vampira: About Sex, Death and Taxes, at my Lighthouse Cinema at 116 Suffolk, New York City. A few people came to see it. Not nearly enough to make up for the misery that Johannes and I went through just lugging the 35mm print around. I had met Johannes in Seattle in 1993. I had him run my theatre, The Pike St. Cinema, for a month, while I drove to Cleveland to see a ballgame. Johannes was instrumental in the opening and running of the Lighthouse. In February Johannes went to Germany for a couple of weeks to keep in good graces with the immigration authorities. Possessing only a visitor’s Visa he was required to exit and re-enter the country every six months. Taking the train to Niagara Falls wouldn’t count. While he was in Berlin he picked up the print of Vampira. He hoisted it up on his grave digger strengthened shoulders and took the bus to the airport. He then lugged it onto the plane as carry-on luggage. At JFK he took it on the shuttle bus to the subway and from there it made the one hour ride to the lower east side. After the run at the Lighthouse Cinema we decided that shipping it back to Finland by air from NYC would cost a fortune. Taking it with me to Stuttgart and shipping it from there would probably be cheaper. That was probably not true. I took it on the subway to JFK in a box. I also took one suitcase with three 16mm film programs and a couple of changes of clothes. That would get me around Europe for a month.

I arrived in Stuttgart on March 29 with exactly one hundred dollars on me, and no credit cards. I’d left all my ready money in the theatre for making change.  The Europe money was in the form of a hundred-dollar bill. On March 27 I had rented out the theatre to Claudia Heuermann to use as a sound stage for interior shots for her feature film Sabbath In Paradise featuring John Zorn. It was shot in 16mm. She had paid me with the C-note.
 
After the sleepless all night flight, with a change in Frankfort, I arrived in Stuttgart. There I changed the hundred bucks into 175 DM. Jet lagged, I was taken to the Hotel Maritime. It was very nice, which really didn’t make much of an impression on me. It was Friday morning and I wanted to get the film on its way to Finland. For some foolish reason I didn’t ask for directions to the post office in the hotel lobby. I just hoisted the heavy burden on my throwing-hay-bales-around-on-the-farm-strengthened shoulders, and walked out the door, trusting to blind chance that I would stumble across a place to abandon it. This usually worked in any US city. You just head for the middle of town and look for a flag pole.

Oh: this no longer works in America. All of the flag poles there are flying over fast food franchises. The bald eagle should be dropped as the American symbol and replaced with the Big Mac. It also didn’t work that day in Stuttgart. After aimlessly walking for an hour I started asking people for directions. This was very difficult in Germany then, when no one over the age of thirty seemed to speak English.

I then found out that no one under the  age of thirty seemed to write letters. The only saving grace was it was a beautiful late Winter day with clear skies and a bright if not warm sun. I was finally rescued when a young person with some use of English gave me good directions that took me to a mailbox. Luckily a mail man soon appeared to empty the mailbox and he gave me directions to the post office. It wasn’t that far away.  It cost 105 DM to send the film on its way.  I went back to the hotel and tumbled into bed. I awoke after 9:00 PM, hungry. I walked out of the hotel looking for a hot dog cart. I didn’t want to ask for my appearance fee until after my films had shown. I had to make my 70 DM last for a few days. Nothing seemed to be open. I walked through the darkened, charmless streets. I finally found an open falafel joint and filled up.

After the upcoming event in Astoria, I will file a report.

A Tale of Two Oregon Pioneer Families

On November 18, 1966, my great grandmother Ethel Foster Garside Davey died.  She was seventy seven years old.  I was thirteen. Her grandfather, Philip Foster, had come to the Oregon Territory, in 1843, on a ship from New York.  Foster Road is named for him.  His place in Eagle Creek is a National Historic Site.  Philip’s wife was Mary Charlotte Pettygrove.  She, and her brother Francis Pettygrove, traveled with Philip on the sea voyage to the Willamette Valley.  Francis Pettygrove, along with Asa Lovejoy, founded the city of Portland.  The penny they flipped to decide the name (Lovejoy favored the name of his hometown,  Boston), is at the Oregon Historical Society.  It is pretty much the first thing you see when you come in the main entrance there.  I knew all this about my family by the time Ethel died. It is also in many history books about Oregon. 

At a family gathering, at our farm in Yacolt, in 1970, my grandfather Dale Sherman Galloway, made an astounding statement.  He said “I’m tired of hearing all the talk, talk, talk, about the Fosters, Fosters, Fosters, in Oregon.  Well, the Galloways got here first!”  What was shocking is only several  hundred non-native people were in Oregon before 1843. The Galloways are not mentioned in any of the standard histories of the area.  What is more astounding,  grampa Dale was right.  His family was in Oregon before the Fosters.  The story of how two pioneer families from the territiorial days, were finally united nearly a hundred years later, is an Oregon story.  I’m here to tell it.

The first wagon train on what would become the Oregon Trail left Independence, Missouri in 1841 with California as its destination. It was the Bidwell-Bartleson party of roughly 60 settlers.  One of those settlers was William Overton who will figure more prominently later in this story.

In 1842 Dr. Elijah White organized the first wagon train with the Willamette Valley as its destination.  Dr. White had been previously in Oregon working with Jason Lee from 1837 to 1840. He had traveled there and back by ship. His purpose for going again to Oregon was his being appointed a Sub-Indian Agent for Oregon by the United States government. He  would be the first officer representing the United States in what a couple of years later would become the Oregon Territory. The job included a salary and moving expenses as long as he traveled by land.  He was also told to take as many emigrants along with him as possible.  He arranged a lecture tour that enticed over a hundred settlers to sign up for the arduous and speculative journey. One  them was Asa Lovejoy.  Another was Stephen Meek.  Both will figure later in this story.  Among the families on the wagon train were Thomas Jefferson Shadden, his wife Martha and their kids.  Also along for the trip were Martha’s father Owen Sumner and his wife Lucy (nee Prestridge) Sumner.  The wagon train embarked from Elm Grove, Missouri on May 16, 1842.

A couple of months earlier, on March 10, 1842 the sailing ship Victoria left New York, under captain John H. Spring, bound for Honolulu. It would be a trying and dangerous trip taking several months. The route would be around South America before entering the Pacific for the trip west and north.  Among those on board were the families of Philip Foster  and his brother-in-Law Francis Pettygrove.  Foster  and Pettygrove had owned a general store in Calais, Maine. They were the representatives of the AG and AW Benson Company of New York. They had with them goods to stock a store in Oregon City; which would be their final destination.  In 2005 my wife Anne Richardson and I were living in New York. We visited the slip from which the Victoria had sailed away from.  The New York Police Museum is located there now.

The Dr. Elijah White wagon train was not without internal drama.  Dr. White was a heavy handed autocrat. His second in command, Loren Hastings, was a more likable guy.  Before long the wagon train’s solidarity was broken into factions supporting White on one side and Hastings on the other.  On May 18 Dr. White issued the edict that all dogs along for the trip had to be killed.  Most of them were.  You might imagine the hard feelings that followed. At times during the journey the train was split into two separate halves that traveled independently.   Nearing the goal Dr. White hurried ahead to arrive at Fort Vancouver on September 20.  The rest of the party traveled more leisurely, arriving in Oregon City on October 5.

On October 19, 1842 the Victoria arrived in Hawaii. Philip Foster and Francis Pettygrove bought more goods to sell in Oregon. They stayed  the winter in Hawaii.  In April, 1843 the bark Fama took them as far as what is now St. Helens. Indian boats were then hired to take the families and goods to Oregon City.  On May 23, 1843  Foster and Pettygrove opened for business in Oregon City.  Among the children who made the trip was four year old Francis William Foster. He had been born in Washington, Maine on April 20. 1839.

William Overton didn’t stay in Oregon very long.  In 1843 he intended to file a property claim along the Willamette River in the area known as “The Clearing.” Finding himself short of the filing fee he brought Asa Lovejoy in as a partner in ownership.  In 1844 Overton soured on the area and sold his half of the property to Francis Pettygrove. Overton then skedaddled to Texas. After that Lovejoy and Pettygrove decided to call the place a town, laid out some streets, and after flipping a coin, it was to be known forward as Portland.

In September of 1845 a wagon train arrived at the Dalles.  Among those on that wagon train was Sam Barlow.  Mr. Barlow didn’t have the high fee needed to continue the journey on the Columbia River. He took seven wagons on a speculating route traveling South of Mt. Hood; that if all worked out would take them into Oregon City.  About halfway there the wagons got stuck in the snow for the winter.  A while later Joel Palmer showed up with a 23 wagon train.  I guess Joel felt anywhere Sam could go; he could get there better.  It was arranged to winter wagons where they were.  Sam, Joel, and William Rector then stuck forward on their quest for a wagon route. A month or so later they struggled into Oregon city.

Stephen Meek in that same year of 1845 was hired to lead a wagon train from Vale, Oregon on an alternate route into the Willamette Valley that would travel South of the Blue Mountains.  The wagon train met with much  misfortune and death before finally straggling into the Dalles.  Among those who survived the journey was William Dawson and his wife the former Mary Searcy.  They settled in the Yamhill area where they raised a family of six.  One of them, born in 1854 in McMinnville, was Amanda Dawson. 

Feeling refreshed in Oregon City Sam Barlow got the idea the Indian trail they had been more or less following could be made into viable route into Oregon City.  By this time there was some semblance of United States Government in the area.  He went to the Provisional Legislature of Oregon where he applied for a permit for a toll road.  He then, you might recall he didn’t have the cash to to float his wagons from the Dalles down the river, got Philip Foster to finance and build the road for him in a partnership. Foster with a work crew of 40 men got a barely passable road built in a year.  In the Fall of 1846 the first wagons came through.

Thomas Jefferson Shadden and his family spent a rainy winter in Oregon and in 1843 he decided the sunny California climate was more to his liking.  Luckily for our story he came back seven years later. It has been written that upon his return to Oregon he was an early settler of Yamhill County and brought with him from California $185,000 in gold dust.  There is an area in McMinnville that is currently called The Shadden Claim.  It is bordered on one side by NW Baker Creek Road, and is intersected by Shadden Drive.  At 11169 NW Baker Creek Road there now stands the house Thomas Jefferson Shadden built in 1859.  Among his several kids was Henry Clay Shadden, born in California in1845. 

In 1852 the flood was on of emigrants taking the Oregon Trail.  It was estimated 10,000 hardy souls that year took the plunge.  It was also a bad year with death;  cholera stalking people and anthrax slaughtering cattle.  One person who did make it was William Willis Cooke.   He was born in 1818 in North Carolina.  He married the former Martha Young in 1845.  On the Oregon Trail with them was their daughter Mary Francis (Fanny), who was born in Lafayette, Indiana in 1849. She might have witnessed the birth of her sister Leah, on the Oregon Trail, on August 20, 1852 in Umatilla Valley.  Poor Leah, foreshadowing tragedy for Fanny in the future, lived less than two months.  Leah Arabella Cooke died in Champoeg on October 8, 1852.

James Sherman Galloway was born August 20,1864 in Ellettsville, Indiana. On April 9, 1865 the Civil War ended.  Shortly after that his parents John Jackson Galloway and the former Mary Adkins traveled the Oregon trail. Little James learned to walk along the way. James Sherman’s brother Sheridan Emerson Galloway was born in Yaquina, Lincoln County, Oregon on the first of September 1866.

Frances “Fanny” Cooke married Francis “Frank” Foster on December 28, 1868. They settled in Clackamus, Oregon.  They had ten kids, seven boys and three girls.  The youngest, born in 1889, was Ethel Albertina Foster. Frank died when Ethel was two.  Ethel was left an orphan at the age of seven when Fanny died. 

In 1870 Henry Clay Shadden married Amanda Dawson.  On April 23, 1871, in McMinnville, their daughter Mary Miama Shadden was born.  I am not clear on the date, but from a story my mom told me, Amanda fled with Mary Miama to escape her abusive husband. My mom said Henry Clay was a mean drinker and a wife beater. Amanda went from McMinnville in the dead of winter to Spokane where they arrived in a snow storm.  Amanda then got a job to support them.  She later married Isaac Harvey Malone.  In 1888 she gave birth to a daughter, Pearl Grace Malone. 

On November 3, 1886 James Sherman Galloway married Mary Miama Shadden, in Columbia County, Washington. They had their first child, Mary Elizabeth, in 1892.  She was followed by Elven (1894), Henry (1895), Luke (1902) and Berdena (1905),  Finally, their youngest child, Dale Sherman Galloway, was born in Touchet, Washington on August 6, 1908

On July 3, 1907 Ethel Foster married Alvin Garside.  His dad was born in England.  His mom was born in Scotland.  They had one child;  a  girl born August 8, 1908, in Ivanhoe, Oregon, who they named Doris Virginia Garside.

In 1928 Dale Sherman Galloway was driving a Red Top cab in Portland.  Parked in front of a downtown hotel, the back seat passenger door suddenly was opened, and two young women piled in.   They were out of breath but made it clear they were escaping from someone and flooring the accelerator would be appreciated. Calmly around the corner Dale learned that they had been in a room with a man who unbeknownst to them was a “snow bird” or cocaine fiend.  The women had fled from the room and down the stairs of the hotel sure they were being chased.  They had also fled without their purses and were sans funds to pay the fare.  One of the women was Doris Garside.  That is how my maternal grandparents met.  Dale Sherman Galloway married Doris Garside on August 27, 1930, in Kelso Washinton. 

On December 9, 1933 twins were born to Doris and Dale; identical girls.  One was my aunt Carolyn.  The other was my mom, Joanne Lee Galloway Nyback.  Through my mom Joanne I am a seven generation Oregonian going back to Owen and Lucy Sumner on the 1842 wagon train and also a six generation Oregonian going back to Philip and Mary Charlotte Foster who arrived by ship in 1843. I am glad I know some of of the story of what it took for me to be here.  I am even more glad to be able share that story with you.

Existential Road Trip 1993

In 1993 I was running the Pike St. Cinema in Seattle. I decided to drive from Seattle to Cleveland to see a baseball game. I made arrangements to show films in Detroit to help defray expenses. It also made the trip tax deductible. I had other reasons to take a long drive. I had gotten divorced, would be turning 40, and I had a car that got good mileage. A solo existential road trip seemed like the perfect idea. Why Cleveland, home of the hapless (last World Championship in 1948) Indians? They would be moving out of venerable Cleveland Municipal Stadium into a new home. It would be my last chance to see a game in the baseball park called “The Mistake by the Lake.”

Cleveland Municipal Stadium had opened in 1931. Why a mistake? It was commonly thought that Cleveland Municipal had been built in hopes that it would help lure the 1932 Summer Olympics to Cleveland.  That was not true. That didn’t stop people from believing it. In fact, LA was awarded the Summer games in 1923. The public bond to fund the building of the stadium was passed by voters in 1928. The Twenties were still roaring. Later came the crash.  By 1932 Cleveland faced the great depression and the Indians had a very large home.  First called Lakefront Stadium it could hold over 78,000 fans.  To hit one out to center was a task. Dimensions were 463 feet to center and 322 down the lines.  A lot of the Kingdome in Seattle, home of the Mariners, could have fit onto those dimensions.

I had been introduced to the idea of driving around the country with 16mm projectors and reels of films by Jack Stevenson.  He had  called me out of the blue in 1990 telling me he had films with him that he would like to show.  I had a gig regularly showing films in the Jewel Box Theater.  He had driven to Seattle from Boston in a huge 1974 Mercury sedan that had been given to him by an aunt. It came with an  AARP  bumper sticker.  In Seattle we arranged for three nights of  films at the Jewel Box.  In the three weeks I had to promote the shows Jack drove to San Francisco and back, via Portland, showing films along the way.

During his second drive to Seattle in 1991 his Merc covered four fifths of the journey from Boston uneventfully. It broke down in Missoula, Montana, which could have been much worse. While the car was being repaired Jack had the opportunity to hang out at Chapel of the Dove, probably the weirdest movie theater in America. The theater was right out of a Nicolai Tesla dream. Year round, which included the standard three months of snow, windows were kept open so birds could come in. During screenings pigeons flying in front of the screen were often the best part of show. No one ever saw a dove there. With the Merc made roadworthy he made it again to Seattle, showed films at the Jewel Box, and again back home to Boston.

Jack and the Merc moved to San Francisco a couple of years later. Shortly before he was to drive to Seattle in 1993 the transmission failed. He barely made it to a repair shop. The repair would take his last $1,000. Jack told me he couldn’t redeem the car and afford the trip expenses. I told him that putting one grand into his beater car was ridiculous and that he should abandon it to the repair shop. Then, if he could make it to Seattle, I would give him a perfectly good, or darn close to it, car to drive back with. I was getting rid of the car because of the divorce. My ex-wife, Beth, didn’t know how to drive. The Dodge had a stick shift. The least I could do before our parting was to teach her to drive. A $600 Honda Accord with an auto transmission made that possible. It would also get much better gas mileage than the station wagon on the drive to Cleveland.

Jack made it to Seattle by bus for his shows. The Dodge got him back to SF. The Dodge was named Arlene. From thirty feet she didn’t look bad. She had the standard fake wood siding of her ilk. She also had a big spiderweb crack in the windshield on the passenger side. That had happened when she was once parked in front of my cinema. The crack was caused by an aluminum cooking pot. The pot, still with remains of spaghetti in it, had been tossed out of the window of one the upstairs apartment. It was lucky that it was the dirty pot that hit her. The cast iron frying pan, the waffle iron, other cooking stuff, various items of clothes,and apparently everything else in the flop, had been tossed out with it. The frying pan alone would have done real damage, not to mention the waffle iron. Luckily, the big crack did not leak water. It was an annoyance to any front seat passenger. It wasn’t a safety concern. After Jack moved to Denmark  in 1994 Arlene passed from hand to hand. It is hard to kill one those old slant six engines. The last Jack heard Arlene had attracted too many parking tickets to be licensed without the owner paying up. She was abandoned . I hope someone claimed her. Years later a friend of Jack’s told me about riding around in Arlene, mentioning her by name. I asked him how he knew her name was Arlene. He said “The name was written on the dashboard.”

Jack also told me about Tim Caldwell in Detroit and gave me his phone number. He said Tim was an artist, a Detroit historian, a sort of urban archaeologist, and possibly Detroit’s greatest preservationist. Tim had learned Detroit history by entering abandoned buildings looking for artifacts, grabbing things before the arson’s torch, the wrecking ball, or benign neglect destroyed them forever. Jack also gave me a number for Darren in Detroit who had a club where I could show films. It turned out Darren was happy to have me show films. I would bring Stag Party Special, The Mormon Church Explains It All To You, and Bad Bugs Bunny. All three were guaranteed to bring in crowds. I would also bring projectors.

