A lot of Seattleites, especially on Capitol Hill, have things to be happy about this week.
The gay marriage cause, for which a lot of people here worked very hard this past year, received a big boost from the U.S. Supreme Court—just in time for Pride Weekend.
But folks on the Hill, and all over town, still have a sad occasion today.
The Egyptian Theater closes after 33 years of screenings, including most of SIFF’s main shows.
A little history:
The Seattle Masonic Temple opened in 1915. By the 1970s, its big auditorium was regularly used for pro wrestling events.
In late 1975, Daryl McDonald and Dan Ireland leased the Moore Theatre downtown, and renamed it the “Moore Egyptian.” (There had been a previous Egyptian Theater in the U District, which has nothing to do with our story.)
That’s where McDonald and Ireland started SIFF in May 1976, with a short program of 18 screenings.
Four years later, McDonald and Ireland leased the Masonic auditorium and re-christened it the new Egyptian. New management returned the Moore to hosting live concerts and stage shows. SIFF used both rooms for a couple of years, then made the Egyptian its permanent annual home base.
The Masons sold the building to Seattle Central Community College in the mid-1980s. SCCC used the building’s non-auditorium areas for its (also now-ended) film and video program and for assorted offices.
After a few years, the Egyptian came into the Seven Gables chain, founded by local art-house tycoon Randy Finley. He sold his theaters in the mid-’80s. They later went into the national Landmark chain, which in turn was eventually bought by Dallas entrepreneur Mark Cuban. SIFF continued to rent out the Egyptian as its main venue for three and a half weeks each year.
(Cuban also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. In 2008, he was the only NBA owner besides Seattle’s own Paul Allen (representing the Portland TrailBlazers) to vote against moving the Supersonics to Oklahoma.)
Meanwhile, the economics of motion-picture exhibition got steadily sourer.
The Internet, that great Disruptor of All Media, played a part.
So did the consolidation of the big studios and the big theater chains, making things tougher for relatively little guys like Landmark. (Cuban reportedly tried to sell Landmark a couple years ago, but got no takers.)
While the Egyptian was usually full or near-full during SIFF screenings, its 600 seats steadily became harder to fill during the other 48 weeks.
Once this year’s SIFF ended, Landmark quietly told SCCC it wouldn’t keep leasing the space.
The building’s not going away, unlike so many other Pike/Pine landmarks in recent years.
SCCC has fielded applicants to take over the auditorium, but hasn’t announced any new tenant.
SIFF has recently returned to running its own year-round theaters. Would, or could, SIFF add the Egyptian back into its full-time fold?
If SIFF or anyone else wanted to use it for movies, they’d have to get one of those costly digital-cinema projection setups the Hollywood distributors now require, and which have been the focus of “save our theater” fund drives here (Central Cinema, Northwest Film Forum) and elsewhere. Landmark already said it would remove the Egyptian’s digital setup, for re-installation at one of its other properties.
Alternately, the space could become (at least in non-SIFF months) a concert venue or lecture hall. (The stage is too shallow for much live-theater work.)
But, pending any revival as a single-screen cinema, it’s safe to say the Egyptian tradition ends today.
It’s not the last link to Seattle’s 1970s funky art-house aesthetic (the Harvard Exit, Grand Illusion, Guild 45th, and Seven Gables are still with us). But it’s still a loss.
The Fastbacks, the “Seattle Scene’s” most enduring band (and one of its most loveable), recorded lots of great cover songs (originally by the Raspberries, the Sweet, and even Sesame Street!) in addition to their many originals. Some of these were buried on “tribute” compilation CDs. Here’s a list of 17 such tunes, and a slightly longer but still incomplete list.
Elsewhere in randomosity:
There is no such thing as a private language. We speak in order to be heard, we write in order to be read. But words also speak through us and, sometimes, are as much a dissolution as an assertion of our identity.
ebay photos, via thestir.cafemom.com
'every driver every time it ever rains ever'
tom banse via kplu
seattle dept. of transportation
…historically the stingiest, most fiscally conservative, most technologically resistant and investment-averse people ever, with the highest percentage of luddites per capita.
Earlier this year, KUOW and MOHAI came up with a list of 25 “objects that tell Seattle’s story.”
They range from the obvious (a Boeing B-17, a poster announcing the Japanese-American internment, a Starbucks coffee cup) to the more obscure (an ancient, giant ground sloth).
A little more recently, SeattlePI.com ran a list of “25 things we miss in Seattle.”
These also ranged from the truly famous (the Lusty Lady sign, Frederick & Nelson’s window displays) to the lesser known (the Woodland Park Zoo’s nocturnal-creatures exhibit).
I’ve got my own list of Seattle pop culture icons. All of them are things I’ve personally seen or owned.
And yes, there are 25 of them. (Why break a routine that works?)
In no particular order, they are:
via seattle bike blog
washington dept. of natural resources via kxly-tv spokane
With the recent and forthcoming disappearances of so many, many unsnobbily cool places on Capitol Hill, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Canterbury Ale & Eats on 15th Avenue East went away.
Unlike many other closures, though, this is not predicated on the end of its building. The Canterbury’s on the ground floor of an “affordable” apartment building run by Capitol Hill Housing. The building’s staying put. It’s just the Canterbury that’s going, when its lease expires at the end of this year.
It’s a long story that apparently has to do with a long-running dispute between CHH and Stefanie Roberge, who’s owned the Canterbury for the past 13 years.
There’s already a “Save Our Canterbury” website.
And, yes, the place is indeed worth saving.
It dates back to the mid-1970s, but was designed in that “Olde English” kitsch style popular among college-student dive bars at least a decade before that. There’s even a full suit of armor in the entryway.
