Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Russian Roulette, Bawlmer Style, Hon!

The fact that Baltimore City is playing Russian Roulette with The Senator Theatre is a travesty.

Here's the auction listing at Alex Cooper Auctions.

July 22nd, 11:00 AM at The Senator is when we'll get to see if the future of this beautiful, unique, amazing theatre will be a disaster or not. If you have a million dollars and the experience and good intentions to make The Senator a thriving multi-purpose entertainment venue (ideally with the building owned by a non-profit), be there!

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Sidewalk Block Party

Many of The Senator's sidewalk blocks got a new coat of paint over the weekend. (We still have some more to do, so we'll be having another "block party" next weekend!)

Here are some of my favorites. If I haven't noted the painter under the photo, it's probably because I don't know the name of the volunteer(s) who did it. Sometimes I was too focused on what I was doing myself. I was in the "art zone."

a raisin in the sun

cecil b. demented
I'm a bit partial to the Cecil B. Demented block, since I painted it. I wanted to paint the block for a movie that actually was filmed at The Senator.


everyone says I love you
Painted by yours truly.


the hunt for red october
Painted by Kathy H. with water added by Dave.

ladder 49

liberty heights

That would be me again. I gave her a face. Sorry, Bruce.

the painted veil
This is my favorite of the ones I painted. I spent a lot of time on it, but that was well worth it.

serial mom

sleepless in seattle
Painted by Anna.

star wars trilogy
Painted by Tom H. and friend.

the tune

the world is not enough
Painted by Marty, who said he always wanted to paint a Bond girl.

west side story

the wizard of oz
Painted by Gayle and Claudia.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Shinola at The Senator

This is a video from the "One More Saturday Night" event at The Senator on June 13th. I still haven't processed all the videos I took that night.

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Tom Kiefaber's interview postponed (Anthony McCarthy Show)

Tom Kiefaber's interview, previously scheduled for tonight on the Anthony McCarthy Show, has been postponed so that Mr. McCarthy can cover the news about Michael Jackson's death. Hopefully the interview will be rescheduled in the near future.

RIP Michael Jackson.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Senator Theatre Auction Date/Time Set

I just received this in an email from the York Road Partnership, a local community/business association. It's an email from Kristen Mitchell of the Baltimore Development Corporation.


I wanted to let you know that the City has scheduled the auction for the Senator Theater for Wednesday, July 22, at 11:00 a.m., at the Senator(5904 York Road). We are working with Alex Cooper Auctioneers, and more information will be available soon on their website. We also plan to post the information on BDC's website, historic theater websites, historic preservation websites, the Daily Record, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun.

Please forward this information to your contacts. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.


Kristen Mitchell
Senior Economic Development Officer
Commercial Revitalization
Baltimore Development Corporation
36 S. Charles Street, Suite 1600
Baltimore, MD 21201-3015
Phone: 410-837-9305
Direct: 410-779-3837
Fax: 410-837-6363

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Hey Hon, come get down with us on the pavement!

Come re-paint The Senator's commemorative sidewalk blocks with us!

It's time for a "paint-o-rama" group effort to renew the colorful graphics of The Senator's sidewalk blocks. Weather permitting, we'll be painting on both Saturday and Sunday from Noon until dusk.

The Senator's unique commemorative "walk of fame" celebrates the theatre's rich history. We need your help to get them in shape for a prestigious visit to The Senator by The Theatre Historical Society of America's annual conclave that's coming up in early July. If you can paint within the lines and don't mind getting down with us on the concrete and getting dirty then please come join our painting party!

the walk of fame at The Senator Theatre

You'll need to bring along some old duds that you don't mind getting dirty, and you might want to bring an old blanket and/or pillow to pad the hard surfaces. We'll be painting with exterior oil-based paint, which is hard to remove from clothing, and aroma of turpentine is sure to linger. Paint and supplies will be provided, and if you have expendable paint brushes we'll put them to use.

Popcorn, soda and camaraderie will be provided for all volunteers, and beer and wine too for those 21 and over.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My feed available via Feedburner

I'm trying to get into a better position in search engines with this site. I'm not entirely sure how to do that. It's all for the cause, and not because I'm an attention hog! (Yeah, right.) Anyway, I saw that Blogger had a link to something called FeedBurner, and so I thought maybe this would help me publicize the site. You can subscribe to my blog via Feedburner here.

They are apparently packaging up my media links so they are available to search engines as a podcast now, but I don't really entirely get how that works. I'm trying to figure out the podcast thing, because there might be some interviews coming soon...

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Just because I had to share...

visit senator.com astrogirlguides.com

The Senator's marquee at night with astrogirlguides.com in lights

I'm looking forward to hearing Tom Kiefaber get a bit more of the true story out there on the Anthony McCarthy Show on Friday. The media coverage has been so dismal on The Senator generally, with a lot of misinformation out there, but I know last time Tom went on the Anthony McCarthy Show it was really informative. The show will be on WEAA FM 88.9 and Tom will be on from 6 PM to 7 PM on Friday.

