Monday, March 08, 2010

"WANNA BE THE DAUGHTER OF DRACULA..."



“Wanna be the daughter of Dracula/Wanna be the son of Frankenstein/Let’s meet and have a baby now…”
- The B-52s, “Song for a Future Generation”


What a magnificent weekend, and no, I’m not talking about that little soiree they held at the Kodak Theater on Sunday night (not yet, anyway). My family and I got to go to a shindig that was way more fun-- my daughter’s 10th birthday party at the New Beverly Cinema on Saturday morning. I have to say it was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had as a dad. Seeing her enjoying herself so much, in the company of so many friends who were thrilled and excited by the uniqueness of the setting and the sense of not knowing what was coming next, was a genuine thrill.

I arrived early, around 8:00 a.m., to start getting tables set up and make sure everything was ready by the time guests started arriving at 10:00 a.m. And when I got there, I was surprised to see Michael Torgan, owner and operator of the New Beverly, up on a ladder adjusting the marquee to include a birthday greeting that every driver whizzing past on Beverly Boulevard would see. It was a wonderful touch, and what made it even more special was that it was never discussed between Michael and I. He thought to do it on his own. It’s this kind of consideration that I find so lacking in general among people living together these days, for the most part—simple gestures like this are rarely offered without some hope or expectation of return and they are shrugged off or barely missed after so many opportunities to offer them go unfulfilled. Yet here was Michael, taking the time to make my daughter’s day even more special simply because he wanted to.

Emma and the rest of the family, along with a couple of guests, arrived at around 10:00 a.m., and I literally had to take her back outside (in the gathering sprinkles of a Saturday that would turn out to be a wet one indeed) to look at the marquee, because in her haste to jump out of the car and get this party started, she didn’t even see her name up in lights outside.


Emma introduces her buddy Isaac (the I-Man) to the joys of repertory cinema at the New Beverly

But as soon as she did, there came to be a wall-to-wall grin pasted on her beautiful mug that never once left during the course of the entire morning. The festivities got started with the wacky magical stylings of Rob Rasner, a very talented magician who knows his way around a room full of kids. Rob did hilarious bits involving bowling balls appearing out of mid-air, a yellow bandanna (only he thinks it’s supposed to be a yellow banana), and the old incinerating $20 bill (mine) that somehow gets reconstituted inside a sealed envelope inside his wallet, all of which had the kids and the grownups cracking up and enjoying themselves immensely.

After pizza and cake, enjoyed at a long, king-sized table stretched out in front of the stage, all the guests, grown-ups and kids alike, herded themselves up to the snack bar, where Michael served up popcorn and sodas. Everybody then returned to their seats and settled in on this rainy, blustery day for a good old Saturday matinee on the New Beverly’s big screen. The whole experience reminded me so much of the old 50-cent Saturday matinees I attended more regularly than I attended church when I was growing up, and I was so grateful to be able to facilitate channeling some of that movie-love feeling into my daughter’s life.


The movie got over in plenty of time for the afternoon’s regularly scheduled screening of Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. My wife and I, along with our girls, helped Michael clean up and vacuum after the crowd had dispersed—it’s amazing the amount of trash that can be generated by such a relatively small group. (Multiply that by untold numbers in dealing with people sneaking in fast food and alcohol and leaving it all over the floor every night, and we got a good idea of what Michael and his staff have to deal with in between shows and the morning after on a daily basis.) It was the least we could do to repay Michael’s incredible generosity—he never asked us for a dime to use the theater space for the party, and he wouldn’t even take anything in compensation for the popcorn and sodas. All this combined with giving my daughter the joy of seeing her name in a birthday greeting on a marquee for the whole world to see—it’s no wonder she felt like a star. And it’s no wonder that I was barely able to contain my emotions when Patty and I hugged Michael and offered him our sincere thanks for making her day so memorable. I told him there was simply no way to express how much his generosity meant to me-- some 800 words in and I still haven’t been able to approach it. All he’s helped to do is create a day she’ll never forget and make her feel that coming to see great classic films at the New Beverly with her old dad is something she’ll continue to look forward to doing for years to come. We’re seeing Shadow of a Doubt there this week, her very first Hitchcock, and I can’t wait to watch her react to the way the relationship between Charlie (Teresa Wright) and her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) unfolds and then tightens into an exercise in exquisite suspense. I’ve no doubt she’ll love it. And we’re both looking forward to thanking Michael again and telling everybody else we’ll surely see at the New Bev all about the greatest birthday party a 10-year-old girl ever had.