In order to get out town I made an arrangement with Johannes Schoenherr in New York City to come to Seattle and run my theater for a month. Jack Stevenson had seen him in New York and told him I wanted to take some time off. I had met Johannes a couple of years earlier when he visited Seattle and looked me up. Johannes was a film nut who grew up in Leipzig in East Germany. He first tried to escape to the West at the age of 16 and was jailed. Working as a gravedigger toughened his muscles and his resolve. He was expelled from the country as “nonredeemable” when he was 22. In 1985 he joined the Kino im KOMM cinema collective in Nuremberg and fell in love with cinema. At the KOMM he arranged Europe film tours for film makers Richard Kern, Mike Kuchar, Marion Eaton and others. He then came to New York to attend the Tisch School of the Arts and major in Cinema Studies. After completing school he lived semi-legally in a mean apartment in the East Village.

He got right back to me with a list of the films that he wanted to run. I looked it over and told him to whip up a schedule, call it THE ALTERNATIVE SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, and come out soon. He had arranged to show films made by film makers that he knew. They included Todd Phillips’ HATED: G. G. ALLIN AND THE MURDER JUNKIES; SUBWAY RIDERS with John Lurie and directed by Amos Poe, Jim Van Bebber’s DEADBEAT AT DAWN, and THUNDERCRACK by Curt McDowell, featuring George Kuchar and Marion Eaton.

Johannes bought an early 70’s Dodge Dart from Jeri Rossi, which had belonged previously to Karen Finley, and also Joe Coleman, called the Jesus car. I have no idea if Ms. Finley did anything artistic with it that Jesse Helms might have objected to. Coleman had painted Jesus faces onto the headlights. Johaness’ plan was to drive to Seattle, meet me, then drive to San Francisco to bring George and Marion up for “Thundercrack.” Mike Kuchar would also ride up with them. The Kuchar Brothers weekend would feature both 8mm and 16mm stuff including Lust For Ecstasy, Sins of the Fleshapoids, and Hold Me While I’m Naked.

When he pulled up in front of the theater my first thought was that it would have trouble getting out of the parking spot, much less to San Francisco. Although it was a cool day, all of the windows were down. The back seat was filled with numerous copies of the yellow pages. The engine didn’t sound good. Johannes explained that the windows were down because of a major exhaust leak. I hope that was the worst of it, and an explanation for the loud noise. He never explained about the yellow pages. He stayed at my place for several days while I took him around to all of the newspapers in hopes of getting him interviewed. He was ecstatic about the theater, the stacks of fliers for his show that I had distributed, and my apartment, which he felt was big enough to put up George, Mike and Marion. Those guys in the Bay area, hearing of the car’s dubious future, scotched the idea of being driven to Seattle. They bought plane tickets. My deal with Johannes would be that he was four walling the theater. He would pay the rent, various bills, all film rentals, and twenty five bucks a day to me, and he could pocket the rest.

On the fine summer day of July 23 I handed Johannes the keys to the theater and got in my car and drove east. In the trunk I had one suitcase, two 16mm Projectors, and three film shows. Leaving the city limits I felt great. The engine purred as I climbed the Cascade range mountains. Before the Snoqualmie pass summit I noticed two bicyclists slowly peddling up hill. One of them was towing a trailer. It was Hunter Mann. He was another film freak nut case. He called his quixotic business Heartland Cinema. He had read that many small towns in mid America no longer had a single movie theater. TV and video had put them out of business. He decided to ride his bike to those towns and bring them movies. The trailer held a 16mm projector and films. I met him when he had pedaled up to the Pike St. Cinema a year earlier with the Harod Blank film Wild Wheels. I showed it for a week. I had then given Hunter a couple of 16mm cartoons and he had pedaled off to destinations unknown.

I pulled over in front of him. Although we barely knew each other it was like two soldiers from separate troops from WW I meeting in a dust bowl bar room with the feeling they were practically brothers. The second rider was a film maker who was accompanying Hunter on the trip in order to document it in super eight. We talked for a while. Then we re-staged my fmy driving along and inding them for the film maker. They rode ahead and stopped. I then drove up and stopped while the camera rolled. I was also filmed driving away. I have no idea what became of the film.

I pushed on and made Missoula by dinner time. I ate at Great Pies Over Montana; an exemplary pizza joint. I decided to look for a motel. It had been a big day. A quiet evening watching ESPN baseball highlights seemed like the perfect ending. All of the main strip motels had “No Vacancy” signs. Using the Yellow Pages I called around and found that it was the start of hunting season and all motels were full. I was told there probably wasn’t a vacant motel room in that part of the state. It was eight o’clock. I headed for Butte. I was able to find the tail end of the Seattle Mariners game in Cleveland on the radio, broadcasting from Great Falls. They got beat 9 to 3. I got to Butte at a quarter to ten and found the same hopeless situation. It was midnight by the time I got to Bozeman. I drove past the full motels and onto a neighborhood side street. I found a dark spot with no street light, pulled over and went to sleep.

A car starting nearby woke me in the morning. It was just getting light. Momentary confusion gave way to the memory of just where I was. I wasn’t completely awake until I was on the interstate and pointed toward Billings. On the west side of town on the truck route was the Muzzle Loader Cafe. It had a terrific neon sign of a smoking gun. Inside was more NRA approved decor. I stopped there, drank coffee, read the local news, and hit the road. I tried to find NPR and gave up. For a while I settled for Country Western Music, which I did not appreciate. I turned off the radio and stared at the never ending highway ahead. I watched it disappear into the horizon. I thought about my future and tried to figure out where I was. The day wore on with a few concrete thoughts, flashes of memory, dead friends, unrequited aspirations. Alone in the universe at 70 miles per hour. At three hundred miles I stopped for gas and didn’t eat. I drove on into the darkening sky. I disobeyed every dictum in the road atlas about stopping for breaks in the interest of safety. I was doomed. I was immortal. I was lost. I didn’t care. I thought of a friend who had ridden his bicycle from Seattle to Los Angeles in 1974 to attend the funeral of his sister. His name was Rick and he was the ace projectionist at the Movie House in Seattle when I first started working there. On the way back he stopped at a view point on route one and stared at the beach two hundred feet below. He considered jumping. He considered it for quite a while. He then got back on his bicycle and pedaled away.

The last I heard he had a house in the suburbs, a wife, a mortgage and two kids. He had a job and seamless future. What did I have? A highway under me and a car eating up the miles. I stopped in Spearfish, South Dakota, and ate dinner. I drove on to Rapid City and stayed at a Motel Six that I had stayed at once before; when I wasn’t alone.

The next day I tried to take it easy. I lingered over coffee and stopped in a couple of towns to check the antique malls for 16mm films. I ate a nondescript dinner in Sioux City. I Searched for ball games on the radio. When you find one you know it immediately, even if the announcer is silent. There is an unmistakeable sound produced by a stadium full of fans.  It is a sort of low pitched hum, and there is nothing else that sounds like it. The Midwest is perfect for night baseball on the radio. With no mountains to block the signals you can catch broadcasts from KC, St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, Cleveland. Occasionally you can even find minor league, or even a high school game. Baseball is the perfect game for radio. Football is the perfect game for television. That’s why baseball fell from popular grace in the 1960’s. Listening to a game, I could have been my father driving a Pontiac right after the war. I could have been one of millions of other fans who had driven the same stretch of road over the last sixty years using a broadcast from miles away to feel less alone. With the sun setting behind me I heard snatches of Kansas City playing Detroit, St. Louis playing Colorado and the Mariners playing in Cleveland. I spent the night in Omaha.

On the 26th I could have made it Detroit but it would have had me arriving late at night. Instead I pushed on past Chicago with the goal being Battle Creek, Michigan. That meant I could arrive in Detroit the next morning. It was wonderful driving after dark with more baseball games to find and lose and then find again and lose again to be replaced by others and others. It was after ten when I reached Battle Creek. I took the truck route through town and found a cheap motel with a good neon sign.

I hit the outskirts of Detroit around eleven in the morning on July 27. It was a beautiful day. The first amazing thing I saw was the Big Tire. It was on the south side of the road and it looked as big as an apartment building. Big White letters told me it was a Uniroyal. It was the best roadside attraction I’d seen since leaving South Dakota. The next amazing thing I saw was the Cadillac Hotel. It was thirty one stories of art deco opulence and had been closed and empty for years. When it opened in 1924 it was the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world. From a mile away I could the word CADILLAC in letters across the roof. The closer I got, the shoddier it seemed. It was the emblem of a city left to decay.

In Detroit the date of October 30 is now called “Angel’s Night.” That started in 1995. Before that it was “Devil’s Night.” In the forties Devil’s Night consisted of youngsters committing petty acts of vandalism that didn’t result in property destruction. That including toilet papering trees, soaping windows and egging houses. After the riots of the sixties it took on a more violent and destructive aspect. It reached a peak in the 80’s. In 1984 over 800 fires were set, with the arson occurring during the three nights before Halloween. In other years the average was between 500 and 800 fires. Most of the targets were empty houses. Much of that was blamed on rampaging teens. In truth most of the burning was done by various slumlords, insurance scammers and vigilantes targeting crack houses and other abandoned structures the city did nothing about. As property values plummeted homeowners torched their own houses for the insurance money. For some it was ad hoc nuisance abatement. For others it was grassroots urban renewal. The opening scene in the film The Crow is set in Detroit on Devil’s Night. Brandon Lee looks out over a scene of fires burning as far as the eye can see. It looks like Berlin in 1945.

As I came closer to downtown I noticed apartment buildings of both sides of the freeway with broken glass indicating years of vacancy. . During the Reagan administration it was found that during a presidential visit the mayor came up with a trompe L’oil plan to hide this urban blight. The presidential motorcade would pass through these same miles of abandoned apartment buildings. The mayor had glass repaired and curtains put up in the windows of abandoned buildings along the parade route. It sort of made the buildings look lived in. It was rumored he even put department store mannequins in some of the flats.

I got off the freeway at noon and drove to the Bank. It was in a desolate section of town on Michigan Avenue. I saw immediately why it was called “The Bank.” That was just what it had been. It was a free standing building, the same as hundreds like it, that were built as banks in the 1920’s. It was a small, squat, building resembling a mausoleum. A burial place for money. A hoarding place for the reward of a lifetime of toil. A place that John Dillinger would have recognized as an easy mark. A place that Arthur Penn would have recognized as a good site for a scene in Bonnie and Clyde. There was no sign to indicate its present use. It looked abandoned. There was a graveled parking lot around the back. I pulled in and gave the engine a rest. All of the doors were locked. Most of the windows were boarded over. I found a pay phone and called Darren, the owner of the club.

In forty five minutes he showed up. He was a heavy set with no fat muscular man of average height. I guessed him to be around thirty years of age. He had a moon face with side burns and a goatee. His crew cut brown hair was thinning on top. We exchanged greetings and walked inside. Although it was a hot day, the interior was cool. The interior was a wreck. One big open room. Sunlight sneaked in around the edges of the boarded up windows. There was a makeshift bar where the tellers had probably stood. I imagined the tellers who had worked all of their lives there and had retired when it was closed. I imagined that occasionally an old man would walk by and think of the portion of his life he had spent inside. I didn’t want to imagine how that person felt looking at the wreck it had become.

Darren told me that I could sleep there. He showed me a camp cot with a dirty sleeping bag on it. He gave me a key to the back door and left. I waited for him to drive off and then walked outside. I left the car in the lot and walked up Michigan a mile or so to Trumbell. There stood Tiger Stadium, the oldest baseball park in the Major Leagues. Baseball was first played on the site in 1895. A more substantial stadium, seating 23,000, Navin Field, was built in 1911. It opened for baseball on April 20, 1912, the same day as Boston’s Fenway Park. In 1938 owner Frank Briggs convinced the city to move Cherry Street so he could enlarge the stadium. That increased the seating to 53,000. In 1961 the name was changed from Briggs Stadium to Tiger Stadium.

That night the Tigers were playing the Yankees. I bought a box seat ticket and walked to a nearby diner for dinner. Back at the park I bought a program and kept score. It had been a hot day and it was a perfect night for baseball. The pitching matchup was Jim Abbott for the Yankees and Bill Gullikson for the Tigers. Abbott had been named to the 1991 Sporting News American League All-Star team as the left handed pitcher. He had been born without a right hand. Gullickson had been rookie pitcher of the year for Montreal in 1980 and had won twenty games for the Tigers in 1991.

The Yankees won 5-2. It wasn’t a particularly memorable game. Abbott pitched eight innings. Gullickson never made it out of the second. Big Cecil Fielder hit three doubles. Much more memorable was the ball park. Beautiful green grass surrounded by a stadium that looked like it been made from some giant’s Erector Set. The grandstand and bleacher roofs were supported by girders that would block the view of anyone who was unlucky enough to sit behind them. Those tickets were sold with the phrase “view obstructed” with no decrease in price. The right field second deck was cantilevered and hung out over the field a few feet. It was famous for turning tremendous pop flies, that should have ended innings by settling lazily into a fielder’s mitt, into three run homers. In 1968 Denny MacLaine became the first pitcher to win thirty games in a season, pitching in that notoriously hitter friendly park, since Dizzy Dean in 1934. No one has done it since. Ty Cobb roamed the outfield there for twenty four years, compiling the highest life time batting average of all time. Al Kaline became the youngest player to win a batting title there. In 1989 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. I knew as I left the game that plans were already being made to tear it down.

I left Tiger Stadium at 11:00 and walked back to the Bank.  It was a lonely walk along the wide thoroughfare. A few cars passed by. An occasional dog barked. I didn’t see another soul in the half hour it took. I entered the Bank through the back door. Moonlight crept through the few uncovered windows. My eyes gradually became accustomed to the gloom. Shadows were everywhere. I found the cot. I didn’t find a light switch. I found a staircase that led up to a loft. I didn’t walk up it. I found the door to the rest room.

I went out to my car and got toiletries. Again inside I found the restroom door again and entered. It was pitch black. I groped my way to the toilet and pissed in the dark. I probably hit the toilet. If I’d missed, it wouldn’t have made the room smell any worse. I groped my way to the sink. No hot water. I washed my face and brushed my teeth. Back in the lobby I found the cot, undressed, and crawled in the sleeping bag. There was no pillow. I got out and rolled up my coat to rest my head on. I lay on the cot and tried to sleep. I imagined that I was sleeping in a large sepulcher. I opened my eyes and looked around the room. It didn’t reassure me. I was near the wall toward the back of the room. I could see light seeping in from the front doors. Shadows loomed everywhere, cast by hanging sheets and decorations of punk rock events past. I had never been in a lonelier place before. Not when camping alone on Mount Rainier. Not when sleeping in a shed in a rail yard in the Midwest after getting off a freight train. Not when sitting under a tree the night I learned that my friend Steve had killed himself. We were in the same class in high school. Steve, the brother of my girlfriend and accepted as the smartest kid in my class. His great love was astronomy. He had built his own telescope, including hand grinding the lens, and had built an observatory out of two by fours and plywood in a field behind their house. The last time I saw him alive was in his parents home. I was sitting on the sofa with my girlfriend. He walked in from the bedroom wing and stopped in the the shadow of the archway. I alone noticed and made eye contact with him. He looked troubled. He started to say something and stopped. He walked back to the bedroom. The next day while most of us were putting up decorations for the spring dance he took a shotgun out of closet, walked in the dusk out to his observatory, and shot himself.

I lay on the camp cot and remembered a dream I had a year or two later. In the dream I was camped out on the shore of Battle Ground Lake with a group of high school friends. We were drinking beer around a campfire. The cold beer was stored in Steve’s open casket resting on the dirt a few feet from the fire. He was in it with most of his face missing. He arose from the casket and walked toward the campfire. We talked. I asked him what he had wanted to say to me. He said it didn’t matter and it was ok.

I awoke early and left the building as soon as I could. I decided not to spend another night there. I’d look for a cheap motel later. I was in luck that the Tigers were playing a day game against the Yankees before going on the road. I had breakfast in a diner and was at the ball park when it opened for batting practice. It was already a hot day but it seemed cooler in the ballpark. I sat in the right field bleachers under the overhang and cursed myself for not bringing a baseball mitt on the trip. It didn’t really matter. Most of the batting practice dingers hit to right sailed into the upper deck. I let kids chase the ones that rattled among the bleachers around me.

The game was fun. The Yankees responded to the daylight by banging out eighteen hits. By the end of the third they were leading 8 to 3. Travis Fryman did his best to rally the Tigers by hitting for the cycle, completing it with a triple to center in the 6th inning. Fielder knocked him in with a double as the Tigers closed to within three runs at 10 to 7. They ended up losing 12 to 7.

It was time to go the Bank and set up the projectors for my show that evening at 10:00. I was opening with Stag Party Special, subtitled “A delightful Evening of Vintage Smut.” It contained both hard core stag films and what I called “risque rarities.” The risque films included “nudie cuties”, “tease films” and Soundies. Soundies were three minute music films made in the forties to be shown in a juke box sort of device that had a coin operated 16mm projector inside. The machines were in bars and restaurants mostly. The films for the boxes were available through a catalog. In the back of the catalog was a section for films that couldn’t be shown legally in certain municipalities. Those were very popular in the places they were shown. The Nudie Cuties, Tease Films, and the like, were mostly legal but only seen in shady theaters in rougher parts of towns. Stag Films were completely pornographic and illegal just about everyplace in America. They were normally seen at men’s clubs such as Elks and Masons, and at brothels. A program made only of Stags is tedious. A few really good ones interspersed with the funny and risque made a great program.

The back door was open and Darren was inside. He was loading beer bottles into the refrigerator. A young blond woman with a rubensesque figure and pretty face was setting up chairs. She was wearing a full skirt and a peasant blouse. The effect was faux German Fraulein. I got my projectors out of the car and brought them in. Darren stopped what he was doing and showed me the platform where I would project from. The blond girl approached and he introduced her. She was his wife Katie. She went back to setting up chairs. I asked Darren about the sound outputs and other technical stuff. What looked like a parachute hung at the opposite end of the room. That was the screen. I got everything set up and went over to talk to Darren. I asked him how he had became the owner of the Bank. He told me that he had saved his money from working as a press operator for the Detroit Free Press and had bought the building free and clear for ten thousand dollars. When he said it, he didn’t look like he thought it was a good investment. I hoped a big crowd would show up. One of the earliest to arrive was Tim Caldwell. He was about my size and dressed all in black. He sort of reminded me of Mickey Rourke. He told me he could show me around Detroit the day after next.