If you missed the recent interview with Tom Kiefaber on the Tom Marr show, you really should hear it. (Direct link to MP3 file.) Again, very informative, but there was a question or two that Tom K couldn't answer, such as why Bill Henry believes the city will control The Senator's future through an RFP process after the auction, and how he knows it won't become a church. He's been making those claims, but nobody understands how he can be so sure about the outcome of the public auction on July 21.

I know Tom Marr has invited Bill to be on the show and explain. Bill couldn't make it on Monday, which was the initial invitation date, due to an emergency community meeting. I understand that, and of course it was important for him to be at that meeting. I believe the invitation to be on the show still stands, though, so I hope Bill Henry will take Tom Marr up on his invitation soon.

Anyway, if you get a chance to hear Tom Kiefaber on either radio show, you'll understand the situation better. Tom has been the owner of The Senator for the past 20 years, and knows better than anyone what is really going on here. At times I think he has been reluctant to speak openly for fear of repercussions, but it seems like he's beginning to speak a bit more freely now.

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A Conversation

This is a conversation between two of our patrons at The Senator, which they asked me to record. In it, they discuss a movie that played last weekend, "The Spook Who Sat By The Door," military service in Vietnam, and an upcoming biography by Carroll A. Durham, Jr., about his experience serving in Vietnam.

I got to try out my new editing software on this. Check out the groovy titles and transitions!

Just one more example of the fascinating array of events and conversations happening at The Senator!

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All eyeballs are on The Senator Theatre. (This is really random.)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tom Kiefaber on Anthony McCarthy Show on WEAA Friday

Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber will be on the Anthony McCarthy Show on WEAA 88.9 FM on Friday during the second hour of the show from 6 PM to 7 PM.

Listen live here.

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My Name In Lights!

I'm a star! My name (or at least my blog's name) will be up in lights when the marquee goes on this evening. Thank you, Tom K!

my blog astrogirlguides on the marquee of the senator theatre

Oh, and...the Church of What's Happening Now? What's that about? ;-)

church of what's happening now on the marquee of the senator theatre

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Interview with Tom Kiefaber on the Tom Marr show on WCBM this morning

Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber was interviewed about The Senator and its future on the Tom Marr show on WCBM this morning. Here's an MP3 of the interview (with commercials edited out).

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shakedown Street

38Cents A Gallon at The Senator on Saturday...

Will York Road be renamed to Shakedown Street?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Brokedown Palace

This song always used to make me cry at the end of Dead shows. I hope we don't have to say "fare thee well" to The Senator, no matter how much we love it.

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After Midnight

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West L.A. Fadeaway

From 38Cents A Gallon on Saturday night at The Senator...

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Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence played by 38Cents A Gallon at The Senator on Saturday night.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Franklin's Tower

Franklin's Tower played by 38Cents A Gallon from last night's One More Saturday Night concert at The Senator...

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Further Thoughts on The Senator's Conversion (Pun Intended)

Well, now that it seems Baltimore City officials have placed The Senator firmly on the track toward becoming an evangelical mega-church, how are they trying to undo the damage? By promising retribution after the fact.

The BDC's Kim Clark and 4th District Councilman Bill Henry recently threatened to control the situation by taking away The Senator's parking.

But she and Henry noted a deterrent to a congregation could be an existing agreement that allows for use of the parking lot across the street from the Senator only if the property remains in use as a theater.

Oh yeah. That's going to work real well (NOT!) --- let a church buy The Senator at auction and then try to take away their parking. This kind of meddling in a property owner's affairs may have worked to some extent to harass current Senator owner Tom Kiefaber, but do these city politicians really want to take on a whole congregation of churchgoers? Talk about a political landmine!

And what happens when the pastor realizes he can probably sue Baltimore City over constitutional issues related to church/state separation and remove ANY controls they try to put on use of The Senator, including the city's recent interior landmark designation?

But at least Bill Henry gave some insight into the city's thinking on this issue when, at a recent public meeting, he indicated the way they'd take away The Senator's parking is by making a deal with the owner of the Staples parking lot (currently also The Senator's parking lot), developer David Cordish, who Henry indicated has already agreed to go along with that.

On a separate, but related note, Bill Henry seems not to have gotten the message that Kim Clark, Joan Pratt and others agreed to at the May 20th meeting at The Senator --- the message about how it would be good for taxpayers if The Senator is sold at auction so the city can get its recent investment back (and its only investment in The Senator for the past 10 years).

