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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Originally published April 3, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

For my recent wedding anniversary, I didn’t want much. I was hoping for a night out with my husband, as well as something really big that glitters.

I got what I wanted when my husband took me to Oakland’s Paramount Theater to see a classic movie. Nothing glitters quite like the Paramount with its opulent art deco styling. Before stepping foot in the theater, you’re treated to a brilliant display of marquee lights, flashing like a showy diamond necklace.

In the theater lobby, there’s plenty more bling. It’s hard not to gape at the gold Egyptian-style figures that line two sides of the lobby’s upper walls. Layers of gold bands decorate the luminous black stone on the lower walls. The elaborate gold railings of two curving staircases rise to the mezzanine, resembling a tiara.

Even the more mundane things sparkle at the Paramount. The bottles of water for sale shimmered under the lobby lights; the packages of popcorn glistened in plastic wrap; and I was struck by the sheen of the crisp white shirts worn by theater employees serving refreshments.

The crowd also sparkled with excitement. I would venture to guess that most people who attend the showing of a classic movie have seen it at least once before. So it’s like anticipating the arrival of an old friend.

But this isn’t just any old friend, when you’re talking about “Casablanca”, “The Philadelphia Story”, or “The Gay Divorcee”, the recent films at the Paramount. Each one of these movies is a real jewel. (Nothing like that old friend from college who left dirty socks lying around the dorm room that the two of you shared.)

Before the movie, an organist plays to entertain the audience, taking a page from movie houses of yesterday. Dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns, the Paramount staff entertains the crowd with games and prizes. Wearing my old jeans, I couldn’t help feeling like I had crashed someone else’s party.

As I sat, waiting for the movie to begin, I reveled in the excess of the theater’s auditorium. On the lavish gold walls and ceiling are images from the Bible and mythology. Extravagant ornamentation is everywhere to be seen.

But the real gem that night was the movie. As the faces of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart in “The Philadelphia Story” filled the screen at the Paramount, I couldn’t imagine anything more dazzling. It was like the diamond in the tiara.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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