Of course I was glad to see E. Annie Proulx and Dorothy Parker on the list, but then I came upon Norman Schwarzkopf. I have to admit, there was a moment’s pause as I thought of us both navigating our passage through a birth canal the same day. I could only imagine his route was more calculated and aggressive. A burst of water followed by a “take-no-prisoners” exit. After ‘Stormin Norman, there were “the usual suspects”…a Pope, a couple of football players, and some legends in their own mind. Not bad…still something was lacking. I scanned the other 364 days and there were some pretty heavy hitters. It appears the official stargazers were hard-pressed to come up with a few hoity-toity’s for my day. And then I realized my calling…a mission that had to be resuscitated.
I recall a letter I wrote to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, after he bought the Cinerama Theater, a wonderful old movie palace in Seattle. Of course Allen made changes to its original form. Basically retro-renovated the hell out of it. I didn’t share the same appreciation for the Jetson look, but I knew Allen was a man of vision, or at least expansion. A man who would understand and embrace all the little people who did their part to make Seattle what it is today. After all, I should know. Nearly fifty-five years ago…I was crowned Miss Cinerama.
I wrote, in longhand to Mr. Allen, for effect…
Dear Mr. Allen,
On August 22, 1956, two events, seemingly unrelated, but in fact mysteriously and inextricably linked came to pass in the city of Seattle. The Cinerama Theater was opened to the public for the first time, and a child was born in the hospital on the hill overlooking the city. Three wise men (the owner of the theater and two attendants) were moved to visit the baby girl. They came bearing gifts.
From that day onward, the infant, a meager seven pounds six ounces with a milk rash in full bloom, heeded the call. She accepted the title, the gold key to the theater, a few free passes, and became the reigning Miss Cinerama.
Her duties were few, hardly worth noting. A brief interview (the more eloquent portion of which was furnished by her undoubtedly doting parents,) and a photo shoot (no elaborate costumes – just a loose fitting sleeper, booties, binkie and banner. Her hair coifed in a simple up-doo with a pink bow.)
Needless to say, the child, known only by her hospital wristband, did not attend the Opening Night Ceremony and the party that followed. There was no sight of her at the ribbon cutting or imbibing at the champagne bar, nor were her first steps taken on the red carpet that lined the runway. For Miss Cinerama, nestled between the rest of the newborns in the maternity ward, the hype went unnoticed. Mr. Allen…… that child was me.
Except for the article in the Seattle Times, now creased and fawn-colored, the gold key with Miss Cinerama engraved neatly in Tribune font, and a few old ticket stubs, I have no recollection of the jubilee. But you can change all that. You, the man with vision beyond Windows, Word, Jimmy Hendrix statues, the EMP, can give this aging Matron of the Arts some glory days.
I realize that next month the Cinerama will open it’s doors anew. With a fitting new profile and an aggressive technological facelift, there will be much to celebrate. My question to you…Can Miss Cinerama attend the Opening night or has the gold key lost its luster? I don’t ask for much…no royal resurrection…no silken sash or gold crown…just a little leg room, a small space, possibly pressed against the wall toward the back. I eat very little and I try to avoid champagne as it gives me gas. How about it?
Annie (Miss Cinerama circa 1956 – )
Okay, so I sent this letter on March 19, 1999, right before the opening. Although I’m sure he is a busy man…a VERY busy man, I’m still waiting for a response. I realize with the current economy and his book launch blasting Bill, the mega theater mogul has bigger fish to fry.
So here is my question. How long does one wait for this sort of thing? I’m no spring chicken and Father Time is leaving his mark deep. Before arthritis sets in and my hand can no longer do the official princess wave, I’d like my fifteen minutes of fame. At the very least, my name on that damn marquee, two tickets (mid-section), a small drink, and popcorn…light on the butter.