If the goal is to get the city's investment back, why is Bill Henry trying to scare bidders away from the auction by pulling big numbers out of thin air and passing them off as estimates for the cost of renovations and upgrades on The Senator? This $500K number has no basis in reality, that I'm aware of. I'm sure it would be possible to spend that much over time, especially if doing a full restoration, but the cost to continue to run the theatre under new ownership would be nowhere near that. (I am speaking here as a volunteer who has been in the theatre for several hours almost every day for the past two months. Trust me, I have a good feel for the condition of the building.)

It's time for Baltimore City officials to recognize that the way to save the day in this situation is to come to the table with community leaders, the public, Senator owner Tom Kiefaber, and other interested parties, as they were requested to do back in January, and figure out how The Senator can transition into a non-profit multipurpose entertainment venue, and NOT a religious non-profit! Now, it's entirely possible that they planned to get around to that under the city's RFP process, but they made one miscalculation: they assumed nobody would buy The Senator at auction for over $1 Million. Now that it's clear that The Senator's national and international brand is worth a lot more than they bargained for, and that there are several probable bidders, time to rethink the game plan and do the right thing for The Senator while it's still possible.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Will The Senator become a church?

Liz Farmer of the Daily Record writes on their blog about the danger that The Senator will become a church as a result of the upcoming auction.

My response (posted on Liz Farmer's blog, but it looks like the comment hasn't been approved yet, and I don't want to lose what I wrote):

I live near The Senator, and I can't imagine that the nearby restaurants "might be secretly excited to get the post-worship crowd" as anything other than a consolation prize for losing the afternoon and evening business they would lose if The Senator ceases to be a theatre. Greg's Bagels is about the only local business that might actually benefit from The Senator becoming a church.

The bigger issue, as far as I'm concerned, however, is that it would be absolutely tragic to lose such a beautiful and unique historic theatre, the last of its kind in Baltimore. The Senator needs to remain a multi-purpose entertainment venue. Ideally, the building should be owned by a non-profit that has as its mission the preservation and restoration of the historic building. The non-profit can operate it as a theatre or lease it to a for-profit theatre operator. Methods of operation can be debated, but what should be obvious to everyone by now is that the building should be owned by a non-profit, as is the model for many successful historic theatres all over the country.

It's a shame that the city government's maneuvering to control the outcome has backfired to such an extent that now The Senator's future is up for auction to the highest bidder and we've gotten completely off the track of converting it into a non-profit, which was initially the goal and should have remained the goal all along.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

This Week's Schedule of Films at The Senator

Here's what's coming up this weekend and next week at The Senator. Please note that the schedule may be subject to change, so please call the day you plan to attend. 410-435-8338.

TONIGHT, Friday, June 5th:

Yellow Submarine 6:00 PM
One-Eyed Horse 7:45 PM
Carnival of Souls 9:30 PM

Saturday, June 6th:

Yellow Submarine 6:00 PM
Replay (AKA 21 Eyes) 7:45 PM
Carnival of Souls 9:30 PM

Sunday, June 7th:

One-Eyed Horse 4:15 PM
Yellow Submarine 6:00 PM
Replay (AKA 21 Eyes) 7:45 PM

Monday, June 8th through Wednesday, June 10th:

Carnival of Souls 7:45 PM

Movie descriptions:

Carnival of Souls

A Herk Harvey Film
Carnival of Souls
- The Director's Cut -
(1962 - 84min)

After a traumatic accident, a woman becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival.


Do you see what I see?

From Director Lee Bonner
(AKA 21 Eyes)

Fisher Stevens, Michael Buscemi, Rebecca Mader, Nestor Serrano & Chance Kelly

The viewer becomes the eyes of two detectives who never appear on camera as they unravel a mystery on a video screen.

One-Eyed Horse

From Director Wayne Shipley
One-Eyed Horse
(2008 - 98min)

Mark Redfield, Michael Hagan, Jennifer Rouse, Kelly Potchak, Richard Cutting & Jason Brown

Hadley Missouri 1887. Justin Gatewood has recently been released from prison for attempting to kill an old adversary, William Curry. Twenty-five years earlier, Gatewood and his brother were Confederate prisoners-of-war, and the death of Gatewood's brother under the watch of (then) Union Officer Curry has consumed Gatewood and fueled his desire for revenge.

Yellow Submarine

The Beatles' Beloved Psychedelic Animated Feature Accompanied by The Senator's
State-of-the-Art Sound

The Beatles agree to accompany Captain Fred in his Yellow Submarine and go to Pepperland to free it from the music hating Blue Meanies.

Admission $5 for each show.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

One More Saturday Night at The Senator

In my previous post I noted that years before the music existed, The Senator was made for rock and roll. Well, you'll get a chance to see what I mean on Saturday, June 13th (a week from this coming Saturday), when an evening of classic rock comes to The Senator - One More Saturday Night!

