Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Buddy Miles' Santa Cruz Lunch

One day in 1997 Buddy Miles, cane in hand, strolled into my restaurant, Positively Front Street, near the beach in Santa Cruz, CA.
I recognized him and went to the table to notice that he had ordered 4 entree's of peel and eat prawns for himself!
I asked if he'd autograph something for me, as the restaurant had a rock poster theme. He said yes so I ran upstairs to my poster collection and pulled out this huge one of Hendrix. I knew he wasn't a part of The Experience but I was rushed to find something for him to sign.

...and also a Buddy Miles Express handbill

He happily signed the handbill. Then I laid out the Hendrix poster and he hesitated, then signed it alright...right across Jimi's face!
He finished his meal and left. The best part is that he left his cane at the table and never came back for it!

Fox Theater, 620 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA

Opened on August 17, 1951, the theater opened to great fanfare with a weekend filled with events to mark this opening: searchlights out in front for the first evening movies being shown, a Saturday western double bill with an in person visit by Monty Montana a B western movie “star” at the time. The opening feature that night was the 20th. Century-Fox film “Meet Me After the Show”.
It had a loge section with cushier seats that required a more expensive ticket, a huge screen and for the time a good sound system. In the days before digital, the films were delivered to the theater by motorcycle riders called taggers who carried the prints from one theater to the next and one time there was great concern that the films hadn’t arrived in time so someone had to go on stage to announce the delay just as the tagger was running in the front door.

The Fox had 'cry rooms' at the back, glassed in rooms with their own speakers ostensibly for theatergoers to bring their babies to.
During the boom years of its existence a Fox Venice schedule was the hip accessory for every self-respecting refrigerator door in Los Angeles. The theatre's mailing list read like a who's-who of the entertainment industry. The schedules (printed by Peace Press during the Cumberland tenure) featured, on the front, pictorial representations of the films, usually double features, and on the back, capsule descriptions telling why each and every one was a must-see. For some people that was true, and they came almost every night!
The schedule included a notice to filmmakers: "We want to see your movies! We are screening and cataloging many films, many rarely seen, for possible exhibition," and alerted them that the theatre was available during the day for special screenings in 35mm or 16mm formats. On another occasion, the back of the schedule said, "Our audiences want to see your short films!...Our audiences are distinctly expressive in their appreciation! The Fabulous Fox may even be able to qualify your film for Academy Award consideration."
At the Fox, the film inspection department habitually cleaned, scrutinized, and repaired every reel that came through the door - especially if it had passed through the hands of "certain West Los Angeles theaters run by amateurs and fools." The management was justifiably proud of its craftsmanship. "We're one of the few places around that still care more for the art of film than the money," was the Fox's claim to fame. A number of producers and directors agreed, and loaned their pristine personal prints to the theatre to run in place of the scratched-up general release prints.
The fare was generally new and different every day of the week. You might find almost anything on the screen at the Fox. Documentaries about ancient bluesmen, political activists, Findhorn, the ballet. Such beloved oldies as Todd Browning's Freaks. Outrageous animation. Films that sank without a trace, like Dylan's Renaldo & Clara. There was always a fantastic variety of foreign films: Wertmuller, Antonioni, Roeg, Mifune, Varda, all those guys. The Fox hosted the Los Angeles premiere of Fassbinder's Satan's Brew

Over the years the theater offered live concerts by Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Richie Havens, Oregon, Canned Heat, Little Feat, Caldera, David Bromberg, John Klemmer, the Japanese group Bow Wow, and many others, including many great blues players such as John Lee Hooker for its Blues Night series.

In 1975 the theater hosted the sneak preview of the Rocky Horror Picture Show the night before it opened in Westwood. That special midnight screening, attended by an overflow crowd of the play's camp followers and various performers, started the tradition of audience participation midnight screenings that continues to this day.

A nice Art Deco theater once operated by the Fox Theater chain, the Fox Venice showed standard Hollywood fare until the early 70's when it became a very popular revival theater.

It was a beautiful theatre with murals on the walls.
The Fox Venice Theatre, the quintessential Venice institution, was operated by Cumberland Mountain Theaters, Inc. from 1973 to early 1979. Previously it had faltered under National General Corporation operation as a large, single screen neighborhood theater in the new era of multiplexes.
Photo courtesy of William Gabel
There was an animated short film they used to show. In outer space, a strange looking craft whizzes by. Cut to another spaceship of a different design. Back to the first one, then the second one, music, and finally the two space borne objects get together in the same frame. They slow down enough so you can see that one is a cigarette and the other an ashtray, and the cigarette puts itself out in the ashtray while the words NO SMOKING appear.

