Thursday, August 3, 2006
The Golden State Theatre celebrates a colorful history with its former staff.
When people needed to discuss politics with the mayor of Monterey back in 1959, they headed down to the projectionist booth at the Golden State Theatre. There, every day from noon to suppertime, Mayor Shedo “Buck” Russo would be in the small green room working his day job as projectionist for the Alvarado movie house.
During his stint as mayor from 1959 to 1961, local politicians like Fred Farr and Peter Coniglio dropped in to discuss affairs while Russo switched movie reels five times per picture.
On the days the tiny chamber was not filled with the area’s movers and shakers, Russo could be found hunched over a radio listening to the San Francisco Giants’ baseball games.
Russo was not the only member of his family to be employed at the theater. At one time, Russo’s three sons, Jack, Jim and Tom, also worked as projectionists at the Golden State.
Despite being a longtime politician—Russo was a city councilman for 18 years before becoming mayor—his son Jim says that his father thought he did his greatest work as a production assistant for all the movies filmed in the area up to 1960. Though not a movie buff, Russo’s favorite film was the 1941 Gary Cooper movie Sergeant York, which he worked on while the WWI flick was filmed locally.
This Sunday, Russo, who passed away in 1970, will be one of many Golden State Theatre employees evoked—including a number of alumni present for the event—when the venue honors and relates stories about folks who worked there between 1926 and 1976. It’s all part of an 80th birthday celebration that includes an orchestra, the Mighty Wurlitzer, and a family of memories.
The Golden State Theatre’s Birthday Party Celebration, which includes a screening of the 1928 silent film Steamboat Bill, Jr. accompanied by a live 30-piece orchestra, takes place Sunday at 7pm. $20/general admission; $16/Golden State Theatre Society members. 372-4555.