you may be stranded out in the cold,
still you wouldn’t change it for a sack of gold,
Let’s go on with the show,
Let’s go on with the show.
—Irving Berlin, There’s No Business Like Show Business, from Annie Get Your Gun
I woke up humming these lines.“What show?” I wondered, and should we go on with? My reverie is at least partly the St. George Theatre, a glorious red and gold movie palace which, with a group of well-intended friends, I ran briefly, in 1976. That’s what this blog is all about.
But if Irving Berlin’s words penetrated to my sleeping mind, well, there had to be something more epic going on. The world is in trouble right now I reminded myself, and the current production we’re all involved in is a probable “turkey,” to borrow show-biz slang from Variety for something that has no “legs,” and is about to close. That would indeed leave us all “stranded,” though not necessarily in the cold (Sicily last week comes to mind, where temps reached 48.8 Celsius, which is 119.84 Fahrenheit, the highest ever recorded in Europe).
It’s the pandemic, baby. It has a box office so big — boffo socko — it has managed to shut down theaters of all kinds (except drive-ins, which it actually enhanced for more or less a year. Broadway is finally back, and I yearn to go to Springsteen or Trouble in Mind or really anything; but, although I’m vaccinated, I’ve got a compromised immune system, so gotta sit it out for what might be a long long time.
Don’t let this stop you though, should you be the possessor of a robust immune system! I cheer your antibodies, and, assuming you’ve been vaccinated, I’m sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the theater of my dreams. That goes for movies too. I’m waiting, remembering what it was like munching popcorn next to a total stranger, never giving a thought to our commonly-breathed air.
Every week I get an email from The United Palace, one of New York’s five original Wonder Theaters, about what they wish they were showing, if they could open their doors normally again. Why wait, guys? Even I could come to a theater that seats 3,400, if you let just four or five hundred of us in!
It’d be just like 1976 all over again, when, at the St. George Theatre, we hosted a smattering of people in a space meant for 2,672. Those were terrible numbers! How we longed to sell out.
1. Let’s get back to the song that started this meander. Irving Berlin wrote it for a piece of pure show biz hokum, Annie Get Your Gun, and it became an anthem.
2. During the pandemic of 1918, New York City kept its theaters of all kinds open, as a way to raise morale and advise the public about health safety; the city was an interesting exception, since, in other places, theaters closed.