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Yes, Denny, old Ed Blahay was quite a character and a good fellow, indeed. As the manager of the Fox Redondo during the last two years of its existence, I had a close association with Ed and recall him fondly. Good-humored and never easily ruffled, Ed’s signature form and habit was his cheap glasses and seemingly fixed-in-his-mouth ever present cigarette with an inch of ashes ever ready to drop… and dropping on Ed or anything under him at the time. It is my conviction to this day that Ed worked at the Redondo, not because he couldn’t get a better gig elsewhere, (his senority and status in the union certainly permitted him to ‘bump’ himself into a newer house with far more up-to-date equipment than the Fox Redondo), but because he liked that old theatre…and me, and the fact that here he was sincerely ‘needed’. And god knows, those old 30s projectors at the Redondo needed the caring and expert hands of an old pro like Ed.
Not that Ed ever made demands on me, but I made sure he was provided with a little extra in bonuses by finding him ‘maintenance
projects’ and such. This required considerable creativity on my part, since in those days our payroll budgets were strictly, even ruthlessly controlled from home office. Whenever my district manager called me on the ‘overtime’ pay for Ed, I explained that, well… everything in that projectionist booth was from the silent era (close, but not quite) and how lucky we were to have a super projectionist like Ed to keep the show going…and the profits coming in. (The Fox Redondo, believe it or not, was for most of the time I was there the most profitable theatre in District 4). But, of course, I continued in an oily tone of voice, if Mann Theatres would rather get us some newer or more modern equipment…well, ‘overtime’ and ‘maintenance’ time for Ed could be curtailed. This is where my district manager usually changed the subject or had another call to take.
The week we ran The Godfather was, needless to say, a very busy one and I never got a chance to see the movie. Not to worry, Ed arranged a private screening one afternoon for me and my wife. It was really strange to sit there in the balcony front row-center in that big theatre all by ourselves.
It is fact…possibly a shocking fact to some, that in those days the Fox Redondo was a bit of a doper’s haven. (Some will claim, a lot of a doper’s haven; vehemently denied by management, of course). One of Ed’s chief complaints was that on some nights marijuana smoke emanating from the patrons in the upper balcony was sucked into the projectionist booth by the ventillation fans in the booth, providing Ed with a mild buzz. Ed was always good-natured about the problem, which was a vexing one for me to solve. As you know, Denny, due to the high amount of carbon monoxide produced by carbon-arc projectors, the exhaust fans in the booth must be opperating at all
times and air ‘in’ (and smoke) was through the open projection window…and under the door. We never solved the problem completely and Ed the good soul he was joked about it more than complained.
What wouldn’t I give to have a photo of long-faced, bespectacled, ashes-all-over-his-cardigan Ed Blahay. Thanks for reviving those great memories for me, Denny. But then, the Fox Redondo seems to have that effect on most who came under its spell. To this day, I thank my lucky star or guardian angel for having been part of its history and legacy. Ole Frandsen, former and last manager
To Schrader — The manager you’re talking about shutting the movie down was likely the manager I replaced. I forget his name, now, but I remember he had black hair. He committed the cardinal sin of shutting down a show on a Saturday night (any night), when as a theatre manager he ought to have known the greatest (unwritten) rule of all in show business – THE SHOW MUST GO ON!! That cost him his job. To be fair, the Fox Redondo really had gotten out of hand with crowd control at that time, and its reputation with all the other managers in the district was such that no one wanted to go there…not even assistants who were promised promotions to full
manager. Since I had done all I could with the Academy in Inglewood and was rather bored with my job there, and since the Redondo was less than five minutes from my place in Hermosa beach…and I was able to demand a decent salary increase, I volunteered to take on the Fox Redondo. It turned out to be a greater challenge than I’d imagined, but with a lot of help from some great people among my staff and you the patrons, we turned it into a great and memorable show place it was. I’m glad I came and was part of it all. O.C. Frandsen.