In early 1979, the Cumberland era ended and subsequently the Fox was run for a couple of years by Parallax Theatres, which changed their name to the Landmark Theater Corporation.
For its last few years, to its closing in 1988, Rafigh Pooya owned the business. Upstairs, there were couches, and windows that overlooked the marquee.
Discovery of asbestos in the theater's acoustic treatments in 1988 doomed the once vibrant hall, and after it was stripped of its furnishings, screen, curtains, and interior it never came back, but instead was converted into an indoor mini-mall and flea market.

The ceiling dome is still there and the vertical sign remains without the name and neon.
There is remnants of the old theatre still when you visit. The concession area lighting and moulding is there, all the ceiling moulding in the auditorium remains, and much much more.
Its marquee remains intact.

Jerry performed here on
4/18/75 Great American String Band
Jerry did not perform at this show. John Carlini was the guitarist.

6/14/75 Early and late shows Legion Of Mary

1.)^Hartman, Pat, The Fabulous Fox Venice,
2.)^Erikson, B., Martinez, Ray, Gabel, William,
3.)^Murrow, Rol, Theater Operator and Show Producer, 2012-10-22.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harding Theater, 616 Divisadero and Hayes, San Francisco, CA

Capacity 500

The Harding opened on May 8, 1926 with Colleen Moore in "Irene", a second-run attraction.
Opening night featured Ben Black and his Band in the Harding orchestra pit. Black was a well-known band leader of the day, recorded on the Victor label, and served as music director of the Paramount Theatres in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.(4)   He is best remembered for writing the popular song “Moonlight and Roses.”  
Black’s and other bands played at the Harding in the 1920s, providing musical accompaniment to the movies and general musical entertainment.  

The building was designed by the Reid Brothers, James and Merritt, a prominent San Francisco architectural firm that was a prolific theater designer, hired by local theater owner Samuel H. Levin. The brothers' list of landmarks includes the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego, and the Golden Gate Park band shell. With scant professional training but plenty of hustle, these Canadian brothers left their mark across the width of San Francisco.(1)

These brothers planned the Polo Grounds Stadium, at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park as "the largest stadium in the world." Only one section of bleachers was built and is still there! Wonder what the story behind that is.
They also built the third incarnation of The Cliff House for Adolph Sutro's daughter, Emma Merritt.(4)

I've been trying to figure out why this theater was named Harding. The easiest explanation is that Levin named it after Warren Harding, the 29th President of the United States.(17)

Warren G. Harding...Immediately after President Harding's death, Mrs. Harding returned to Washington, D.C., and briefly stayed in the White House with President and First Lady Coolidge. For a month, former First Lady Harding gathered and destroyed by fire President Harding's correspondence and documents, both official and unofficial. Upon her return to Marion, Mrs. Harding hired a number of secretaries, collecting and burning President Harding's personal papers. According to Mrs. Harding, she took these actions to protect her husband's legacy. The remaining papers were held and kept from public view by the Harding Memorial Association in Marion.[16]
Florence Kling Harding

The original theme of the building was predominantly Gothic. As this is appropriate for a church, these features have been maintained. Last year, however, the church group elected to remove all the light fixtures (products of a 30s remodeling) and throw them away. Fortunately a local architectural salvage/antiques specialist heard of this and removed them himself. The fixtures, though sold and dispersed were at least saved from destruction. A pair of ceiling lights are intended to go to the Del Mar, Santa Cruz.

The original 1926 fire curtain remains drawn up in the stage fly of the Harding.
The fire curtain is colorful and ornate, depicting a castle and hills overlooking a bay on a
background of distant clouds. Photo(1942) from Steve Levin Collection 
The fire curtain was intended to be dropped and admired as part of the original decoration
of the auditorium.  The Lamplighters used the fire curtain as a principal curtain during
their performances at the Harding.  The fire curtain is a character-defining decoration of the original 1920s theater, the 1930s-1950s theater, and the Lamplighters’ Harding Theater of the 1960s(2)

A Robert-Morton organ Size 2/7 was installed in the Harding Theater in 1926.

