The movie theater on Shattuck Avenue

The movie theater on Shattuck (by the library) is closing (let me guess — it’s gonna be replaced by yet another mammoth dull generic apartment building complex).

I have a couple of odd memories about that place. The only time I actually saw a movie there was way back in the ’80s when I saw “Airplane” with my friend Mary and her son Joshua and we laughed until we cried through the whole movie it was so funny (“I guess I picked a bad time to stop sniffing glue.”). I also saw “Purple Rain” by Prince at that theater when it first came out, with my crazy girlfriend at the time, Barbara Ann. And I actually cried at the end of the movie when Prince’s father dies and he performs his father’s song “Purple Rain” at the end (truly tugs at the heart-strings and a transcendent moment in time and space). . . I also put on an art gallery showing of “street artists” in the lobby of the theater back in 1994 (the thing I most remember is mounting Hate Man’s shopping cart on a dais, like a sculpture as part of the exhibit).

But the thing I mostly remember about that movie theater. This crazy tweaker street chick who I had a MAD crush on back in 1999 used to hang out in front of that theater all the time. It was her panhandling spot. She was 19 years old. One of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Had these big waif-like sad soulful “Keane” eyes. Crazy as fuck. Doomed. But just beautiful. I was madly in love with her (I was crazy myself). So I used to regularly stop by and hang out with her at her panhandling spot on Shattuck in front of the movie theater. (I actually did a tape-recorded interview with her at one point that got published in the STREET SPIRIT homeless newspaper for those of you that are keeping score at home).

Anyways, one night , after she was done panhandling at her spot in front of the movie theater, she invited me to hang out at her crash spot. Which was actually INSIDE the movie theater. She had a little covey-hole at the end of the hallway in the lobby, this cul-de-sac hidden away from sight, where she would hang out and crash at night. The guy who worked security at the movie theater let her crash there. Because he probably had a crush on her, too (did I mention she was beautiful?).

So we hung out together that night, talking, in this little niche off to the side of the lobby of the movie theater. As we talked I could hear the movies playing off in the distance. They had like four different movie theaters in this one movie theater complex, so I could hear the soundtrack of the movies playing off in the distance. And I was struck by the fact that the whole drama I was going through with this crazy beautiful 19 year old street chick was probably more of an interesting movie than the crap movies that were playing on the silver screen. Because she was such a bizarre person and the way her life story was unfolding at the time was such a bizarre story I couldn’t even begin to explain it to you here.

And then the movies ended. And it was closing time. And everyone left the theater. And it got quiet. Except for me and this crazy 19 year old tweaker chick hanging out in this little niche at the end of the hallway in the lobby of the movie theater. It was well after midnight at this point. The security guard came by to check on us briefly at one point. And then left us alone. I don’t know if she was having sex with the security guard and that’s why he let her crash there at that spot. Or what the deal was. But there we were, hanging out together late at night at this little niche off to the side of the lobby of this movie theater.

At one point during the night, she had to take a piss. So I was surprised when she got up and opened the big metal gate that was in front of the theater. The gate they put down at closing time. And she went out to Shattuck Avenue and took a piss in a back alley. And then came back into the theater. Lowered the metal gate. And we went back to talking and hanging out in the little niche. And the whole thing was crazy. That the security guard would allow a couple of nuts like us to hang out in the lobby of this movie theater at like 2 in the morning well after closing time. But beautiful young women — even when they’re crazy as fuck like her — get all sorts of advantages.

Just some random (ha ha) memories of that particular movie theater on Shattuck. One more part of beloved Berkeley past that’s getting snuffed out now (a recurring theme these days, sigh).

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