Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's about time and the Golden State

I created this blog account 5 years ago and left it dormant, in other words blank, empty, unused.  I had almost forgotten that I had a blog account.  I think I neglected to use it because I was too intimidated to post my thoughts, fearing that I'd come across as stupid or boring.  I'm still not sure what I'll be writing about, hopefully I can come up with something interesting.  I guess time will tell.

I'm writing this from the confines of my cramped little office (I've described it to friends as the size of a train compartment).  It may be cramped, but I'm glad to have it.  It isn't as nice as the upstairs office I had up until two years ago, when I was still living in Mount Vernon, Washington.  From that office I had a view of the Olympic mountains (when they weren't covered by clouds) and lots of trees.  But this tiny little office with its view of our small, leaf covered back yard, is cozy and it's a hell of a lot nicer than having my office in our dining room which is where I had to work for the first 9 months after moving to my present location in Bloomington, Indiana.  At least it's a private room with a door that I can close, a place where I can listen to whatever music I want, a place to display some of my toys and books.  Right now it needs a good straightening up, but because I hate going through stacks of receipts and bills and because I don't have any place to put the things stacked on the floor, I keep finding excuses not to deal with it.

So I'm sitting here writing this, when I should be working on my artwork.  I've been working really hard lately, trying to create some new work to include in my illustration portfolio.  I'm really happy with my new work, but I still feel the need to come up with a few more pieces before I start sending out samples, in the hope I can find some illustration work.  Maybe I'm just finding excuses to put off sending out my work, not wanting to have to face the possibility of being rejected.

Over the top of my monitor I can see two photos hanging on my wall.  One is of the Golden State theater, a no longer existing movie theater where my sister and I use to watch movies on hot summer days while growing up in Riverside, California.  This was an historic theater, the theater that held the sneak preview of D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," when the film was still called by its original title "The Clansmen."  Built in 1890, it originally opened as the Loring Opera House.  I don't know what year it changed from being an Opera house to a movie theater, but I was sad when it closed down in the early 1970s, a victim of the new multiplex that had opened up at the mall.  It was even sadder when, about 10 years after closing, it burned to the ground.  It's thought that the fire was accidently started by some homeless men who had been sleeping inside the deserted theater.  At least that's the story I heard.  Before the fire, there had been talk of restoring the theater, but the restoration got held up by some sort of litigation against the landlord of the Loring building, the building that housed the theater.  It's really a shame, because if the litigation hadn't held things up, the theater most likely would have been restored and probably would still be around.  By the way, the above photo was taken in 1974.

After the theater closed down and before its fiery destruction, I managed to find a way to sneak inside.  One day while attending the University of California Riverside where I was completing my B.A. in art, I was in downtown Riverside snapping some photos for a printmaking class I was taking.   I walked by the old theater and was filled with nostalgic memories of the many afternoons I had spent inside watching films like "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" and "Krakatoa, East of Java".  I went up to the front entrance and peered through the filthy glass doors.  Because the glass was so dirty, I couldn't see much but I was able to make out the shape of the dust covered candy counter where I had purchased many a bag of popcorn and boxes of Junior mints.  I took some pictures of the exterior, including the padlock and chain on the front door and the dead bird that had been sadly swept behind the booth of the former box office.  I then decided to wander around to the back.  There was no one around so I walked up the back fire escape and to my surprise found that the fire escape door was slightly ajar.  I pried it open a little further and managed to sneak inside.  I walked down a hallway that was illuminated by the filtered light of a dirty window half covered with a broken venetian blind that hung down at a skewed angle.  I walked by the projection booth that still had pieces of equipment inside.  On the floor I found a scrap of 35 mm film.  It was a piece of leader film, the part of the film that is used to thread the projector.  The title of the film was displayed in one frame, "Billion Dollar Brain," a Michael Caine film that came out in 1967.  I put the scrap of film in my pocket (I still have it, stashed away somewhere), and then proceeded downstairs.  I found the stairway was partially blocked by piles of cushions that appeared to have been torn out of the theater's seating.  I managed to maneuver my way through them and finally arrived in the lobby. Then I walked through the doors leading into the main auditorium. I was excited, after the passage of so much time, to see the inside of the theater where I had spent so many hours of my summer vacations.  But upon entering, I was saddened to discover that all of the downstairs seating had been ripped out and that the movie screen, upon which many a Hollywood star had at one time flickered, was no longer hanging across the stage.  Where it once hung it was now dark and empty, the back walls of the theater barely visible from the light leaking in from the lobby.  Even so, the theater was still recognizable.  The ornate lighting fixtures were still present as was the gold-painted grill work that adorned each side of the stage.  With my 35mm Canon, I took some long exposure black and white photos.  They came out rather grainy, but I was so happy that I had found my way inside and was able to take them.  Even showing the theater in its dilapidated state, those 30 year old photos still have the power to transport me back to the summer days of my adolescence when I spent so many hours in the dark watching Hollywood's latest fantasies unwind before me on the big screen.

The pictures below were taken on another exploratory trip that I made inside the old Golden State Theater. These were taken with my SX-70 polaroid camera.


  1. Hi Vince. I was wondering if you had a blog floating around there somewhere. We're glad to hear that you took that leap (...five years ago?) and joined us other blogsters.

    Welcome to the blogosphere :)

  2. Thanks Jim. We'll see how good I am at keeping it up to date. When I first signed up for the account in 2004, I had just begun to look after my mom. I had meant to use the blog as a sort of diary of what it was like to care for an aging parent, but somehow life got in the way (I think I was also intimidated by the idea of sitting down and pouring out my soul). I wish I had started writing about my experiences back then so that I could remember some of the things I was feeling at the time, but it's too late now. Oh well. . .

  3. wow! great to see and read about the Golden State Theater..I never saw a movie there but now I feel that I have..thanks for a great blog entry!

  4. A Hard Days Night. We stayed and saw it twice, because no one cared if you did that then. It was probably summer. Remember that big heavy curtain, the rather steep, short slope and the little ticket(?) window just inside the front door? The tiny foyer? I think that the last movie I saw there was Butch Cassidy. Could be wrong, though.
    Sarah Bernhardt performed at this theatre in it's magnificent days. It was used for used books near the end there. Whew. memory lane is tiring....

  5. I remember sitting through movies twice in a row as well. Since there were often double features, you'd sometimes end up sitting through three movies (or more). I remember that there was a used book store in the same building, in the space immediately next to the theater, but as far as I know there was never one inside the theater itself.