Midwest Regional Somewhere In Time  



Fans gathered on Saturday, June 21, 1997 at the beautifully preserved Gateway Theatre in Chicago, for the Somewhere In Time Celebration, which was, by all accounts, an overwhelming success. Well over 200 fans from as far away as Washington State, California, New Jersey, and New York, attended the 10-hour gala, the vast majority of whom had never been to an INSITE event.

Even before the doors opened at noon, fans were lined up at the front entrance of the Gateway, already dressed in their vintage apparel. As they entered the magnificent lobby, they were treated to an array of memorabilia available for purchase, Jo Addie's personal collection from her days as an extra on the film, and a computer for fans to surf the Official Somewhere In Time Website. An added treat was the opportunity to see Christopher Reeve's brown bowler hat from the film, which INSITE member Ron Krueger had purchased at auction. He also displayed his collection of Maude Adams and Titanic memorabilia. In addition, attendees could also vote on their favorite 1912-era clothing sketches, designed by students in INSITE member Jacqui DeRosa's class at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design.

Perhaps 80% of the guests had chosen to wear their vintage finery and, as a result, the lobby was filled with time travelers in their hats, dresses, top hats and cutaways! It was delightful to look at, added so much to the day and so reminiscent of our weekends at the Grand! As they were browsing through the lobby, attendees also nibbled on the wonderful gourmet box lunches that were provided by LaBelle Gourmet. They received a trio of demi sandwiches: a marinated breast of grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato and three mustard sauce on a fresh baked wheat roll; melt-in-your-mouth roast beef with lettuce, tomato and LaBelle mustard on a fresh mini croissant; and sliced turkey breast with spiced cranberry chutney, cream cheese, grated carrot and leaf lettuce on Bavarian black bread. Guests also received two wonderful salads: a broccoli medley (broccoli with raisins, carrots, bacon and peanuts, with a slightly sweetened sauce) and a dill mustard potato salad (new red potatoes with celery, onions and fresh dill). The desert trio consisted of a lemon bar, a chocolate chip cookie and a chocolate-dipped peanut butter cookie. It was an impressive lunch and a delicious way to celebrate SIT! A dining room off the lobby was decorated with Jo's private collection of foreign SIT posters and neat pocket watch centerpieces on the tables.

After lunch, it was time to adjourn to the theatre to start the festivities. Once inside the actual theatre, it wasn't hard to see why the Addies fell in love with the setting. The Art Deco theatre was built in 1930 with an Italian Baroque theme. The stage has a beautifully ornate proscenium arch, and the sidewalls were designed as nighttime garden courtyards with statuary. The main floor seats 1500, or guests could choose to ascend the sweeping staircase to the 500 seat balcony for a spectacular view. Even the ceiling was decorated, boasting twinkling stars and actual drifting clouds. This was the perfect place to show our film!

Jo Addie began by making a few announcements and introducing our celebrity guests for the day: Paul Cook ("Dr. Hull"), Sean Hayden ("Young Arthur"), David Hull ("Hotel Manager"), Hal Frank ("Stage Manager"), and Stan Adams (Christopher Reeve's Chicago Stand-In). We would have the opportunity to hear from them later on during the Celebrity Panel Discussion. Jo explained how Bill Shepard founded INSITE back in 1990 and praised Bill for not only his impressive quarterly newsletter, but for having created the definitive item of memorabilia on SIT, his book, "The Somewhere In Time Story", chronicling the making of our favorite film from its inspiration for the novel to post-production and beyond.

The afternoon was designed to focus primarily on our beloved star, Christopher Reeve. Jo had promised a few surprises not billed in the promotional material for the celebration, and we were delighted when her first surprise was showing eight minutes of video clips from Chris' Walk of Fame dedication ceremony. This sneak preview really touched the heartstrings of the audience when they learned of INSITE's public and permanent tribute to Chris's career and humanitarian achievements thus far. They rewarded INSITE's efforts on this project with thunderous applause (watch the INSITE newsletter for the availability of the final edited video in the fall). Another thoughtful gesture was our ability to contribute to the Reeve-Irvine Foundation for Spinal Cord Research; contributions were collected in the lobby throughout the day.

Fans were then treated to the first public showing of the Addie's 2-hour documentary video "Christopher Reeve Returns to Mackinac", up until now only available by mail order and a perfect way to feel like one had attended that unforgettable weekend. Since many had never seen the video, they were utterly enchanted by Chris' personality and warmth when he joined us for the SIT weekend festivities in October of 1994. The Addies quality video made guests feel almost as if Chris had been among them. The video is an impressive, intimate look into this dynamic and genuine star.

Following the video, INSITE'rs Steve and Kristin Ellis hosted their delightful Trivia Contest which, in some cases, pitted celebrity guests against fans! It was fun to see 11-year-old Shane Addie "one-up" SIT star Sean Hayden on a question about Izzy Mankofsky! (In case you wondered, the question was "What was Izzy's title?" Correct answer: Cinematographer, not Cameraman, as Sean volunteered!) In the end, the winners were trivia experts Pam Ellis, Mike Zibrun and Jeannie Glover.