The Harding still includes the original stage fly for vaudeville productions, the orchestra pit, the organ grilles from silent movie days, as well as some of the original 1920's plaster detail.

The EXAMINER article announcing the opening of the Harding in the May 8, 1926
“A fully equipped, standard sized stage is an innovation in the Harding
construction.  This will make possible the staging of attractions not now presented in
most neighborhood houses because of limited space.”

The Reids’ design was to invite movie-goers, after buying their tickets at the outdoor ticket booth, to pass through a set of outer doors into an enclosed vestibule or foyer.  Patrons would present their tickets there and then proceed into the theater lobby.  From there, patrons would enter the theater through the four doors at the back connecting to the downward-sloping aisles of the auditorium.  Alternatively, moviegoers could proceed upstairs from the lobby to the mezzanine via two matching
sets of stairs located at either end of the lobby, and then to the balcony via two connecting sets of stairs located at either side of the building.
The Reids carefully designed the entrance to the Harding, which remains substantially intact.  A moviegoer would enter the vestibule or foyer through a set of outer doors, which remain in place today.  This room was known as the ticket lobby because the ticket taker would be stationed there.  The ticket lobby retains historic plaster detail around the ceiling.
With respect to the movie theater works of the master architect Reid Brothers, the Parks Report establishes that there are few remaining Reid Brothers’ theaters in San Francisco sharing the Harding’s level of integrity as a silent movie theater.  Only three of the Reid’s 14 theaters here retain a significant resemblance to the Reids’ original 1920s design. All of the others have been demolished or so significantly altered that their character has been lost.  Of the three that remain, the Harding is the most intact.   

Levin’s advertising for the Harding in 1926 and later during the 1920s
prominently billed the Harding among the Levin theaters as a vaudeville theater.
July 31, 1926 edition of the CHRONICLE. The contemporaneous newspaper publicity establishes that the
Harding continued to be used as a vaudeville house during the late
The O’Neill Kiddies, Don Rigo’s Serenaders, and Toby’s Country Store appeared as vaudeville acts on the Harding stage during the period.
Vaudeville vanished from movie theaters by the early 1930s with the advent of
talking pictures and the hard times of the Great Depression.  As San Francisco’s most
intact neighborhood movie-vaudeville theater, the Harding and its stage house are
together historically significant in conveying the now-lost live performance aspect of
movie entertainment during the 1920s.

Photo:  SF Neighborhood Theater Association

1964 The Lamplighters, a Gilbert and Sullivan group

The San Francisco Lamplighters light opera company performed over 480 shows in the 1960s. Ballet Celeste used it for The Nutcracker many times in the 1960s.

Here's a story about Club Morocco, located just across the street from The Harding Theater from 1959-1977.
by Mike Conway