The space wends its way through several adjoining rooms. These contain shuffleboard, foosball, and pool tables, and a classic arcade video game or two and a real fireplace.
The bar food is bar food, not “pub grub” or “cuisine.” The drinks are good n’ stiff. It has microbrews these days, but they’re not the focal point.
Moreover, it’s a place without airs or pretensions. Artists, students, construction workers, jocks, office clerks, nurses from nearby Group Health—all these and more can be found there on any given evening.
Let’s keep it that way.
For sale: One herd of cows (ceramic, plywood, fabric, paint, etc.). Comes with a supply of warm, gooey cinnamon rolls and a classic cafe.
After 25 years, Jeanne Mae Barwick is retiring from Mae’s Phinney Ridge Cafe in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. She’s put the place up for sale, and threatens to close it in March or April if an appropriate buyer isn’t found.
There’s been a cafe at this location since the 1920s. But when Barwick took it over in 1988, she transformed it from a neighborhood destination into a city institution.
Michael Stern at Roadfood.com describes it as “a multi-room cafe decorated everywhere with pictures, statues, blow-up dolls and every sort of nick-nack imaginable, all depicting cows (an ode to the proprietor’s Wisconsin roots).”
On weekend mornings, it can take as long as an hour to get seated. Besides the cinnamon rolls (baked in-house), it offers large portions of your basic American breakfast and lunch fare, plus such specialties as trout and eggs.
It closes at 3 p.m. daily; in offering the business for sale, Barwick notes a new owner could make more money by opening for dinner and offering alcohol.
In an email sent to customers, Barwick says she may hold an “open house and garage sale” at the cafe in March. Depending on what items a new owner may want to keep, the sale could include the cafe’s cow-shaped salt and pepper shakers “and other miscellaneous moo-morabilia.”
Barwick also says she’ll continue to host her popular “Karaoke Bingo” once a month at the Greenwood Senior Center.
(Cross-posted with Unusual Life.)
These Streets, the musical revue/play at ACT (running through March 10) about four women in the ’90s Seattle rock scene and two (mostly) supportive boyfriends, was constructed as a series of non-linear “moments.”
Scenes bounced between the past and present; the “past” storyline covers five years in the characters’ lives. Many of these short scenes and mini-monologues depicted single ideas or emotions.
In the show’s spirit, this piece is also a sequence of moments.
I mentioned in my 1995 book Loser how the national media’s false “grunge” stereotype included “no women in sight, not even as video models.”
But in the real Seattle scene, women were involved in leading roles from the start. Women were singers, instrumentalists, managers, promoters, venue owners, zine publishers, photographers, DJs, and record-label owners.
In keeping with the scene’s ethos, most of these women weren’t vying for fame and fortune. (The exception, Courtney Love, already had a record deal before she came here.)
But then a scene that, to many of its members, was an alternative to the major-label machine, became re-defined as fodder FOR the major-label machine.
The global music industry, at what turned out to be its peak of money and power, trawled Seattle fishing for superstars. The Gits were negotiating with a label when singer Mia Zapata was killed. Seven Year Bitch released one album on Atlantic, then broke up. But most of the scene’s women were ignored.
Over the years, “grunge nostalgia” books and documentaries (most made by out-of-towners) continued to ignore artists from the scene who hadn’t become big stars, including the women.
One of Harley and Rudinoff’s goals with the play was to remember this forgotten history.
These Streets, along with its concurrent poster-art and oral-history exhibit at the Project Room gallery on Capitol Hill, received massive coverage in local and national media.
The show includes parts of 18 vintage songs, originally recorded by 14 different female-fronted Seattle acts. Having four different characters singing the songs allowed the show’s makers to feature diverse musical material, from ballads (“power” and other) to straight-out punk blasts.
If any of those bands at the time had received a fraction of the publicity These Streets received, who knows what could have happened?
In keeping with the do-it-yourself spirit, These Streets was staged and produced by Gretta Harley and Sarah Rudinoff, who’d also written it (with Elizabeth Kenny).
Kenny and Rudinoff played the older versions of two of the characters. Harley sang and played guitar in the show’s tight backup band. Harley had been in the ’90s rock scene with the bands Maxi Badd, Danger Gens, and Eyefulls. She and Rudinoff currently perform as the duo We Are Golden.
ACT Theatre provided the auditorium space and various production services, under its “Central Heating Lab” program. (Carlo Scandiuzzi, ACT’s executive director, had promoted punk and new-wave gigs at the Showbox in the early 1980s.)
Harley, Rudinoff, and Kenny spent two years developing the script and score, based in part on interviews with some 40 Seattle-scene veterans. Twenty-three of these women were featured in historical graphics installed in the ACT lobby.
The show’s present-day storyline involves five of the six characters (yes, that’s a plot spoiler) reminiscing about their days of non-stardom, while surveying their later lives of houses, kids, divorces, and stints in rehab.
And they still have the urge to make music and art, to be on stage, to be loud and passionate in front of a crowd.
The world of their youth, the pre-dot-com Seattle of 1989-94, has largely vanished. The city isn’t the same and neither are they.
According to Harley, the present-day scenes refer to a time when “you’re in this stage of life and you look back and take ownership of it. But then you’re also looking forward for first time in a very particular way. I hope the show helps to illuminate that ownership of this time in our lives, and also look back and say, ‘Hey kid, you had a lot of guts to get up and do that.’”
Harley says the making of These Streets was “a great experience. People who lived it seem to really love it; they feel that it’s very authentic. A couple of people said it inspired them to pick up music again.”
While no further performances have been scheduled past its three-week run, “we’re taking it one step at a time at this point.”
(Cross-posted with City Living.)