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New stage production: “Tucumcari” January 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music, Theaters.
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In the LA Weekly newspaper, I found this little item in the stage listings:

TUCUMCARI Riley Steiner’s story of “love, choices, tough times, and Western music on Route 66.”. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens Feb. 2; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (310) 364-0535.

A little surfing found this page at Theatre 40, which has the Reuben Cordova Theater, and more information about “Tucumcari”:

When the passionate, sensual and gritty horsewoman Lillian loses her grandfather’s ranch in New Mexico, she settles for the love of her childhood friend and ranch hand, Lyle. Determined to make a good life for his bride, Lyle sets the couple up in a modest “tourist court” on the newly-booming Route 66 in 1928. Lillian had been hoping for a chance to be free and see a scrap of the world with her husband. She is devastated by Lyle’s choice, but pragmatic and hard working to the bone.

The couple makes a go of it until Cade, a wandering man of the road from Lillian’s past, appears on the doorstep. Charismatic and full of romantic tales, Cade is stranded in Tucumcari, New Mexico when the stock market crashes. The men become fast friends and Lill is torn between the love of a good cowboy and the lure of a worldly man.

TUCUMCARI weaves the enduring jazz, western and folk tunes from the Dust Bowl era throughout its passionate love triangle.

Help paint Bob Waldmire’s mural January 28, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, People.

The city of Pontiac, Ill., will be dedicating the Red Carpet Corridor Festival in May to the memory of prominent Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. Festivities will include the public being invited to help paint a mural that Waldmire designed before his death from abdominal cancer in December 2009.

The festival is set for May 7-8 on Route 66 from Joliet to Towanda, Ill.

According to the news release from Pontiac Tourism:

Bob’s prolonged passion for Route 66 began in 1962 when his parents took the entire family on a motoring trip to California via Route 66.  During that trip, Bob fell in love with the Mother Road and all that it offered.  Bob then spent the rest of his life traveling along Route 66 in either his school bus mobile home or his 1972 Volkswagen Van.  Both the van and the school bus are currently on display in Pontiac at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum.  The Waldmire school bus home will be opened to the public for the first time during the Red Carpet Festival.

Bob supported his nomadic and eclectic lifestyle by painting and drawing for clients along the Mother Road.  His art works are famous world-wide and Pontiac is proud to already have one of Bob’s Route 66 roadmaps painted inside the Route 66 Museum.   During the Festival, Bob’s last commissioned mural project will be painted.  Bob was asked to design and paint a mural for downtown Pontiac, but his illness prevented him from completing that task.  Instead, he designed the mural and the public will be invited to come downtown during the festival to help paint Bob’s 66 foot map of the entire Route 66.  The Diaz family, owners of Diaz Sign Art, will oversee the project.

The mural will be on Main Street in Pontiac, just south of Howard on the Encore Shop building. Attached is a thumbnail of the Waldmire design; click on it for a closer look.

UPDATE 2/8/2011: According to a story by the Pontiac Daily Leader, the mural also will include Waldmire’s likeness. An image of the proposed mural can be found here.

Bad news, good news at Bird Creek Bridge hearing January 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.

Those attending a public hearing Thursday night at the Catoosa Community Center in Catoosa, Okla., heard bad news and good news regarding the historic but decrepit Bird Creek Bridge that carried Route 66.

The bad news is the westbound 1936 bridge will be gone in a matter of months and replaced by a nondescript $5.4 million steel girder bridge. Route 66 advocates efforts’ to have the Oklahoma Department of Transportation build a new bridge that resembles or uses parts of the old bridge went for naught because of cost and/or safety reasons.

The removal of the historic bridge would end a prime photo op of the so-called Twin Bridges over Bird Creek and a big railroad bridge in the background.

The good news is a portion of the steel structure of the old bridge will be used at the entrance of adjacent Rogers Point Public Park. Also, ODOT will formulate a preservation plan for other historic Route 66 bridges and road structures, with the help of the state’s Historic Preservation Office.

ODOT engineer Craig Moody, who presided over the meeting, said its bridge proposal made the least impact on Rogers Point park, nearby businesses, and was the least-expensive option. He estimated the new bridge would be open to traffic by fall 2011.

As part of the agreement, ODOT will:

  • Forge an agreement with the Oklahoma State Historical Preservation Office. That includes repainting the eastbound 1956 bridge over Bird Creek by 2015 and other repairs. ODOT officials at the meeting said the agreement would include a preservation plan for seven bridges or road structures on Route 66.
  • Use one or two of the steel truss spans from the decrepit Bird Creek Bridge at the entrance of Rogers Point Public Park.
  • Produce a video documentary about the Twin Bridges.
  • Complete Historic American Engineering Record documentation of the 1936 bridge as well as the existing setting of both the Twin Bridges.

The westbound Bird Creek Bridge is deemed too narrow, too low for some trucks, and was closed for 40 emergency repairs in the past two years. On Nov. 29, 2010, the state declared the bridge unsafe, ordered it closed as soon as possible, and detoured its traffic to the eastbound bridge.

Moody declared the eastbound bridge “safe,” with its deck in good condition. He said the state would repaint it and conduct joint repairs in 2015 for an estimated $1.5 million.

