1931 soviet book jacket; new york public library via allmyeyes.blogspot.com
A cowering man in a suit on the screen, waving his hands in front of his face and begging Robocop not to kill him for profiting, for draining the United States dry and exploiting the pain and hard work of others, for doing what businessmen do.
ap photo via newstimes.com
washington beer blog via seattlepi.com
First, thanks to the more than 50 people who crowded Roy St. Coffee and Tea for the History Cafe presentation on old Seattle restaurant menus Thursday evening. And thanks to my fellow panelists Hanna Raskin and Taylor Bowie for making it easy for me. Each of them had so many insights about the old restaurants, their menu designs, their food items, and their respective places in cultural history, that I didn’t have to say much.
1975 opening; from onelifetolive.wikia.com
(Again this year, I’ve been drafted into participating in the Seattle Invitationals, a contest for Elvis Tribute Artists (ETA; and yes, that acronym is used within this particular scene). In keeping with the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair (and of It Happened at the World’s Fair), this year’s edition is under the Space Needle at the Experience Music Project, 8 p.m. Saturday. Be there or be Fabian.)
1979 ad from vintagepaperads.com
sorry, maude, you didn't make the list
pittsburgh post-gazette illo by anita dufalla, 2009
Our ol’ pal David Meinert suggests at Publicola that Seattle could get at least a little out of its deep fiscal hole by opening itself up to casinos, slot machines, and booze in strip clubs.
(UPDATE: And our other ol’ pal Goldy thinks it’s a lousy idea.)
(Cross posted with the Capitol Hill Times.)
Thoughts on recent performance events, big and small, on the Hill:
1) The Capitol Hill Block Party.
From all accounts it was a smashing success. Some 10,000 people attended each of the event’s three days. Except for one no-show due to illness, all the big advertised bands satisfied their respective throngs. Seattle finally has a second summer attraction with top big-name musical acts. (I personally don’t consider an outdoor ampitheater in the middle of eastern Washington to be “in Seattle.”)
But as the Block Party becomes a bigger, bolder, louder venture, it can’t help but lose some of its early funky charm, and a piece of its original raison d’etre.
Once a festival starts to seriously woo major-label acts, it has to start charging real money at the gates. It’s not just to pay the bands’ management, but also for the security, the sound system, the fences around the beer gardens, and assorted other ratcheted-up expenses.
That, by necessity, makes the whole thing a more exclusive, less inclusive endeavor.
The street fair booths that used to be free get put behind the admission gates. The merchants, political causes, and community groups operating these booths only end up reaching those who both can and want to pay $23 and up to get in.
I’m not suggesting the Block Party shut down or scale back to its earlier, small-time self.
I’m suggesting an additional event, perhaps on another summer weekend. It would be what the Block Party used to be—free to all, but intended for the people of the Hill. An all-encompassing, cross-cultural celebration of the neighborhood’s many different “tribes” and subcultures. An event starring not just rock and pop and hiphop, but a full range of performance types. An event all about cross-pollenization, exchanges of influence, and cultural learning.
It wouldn’t be a “Block Party Lite,” but something else, something wonderful in its own way.
2) Naked Girls Reading: “How To” Night.
A couple of years ago, a friend told me about a strip club in Los Angeles called “Crazy Girls.” I told him I would rather pay to see sane girls.
Now I have. And it’s beautiful.
“Naked Girls Reading” is a franchise operation, originally based in Chicago. But it’s a perfect concept for Seattle. It’s tastefully “naughty” but not in any way salacious. It’s not too heavy. It’s entertaining. It’s edifying. It could even be billed as providing “empowerment” to its cast.
The four readers last Sunday night, plus the dressed female MC (costumed as a naughty librarian), all came from the neo-burlesque subculture. But this concept is nearly the exact opposite of striptease dancing. There’s no stripping, no teasing, and no dancing. The readers enter from behind a stage curtain, already clad in just shoes and the occasional scarf. They sit at a couch. They take turns reading aloud. When each reader has performed three brief selections, the evening is done.
Each performance has a theme. Last Sunday, it was “How To.” The readers mostly chose types of texts that are seldom if ever read aloud in public. Given Seattle’s techie reputation, it’s only appropriate that we rechristen instructional text as an art form.
Selections ranged from explosive-making (from the ’70s cult classic The Anarchist Cookbook), to plate joining in woodwork, to home-brewing kombucha tea, to deboning a chicken (from The Joy of Cooking), to the famous Tom Robbins essay “How to Make Love Stay.” The women performed these selections with great humor, great voices, and great sitting posture.
Despite what you may hear from the Chicken Littles of the book and periodical industries, The Word isn’t going away any time soon, any more than The Body. Both obsessions retain their eternal power to attract, no matter what.
“Naked Girls Reading” performances are held the first Sunday of each month in the Odd Fellows Building, 10th and East Pine. Details and ticket info are at nakedgirlsreading.com/seattle. The promoters also promise a “Naked Boys Reading” evening at a yet-unset date. (The participles won’t be all that’s dangling.)