It was then time for the Celebrity Panel Discussion. We learned many new things about the making of our favorite film, since this was the first time three of the celebrities had attended an INSITE event, so we were treated to first-hand accounts from newly-found celebrity guests. David Hull, who had kept his "Call Sheets" all these years, shared some of the details from these fascinating pages. Delivered to the actors and crew each day by being slid under their doors, the call sheets would describe the entire next day - what scenes would be filmed, which script pages, who would be working, their time to arrive, the lunch location, wardrobe, props, even the weather. They offer a glimpse into the organization behind filmmaking and crystallize any given day on the set, like it was yesterday.

Hal Frank shared a delightful story about Jeannot Szwarc directing both Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer in the same scene. When he said "Chris", both men replied "Yes?" He commented that this would never do, so he consulted with producer Stephen Deutsch, and together they decided that from now on, Christopher Plummer would be known as "Mr. Plummer", and Christopher Reeve would be known as "Bigfoot"!!

Hal Frank, David Hull, Stan Adams, and Paul Cook share their fond memories of making SIT during the Celebrity Panel Discussion

Reeve's stand-in Stan Adams recalled the day they filmed the library scene on the south side of Chicago and how neighborhood children literally climbed up the outside walls of the building to peer into the windows and call out to "Superman!" Even after being advised against it, Chris still took it upon himself to go outside and offer the kids autographs if they cooperated long enough for the scene to be completed. At that point, they all scattered, running home to get pen and paper. Once the scene was done, the police had lined up the children in an orderly fashion on the sidewalk, and true to his word, Chris then spent the next hour and a half signing autographs and giving hugs to all.

SIT extra Jo Addie told the story of her memorable Sunday off from filming, spent with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve when Chris flew them to Petoskey to go bowling. It seems once the bowling alley staff became aware of who they were, they paged "Superman to come to the phone booth"! And while stopping by a roadside fruit stand, Jane introduced Jo to the wonderful taste of black cherries, something Jo remembers every time she eats them today. After the panel discussion, fans had the opportunity to meet the celebrity guests personally, who graciously signed their programs and posed for pictures.

By evening, the fans were getting truly excited about what was to occur, the showing of Somewhere In Time on the big screen in all its wonderful 35mm splendor! A show of hands proved that the majority of them had never seen it in this format. First, Peter Franks raffled off one of his Grand Hotel music boxes to Richard and Patricia Leja from Berwyn, Illinois, and Jo Addie awarded several door prizes to lucky attendees. Jo read a delightful statement written by INSITE founder Bill Shepard who could not attend, as well as a moving poem by Allan Busst, INSITE member from England who, having been inspired by Chris' courage and determination, hoped to inspire the audience to contribute to spinal cord research.

What next occurred struck a romantic chord in all of us. Jo seemed genuinely surprised when Jim strode onto the stage and nudged her away from the podium to give a short speech recognizing Jo's efforts in planning the event. "Only two people in this auditorium know the amount of energy and effort required to plan and execute this Celebration", said Jim, and then their son, Shane, presented Jo with a lovely spray of yellow roses and blue irises. Their affectionate glances, and Jim and Jo's lingering kiss inspired spontaneous applause from the audience.

The next of Jo's planned surprises for the day was a total hit with the audience. The Gateway Theatre's own Jay Warren, a silent film master accompanist, conducted a 1912-era sing-a-long on the Gateway's grand pipe organ, which rose up from a well at the side of the stage. It was wonderful singing some of the same songs we hear in Somewhere In Time to the music of this marvelous instrument! The words were thoughtfully displayed for us to easily follow along. The mood was then set when Jay played the movie's theme to Ron Krueger's lovely presentation of his antique glass slides, all hand-painted from the turn of the century, and depicting elegant romantic scenes, many of which were reminiscent of the film (couples in a rowboat, by a gazebo, spooning by the shore). The stage was now set. After this wonderful prelude, the film began and fulfilled everyone's expectations.

This was the first big screen showing of Somewhere In Time in Chicago since its release in 1980. In fact, a surprising 50 people walked in for the movie-only ticket option. For a number of those, it was the first time ever viewing the film! They had read a marvelous article about the film and INSITE, published by the Chicago Tribune on June 4th prior to the event, which had described so well the feelings people have for the film, that they felt they just had to experience it for themselves. INSITE members across the country were accurately quoted in the article, highlighting the reasons they're so fond of the film. The article also mentioned the appalling lack of this classic romantic genre, conspicuously absent from Hollywood's offerings today, causing a vast number of the adult population to virtually give up going to theatres.

Guests streaming out afterwards were treated to chocolates and lemonade, many expressing their wish that the evening never end! One guest commented that if she had this much fun in one day, imagine what it would be like for an entire weekend at the Grand! My thanks to Jo and Jim Addie, without whom none of this would have been possible, to our celebrity guests for their marvelous contributions, also to Joe Miklos, Cheryl Abel, Roger St. Louis, Sue Addie, and Ernie & Janet Knobloch for the valuable contributions of their time, and to all the attendees to whom I wish "come back to me"! I hope to see all of you in October!

