Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Parkway: Closing Night

I remember it all too well. It was a Wednesday night in March 2009 when Speakeasy Theaters CEO Kyle Fischer called me up to tell me The Parkway was closing its doors for good on Sunday. That Sunday. Four days away. I was stunned. So I got the news only slightly before everyone else did, including the staff, because I was the one who made the formal announcement via the "emergency" email newsletter. I won't get into the reasons why this cultural tragedy happened so abruptly, partly because I'm not entirely sure. I  have my own personal theories from an insider's perspective, but I'll keep those to myself. Suffice to say, much of the outside speculation has been false. After struggling for many months to stay afloat, the company simply imploded, despite its popularity. And as I predicted, the reaction from the public and media was intense. And I had suddenly lost my 12 year career as a film programmer/publicist. Just like that.

Will the Thrill & Monica Tiki Goddess say goodbye
to The Parkwayafter 12 years of Thrillville shows
I had to immediately contact clients whom I had booked for upcoming events spanning months. One was the local Latin rock/surf/jazz band Carne Cruda, whose signature song, "Oakland's Tight," actually mentioned The Parkway in the lyrics! I contacted their leader, Camilo Landau, and told him I had to cancel their gig for the following Thursday, since the theater would be totally dark by then, but asked if they would be our closing night act. They agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history. March 22, 2009 was a night to remember - and not just because it was William Shatner's birthday. 

Once the word got out, the outpouring of love and grief from the community was incredible. Kyle and Catherine Fischer, the couple responsible for the existence of this beloved institution, were overwhelmed. I don't think they really had any idea what they'd accomplished, or were fully aware of the impact their brainchild had not only on Oakland but the Bay Area arts scene as a whole. It was a source of pride and joy for so many people. But the Fischers knew it, and felt it, now that it was all over. Closing night was an equally passionate and sorrowful occasion, and multitudes of mourning patrons were left in the theater's wake.

Our final movie? Let the Right One In, the Norwegian vampire flick which we'd held onto for months, simply because we couldn't afford to book anything else. People still showed up in droves. That's how Parkway fans were.

Viva Parkway!

To be perfectly frank, I have a lot of complicated feelings about my long association with The Parkway. I've been sharing many happy memories in this blog. But I also have some very unhappy memories which are really nobody's business. They don't matter now anyway. All that remains is the good will and lingering love from our many loyal patrons. Thank you.

When announcing the band to the packed house that night, I promised that we'd bring Carne Cruda back when The Parkway re-opened. Despite many attempts by various groups and investors, that never happened. Until now.

Last night I attended a private appreciation party for the many supporters and volunteers for The New Parkway. And I kept my promise. Carne Cruda returned to rock the house, this time celebrating a rebirth, not commemorating a lost cause. The New Parkway, located in a completely renovated warehouse at 474 24th Street in Uptown Oakland, will be opening any day now.

Salud, and Viva Parkway!

Carne Cruda then...
...and NOW!

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