It was not a big crowd that came in after him. Maybe twenty five paid and a dozen freebies for one of the second  best money making program I had ever come up with. I figured my take of the door to be fifty bucks. Beer sales were going briskly. We waited for a half hour after show time to see if more people would show up. A few trickled in. Beer continued to be sold. I drank three. I gave my introduction and ran the show. The crowd gave me a nice round of applause at the end. Loud, techno, permanent hearing loss, music immediately started up. I stepped outside into the much cooler air. Several of the customers joined me to smoke cigarettes. Some of them asked me questions about my show and about my travels. Tim and Katie joined me. They brought me a beer. Neither of them smoked. Katie asked me where I had stayed the night before. I told that I had spent a horrible night right there on the premises. She gave me a funny look and said “Darren should have told you that we have a guest room, I’ll ask him if you can stay there tonight.” I thanked her and silently gave thanks that I wouldn’t have to spend another night in the depressing, ghost ridden, place.

I stayed outside the club, avoiding the music. I talked with Tim. Katie came back and gave me a key. She had written instructions on a piece of paper. It included driving instructions and a layout of the house with an X to indicate the guest room. I thanked her, said  goodbyes, and left. The house was easy to find. It was in a nearby, tidy neighborhood, in the middle of the block. All of the houses looked alike and were all dark. I checked the address twice and walked to the front door. I felt creepy. I wondered if the address had been written down wrong and I was about to disturb total strangers with guns. I wondered what I was doing in this strange place instead of going into my own safe home in Seattle. I didn’t have an answer. I knocked on the door. Waited. Knocked again. Waited. I fit the key in the lock and let myself in. The inside was warm and dark. I found a wall switch. I was in a living room with “early colonial” furniture from the sixties. It all looked like it come in one big truck from a now out of business department store. I followed the house map and found the room. It was up a flight of stairs and underneath the eaves. The slanting ceiling and the short walls were all done in Knotty Pine. There was a bedside lamp and an alarm clock. I wouldn’t have been shocked to find a Gideon Bible in the dresser drawer. When I lay down in the bed I realized how exhausted I was. I still had trouble sleeping. I thought of driving through the monotonous vastness of Iowa. I  slept a dreamless sleep.

The next morning I went downstairs and found nobody home. There was a note from Katie telling me to help my self to anything in the fridge. I searched in my pockets for a scrap of paper. I had written down the address of one of the only espresso cafes in the Detroit area. A young woman had recommended it to me the night before. It was in the suburb of Hamtramck. I found the area easily enough, but the address did not include the street number, just a general description. I parked where I thought it should be and looked for somebody to ask directions. It was early and there were few pedestrians on the business Street. Most of them were elderly. Old men wearing shiny suits from the sixties with narrow ties. Shapeless women wore clothing that spoke of the old world. None of them looked like they would even acknowledge the existence of an espresso cafe. One of the few businesses open was a Beauty and Coiffure Shop. An exotic looking young woman with jet black hair was behind the front counter. I asked her if she knew where the coffee shop was. She gave me a lost look and turned away. She turned away and spoke to another young woman in the back of the shop. They spoke Polish. The other woman came forward and in an accented voice asked me what I wanted. I told her. She spoke to the first woman, again in Polish, and finally told me she didn’t have a clue. I thanked them both and left. I went back out onto the sidewalk and walked west. I passed storefronts with signs in Polish. I realized I was in the kind of neighborhood where emigrants would come, and live their lives without ever leaving. Content to live among others like themselves. Raising families and only speaking Polish. I considered it divine intervention when I found the Cafe. Inside it was like any other inner city espresso joint. Young people dressed mostly in black were seated at tables. Mazzy Star played on the music system. There was a magazine rack full of discarded newspapers. I drank coffee and read Detroit news for an hour. I learned intimate information about the Tigers. I read about the prospects of the Detroit Lions football team. I read about action being taken against two white police officers in regard to their beating to death a black motorist the previous year. I realized I was in a foreign land

I spent the day driving around town and looking at buildings. Detroit is a fascinating city. It is almost like being in a large graveyard where the gravestones are thirty stories high. During the hey day of Henry Ford and General Motors it was a city of wealth. Fabulous downtown buildings and opulent houses were built. The 1950’s brought movement from city to suburb. The 1967 race riot turned theoutward trickle into full white flight. They fled to the suburbs of Livonia, Dearborn and Warren. The middle class workers took with them much of the tax base, depriving those who remained of good schools and other benefits once all had once enjoyed. Property values plummeted, further depleting the cities operating funds. Downtown businesses failed en masse. Houses and buildings were abandoned and left to decay, leaving behind ruins that still suggested the glory they once possessed. Streets in the rundown areas were pot holed; with hulks of stripped cars abandoned at the curbs.

I drove by the landmarked Motown Records building. It was a modest twenties two story house on Grand Boulevard. It was well kept up. Motown headquarters had moved from there to Woodward Avenue in 1968. In 1972 Motown left Detroit for Los Angeles; ostensibly to get into the movie business. A short distance from downtown was the General Motors Building, with the equally beautiful Fisher Building across the street. They were not run down. The recession of the 70’s that had further ravaged the rest of the city had left them untouched. The GM building is huge. It appeared to cover several city blocks. The Fisher Building is a classic sky scraper. They complement each other. They are vestiges of the days of unbridled optimism and gaudy expense. At that, the Fisher Building was planned to be gaudier. What was there was completed in 1928, but it was supposed to be just one of two thirty story towers, with an even taller skyscraper between them. The crash stopped that.

Walking out of the Fisher building you look across the street to the Grecian portico of the GM building. It is where new car models were posed year after year against the the same classic back drop. I parked my shabby car directly in front to take a picture in the same pose. I then spent at least two hours just walking around and gawking at the various opulent public areas.

The show that night was The Mormon Church Explains It All To You. It was comprised of four films made by the Mormon Church in the sixties. I was surprised when it brought in a better crowd than Stag Party. Detroit continued to surprise me. Religion outdrew sex at a punk club. Before the show Tim introduced me to his friend John Lopez. He was about my age and was the owner of a popular restaurant in an up and coming area. His girlfriend was with him, a pretty, younger girl. He told me that there was plenty of room in their house and if I wanted to stay for week it was all right. Well, any port in a storm. I gave the house key back to Katie. When I arrived at John’s house the lights were on. It was a big old house in a better, if mixed, neighborhood.  My room had high ceilings and an old four poster bed.  I decided to stay for at least a couple of days.  It would be nice to sleep in the same bed two nights in a row.

In the morning I found a nearby coffee shop in an ancient wooden building for breakfast. There was a free newspaper. I called Tim Caldwell.  I got him on the phone and he gave me directions to his house. It was on a small island under the bridge to Canada.  A peculiar, restful place in middle of the city.  He occupied an apartment shoe horned into the attic of an old house.  He offered to show me Detroit’s old theaters.  We started by driving into a parking garage downtown and going up to the top floor.  There was the ceiling that once glimmered over the auditorium of the four thousand seat Michigan Theater.  The sides of the ceiling curved downward until they were truncated by the concrete floor of the garage.  On the lower floors you could see a balcony that still had seats in it. The oddest thing is that the first four floors did not go from wall to wall. Instead they stopped at the edge of the lobby. That gave the lobby its original four story open height. It gave me a clear view to the ornate lobby ceiling from the original perspective of a ticket buyer. The Michigan had been built on the site of Henry Ford’s 1892 garage. It was the garage where he built his first car. It seemed appropriate that the theater had become a cathedral where Henry Ford’s progeny now came to worship their creator.

The Michigan was a movie palace of the very grand type. It was designed by Rapp and Rapp of Chicago and was the largest theater in Michigan. It had a full stage for vaudeville. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, among many many others, appeared there on stage. In the early seventies it became a Rock and Roll venue. Kiss, T-Rex, ZZ Top, Sly and the Family Stone, Iggy and Stooges and many others performed there. The only reason it was still in existence, such as it was, is that it was cheaper to turn it into a car park than to demolish it. To make the irony even more piquant, the Ford garage has also survived. It was moved by Mr. Ford’s to his Greenfield Village. If you’ve never been there, or to his nearby museum, I suggest you go. Mr. Ford didn’t just move his own garage there. He also moved Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, the Wright Brother’s cycle shop, the courthouse in Logan, Illinois where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, nearly 100 other historical American buildings, and arranged them all in a village setting. In his nearby museum he has an incredible array of Americana including the assassination car of John F. Kennedy, the assassination chair of Lincoln, the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and so much more.

Our next stop was the Grand Riviera, a huge atmospheric theater designed by John Eberson, a little way out of downtown. It had been built by the Nederlander family. The Nederlanders started in Detroit before becoming the biggest theatrical producers on Broadway. Tim told that the first time he had been in the Grand Riviera he had found Nederlander ephemera strewn across an office floor. There were personal letters, post cards from sons serving in the second world war, and business correspondence. He also found program signed by six members of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe. Both the sentimental and the collectible were equally devalued.

From a distance the Grand Riviera looked like it had been casually walked away from, many years before, being allowed to gently fade away rather than suffer the indignity of the wrecking ball. The effect was that of Blanche Du Bois’s faded Southern belle, or Miss Havisham’s wedding cake.  None of the windows were boarded up to spoil the effect.  The big vertical sign was still there with most of the neon gone. We parked on the street and walked through a vacant lot, over grown with waist high brown grass, around to the back. Tim walked to a weathered piece of ply-wood leaning against the back wall and pulled it aside. A black hole appeared before us.  He then reached into his bag and pulled out two flashlights, a hunting knife and a tire iron.  He handed me one of the lights and the iron. He said “Sometimes you disturb a bunch of vagrants when you go into a place like this.  You just show them the weapons and they leave you alone.”  With that caveat, we crawled through the hole. I thought of soldiers crawling into Viet Cong tunnels in search of the enemy. Once inside he stopped and reached back through the hole pulling the ply-wood over the opening. “It’s just as well people don’t know we’re in here” He whispered, for no apparent reason. Later I asked about it. He said he whispered just in case there were others already inside who he didn’t want to alert to our presence. Once we were inside we could stand up.  We were underneath the stage. Tim walked forward like he knew where he was going. We were on a path between pieces of old theater seats and other debris piled high.  The  flashlights, thankfully,  cut the darkness. We came to a short flight of stairs with a closed door at the top.  That took us into the auditorium, beside the orchestra pit.

Atmospheric theaters were designed to give customers the impression of being outdoors in an exotic courtyard. The illusion was created through ornately decorated walls against what stared out as an unadorned ceiling. Through carefully designed artifice the ceiling became a night sky complete with twinkling stars, passing clouds and a moon. The cloud and other effects were created through a special Brenograph “atmospheric projector” made by the Brenkert Company.

We walked down a side aisle between an acre of unoccupied chairs. There was an eerie light in the auditorium.  I looked up.  Small holes in the ceiling let in tiny shafts  of light.  There were thousands of them, and together added up to just enough light to see by. Our steps had raised a thin cloud of dust. It hung in the air with the pin pricks of lights refracting through it. The walls were decorated with several Egyptian tomb figures of unsmiling men.  They looked forty feet tall. A couple of them had fallen down. They had tumbled forward, broke into several pieces, and lay sprawled across dozens of seats.  We walked into the lobby.  

Everything of obvious and easily carried away value was gone. It was filled with trash and still the walls indicated the glorious beauty it had once had. The lobby ceiling was four stories high. From the middle of the lobby ceiling a long chain hanged down that had once held a huge chandelier. A lot of marble had been used in the decor. We poked around in various store rooms, offices, dressing rooms, and rest rooms. Tim told me that the first time he had come into the place he had forced his way into a narrow room and had found movie posters from the 1920’s. They had been  stuffed into a space where two walls joined together.  Tim also found another old movie poster by crawling up into a false ceiling. On a later visit he came across huge, three sheet and six sheet, posters for Kitten With a Whip, The Hustler, and other sixties movies. The only thing I found to take away were two small metal signs, about a foot long and five inches high. They were no smoking notices, with the fire department directors name at the bottom.  He had probably served during the Hoover administration.

We walked out of the theater the same way we had come in, at last crawling, through the hole into bright sunlight.  I was immediately struck by the heat.  It had been cool inside.  I’d had been like being in the ruins of a cathedral of a forgotten religion.  It had been like being in a another time.  We drove back to town through a neighborhood that had deteriorated along with the theater.  Many of the storefronts along the four lane street were boarded up.  Others contained businesses of dubious financial means. The only ones that appeared flourishing were the fast food franchises. Popeye’s Fried Chicken,  White Castle,  MacDonalds.   Businesses that hadn’t existed when the Grand Riviera had hosted thousands of customers a night. We were a long way from Depression glass dish give aways and Shirley Temple look-a-like contests. People in the neighborhood now stayed home at night, watching TV or Net Flix, many of them afraid to walk the consequently deserted streets.  

I asked Tim about the danger of creeping into abandoned buildings. He told me that the reason he’d given me the tire iron was that there was always the chance of being jumped by crazed crackheads or scrappers. That was also why he had whispered when we first were inside the theater. The scrappers weren’t looking for artifacts. They were were looking for copper wire and other metal that could sold by the pound. One reason it was felt that the Cadillac Hotel would never be re-opened was that scrappers had taken out miles of copper wire and other needed portions of the infrastructure.  He considered the question about danger for a few moments and then said “I’ll drive you by a place”. We got off the thoroughfare and entered side streets.  We drove through neighborhoods of old houses.  The sort that were built in the 1920’s with large front porches.  The porches were to sit on in the hot evenings before air conditioning.  On those evenings the people would come outside.  They would walk in the neighborhood, or sit on the porches.  The walkers would stop and say hello to the porch sitters. Neighbors knew neighbors.  It was early evening but the porches were deserted.  It was a beautiful and peaceful evening. The neighborhoods seemed to be waiting for families to come back and have children playing in the yards.

We drove to Tim’s destination and we stopped.  We were across the street from  an abandoned building with Terra cotta trim.  Tim told me that it was a former funeral home.  He said that Houdini’s body had been embalmed there. The escape artist’s last show had been at the Detroit Garrick Theater. He died on October 31, 1926, Halloween. In the thirties the funeral home became The Art Center Music School. Their mission was to provide affordable music lessons for low income Detroit kids and adults. In the eighties it became a punk club where seminal Detroit punk bands such as Necros and Negative Approach played. Tim told me he had gone to punk shows there and that back then the embalming sink was still present. That is where Houdini’s blood swirled down the drain.

We then drove to the Haney Funeral Home on Ferry Street. The 70’s Detroit television talk show host Dan Haney had grown up there. The show was called “Haney’s People.” It was one of the first black TV shows that was produced and broadcast in Detroit. Tim said funeral home was also the site of his closest brush with death. He had entered the abandoned building one night and looked through various rooms. In one he found a pipe organ. He also found plenty of formaldehyde and body cavity filling fluid. This had to be before the “wet blunt” had become popular. That is a marijuana cigarette laced with PCP and embalming fluid. In one room he found a wooden platform  extending from one side of the room to the other. It was no more than four feet above the floor.  On the platform were dozens of huge bottles of embalming fluid.  The size of bottles that are now left out side of apartment  doors to be picked up and replaced by the bottled water man. At least five gallons each.  The area  underneath had apparently been used for years as a catchall storage place for unwanted things that might someday be of use.  Tim  crawled under the platform to see what he could find.  In certain places the platform was sagging under the weight of the bottles, each probably weighing seven pounds per gallon.  Upright four by fours had been placed strategically to keep the platform from collapsing.  Tim kept working through the rubble, carefully avoiding the four by fours that were suspending a ton or more of embalming fluid above his body.  He carefully looked at old wastepaper baskets, Remington noiseless typewriters from the 1920’s,  black telephones from the fifties, and general trash..  Near the far wall he finally found something of interest.  A pale green glazed Terra cotta standing ashtray. It was a little over two and a half feet tall.  It was once a common item in the lobbies of business buildings, hotels and movie theaters.  He tried to move it.  It didn’t budge.  He was in an area with few four by fours.  The ashtray was being held by the sagging platform above him.  Tim wanted it. He grabbed it with both hands and gave it a better tug.  It didn’t budge.  He waited a while with sweat coolly drying on his skin.  He wrapped an arm completely around it, took a deep breath, and yanked.  It came lose.  Before he could exult in his triumph, he heard a noise.  It was the sound of wood groaning. The groaning continued and was joined by an occasional sharp snapping noise.  The platform sagged down, almost touching him.  He started scurrying back the way he had come, dragging the ashtray along with him. He had a long way to go.  He lost his flashlight.  The platform continued to make singing and snapping noises.  In his hurry he bumped into a four by four and dislodged it.  He kept going, feeling the platform pressing down on him.  He finally rolled free and reached back for the prize. He grasped it just as the platform collapsed with the sound of splintering wood and breaking glass.  He stood quickly with embalming fluid gushing around his feet.  He picked up the ashtray and ran through the darkness for the door.  In the hallway he stopped and gasped for breath.  Fluid, exuding a sickeningly sweet aroma,  ran through the doorway.  Somewhere in the recesses of his mind he heard Houdini laughing at his indecorous exit. It was around ten when I dropped Tim at his house.

I went to John’s restaurant for a late dinner. The Union Street Station was a busy, tasteful, unassuming, place with moderate prices, and generous portions of good food.  He had established it in a questionable downtown area ten years before, and it’s success had led to other independent businesses taking advantage of the low rents and leading to a modest rebirth of the entire area.  After dinner I went into the bar and had a drink, hoping that one of my recent acquaintances would wander into the popular spot and join me.  It was my fortieth birthday and I was alone.  I was working on my second beer when the girlfriend of my host came up to me.  Her first words were “Why the glum face?”  I told her I was thinking of absent friends far away. She replied “There’s no need to do that here. I’ll take you to a nicer bar and buy you a better drink.”  That cheered me up. She drove, in a much nicer car than mine.  The bar she took me to was a surprise.  It was an older place and had a piano player making music instead of a sound system.  The sort of disappearing place where people could meet for conversation and hear, not only  each other, but their own thoughts.  She was a nice girl, from across the river in Canada, who had come across an international border to sample the charms of a big city.  She was a little older than she looked, a college graduate, working as an illustrator for the Detroit Free Press.  I drank Old Fashioneds and she drank Sazaracs, a drink that could be found only in that bar in Detroit.  We stayed past midnight talking about her aspirations and my plans for showing films.  We didn’t talk about\ baseball.  She dropped me off at my car and went into to the restaurant to meet her fella.  I went to their place to sleep in my comfortable bed.

