El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

El Niño, Downtown Los Angeles 1966 - age 3.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Downtown Los Angeles Theaters - My First Trip to the Movies.

The Pantages Theater on Hill Street and 7th in Los Angeles as it appeared in the photo album of a German man who spent June 15, 1927 walking around downtown with his brownie camera documenting the urban landscape. The movie on the marquee is the 1927 silent comedy, “Is Zat So”.

On a Summer Saturday afternoon in 1972 a bridal shower hosted by my mother was about to take place at our Spanish apartment on Kenmore Avenue in Los Angeles. Men were not allowed to be present at this sacred female ritual so my father and I had to find somewhere to go for a few hours. One by one as the middle-aged woman arrived at our front door, they waved goodbye to their male counterparts who sped away in their cars seeking out some kind of diversion for a few hours. Perhaps a walk around MacArthur Park to feed the ducks, or maybe a drink at one of the bars that lined 8th street or perhaps the topless joint on Beverly Blvd and Virgil. My Father twirled the keys to his Chevy Nova in one hand grabbed a potato chip from the spread on the dinning room table with the other, dipped it into the silver dish hosting the chip dip and whisked me away out the back door to where the Nova was parked.

We headed down Vermont Ave, made a left on Wilshire and passed Lafayette and MacArthur Parks along the way. There were teenagers playing basketball on the courts at Lafayette Park and ducks out on the MacArthur Park Lake that day while the corner of Alvarado and Wilshire was busy with weekend shoppers and shifty characters just hanging about. We headed into downtown and ultimately arrived at the historic but dilapidated Los Angeles Theater on Broadway (est. 1931).

My Dad parked the car on Broadway, paid for two tickets, a popcorn and a couple of sodas and we proceeded to enter a smokey theater with sticky floors and a massive set of curtains, for what would be the first movie I ever saw on the big screen, "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson. Of course I do realize that today a movie about a violent vigilante on the prowl in the big city would be an unorthodox choice for a nine year old especially in the highly microscopic parental world of today, but it was being with my father, just us guys, watching Charles Bronson blow away the bad guys as he lured them through the streets of 1970’s New York that made it an experience to remember. One of father and son bonding at the movies with good guys and bad guys fighting it out on celluloid. We could have gone to see something like "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" but that was not for us, not for these two cool cats, not on this day, it had to be Charles Bronson in "Death Wish" or nothing at all.

At the end of the movie, Charles Bronson is finally caught by the sniffling detective played by Vincent Gardenia. While being transported by the detective to another city, the infamous vigilante points his hand in the shape of a gun towards a group of thugs and pretends to shoot them as the credits begin to roll. My father and I left the theater, returned home to some left over cake from the bridal shower and I was none the worst for my first experience at a movie theater. I think I turned out pretty good so far 39 years later, it's all in the parenting they say. My father fell asleep in the easy chair later on that night watching the news and I retired to my room to write down what I am writing now. Better late than never.

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