One of the great songs: The B-52’s “Song for a Future Generation,” dedicated to my dear daughter Emma, who truly is the empress of fashion and first lady of infinity. Happy birthday, my beautiful monkey!

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20 comments:

Robert Fiore said...

So what movie did you show? Somehow "Bad Lieutenant" doesn't say 10th Birthday to me.

One of the theories that's been floating around for many years is that silent comedies would be excellent entertainment for kids. Have you ever put this to the test? Do kids really like them, or have patience for them?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Robert: I took the girls to see a double feature of Modern Times and The General last year, and they loved them both. There was no resistance on their part based on the fact that they were black and white or silent. So I cannot wait to see their reaction to Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy.

And really, the girls pretty well enjoyed Bad Lieutenant: POCNO and were only slightly horrified and confused. My only disappointment is that the New Beverly couldn't secure the double feature I wanted, which would have been Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and Straw Dogs. I'm all about strong female role models for them.

Jeffrey said...

Was what you showed this year...a secret? Anyway, it sounds like a terrific time, congrats to you and Michael for doing it!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Thanks, Jeffrey! And not to be overly coy, but... kinda.

Regardless, it was a superb day. We could have shown my old home movies and it would have been great, although if we had we would have inadvertently introduced my daughter to the phenomenon of mass walkouts!

The Mysterious Ad)ri.an B(e;ta[m.a.x. said...

Happy birthday, Emma!! That is so cute her name was on the marquee..!!

I, too, thought you went to see the Herzog double feature (which I missed-- again!!)

Hmm, it would have never occurred to me that the secret movie could have been a certain short film, but your references are making me wonder. Although I doubt that would be secret, so perhaps it was a rule-bending sneak preview...

On an unrelated topic, the original score on Kumar's Day at the Park is still not done.. :( But the composer must leave for the Netherlands by March 18 and says she will have it done before then... I hope..! I will give you a new DVD of the final version when it's done. (The score takes a very different approach than the temp score.)

Today I'm being an extra in a new Adam Sandler/Aniston/Nicole Kidman movie called "Just Go With It". The exciting life of the semi-employed...!

The Mysterious Ad)ri.an B(e;ta[m.a.x. said...

Can I get a New Bev b-day screening?! It's this month!

Unfortunately they're not showing anything I like that day, so my b-day wish: I take over the scheduling for the day and only show 4-hour silent movies-- or the most head-scratching Godard/Tarkovsky/Sokurov films I can think of...

larry aydlette said...

Sounds like a great day! My best b'day wishes to Emma, and all your family!

cadavra said...

What a lovely story. I can't even begin to imagine my own father doing anything like that for me. You're a super dad, and kudos to Michael as well for making it happen.

Peter Nellhaus said...

When I went to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival almost four years ago, they screened several silent Laurel & Hardy films on a Saturday afternoon. Believe me, the kids were laughing.

Steve Swanson said...

I saw the photos on Facebook, but now I know the rest of the story. WOW, what a moment. You know this means you've set the bar pretty high now :)

blaaagh said...

This is the most smile-inducing birthday story I've heard in many moons. Please give Emma a big birthday hug for me, and give her (and your other wonderful girls) my love, and Pattie's.

M.A.B., I would totally come to your birthday party and watch those 4-hour silents or whatever imcomprehensible films you might choose, if I were somehow able to be in L.A. for it (and happy bd anyway).

Kimberly Linbergs said...

Fantastic! What a great birthday gift. Your little girl is lucky to have such a fabulous dad and you're lucky to have such a cute family, Dennis.

I hope you have a blast taking your daughter to see Shadow of a Doubt! It might give her nightmares but it's a probably a good film to introduce kids to since it teaches them to be extremely weary of adults. Even adult family members. It's my favorite Hitchcock film and I love it to death!

My dad introduced me to Hitchcock through a TV viewing of North by Northwest and that movie still remains near and dear to me.

Ned Merrill said...

What a wonderful day, Dennis. Thanks for sharing! I can't imagine too many more special moments a (movie-loving) parent could share with his or her child.

giles edwards said...

Charming. Utterly charming.

My stag night revolved around a private big screen movie experience at a local preview theatre (not quite the same environment, or even occassion, but what I mean is I understand the frisson of folding a joyous occassion into a joyous obsession)

Belated felicitations to your daughter as well, Dennis.

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