I ended up staying at John’s house for five nights.  I was waiting for the Cleveland Indians to begin a home stand.  Every morning I would walk to the same coffee show I’d found before. I became friendly with a nice waitress.  She was too young for me and not very pretty, but I daydreamed about falling in love with her and remaining in Detroit.  She had nice eyes. It was a vegetarian cafe and I became fond of breakfasting on a variety of black bean dishes.  I considered that she was probably a vegan and my carnivorous habits would stand in the way of our happiness.  The relationship, being all in my mind, never developed, but I wondered, after I had left for the last time, if she ever thought of me.  My afternoons were spent driving around, looking at old buildings, walking into second hand stores looking for films for sale, and sitting in the summer sun writing letters.  A couple of times I went places with Tim Caldwell and explored other vacant buildings.  We didn’t turn up anything interesting.  

One disappointment was an old, boarded up Burlesque theater,  right downtown.  Several years earlier it had been wide open. In it Tim had discovered several trunks full of vintage burlesque costumes that strippers had worn in the 1940’s.  He donated most of them to the Strippers museum in LA that is run by Dixie Evans.  I had a film of Dixie doing a fabulous strip number in Stag Party Special. .  It is a clip from  a 1950 exploitation feature called Too Hot To Handle.  It is the best strip number I have ever seen on film.  Dixie was billed as a Marilyn Monroe look a like.  When Monroe died, it killed her act.  My film had come from the storeroom of a closed Burlesque theater in Seattle.  I made a dupe of the film and sent it Dixie.  She sent me a very nice autographed picture. Tim and I went around to the place where he had gotten in before. We found it securely nailed shut.  The owners of the building were probably just keeping bums out, but what they were effectively doing, was ensuring that when the Detroit renaissance eventually came, it would be destroyed with its treasures intact.  

A happier visit was to the Graystone International Jazz Museum. I was thirteen years too late to see the Graystone Ballroom. It had been the premier venue for jazz in Detroit in the twenties. It was torn down in 1980. It had been the home base for the band leader Gene Goldkette. He was classical piano player born in France in 1899 who who had come to United States at the age of eleven. In the early twenties he managed over a dozen different bands. In his own band of 1926/27 he had Bix Beiderbecke, the Dorsey Brothers, Joe Venuti, and Eddie Lang. It was an incredibly swinging unit. He also helped organize the great McKinney’s Cotton Pickers. They were the hottest black band of the late twenties. In his spare time he also booked bands into the Graystone Ballroom. They included Duke Ellington, Bennie Goodman, and others. The Graystone International Jazz Museum was in a modest space downtown at 1521 Broadway. It was the creation of James Jenkins. He had worked to save the Graystone Ballroom and was not stopped by its destruction. He then started the museum where I found him among his eclectic collection of Detroit jazz artifacts and memorabilia. When I walked in it was the only jazz museum in the country. I was not exactly warmly greeted. After establishing that I had actual respect for the Graystone Ballroom things got better. I stayed for a couple of hours looking at stuff and talking with Mr. Jenkins. I was the only visitor during that time. If I had come prepared with specific questions I probably could have learned a lot. As it was it was a pleasant time. Mr. Jenkins died a year later.

I watched one movie while I was in the city. The fabulous Detroit Fox Theater had been bought and restored by Mike Illitch, the pizza magnate and creator of the Little Caesar pizza empire.  He also owned the Detroit Tiger Baseball team.  I’m not sure just what sort comment this is on American values, but he had bought the team from Tom Monaghan who had got rich with Dominoes Pizza. As the Detroit auto industry collapsed, the Pizza industry rose. The Fox was one of a series of movie palaces built by 20th Century Fox Motion Pictures in major cities of the United States.  Like many downtown theaters it became a grind house in the sixties showing such classic exploitation films as “Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory and Russ Meyer’s “Motor Psycho.” In an odd coincidence it also showed exploitation films produced by Herman Cohen, who had worked his way up in the movie business from being an usher in Detroit to being a semi big shot in Hollywood. Along that path he had once been the assistant manager of the Detroit Fox. Mr. Cohen must have been an interesting guy. His producer credits include “I Was a Teenage Werewolf,” “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and not one, but two Joan Crawford flicks, “Berserk,” and her final film “Trog.” He wrote the original story and screenplay for Berserk. He also acted in a few films. If you want to find out more about him see “It Conquered Hollywood: The Story of American International Pictures.” He is interviewed in that.

Most of the downtown movie palaces in America have been torn down. The few that remain have mostly been turned into live venues that show a mix of Broadway roadshows and music events. The Fox was no exception, but did keep its 35mm projection booth. During my visit it was thankfully between road shows and instead was screening Gone With The Wind.   The mix of neon and incandescent lights on the outside could be seen for blocks away. I parked and took some pictures of the marquee.  I was glad it was not advertising a current movie, a Rock act, or being up for rent.  I bought a ticket. I was not really interested in sitting down and watching the film, instead wanting to look at the theater.  A lot of pizzas must have been sold to cover the cost of the restoration.  There seemed to be miles of new carpeting on the floor and thousands of light bulbs in the ornate fixtures. I imagined what it must have looked like in the 1970’s when it was probably limping along by showing Mandingo, Magnolia, other blaxploitation films, and not generating enough money for light bulbs, much less new rugs.  In a way I was sorry it no longer looked that way.  At least, if the carpet was threadbare, it probably was close to the original, and the shabby original glory of the place could still be seen by those who cared to look for it.   I started climbing stairs, looking for the top of the last balcony.  It took a while to get there and I when I looked down, past the thousands of empty seats, the screen looked about as big as a TV set.  I tried to picture the theater in the 1930’s, full of people escaping the cares of the Depression for a few hours.  I tried to imagine the smell of the place on a night like that, of soft drinks, popcorn, candy and humanity’s odors.  I couldn’t do it.  Maybe I needed a Jimmy Cagney movie on the screen.  I went back down the hundreds of stair steps and took a seat at the back of the main floor.  The screen still looked small, maybe fifty yards away. The crowd of a couple of hundred people seemed lost in the place.  No one had to sit with somebody’s head in their way.  I got up and went back to the lobby.  My last stop was the men’s room.   I first entered the mens lounge.  It contained sofas and easy chairs.  There were no longer smoking stands.  It was as big as many auditoriums in modern multi-plex theaters. The actual rest room was about as grand as a toilet could be.  At least twenty urinals were aligned across one wall.  Walking out I felt that just then I had gotten value for my six dollar admission charge.  Everything else was a bonus.

The next day I drove on to Cleveland. I told John I’d back on August 4 for another show at the Bank. He said he’d be sorry to miss it, as he’d be out of town. That meant I’d need to find another place to stay when I got back.  I left in the late morning for the four hour drive. Before I was halfway there dark storm clouds blocked out most of the sunlight. It started raining hard.  Keeping the little car on the road when it hit small ponds of standing water was a chore. I again wondered exactly where I was and what I was doing.   I hoped that the game that night would not be rained out. I would have considered a rain out to be some sort of sign. Since leaving Seattle I had been looking for one.  I wondered if I would recognize one if it appeared.  I wondered if upon recognizing one, I would chose to ignore it. About an hour out of town the rain stopped and the sun came out.  My immediate destination was a motor court on the shore of lake Erie that I had stayed at before.  It was from the 1950’s and all brick.  It was a place that many people had probably come back to year after year.  It was very moderately priced.  I easily located it, checked in, and headed for the ball park.  I didn’t bother looking for an official ticket window.  I looked for somebody selling discarded season tickets at cut rate prices.  Out side of ball parks where losing teams play good tickets can always be found.  The closer to game time, the better the price.  Half way from my car to the front gate I came across an old black man selling tickets. We agreed on the price of eight dollars for a twelve dollar ticket.  We talked for a while and I asked him if he had seen Rocky Colivito and the other Cleveland sluggers of the 1960’s. He told me that he had seen them all, but none could compare with Luke Easter.  I had never heard of Luke Easter and I considered my self well versed on the history of the national pastime.  The old man assured me that nobody ever hit them as far as Luke Easter.  I later looked up Luke Easter in several reference books.  The old man was right.  Luke Easter spent the best years of his career int he segregated Negro leagues.  He had finally made it to major leagues and at the age of 37, in 1953,  he became the first player to hit thirty home runs in a season for the first time at that advanced of an age.

I entered the stadium and asked an usher for directions to my seat.  I was in a field level box, just to the left of home plate.  As I entered the seating area I stopped and stared.  It was so beautiful.  I couldn’t imagine why any team would want to leave such a wonderful park.  I couldn’t imagine how people could be so short sighted as to label the place a mistake.  The field was covered with the greenest possible grass.  Over the outfield fence Lake Erie shimmered.  Above the horizon the sky was a beautiful shade of dark blue.  There was a full moon  and the only stars that could compete with its light had to be planets.  I felt that there had been a purpose in my 2000 mile trek.  I felt that Balboa could not have felt any better when he traversed the isthmus of Panama and first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean.

My seat was in the fourth row of the first upper deck, looking down, just to the left of home plate. An excellent seat. I was seated next to a blond woman in her thirties. She was with two of her girlfriends. She introduced herself as Glenda. Her friends were Paula and Debra.  They all worked in the same office and had been given their tickets by their boss.  He had given them four and they had sold the odd ticket to the Luke Easter fan outside the ballpark for five dollars.  They didn’t seem to begrudge him his small profit.  They didn’t know anything about baseball and I was soon employed as their guide into the finer points of the great game.  They seemed especially impressed by my pointing out that the Tigers prodigious slugger Cecil Fielder was my favorite player simply because he was the portliest player in the big leagues.  I then told them about other less than svelte players I had been fond of:  John Kruk,  Rick Reuschel, Mickey Lolich, and the man David Letterman had singled out as the fattest player in the game, Terry Forster, who he called “A big tub of goo”.  Mickey Lolich was once questioned by the press about the possibility of his weight affecting his efficacy as a pitcher and he replied “I throw with my arm, not with my belly.”   Rick Reuschel also faced the same question and replied “I’m not required to run the ball to the plate.”   John Kruk summed up the charm of baseball to the average man, with his reply to a woman who said to him “You don’t look like an athlete.”  He returned, “Lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a ball player.”

One of the great charms of baseball is that there is plenty of time time between innings to chat.  For the initiated it can be appreciated for the reverse of the reason that Oscar Wilde liked Wagner.  He said the best part of the music was that it was so loud nobody cared if you talked to your neighbor.   In 1993 baseball was still a mostly quiet game. Most parks still hired organ players to provide occasional music. It was later when the organ playing was replaced by loud music, between innings and often between at bats.

Although the game was called as complete after seven innings due to rain, it was a very pleasant time.   Cleveland won 9-4. The organist liked old songs. He played Muskrat Ramble, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, and other standards. It seemed the first time I had been able to relax in a week.

I was back in Detroit by noon. It was August 4. My last show at the Bank would be that night. When I arrived that evening at the Bank Darren immediately approached me with a dangerous look in his eyes.  His first words were “I don’t want you sleeping at my house”. I didn’t know what to say.  I finally came up with “That’s fine.  I didn’t know it was a problem.” I really didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night.  The one thing I did know, it wasn’t going to be at the Bank.  Then he shocked me with “Just because we’re separated doesn’t mean she’s not mine”.  It may been that I was naive, but I was shocked.  I had no designs on his wife, unattached, or otherwise. I looked at him for  a while and didn’t see any softening of his expression.  I realized that he had been very close to slugging me when he had first approached.  Finally I said “You don’t have to worry about me, I’ll stay at a Motel”.  He turned without comment and stomped away.  The rest of the night I avoided talking to Katie.  I ran the show for the decent sized crowd and during the second reel she cornered me.  She tried to convince me that Darren had no right to keep me out of the house, even if he wasn’t sleeping there.  I told her that I’d sleep better in a Motel and that I very much had appreciated her hospitality but felt better declining another night of it. After the show I drove around to till I found a nondescript motel where for twenty five bucks I got four walls and a bed that had no family discord attached.

I was up early the next morning. I drove to Tim’s for my last stop before hitting the road.  I paid him $25.00 for a 16mm stag film that he assured me was good.  He also gave me several reels of mystery 35mm reels that he had salvaged out of the basement of the Jam Handy Film Production building, maker of industrial shorts, just before the wrecking ball hit it,  and two 35mm Mexican feature films from the 1950’s that he wanted me to show at the Pike St. and tell him if they were of any interest.  Tim collected 16mm films but had no way to view 35mm.  With the car suitably loaded down, I drove away.

On the way home my first destination was Davenport, Iowa.  I wanted to get there before the attendant left for the day at the cemetery where Bix Beiderbecke is buried. Bix was a 1920’s jazz cornetist who had drank himself to death by the age of thirty.  One of his compositions is the song Davenport Blues.  It ran through my head as I drove.  I passed through Chicago in the early afternoon and still got caught in stop and go traffic caused by  road work.  I pulled into Davenport at 5:00 PM and\ headed straight for the burial grounds.  The gates were still open but I couldn’t find anybody to give me directions.  I slowly drove through the narrow lanes between grave stones looking for a Beiderbecke marker.

Oddly enough, I found one.  It was very large and visible from the road, but it wasn’t Bix’s.  After an hour I gave up and drove to Bix’s family home at 1931 Grand Avenue.  It looked just the same as the last time I had stopped in front of it five years earlier.  A tidy house from the turn of the century with chipping paint of yellow, with white trim.  I wondered if the family who lived inside appreciated that they were living in the home of one of the major figures in American music.  For the first time on the trip I wished my car had a tape player and I could listen to Bix and His Rhythm Jugglers  as I drove.  I considered spending the night in Davenport so I could visit Bix’s grave in the morning.  

I checked the time.  It was only 6:30.  There was no reason I couldn’t make Des Moines that night and be that much closer to home. One less night on the road would also mean more money in my pocket when I arrived.  Without stopping to eat, I drove on.  It was the best time to drive in the best spot in America. After sundown radio stations could increase their wattage.  For the next four hours I listened to baseball.  I would tune in the Chicago White Sox and when they faded out I would find the St. Louis Cardinals.  I also found the Minnesota Twins, the Kansas City Royals, The Toronto Blue Jays,  and in what I considered a miracle, late at night, the San Diego Padres.  It wasn’t really a miracle.  They were playing the SF Giants. It was the last game of the night and was some sort of national hook up.  As I drove on, the Giants-Padres would fade out, only to be picked up on another station even farther west.  I made it to  Des Moines,  before midnight. I stayed at a modest brick motel on a side street for a mere $20.00. It was even cheaper than Motel 6 and had what could be euphemistically called character. Most of the cars parked in the lot didn’t look much better than mine, and a couple looked even worse. I felt that parking my car in a lot where it didn’t feel inferior would give it the heart to make it the rest of the way home.

My second day on the homeward journey took me through Omaha, Sioux City,  Sioux Falls, and  Mitchell.  By afternoon I was driving through the vast flatlands of South Dakota, home of the best roadside billboards in America.  In between trying to find something to listen to on the radio I could read about the joys awaiting the visitor at Al’s Oasis, Murdo (Home of worlds biggest outdoor antique auto museum),  Rapid City (gateway to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore),  Casey’s (lowest beer prices and best burgers),  and Wall Drug.  Somehow, among the numerous C & W stations and agricultural reports (healthy northern feeder pigs), I found NPR.  Teri Gross was interviewing Rick Prelinger, owner of the Prelinger Film Archive. Rick was talking about his upcoming tour of America with films  he owned.  I almost drove off the road  into an Al’s Oasis  sign, when I heard him mention that one of his stops would be at The Bank in Detroit.  I wondered if he was going to sleep there. I wondered if Darren would slug him for making eyes at his estranged wife.  I couldn’t imagine that he would be driving a fourteen year old car and considering Motel 6 a suitable place to sleep.  I pushed on for Rapid City, hoping that I could find a ball game to listen to after dark.  I felt myself falling into an existential stupor.  The concrete rushing toward me at seventy miles per hour with the sun in my eyes was hypnotizing.  I surrendered to it and drove on.  I felt vaguely glad that the road was straight and my wheel alignment was true.  At Murdo I stopped for dinner at a charmless eatery.  I didn’t go to the auto museum.  Back on the road I found patches of ball games between miles of static.  Somehow I made it to Rapid City. The Motel 6 room looked exactly like the others, even with the lights on

I awoke early and was on the road without doing the morning crossword puzzle. Harley Davidsons passed me, speeding on their way to the big biker  get  together in Sturgis.  It was a beautiful day to be driving through the forbidding Black Hills.  I stopped for gas in Gillette.  It was a hot day with a howling wind.  Blowing dust stung my eyes when I got out of the car.  A young man noticed the Washington plates on my car, which didn’t look like it could have come that far, and struck up a conversation.  I mentioned the films and projectors in the car.  He assured me that he could arrange a local screening  at his college if I could stay a few days. I couldn’t see spending the whole day in Gillette, much less three or four. I felt the sun beating down and the wind stinging my cheeks.  I thought about summer in Seattle and drove on.  I decided that with my early start I could make Missoula that night.  Passing through Sheridan I started the up hill climb into the Rocky Mountains. Radio reception became impossible and I was left alone with my thoughts.  I wondered how Johannes was doing.  I wondered if the car would make it.  I wondered if I was heading in the right direction.  I had no answers and surrendered to the hypnotic effect of the rushing highway. Approaching  the great divide the air grew chill and I rolled up the windows of the car for first time since leaving Detroit. I noticed that my left arm was burnt from hanging out in the sun. My intrepid vehicle passed overheated cars stalled on the side of the road.  Around many of them men looked worried.  Women looked pissed off.  Children looked glad to be out of the car. Attractive woman by themselves always seemed to have a cowboy in a pickup truck pulled up behind. I passed dozens of slow moving semi-trucks in the inside lane.  I was passed by modern high powered vehicles.  We were all the same.  Americans rushing to be somewhere else because we didn’t understand where we were.  Going seventy miles per hour giving meaning to life.  I  made it over the top and the high pitched whining of the engine calmed down to a contented purr.  I decided not to eat until I reached Missoula.