Costco’s Washington liquor privatization initiative: Good for chain stores, bad for microbrewers? That’s what the Washington Brewers Guild claims.
The old Rainier Brewery on Airport Way South is contaminated with toxic exterior paints. If a solution isn’t found to remove or seal up the old paint, the whole complex might get condemned and demolished.
It’s a beautiful labyrinth of industrial spaces, now housing artist studios and the Tully’s Coffee head office. (The coffee roasting plant, located in part of the old brewery for several years, is now closed; Tully’s product is now made by Green Mountain Roasters in Sumner.)
This is a landmark. It needs to stay. Period.
A kind reader recently slipped me a rare copy of The Hedonist: In Pursuit of Pleasure and Happiness. It’s a self-published local restaurant and entertainment guide from 1970.
“Typeset” on a typewriter (remember those?) with what look like press-type headlines (remember those?), the slim paperback provides a handy, informal peek at what Seattle was like four long decades ago.
It just happens that 1970 was a very pivotal year around here. The Seattle Pilots baseball team split for Milwaukee after just one season, temporarily dashing civic boosters’ hopes of Seattle becoming a “big league city.” Boeing executed its first massive layoffs, plunging the region into a deep recession that stuck around for several years.
The youth culture was also changing. The flower-power era was quickly fading. The “grownup hippie” milieu of mellow blues-rock bands and foodie bistros was slowly emerging.
In this time of uncertainty, The Hedonist’s editors (William L. Hailey, Joan Frederickson, and Sharon Minteer) and a small team of co-writers took it upon themselves to list the ways a young adult in Seattle could eat, drink, dance, shop, and play.
They tell all about such onetime major city attractions as Morningtown Pizza on Roosevelt (“Come as you are—when you get there, you’ll see that everyone else did, too”), the pre-burger-chain Red Robin near Eastlake (“Once a comfortable, clannish tavern suitable for intimate drunken orgies, the Robin now shelters those who would be hip for a few hours on Friday night and sell shoes and encyclopedias the rest of the week”), and First Avenue’s “amusement arcades” (“films are silent, uncensored, and done on extremely short subjects. No minors, no women allowed to view films and ID please”).
You learn about some of the hundreds of tiny storefront taverns that dotted the city during those days of more restrictive litter laws. Places like the Rat Hole in Wallingford (“shingled walls are covered with posters and road signs; the floor is barely visible through the sawdust covering”), the Century on upper University Way (“a welcome relief from the swinging world of the university beer halls”), and Your Mother’s Mustache in Pioneer Square (“revisit your childhood in the ‘Pillow Play Room’—a bathtub full of pillows, tinker toys and carpeting to sit on”).
What did they say about Capitol Hill? Glad you asked.
A brief chapter about the neighborhood opens with a brief essay by contributing writer Jeannette Franks: “Capitol Hill still hasn’t decided whether it is a haven for hippies, rich kids or little old ladies. Consequently, it has something for everyone, but not a lot for anyone. Shops spring up like mushrooms and vanish as quickly, so don’t get too attached to any one place. The following are expected to be with us for a while, but one never knows just how long.”
A few of the establishments listed in that chapter, and elsewhere in the book, did last a while. Fillipi’s Book and Record Shop ran until 2000 or so; the Keeg’s and Del-Teet furniture stores lasted into the 1980s
We’ve still got the Harvard Exit (“the only movie house with soul”). And the Comet (“This small, friendly tavern on Capitol Hill caters primarily to hip young people…. The management prefers country music, but this is not adamant.”
Where Joe Bar is now, there was once the Russian Samovar restaurant. (“No reservations are necessary to enjoy this old world Russian cuisine, and ‘a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.’”)
Along the 10th Avenue East business strip near the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, there used to be the New York Style Deli. (“Not quite New York style, but good. A little old lady will appreciate your business. Open until midnight.
Those two places I remember. I have no memory of Oquasa Inc. on Broadway (“a head shop with assorted beads, bells vests and candles but no papers”). Nor did I ever visit Demitri’s Coffee House on East Pine (“Demitri has filled all nine of his rooms with fresh flowers, precious old things, bric-a-brac, statues, music—almost anything”).
A short chapter toward the end of the book lists eleven bars and other sites around town “For the Involved Gay.” Only one of these has a Capitol Hill address—Dorian House, the predecessor to the still-operating Seattle Counseling Service for Sexual Minorities.
Then there’s the chapter about “Things To Do For About a Dollar.” It contains an odd little item entitled “Giant Ice Cube.” It reads: “The ice machine at 18th and Madison sells 25-pound blocks of ice for 60 cents. Take these oversized ice cubes to a grassy hill in the Arboretum and ‘ride’ it to the bottom. This may not be a hot idea, but it will freeze your social position in the community.”
I like to think we’ve got better entertainment options than that now.
(Expanded from a column in the Capitol Hill Times.)