I’ve posted nine times here about the Varsity Theatre, starting on July 22, the day Fox News did a quick segment on this. I have also written about this for Patch Palo Alto, was the source of articles in Daily News and the Palo Alto Weekly, was mentioned (disparagingly) in The Daily Post. I’ve spoken for the record to Palo Alto City Council, which is searchable at Media Center, plus to some commissions. There is an August 1 letter to Council on file.
By the way “Plastic Alto”, the name of this blog series, refers to the white acrylic alto sax played by Ornette Coleman, but also references Silicon Valley and the scene in “The Graduate” where the guy says “Plastics”.
The visual is a screen capture of the Fox News piece. The abstract says “put the weight on me” a The Band and “Last Waltz” reference.
1. Palo Alto’s New Varsity and ‘The Last Picture Waltz’ initiative, published July 22, 2011
2. Bird omens auger well for The Varsity Theatre 456, published August 14, 2011
The visual is a screen capture from “Ghost Dog” and the abstract continues the reference by quoting or goofing on Public Enemy soundtrack:” lamping lamping cold cold lamping, counting crows on poles, bat and moles all adds up to the New New Varsity, TLPW 456 in Palo Alto. sho nuff ya dig by any means Elliot Ness is near, dearies”. The second visual is the “TLPW456″ snipe flyer and there is also a video of Bob Pritchett, my former coach, playing in the Varsity courtyard.
3. TLPW 456 is The Last Picture Waltz 456 University Avenue aka ‘Save The Varsity’, published August 23, 2011
The visual is a picture of the snipe flyer on the door of Bell’s Books — thank you, Faith Bell for your support and insight on this issue. In the comments, which I often use as footnotes, there is the text of Mayor Sid Espinosa’s post on a website panning the idea of a theatre revival. I met with him subsequently and also suggested that ex-Mayor Gary Fazzino might have changed his mind on this as well. (Or I’m at least picturing the two of them sitting around one night watching movies and then having an “AHA!” moment).
4. Matt et Mark, published August 29, 2011. This piece is a fantasia about getting Matt Nathanson to do a benefit for The Varsity, perhaps at Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park. As a promoter I generally do not reveal projects in development, because they have a way of falling through. But it is true that a lot of the musicians I’ve worked with at Cubberley would likely support this, and someone will eventually play here on this topic. (Meanwhile, I am hoping Becky Rogers persists in trying to book a local band benefit for the cause, and hope to aid her). One of the best parts of this project is hearing people describe their fond memories of The Varsity and the subset of musicians who I ask about if they’ve played there. (So far, Hershel Yatovitz wins the award for his stories of hanging out in the alley with his mentor and friend Michael Hedges).
There is no visual but there is a link and an embed to Matt Nathanson performances and the abstract teases Matt (and myself) about how nice and how funny he was back in the day:
Matt Nathanson is the first male column subject whose mention compelled me to check the box “sex” and it is not because he once offered in writing to be my “bitch.” He did say that. We knew he was going places.
The Last Picture Waltz: tragedy or comedy? (Josephine Baker says its alright!), published September 13, 2011
This is a list of more than 100 “dramatis personnae” mostly people I’ve consulted although some of them I am trying to reach or merely are my muse. I’ve started saying I’ve had more than 100 conversations on this topic. The Josephine Baker reference is about my former client Mark “Stew” Stewart and his Broadway show “Passing Strange” (that workshopped at Stanford) and the song about someone giving the main character her keys — it’s about bridging gaps through conversation and humanity, which I felt is obliquely appropriate here. And besides I don’t want to be part of a revolution if I cannot sing or dance along the way.
consortium views arts as engines of recovery, published September 16, 2011
although this is only indirectly about the project and references some of my research efforts, like going to Berkeley to meet briefly with Steve Baker of Freight and Salvage (before and after a Country Joe McDonald tribute to Woody Guthrie, food for thought for bombs)
7. The Lisen Stromberg Center for The Performing Arts, published September 21, 2011
This does not say much about the Save The Varsity project – and actually talks more about The MacArthur Grants and Ann Packer than it does about Lisen’s author series, Peninsula Parlour but it references the true fact that there are a lot of groups, organizations and presenters who might benefit from having a place like 456 to play. Like Palo Alto International Film Festival, West Bay Opera, the “Youth Collaborative”/”Project Safety Net”/teen center supporters and more.
This re-cap has gone on about 1,000 words so here might be a good place for a musical interlude featuring Cake’s “Mr. Mastodon Farm” performed here at the home studio of my favorite email provider and content people, but I have to mention here that they played this song for Earthwise Productions and The Palo Alto Soundcheck 12 years prior, in 1995.
New New Varsity Revival blog on WordPress, published September 23, 2011
This is actually a verbatim reprint of Tasha Brooks post somewhere that also ran as a guest column in Palo Alto Weekly website. In the comments/footnotes section I paste in my post on Palo Alto Weekly that is coverage of the public hearing yesterday at HRB. I like that I found then thought to use the Sam Adams line “This meeting does nothing to further our country” which references the activists who stormed The Dartmouth (before all that was termed “The Boston Tea Party”, the name came later). I am also, similarly, trying to mine Henry David Thoreau on “civil disobedience” especially about his disappointment in the leadership of his times.
9. The ninth post is actually one that I’ve pulled from the page, about comments Nancy Shepherd made from the dias, to which I reacted harshly. I pulled it because I want to focus on the benefits of the project and not frustration with council, commissioners or board members. But to address the point, let us not confuse lack of a political will with the legality of our leaders playing a role her, being pro-active, engaging the landlord, being creative, being courageous, stepping up to the plate and more. I chose the word “intervene” in my August 1, 2011 letter to Council because Deval Patrick used that word in his book, I flipped through at, of all places, Borders (you know, at 456 University). One of my college friends, Ben Clements, was Patrick’s chief legislative aid so I hope to get the chance for Ben to chime in here about government “intervention” and it’s legality. I had the opportunity and honor to mention Ben to William B. Gould last night at Stanford Bookstore, where the former NLRB chair was discussing his book on baseball and labor history — Curt Flood and all that — He and his old friend a Mr. Novack I believe were classmates at Cornell Law, where Ben was once the ace of his class. (I also mentioned that I am NO on D).
Of course, and now I am really off topic, of a digest, and more towards fresh ground, although it was mentioned elsewhere, one of my moments was when Nancy Shepherd introduced me to Chop Keenan, the owner of 456 University Avenue, and generally thought of as the villain of this story, and we had a moment seeming to connect over our favorite Indian tribe. He offered that his son, like his partnering investor in The Varsity, Mark Gates, is like me, a Dartmouth alum. I said, “Maybe the Dartmouth community here can buy you out or partner with you.” Wah-hoo-wah.
I am meaning to write another re-cap or a second letter to the editor, focusing and recasting, hopefully with updates from industry sources, and from Tommy Fehrenbach’s notes, if they can be public, on the prospects and benefits of a cultural or multi-use project. Also, there were some talk of both PAIFF and Gryphon getting the word out to their followers. I talked to Roger Kohler today who said the proposal for office space presented yesterday was in such a vague form, changed to a “concept” from I think “project” that there is indeed time for public comment and perhaps most significantly the possibility that Council will bring this to their agenda and purview.