Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sid Grauman's 130th Birthday

His name is on the Egyptian Theatre and its Chinese sister-venue just west, down the Walk of Fame, but who was Sid Grauman? Mark Simon is going to answer that question with a 130th birthday illustrated talk and tour of Sid's first Hollywood movie palace (that would be the Egyptian Theatre in case you couldn't guess) on Saturday, March 14th.

Sid Grauman: Yukon Prospector (yes, as in, THE Gold Rush), master showman, inventor of the
immortalization of movie stars via sticking their hand and footprints (and sometimes their animal sidekicks) in wet cement, close friend to Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin, supreme prankster, cross-dresser, impresario extraordinaire...

Last night at
Hollywood Heritage's Adrian lecture Sid's prologue for Charlie Chaplin's THE GOLD RUSH (which premiered at the Egyptian in 1925) was mentioned because Adrian designed one of the costumes worn on stage which brought him to the attention of Cecil B. DeMille who had recently established his own studio following his departure from Famous Players-Lasky -- the same stage where Valentino discovered Myrna Loy (a Venice High School grad) dancing in the chorus!

Following the lecture at DeMille's barn (the Hollywood Heritage HQ) last night, Aaron Epstein (owner of the adorable Artisan's Patio courtyard of shops on Hollywood Boulevard) whose family owned Pickwick Books (also on the Boulevard) mentioned that Sid used to come into the bookstore to shop. As a young teen he recalled his father pointing out -- "that's Sid Grauman!" when he came in to browse. When asked if he remembered anything in particular about Grauman sixty some years later (Grauman died in 1950), Epstein recalled that "he had curly hair" SO, we are guessing he must have been nice and polite, because ordinarily you remember the bothersome customers. Another attendee said she worked for Sid part-time at the Chinese in the late 1940s as an usherette. "He always called us into his office before we went out on the floor to make sure we looked perfect," she said. "He was a very nice man. A real gentleman. He wasn't leacherous like a lot of the men in Hollywood."

What's this about a stage at the Egyptian? What were these prologues Sid created that were sometimes more lavish than the film productions themselves? And why wasn't he interested in the many beautiful young usherettes and starlets who passed through his lobbies?

Find out at the Sid Grauman birthday celebration talk/tour on Saturday at 10:30 AM at Sid's pad, the Egyptian Theatre. The film FOREVER HOLLYWOOD, about the history of Hollywood will follow.

Sid's actual birthday is March 17th but we're celebrating early! After all he would have been 100 years old!