Event Epilogue from Jo Addie

I am delighted to say that The Midwest Regional Somewhere In Time Celebration was, by all reports, a rousing success. Over the years our video customers who have been unable to attend the marvelous Somewhere In Time Weekends at Mackinac and the 15th Anniversary Celebration of SIT in LA have written to us, thanking us profusely for making the edited videos of these events available so that they could "catch up", and get a full taste of them, even feel like they were there. Their letters are full of emotion and we have kept them all--the stack is about one inch thick! The Grand Hotel Weekend is phenomenal, guaranteed to provide memories for a lifetime, however, they are costly, and thereby eliminate many SIT fans from making the journey. I conceived the notion of offering a day honoring and celebrating SIT in a convenient Midwest location, where we would do many of the same activities we do at the Grand, yet the cost would be very reasonable, thought this would be a welcome opportunity for INSITE members.

I set out to find a good location for the affair, and was beside myself with joy to find available for rent, the Gateway Theatre/Copernicus Center, a fabulous 1930 Art Deco movie palace in Chicago, in impressive, restored condition. Compared to the architecturally devoid cracker box theatres of today, its enormous size alone is a rarely experienced treat. Just the atmosphere I had hoped for! The theatre had been in danger of being torn down, like most of its lost brethren, but was bought in the mid-eighties by the Chicago Polish Heritage Society, and while they had plans to totally revamp and subdivide its interior, local outrage caused them to stop their planned changes at Phase 1, where the enormous vertical Gateway marquee was removed and a portion of the lobby was converted into a three story office facility with a clock tower, and new facade of stucco. The Gateway is used only occasionally for movies, mostly foreign films, and is rented by various special interest and ethnic groups for its stage and convention capabilities. The manager of the theatre listened with great enthusiasm when I described the concept, even though he was not personally familiar with SIT. I booked the facility in mid-December, 1996.

This event was the biggest challenge I've ever undertaken. (I had coordinated the 15th Anniversary Celebration of SIT in LA in '95, which was tough, due to the long distance logistics, but I also enjoyed the assistance of others who were able to help with much of the work.) I was inspired to do it after attending a terrific all day motivational seminar in September, offered by Peter Lowe in major cities nationwide--the same series of seminars at which Christopher Reeve is speaking, (although I was disappointed that he wasn't able to make the one in Chicago I attended, as he had initially planned). Jim and I are both self-employed and we knew we'd benefit from a "kick in the pants". All day long top speakers encouraged us to set goals and go for them...I had been pondering this event idea for some time, and I suddenly began to feel like 'the little engine that could', saying, "I think I can...I think I can". I decided it was worth pursuing, and resolved to invest whatever it would take to achieve it. Because I was flying solo on this one, it was an enormous project, requiring months of daily work, particularly in planning and executing an ambitious promotional campaign. The only thing that surprised me was the lack of response on the part of INSITE members, past and present. In fact, over 85% of the attendees of the Chicago Celebration were brand new people--fans who "came out of the woodwork" by the publicity I was able to generate, in both newspapers and radio. The Chicago Tribune did a fantastic lengthy article about SIT's appeal, including two photos, and with accurate quotes and sensitivity, described the feelings of devotion of ardent INSITE members, and I will be forever grateful for this wonderful coverage. My phone did not stop ringing for several days. Not everyone who called could attend the event, but it confirmed once again Somewhere In Time is the "favorite movie" of a great number of people, and that 50% of them are men. And there were several callers who had never seen the movie, but related to the feelings described, and the void of such quality entertainment and were planning to rent it.

There were times I was on an emotional roller coaster, yet even in the low spots, thinking of Chris and his example of determination would always edify me. For the most part, the planning of each facet of our special day went remarkably well, and even though I didn't know exactly how many people would attend until nearly the last minute, I felt confident that everyone who would attend would have a wonderful time. But the enthusiastic response from attendees completely overwhelmed me...their unbridled excitement and heartfelt expressions of joy throughout the day...their staying late to have a moment to personally express their gratitude to me--and then I was receiving thank-you notes for over two weeks afterward! I feel truly blessed to have put on a party for so many warm and gracious people - Somewhere In Time truly attracts a distinctively caring, courteous and refreshing bunch of folks, of all ages!

I know that some people who plan big affairs such as this one, often feel a huge letdown after the event has passed. After all, you devote all your thought, energy and attention to all the myriad details for weeks on end, and in a matter of hours, it's all over. But I'm pleased to say that I have experienced only an overall sense of Satisfaction. I learned a great deal. And I'll also say, if YOU have a goal, let yourself be challenged, and go for it! See what you can achieve when you set your mind to it! I thank each and every one of you who attended our Chicago Somewhere In Time Celebration. Your support was the icing on the cake for me, and the memories of this adventure will be with me for a long time to come.