From 1959 to 1977, Ms. Josephine Robinson and her husband ran a nightclub and restaurant at 543 Divisadero Street in San Francisco. During this period, just four blocks east, the Fillmore Jazz Era was in full swing. Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and countless other gods of jazz played up and down Fillmore. The ‘Moe had a reputation as the Harlem of the West.But along nearby Divis, a parallel surge of jazz and early soul was blazing. More than just a music scene, Divisadero was its own nation, its own economy, and its own revolution. History has mostly forgotten this street; Ms. Robinson has not.
Though she modestly insists her memory has faded in her old age, she lucidly recalled a lot about her tenure at Club Morocco. Her kind, grandmotherly voice spoke of the many patrons she would occasionally “po’liquor” for. Herb Caen ate there often, and called the Morocco the “Salt ‘n’ Pepper” because it drew both blacks and whites together in their mutual quest for good food, music, and fun. This was at a time when prejudice was the absolute status quo; even in San Francisco, a woman couldn’t serve alcohol in a bar unless she was on the liquor license. Never the less, the Morocco was a place where all kinds of folks could dress up and get some dinner, dance, and catch acts like Ike and Tina, Marvin Gaye, and BB King. Giants’ legendary ballers Willie Mays and McCovey might be eating at the table across from yours.
But the Morocco was much more than a happening joint. It was part of a whole scene. All along Divisadero, there were bars and nightclubs like the Both And, the Bird of Paradise, the Sportsmen’s, and the Half Note. Across the street, at the Harding Theater, Curtis Mayfield played one of his last shows in the city. Up until 1965, folks would dance and parley up and down Divis until 2:00am, then hop over the hill to the ‘Moe and famous places like Bop City, which carried the vibe until the break of dawn.
But more importantly, Club Morocco was one of the many African American-owned businesses. Ms. Robinson recalled that throughout the ‘50's and ‘60's on Divisadero, roughly 75% of all businesses were black owned. It was its own economy of beauty parlors, barber shops, boutiques and, of course, the nightclubs. You could get a haircut, eat a nice meal and dance your ass off to live music, all in a single block.
In 1955, just as the Robinsons were putting together the money that bought 543 Divisadero, the U.S. Supreme Court set the guidelines for desegregation in its Brown II decision. Yet oppression-by-segregation would not just end at the drop of a gavel. Brown II might have been a wonderful development in the Civil Rights Struggle, but it was also wonderfully vague. Blacks might have been free to then find work unimpeded by law, but they had been deprived of such opportunities for centuries. “Sure you can join our union, but—what’s this? No union experience? Sorry.”
That’s where the Robinson family stepped up. To help their community, the Robinsons hired waitresses, bartenders, and busboys—way more of them than they ever needed—so that black folks could get the necessary work hours and go on to get jobs, join unions, gain benefits and live better lives. So when you went to the Morocco, you weren’t just seeing Marvin Gaye or James Brown rock the house, you were seeing a subtle revolution against de jure racism. And with so much wait-staff, the service at Morocco must have been impeccable.
The ‘70s brought the notoriously scandalous “redevelopment” of the Fillmore district. Buildings that housed black families and businesses were being suspiciously condemned for “utility upgrades”; fires would mysteriously destroy others. By 1977, Divisadero was reeling from it all. Businesses folded as pimps and prostitution moved in full time. An ardent Protestant, Ms. Robinson could no longer stomach serving this new clientele. She convinced her husband to sell, just before the avalanche of crack and Reaganomics plowed through(2)

The Harding served as a neighborhood film house until it closed in 1970. There were rock and jazz concerts in the 1970's (Grateful Dead, Curtis Mayfield) and 30 years of gospel and jazz performance after that. Sun Ra and Marvin X did a five hour production of Take Care of Business at the Harding Theatre on Divisadero Street in San Francisco, 1972.

More recently, it was a church, which moved out in 2004. The building was then purchased by developers for US$1.6 million.[4]
After getting thoroughly owned by preservationists and then putting the Harding Theater on the market for $4 million, it seems the owner is giving another go of turning the 75-year-old building into condos. A new plan gives a little more love to the history and all that historic-ness by restoring the theater's facade— putting back a marquee and sign that once adorned the front. But it may be all for naught anyway, as there are still plans to turn the fly space in back into five condos— which means an environmental report will be required since that fly space may (or may not!) be historic. (Elderly vaudeville fan says not.) (Andy Wong,2009-09-01,sf.

It is the only surviving theater building in San Francisco whose Gothic Revival decor is still largely intact, featuring a Gothic proscenium arch, which separates the stage from the seats, arched organ grills and decorative plaster finishes on the walls.

It seems the preservationists have truly won this round: the owners of the hard-up Harding Theater have given up their fight for condos and put the building on the market. Asking price: $4 million. That's $303/square foot for the theater plus two retail spaces.

The theater retains original seats and the fire curtain dating to the opening of the theater. The entrance, floor and aisle plan, balcony, proscenium arch, stage, and decorative ceiling remain intact, as well as significant plaster detail. The auditorium is unique in retaining an original sense of place from the “pre-talkie” days.

The Harding is also rare because it has a full stage, scenery fly tower, stage wings, and dressing room space. None of the Reids’ other San Francisco theaters had full stage facilities. Today, San Francisco has only five movie theaters left with intact stage houses. Among these, the Harding is the only neighborhood theater.
The Harding has a long history of serving the community as a neighborhood movie/vaudeville house during the 1920s, as a single screen movie theater until 1960, as the Lamplighters’ theater during the 1960s, as a music venue during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as a church and community center from 1973 until 2003.(6)

Divisadero’s Harding Theatre from the Inside – The Great Graffiti Paint Out Begins

So, kids come over from the East Bay just to hang out inside of the moribundhard-knock Harding Theatre at 616 Divisadero Street in the NoPA? Yes they do. (Didn’t know that.) And do they have their own bolt cutters and padlocks to try to prevent others, such as the owners, from getting in? Yes, again, they do. Oh well. I’ll tell you, this place is a mess, and honestly, I’d want to be on bottled air if were to spend any good amount of time inside. Anyway, the graffiti is getting painted over these days and the owners have bolt cutters and padlocks of their own so, and this is NOT a challenge  to you or nothing, it won’t be as easy to make the massive theatre your very own kiddie clubhouse going forward.

