Hell-A 2011! Day 1
Since I couldn’t go back to snooze mode, I might as well make sure my brain doesn’t turn into mashed potatoes by reading or doodling in my notebook. This time, I started reading ‘Big Bosoms & Square Jaws’, a biography of Russ Meyer, the goofball he-man behind such demented brilliant titles like Faster Pussycat Kill Kill! and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls.
Along the way, I get a call from my mom on the cell that her sister/my aunt, whom I’ll be staying with for this trip, saw a 2 second news report that they had JUST found a unattended package in the middle of Union Station and asked if they announced it on the train’s PA system. Nope. Not a sound!
I went back to the book and the next thing I knew, we were at Union Station. I don’t know if I read this too fast or my brain turned off the clock causing a time warp bubble but whatever the case might be, I found myself getting my stuff together and heading off the train….I gotta lot of LA to cover for the next two days!
With no visual aftermath of that supposed unpackage and its resulting TSA-sanctioned panic attack, I bravely went off into the Metro station to cut through the LA traffic to my aunt’s house in West LA. I arrived a little earlier than expected and noticed she was gone and her housemate was sleeping in front of I Love Lucy, so I carefully left my suitcase in the guestroom and left for Westwood and Xanadu.
The main reason for this trip was a Xanadu showing as part of a UCLA film series of ‘disco movies’ with flicks like Can’t Stop The Music, Car Wash (?), Thank God It’s Friday and Xanadu. All of which were being shown at the Billy Wilder Theater at the corner of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards.
After spending a couple of hours strolling through the former shell that once was Westwood Village of my youth of the 80’s and 90’s….and pretty much everybody else’s…I made my way to the theater and this damned cherished flick o’ mine.
The theater was part of the Hammer Art Complex that housed art museums, larger art pieces and an outdoor enclosed courtyard with, um, how can I describe this, green weeds with no bark and leafs sprinkled on the very top. Surrounding it were a lighted art display that flashed incoherent letters and a café with a chalk board for a menu (with prices they were charging you’d think they can splurge on something more than a chalk, like ink!).
The theater itself was small for Westwood terms, only 200 seats. However, this made screenings more intimate than most places, outside the Silent Movie Theater in the Melrose District. The lobby had various pictures from Billy Wilder’s film fashionably spread along side a wall with a big one of the man himself at the other end.
The turnout wasn’t much. To my half-assed method of head counting, I’m guessing 30, so the energy level was low compared to, say, the unofficial 30th anniversary showing from last year. The only other difference was that I was the only one wearing a homemade Xanadu t-shirt. After years of watching productive fans wearing their own handmade wearable Xanadu tributes, I figured I might as well slap one together for myself, outside of the old painted one I had made in the early 90’s that I’ve retired a few years ago. Using a scan of the Xanadu songbook cover and my minimal Photoshop “skills”, I managed to iron-on a classy design on a blank navy blue colored shirt. Ta-da! A brand new fanboy target on my back.
The shirt got some positive attention….including from Marshall.
For the un-fanboy, Marshall stands out in LA-based Xanadu screenings as a hyper active fan who unintentionally scares people with his aggressive enthusiasm and subconscious stalking mentality….and if you are a prominent Xanadu fan like Heather Hoban, who has hosted anniversary showings of the past, and yours truly who has a major Xanadu web site, YOU are his best “target”...whether you liked it or not.
I kept my contact with him at minimum as I wasn’t in the mood…period and, luckily, he was conscious enough to pick up on MY anti-annoyance vibe for a change and played it cool and minimal himself and, after a few brief friendly words, he dashed off to his seat.
As I found my seat, I noticed that the unusual theatre lighting was oddly fitting for this showing. Instead of the standard ceiling lights arrangement, there were thin lightening rods shooting out of the top and both sides of the screen, some of which reached the very back of the room. Considering the population of streaking lights in the movie, this was an almost perfect setting…all they needed was some color and it would have been a Mardi Gras time in Xanaduland!
A married couple sitting behind me noticed my shirt and asked me about it. From there the conversation went to how this film, warts and all, fit into the realm of things and its personal connection with us. Seems that the husband was a major fan for years and the wife was going to film school, thus both interests clashed at this intersection. During this pleasant constructive conversation, Marshall, who was seated two rows behind them, tried to lean into our conversation and almost fell forward into the next row.
Our host for the evening, whom I suspect put this disco series together, showed up a few minutes later behind a podium. I think he was a tad disappointed with the turnout, so he kept his speech very brief…all 30 seconds of it.
…and the film began. The condition of the film itself was iffy; while the visual quality was very good, the audio was flat and in mono. You’d think that with this advanced digital projection technology all around us, they would use the recent DVD re-issue?
Well, bitching aside, we all still had fun and, even fewer, sang and stomped along.
When it was over, we all piled into the lobby and said goodbye to Kira, who was now being flashed on the theater’s flatscreen TV. In the courtyard, another couple noticed the shirt and asked how old I was. As it turned out, we were all old school Xanadu fans from ‘way back’ and began to talk about our own personal connection, the comparisons with the Broadway version and where Xanadu is placed in pop culture, gripping Gene Kelly fans notwithstanding. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one occasionally dragged into the pointless debate of whether Xanadu was intentionally camp or not as this same couple went through THIS trite with their friends as well.
The three of us walked (with Marshall tagging along from a distance) and talked out to Wilshire Boulevard and said our goodbyes. I was in such a good mood from this whole experience that the short walk to the bus stop across the street turned into a stroll along side Westwood to Santa Monica Boulevard, where I ended up taking the bus ride home from there instead. Making an honest connection and sharing the same level of appreciation for something like this that you felt alone with for so many years is quite a breather. This clears the head and gives one a brief reprieve for humanity before your George Carlin/Bill Hicks mode clicks back in.
Day 2 fer later,