Thursday, November 20, 2008

Of late I think of Silverton

Photo: Kim Murphy / LA Times

Like the main character in the Twilight Zone episode this post title refers to, I sometimes think wistfully of my time in a small town. If you come from a small town, you live for the day when you can brag about your hometown to the Big City Folks. Make them spit out their sip of Drambuie with a tale that rocks their concrete jungle to its brittle, cementy core. For me, that day has come. While I consider myself a native of Portland, a good bulk of my childhood (and all my high school years) took place in Silverton, Ore., where the nation's first openly transgender mayor was recently elected.

Yes, the picture you see is of Stu Rasmussen (aka Carla Fung), who will take the reins of a town where "rapid development" is a bad word, but "breasts on a 60-year-old man" is old hats. Since Stu's victory, Silverton has received unprecedented media attention, stretching from Portland to Los Angeles. You might be asking how a man like Stu could be elected mayor in a small, conservative town. I would then remind you that Stu was Silverton's mayor nearly 20 years ago, except back then he wore jeans and flannel shirts, covering up what minimal cleavage he had. Stu's ascent to womanhood began slowly, occasionally adding red high heels to go with those jeans, or suddenly showing off his exquisitely painted red fingernails. So when Stu decided to add "the twins" (as he calls them) to his resume, it was met with nary a shrug to those who know the man. If you think his story sounds like a character from a Tim Burton (Amazing Larry, maybe?) or John Waters movie, you're not alone. Or maybe only a skilled monologuist could do true justice to Stu's tale.


The last time Silverton caught the nation's eye was in 1923, when Bobbie the Wonder Dog became America's favorite four-legged hero. Have you seen the Bruce Willis-Billy Bob Thornton movie Bandits? Much of the filming took place in Silverton, yet Hollywood has never again come calling. And so it has come that the national spotlight is again cast on sleepy Silverton, and as is our small town humble nature, we can only reply with "please, we serve no froie gras here, go on your merry way and let us live our lives in peace. Just because we elected to mayor a man who prefers to wear cocktail dresses that best show off his ample cleavage, does not make us any different from nearby Stayton or Mt. Angel."

Stu will make a good mayor, and I say that as someone who knew him before the breasts and makeup. I know him as the proprietor of as fine a small town movie house you could ask for. Like his father before him, Stu has run The Palace Theater in Silverton. It was once boasted to have the state's largest screen (a claim that was never independently verified), but what cannot be argued is that The Palace was always clean, with many perfectly functional seats, and the best snow cones in town. I have Stu to thank for many of my favorite theatrical experiences. It was at The Palace where I once proclaimed Under Siege to be my favorite movie of 1992, where I laughed my way through Groundhog Day, watched a friend of mine wipe tears from her face at the end of Mrs. Doubtfire and had a riot of a time taking in Event Horizon in a very loud audience.

But the movie-going moment I most have to thank Stu for is the midnight showing of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Yes, it's a terrible movie that's rightly reviled, but there was a moment in time when it seemed the whole world couldn't wait to see it, and people were waiting in line for months to get a ticket. I was resigned to the fact that I would need to make a late-night trek to Salem or Portland and wait in line for a ticket, when one day I drove past The Palace and saw the Star Wars title listed on the large marquee. "Episode 1, in Silverton?" It was true, Stu had secured the movie for opening weekend, at a theater where first-run movies usually took 2-3 weeks to arrive. Better yet, a midnight showing was planned, complete with a costume contest.

I'll never forget the collectible tickets Stu had printed up for the opening: thick blue card stock with sparkly ink (I still have my ticket buried away somewhere). The midnight showing ended up a sellout, and of course Stu was dressed up as Princess Padme. He even had the courtesy to include the trailers for the original three Star Wars before the main feature. And as I trudged out of the theater slightly in a daze over what I had just seen, I couldn't shake the smile off my face from how perfectly the evening played out. Thank you Stu, and good luck as mayor (again).

38 comments:

Burbanked said...

Hell of a story! It makes me nostalgic for my hometown oddball, a likely homeless guy named Francis who was famous for 1) carrying a purse and 2) mesmerizing large crowds at local church festivals with his dancing abilities.

I've excerpted your excellent tale today in my "From the Brains of Other Bloggers..." box on the homepage, a position of extreme prestige and celebration.

bill r. said...

He may make a good mayor, but he doesn't make a very good woman. Or a very happy woman, either. Why's he so glum??

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Ross said...

Burbanked -- Yes! I'm in!

Bill -- Check out the Portland link near the beginning, it contains a video interview with Stu -- he's a very funny guy.

Moviezzz -- He says in one of those stories that the theater is "hemorrhaging" money, so maybe the election will bring in a few more patrons.

Rob said...

I dunno, he might be considered comely to German immigrants in Mt. Angel.

elgringo said...

That's really cool. It's nice that you could have such a good night to surround such a disappointing movie. I just saw the movie like any other schmuck and we all know how that turns out...you leave the theater feeling like any other schmuck.

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