books
November 3, 2006

 

Two fun and easy reads
Reviewed by Bruce Rodgers

When it comes to community involvement, Mike and Vicki Walker — to use the prevailing parlance — are a political couple. Mike is a Democratic committeeman in south Kansas City; Vicki is a former Democratic Missouri state representative and now a talk show host on KKFI, a community radio station.

But politics aside, they must love movies and old movie houses and drive-ins. The Walkers have published Cinemental Journeys, An Uncommon Guide to Classic Movie Theaters (in) Missouri Kansas Nebraska Iowa. The 158-page book, with photos and illustrations, is a time capsule glance of small towns and their still-operating movie theaters and drive-ins. Most are single screen, most show first-run movies, most don’t charge big-city prices, some are being or have been renovated by new owners, a few still have their original owners.

The Lake Theatre of Clear Lake, IA is the oldest movie house listed. Built in 1890 as an opera house, The Lake Theatre is surrounded by history. “Just a few blocks away is the Surf Ballroom, the last place Buddy Holly played before he died when the small plane he boarded crashed during take off.” The Surf remains a music venue and The Lake still brings Hollywood to Clear Lake. Could such things be anyplace but in Iowa?

Independence, MO holds one of the last drive-ins in the greater Kansas City area and appears to be one of the last drive-in theaters built in the Midwest and maybe the country — 1967. It’s twin screens can handle up to 1,600 on a busy Friday night.

The Rialto Theater in Cozad, NE — like a few others listed — has its beginnings lost to history. When it was built, what its original venue and first movie shown are unknown, according to the Walkers.

A nice touch accompanying the listings is “What To Do” ideas while visiting the town with the historical movie house or drive-in, and “Movie Memory.” Here ordinary moviegoers remember something special that happened in their life that had to do with going to the movies.

Every single one of the movie houses and drive-ins listed in Cinemental Journeys represent an era in America when the difficult and tragic in real life ended once the screen flickered on and the story in front of us began. Movies remain a reprieve from the challenges of everyday living, be it young or old.

Cinemental Journeys can be ordered from How High the Moon Publishing (founded by Mike Walker) for $14.95 plus shipping and handling. Go to www.moonbookstore.com or call 816-965-0183

* * *

Do famous people make the city famous? Or did the city, somehow, helped make the people who lived there famous? It’s a chicken and egg question the book Here’s Where, A Guide to Illustrious St. Louis doesn’t really ponder. No matter, it’s still fun to read.

No doubt author Charlie Brennan enjoyed himself researching this book, which includes maps and addresses connecting the famous to St. Louis within its 192 pages. Plus, there are a few asides, like the fact that Harold Ramis and Vincent Price lived on the same street, and that Bob Costas and Sheryl Crow lived in the same apartment complex.

Arranged alphabetically, we learn such things as Arthur Ashe winning his first national title two months after moving to St. Louis or that Yogi Berra sold newspapers on the corner of Southwest and Kingshighway in the 1930s.

There’s more: the Chuck Berry hit “Johnny B. Goode” is named after a street he lived on; Beat writer William S Burroughs was once arrested for breaking and entering into homes in the Central West End; Poet T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis in 1888 as was comedian Redd Fox in 1922; the film The Exorcist was inspired by a St. Louis incident involving four priests exorcising a patient at the Alexian Brothers Hospital at Broadway and Keokuk; the song “Stagger Lee,” recorded by such artists as Neil Diamond and The Clash, was derived from an incident Christmas night 1895 when “Stack” Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons at a now-defunct saloon located at 11th & Delmar; and the famous photo of newly elected President Harry Truman holding up the newspaper with the erroneous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” was taken at Union Station in St. Louis.

Here’s Where: A Guide to Illustrious St. Louis, published by the Missouri Historical Society Press, sells for $14.95 plus shipping and handling; call 800-828-1894 or go to www.umsystem.edu/upress.


              
              
                 

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