Jerry performed here on
9/3/71 Grateful Dead
9/4/71 Grateful Dead
9/10/71 Merl Saunders
9/23/71 New Riders Of The Purple Sage
11/6/71 Grateful Dead
11/7/71 Grateful Dead

4.)^The Reid Brothers,
16.)^Russell (April 1963), The Four Mysteries Of Warren Harding
17.)^^Aiuto, Russell, The Strange Life and Death Of President Harding,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fox Theater, 242 Main Street, Stockton, CA

Photo courtesy of Tom Spaulding
1916: The first theater, the T&D Photoplay, is built on East Main Street in Stockton, California by the Wilhoit family and used for a variety of entertainment acts. The same site will later be occupied by the Bob Hope Theatre.

1921: Fox West Coast Theaters Inc. leases the T&D, remodels it and renames it the California.

1929: After several years of successful operation, the California is leveled and plans are drafted for a new theater to serve the thriving city of Stockton. Fox West Coast Theaters reaches an agreement to lease the property for a period of 50 years and invests nearly half a million dollars to build a luxurious, safe and comfortable theater - the Fox California, or the Fox. It is a large theatre equipped with a complete stage, fly area, and orchestra pit, dressing rooms. This was one of several Fox theaters (including those in Pomona and Riverside) designed by Los Angeles architects Clifford Balch and F.E. Stanbery. (Joe Vogel-cinematreasures)

1930: The opening of the Fox on October 14 is one of the most grandiose events in the region. Approximately 20,000 people attend the celebration, including some of the most famous stars of the time. Opening acts include the latest “talkie” movies and comedy skits. Spencer Tracy in "Up the River". The Wurlitzer 3 manual 9 rank theatre organ had been saved from its original installation in the T&D/California Theatre, and was opened by organist Inez McNeil, who had been the original resident organist on the instrument. The Fox is the largest vaudeville house in California, with 2,170 seats. The theatre is also one of the safest buildings of the time, built entirely with cement and steel, with the ability to evacuate guests within two minutes. One of the jewels of the theatre is the $40,000 (in 1930) three manual Wurlitzer pipe organ with twin pipe lofts. Ticket prices are 50 cents for general admission and 65 cents for box seats.

1931: The Fox California celebrates the success of its first year in operation with a weeklong celebration. It is speculated that nearly a million people were entertained during the theatre’s first year in business.

1930s: The Fox California predominantly shows movies due to the owner’s close association with the large motion picture studios. However, stage acts and other variety acts are also presented at the Fox, including Al Jolson, one of the greatest entertainers of the time; the Marx Brothers; Ted Lewis, a clarinetist and member of one of the most popular jazz bands of the period; and Henry Lauder, a famous Scottish comedian.
1940s: Big bands of the 1940s perform at the theatre.

1960s: Famous bands such as Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman and the Dorseys play on the Fox stage.

1971: A local company, Westland Theatres, buys the rights to the Fox California. A declining business climate and the growing competition from drive-ins and television impact the profitability of the theatre. Despite efforts to keep the theatre in business, attendance declines.

1973: The Fox California closes its doors to the public due to lack of business. The last shows are “Sweet Jesus,” “Preacher Man” and “Marlowe.”

1974: A special showing of the movie “Billy Jack” plays at the Fox. Concern rises among citizens that the Fox will be demolished to make room for a civic parking lot or other development.

After closing as a Second Run Grindhouse showing Horror, Science Fiction and Kung Fu Movies (Triple Feature for 50 cents), they reopened the following year showing Triple X Porno Movies such as "Deep Throat" and "Behind The Green Door" which fortunately lasted under a year before showing Spanish Language Movies in 1975. That lasted until 1977 when it was restored as a Live Venue Theatre under a new name (Fox Center For The Performing Arts) which was a flop and reverted back to a Spanish Language Movie Theatre in 1979.(Floyd Perry-cinematreasures)

1979: The building is purchased by Edward C. Merlo and Madeleine Lawton who seek to save the building from destruction. They are ultimately successful in their efforts to save the historic structure and the Fox Theatre is placed on the National Register of Historical Places. Today it is one of only two movie palaces left in the Central Valley.

