Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our simple New Year's wish is for peace on the planet

Young boys play peacefully in many parts of the Middle East. Here, Christian, Jewish and Muslim pals mingle.  
Hatred is not part of the DNA.  As the Richard Rodgers song says, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."

Middle East photo essay echoes John Lennon's lyric to give peace a chance

A colorful group of Muslim girls poses for Keller in a Cairo mosque.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
  
Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, is-m, is-m, is-m.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.

-- John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance"
Cookie contemplates the beauty
at the historic Western Wall.

IN A YEAR that saw slaughter in Syria and Sudan, terrorist horrors and natural disasters, two prominent peacemakers also made news. Pope Francis entered the international spotlight and Nelson Mandella left us. Men of humility, action and peace.
Paying homage to these two great leaders, we cast our vote with John Lennon for peace on the planet.
Our friend Josh Wickman enjoys the Dead Sea with Keller.
We're postponing our promised paella recipe and New Orleans blogs to ring in 2014 with a plea for understanding through these travel photos.
WE CHOSE them because they augment our belief that humanity's common thread is a longing for peace.  In the past months, we've met, traveled with, dined and danced with Jews and Muslims, 
Baptism in the historic Sea of Galilee brings peace to believers.
atheists and Christians.  We treasure our friends of diverse camps and cultures.
DESPITE THEIR philosophical differences, they share important yearnings:  the desire to live in brotherhood, to build a good and safe life for their children, to provide adequate food and shelter, to have time for personal enrichment -- to read, travel, contemplate, pursue the arts.
WE SALUTE FRIENDS in Cairo and Tel Aviv, Rio and Moscow, Rome, Singapore, Lisbon, Barcelona, Butte. They work hard to enjoy a holiday, visit a museum or aquarium, take in a play, concert, hike or sail. We humans must revive, feed our souls, play the piano, watch a bird, pet a dog, plant a tree.
AS OUR PHOTOS do the talking, we add our humble message: Peace. Peace. Peace. Give peace a chance. Happy, healthy and peaceful 2014!

Here's to a safe, travel filled and peaceful 2014,
as Cookie and Keller salute you from Jerusalem.
COMING UP: Thanks for the encouraging messages about our blogs.  You particularly like the travel, hotel and cruise pointers. We'll pay attention.  If you feel this New Year's photo essay is worthy, please share it with friends, adding your own wish for peace on the planet. 
Next up: our favorite paella recipe, cruising the Canary Islands and New Orleans on New Year's, with jazz and cajun cooking. Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at: www.whereiscookie.com

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Food glorious food, Spanish style, means sharing, savoring


Chef Carlos Montero's paella for his sweetheart Gloria's birthday features a seafood medley.

SPAIN TAKES EATING TO NEW LEVELS OF DELIGHT,  SOCIALIZING  


Keller prepares to partake of fish stew in eastern Spain. 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Carlos Montero helps friend and fellow cook Pam Kaufmann serve peach tart.
Paella is a splendid main course, it needs only salad, bread, dessert.
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE FRENCH  have long said they live to eat, while their British counterparts eat to live.
The Spanish do both -- they live large and with passion, and they integrate eating into their lives with the greatest of ease.
Whether propping themselves up in bars to munch on a meal of tapas, or lingering over a delicately prepared feast with friends and  family, the Spanish dine with style and gusto.
THE SPANISH meal involves much theater, along with swapping stories, telling jokes, gathering the generations and neighbors to celebrate life -- and one of its greatest pleasures, eating!
++
AROUND THE GLOBE, food brings people together. In Spain, food means feeding the complete person --so music is an essential component, too.  In Spain, perhaps more than any country of the many we've visited, music is food for the soul.  A Barcelona friend told me, "When we get together for a meal, it's a meal for all the senses --  your Thanksgiving and Fourth of July combined!  And we do it every weekend of the year!"
Jesus Soriano, right, is an accomplished classical guitarist and fine
  paella chef.  Here he sings with Keller at Costa Brava, San Diego.
In a Spanish meal, each course is lovingly served and the pride in preparation is excelled only by the pride in presentation and serving.
BECAUSE THE Spanish are proud of their knowledge of food, they love to discuss cooking as they gather with friends to share their efforts.
Whether fixing a fish pasta with delicate cream sauce, or preparing an elaborate culinary celebration known as a parrillada, the result is an adventure, both eye-catching and delectable.

Seafood ravioli is a taste treat, prepared by the chef
of  Parador Aiguablava, on  the rocky Costa Brava.

