Sunday 19 June 2011

Tristan Fry is not my dad.

Ah, there you are, I’m so glad you came back! Have you been queuing long? Anyway here we are outside the New Victoria cinema in Wilton Road SW1 - but then you knew that already otherwise you’d be around the corner at the Metropole, or the Biograph, or maybe even the Cartoon Cinema in the station (see previous blog if you’re just joining the back of the queue).
So we’re here today to see a double-bill of ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’ coupled with a film whose title, along with the entirety of the plot, sadly escapes me. All I can remember about this second feature is that there was a scene set in a large dusty yard involving numerous cars circling around and around (accompanied by large clouds of dust). Title anyone? Answers on a postcard please and the first correct one pulled from the hat gets a free box of popcorn (or a packet of toffee Butterkist, Butterkist, rah rah remember how that old cinema advert went don’t you – or did I imagine it in the haze of some Orange Kia-Ora*and wine gum-fuelled hallucination?).
But I digress, it’s a habit of mine and one I’m afraid you’ll just have to get used to if we are going to remain friends. Anyway it’s 1973, I’m 5 years old, and I’m admiring the cheap ring on my finger which my mum has just bought me from Woolworths (aka ‘Woolies) just along the road. I have no idea why I wanted this cheap piece of costume jewellery, so please don’t read anything whatsoever into this nugget of detail. In fact this tiny insignificant piece of metal is destined to play no further part in this blog as I drop it down between the seats in the circle of the New Victoria before the house lights dimmed that day whereby it disappears forever – a bit like Woolworths. Now this particular Woolworths closed some years before the ‘great collapse’ towards the end of 2008. The pain that was felt across the country when the lights finally went out in every remaining store was nothing compared to the hammer blow to the heart when our local branch shut up shop forever. Practically everything I’d ever owned in those formative years had come from the shelves of that fine establishment. (For years after its closure I looked upon the Edgware Road with pure jealousy as it still had its Woolies - back then it also boasted the largest cinema screen in the country at its delta on Marble Arch). Today on Edgware Road where once there was Woolworths there’s now a Waitrose and the once magnificent Odeon Marble Arch is now a giant rabbit warren made up of 5 hutches. There’s an Argos and a Wetherspoon’s public house on the site of MY Woolies these days, whilst the New Victoria is now the Apollo Victoria Theatre and is home to the musical ‘Wicked’ (which in my opinion it most certainly isn’t - to use the vernacular of the young people of today). 
So there I am watching in awe as Ray Harryhausen’s wonderful stop-motion creatures battle with Sinbad (whilst no doubt secretly wishing the creatures would win – you see the signs were there already), and mourning the loss of my Woolies ring, in the splendour of the New Victoria cinema. ‘My precious...’
The New Victoria stopped being a cinema on 1st November 1975 with the last show comprising a double bill of ‘Legend of the Werewolf’ and ‘Vampire Circus’ (a pretty darn good programme if you ask me and one I’d have swapped my best Pocketeer** to sneak into).
Since that afternoon of Sinbad and lost jewellery I can recall only two further visits to the New Victoria since its retirement from cinematic delights. Once to see ‘Wicked’ the musical, and before that sometime around 1980 to see the classical/rock hybrid band Sky give a matinee performance for schoolchildren. It was my first ever concert and I loved everything about it, well nearly everything, I did object to this older boy from another school constantly whispering to me that Sky’s drummer was my dad. 
The man on the far right is NOT my father.
Admittedly we did both sport large rimmed glasses nestling on fat chubby cheeks framed by a large mop of unruly hair. But apart from that me and Tristan Fry (drums, percussion and occasional trumpet) had absolutely nothing else in common that afternoon (apart from maybe both of us having beaming grins on our faces: Tristan’s from the sheer joy of beating the crap out of that drum kit during the solo from ‘Hotta’, and me from watching him do so with such infectious enthusiasm).
Now, as we exit the cinema and head back out onto Victoria Street, (or Vauxhall Bridge Road if both exits are open), what shall we go and see together next? On yes, how about that new film opening at the Metropole...?
 (*Please be advised that Kia Ora is too orangery for crows, it’s just for me and my dog.)
(**Pocketeers were hand-held mechanical games of skill which pre-dated video games.)