|As it stands, 2010|
In my early teens I found myself running with an older crowd. As our junior and senior high school orchestras were combined many of us seventh and eighth graders found ourselves sharing music stands with tenth and eleventh graders who were more than happy to bring us unto their world, and we were more than happy to follow. How could I resist? They had access to cars and could drive, and to be a fourteen-year-old tagging along on weeknight and weekend adventures beyond the easy bicycling confines of Culver City was like winning the lottery.
Many of those excursions led to 620 Lincoln Boulevard where I would pony up a dollar and fifty cents to see a double bill at what was the Fox Venice Theatre. In the days before cable and video-on-demand, before DVDs, before VCRs even, the only way to see an old movie was either by chance on TV or in second-run theatres like the Fox Venice where films were programmed into interesting combinations on a calendar. The bills changed daily and it wasn't unusual for the theatre to sell out its 900 seats on any given weeknight. Despite the glut of content all over the web today from streaming sights like Netflix I still occasionally discover films that I saw at the Fox Venice that as yet never made it to video or DVD.
|1980 calendar. Every cool kid had one on his wall.|
|Fading glory, 1968|
These experiences were formative and not in the least minor. Prior to the Fox Venice I had a vague sense of wanting to work in movies, but it left me with a life-long questioning of what it meant to tell stories that were true. There was also a reverence that could be felt sitting in that mid-century modern auditorium, this idea that, as a young teen, I was accepted into an adult audience. No one asked me what I was doing there or thought it weird or made me feel as thought I couldn't appreciate what transpired on the screen.
Somewhere in the dark of the Fox Venice, amid the hormonal confusion and narrative dissonance, I lost my childhood innocence. There is a hazy image I have of an alien-looking band of musicians crowded on stage playing an odd arrangement of “Minnie the Moocher” as sung by the devil, the band wearing turbans like bath towels embedded with mechanical eyeballs surveying the audience. Anecdotal evidence over the years suggests this was an early gig from a group called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, later to cute their name down to the last two words, featuring a young Danny Elfman as the devil. But there I was, hearing Cab Calloway's words coming out the rubbery, exaggerated mouth of red-painted crooner inside a shrine dedicated to holding on to the orphans of cinema, and I felt both enthralled and at home. Any true map of the places I have lived in my life wold have to include the address 620 Lincoln.
It would be fitting to end with a memory of the last film I ever saw at the Fox Venice, but I just don't know what it was. It would had to have been in late July or early August of 1980, and the fact that I don't remember it as strongly as other outings that summer after I graduated from high school – final group excursions to Stan's Donuts and Falaful King in Westwood, last “hangs” with friends at Foster's Freeze on Washington Blvd. and sunsets at Dockweiler Beach in Playa Del Rey, a last stroll of the Fox Hills Mall and a group field trip to Magic Mountain in Valencia – leads me to believe that the last movie I ever saw at the Fox Venice was a solo outing. And as I did when I moved away to college, I never said goodbye to friends and family thinking I would never see them again, I never thought to say a final farewell to the Fox Venice I knew and loved.
-- David Elzey
photo credits, from top to bottom:
Los Angeles Movie Palaces, photo credit: Bill Counter
the author's private collection
USC Digital Library, Herald Examiner Collection, photo credit: Donald Irwin Sandusky
additional reference material:
Virtual Venice, "Tale of the Fox," from the Free Venice Beachhead, June 1978