I also want to add that the Fox California Theatre came close to being demolished. In 1980, there was a proposal by the city of Stockton to tear down the Fox for a parking lot to complement the 10 story California Office Building next door, but thankfully the original owners fought the eminent domain case in court and won.(floyd Perry-cinematreasures)

1981-1985: Rocking Chair Productions produces a few rock concerts at the Fox.

1985-1988: Offshore Productions offers jazz and country music entertainment that doesn’t draw significant audiences.

1991: The Redevelopment Agency of the city of Stockton includes the Fox California as part of an effort to revitalize the downtown area and other parts of the city.

1995: The Redevelopment Agency leases the theatre and hires a promoter and booking agent in an attempt to develop a viable, on-going program at the theatre, and begins small renovations of the building. Several events and concerts are held at the Fox.

Late 1990s: The mayor and city council begin a large scale renovation of the Fox. The Redevelopment Agency is the primary financial sponsor of the project.

Here is a series of photos taken by Jim Watson:

2000: Anita J. Merlo and the Merlo Fox Building Trust donate the theater building to the city of Stockton in honor of Edward Charles Merlo, architect.

In 2000, Bob Hartzell, president of Friends of the Fox, a nonprofit organization that supports the Fox Theatre, orchestrates the refurbishment of a 1928 Robert Morton pipe organ that will be placed in the renovated Bob Hope Theatre. Once restored, the organ will be worth between $160,000 and $200,000.
Stockton's Robert Morton organ made its debut at the Seattle Fox Theatre on April 19, 1929. And its purpose was already obsolete.

The Robert Morton organ for the Stockton Fox Theatre was originally installed at the Fox in Seattle. The theater had a number of different names, but the original idea was to name it the Mayflower. Ultimately, it began as the Fox when Fox film studios owned a chain of theaters across the country. Fox theaters were renowned for their stately architecture, wide and deep balconies, and sumptuous deep red carpeting. Truly, moviegoing was an event.

The Seattle Fox defined the golden age of movie palaces. It featured an eclectic Spanish Renaissance architecture designed by Sherwood Demier Ford. Its architecture, however, didn't quite connect with the intended name of the building -- the Mayflower -- or even the original design of the organ. The organ grills had a nautical design of a ship's prow to honor the Mayflower name.

By the 1930s, the theater became the Music Hall. In the 1970s and '80s, it was a dinner theater before becoming a "mixed-use" house under the name of Emerald Palace. The building was demolished in the winter of 1991-92.

The Robert Morton organ was common in West Coast theaters, while Wurlitzers were primarily used in the East. The organ was installed in 1929 with the console mounted on a revolving lift. The opening organist was Jamie Erickson, a popular keyboarder throughout the West and Midwest in the 1920s and '30s. Its last performance in Seattle was given on Nov. 15, 1963, with organist Dick Schrum at the console.

Eight months later, the instrument was sold for $7,500 to the Carl Greer Inn of Sacramento. It cost inn owners another $3,500 just to haul it down from Seattle. It remained at the inn until Bonnie Ciauri, an organ enthusiast, purchased it In 1978. Bonnie Ciauri bought a powerful 1928 Robert Morton theater organ. The instrument’s magnificent pipes once thrilled silent-film audiences at Seattle’s Fox Theatre. But Ciauri didn’t play theater organ, and she certainly had no space for it in her Palm Springs and, later, her Hemet home.

She had it taken apart. The 4-manual, 16-rank (commonly referred to as a 4/16) orchestral theater organ went mute.
Ciauri stored the console in her daughter’s air-conditioned house, but detached from its pipes, the Morton console was furniture, silent as the movies it once accompanied.

The pipes, hundreds of them, made of wood or tin-lead-zinc alloy, were stacked on top of each other in three metal containers, each the size of a semi-truck trailer. Once full, the containers were sealed and parked on a desert lot.

Every day for the next 22 years, the pipes baked in a relentless desert sun and chilled each night under the stars. Finally, in April 2000, Stockton Friends of the Fox president Bob Hartzell rescued the organ. And after years of painstaking restoration, the mighty Morton is about to warm up her pipes.

Hartzell had his doubts when he first opened the desert containers.