Approaching Bozeman I changed my mind.  It was 6:15 and if I stopped for dinner I could spend the rest of the drive listening to the Seattle Mariners broadcast out of Grand Forks. Leaving Bozeman I found out that I had been optimistic.  I was still in the Rockies and the radio signal couldn’t find it way around the peaks.  Country and Western music could.  I surrendered and hoped that I would hear an occasional Tammy Wynette oldie.  At eight O’Clock my luck changed.  I found a station out of Livingston that played real country classics.  I was soon singing along with Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb.  I felt giddy and wondered if I was losing my mind.  I considered getting off the interstate and taking the  two lane highway that went through Deer Lodge.  It was a straighter shot that attracted little traffic. It had no amenities.  At that time of night I would have found myself alone on the road.  It was a perfect road to turn off the  headlights and drive by the light of the stars.  Montana has a

sky full of them.  

I jerked myself back to sanity and tried to find the Mariners on the radio.   Passing through Bozeman at seven I saw many “No Vacancy” signs. Could it still be hunting season?  In Butte I found no motel rooms available. I was tired and hungry. I pushed on. Dave Neihaus, the radio voice of the Mariners, guided me into Missoula. It was almost 10:00. I ate mediocre diner food at the 3-B’s restaurant, the original of a three restaurant Montana chain. I then drove into a neighborhood and found a dark spot against the curb under an Elm tree and curled up in the back seat to sleep.

The next morning, knowing that I could make it to Seattle that night without punishing myself, I went to the Mammyth Cafe for breakfast. It was a hippie era place with excellent coffee and huge Cinnamon roles. I even found a discarded New York Times and did the crossword before setting out on the final leg of my trek. I was soon heading west with the morning sun at my back. Above me was big sky. It was an incredible shade of blue and there wasn’t cloud in sight. I tried to feel it was symbolic of my future. It almost worked. My mood was good. NPR was on the radio. I was soon on the curvy roadway that follows the big lake into Couer D’Lane, Idaho. In Spokane I gassed up before I needed to, to avoid the higher prices in the small towns that remained between me and Seattle. It was still more expensive than any I had bought in middle America. My mood darkened when it struck me that I could make Seattle without making another stop. I realized that my trip was ending, and soon the cares of my life would cease to be abstract and become concrete. I wondered if the two weeks and four thousand miles of solitude had brought me wisdom. I couldn’t tell. I passed Ritzville, Soap Lake, Kititatis, and Ellensburg. I kept an eye out for Hunter Mann. I never found him. He was probably on some two lane road between small towns to the north of me. I stopped in North Bend  to eat, and to kill time till the Mariner game started. I was soon climbing the Cascade Range with the soothing sounds of the ballpark as my companion.

Approaching Snoqualmie pass I encountered moderately heavy traffic for the first time since Chicago. On the downward slope it started to rain. Driving became treacherous. The road way contained several fifty MPH curves, and visibility was terrible. My fingers tightened on the wheel as I peered intently into the night. In some places I could hardly see at all and drove on trusting in blind faith that the road was still straight and there were no stalled cars or large animals to crash into. The ballgame faded out but I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel to search for it on another station. I cursed myself for being there. I felt like giving up and driving into the trees. I willed myself to keep going. I eventually found myself on a straight roadway with dry pavement. I found the ball game. I kept driving until I was in front of my apartment and parked. I let myself and stood in the darkness. There was the smell of a long shut up place. There was no cat to come rub up against my leg and beg to be petted. There was no wife to open her arms and welcome me. I was home.

Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are

On March 2, 2017 on my Facebook Page I said Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, Wherever you are. That was what Jimmy Durante used as his radio signoff over the years. The next night I decided to say goodnight to some other random person who intrigued me, and since then I have repeated that almost every night. I am not sure when I decided to limit it to dead people. It was near the beginning.

Edward Abbey

Margaret Abbott

Zequinha de Abreu

Babe Adams  
Grover Cleveland Alexander

May Alix

Mel Allen         

Robert Altman

John Murray Anderson  

Ivie Anderson 

John Murray Anderson  

Arletty

Jean Arthur 

Moe Asch

 Estelle Axton  

Nat Ayer

Dwight Babcock

Ilomay Bailey  

Bearcat Baker

Belle Baker

Chet Baker

Steve Barker

Alben Barkley

Pancho Barnes

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

Saul Bass

Birch Bayh  

Lincoln Beachey 

Peter Beard

Bix Beiderbecke

Cool Papa Bell

Chief Bender

Walter Benjamin  

E.C. Bentley

Bunny Berigan

Emile Berliner 

Wallace Berman 

Art Bernstein

Jan Berry

Billy Bevan

Ambrose Bierce

Barney Bigard

Isabella Bird  

Billy Bitzer 

Alice Guy Blache

RD Blackmore  

Eubie Blake 

James W. Blake

Enid Blyton

Bocko the Dog

Clay Boland  

Buddy Bolden 

George Boldt  

Joe Boles 

Carrie Jacobs Bond 

Issy Bonn

Benjamin Bonneville  

Ruthanna Boris

Lyman Bostock 9/6/17

Connee Boswell  

James Boswell

Sunny Jim Bottomley

Brooks Bowman 

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Martin Branner

Richard Brautigan 

Dr. Lorna M. Breen

Roger Breshnahan

Jack Brickhouse 

Nell Brinkley

John Brisker   

Katherine Brocklebank

Steve Brodie  9/3/17

Irving Brodsky

Anne Bronte 

Louise Brooks

Walter R. Brooks

Shelton Brooks

Fredric Brown

Steve Brown

Jack Brownlow

Jack Bruce

Lenny Bruce 

Nigel Bruce

Pieter Bruegel the Elder 

 Arthur Bryant   

Louise Bryant  

Garland Buckeye  

Luis Bunuel

Smoky Burgess

Billie Burke 

Joe Burke

Ernie Burnett  

Fanny Burney

Edgar Rice Burroughs

John K Butler

Smedley Butler

Paul Cain 

Mrs. Calabash   March  2, 2017

Eleanor Cameron 

Robert Capa

Timothy Carey

Thumbs Carllile  

Frank Capra 

Hoagy Carmichael

Fausto Carmona 

Jean Carmen 

Marcel Carne

Harry Carney

Barbara Carroll

Ham Carson  

Rachel Carson

Alexander Cartwright 

Buddy Catlett

Peg La Centra  

Henry Chadwick

Richard Chambers

John Chambless

Raymond Chandler 

Charley Chase

Mary Boykin Chesnut  

Shirley Chisholm

Stephen Crane  

Judge Crater  

Walter P Chrysler 

Nestor Chylak  

Colly Cibber

Irv Cisski

Charity Clarke

Tony Cloninger 

Charles Coburn

Dorcas Cochran    

Issac Leeser Cohen

Larry Cohen

Jan Cole

Buddy Collett

Floyd Collins 

Wilkie Collins

Joyce Compton

Jimmy Colvard  

Zez Confrey 

Tony Conigliaro

Jocko Conlan 

Reg Connolly

Edgar Connor

Joseph Conrad 

Barbara Cook 

Elisha Cook Jr

Nat King Cole

Calvin Coolidge

J Fred Coots 

Charlotte Corday

Joseph Cornell

Bob Cowan

Malcom Cowley

Harry Cowley 

Lucas Cranach the Elder

Wahoo Sam Crawford

Caresse Crosby 

Harry Crosby

Beggie Cruiser

James Crumley

Ray Cummings

Babe Dahlgren 

Leroy Daniels 

Jane Darwell 

Jim Davenport https://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1968/B08090SFN1968.htm

Homer Davenport 

Delmer Daves  

Bette Davis 

Norbert Davis  

Jane Darwell 

Clarence Darrow  

Richard Harding Davis

Dolly Dawn 

Amanda Dawson    

Eugene Debs

Hendrick van der Decken  

Frances Dee

Daniel DeFoe 

 Volly De Faut    

Ed Delahanty

Floyd Dell

Jini Dellaccio

Vina DelMar

François Delsarte  

Charles Demuth

Lester Dent

Gaby DesLys 

Charles Dickens  

Steve Ditko 

Ivan Doig

Virgil Doller

 Wordsworth Donisthorpe  

Abner  Doubleday

Walter Donaldson

Ruth Donnelly 

William O. Douglas   

Cynthia Doyon 

Jan Dudesek

Eleanor Dugan   

Germaine Dulac

Robert Dudley (Wienie King) 

Isadora Duncan

 Tommy Duncan  

 Katherine Dunham  

Jimmy Durante 

Trent Junior Durkin

Charles Duryea 

Jeanne Eagels

Ray Eames

Amelia Earhart

Luke Easter 

Sidney Easton

Marion Eaton

John Eberson 

Billy Eckstine\

Farciot Edouart  

T.S. Eliot

Jean Erdman

AL Erlanger

Buck Evans March 9

Dixie Evans

Mary Ann Evans

Medgar Evers  

Virgil Exner

Jan van Eyck

Tom Fadden

Juan Manuel Fangio   

Richard Fariña  

Mark Fidrych

Henry Fielding 9/5/17

Dorothy Fields

Leonor Fini

Charlie O Finley

Bobby Fischer 

Bernice Fisher

Doris Fisher

Fred Fisher 

Steve Fisher

Eleanor Flexner  

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn 

Leo F. Forbstein

Hank Fort 

Sylvia Froos

Bobby Fuller

Loie Fuller 

Maud Fulton  

Jacques Futrelle

William Lloyd Garrison  

Helen Gahagan

Eva Le Gallienne   

Tod Galloway

Isabella Gardener

Judy Garland

Mrs. Gaskell

Lottie Gee    

Eugene Genovese

Bart Giamatti  

Stella Gibbons

Billy Gilbert  

Haven Gillespie

Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

Lottie Gilson

Adele Girard 

Louise Glaum

 Lud Gluskin  

Rumer Godden

 Jean Goldkette  

Oliver Goldsmith

Ernestina Gonzalez (librarian) 

Al Goodhart

David Goodis  

Steve Goodman

Lesley Gore

Stephen Jay Gould

Curt Gowdy

Gloria Grafton 

Horace Greeley 

Edith Green

William Friese-Greene  

Fred Greenwell

Maria Grever 

Zane Grey

DulleSarah Grimke  

Corrine Griffith 

Buzz Grisinger 

Johannes Gutenberg 

William McKendree Gwin  

H Rider Haggard

Rose Hamlin

Dashiell Hammett 

Granny Hamner  

Fred Hampton 

Learned Hand

Tommy Handley

James F. Hanley 

Lil Hardin

 Florence Harding  

Oliver Norvell Hardy 

Thomas Hardy

Lumsden Hare

 Frances Ellen Watkins Harper   

Marion Harris

Marguerite Harrison

Max Harrision 

Marvel Harshman  

Lorenz Hart 

Jim Ray Hart

Gabby Hartnett  

Ernie Harwell

Shinobu Hashimoto

Dorothea Haus  

Dale Hawkins    

Willis C. Hawley 

Grace Hayes

Seamus Heaney 

Neal Hefti

Morton Heilig

Joseph Heller

Babe Herman

Solly Hemus 

David Henderson 

Wanda Hendrix

Babe Herman

George Herriman

Dan Hicks

Alex Hill   

Joe Hill 

Ragnar Hyltén-Cavallius  

Rose Hobart

Johnny Hodges

 Abbie Hoffman  

Sterling Holloway 

Burton Holmes

John Holte

Robert Hope-Jones 

Rogers Hornsby 

Lester Horton    

Darrell Bob Houston

Joyce Howard

Gordie Howe

Jay Hughes 

John Hughes  

Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston 

Ina Ray Hutton

Christiaan Huygens  

Victor Hugo 

Cordell Hull

Herman Hupfeld

May Irwin  

David Ishii

Molly Ivins

Sarah Jacobson 

Glenn L Jackson

Sigmund Jakucki

Elmore James

Frankie “Half Pint” Jaxon 

Hokum Jeebs

Bob Jenkins  

Francis Jenkins 

Ted Joans 

Antonio Carlos Jobim

Nard Jones

Ethel Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Myra Johnson

Walter Johnson 

Grace Johnston

Louis Jordan 

Peggy Hopkins Joyce 

Pauline Kael   

Madeline Kahn

Natalie Kalmus 

Max Kaminsky

Babe Kane

Buster Keaton

Harry Stephen Keeler

Ruby Keeler

Wee Willie Keeler

Keller Sisters and Lynch

Fran Kelley   

Shipwreck Kelly

Red Kelly 

Fanny Kemble  

J Michael Kenyon

Charles Franklin Kettering

Stan King

Irene Kitchings 

 Hannes Kolehmainen   

Alexandra Kollontai   

Lud Kramer

Kris Kristofferson  

Karl Krogstad

George Kuchar 

Akira Kurosawa 

Fighting Bob Lafolette

Eva Le Gallienne

 Art Lacey  

Evelyn Sibley Lampman

Charles Lane

Eddie Lang 

Sidney Lanier

Honey Lantree  

Nick LaRocca

Jonathan Latimer 

 Charlie La Vere  

Vee Lawnhurst 

Mary Elizabeth Lease

Jennie Lee

Bobby Leecan

Cora LaRedd  

Ponce de Leon

Edmonia Lewis  

Herschel Gordon Lewis

Texas Jim Lewis

Bella Lewitzky  

Richard Lindner  

Jake Lingle 

Sonny Liston  

Monia Liter  

Dr. David Livingstone

Frank Loesser 

Russell Long

Anita Loos

Federico García Lorca

Peter Lorre

Joe Loughmiller

Bessie Love

Burroughs Lovingood

Juliette Gordon Low

Raymond Lowey

Roberto Primero Luis

Harry Lundeberg

Angus MacAskill

June MacCloy

Mary McCarthy

Willie McCovey

Carson Mccullers

Skip McDaniel 

Barbara McNair

Marion Mack 

Josephine Sarah Magner 

Warren Magnuson

Louis-Camille Maillard   

Eugene T Maleska  

Man Mountain Dean

Fate Marable 

Pete Maravich   

Frances Marion  

Mae Marsh   

Mickey Martin

Christy Mathewson

June Mathis

Jonathan Dixon Maxwell  

Virginia Mayo

Tom McCall 

Gene McCarthy 

Horace McCoy

Sam McDaniel  

Deacon McGuire   

George McKelvey

Red McKenzie

Dave McKenna 

Nina Mae Mckinney

Charles McNary 

Lee MacPhail  

Aimee Semple McPherson 

Carmen McRae  

Taylor Mead

Audrey Meadows

Catherine de’ Medici

Ducky Joe Medwick 

Joe Meek 

Raquel Meller

William Cameron Menzies  

Richard Merkin

Fred Merkle

Methuselah 

Dale Messick 

Vic Meyers 

Sheila Michaels

Toshiro Mifune 

Inez Milholland  

John Stuart Mill

Miller, Bauer and Franzel

Marilyn Miller

Max Miller 

Ned Miller

Roger Miller 

Florence Mills  

Memphis Minnie 

Margaret Mitchell 

Thomas Mitchell

Kenji Mizoguchi

Annabelle Moore  

Colleen Moore

 Eva Moore  

Tim Moore 

Lee Morse 

Peg Moreland

Wayne Morse 

Jelly Roll Morton

Grandma Moses

Mother Joseph

Constance Baker Motley  

Lucretia Mott

John Muir

 Dody Muller  

Van Lingle Mungo

Clarence Muse

Frederick Nebel

Evelyn Nesbit  

Fayard Nicholas 

Alberta Nichols

Dudley Nichols 

Lady Nijo   

Walter Nicks  

Frank Norris

Ivor Novello    

Paavo Nurmi 

 Sven Nykvist   

Willis O’Brien

Lefty O’Doul  

Nuala O’Faolain

John O’Hara 

Kate Richards O’ Hare   8/27/20

Phil Ochs

Anny Ondra

George Olsen 

Nance O’Neil 

Jim O’Steen

Wayne Overholser  

Alan J. Pakula

Bee Palmer

Joel Palmer  

Margaret Pardee 

Charlie Parker

Stephen Parr

Joe Pass

Max Patkin

Michael Pate  

Margaret Petherbridge 

Miss Patricola 

Ruby Payne-Scott  

Phil Ochs

Ransom Eli Olds 

Charley Paddock

Eddie Peabody 

Francis Perkins 

Maxwell Perkins  

Bernice Petkere 

Alphonse Picou 

Nova Pilbeam

Maceo Pinkard  

Wally Pipp

Eugene Pitt

Albert A Pope

Karl Popper 

Del Porter

Edwin S Porter 

Emily Post

Donald Pleasence 

John Wesley Powell

Edwin Pratt 

B Marcus Priteca

Edna Purviance

Jack Purvis 

Snoozer Quinn

Ann Radcliffe 

Double Duty Radcliffe  

David Raksin

John Randolph of Roanoke

Joe Rantz

John Reed

Don Redman

Casper Reardon  

Blanche Ring

Lawrence Ritter

Damon Runyon

Albert Pinkham Ryder

Earl Robinson

Simon Rodia

Emily Warren Roebling

Adrian Rollini 

Elihu Root

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 

Leon Roppolo

Josephine Noyes Rotch 

Bertrand Russell

Pee Wee Russell

Babe Russin 

Margaret Rutherford 

Albert Pinkham Ryder  

Ruth St. Denis

Rafael Sabatini 

Richard Sale

Zell Sanders

Bobby Sands  

Margaret Sanger 

John Monk Saunders

Bert Schneider  

Olive Schreiner 

Joe Schultz 

John T. Scopes   

Gene Sedric   

Sybil Seely

Marie Severin

Frances Ford Seymour

Tot Seymour

Will Shade

Mary Shane

Lena Sharpe

Anna Shaw  

Joseph Shaw 

BF Shearer

Mary Shelley

Ella Sheppard

R.C. Sherriff  

Takashi Shimura 

Elmer Schoebel   

Eli Shoucair

Frank Signorelli

Jay Silverheels

Doug Simpson

 Arthur Singer Jr 

Victor Sjostrom 

Enos Slaughter

Bessie Smith

Charles Kingsford Smith

Harry Smith 

Margaret Chase Smith  

Pinetop Smith

Dean Snider  

Fred Snodgrass

Chief Sockalexis  

Tris Speaker 

Harold Spina 

Tom Stacks  

Jess Stacy

Jo Stafford 

Lionel Stander 

Henry Morton Stanley  

Gene Starbecker

Ladislas Starevich

Jigger Statz

David B. Steinman  

Brian Sternberg

Kaye Stevens

Wallace Stevens 

Max Stiener

Al St. John  

Lili St. Cyr

Karl Heinz Stockausen

Lowe Stokes

Rose Pastor Stokes

 IF Stone  

Toni Stone   

Sam Streeter

Louisa Strentzel  

Albert Stubbins  

Clyde Studdelfield

Preston Sturges

Snorri Sturluson

Jule Styne  

Louis Sullivan

Charles Sumner   

Stu Sutcliffe  

Einar Swan

Blanche Sweet 

Kay Swift

Roger Szmodis

Chas H W Talbot  

Jacques Tati

Doris Tauber

Chuck Taylor

Glen Taylor

Tell Taylor  

Birdie Tebbetts

Shirley Temple

Josephine Tey

Henry Thiele 

Jean Toomer   

Ernest Torrence 

Georges de la Tour

Arthur Tracy

Merle Travis

Gene Trent

 Carlo Tresca

 Juan Trippe  

Lamarr Trotti 

Dizzy Trout

John R. Tunis

Willi Unsoeld

Joseph Urban

James Van Allen 

Willard Van Dyke 

Alberto Vargas  

Amerigo Vespucci 

Jean Vigo

Will Vinton

Amos Vogel   

Bea Wain

George Walker

Henry Wallace

Oliver Wallace

Fats Waller

Earl Warren

Earle Warren

Hildegarde Watson

Isaac Watts  12/16/17

Mable Wayne

Lois Weber

Joseph Nye Welch 

Casey Bill Weldon

Dick Wellstood 

Oswald West

Bob West 

Nathanael West

Donald Westlake 

Perc Westmore

Helen Westley 

Pearl White 

Raoul Whitfield

Danny Whitten

Spiegle Willcox   

Charles Williams

Charles Willeford

Joe Williams 

Don Wilson 

Lois Wilson

Bob West

Rogier van der Weyden

Bo Widerberg

Claire Whitaker  

Hagar Wilde

Elwood Wiles

Lee Wiley 

Dick Williams 

Hank Williams 

George Wildcat Wilson 

Toby Wing

Margaret Winkler  

Frank J. Winser

Anna May Wong 

Charles Erskine Scott Wood

Smoky Joe Wood

Victoria Woodhull 

Harry Woods 

Elizabeth Woodville

Monty Woolley 

Teresa Wright

Vincent Youmans 

Art Young

Ericka Zastrow

The Oregon Cartoon Institute Animation Festival at Disjecta 2007

In 2007 The Oregon Cartoon Institute asked me to show every animated film I had in my archive. This was the result. Since then I have added many more cartoons. If I did this again it would be even better.

