New New Varsity Revival blog on WordPress

Here is the gist of the first post there, by Tasha Brooks:

The Varsity Revival Project is a group of people who are concerned about the fate of downtown Palo Alto’s iconic historic landmark The Varsity Theater. The Varsity  maintained a  long standing role in this community beginning with it’s 1927  Grand Opening. The Varsity’s strong presencc continued for 84 long years, until NOW. The recent demise of the Varsity’s last tenants, Borders Books and Music has left the Varsity vacant. The bright lights and neon from it’s marquee no longer shine upon the city street.

The Varsity is a truly beautiful, iconic structure of historical significance; The building is Landmark category 1- the most important in historic inventory of the  city and considered a major bldg at regional or state level. This status promises that the integrity of the structure’s most basic features- the framing and  courtyard, as well as it’s many unique asthetic embellishments are protected by Federal Law which overrides even the private owner of the property in it’s authority. This protection does not extend it’s  limitations in terms of  purpose and intended use for the structure. The iconic gathering spot where people of all ages  experienced  and exchanged  culture and ideas, shared generations of live music, and the arts that colored the spectrum and in this way, the Varsity facilitated our sense of community and heritage.  The Varsity acted as a magnet, attracting from all corners of the Peninsula, and beyond, in every incarnation; as a single show movie house, to bar and restaurant, to live afternoon music in the courtyard from the likes of Tuck and Patti to Michael Hedges, to sold out live shows featuring local bands along with the most influential rock bands of the punk generation and beyond. The movie schedule was as eclectic as the patrons; bringing to it’s doors disney loving youngsters, indie foreign fans, and Rocky Horror fanatics- all beneath one roof in an atmosphere of acceptance and acknowledgment.  This unique structure, that by design, allowed the crossing of  paths of spirits as diverse as can be:  the creative, the innovative, the artists and the observers of art, the youth and the young adults, parents of up and coming  generations, and the generations who preceded remained in attendance.
The  legends that color our city were,  in this way, born and that gave life to the  Spirit of  Community that became a beacon for all  the world to see; drawing into Palo Alto the  true makers of today: the first creators of the high tech, dot com generation. What better depicts the values that attracted this generation of brilliant, young, creative, individualist, the  pushers of technology and culture than the diverse, open minded, accepting, globally and locally active and aware folks  that gathered at the Varsity? There has not been, nor is there now, any place in or around downtown Palo Alto that welcomed equally,  paying patrons and non- paying company who gathered together regularly in the courtyard  as well as indoors, depending upon seating accommodations (which changed with eras). This welcoming practice propagated an ambiance of inclusiveness and gave inertia to lines of open communication and the exchanging of ideas and values.

The City of Palo Alto has received plans submitted by the owner of the Varsity that will transform two thirds of the existing space into offices. This will forever change the flow of pedestrian traffic through the building, and put an end to what remained true to the spirit of the Varsity Theater and remained as such even in it’s final generation as a retail store. The culture of Palo Alto will be a reflection of the homogenized, high rent, establishments that populate University Avenue.It is truly a sad day for this once diverse, innovative, and welcoming city.

My personal vision for the Varsity is simply having the structure revived if not restored and the theater active as a venue for more than just films, but also for live performance, community speakers and interactions, for Tedtalks and for children’s poetry slams…I see endless possibilities for the theater…The restaurant/bar/cafe would allow the beauty and unique historical significance that exists in the courtyard to really shine as the crown jewel of University Ave- taking the spotlight off the gaudy, ostentatious, enormity that is the current structure of note on University- the Cheesecake Factory. I think there would be an enormous draw for all sects of the community in opening the courtyard allowing a welcoming of diverse patrons by making whatever the retail spin on services provided have a inclusive scope. Serve coffee with  free refills, along with pricey polenta or what have you… I don’t know how to put my thoughts into business terms- but I hope you understand my point. Given that atmosphere of  a cultural arts magnet, and a place to spend time within the means of both poles of economic states I believe the community will have a gift, a serendipitous new option for how and  where they spend time. Whether this is a for profit business is not even a question, it must be. That is the only choice just in terms of gaining access to the building! The idea of using space for office space or meeting space is doesn’t bother me. The fact is a profit must be made. Any additional ways to use the site for profit would help support the less financially stable but more community oriented retail uses. I had some thoughts on renting space upstairs to groups of self publishing authors, maybe providing computers in the office space. There are,  again, endless possibilities for that aspect. The truth is I just want to see the building protected from being further defaced and to be open for use as it was intended to be, that is my agenda.

