When I was in High
School, one of my friends and I decided to drive over from Richmond,
Kentucky to go to a movie at The Kentucky. We got into his van and put
on an 8 track, were cruising along, and I was sitting on the shag carpet.
We got to Lexington, pulled up to The Kentucky, and we were about an
hour early. We thought, why don't we just go on in . . . there is no
point driving back to Richmond.
A long time went
by and we were the only ones in the theatre. It was dark and then the
crowd started coming in. It was mostly a transvestite crowd coming in
and growing up in Richmond, Kentucky, I don't think I'd ever seen a
transvestite before. There were hundreds coming into the Kentucky Theatre.
We were sitting in the very middle of the theatre and they put on that
Jon Water's film, Woman Trouble. That was a really interesting film
and I think my friend and I looked at each other quizzically and then
about half way through the movie, we just got up and we left.
We got into the
van and drove back and we didn't really talk about it much. But, I think
it was an experience that completely altered my perception of what people
could be and who they could be, having been surrounded by transvestites,
and never having seen them before it gave me a new sense of the breadth
of what human beings can be. I think the Jon Water's film was part of
that too, but it was an experience that only The Kentucky Theatre would
have provided here in Lexington. It was an experience that just completely
altered the way I perceived human society.
Just after I was
separated from my wife, there was a time of real loneliness and I used
to come to The Kentucky Theatre a lot. The day before Christmas I came
to The Kentucky Theatre and ran into a person here who I had met on
several occasions. I ended up sitting with her and her daughter. On
my way out she invited me to a New Year's Eve party and that was my
first romance after my divorce.
My favorite memories
of The Kentucky go back to the old version of The Kentucky, back in
college and we would road trip up from Danville, invariably getting
lost downtown, sometimes in unsavory neighborhoods, being scared and
sometimes not making it to the movie. That was back in the days when
we would come up for things like Sid and Nancy. Every college dorm room
had The Kentucky Theatre calendar taped on the fridge, taped to walls,
closets, and that was a big part of our social life.
And for us coming to the big city and seeing art house films, we just
thought we were the last word on sophistication. After I grew up and
moved here, I never took it for granted because it was gone for a while.
My most exciting memories are when I was 18 and 19 and driving up here.
When the Kentucky
was trying to reopen, they were trying to raise money. One of the things
they did is they sold name-plates you could put on the back of your
I don't know about
other people, but I always sat in the same seat. It was on the right
hand aisle and about 8 rows back, one or two seats in. I bought a nameplate
for the seats. I can't remember how much it was, but it was a lot of
money at the time. So instead of me and my partner each buying a seat
name, we chose one seat with nicknames. We kind of made the names up
a little bit, "Nookiehead-Nookiesick".
My partner was traveling
in Asia quite a bit at the time and we were separated. We would talk
about being 'nookiesick' as a way of missing somebody, and 'nookiehead'
was a nickname. Anyway, somebody stole the nameplate off the seat. That
was pretty bad. You go to sit in your seat, but now, our name was stolen.
One night, on my
birthday, I had smuggled in a couple of 5ths of Andre Cold Duck champagne.
I was sitting down in the fourth or fifth row. After the lights went
off, I popped the cork and the cork went up and ricocheted off the screen
and made this awful noise. Next thing you know, I'm turning the bottle
up and then there is this flashlight shining off the green bottle that
I'm holding. This guy says, "Hey, hey you!" And I go, "I'm
dead now". He says, "Hey you, quit popping corks in here!"
And that was it. I went ahead and drank my champagne on my birthday.
Actually I can't
stand this place. I mean, look at it. It is so pretentious. All this
gilded stuff and gold paint. They should chop it up into little boxes
and show action movies where you can see car crashes.
I don't get the
stuff they have here. It is for phony intellectuals and liberals.
It was one afternoon
and it was a double feature. We were with friends and we brought a thermos
of whiskey sours and another thermos of scotch. It was a wonderful afternoon.
It hurts to come
out in the sunshine after you have had so much pleasure in the dark;
watching good movies with friends.
-Helen and David Burg
My husband and I
had our first date here at The Kentucky Theatre. We came to see Wickerman.
As the family grew, we had no TV, so this was their entertainment. The
children came down from the time they were very little. I think my son
was 4 days old when he came to his first movie. They grew up knowing
how to watch a movie and a lot of times they were the only children
in the audience. It was the only way to introduce them to international
films; things that made them think and we could discuss.
My earliest memories
of coming to The Kentucky Theatre would be when Lexington's downtown
was the place to be in Lexington. It was in the early 60s. There weren't
any outlining shopping centers as there are now. On Friday nights, Saturday
night, the streets were just packed with people going in and out of
stores, restaurants, and the theatres. We would come for those big events,
the big event movies, like when Cleopatra was released.
The Kentucky Theatre
is a treasure for Lexington because it represents an era which is certainly
bygone. It is certainly bygone. You come in here and you see it. It
is such an architectural gem. It is a place where you can come and see
a film and not movies.
The difference between
a film and a movie is a film has something to say; it is important in
your life and speaks to you. A movie is a 90-minute mind candy. There
is nothing wrong with mind candy. But, as a child you like your sweets
and your mama wants you to have your vegetables and grow up. As an adult
you want something that is going to speak to your soul and not your
funny bone, or something that is going to last for more than a second
and be gone.
The Kentucky Theatre
is a temple for that, a religious experience for that. It has the same
atmosphere. You come in these beautiful doors and you have this beautiful
marble lobby and there is this aroma of popcorn, which is like the aroma
of incense at church. They open these great doors and you take your
seat and the curtains open and the music swells and these beautiful
people who are basically Gods to us, because they represent this new
mythology of America, which is what cinema really is, it is telling
all our myths in a new form and there they are.
One of my great
experiences was when you guys showed Beyond the Border. I had been going
to The Kentucky Theatre for 10 years, and that day there was an incredibly
diverse audience. There was a mariachi singing and it was an incredible
experience in this theatre. Always, when you get people together, good
I grew up in India
before the advent, not the invention, the advent of television and video.
So, for me growing up, when it came to entertainment it was, do you
want to go the moves, do you want to go to the movies, or do you want
to go to the movies? That was the only choice and movies were a big
deal to us. Movies and movie theatres had great names like The Regal
and The Globe and The New Empire and they were big edifices with marble
and inlay and velvet seats. It was really an occasion. You dressed up,
you had uniformed ushers seeing you to your seats, the manager was always
in the lobby, and it was a big deal.
So when I first
came to this country in '77, I remember the first time I went to the
movies with friends in college, and I was horrified. We went into this
sort of shoebox, and in it was this little postage stamp thingy hanging
on the wall, which was apparently the screen. I think the movie was
The Goodbye Girl and I think that is where my deep seeded hatred of
Richard Dreyfus came from. I was so disappointed.
And then a little
while later, I remember being on Main Street. It was very cold. I was
waiting for a bus to take me home and off to college and looking up
and seeing the marquee of The Kentucky Theatre and it was playing Wild
Strawberries. I thought, "I've got to see this!" And I thought,
"Bus fare or movie ticket?" So, the movie won of course. I
came here and it was amazing. It was a sense of "This is it".
This is how movies should be. It was like being home.