The shows were at Disjecta when It was in the Templeton Building near the East end of the Burnside Bridge. The last program of 35mm Animation was at the Hollywood Theatre.

Opening Night Friday February 23

From Zoetrope to Sound

Animation starting with a short look at the history of animation as presented in a Disney short subject documentary from 1955. Followed by works by the very first artists to work in the field of animation

Fantasmagorie (1908) Emil Cohl  France

Gertie the Dinosaur  (1914) Winsor McCay

Colonel Heeza Liar in the African Jungles (1923)  John Randolph Bray

Charley at the Beach (1919) Pat Sullivan  Otto Messmer  Nestor Film Co.

Modeling  (1921) Max Fleischer

Puss in Boots  (1922)  Walt Disney Kansas City Laugh-O-Gram Films

Seeing Things  Mutt and Jeff (1919) Bud Fisher

He Made Me Love Him Krazy Kat (1916) Frank Moser  Leon Searl  writer George Herriman

Monsieur Slim c1927 Joe Morgan as Andy Gump. This is probably the only print in the world. It has not been determined what the original American title of this film is. This a French print purchased at a sidewalk sale in Paris in 1999 with French inter-titles. It concerns an auto race in which the Gumps enter their mobile home; which is a shack built on a truck chassis. It is hilarious and is mostly live action but uses animation in a key scene. Andy Gump was a very popular comic strip in the twenties and has been cited as a favorite of R. Crumb.

Saturday February 24, 2007

The Mouse that Roared

Ten early Disney cartoons in black and white. The beginning of the company that soon dominated the animation industry. See the development from crude to sophisticated animation from the first days of the company.


Sunday February 25 The Early Work of Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, Otto Messmer and Ub Iwerks. Ub met Walt Disney in Kansas City and was Walt’s first employee. He was a brilliant animator and created Mickey Mouse. He left Disney to form his own cartoon studio in 1930. Paul Terry was born in San Mateo and animated his first cartoon in 1915. His company churned out cartoons for the next fifty years. Walter Lantz also was a pioneer (Working on Bray’s Col Heeza Liar 1916) who established his own studio and produced scads of cartoons. Otto Messmer created Felix the Cat in the teens. 

Fiddlesticks (1931) Ub Iwerks Character: Flip the Frog, music by Carl Stalling

Techno-cracked (19333) Ub Iwerks, animator Shamus Culhane, music by Carl Stalling

Play Ball (1933) Ub Iwerks Character: Willie Whopper, Music by Carl Stalling

The Black Duck (1929)  Paul Terry

Eliza On the Ice(1944)  Paul Terry Producer,  Connie Rasinski  Director

Andy Panda’s Pop (1941) Walter Lantz

Fish Fry  1944  Andy Panda  Walter Lantz

Hollywood Matador  (1942)  Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker

The Coo Coo Bird  (1947) Walter Lantz, Dick Lundy,  voices Mel Blanc, Bugs Hardaway

Felix In Fairyland (1923) Otto Messmer

Felix Woos Whoopee (1928) Otto Messmer

Monday February 26 The Birth of Betty Boop (Or My Life as a Dog) The program begins with the 1933 cartoon Is My Palm Red, which purports to tell the true story of Betty Boops baby days and forward. It is followed by the first Betty Boop cartoon Dizzy Dishes.  Then, nine more, all made before Betty became human. Betty first appeared as the love interest of Bimbo. Bimbo was a dog. Betty was too. See her change, not just in and out of her clothes, but into another species.  Produced by Max Fleischer.  Directed by Dave Fleischer.

Is My Palm Red (1933)

Dizzy Dishes (1930)

Mysterious Mose (1931)

Any Little Girl Who’s a Nice Little Girl (1931)

The Herring Murder Case (1931)

Bimbo’s Initiation (1931)

Kitty From Kansas City (1931) With Rudy Vallee

Mask-A-Raid  (1931)

Dizzy Red Riding Hood (1931)

Any Rags (1932)

Tuesday February 27 The Forgotten Greatness of Amadee Van Beuren Some of the best cartoons of the thirties were made by the fabled studio of Amadee Van Beuren. Mr. Van Beuren fell into poor health and produced no cartoons after 1936. His cartoon studio then folded. He died in 1938.

A Toyland Tale (1931)

Butterflies featuring Molly Moo Cow 1935

Molly Moo Cow and Robinson Crusoe (1935)

Rasslin Match (1934) featuring Amos and Andy

Parrotville Old Folks (1935)

Piano Tuners (1932)

Pastrytown Wedding (1934) Ted Eshbaugh

Happy Hoboes (1933)

The Sunshine Makers (1935) Ted Eshbaugh

Cap’n Cub (1945)  Post Van Beuren work by the enigmatic Ted Eshbaugh who earlier did The Sunshine Makers and others.

Wednesday February 28 The Amazing Ladislaw Starevitch. Starevitch produced his first stop motion cartoon “Lucanus Cervus” in 1910.That puts him before Winsor McCay in the history of animators and only Emil Cohl before him. Nyback considers him the greatest animator who ever lived and is not alone in that assessment. His work has influenced Jan Svankmajer, The Quay Brothers, and many other animators. Toy Story was a remake of his greatest work The Mascot. His work from 1914 to 1933 will be in the show.

The Mascot (1933) Original title  Le Fetiche

Love in Black and White (1928)  Original title Amour noir et amour blanc

The Song of the Nightingale (1925)  Original title La voix du rossignol

The Frogs Who Wanted a King (1922) Original title Les grenouilles qui demandent un roi

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) Original title  Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora

Thursday March 1 The Harman and Ising Era at Warner Bros. It should be noted that all the WB Cartoons were just distributed by WB.  They were independently produced by Leon Schlesinger from the beginning into 1945.  Everyone knows the great WB  cartoon characters Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Road Runner, Yosemite Sam, and the rest. The first of those to appear was Porky Pig in 1935. Warner Bros. animation started in 1929 under the control of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising. They left WB for MGM in 1934. Here are ten great cartoons from the Harman Ising era at WB.

One More Time 1931

Freddy the Freshman 1932

I Like Mountain Music 1933

We’re In the Money 1933

Wake Up the Gypsy In Me 1933

Buddy’s Showboat 1933

Buddy the Gob 1934

Bosko in Person 1933

Shake Your Powder Puff 1934

Honeymoon Hotel 1934 Cinecolor

All of these cartoons are from the “pre-code” Hollywood era. It shows.

Friday March 2 Warner Brothers Part Two: The introduction of Bugs, Daffy, Porky and the rest. Cartoons characters change over time. Here we see some of the all time greats in their earliest forms. You’ll be shocked to see how fat Porky Pig was in the beginning. You’ll be amazed at just how Daffy Daffy Duck was. Bugs Bunny was really a jerk. You’ll see the first Tweetie Pie cartoon where he is really sadistic and not the “cute”character seen currently on pre-teens backpacks. A nice look at these characters before their sharp corners were rounded off.

Porky’s Pet (1935) Porky Pig

Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937)  Daffy Duck

Porky in Wackyland (1938) Porky Pig

A Wild Hare (1940) Bugs Bunny

A Tale of Two Kitties (1942)  Tweetie Pie

Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (1944) Bugs Bunny

Russian Rhapsody (1944)  Gremlins

Southern Fried Rabbit (1953)  Yosemite Sam

There They Go Go go (1956) Road Runner

Saturday March 3 Mel Blanc, the man of a  1000 voices

Clink Clink Another Drink  Soundie with Mel performing with Spike Jones and His City Slickers

The Screw Driver (1941) Woody Woodpecker

Home Front (1943)  Private SNAFU

Porky’s Movie Mystery (1939)

Sheepish Wolf (1942)

Wise Quackers (1949)

A Hick, A Slick and a Chick (1948)

Daffy Doodles (1946)

Banty Raids (1963)

Cocoa Pebbles  Ad c1963

Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943)

Mel Blanc (1943) from an Army/Navy Screen Magazine

Sunday March 4 Cartoonists and Animators Go to War From WWI we will see Winsor McCay’s spectacular The Sinking of the Lusitania. From WW II we will see Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Suess) military training toons, Popeye battling the Japanese, Chuck Jones’ pacifist Draft Horse, Superman fighting for the American way, Joseph Stalin the Godless Commie on our side, and much more. This is not really program for children.

Sinking of the Lusitania  Winsor McCay  1919

Tokio Jokio  1943  Norman McCabe Warner Bros.

Education For Death  1943  Disney

The Draft Horse  1942  Chuck Jones Warner Bros.

Spies  Private 1943 Snafu

You’re a Sap Mr. Jap  1942  Popeye  Max Fleischer

The Japoteurs  1942  Superman   Max Fleischer

Rumors  Private Snafu  1944

Bugs Nips the Nips 1944 Bugs Bunny Warner Bros.

Der Fuhrer’s Face 1942  Disney 

Monday March 5 World Animation Mr. Nyback is very happy to at last be able to show some rarities he has collected from his travels around the world showing films. Many of these cartoons were given as gifts in foreign lands. They will include Czech, Hungarian, Australian, Japanese, French, Dutch, Polish, and other world animation.

Barktakiada (1985) Oldrich Habere Kratky Film Praha  Czech

Hat on Flier 1986  Zagreb Film

The Red and the Black

Variations on Theme  no date  Budapest  Anti-War

Sword  1968 Czech

Story of the Southern Cross (1969) Thelma Dufton, Concept Films Australia

The Jump  (1965) Eino Ruutsalo Music by Henrik Otto Donner  Finland

A-1 Love (1965) Yoji Kuri Japan

The Daisy  (1965)  Todor Dinov  Bulgaria

Lakat Kao Takev (1959) Zagreb Film


Tuesday March 6 There is Nobody Like Tex Avery This program will have the best of Tex, both at Warners in the 30’s and at MGM in the 40’s.

Homesteader Droopy (1954)  MGM

Drag-Along-Droopy (1954) MGM

Bad Luck Blackie (1949) MGM

Uncle Tom’s Cabana (1947)  MGM

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) MGM

Thugs with Dirty Mugs  (1939)

Hamateur Night (1939)

Mice Will Play (1938)

Screwball Squirrel (1944)  MGM

A Sunbonnet Blue (1937) WB

Don’t Look Now (1936) WB

I Love to Singa (1936) WB

Wednesday March 7 Sixties Animation Most of this will be Television animation.

Matty’s Funnies,  Lost Wages episode,  1962  Bob Clampett,  Beany and Cecil

Rocky and Bullwinkle   Upsy-Daisyism  1961 

Roger Ramjet  (1965)

The Mighty Heroes (1966)  Ralph Bakshi

Rosie the Robot 1962 The Jetsons (Pilot episode)

Rock of Rockzilla   (1962)  Flinstones

Pigeon in a Plum Tree (1962)  Gumby

Sesame Street  (1969)  First season 



Thursday March 8 Comic Books Come Alive   Superman, Little Lulu, Beatle Bailey, Mighty Mouse, others. 

The Bulleteers  (1942 Superman  Dave Fleischer

Mechanical Monsters (1941) Superman Dave Fleischer

Lulu’s Indoor Outing  (1942)  Manny Sparber  Little Lulu Jug Haid’s Jumping Frog

Home Sweet Swampy (1962)   Al Brodax    Snuffy Smith

Jug Haid’s Jumping Frog (1962)  Snuffy Smith

Goonland    (1938)   Popeye   Dave Fleischer

Sultan Pepper (1934)  Oscar Soglow The Little King

Railroad Rhythm (1937) Krazy Kat

Friday March 9 Educational Animation Here is some really rare and interesting stuff, animation not intended for theatrical release but for the school systems as educationals.

The Glob Family  no information

Emily  Story of a Field Mouse  c1972

The Story of Menstruation (1946)  Disney 

My Turtle Died Today (1964) Bailey Film 

About Conception and Contraception (1973)  National Film Board  Canada

ABC of Health   Great Britain c1940

Saturday March 10 Pinto Colvig and other Oregon Animators. Pinto Colvig will be one of the featured animators of the Oregon Cartoon Institute. He was born in Jacksonville, Oregon in 1892. He first worked as a newspaper cartoonist and then became an animator. Working at Disney in the early thirties he began doing voice work. He was the longtime voice of Goofy. He also did some voice work for Warners and was the voice of Bluto in Famous Studios Popeye cartoons. This show will feature his work at Disney, Warners, and Famous. Another honoree of the OCI is Carl Barks. He was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901. He worked at Disney animating Donald Duck and then, by himself, created Scrooge McDuck. We will show one of his Donald Duck cartoons. Most Portlanders know that Matt Groening is from here. What most of them don’t know is that in high school he worked with local teenage film maker Tim Smith on several films. One of the best, which includes animation, is Drugs Killers or Dillers, which will lead off the show.

Drugs:  Killers or Dillers  1972 Tim Smith 

Hobo Gadget Band  (1939)  WB  Pinto Colvig

Klondike Kid 1932

Mickey’s Mellerdramer 1933 aka Mickey and Simon Legree

Pluto’s Judgement Day (1935)  Disney  Pinto Colvig (voice)  Carl Barks (animation)

I Like Mountain Music (1933)  WB  Pinto Colvig

Popeye Presents Eugene the Jeep (1941)  Pinto Colvig

The Whoopee Party (1932) Pinto Colvig

Sunday March 11 World Puppet Animation

Mobilier Fidele (Autmatic Moving Co.) 1910 Emil Cohl  France

The Problem  (1964) Prague Czech  Jan Dudesek

Phillips Broadcast (1938) George Pal Netherlands

Puss in Boots (1940) Germany Ferdinand Paul, Hermann Diehl 

Jack and Beanstalk (1956)Germany Lotte Reiniger 

It’s A Bird (1930) Charley Bowers  USA

Poison in the House (1957)Basil Miovsorff  born Siberia  USA



Monday March 12 Industrial Animation Industrial films are among the least seen films by the average person. They were generally only seen by those in the industries they covered, sort infomercials for a much smaller market. Animated industrial films are smaller group. Here are some pips! Doomsday for Pests was made by the Sherwin Williams paint company to promote the latest product of 1953: Paint mixed with DDT to keep bugs at bay. The great animation was by the Jerry Fairbanks company. It uses both animation and live action to great effect. The UPA company was formed by animators who had been blacklisted for striking against Disney in the forties. They produced the wonderful Gerald McBoing Boing cartoons and also Mr. Magoo. Their bread and butter was animated commercials and industrial films. Of great topical interest today is their Man On the Land paid for by the oil industry in 1957 which you will see is a beautiful Technicolor print. Mr. Nyback is not sure who made Happy Little Blue Bird Valley. It was obviously funded by hydroelectric power money. It shows the little blue bird and other animals of the forest who are so happy because a dam is being built. Truly bizarre! Others.

