by Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci
My very first moviegoing experience turned out to be simply a warm-up, a dry run: I was about five years old, and I went to the Interboro Theater in the Bronx, where our family lived at the time, to see The Sound of Music (1965). It would have been great, except that I was still afraid of the dark back then, and I cried my eyes out until my dad came to pick me up during the intermission! Luckily, that was only a dry run.
Five years later, I’d conquered my fear of the dark, and now I was a worldly lass of ten who’d discovered the joys of Walt Disney movies. I’d lived in New York City for most of my life, mostly moving back and forth between Manhattan and the Bronx over the years. That changed when my husband Vinnie and I got married, and our daughter Siobhan was born in 1996, and we eventually moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania to follow the job Vinnie had at the time. When we lived in NYC, it was easy to see then-new, now-classic films for the first time in great movie theaters like the Coronet, the Baronet, the Criterion, our beloved Ziegfeld Theatre, and many revival movie houses, even if some of them ended up chopped into multiplexes later on. Still, what a treat it was to have those kind of movies and theaters readily accessible!
My mom was a savvy city girl herself, and she knew my tenth birthday called for something special. We decided to put together a small but meaningful guest list, with a nice mix of my favorite friends and cousins, six of them in all. Mom took us to New York City for a very special treat: a matinee of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940) at Radio City Music Hall (RCMH), with the Rockettes dancing and everything! Fair Warning: Much to my consternation, I can’t find the photos of us girls for love or money (no doubt they’ll turn up the minute I no longer need them—oy!), so I’m afraid you’ll just have to bear with me and take my word for it. But at least we have pictures of RCMH and the Horn & Hardart (more about that momentarily)!
Since I was a candy fiend at the time, normally my attention would have been focused on the candy counter, but as we all entered RCMH’s beautiful mammoth theater, the elegance of the place had all of us happily gobsmacked. Even the restrooms were gorgeous! Not that we didn’t get a sensible amount of soda and candy, but Mom reminded us we’d be having lunch afterward, so she wouldn’t let us go overboard with the goodies. With its stunning Art Deco design, RCMH was like a cathedral for movie lovers. Soon the movie began, accompanied by our host/commentator Deems Taylor’s droll but friendly introductions to the music of Tchaikovsky. (Vinnie and I were delighted when our daughter Siobhan fell in love with the Nutcracker Suite in first grade, and still loves it today!)
It was the first visit to RCMH for some of us girls. One of my young friends, Jennifer from New Rochelle, was so amazed to be there, she felt like she’d beamed in from a whole different planet, but in a good way. It was certainly the first time a couple of the girls had ever seen Fantasia, or heard any classical music, for that matter. Just watching the moving colors along with the beautiful classical music selections was a treat in itself, especially with the accompaniment of classic Disney animation. I think it might well have been the first time I’d heard Fantasia’s take on Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (love those adorable scurrying mushrooms!), or Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Joann Sebastian Bach, with its graceful, playful fairy imagery.
With The Sorceror’s Apprentice, we were laughing out loud over Mickey Mouse falling asleep at the switch while the magical brooms went forth and multiplied, making us increasingly nervous when Mickey’s broken broom morphed into countless brooms and enough pails of water to drown a mouse! We couldn’t resist the frolicking yet tasteful young centaurs and centaurettes in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, doing kind of a classical, clean-cut Bacchanal (complete with a good-naturedly inebriated Baccus!), doing kind of a mythological spring break. The dinosaurs in Rite of Spring were a hit with a group of Boy Scouts sitting farther down the aisle, with all the cool prehistoric beasties. The boys also enjoyed Mussorgsky’s dramatic, majestic Night on Bald Mountain, with (we later learned) a rotoscoped Bela Lugosi as the demon Chernabog, though Mom was quite moved by Ave Maria. I’ll admit the favorite of us girls was Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours with hippo, ostriches, and alligators turning the whole thing into a delightful farce worthy of The Marx Brothers!
But the fun didn’t stop there. We had lunch in the Horn & Hardart Automat. Mom had been used to it from working in Manhattan herself, so to her it was no big deal, but when she saw we girls were getting a kick out of the little glass cases with sandwiches, salads, and tasty slices of cake waiting to be devoured, she got into the spirit of the thing. We even got candles to put on our slices of vanilla and chocolate cake! Now that’s what I call a cool New York birthday! (Granted, I’ve always been notoriously easy to please!)
Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci, who writes fiction as “Dorian Tenore” to give the world’s typesetters a break, has served as Communications Director for the sales/leadership coaching firm Performance Based Results. She was a researcher for renowned author David Hajdu’s books Positively 4th Street and The Ten-Cent Plague (2008). A native New Yorker who has been living in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 2001, Dorian has a fifteen-year-old daughter, Siobhan, and she’s happily married to fellow blogger Vinnie Bartilucci (Is That Really Desirable? and The Forty-Year-Old Fanboy). She is currently polishing two of her comedy-thriller novels with ghost editor Nicole Bokat, and she writes about suspense movies and fiction on her blog Tales of the Easily Distracted.