The heat had just about cooked it,” Hartzell said. “Everything but the console was as close to ruination as it could be. If it had been just a year longer, it would have been too late.”

When Hartzell found the organ, Don Geiger donated storage and work space at Stockton’s Geiger Manufacturing. Still, FOF volunteers were shocked when they went to the desert to unload the containers for transport to Stockton. What were once perfectly round metal pipes had flattened and corroded. High humidity had warped mahogany and cracked pine. Pipes and parts bound together in 1928 by glue made from horses’ hooves fell apart as they were removed.
But with Hartzell’s leadership and the direction of theater organ expert Dave Moreno of Sacramento, 15 members of the FOF and the Sierra chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society worked with steel wool, modern glue and dedication to get the Morton ready for installation into the Fox late this summer.
Here's Bob Hartzell's The Travels and Travails of a 4/16 Robert Morton:
Great story!

The Robert Morton installed at Stockton's Fox replaces a Wurlitzer-Morton hybrid, a 9-rank Wurlitzer Model 210 with additional Morton ranks. The organ originally was housed at the T&D Theater before it was torn down to make way for the present Fox. When it was installed in the Fox, the Morton ranks were added. The Wurlitzer-Morton was removed from the Stockton theater in the 1950s and sold to an East Bay buyer. Its whereabouts are unknown.(therecord,2003-06-19)

2001 – 2002: Funding is given to the city of Stockton, with Congress awarding $290,000 in 2001, and $225,000 in 2002 to help renovate the Fox Theatre. The state of California also awards a $300,000 California Heritage Fund Grant.

Restoration photos,%20CA/4

Jerry performed here on 
8/8/81 Jerry Garcia Band)2)


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fox Theater, Peachtree Street and Ponce De Leon Avenue, Atlanta, GA

Designed in 1927 by Olliver J. Vinour and P. Thornton Marye of the local architectural firm, Marye and Alger.
It is only natural that Atlanta is the home of the South's finest theatre, the fabulous Fox. At the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue stands this imposing cream brick structure of Moorish architecture. Its minarets and domes so completely dominate the scene that to view it is to be instantly whisked away, as if by magic carpet, to the Near East.

As originally conceived, the Fox was neither Fox nor theatre, but a headquarters for the Yaarab Temple of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (more commonly known as the Shiners). They had been planning a new home since 1916. By 1929, their dreams had grown so far out of touch with financial reality that the Shrine's directors were forced into a "marriage of convenience" with movie potentate William Fox. At the suggestion of Mr. Fox, the temple was modified to include both a movie auditorium and retail space.
The Theatre opened on December 25, 1929 just 18 months after laying the cornerstone with a matinee that was followed by the grand opening premiere gala that evening. Admission prices ranged from 15 to 75 cents.1
Fox, Opening Day, 1929

The Atlanta Fox Theatre has its own completely equipped emergency hospital on a lower level which is reported to have been the birthplace of at least one child. There are seven floors of dressing rooms backstage, each complete with toilet facilities and ranging in size from small single rooms for the "stars" to large dormitory rooms capable of accommodating as many as 50 from the chorus. On the seventh floor is also found a fully air-conditioned, soundproof rehearsal room, a broadcast studio, and a little theatre.

Three special power lines coming into the main power room, located three floors below street level, provide enough power to adequately light an entire city of 60,000. The massive stage lighting control board is fully automatic and its numerous effects can create any illusion ever attempted by the great Ziegfeld.

The stage floor, an enormous 128 x 36 feet, is divided into three sections, each on an elevator lift. Any one or all sections can be lowered 40 feet into the stage basement or raised four feet above footlight level. The giant CinemaScope screen requires a 35-horsepower motor to pull it into the fly loft. The 1846-seat cantilevered balcony is considered something unique in construction. A sound system of 45 speakers on the stage, ranging in size from tiny tweeters to five-foot-square woofers, is augmented by 36 additional speakers located throughout the auditorium. The orchestra pit, composed of two sections, each on an elevator lift, can seat a symphony of 150 pieces. The gold on the decorative molding is 14 karat leaf and that in the grand foyer alone is estimated to have cost $35,000.

The auditorium, comprising an area of 65,000 square feet, simulates a Moorish courtyard. Rising from each side of the courtyard is a huge stone wall with various sized windows which are barred against "intruders." Surmounting each wall is a complex of guard posts and battlement windows.

