Non-celebrity deaths

I’m fairly indifferent to the two big name deaths in the news today. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me.

However, I got to hear about two people who I knew slightly having recently died.

The first is Mrs. Margaret Beatrice Millican, who died in March. I only met her for fifteen minutes but she made a big impression. I was involved doing technical stuff in a weekend conference in the Pavilion Gardens complex(The Octagon Room and the Paxton Suite) circa 1995 and noticed on Friday evening that the friends of the Buxton Opera House met every Saturday morning for coffee mornings with guided tours of the theatre. Sadly, that particular Saturday, they were short of volunteers and weren’t in a position to do any tours. Anyway, Karen and I chatted happily with her about the Trust, the Theatre and frank Matcham. Recognising a kindred spirit, she offered to give us a whistle-stop sneak into the Dress Circle which we gratefully accepted. (I was able to have a much more thorough visit last year). Googling her, it seems she was a pillar of the community, having been Mayoress of High Peaks in the 1970s, an MBE and eventually becoming one of the Theatre’s Patrons. I found out today when my copy of the Frank Matcham Society newsletter arrived.

A lot closer to home was a man known to most people as Kenny the Caretaker, the custodian of the building across the road from our Head Office where we lease some of the floors.  He was a small man, quiet, unassuming and of uncertain age but he did his work reliably and conscientiously. Once he felt comfortable with me he was happy to open up and chat but from what I could piece together it seemed that he lived a somewhat solitary life in a Council flat and his main companion was the Wireless.

He died at home whilst we were on holiday in America and I’m told that he was found in the bathroom, having filled a bath but then collapsing. He has died intestate and no relatives have been found yet. Apparently he will be buried in a pauper’s grave after twelve months and his estate (if any) will go to the State. The circumstances of his death are rather sad because he was a very dignified man in life.

I don’t want him to pass on unremembered so this a very small, probably ill informed tribute. Kenny, you were very trusting and helpful to me with access and keys when we did projects in the building over the years. I’ll miss you saying hello whilst sweeping the stairs, I’ll regret not being able to knock on the door of your “office” (the cupboard under the stairs with the gas meter in) and finding you inside. I’ll miss waving to you picking up litter if you saw me when walking or driving past.

Kenny, you may be gone, but you are not forgotten. I hope that the celestial Council have done a better job on your heavenly kitchen than yours did in real life. Hopefully the angelic buses are more reliable for you in the afterlife as well.
Whenever I hear this song, I’ll think of you.

A birthday visit…

When we were in California, we dropped in on the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It is arguably the most famous Cinema in the world and has hosted hundreds of Premieres since it opened on May 18th 1927.

By co-incidence, we were there exactly 82 years later and we signed up for a “VIP Tour”, a chance to see “backstage”.

Of course, it isn’t really backstage at all, or even behind the scenes, as we didn’t go anywhere that the paying public would not also be able to access. It was a chance, however, to have a guided tour round the foyers and a quick peek into the auditorium, as well as the “VIP lounge” in the nearby Mann’s Chinese 6 (a modern multiplex) and a sit in a D-Box chair, theme park meets flea pit!

Our knowledgeable guide handed out headsets with belt packs and my first thought was that it was some form of recorded commentary. It was actually a radio based personal PA system so we could hear everything he said to us over his boom Mic (unless we lagged too far behind).

The cinema is unusual in that it has a frontage set back from the road forming a large paved elliptical area. It is designed as a Chinese temple and I’m not certain that Syd Grauman actually indended it to become the tourist trap it is today with the “Forecourt of the stars” (Intended or not, it was a brilliant piece of marketing though, even if it does sound like a celebrity petrol station).

Having seen the Disney reconstruction in Florida, I can remember visiting the Hollywood one some 12 years ago and being somewhat disappointed to see a rather out-of-place rectangular opening hacked into one of the side walls, with a cheap sign above showing the way to the car park. That opening is still there but it has been much played down architecturally as it only leads to a fire exit corridor and the wall of a large construction site to the left of the Cinema. To the right, a large shopping centre has now been built, which also houses the Manns Chinese six.

The always busy forecourt

Entering the lobby of the theatre, a rather visually jarring refreshment counter betrays that it was formerly part of the back stalls, with richly elaborate fibrous plaster cross-shaped medallions on the ceiling.

Culture clash- 1920's pastiche versus noughties commerce

We were led quietly through the darkened auditorium- Wolverine was showing on the huge 90′ screen! It was much bigger than I was expecting, although it now only seats 1,200 or so. (It doesn’t have a balcony, but did/does ┬áhave private boxes upstairs).

They let me come back later in the interval though, to take this snap.

The amazing auditorium

Whilst it has lost much detail over the years, what remains is still very striking.

Much more of the history and vintage photos here.

Happy Fathers Day

Breakfast in bed this morning, David came up first to make sure I was awake (& for a quick bout of all in wrestling).

When it is Mum’s turn she gets smiley pancakes and a song, I got toast, a mug of coffee and some assorted mild abuse.

I did get a card and a present though, David insisted this T shirt was me and I’m having to wear it all day.

Lean mean love machine featuring Kermit the Frog

(Image stolen from ASDA direct, You can buy them mail order here)