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Pacific Avenue, Pre-Mall: Car experts can tell us when this was taken. I'm guessing around 1965. Old-timers will know that's Leask's Department Store and Santa Cruz Savings on the left, where Cinema 9, Peet's and Noah's are now. We're looking almost due north, and if you really squint you can make out the old water storage tank up about where Lenz Arts is.

Bruce Bratton

WHO RUNS DOWNTOWN? Any business in the Capitola Mall or in any shopping center anywhere is required to abide by all the rules and regulations established by the mall owners. Businesses are told when to open and close, how much they'll pay for group advertising, what their share of the operation costs will be, etc. Those operating principles keep the mall successful. What I'm saying here is that the merchants, real estate operators and banks don't own or run downtown Santa Cruz; the city of Santa Cruz should be in charge. Over the past few years, we've seen merchants, developers and real estate agents appointed to or sitting on almost every city commission, board and policy-making group you can name. These people, by definition, should be recognized as having a conflict of interest on any decision affecting our downtown. Merchants come and go, real estate dealers leave town a lot and--as we have seen--banks and financial institutions change names and policies far too often. We need to realize that our downtown is under the care and management of our city government, and that it's the city's responsibility to make sure our downtown works for the entire community, not just for the next project or for some quick investment dollars. Por ejemplo, we've all read about the current crisis about the lack of office space for all these high-tech companies who want to move here. Who votes on developing those spaces or buildings? Developers, real estate agents and bank representatives? Or the people of Santa Cruz, who have to live with those decisions? More on this later.

BIG-SCREEN MOVIES. Jane Campion and Harvey Keitel made The Piano together, now they've done Holy Smoke. It is a wild, crazy, very odd film, but if you stick with it, you'll see what Campion was trying to achieve. Kate Winslet does her usual magnificent job of acting and plays off Keitel just beautifully. I'm not a big Ben Affleck fan, and combining him with Charlize Theron and Gary Senise in Reindeer Games makes the entire film a hodgepodge of plot and some terrible acting--stay away, whatever you do. Michael Douglas is good but Tobey Maguire is even better in Wonder Boys. It's a well-told story, and the plot and acting make it a fine film.

FULL-DISCLOSURE DEPARTMENT. I am now an official member of the City of Santa Cruz Downtown Commission; I took an oath, signed documents and even went to my first meeting. Another disclosure is that Cynthia Mathews, Mike Rotkin and Michael Hernandez voted against my appointment, but you could probably have guessed that. Mayor Sugar, Christopher Krohn, Katherine Beiers and Tim Fitzmaurice voted for me. I don't know the half of it yet, but so far we have just discussed the meter fees, permit fees, charging for Sunday parking in the Cedar-Locust bunker. We also heard about the possibility of a building going up on North Pacific where the old Crepe Place used to be. I'll let you know if anything else happens.

THEATER NEWS. The words been out and around a while, but in case you missed it, Shakespeare Santa Cruz is doing Love's Labour's Lost and Cymbeline in the Festival Glen, and Jean-Paul Sartre's Kean will be in the Mainstage Theatre. The other news is that Open Stage Repertory's production of The Fantasticks at the Actor's Theatre is very good. Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world: 40 years! The OSRT does a grand job, and it's being held over through March 12. "Try to Remember" and "Soon, It's Gonna Rain" have become classic songs, and hearing Ed Levy, Amy Grinder and Aaron Eppolito sing them is a real treat. Call 425.7529 for tickets before it's too late.

ABOUT CABRILLO, THE MAN. I forget that not everyone knows the truth about Cabrillo, the explorer, and why I always spell his name Cabrilho. The truth is no one knows what that the guy's real name was, just that he did sail up the California coast at least as far as the Channel Islands off Camarillo and is probably buried on one of them. He was probably from Portugal, but all birth records were lost during an earthquake. His name was probably Joao Rodrigues, not Cabrillo, a Spanish name. Some folks believe it was the nickname cabrito, or little goat, that got messed up in the records. Anyway, there is no proof or any records that Rodrigues ever saw our coastline, so why it's called Cabrillo Highway I have no idea. But they named the college after him because columnist and reporter Wally Trabing of the Sentinel suggested it. I use Cabrilho because I think it's a good idea to keep some small sense of his heritage alive. Same goes for London (not Louden) Nelson, but in London's case that just happens to be the way he spelled his name. Louden is the way somebody misread it on one letter he wrote.

CABRILHO COLLEGE THEATER. Everybody must know by now that Cabrilho College is planning on converting its existing 500-seat theater into student-service offices and building a brand-new theater of the same size right across the road. I've mentioned a few time how great it would be if the community (as in community college) could have the use of both theaters. Now I've learned that the college is short of money to build the new theater, and it hasn't even started yet. So it's doing exactly what has been the problem with so many on-campus theaters--it's eliminating features that make a performing-arts space really functional. That's exactly what happened to the Mello Center for the Performing Arts and to the Cabrilho Theater many years ago. We need some sensible advisors to step in or some advanced-thinking high-tech company to invest in this project and help the college before it's too late.

DOWNTOWN PLAZA COMMITTEE. Each City Council member appointed one member to the Downtown Plaza Task Force. The task force will meet with the city staff and look into the best way to create a functioning plaza downtown. As expected, Rotkin, Mathews and Hernandez appointed Peter Eberle of the Downtown Association, Mike Schmidt of the Chamber of Commerce and Jesse Nickell, point man for Barry Swenson Developers. These three guys have gone on record as being against the plaza, at least against the plaza being located at Pacific and Church streets. Beiers, Krohn, Sugar and Fitzmaurice appointed Carli Stevens, Anne Easley, Harriet Deck and me. It'll be an "interesting" task force.

TOPSY-TURVY AND CRADLE WILL ROCK. It doesn't look like the Nick will be able to squeeze Topsy-Turvey into its jam-packed schedule. Cradle Will Rock may be possible later, like April. The problem is with the distributors. Their demands on scheduling and availability make some films nearly impossible to screen. Theaters have to sign contracts, meet play dates and show what's available. I saw Cradle Will Rock and didn't enjoy seeing Orson Welles and John Houseman being made into almost cartoon loonies, but Ruben Blades as Diego Rivera was excellent. The local fine-film scene will change if/when the Nickelodeon opens three new screens at the old Theater 1 & 2 on Front Street.

A CULTURAL ASIDE. The Santa Cruz Chamber Players are presenting their fifth concert of the season at 8pm on Saturday (March 4) at Light and Life Church on Brommer and at 2pm on Sunday (March 5). They're playing quartets by Juan Arriaga, Johannes Brahms and the former director of the Cabrillo Music Festival, Carlos Chavez. Call 425.4149 for info and tix. Earth First! is on the radio with no-compromise news, views, poetry and music. Tune in at 96.3FM Free Radio Santa Cruz at 8pm every Thursday or anytime on the web at www.radio4all.net.


Bruce critiques films every other Thursday at 12:50pm on KUSP (88.9FM). Reach Bruce at bratton@cruzio.com or 457.9000 ext. 400

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From the March 1-8, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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