Photo of the day: BOGEY AND ME at THE UNITED PALACE “CASABLANCA” RE-PREMIERE – ‘Mondays on Memory Lane’ takes us to a grande gala evening of tuxedos and gowns as the revitalized United Movie Palace once known at the Loew’s 175th Street Movie Palace, re-premiered the all time film classic “Casablanca” starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Having once spent a magical evening alone with Ingrid Bergman in 1972, the film also has an extra special place in my heart.
The Palace originally opened in 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theater, presenting vaudeville and “talking pictures.” With its spectacular Thomas Lamb design, it was the last of the five Wonder Theatres to be built. In 1969, when many of the city’s grand movie theatres had been demolished or turned into multiplexes, the Palace was purchased, and preserved in magnificent style, by Reverend Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter (Rev. Ike) for his church. Rev. Ike paid big money to have European craftsman restore the hand carved gold detail work throughout the theater declaring: “We are all created in God’s image, therefore each of us is god-like. Therefore you should be made to feel like a god when you enter this palace.” (You do, thank you Rev. Ike!)
United Palace Loew’s lobby
Since Reverend Ike’s death in 2009, the United Palace has been led by his son, Xavier, a life-long musician and minister currently working with the Rhythm Arts Alliance in Southern California, whose dream has been to create a cultural center uptown. Toward this end, he has organized UPCA as a secular non-profit that has a long-term licensing agreement to use the theater and rehearsal and classroom space.
Loew’s Palace balcony
The theater is Manhattan’s third-largest; portable partitions enable its use for audiences ranging from a few hundred to its full capacity. It has hosted symphony concerts, been used in films, videos and TV shows like “Smash”.
United Palace Loew’s theater
What was expected to be an event that would just draw a couple of hundred people through their web site and friends on twitter and Facebook, wound up drawing an audience of 1,100 people! (I was made aware of it by my friend Carolyn Blackbourn). Admission was $15 but those appearing in formal gowns and tuxedos were given free admission but could still make donations to the theater in form of raffles (I won a poster!). The audience was polled by a show of hands, how many were visiting this theater for the first time – 75% of the hands went up! How many had never seen “Casablanca” in a movie theater before – 50% of the hands went up! The audience gasped with the excitement knowing we were all sharing this wonderful experience of “a first” together, that is the magic of film- the shared experience in the dark.
Mike Fitelson and Lou Lumenick
We were treated to live music performances by the SONGS chamber Orchestra and serenaded with “As Time Goes By” by Tim McAfee Lewis. Executive director of ‘the Palace’ handsome Mike Fitelson welcomed us with a wonderful speech of his goals for this architectural treasure. This was followed by the world premier of hip hop artist GPK’s music video “Bouger” which happens to have a ‘Casablanca’ theme. “Casablanca” was introduced by New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick, declaring it his favorite film of all time. Then came that magic moment when the lights are dimmed, the dark screen illuminated with the Warner Brothers logo and the magic began. The film is perfection. Bogey and Bergman are perfection, Peter Lore and Paul Henreid are perfection, the script and editing are perfection. It’s truly is the golden age of 1942 Hollywood.
Loew’s Palace mural
The joy of classic lines like: “Play it! ” (no Bogey does not say ‘again Sam’, Woody Allen did).
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night. Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you. Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
Rick: Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And I hope that this is also the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the many of you who will check out The United Palace web site (below) and visit this spectacular theater for future events.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” Bogey & Bergman
Mondays on Memory Lane: HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY LAUREN BACALL ! – On a cold night in May 2000, I waited by the stage door of Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theater in hopes of getting an autograph from one of Hollywood’s lasting screen icons, Bogie’s Baby – Lauren Bacall. Noel Coward’s “Waiting In The Wings” had drawn Bacall to the stage one last time. She still had the sleek smokey elegance, that high society feel, and of course, we were all hoping to hear the infamous smokey voice.
She commanded huge crowds, still after all these years. Rosemary Harris was her co-star but Bacall caused the stir on the sidewalk and stopped traffic.
My absolute goal was to have her sign my Blackglama ‘What Becomes A Legend Most?’ poster. She and her security guards made sure that only your Playbill were being presented to her. No matter how much you begged and pleaded, Playbill only…
At the time she was also doing a voice over for a “Fancy Feast” cat food commercial on TV. Coincidentally the ad also ran in the Playbill and many fans would ask her sign the picture of the cat. She absolutely refused, “that cat is going to haunt me,” she said.
I’ve grown up with Bacall, seduced by her demure coolness on my old black and white TV set in 1944’s “Key Largo” with Humphrey Bogart (‘You know how to whistle, don’t you?’) , seeing her request a rabbit dinner in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and then finally in 1981 on Broadway at the Palace Theatre as Margo Channing in the musical version of ‘All About Eve’, the sensational “Applause.” Who will ever forget her bellowing her opening lines, “Welcome to the theatah!”
In 1987, I lived at 160 Columbia Heights on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and Lauren had bought the upstairs penthouse apartment for Jason Robard’s father. I had no idea she owned the upstairs apartment, it was all hush-hush. One night, I had stayed out till the early morning hours at a night club and was coming home at around 6:00 am. I took my 3 little strays onto the elevator and pushed “L” for lobby. The elevator went up, allll the way to the penthouse level. I was so pissed that at this early hour, when my dogs were in need, that we were being hijacked “up”, I decided to refuse to acknowledge the person and kept my eyes closed. As we are going down I hear a knee crack and then all of a sudden, one of the most famous smokey voices on the planet, “oh they’re so cute!“ No one else has that voice, it couldn’t be. I opened my eyes and there was Lauren Bacall playing with my dogs on the elevator floor. “Wuuwhat??” It was totally surreal! After our first ‘meeting’, Bacall and I would often meet in the elevator and she would play with my 3 dogs regularly. I would always try to coax her to come to my apartment to sign some of my Bacall posters, she always politely declined. “One day…” I thought.
Now that time has passed, I have become a NYC tour guide and often pass her famed apartment in the legendary Dakota Apartment building on 72nd Street and Central Park West, each time holding on to the hope that I will one day get her to free willingly sign my poster.
In 2011 she fell and fractured her hip. It is rumored she has made one last film at age 89 to be released in 2013 called “Trouble is my Business”. We may have to settle seeing her for the last time on the big screen, since she has become a recluse and is seldom seen in public, only seldomly seen as she sometimes comes and goes with the other luminaries from her Dakota apartment building.
A plea – to Lauren Bacall and anyone who knows how to somehow get in touch with her, “Please grace my first Blackglama ad with your signature! It will be treasured on my wall forever.” Lauren . . . you listening??
The first ‘Legend’ ad Lauren Bacall, 1968
(I am a passionate collector of the advertising “What Becomes A Legend Most?” campaign and own almost all of the 70+ posters ever done, ending with Tommy Tune in 1994 and Janet Jackson in 2011. Many are signed. But – Bacall was the first in 1968, followed by Garland, Streisand, Dietrich, Cher, Crawford, Davis, Liza, Callas, Stanwyck, all the greats. To think the first legend is still alive, when so many have passed is thrilling to me and my ultimate autograph to receive.)
NEW YORK NOIR: The angular shadows, the foggy side streets, footsteps in a deserted alley, the dame in distress trying to find the private dick’s office. Those great silver screen moments seem still alive in the shadowy alleys in New York at midnight. The Madison Square Park area abounds with such atmosphere that you might just expect to see Lauren Bacall following Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe to his dimly lit office while danger lurks around every corner of our wonderful narrow art deco imposing side streets.