Entering the huge auditorium, an early reviewer for the Atlanta Journal described "a picturesque and almost disturbing grandeur beyond imagination. Visitors encounter an indoor Arabian courtyard with a sky full of flickering stars and magically drifting clouds; a spectacular striped canopy overhanging the balcony; stage curtains depicting mosques and Moorish rulers in hand sewn sequins and rhinestones." 

The organ chambers are concealed in the walls as balconies with heavy gold leaf screens in typical Moorish style. The walls are connected in the front by a banistered bridge which is lighted by lanterns, the bridge forming the proscenium arch. Everywhere realism is carried to its ultimate. A concrete and steel "draped canopy" extending over the balcony appears to be made of tent cloth which has already won its first bout with mildew.

The interior was a masterpiece of trompe l'oeil; false beams, false balconies, false tents, ornate grillwork hiding air conditioning and heating ducts. Virtually every practical feature was disguised with artistic fantasy.
Detailing and furnishing were equally ornate. Nothing - no space, no furniture, no hardware - escaped the gilt, the tile, the geometric design. Men's and Ladies' Lounges, broom closets, telephone booths were all emblazoned with intricate plaster, bronze and painted detail. Yet for all this seeming excess, The Fox retained a sense of tastefulness. As rich as it was in ornamentation, it never appeared overstated.
The atmospheric ceiling is an electrical phenomenon, the secret of its function closely guarded by the Fox management. Stars appear to twinkle in the midnight blue sky while soft white clouds drift slowly past. The effect is so startling that an orchestra conductor, appearing at the Fox for the first time, looked up briefly from his score and thought he was performing in an outdoor theatre. The automatic sunrise system is almost unbelievable. A timing device is employed to determine the interval between sunrise and sunset. At first, only a slight golden-pink glow is observed over the court wall. The glow increases in brilliance until the golden sun appears to be travelling diagonally across the auditorium, finally setting behind the overhead bridge in a manner befitting the most gorgeous natural sunset.
The Fox opened as the Great Depression began. After 125 weeks of talking pictures and elaborate stage entertainment, it declared bankruptcy. Revived after temporary city ownership, it scraped by during the 1930's. 

In 1935 Arthur Lucas and William Jenkins, operators of regional theaters, form a partnership with Paramount Publix called Mosque Inc. They purchase the Fox for $725,000 and reposition it as a movie house. The theater gains firm footing for the first time since it opened.

Because of the expense of converting 1,100 theatres to sound equipment and the economic crisis of the early 1930s, Fox's empire crumbled. He declared bankruptcy in 1936 and his interests in the Fox Theater Corporation and Fox Film Studios were sold.

In 1939 the Georgia Theatre Company steps in to manage the facility. The banquet hall is renamed the Egyptian Ballroom and becomes the site of public functions, dances and social affairs.
Fox Theater, 1940

March 13, 1956
The time of the movie palace finally ran out around 1973. Television, suburban flight and a changing movie industry took patrons elsewhere. Film distributors required month-long commitments for first-run films. While this was easy for suburban theaters holding only 500 seats or so, it presented a problem for the massive Fox. With almost 4,000 seats, it could complete a run in less than a week. The Fox was reduced to showing second-run movies to dwindling audiences.

The Fox faced yet another threat: the relentless growth of metropolitan Atlanta. Almost sold and demolished to make way for Southern Bell's headquarters, it was rescued through the efforts of Atlanta Landmarks, Inc., a non-profit organization of interested, energetic and committed Atlantans. Their four-year "Save The Fox" fundraising campaign opened the hearts and purse strings of individuals and corporate donors.

Under Atlanta Landmarks' ownership, The Fox was once again put on a sound financial footing as a multi-purpose performing arts center.

A non-profit group saved the Fox from demolition and in 1975, the group began the lengthy process of restoring the theater. Reopening the theater as a peforming arts center, the Fox's financial situation is now much more sound.
In 1976, documents were submitted qualifying The Fox to be designated a National Historic Landmark.
Constant restoration and upkeep have kept the Fox looking new and have helped retain its status as a truly unique and magnificent theater. The Fox is reportedly the only major theater in the country to have a full-time restoration staff. They are also the only major theater to have 2 ballrooms attached in the orginal buidling (this is as it was on opening day in 1929).    

Jerry performed here on
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3.)^Doby, Hal,