Friday, November 2, 2012

About Those Notorious Parkway Videos... (29 days until opening)

Ever since the original Parkway suddenly closed its doors on March 22, 2009, the local community has been in mourning, spawning a post-mortem subculture, like Trekkies after the cancellation of Star Trek: TOS. I know this for a fact because hardly a week has gone by since then that someone on the street, in a local store, at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge here on my island of Alameda, and all around the Bay Area hasn't stopped me and said, "Hey! You're the Parkway Guy! I really miss that place! Is it ever coming back?"

Finally, much to my personal relief, since I'm tired of people bugging me about it ;), the answer is yes, though it's a New Parkway, due to the many failed negotiations with the landlord of the original location at 1834 Park Blvd. The all new "enterprise," with a fresh crew, will take off on November 30 at a strategic location in Uptown Oakland, right in the heart of Art Murmur, at 474 24th St. near Telegraph Ave., easily accessible via BART and bus. But people still identify me as "the Parkway Guy" wherever I go, thanks to those stupid damn preview videos that played for years before movies at the old Parkway, featuring Speakeasy CEO Kyle Fischer and me, babbling about what was coming up, riffing off each other, totally improvising, often making utter fools of ourselves. They were shot and edited by Speakeasy president Catherine Fischer down in the basement of their Berkeley house, with Kyle and me just sitting on an  old couch, filmed totally off-the-cuff and always in one take, very Wayne's World-style. This semi-informative informality suited the Parkway's overall friendly, funky style.

People seemed to either love or hate 'em, but we kept doing 'em, month in, month out, for many years. Me, I just went along for the ride. It was all Kyle's idea, so if you loved 'em, you can thank him, and if you hated them, you can blame him. Ultimately, and objectively speaking, it was an ingenious and successful marketing ploy, since the videos gave the theater a unique personality and further distinction from other cookie cutter venues, literally putting a face - or faces - on the operation for the audience to recognize, and one of those faces was mine.

The videos worked as well as they did, if they did, because Kyle and I had developed a natural rapport honed over the years, ever since we'd first met while working together at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club, back in the 1980s, along with his future wife Catherine, who even then dreamed of someday opening a movie theater that served food, beer and wine, just like the one she frequented while living briefly in Washington DC. In January of 1997, Kyle and Catherine Fischer presented the Parkway Theater to the world, the first "picture, pub, and pizza" movie theater in California. Me, I was just the programmer, publicist, and "Will the Thrill" (host of  my cult movie cabaret "Thrillville"), but to most people, simply "the white guy in the Parkway video." That's okay. I can dig it. Just remember I sometimes write novels too...(this won't be one of them, relax, it's almost over. I know, the videos went on way too long too. I still hear about it...)

Anyway, don't worry. Much of what you loved about the old Parkway will return in the new incarnation, but not these videos. Not with Kyle and me, anyway. Kirk and Spock have left the building. Time for Picard and his crew to take it from here, though I will be making cameos from time to time....Cheers.

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