By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“I just saw a line that’s being done by that comedian, Margaret Cho,” she tells the two of us. “So bad.”
“Well,” Bloch replies, “Margaret Cho doesn’t dress so well herself.”
And they said there was no Simon here.
Movie-theater mogul Sid Grauman was not a man enslaved by either subtlety or restraint. His wild premieres, first at the Egyptian Theater, which he founded in 1922, then at his Grauman’s Chinese Theater, featured everything from harem-clad dancing girls to elephant parades down Hollywood Boulevard.
So what better way to celebrate the Egyptian Theater’s 81st birthday than by contacting Sid — and, with luck, some of the departed stars who are said to be hanging around the lobby — via a live séance?
Birthday cake, wine and nauseatingly perfume-y “exotic” ice cream were set out in the Egyptian’s courtyard when I arrived at the celebration hosted by American Cinematheque, the theater’s current resident. This dubious repast was followed by a magic show with a lady fire-eater, a performing pigeon and someone doing drumrolls in a donkey outfit. It was not a pre-event even remotely worthy of Sid Grauman. You could almost hear his ghostly groans — “And they call this a SHOW?”
In the theater, a long, imposing séance table adorned with candles and an old fringe lamp took up the stage. On the big screen, a huge photo of Sid in his younger days beamed down upon the audience like the pope on Easter Sunday.
An odd, fascinating assortment of films and newsreel footage from the ’20s and ’30s got us in the mood. Then a historian took the stage to give us the news of 1922, followed by another historian, who gave a long-winded account of Sid’s career. By this time it was 11:30 p.m. and tushies were really squirming. “Sid! Sid! Sid!” someone began to chant.
At 11:35, “paranormal investigator” Michael Kouri appeared. For the next half-hour, Kouri told the audience stories about his TV appearances on The Viewand the Sci Fi Channel, his books, his childhood, his lunches with the mayor, and all the other tidbits that his mom would have thrilled to. He held up a “genuine séance trumpet,” a megaphonelike instrument that ghosts could supposedly talk through, and said it would be very useful for the evening’s proceedings.
Then he showed us what he described as “very amazing” photos of ghosts. One was of a grave at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In the foreground was a mysterious mist. In front of the mist, a hose and sprinkler were barely visible.
“That right there is ectoplasm,” Kouri announced in deep, profound tones. “That vaporous substance in front of the grave. Ectoplasm is a spirit form that may or may not take the shape of a human being. It is wet and misty to the touch.”
“It’s coming from the hose!” someone from the audience shouted.
Kouri ignored the snickers and flashed a slide with portraits of famed stars of
“There’s Gloria Swanson, who loved the Egyptian and went to all the premieres. And Rudolph Valentino, who’s said to haunt the singers’ boxes. And Rock Hudson . . . And here’s Fay Wray, who came through to me once . . .”
“She’s not dead yet!” someone yelled.
“Well, you have to be very careful with spirits,” Kouri fumbled. “You can’t always take what they say seriously. It might have been a spirit who liked Fay Wray, or who was just being mischievous.”
Then Kouri announced that we would take a break, during which everyone was free to go to a table next to the stage where he was selling his self-published books on haunted L.A. and his own “first-edition, signed” sculptures of the Sphinx (for $20 and $30) in commemoration of this eventful night.
By the time the séance got into gear, it was 12:15 a.m. and most of the audience had blown the joint. So had the spirits — Sid was not on hand, and neither was Rudy, Gloria or any other illustrious graveyard escapee. The spirit trumpet was glaringly silent.
“That Michael Kouri’s so boring, what ghost would want to show up for him?” someone near us whispered.
The evening ended with Kouri doing personal readings, à la John Edward, for the lucky $50-a-seat patrons at the table, while the rest of the audience alternated between sizzling, yawning and bolting.
Poor Michael Kouri should have known better. In life, Sid Grauman was an incorrigible practical joker, and if you’re going to conjure up a spirit, that’s the worst kind. And besides, everybody knows you can’t make spirits come when called, like dogs. They’re more like cats — they show up when they feel like it, and especially for food.
We decided that Sid was probably at Canter’s, having a pastrami sandwich, and decided to join him.
The Mensch-Making of Irv Rubin
If Irv Rubin could have planned the unveiling of his own headstone, he’d have called in regiments of reporters — even if it required a stunt or a provocation. Rubin, the in-your-face leader of the Jewish Defense League, best known for duking it out with neo-Nazis or throwing stink bombs at Russian ballerinas to protest the treatment of Soviet Jews, never missed a chance to push his agenda.