If it looks familiar, it’s been used in a bunch of Movies and TV Shows, most recently -- inside and out -- where Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone see Rebel Without A Cause in La La Land. First off, I should mention that The Rialto -- while not nearly as restored as The Chinese or Egyptian or U.A. (now The Ace) -- is a charming place (it has since been reopened as a Church). After a quick tour by Mr. Norton himself, he took us Backstage where there were stacks … and stacks … and stacks … of tan theatre seats. And some blue ones? No, they were all blue, those tan ones were just dusty. And I should note they weren’t even seats yet, but stacked in pieces: a “bottom,” a “back” and four times as many “arms.” What were we dealing with, looking at, looking for? Mr. Norton had been nice enough to put one together so we could see.
As I was standing there looking at the stacks of theatre seat pieces, it was the first time Fred Allen began ringing in my ear. How long had these pieces been sitting here? Collecting what all over them; what was living in them? Mr. Norton said, “Been sitting in here nearly seventy years, ever since they were pulled out of Downtown.” That rang in Diana’s and my ear too. “Excuse me … Downtown?” “Oh sure,” Mr. Norton continued: “These weren’t used here in The Rialto, but pulled out of a Theatre Downtown and then stored here, right where you’re looking at ‘em. Haven’t been touched since.”
I tried sounding casual but it likely came out as Henry Aldrich: "Which theatre?" Mr. Norton didn't know, didn't think anyone did anymore, just that the seats were likely switched out in the economic boom after World War II. Still trying for the casual but I'm sure it was Henry Aldrich again: "You don't say!" as Diana and I started digging a little deeper into the dust.
What’s that piece there, is that a good bottom? And that, is that a good back? Here are couple good arms. Hey look, the arms are numbered! We should try to find arms in order!
By this time there were more people there, talking to Mr. Norton and starting to look for their own seats. How many were Diana and I looking for? Hadn't really thought about that yet. We decided on four, so that meant four bottoms, four backs and (quick thinking) six arms, in case we wanted to pair the seats in twos instead of four-in-a-row.
See the way they curve? Well, what does that mean for our seats? The arms seemed universal but the physical bodies -- bottoms and backs -- would indeed be wider in the middle and become gradually thinner as they got to the sides. Uh oh. What sizes did we come home with? Turns out three different ones.
This is one of Diana’s and my adventures -- now Diana’s and Nicky’s and mine -- I especially love because of how tangible it is. Diana and I have both always wanted real theatre seats. (What kid growing up loving Movies hasn’t?) But where would we get some? What theatre is left from which we could? Would we have to buy them; if so, for how much; $500, $1000 each? And, ugh, they’d already be refurbished, and who knows where they were from, what their story was. Nah, that’s not for us. So to be able to have these; to have been able to walk into an actual theatre and find them, build them -- thanks again, Steve! -- know they came from a theatre in Downtown L.A. To now see them sitting in our home, and see Nicky play on them; to enjoy them together. Yeah, that’s more “us.”