“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!