THE BASQUES, in particular, take delight in the parrillada, a direct descendant of the beachside fires on which fishermen grilled their catch over charcoal.  The original paella, in fact, was probably a stew prepared from leftover catch that the fishermen were unable to sell. The cook would have added vegetables, along with roast lamb or sausage or veal for flavoring.  Add the precious and omnipresent olive oil, parsley, garlic and whatever vegetables the cook had around, plus precious saffron, for taste and color, and voila, paella!
Desserts gild the lily, here two  short breads and a pear tart.

OUR FRIEND Jesus -- Madrid born-- makes paella feasting into a major social occasion.
It begins with his gorgeous flamenco guitar and segues to communal cooking, with a salad and dessert bracketing the feast. Spaniards favor desserts featuring tart chocolate or fruit.

 
NEXT UP:  We ring in the New Year with our favorite paella recipe! And a meal at the luxurious parador Aiguablava in eastern Spain.
Then on to New Orleans for jazz, gumbo and a merriment Big Easy style.
Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch
 us Wednesdays and Saturdays at www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Parador offers old world service, comforts with contemporary flair

"Paradores Spain"  include the lovely Aiguablava which looks out on the Mediterranean.  Steps lead to the sea.
Parador Aiguablava's dining room overlooks the pool and ocean.

SPECTACULAR SETTING, LOVELY ARTWORK COMBINE WITH FINE DINING

STORY: CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS: BRUCE KELLER

OLD WORLD hospitality meets contemporary design and  artful flair in Spain's Parador Aiguablava.
Glass, light, tile and artwork stimulate the senses
at Aiguablava, where hospitality and art reign.

This splendid hotel is a jewel in the crown of Costa Brava, and many natives think the little village is the prettiest of all the competition in a galaxy of eccentric, beautiful east coast villages.
The spirit of Salvador Dali gives an artful personality to the place, and the Aiguablava shows its pride in this son of Catalonia, displaying his art along with that of Miro and other well known artists of the late 20th Century.
PARADOR AIGUABLAVA stands on a majestic corner of land, with mountains and a winding pine-lined road on one side and the cliffs above the Mediterranean on the other.  Called the prettiest of all Mediterranean villages by one fan, Aiguablava's waters are a piercing aqua-blue, a hue of almost hypnotic appeal.
Pretty Parador Aiguablava stands atop a cliff overlooking
the Mediterranean, one of Spain's most beautiful views.
The architecture of the parador expertly and with great subtlety integrates the outdoor beauty with the indoor artwork and furnishing.  The result is a constantly pleasant infusion of relaxation and stimulation -- an enviable means of complement.
OUR FIVE DAYS were not long enough, so quickly did we immerse ourselves in the ocean views, the fabulous food, the hospitality extended with both ease and sincerity.
The parador is a time-honored method of enjoying Spain.  Its history dates from 1926, when the government introduced them to promote tourism.
You can rest your head and dine in castles where art was created, conspiracies hatched and kingdoms won and lost.
THE CONCEPT -- similar to Britain's National Trust -- allows owners to restore but not radically alter castles, monasteries and mansions, thus providing inns in beautiful, natural surroundings. The Aiguablava, our hotel, is near the village of Begur, 50k north of Barcelona and one of the Costa Brava's prettiest medieval towns. It's perched high on a hilltop and is a lovely little town to wander. It is also within a couple hours' drive of the trio of Salvador Dali museums and houses, and within  easy reach of Tamariu Beach, Sant Sebastia Lighthouse, Llafranc Harbour and other attractions.
The interior of the Aiguablava vies for attention with nature's outdoor art.
WHILE AIGUABLAVA is fairly new, many older parador hotels are sprinkled through Spain -- from Galicia in the North to Andalusia in the South, to Spain's Canary Islands as well as in Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish cities in North Africa.
The parador often reflects the heritage of historic Spain.
MODERN HOTELS, such as our treasured Aiguablava, were built in spectacular and romantic locations.
Since the state maintains the buildings, it tries to locate paradors in areas where they don't compete with the private sector. Many, including Aiguablava, are in or near medieval towns and villages first inhabited long ago.
www.reservasaparador.es www.parador.es

Breakfast diners find an array of pate, fruits, cheeses, meats,
juices, hot pastries, eggs to order and four tables of choices.

COMING NEXT:  The Parador Aiguablava takes dining to new heights, with a sumptuous breakfast buffet and gourmet dinners that entice the guest to linger two or three hours for lobster stew, sea urchins and baked snails.  We look at the ritual of Spanish dining -- elevated to an art form -- and check out a paella party.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at:  www.whereiscookie.com




Friday, December 20, 2013

Rural Spain's pleasures include thousand-year-old villages and a hardware store!