Featuring live music by 38Cents A Gallon and J.D. and the Blades plus Shinola. Also rare Grateful Dead shorts.

I haven't heard any of these bands before, but from what I understand, 38Cents A Gallon is a Grateful Dead cover band and the other live music is more general classic rock. The poster created for this event is just awesome, too, recalling the two skeletons standing over Radio City Music Hall from Dead Ahead, only these skeletons are standing over The Senator. Notice the subtle Steal Your Face in the building and sidewalk, too. Cool.

Beer and wine will be available. Show starts at 8 PM and admission is $10.

Um...I guess I actually haven't asked if it's OK to bring your drums, but would anyone really expect Tom K to say no?

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The Multiplex Experience vs. The Senator

I had an interesting experience a week or so ago, which made me realize that since I've been hanging out at The Senator, I've really been spoiled for other theatres. I may never be able to go into a multiplex again without critiquing the presentation in my mind.

I went to see "Night at the Museum: The Battle of the Smithsonian" with my family a while back at a multiplex that shall remain nameless, because I'm being kind. Tiny screen. Bad projector adjustment so there was an actual line at the bottom where you could see just a hair's breadth of the top of the picture. Something slimy-looking glistening on the screen in one place. Sound that came only from the speakers at the front and wasn't loud enough. Some lady came and plunked down in the seat in front of me, blocking half my view --- it was then I realized the seats weren't even staggered. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Seriously, for the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, I just wanted to get up and walk out. The only reason I didn't was because my family just wouldn't have understood. I just tried to tell myself it was better than watching it on TV.

Let's not even talk about the fact that I felt like I was sitting in a little box that was merely decorated to look like a movie theatre or that I knew the popcorn wasn't worth bothering with and would not have real butter on it.

Now, I mostly grew up with multiplexes, so that experience is what I've come to expect. But there is a historic theatre in the town where I grew up, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and when I was little I think there were at least two in somewhat original form. The Michigan became a non-profit, was restored to its original glory, and is today a beautiful place to see a movie or live performance. I don't think the screen size in relation to the auditorium size is as perfect as at The Senator, nor do I think the underlying structure of the architecture is as elegant, but that's not to disparage the Michigan as much as to point out that The Senator is a rare gem even among historic theatres. Actually, I love the Michigan and go there almost every time I visit Ann Arbor, so I almost feel bad about saying I love The Senator more...almost.

The other historic theatre from my childhood that I think I vaguely remember being intact, the State, was in the 1980s made into four theatres with both the main floor and the balcony being divided in two. Today, there are only the two small auditoriums that were once part of the original balcony and there's an Urban Outfitters downstairs. So, you can see that from my hometown background I have two tales of historic theatres to tell -- one a great success story, the other a cautionary tale.

Let's get back to The Senator for a bit. Pink Floyd's Pulse, which was shown there last weekend, was probably the recent movie that showed most starkly the contrast between the multiplex and The Senator. Huge screen, incredible colors, and kick ass state of the art surround sound that made it seem almost like I was actually at the concert.

I've seen a lot of great movies at The Senator, but the musical events, whether movies or live concerts, are always the most impressive because the acoustics of the place are so gorgeous. Years before the music even existed, The Senator was made for rock and roll! Tom Kiefaber is always telling me there is something futuristic about The Senator, something that was way ahead of its time. The fact that The Senator seems perfect for music that didn't even exist when it was built is to me the most tangible example of that.

The Senator is going up for auction on July 21, 2009. Unfortunately, the city's efforts to control the future of The Senator have put it into a situation where the future is a wild card and the theatre is available to the highest bidder. My hope is that some people with vision will put together an ownership group that can buy the theatre and turn it over to a non-profit that will protect and restore the building while ensuring its future as Baltimore's premiere multi-purpose arts and entertainment showplace...with music! Let's make the story of The Senator a triumph, and not a cautionary tale. I hope I'm not dreaming.

(Photo credits: duskfallphotography and crazyjamerz06 on Photobucket)

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Kim Clark's denial of her earlier Daily Record comments

You may remember that in a February 26, 2009 Daily Record article (which is unfortunately subscription-only at this point), Kim Clark of the Baltimore Development Corporation made comments that amounted to defamation of Senator Theatre owner Tom Kiefaber, saying he had never made it work. As I recall, this article set of a whirlwind of negative media attention on Mr. Kiefaber that began to resemble a lynch mob.

Interesting, then, to note that Kim Clark now denies having made those comments. This video is from the May 20, 2009 meeting at The Senator. I know I've posted videos from this meeting before, but in this new one from Arlette Productions, you can actually hear Kim Clark's denial, which was off-mic.

At the end of the video, when asked about her comments in the Daily Record, Kim Clark can clearly be heard to say "I was misquoted. I didn't say that. That's not what I said. I don't talk to that reporter anymore."

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