Thank you Ed. I appreciate knowing your name even if our paths crossed only indirectly through Mr. K. Harry was his first name, that’s right. Thank you for dusting off my cobwebbed memory board, there. You are right, how time plays tricks with our memories. It was, indeed, a crime to place a man like Mr. K. with the health problems he had in a situation such as the Academy. I was 25 at the time of my being forced to take over…yes, it was either or for me. On the first Sunday of my stint at the Aacademy, I was greeted by a riot of sorts (the place nearly always sold out on Sundays no matter what played) and where the attending mob simply decided to walk out with the cash register from the concession stand; just took it and disappeared with it. Not a thing anyone of us working there could do about it. It took me a year to bring the place under control, by methods few people will believe, now, I’m sure. Here I was, a young blond, blue-eyed wonder, totally naive in the ways of things racial…with glasses, barely 145 lbs. dripping wet, forced to wear
a tuxedo. At the Academy! The kids used to call me ‘four-eyed penguin’. “Uh-oh! Look out, here come da four-eye penguin”, I’d hear them say. No one knows about the destruction of ego until you’ve gone through an experience like that. My two years at the Academy
was a seminal experience, believe me, but in many ways also a very
positive one, since it gave me a perspective of the other side I’d never be privy to otherwise. While there, I was never harmed in any way, (this was the days of Crips, Black Panthers and US). In fact, once the community understood what I was doing and accepted me, they went out of their way to protect me and help me to make the Academy, like the Redondo, an enjoyable, fun place to attend and soak up great movie experiences. I’m please to know someone like you Ed, who knew a good man like Harry Kotsos. Ole Frandsen.
For Manwithnoname…and everyone else who are contributing so many sweet and priceless memories of what clearly was a very special place to so many people. One can only speculate upon how many more are out there who do not know about this site and may have much to say about the old Fox Redondo. (I’m the former manager, O.C. Frandsen). I want to thank and commend most sincerely Manwithnoname for being the original contributor to all this. We all thank you, I’m sure. Mr. K at the Fox Palos Verdes… You must be talking about Mr. Kotsos (I believe that is how it was spelled). I remember him very well — a most decent and pleasant fellow. I recall how he was transferred from the Palos Verdes to the Academy in Inglewood by god only knows what sort of nefarious trick by National General Theatres. A black theatre (mostly) and at the time a recipient of all of the new genre of ‘blacksploitation’ films (Shaft, Cotten Comes to Harlem, etc.) and a most difficult situation for a genteel fellow such as Mr. Kotsos. He survived there for six months before it fell to me to run the theatre; this was in early ‘69 as I recall. Manwithnoname, it would please me greatly if you could reveal your name to me. It is not likely we know one another personally, but all of us who were connected to the old Redondo in some way share at least one important common bond — that theatre, that place and the pleasure moments we received from being there. I have only one connection from those days with whom I’m still in touch — Sal, who was one of my ushers. He still lives in Redondo Beach, in the same place as then, not far from the empty lot where the Fox stood, and I’m convinced he’s never gotten over the loss of the theatre, not to mention the loss of what he considered a career, nay a calling! Bob Mauck — I don’t think I ever met your father, but I certainly recall hearing stories about him. Like so many of the old theatre managers from the golden age of film, there were some really great characters among them, your father included. Your brother Bill I do recall vaguely. He was a manager while I was still an assistant, but if memory serves me right, he managed at one time the Inglewood (the little Inglewood) in…surprisingly, Inglewood! This became the first theatre I ran as a manager in 1967. I very much look forward to seeing the photos of the Redondo (and any others, incl. your father and brother). One last note, and a nod to Moviemanforever — You were right in noting that NGC (National General Theatres) was the last to own the Redondo at its closing, not as I have claimed, Mann Theatres. It was several months later in late Spring, 1973 before Mann purchased the entire chain from NGC. (Have this confirmed from old audit reports I still have). Thanks to you all for being here. Ole Frandsen.
There now is a parking lot and a restaurant where the theatre once was.