Man on the Land (1951) UPA

Doomsday for Pests (1953)  Jerry Fairbanks Productions

Happy Little Bluebird Valley c1962 

Tuesday March 13 Animated TV Commercials (50’s through 80’s)

Intertitle Junk Food The All American Meal

Burger King Lion and son in the jungle fully animated 1970s

Zero Bar candy fully animated 1970s

7-UP See the Light! Fabulous psychedelic vaudeville 1975

Pepsi CLIO award winner 1989 Funk Music fully animated

Adams Gum Fully animated Weird flavors 1970s

MacDonalds Ronald MacDonald with puppets back to the stone age 1970s

Funny Bone Candy Bar 1960’s b Live action kids and animated candy bar B&W

Little Caesar Pizza CLIO award Origami ad 1989

Intertitle You Gotta Have a Gimmick To Sell This Stuff

Brick Makers CLIO award 1989 Judo

Flair Pens 1960s color Stop Motion

Social Security PSA 1970s live action with partial animation

Levis With Dacron Polyester 1977 Plaid Levis Ken Nordine voice Not on youtube

Princess Telephone 1964 Stop Motion B&W

Silverstone Teflon frying pan Hang on Sloopy! CLIO 1988

Baggies Alligator Live action with cast from Family Affair partial animation 1960s

Intertitle Moral Crusade Public Service Advertisements

Roadrunner Wiley Coyote and Shamu National Safety Council Fully animated 1960s

Basic Education Grants Platform shoes talk to each over 1960s fully animated

Tarzan Dental Care California Dental Association fully animated 1970s

Use Pesticides Carefully 1970s Puppets EPA

Eat Sensibly 1970s FDA Puppets

Seasons Greetings R.O. Blechman fully animated 1969 Woodsman spares tree

Intertitle Hook em Young The Fine Art of Exploiting Children

Peter Pan Peanut Butter with Tinker Bell Live action and animation 1958

Ding Dongs King Ding Dong Fully animated 1970’s

Sippity Doo Dah 1970s Some sort of chocolate milk Live action and animation

Kool Aid 1970s Hey Kool Aid Bowling Alley puppet

Twinkies Live and stop motion “Even space girls like Twinkies.” Weird 1970s

Nestles Quik Famous live action and animated Bunny 1970s

Pet Instant Milk 1962 Live and stop motion child star Ron Howard B&W

Crazy Foam 1960s color bathtub toy dispensers Live action and animation

Jif Peanut Butter 1950s B&W Live action and some stop motion

Top Cat Ad for the tv show Fully animated 1961

Hunts Snack Pack 1960s Talking horse

Bugs Bunny Show 5 second spot fully animated

Kool Aid Kids from Holland Fully animated B&W 1960s

Yoplait CLIO award 1989 Spanish strong children

Intertitle Damn the Ozone Hair is Important

Blondes American Style 1960s Color Live and stop motion.

Vitalis Men’s hair care 1957 Animation and live action

Datsun B-210 We are Driven! 1974 animated logo

Union 76 “long hose” shot in SF. Not animated, but some manipulation 1960s B&W

Chevron Live action and animated B&W 1960s

Intertitle Feminine Allure

Hour after Hour Deodorant 1970 With Diane Keaton animated logo

Tussee Lipstick 1960s Live action and interesting animation B&W

Maybelline Moonstar False eyelashes 1960s B&W Fabulous! Manipulated live action

Coppertone “We own the sun” B&W Manipulated live action 1960s

Coty Excites 1950s Sexy ad Manipulated and stop motion animation B&W

Scope Mouthwash Woman confronts boss about bad breath 1960s B&W part animated

Intertitle When Fun was Fun: Smoking and Drinking

Western Airlines Wally the bird “The Ooonly Way to Fly” 1959 fully animated

LA Beer CLIO Award 1988 Manipulated live and stop motion

Ice House Wine Cocktails Fully animated and very cool! 1970s

Marlboro Manipulated and live action. B&W 1960s

Salem Menthol Cigarettes B&W 1960s Take a puff, it’s Springtime! Animated logo

Colt 45 Malt Liquor CLIO award 1989 Partial animation

McEwans Best Scotch Clio Award 1988 Partial animation

Old Style Beer Fully animated 1950s B&W

Phillip Morris Cigarettes From I Love Lucy 1952 Animated logo With Bob Shepard

Intertitle The Tao of Tide

Bold Laundry Detergent 1960s Better than Bright!

Wizard Air Refresher 1960s “Houseitosis”

All Detergent 1968 color Made funny by featuring Lily Tomlin Live and manipulated

Sani-Flush 1960s Good animated toilet!

Intertitle Who Needs a Dr. When You Have TV

Ammons Powder 1960s color Fully animated

Dristan Nasal Mist 1960s B&W Cool “breathing bag” with animated sinuses.

Bactine Medicated 1960’s Cool and peppy jingle with dancing girl Live and animated

Anacin Classic B&W 1960s housewife and the end of her rope

Nervine Better housewife mood elevator “Avoid excessive use” Live and animated

Mentholatum Deep Heat Rub Live action with animated aching back

Compound W Young woman with warts! Animated wart action.

Chocks Vitamins puppet B&W 1950s

Bufferin Invisible men’s bodies show Bufferin at work Animation and manipulated

Intertitle The New Joy of Cooking Food In a Box

One a Day Vitamins 1950s B&W creepy

Sunbeam Microwave CLIO award 1980s

Stroemann Bread Fully animated color 1960s

Green Giant Corn Partially animated 1960s color

Rice a Roni 1960s Cool Jazz and SF A great commercial with manipulated images

Pillsbury Angel Food 1950s Live and stop motion.

Shake and Bake 1970s Partial stop “time delay” motion

Wonder Bread Live and animation with The Fresh Guys 1970s

Florida Orange Juice Anita Bryant with animated “Orange Bird.” 1969 color

Pillsbury Flower with the Pillsbury animated Doughboy. Color 1960s

Pillsbury White Cake Live action, stop motion and manipulated images. B&W 1950s

Intertitle Part of a Balanced Breakfast

Instant Maxwell House 1960s Color with the Percolator Jingle Animated percolator

Awake Breakfast Drink Sexy dialogue between fresh and squeezed. Full animation

Quaker Puffed Rice “Shot from Guns!” B&W 1950s

Start Breakfast Drink With animated Popeye 1970s

Rice Krispies 1970s Full animation

Cocoa Puffs 1960s B&W The first Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs animated ad

Fruit Loops 1960s B&W Oop Fray Oops Lay! Full animation

Kellogs Frosted Flakes 1960s color Tony the Tiger “Live it Up” full animation

Corn Flakes with Live action and animated “Corneleus” by Andy Devine color 60s

Post Super Sugar Crisp Sugar Bear 1970s full animation

Alpha-Bits 1973 With Michael Jackson and the Jackson five Manipulated images

Honeycomb 1970s Puppet Abominable Snowman

Trix 1970s The Silly Rabbit does get a bite fully animated

Sunkist Oranges 1970s Animated little girl and dragon

Intertitle 9 Out of 10 Dentists Agree Sex Sells

Stripe Toothpaste 1960s B&W Little sister bugs older sister about sex. brief animation

Score 1970s Hairspray for men This is right to the point See animation plump things up

Maiden Form Rated “X” Bra 1971 Color Manipulated images

Paper-mate Pens 1957 Nice phallic symbol usage Live action and animation

Doral Cigarettes 1970s Phallic symbol animated images with confused woman

Certs Breath Mints 1960s color the classic “If he kissed you once….” Animated logo

Fresca 1960s color Manipulated images and women in swim suits

Intertitle Riding the Gravy Train All the Way to the Bank

Ken-L-Ration Tender Chunks Animated dog barking and logo Woof! 1970s

Friskies Kitten Formula CLIO award 1980s Live and stop motion

Farmers and Mechanics Bank 1950s Manipulated images including Great Dane

Hartz Mountain Flea Color Puppets 1970s

Chuck Wagon 1971 Famous dog and miniature stage coach

Purina Cat Chow 1970s Chow Chow Chow!

Wednesday March 14 70’s Animation Trust Mr. Nyback to not just show Groovy Ghoulies and Friends in this show, although they will be in it.

Charles Darwin/Evolution 1972 Wonderful World of Professor Kitzel  Shamus Culhane

The Ghost in the Shed (1980)  Sam Weiss  Churchill Films

Overture 2012  (1976) Milan Blažeković  Zagreb Film  Croatia 

Groovy Ghoulies and Friends 

Thursday March 15 At the Hollywood Theatre   35mm Animation from the fifties into the nineties.

T.V. Of Tomorrow (1953) Tex Avery

Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969) Marv Newland

Thank You Mask Man   (1971)  John Hale

Pink Komkommer  (1991) Marv Newland

Screenplay (1993) Barry Purves

Dimensions of Dialogue (1983) Jan Svankmajer

Pro and Con  (1993)  Joanna Priestley  Joan C. Gratz

Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase  (1992) Joan C. Gratz

One of Those Days (1988)  Bill Plympton 


2003 South Korea

In 2003 I was a guest at the Pifan Film Fest in South Korea. I also showed films in Japan. Pifan was nice enough to fly me from America, having the flight land in Seoul for Pifan, and then fly me roundtrip to Japan, before coming back to Seoul, for my flight home. Before traveling to Korea I had shipped my three 16mm film programs forward. That was so they could put subtitles that would run on the screen beside my films so the patrons could understand the dialogue. I cannont fathom the cost of that task. Also before I flew to Seoul I prepared remarks that would be translated and included in materials given to those attending. Those remarks are below. I should also add that the only time I am sure I was mentioned in the International Herald Tribune, was in an article about Pifan.

Below is the requested general introduction for my three programs.  The titles for the three programs are:  Hillibillies in Hollywood;  The Blaxploitation Cartoon Special; and The Open Road. 

My three programs would seem to have no connecting theme, but oddly enough they do. They all deal with myth and reality. All of these films reflect beliefs. They reflect attitudes. Most of them are at least fifty, and some are nearly one hundred , years old. Most of the film makers were naive in their willingness to document their point of view, little thinking that fifty to a hundred years later we would be examining it. The three topics they examine from these films from the past are: Hillbillies, Black People, and The Open Road.

The Hillbilly is as much of a myth of Americana as the noble Redman, the shiftless darkie, Billy the Kid, Custer’s Last Stand, and other icons that started out based on certain beliefs, facts or events and grew up into out and out legends. Every American has a basic vision of a Hillbilly. They come from “the Hills” of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, or who knows else where. They never went to school, live in shacks with no indoor plumbing, are missing teeth, in-bred, make their living by producing “moonshine” illegal liquor, and find no greater joy than killing their neighbors who they have been in a “feud” with for several generations. This vision was enhanced with the coming of motion pictures. Americans could see “real life” Hillbillies appearing on film. They could also see Hollywood actors portraying “real life” Hillbillies. They couldn’t tell the difference. They didn’t care either. In the 1960’s people in regions of the United States other than Appalachia started noticing Hillbilly tendencies in groups of people around them. Not living in the hills they needed a new term to describe the hillbilly like people among them. In different places these people were called Shit Kickers, Hayseeds, White Trash, and Red Necks.

During the 2000 American presidential campaign Karl Rove made the audacious decision to capitalize on George Bush’s mis-use of the English language. He recognized that in the minds of the average voter it would compare favorably with Al Gore’s erudite correctness. Could this have been the crucial act that led to the election of President George Bush? Karl Rove realized something that any huckster, con man or quack medicine purveyor knew: you can’t con the rubes by appearing smarter than they are. Karl Rove realized that by making George Bush appear as stupid as the average American he had the key to victory. Karl Rove clearly had his finger on the pulse of the Hillbillying of America.

Milton Bartok was a successful medicine show spieler. The medicine show flourished during the late 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. The medicine troup would come to town, put on a free show, and sell patent medicines to the hicks. They preyed on an uneducated public in small town America who thought they could buy good health in bottle. Bartok saw the danger in being too articulate before a crowd. He developed a hesitant style to avoid being labeled a confidence man. “The smooth talkers put the people on guard, ” he said. ” ‘He’s a sharpie; he’s a smooth talker’ — once you hear that you’re done.” It is doubtful that Karl Rove was aware of Milton Bartok. Millions of con men who came after him practiced the same con. Television upped the stakes. Instead of a horse and wagon medicine show arriving in a small town, the medicine show now arrived in every home in America that had a TV set. It was no longer Milton Bartok selling Kickapoo Joy Juice and Lydia Pinkham pills, it was Clem Kadiddlehopper selling Anicin, Ex-Lax and NoDoz.

Among the most famous Hillbillies in America were two Hollywood creations: Ma and Pa Kettle and The Beverly Hillbillies. Ma and Pa Kettle first appeared in the motion picture The Egg and I in 1946. They went on to appear in nine Ma and Pa Kettle films. The Beverly Hillbillies first appeared on TV in 1962. By market share it was the most popular television show of the 1960’s. It ran through 1971. At the same time Red Skelton could be seen once a week in the guise of his most popular creation, the hayseed hick, Clem Kadiddlehopper. The Red Skelton Show was a Tuesday night staple from 1954 to 1970. Eddie Albert tried to get in touch with the Hillbilly ethic by buying a farm in the popular Green Acres which lasted for six seasons from 1965 to 1971. Another show that was spun off Beverly Hillbillies was Petticoat Junction in which a country widow operated a down home hotel with her daughters in the aptly named town of Hooterville. Just to fill out the 1960’s obsession with the Hillbilly we also saw Mayberry R.F.D., The Jim Nabors Hour and Hee Haw. It is not even a reach to say that Archie Bunker, patriarch of the most watched family of the 70’s, was tainted with Hillbillyism in his unashamed bigotry. Motion pictures also got with the program by showing rednecks, hillbillies and rubes in Easy Rider, Deliverance, Midnight Cowboy and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Currently in the works at CBS is a new reality show based on the Beverly Hillbillies where we can see genuine yokels living among the rich folk. Fox TV reacted to that that by announcing a reality version of Green Acres.

Black People in America have long been the victim of discrimination. The discrimination was been based on stereotypical beliefs that had no basis on fact. Those beliefs included: lack of intelligence, lack of a work ethic and a lack of morals; they included a weakness for gambling, chicken stealing and watermelon eating; they included a gift for athletics, dancing and music. Films from the first half of the twentieth century document those stereotypical beliefs. You can see some of the greatest people of the century portrayed in degrading ways. Billie Holiday plays a maid in her only feature film. Louis Armstrong performs wearing a leopard skin in another. Ethel Waters appeared in the film “Rufus Jones For President” that is a compendium of racist beliefs. Bessie Smiths only film appearance is as the victim of a black gigolo. Bill Robinson plays an Uncle Tom to Shirley Temple. Paul Robeson plays an illiterate dock worker in Show Boat. Cartoons from the same era show all of the same stereotypes but do so in an even more exaggerated fashion.

The open road has long been, right up there with “The American Dream” , one of the greatest myths in the great big U S of A. It has been used to sell Automobiles to people who never drive them out of the city. It has been used to sell “high test” gasoline, all weather tires, and AAA memberships. It makes buyers add thousands of dollars in options for their new car such as four wheel drive, a trailer hitch, a heavy duty suspension trailer package, and a global positioning navigation system. This is all bought by people who havent taken more than a three day vacation in years. No matter how shitty your life can be the road offers you the chance to escape. Just get out on the high way and your cares are left behind. Everything is better. When you return from the road: you will magically have a better job, a better future, and a better life. You will meet colorful people who treat you like a friend. You will stay in quaint motels with real character and incredibly comfortable beds. You will taste the toothsome flavors of regional cuisine. You will discover two lane back roads through virginal forests or along mountain tops. You will see wondrous sights and new things.

What is the reality? You never get off the interstate. and you will see MacDonalds, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut where ever you go. You will use your credit cards exclusively and return home even more in debt than you started. Every motel you stay at looks the same and the ones that look different are too terrifying to approach. You will spend more time in your car driving than out of it experiencing life.

Here is a longer (350 word) introduction for the Blaxpo cartoons.  It can replace the shorter introduction I sent earlier.

Just as black people were marginalized in American society for most of the twentieth century their appearances in films were almost completely in stereotypical roles and in subservient positions. With rare exceptions the only roles available to black actors and actresses in 1930’s Hollywood were as chauffeurs, porters, toilet attentendants, maids, butlers, shoe shine boys, elevator operators and criminals. The history of blacks in narrative motion pictures has been discussed and documented at length in scores of books, articles and documentary films. The history of their appearances in cartoons has been largely ignored. There is no single book examining blacks in animation. There has been no documentary film or television special. The most interesting collection on film was at the end of Spike Lee’s feature film “”Bamboozled” where he assembled as many racist and stereotypical images as he could find and edited them into a dazzling collage of forbidden history. Much of the footage was from cartoons, several of which will be in my program. I use the word forbidden advisedly. Many of these examples of stereotypical racism are unseen by modern Americans. The most egregious scenes have been deleted from many narrative films. The situation is even more extreme with animation. Offensive images were removed from cartoons starting in the 1950’s. In 1968 Warner Brothers banned eleven of their own cartoons. They announced that they would no longer show them or allow them to be shown. Other studios followed suit. Oddly enough, the films were kept under copyright, probably to maintain control and to suppress them. During the last thirty years many more cartoons have been edited or suppressed completely. The suppression of these films and cartoons has two results. It does protect minority groups from being stigmatize and hurt. It also erases from history the truth about Americas attitudes about race. This program shows images of blacks in animation from the earliest days of the medium into the post war period of the late 1940’s. It is admittedly an arbitrary grouping, but it does include works by many of the most influential animators in the history of animation.

Professor Bonehead Shipwrecked  (1916) Emil Cohl

Emil Cohl was the first great animator.  He began his career in France and was brought to America in 1915 to teach animation techniques to Americans.  He produced this cartoon there.  It concerns an explorer whose ship sinks leaving him in Africa where he is confronted by African natives.

Mutt and Jeff in One Too Many  (1919)  Bud Fisher

Mutt and Jeff were comic strip stars at the turn of the twentieth century.  In the early teens their comic strip exploits were made into animated cartoons.  In this example Jeff discovers a potion that renders him invisible.  He is assisted by a black man.

Love in Black and White (aka Two Cupids,  Amour noir et amour blanc) (1928)  Wladislaw Starewicz

Starewicz is the all time master of stop motion animation.  He started his career in Russia and moved to France after the Russian revolution.  This cartoon concerns two cupids, one black and one white.  It also features caricatures of silent film stars including Charlie Chaplin and Tom Mix.

Mickey’s Man Friday (1935)  Walt Disney

Mickey Mouse is ship wrecked on an island inhabited by cannibals.  He is befriended by one of them and together they escape. This is a fanciful version of Daniel DeFoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe” published in 1719.

Streamlined Robinson Crusoe (1938)  Paul Terry

Another version of the Crusoe story.  Paul Terry was an animation pioneer who created nearly one thousand cartoons in a career that started in 1915 and lasted until 1966.

The Rasslin Match  (1934)  Van Beuren

The two white actors Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden became famous in the late 1920’s with their radio show Amos and Andy.  They portrayed a white person’s view of black men in a broad stereotypical manner.  They were so popular that cartoons with Correll and Gosden supplying  the voices to go with  animated versions of their radio creation. The Amos and Andy radio lasted into the 1950s’ and then moved over to television with actual black actors playing the parts of Amos and Andy.  In this program there are examples of the works of most of the great animation studios of the 1930’s.  The least remembered of them in the studio of Amadee Van Beuren. His studio produced animation from 1928 until his death in 1937.