When asked about the compromise proposal to use the steel trusses from the 1936 bridge as a decorative element on the new bridge, ODOT engineer Greg Allen said such a structure wouldn’t be stable enough to hold up to modern traffic and design standards. “It’s not safe,” he said.

Engineers also said ODOT had become “reactive, not preventative” with highway and bridge maintenance from 1985 to 2005 because state funding for the agency remained “flat.” That neglect from a 20-year lack of funds greatly shortened the life of bridges, including Bird Creek. Currently, about 400 bridges in the district that includes much of northeastern Oklahoma need repair.

Dawn Sullivan, an ODOT engineer, said the historic Route 66 bridges included in the preservation plan included the “Pony” Bridge near Bridgeport,  Captain Creek Bridge near Wellston, and the I-40 service road bridge near Sayre. Sullivan didn’t have a full list of those bridges Thursday.

In her opinion, the Pony Bridge would receive the focus in the preservation plan. “We know it’s the crown jewel of Route 66 in Oklahoma,” she said.

Emily Priddy, aka Redforkhippie, advocated that ODOT impose stricter weight limits on historic Route 66 bridges to extend their life.

She also asked whether decorative pony trusses would be added to the sides of the new bridge after it was finished. Allen said “theoretically” it could be done, and it might be considered in the future. He and other ODOT engineers encouraged attendees and Route 66 advocates to convey those ideas in the comment form, which can be e-mailed.

The PowerPoint presentation at the public hearing can be seen here (warning: big Acrobat file).

Hello from Bali January 27, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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This is Bob N Friends, performing Bobby Troup’s best-known song at a studio in the Indonesian island of Bali.

Indie filmmakers claim they put piano in Miami bay January 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, People.

In the past few days, national media outlets have latched on to the story of a grand piano that mysteriously appeared on a  sandbar in the middle of Miami’s Biscayne Bay:

It appears independent filmmakers Billy and Anais Yeager, who spent time on Route 66 in Two Guns, Ariz., shooting footage for their upcoming film “Jesus of Malibu,” were the ones who placed the piano there. And they claim it’s not the first time they’ve done this — they say they’ve left pianos in Malibu and Death Valley in California, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

The Miami New Times reports:

When we spoke to Yeager by phone from Mexico Beach, Florida, he said his son called him and told him the piano was all over the news. “I wasn’t going to say anything, but rather someone say it was just a silly piano from a music video, I said I’m not going to let that slide. This is highly symbolic and profound.” […]

Due to an illness in the family, the Yeagers were in town when their friend told them about the sandbar in Biscayne Bay. Using a neglected piano from a family friend’s estate, they launched their plan about two and half weeks ago. “We did it at 2 a.m. in the morning to get the sun-up shot, but we just missed it.”

The Yeagers claimed they used a homemade barge and elbow grease to move the piano onto the sandbar.

I’m betting the Yeagers were inspired by equally incongruous scenes found in the early portion of 1993’s Oscar-winning film “The Piano.”

As I’ve said before, the Yeagers come across as highly eccentric flakes. But more than a few highly eccentric flakes have made good films. I’ll withhold further judgment of them until I see the finished work of “Jesus of Malibu.”

UPDATE: Now a local teen claims he stowed the piano out the the sandbar, and has video to back part of his claim.

Haven’t seen any reactions from the Yeagers yet about them apparently getting upstaged by a kid. If the teen’s claim is true, the Yeagers made the initial claim to probably scare up publicity for their film.

Swing time January 26, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Music.
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Here’s a swinging version of “Route 66″ by 83-year-old pianist Eddie Tigner.

Tigner is an artist with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which “helps the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern music gain recognition and meet their day to day needs.”

Historic Santa Rosa theater has closed January 25, 2011

Posted by Ron Warnick in Theaters.
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The historic Pecos Theater in downtown Santa Rosa, N.M., closed for the winter in October and won’t reopen, it was reported in the current print edition of the Guadalupe County Communicator.

After a screening of “Lending of the Guardians,” owner Rudy “Spider” Sanchez on Oct. 9 closed the doors of the theater, which has been operating a stone’s throw from Route 66 since 1919. The newspaper reported it was the oldest still-operating movie theater on the Mother Road.

With the Pecos’ closure, I would guess the oldest still-operating theater on Route 66 is the Center Cinema in Vinita, Okla., built in 1922.

Sanchez said the theater’s interior needs an extensive renovation, including the right aisle, where the flooring has rotted away. He also said ticket sales had declined to where the Pecos was open only two to three nights a week.

The Pecos Theatre began as the El Paso Tiempo in 1919, then was the Santa Rosa Theatre in 1920, the Kiva in 1951, the Rodeo in 1936, and finally the Pecos in 1981. Except for a nine-month period in 1980, the theater had been operating continuously.

Sanchez told the Communicator he had no plans to sell the theater or any of its vintage equipment. “I feel an obligation to preserve it,” he said. About the only option Sanchez has left is to land a grant to renovate the theater.

On a semi-related note, the historic and art deco Odeon Theatre in nearby Tucumcari, N.M., is on the block for $65,000. The Odeon, built in 1935, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Apparently the owner of the theater wants to retire.

With the Pecos Theatre out of commission, one would figure the Odeon might see a bump in business. For information about the Odeon, call 575-461-0100.

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