I can’t state categorically what was behind Mann’s decision to rid themselves of the Fox Redondo, since I never was privy to all their inside communications. Believe it or not, the Fox was the most profitable (or atleast one of the most profitable) theatre in district 4 (in which there were 26). But there was some pressure from the City of Redondo Beach to, at least, paint the place to make it less of an eyesore that it was. Personally, I couldn’t argue with that. The theatre was also in need of serious repairs and I was already talking to contractors and individuals to perform
whatever was necessary to get it done, while keeping the costs
down. Mann pursued his own track, however, and the estimate he got was about a quarter of a million dollars to restore the place. A
pittance, now, but admittedly that was a healthy sum in 1972. I
could have had it done for less than $100,000. But such an investment (even the $250,000) would have given Mann a healthy return on his money, as evidenced by such jewels as the Alex in
Glendale and the Nuart in Santa Monica. In the end, the political
will just wasn’t there and Mann decided to sell the land, take the
money and run…and this was in the face of a considerable grassroots movement by the community (and my assistant manger and myself) to save the theatre. In the end, I was threatened by Mann to lay off or lose my job. (I did anyway, about six months after the closure of the Redondo, while I managed the El Portal in North Hollywood).In my opinion, it was a crime to not only close the place, but to tear it down. Everytime I drive by the place where
it once stood (and I do that yearly in spite of living in the Valley), I grieve for
the theatre and become angry for the crime committed against it and the communities
around it. O.C. Frandsen
As the manager of the Fox Redondo Theatre from late 1970 to its needless and tragic closure on Feb. 5, 1973, an act entirely to blame on Mann Theatres, it gives me great pleasure to read your stories about the place. I, too, look back with true fondness and nostalgia to that magical place and time. And it was, indeed. My staff and myself worked hard to put on great films for the public, while encouraging an atmosphere of fun and community. To this day, I have had no better job than with my involvement with the Fox Redondo and the wonderful public who patronized us at that time. Addressing you ‘Schrader’, I can’t recall the incident (about you and your cousin), but it is entirely possible it was me, or possibly my assistant, Jerry. In any event, your recollections are heart warming and remarkably accurate. The concession stand was on the right as you entered the lobby and the stairway was straight ahead, then about ten steps up splitting left and right. There was a lobby ceiling up to the stairway, and as a result it was possible only to see a small portion of the lobby from the mezzanine. I can recall that when we played Gimme Shelter and Woodstock, Mann Theatres were too cheap to put the stereo system into proper working order. (Imagine, playing rock ‘n’ roll films without stereo!) No problem, I had plenty of ushers working for me of the electronic genius kind who volunteered (more or less) to repair the system. This is what I remember best about the Redondo — the sense of community that prevailed. It was everybody’s theatre, to some a second home and we all cared deeply about it. I’m a writer, now, and I have a novel planned which revolves around the Fox and in which the theatre plays a role as a major ‘character’. Thank you all who came and contributed, as well as all the wonderful staff without whose help it would not have been possible. I gotta go now before I start crying. O.C. Frandsen
For Moviemanforever – I was the manager of the Fox Redondo in the last two years of its great life. I’m very glad to hear you enjoyed going there, since me and my staff worked hard to put on the best shows (and prints) we could get. How we managed to get the high quality prints we usually did makes quite a story, but can’t be divulged here). The utterly needless closure of this great old house was one of the sadder chapters in my life, but the blame must go entirely to Mann after he bought the National General Theatre chain. You mentioned somewhere going to the 5th Ave in Inglewood and seeing The Graduate there. That must’ve been in 1968 when I was manager, then. The 5th Ave was the best experience for me in my ten years as a theatre manager, since we showed the kind of artsy films I liked. Besides, I also had a small harem of the cutest girls to help me run the place adding to the enjoyment. If anyone has photos or knows where I can get them (I’ll be glad to pay) of the exterior and/or interior of the following theatres, I’d be most grateful — The Inglewood Theatre (Also known as The Little Inglewood) on La Brea, The Loyola in Westchester, The 5th Avenue, Inglewood, The Academy Theatre, Inglewood, The Fox Redondo, Redondo Beach and the El Portal in North Hollywood. My name is O.C. Frandsen