Toyland Broadcast  (1934)  Rudolf Ising

Rudolf Ising worked with Walt Disney in the early days of the Disney  company.  He and Hugh Harman split from Disney to make cartoons by themselves.  They called their company Harman and Ising.  This cartoon is about a little boy who falls asleep and dreams that his toys come to life as famous radio stars in his room.  Among the radio stars are black performers. 

The Old House  (1936)  Hugh Harman

After leaving Disney, Harman and Ising went to work for Warner Brothers, making that company’s first animated cartoons.  There they created the character of Bosko.  When Harman and Ising left Warner Brothers they retained the rights to the name Bosko but not the animated figure.  They created an all new Bosko, turning him into a black child.  In this cartoon he and his friend Honey venture into a haunted house.

Uncle Tom’s Cabana (1947) Tex Avery

Uncle Tom was created by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  It is a  a seminal work of American literature.  The phrase “an uncle tom” became a derogative term for subservient black men.  Tex Avery made two cartoons lampooning the story.  The first was at Warner Brothers in 1937 as Uncle Tom’s Bungalow.  He left Warners in 1942 and moved over to MGM.  There in 1947 he revisited the story with this imaginative version.

Liza On The Ice  (1941)  Walter Lantz

In Uncle Tom’s Cabin there were other characters interacting with Uncle Tom.  Among them were Liza, Silas Legree and Little Eva.  This cartoon tells a story from the book featuring those characters in a shocking and imaginative manner.

Tin Pan Alley Cats (1943) Bob Clampett

In 1943 Bob Clampett was visited by the pioneering black choreographer Katherine Dunham.  She suggested that he make an all black character cartoon.  Black character cartoons had been common in the 1930’s but had been largely abandoned because of claims of racicsm.  That year he produced two all black cast cartoons.  This was one of them.  It uses a caricature of the piano player Fats Waller in the story of a jazz man who is blasted into a surreall world through hot jazz music.  For the surreal world Clampett reused footage from his 1937 cartoon Porky in Wackyland.

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943)  Bob Clampett

This is the other of Bob Clampett’s two 1943 race cartoons.  It is a parody of Disney’s Snow White set in Harlem.  It has been discussed at length in such books as The Fifty Greatest Cartoons and in various other places.  It has been touted as a work of genius and dismissed as racist trash. 

Back in 2004 I got paid fifty bucks for this piece of writing

Rapt at Unwrapped Bread

Dennis Nyback

 

From The West Side Spirit (New York City) June 10, 2004

While standing in line last week in a grocery store in New York, I
noticed the man in front of me was buying a gallon of water. I asked
him how much it would cost. He said $3.79. I thought to myself,
there’s the signal difference between America and France. In France,
red wine costs less than Coca Cola. In America, gas costs less than
water.

Every year I travel in Europe for a month or so, taking my films on
tour. I don’t stay in hotels; I stay with the people who have booked my
programs. I have been doing this for nine years. When I hear George W.
Bush say we are fighting in Iraq for “our way of life”, I know exactly
what he means. We do live differently than they do.

In Europe escalators work on demand. They do not endlessly run while
no one is using them. They sit idle when not needed and start up when
you approach them. Apartment building stairs are not lit twenty four
hours a day. When you step into a dark stairway you will see a lighted
switch. You turn the switch and the lights go on for as long as it
normally takes to climb the stairs. They then go off, until they are
needed again. European apartment kitchens and bathrooms use small water
heaters that work on demand. In America, big water heaters keep
hundreds of gallons of waters hot and ready twenty four hours a day.
Many European apartments have a clothes washer. I have seen only one
with a clothes dryer.

In America everyone gets a bag with every purchase to be later thrown
away and take up space in a land fill. In Europe people provide their
own cloth bags when shopping at grocery stores. Unwrapped loaves of
bread peep out of cloth bags or are held nakedly in hands. At small
patisseries and frankfurter stands your food is handed you on a small
square of paper. Paris streets have very little trash, but the trash
you do see is from MacDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut. It is a
peculiarly American practice to put a hamburger in a Styrofoam
container and place that inside a paper bag.

Gasoline in Europe costs roughly twice as much as it does in America.
In cities people walk or take public transportation. Many smaller
cities in Europe, Munich and Nuremberg for example, have subways.
Trains criss cross the continent. They are comfortable and they run
on time. Danish trains cross bodies of water on specially designed
ferries. Train stations are in the center of the towns and are reached
by public transportation or on foot. On average people are slimmer
than Americans. Could it be walking and not eating fast food has
something to do with it?

I wish more Americans would travel in Europe. I’ll bet that George W.
Bush never went to Europe before he could fly on Air Force One. Maybe
if he had walked through Berlin when he was young, he would have a
deeper understanding of what can happen to a country which prioritizes
putting itself on “war footing”. But Bush is not a curious man.
Overall, Americans are not a curious people.
Only fifteen percent of all Americans have passports. That means only
fifteen percent of us are in a position to judge for ourselves the wide
variety of possible meanings for the phrase “our way of life”. In
France it is affordable wine. In America it is affordable gas. Both
require price supports. Both are national policy. But French soldiers
are not dying to guarantee that a Frenchman can buy a bottle of wine.
In Europe, many small things are done to conserve energy. I’ve seen
how they work. To Europeans, our decision to pursue our abundantly
fossil fueled lifestyle at all cost, without taking these same
conservation measures at home, must seem nothing short of insane.

CAGED IN THE CIRCUS OF CIVILIZATION

“Everyone starts out as an individual and wants to remain one but usually it’s beat out of them by the time they’re thirty”.
                                           George Orwell

“Seattle’s a city where everyone on their twenty-ninth birthday crawls into their coffin and waits”.
                                Karen Bramsen

I don’t expect you to recognize the name of the second quote.  My ex-girlfriend Karen said that in 1995 before she convinced me to get out of Seattle and move to a real city, New York.  How bad is the conformity in Seattle?  A few years ago a man named Stamper became Chief of Police.  On his first night in Seattle he and his wife checked into a downtown hotel in the middle of the night.  As he looked out the window at his new city he called excitedly to his wife “Look at those people standing on the corner”.  What were they doing on that freezing, night without an automobile in sight?  They were waiting for the WALK light to go on before they crossed the street.  Chief Stamper couldn’t believe his eyes.  Welcome to Seattle, city of sheep.  My only hope is that the great city of New York doesn’t follow Seattle’s lead and turn its citizenry into people who think it takes more than looking both ways to safely cross a street.

Now to a little of my personal history of Jaywalking in Seattle.  One night in the 1980’s I drove with my girlfriend Elizabeth and a couple of friends to have a meal about eleven o’clock at night.  We parked across the street from a cafe and jaywalked across the street.  Elizabeth was the last across and I waited for her in the empty street.  Just then two cops came out of the cafe and obviously needed to start writing tickets to make up for the ones they missed while lingering over coffee and donuts.  They nabbed us.  Unfortunately Elizabeth had a nasty temper and started to loudly berate them.  She said to one of them “What do you need that gun for?  I’m from England and the policemen there don’t carry guns.  You must need one to compensate for your obvious lack of virility”.  The upshot?  I got thrown in Jail. Elizabeth had her state  issued picture ID, and I only had (I wasn’t driving) my picture-less U of W student ID.  Not being able to prove my existence and stung by her mouth they trundled me off to the Hoosegow.  I was booked, fingerprinted and during the process the guard leered  at me and said in a menacing voice “Know what they got ya in here for?  I said no, imagining an endless list of Kafkaesque charges.  In the same tone of voice he spit out “Jaywalking! , and you know what the bail is?” Again I imagined unbelievably punitive amounts. He cut off my thoughts with a sneeringly triumphant “Thirteen bucks!”  Shortly I was put into a surprisingly comfortable cell with six bunks and three other hardened criminals.  A few hours later my bail of $13.00 was paid by my friends and I was sprung.

Several years later I told this story to my lawyer (Who was later dis-barred and died).  He asked “What did they charge you with, failure to control your broad?”

Not long after that I was walking down the main street in the University District and Jaywalked across to enter the JC Penny store.  Out of nowhere a cop appeared and asked for some ID.  Just as I reached for it a young man burst out of store and started running up the sidewalk.  The cop turned his head and took a step in that direction and I started running as fast as I could in the other direction.  I almost got hit by a car sprinting through a busy intersection, ducked into a store and exited out the back door. Nobody shot me and when I stopped un-apprehended several blocks later  I’d never felt so exhilarated before in my life.  If a cop tries to give you a Jaywalking ticket you should try it, although now they just might shoot you.

Last summer I was visiting Seattle.  Around ten o’clock I was walking up the same University District street reading a book.  As I crossed a street against the light a prowl car stopped and the cop said to me “Why’d you cross against that light?”  I said “I live in New York, I didn’t know it was a problem here”.  Wrong answer.  Both cops recognized me as a dangerous bolshevik and approached me warily with their ticket books in hand.  Not being as young or as fast as I used to be I reached for my wallet.   While one of the cops was in the car checking the computer to see if I was dangerous felon (an obvious assumption considering my apparent lack of respect for authority) the other cop asked me “Just what do you think we’re doing out here?”  I replied “Wasting both of our time”.  He nodded and said “Yeah, you’re probably right.  So you live in New York?  Don’t pay the ticket, we’re not going to come after you”.   The second cop got out of the car and handed me the $47.00 symbol of fascism and I left.  Just for laughs I decided to contest the ticket and see what it would get me.  Within six weeks I had an appointment with a magistrate and told him the whole sordid tale.  All he could say was “You have two choices,  I can’t do anything for you,  you can either pay the ticket or request a court hearing”.  I said “I’m going back to New York next week and can’t wait months for a hearing, but I do have another choice”.  He played straight man and said “What’s that”.  I replied “I could just walk out of here and ignore the whole thing”.  He looked at his computer screen which had my whole history of un-paid parking tickets dating back to 1984 (the city wants more than a thousand dollars from me) and said in a judicially derisive voice “I see you won’t have any problem doing that”.  I gave it one last shot.  “Look, if I walk out of here the city will never get a nickle out of me, but if you’ll reduce the fine to ten bucks I’ll pay that and the city will get something for your time”.  He said “I can’t do that” so I left without paying.  Later I got a letter from a collection agency demanding $113.00 for the ticket which must be growing like Topsy.  It appears Seattle isn’t going to take this lying down.

Forgive me if I now offer some personal thoughts on the dangers and benefits of Jaywalking.  Seattle, with its draconian enforcement measures and sheep-like citizens has a serious problem with pedestrians being hit in cross walks.  Recently they enacted a new ordinance to prevent this.  Simply put it said that a car had to stop whenever a pedestrian entered a cross walk and  not just when they would be walking in front of you.  The ordinance said that if the pedestrian enters on the left and you’re on the right you have to stop even if you would miss them my twenty feet.  Also if they enter on the right and you’re on the right you have to remain stopped until they reach the left-hand sidewalk.  Motorists howled and the ordinance is now largely ignored after an initial flurry of citations.  What do I think is the real reason pedestrians in cross-walks are in such danger in Seattle?  It’s because they have surrendered the roads to motorists.  In New York drivers are used to people crossing the road everywhere and are not surprised when it happens.  Drivers in Seattle take it as an affront to their manifest destiny to proceed when someone crosses a street.  Whether in a crosswalk or not they seem to take gleeful joy in buzzing them as closely as possible.  In New York pedestrians approaching a blinking don’t walk light blithely ignore it even when they know they can’t reach the opposite side before the autos have a green.  They continue ambling across like it was the most natural thing in the world.  I am continually amazed by this and marvel at how brazen they are and how patiently the lead motorist at a green light waits until the last straggler is past.  In Seattle when the light turns green the motorists are off to the races and the odd-ball laggard would usually be nailed unless he leaps out of the way.  After all, the car owns the road. There is one more reason why so many pedestrians get hit by cars in a tightly controlled city.  Too many times the pedestrian is busy looking out for the cops when he jaywalks and is distracted from the serious business of looking out for cars.

Music Man review 7/11/2014

Five years ago I was reviewing plays for the  online  Portland Stage Reviews.  I’ll post them all eventually, unedited of what I sent to the page.  Here’s one

Meredith Willson was born in Mason City, Iowa in 1902. George M. Cohan had made his Broadway debut with his play The Governor’s Son a year earlier. Meredith Willson’s play The Music Man is set in 1912. By that time George M. Cohan had written, produced and starred in over 13 Broadway musicals; including in 1910 the aptly named The Man Who Owned Broadway . Meredith Willson’s The Music Man was produced in 1957 and is set in the fictional town of River City, Iowa. More correctly it is set in the era of George M. Cohan and the idyllic Iowan childhood of Meredith Willson.

Meredith Willson was 55 years old when The Music Man opened. He had witnessed tremendous changes: the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Cold War. He also witnessed the birth of Jazz and also the birth of Rock and Roll. The Music Man is set in a time when automobiles were still something of a novelty, recorded music had not yet produced a million seller, radio was not yet used for entertainment, television was years and years away, and the bands of Giuseppe Creatore and John Phillip Sousa were famous in the land. It was also a time when a small town in the middle of Iowa could exist in its own little bubble of timelessness in way very difficult for us to comprehend. It was a time and place Meredith Willson knew well. That makes us fortunate. It is a lovely place to visit. Thanks to The Music Man we can.

Although there is a lot more going on this is very much the story of Professor Harold Hill and the Librarian Marion Paroo. Here they are capably essayed by Joe Theissen and Chrissy Kelly-Pettit. Mr. Theissen is very good and appropriately insouciant in the showy part of the con man Harold. He moves well on the stage and his voice is fine for the part. Ms. Kelly-Pettit is very good as the late to awakening in love Marion. She has a nice voice with a warm quality that is well up to the challenges in the score.

The Music Man uses songs to move along the plot as well as any musical ever written. After “Rock Island.” introduces us to the life of Victorian era traveling salesmen we have Harold exhibiting his salesmanship with the songs “Ya Got Trouble” and “76 Trombones.” Marion’s songs “Goodnight My Someone” and “My White Knight” help us to understand her character. The songs “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little,” “Shipoopi,” and “The Wells Fargo Wagon” concisely introduce themes of life in a small town.

One part of life in 1912 that is still celebrated is Barbershop Quartette singing. A high point of the Music Man is the Quartette singing “Lida Rose” with Marion responding with the counter melody “Will I Ever Tell You.” This song is still being performed by barbershop quartettes around the world. It is very well performed in this production. “Till There Was You” is a wonderful song; as good as any love song written for the Broadway stage. It was also a hit in Great Britain.

Among the supporting roles Norman Wilson as Marcellus Washburn is excellent. Brandon B. Weaver as Charlie Crowell is also very good.

The weakest part of the production is the dancing. That said, the partner dancing in “Marion the Librarian” was good. All of the other dance numbers were fun. All of the large ensemble pieces are choreographed well.

A star of the production is the Deb Fennell Auditorium at Tigard High School. It was built in 1953. Back then they still built High School Auditoriums with large proscenium stages and fly systems. The Deb Fennell also has a working waterfall curtain. This production starts with the raising of the curtain to reveal a huge train locomotive moving head on toward the audience. The locomotive than splits in half to create a chair car of that train. The chair car is filled with traveling salesmen and the play takes off to a rollicking start.

Thanks to the fly system there are 9 different sets in this production and 12 major scene changes. The changes included various back drops flying up and down and various houses and buildings rolling on and off. All changes were performed seamlessly. The Deb Fennell also has an orchestra pit. This production makes full use of an excellent twelve piece orchestra under the direction of Alan D. Lytel.

The production has a cast of 37. All of the costumes were attractive and period correct. Most of the men were in shades of brown with the boys wearing knickers. The women and girls were in appropriate period pretty dresses in various muted pastel colors Marion is costumed in blacks and whites. Costumes and Scenery were credited to FCLO Music Theatre.

Meredith Willson wrote the story, book, music and lyrics for The Music Man. That was in the tradition of George M. Cohan and not many others. George M. Cohan had a hit in 1906 with his play 45 Minutes from Broadway. It was set in New Rochelle, New York. That is much closer to Broadway than we are out here. Luckily we have the Broadway Rose Production Company. They are dedicated to shortening the gap. Their mission statement: “To create unparalleled musical theater experiences that invigorate audiences and enrich our communities.” In fulfilling that mandate since 1992 they have tackled a great number of Broadway Musicals: From A Day in Hollywood a Night in the Ukraine to The Whole Wide World; from Oklahoma to Les Miserables. We should be thankful they are now doing The Music Man.

Cast

Joe Theissen Harold Hill

Chrissy Kelly-Pettit Marion Paroo

Norman Wilson Marcellus Washburn

Rachelle Reihl Eulalie M. Shinn

Annie Kaiser Mr. Paroo

Brandon B. Weaver Charlie Crowell

Martin Tebo Tommy Djilas

Haley Van Nortwick Zaneeta Shinn

Josiah Bartell Winthrop

Sherrie Van Hine Mrs. Squires

Claire Craig Sheets Ethel Toffelmeir

Shannon Jones Maud Dunlop

Margo Schembre Alma Hix

Makenna Markman Amaryllis

Joey Cote Ewart Dunlop

Thomas Slater Jascey Squires

Mont Chris Hubbard Oliver Hix

Bobby Jackson Olin Britt

Raeanne Romito Gracie Shinn

Dan Bahr Ensemble

Chris Bartell Ensemble

Collin Carver Ensemble

Matthew Faranda Ensemble

Karen Kumley Ensemble

Greg Prosser Ensemble

Jennie Spada Ensemble

Wendy Steele Ensemble

Orchestra

Alan D. Lytle Conductor

Marc Grafe Reeds

Alicia Charlton Reeds

Jennifer Woodall Reeds

Sean Kelleher Reeds

Levis Dragulin Trumpet

Giancarlo Viviano Trumpet

Eric Beam Trumpet

Bryabnt Byers Trombone

Gary Irvine Percussion

Jeffrey Childs Piano, Celeste

Marya Kazmierski Violin

Dan Schulte Bass

Production Credits

Meredith Willson Story, Book, Music, Lyrics

Flanklin Lacey Story

Peggy Taphorn Direction and Choreography

Alan D. Lytle Music Direction

FCLO Music Theatre Scenery and Costumes

Grace O’malley Costume Supervisor

Gene Dent Lighting

Tim Richey Sound

Jessica Carr Wigs

Audra Petrie Properties

Jessica Downs Stage Manager

Phil McBeth Technical Director