Tasha Brooks

Thanks, Tasha. Well said. My notes from the meeting include these names, for follow up: Gail Price, Laura Surma, Michael Brownrigg, Michael Dieden, Devi at Palo Alto Film Festival(after Oct. 2), Tim Draper, Mary Morgan, Sam Lardner, Nancy Shepherd and Arthur Keller.

edit to add: Tasha and Becky, let me know if I have the correct link. Meanwhile, apropos of the situation, I could not help link to this, filed under “stink, stank, stunk”:

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
This entry was posted in ethniceities, film, la la, media, Plato's Republic, sex and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to New New Varsity Revival blog on WordPress

  1. markweiss86 says:

    The photo at top is of Wangari Trio (or Wangari Duo?) performing at Fete De La Musique, in June, 2011, in the courtyard of 456 University, The Varsity Theatre. I wrote to the artists to get permission to post an edit of their performance, which I found at the event organizer’s site, and the band said “sure” but did not have the actual clip, so I used a capture.

  2. markweiss86 says:

    You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch
    You really are a heel.
    You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
    And as charming as an eel,
    Mr. Grinch!
    You’re a bad banana,
    With a greasy black peel. et cetera

  3. Tasha Brooks says:

    Wrong link- check the team members of the page you linked to….thanks for the push 🙂

  4. Mark Weiss says:

    (posted to Weekly) I would say one, keep arguing for, asking for, speaking up about advocating something cultural and community-focused — and a conforming historic use — for 456 University Avenue, the historic and beloved Varsity Theatre — until the day that the next generation of 100 carpet-bagging tech geeks actually over-pay their delusional and venture-backed way in, and then, two, continue articulating your disappointment with the narrow-mindedness and cowardice of leadership here– on commission, board and council levels — such that it impacts the 2012 Council election, unseating for example the weakest two pro-developer incumbents and we start to have a swing back towards actual representation — one voter, one vote, not one-million-dollars, one vote, one billion dollars, one thousand votes — and some more residentialists on council.

    That Bower for example would resort to demagoguery and jingoism rather than acknowledge our concerns, is pretty typical of the official debate — if that’s not to kind a word — so far. Also, Bernstein cut off Winter Dellenbach after three minutes, rather than the typical five — how is that Democratic? There were a total of four speakers pro-culture or conforming use: she, I, Tim Gray and Herb Burock. They don’t have twenty minutes to hear the people out, they only have twelve? (The developer had about an hour, including staff time).

    That being said I am going to try to focus on the benefits of the conforming use — keep the theatre as a theatre — and not bash or complain about the lack of leadership. I’ve heard more often, however, “we are afraid of being sued” and “property rights is more important that the First Amendment and expression and the arts” — which sounds more like Tsarist Russia than Sam Adams and The U.S., than encouragement from our so-called leaders.

    On the flip-side and sunny side, Nancy Shepherd introduced me to Chop Keenan; I offered to turn my research over to him if that will help him see the light. We actually shared a moment, regarding our favorite tribe of Indians, so who knows. It definitely does not work, history has shown, to try to alienate him. Also, I met Chip Conley of Joie De Vivre, touring Our Fair City with people from Ideo and he said, off the cuff, that the Varsity Theatre would help his new hotel here, at Casa Olga site, on Hamilton, more than would more office space.

    And I took it as a good omen that blink 182, who I had at Cubberley for “Earth Day Rock and Bike — $6 all ages, two for one if you ride your bike ” in April, 1999, were at Shoreline Wednesday. I think with a little luck we will see some rock stars show for this. People I’ve tried to reach so far include Matt Nathanson, Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen and Cake, Chris Isaak. They all have ties to Palo Alto.

    I think Gen did a good job covering above, thanks. I’m going to send my actual speech, it was written and rehearsed, to Council as part of the official record, or you can check it at Media Center site, I think.

    I am hopeful that Kohler and Bunnenberg will continue to be assertive here, on behalf of the people. They pointed out that this is being rushed through.

    I at first, until Gen set me straight, thought Mr. Bower was quoting his favorite Neil Diamond song not challenging my loyalty or whatever. In reply I will reference Thoreau on Civil Disobedience, and his statements about keeping up the standards of the Founding Fathers, and quote Sam Adams: There is nothing more at this meeting to further our country!!!

  5. Pingback: Mark Weiss blog posts re The Varsity Theatre | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

  6. Pingback: varsity | Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss

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