Skip to main content

Memories of Virginia


Having grown up in Champaign-Urbana, IL, I have memories of people and places that are no longer with us: Keith Page, Mr. Roberts (both local weathermen), George Valentine, Nicole Storch (educators), Burnham Hospital (where I was born) and, of course, the movie theaters. There was the Co-ed on campus, which was long ago demolished, the Thunderbird in Urbana, which has been re-purposed as The Canopy Club, a hot spot for live acts, Market Place Cinemas in Champaign (demolished), and Country Fair Cinemas (long-closed). For the most part, these places exist only in memory.

One local movie theater that has stood the test of time is The Virginia. Opened some 90 years ago, it began life as a vaudeville hall, and then made the transition to showing films. By the time I came on the scene, the Virginia was in its waning years as a first-run movie house. Multiplexes were becoming the in-thing, and single screen movie palaces were on a major decline. After closing its doors in 1991, the Virginia sort of stumbled around a bit looking for a purpose, until the Champaign Park District and late film critic Roger Ebert helped save it. Now, it's home to an annual film festival, several live acts, and a monthly classic film series.

I saw movies at the Virginia primarily during the 1980s. There I remember seeing Brainstorm, Terms of Endearment and Dances With Wolves with my mom and maternal grandmother, Gummy. Mom and I went there to watch Young Sherlock Holmes back in 1985, a movie I was quite stoked about seeing. There was a placard placed in the lobby, advising folks to stay until after the credits for a "surprise." It was one of those tagged-on scenes that are so prevalent in Marvel superhero movies now. And it was about as exciting (read: not very).

There was the experience of watching Back to the Future II at the Virginia, with a packed house, and a brief moment when a banner in the 2015 setting notates that the Chicago Cubs are the World Series champions. The crowd around me erupted into cheers, hoots and hollers. At the time, I didn't understand. Only the intervening years have provided knowledge of the pathos that is the Cubs' existence. Then there was waiting in a line that stretched around the corner one hot, summer afternoon as a friend and I went to the Virginia to see 1989's Batman. Watching the opening credits of that movie, as they swooshed around inside the bat logo, up there on the Virginia's massive screen, was something I'll never forget.

Of course, Ashley & I have made our own movie memories at the Virginia. From our first Ebertfest movie (2001: A Space Odyssey), to some of the highlights of the monthly classic film series (Vertigo, Annie Hall, The Long, Long Trailer and Grease), the experiences have almost always been worthwhile. Indeed, that can be said of the Virginia, itself. It is a worthwhile institution. Not only that, but it is a repository of experiences and memories. Flickering images exist within its walls, not only of the films it has shown, but of the people who have gone to see the movies there.

I look forward to returning to it this evening for the start of Ebertfest 16.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …

3/4

Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....


1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night


It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

Unbound

"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…