Late autumn is a delectable time to enjoy the hospitality, light, architecture of Catalonia

A field glows in the mid-day sun near the beautifully preserved Catalan village of Peratallada, in eastern Spain.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

The Church of Sant Esteve is open for services but was quiet on our visit.
PULL OFF the major highways anywhere an hour northeast of Barcelona and you won't be sorry.
You can't really make a "wrong" turn in this lovely stretch of land.
Furrowed fields await spring planting, beautiful gardens sport huge cabbages in late autumn, and beets and carrots are still to be harvested.

Ancient stone buildings are lived in today near Peratellada.
DOZENS OF little villages welcome the traveler and fall is a fine time to take it all in.
The gorgeous 12th and 13th-century village of Peratallada is bustling with tourists in summer, but in December, we walked through the town by ourselves, followed for a time by a friendly old mutt who sat down at the cafe with us and warmed himself in the sun. A French couple eventually materialized, offering to take our photo.  We were comfy in our light jackets and joined the dog in soaking up the rays.
THEN WE wandered through the village with its warm stone houses, beautifully preserved.
Long a favorite of Catalans, this delightful ancient village is known by few Americans.  Europeans flock here in summer, flying in to bustling Barcelona and driving a couple hours.
The delights of Peratallada are enjoyed off-season in near solitude.
 SUNNY Peratallada, in the municipality of Forallac,  county of Baix Empordà, is one of several proud, immaculate villages in Catalonia, about 22 km east of the larger and better known Girona, north Catalonia's largest city.  On the approach to town, only the occasional tractor, car or combine suggests contemporary life -- otherwise, one goes back in time nearly 1,000 years.
THE VILLAGE'S lovely name is derived from pedra tallada, meaning "carved stone" and you'll see plenty of  stone in this charming, cohesive town.

B&Bs and hotels in Catalonia are quiet in late autumn. 
Keller tries out the Spanish hardware store's myriad offerings.
 WE LITERALLY did not see another person for nearly an hour -- rare in usually crowded Europe.  But visiting in late November and into early December has proved to be our favorite time for travel in southern Europe.
IT'S STILL warm enough to enjoy the sun, the hotel rates are reduced, the crowds are gone and the native people take time to fully display the subtleties of hospitality.  Here in Catalan country, we've found the people are welcoming and helpful in any season.  Our hotel concierge went out of his way to find us a "ferreteria" or hardware store in a nearby larger town. We'd forgotten all three of our transformers, a necessity for using a computer in a rural part of Europe (because Spain's voltage is 220 and our American computers and other devices operate on 110.)
OFF WE went with a picnic, to Palafrugell, making a day trip of our search for the transformer.
Time for enjoyment, in the Catalan tradition, in Peratallada.
Keller, a master building contractor in San Diego,  was in his element wandering around the tiny store.
"It's like an Ace Hardware Store on Spanish steroids," he exclaimed, examining with glee a compact but extensive  display of wrenches, hammers, and every household gadget and accessory he could imagine.
WE HEADED back to our parador, just in time for sunset and flavorful Spanish red wine, savoring tapas, new friends, gorgeous sights. We cherish the memory of shopping in a foreign land, using  basic Spanish and actually being understood!

                                                                                                                      COMING UP:  The parador is a time honored means of receiving guests.  "Paradores of Spain" include gorgeous properties, top-rated hotels, sometimes in castles and palaces.  Come with us to the Parador Aiguablava, where hospitality with a Catalan twist is offered.  Here, the food is sumptuous and the sun gently warms the rocky cliffs high above the Mediterranean.  Ole!
Remember to explore, learn and live, and visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at:
www.whereiscookie.com

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dali delights with originality, love of landscape, analytical thinking, theatrical sense

Today's Figueres is an average Enropean town, except for the Dali museum.
Dali pushed the envelope, liked layers, analyzed endlessly, admired Freud

 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WIDELY TRAVELED and celebrated worldwide, Salvador Dali always returned to the sun-streaked villages of rural eastern Spain. He was born and died in Figueres, where he also had his
Dali's playful touches abound, even
on this staircase with its woman.
first art show as a teen-ager. And he chose this town for the showiest of his three Spanish museums.
The land of his birth was familiar and inspiring and Dali never lost his appreciation for the terrain. The sunny, craggy Costa Brava (wild or rugged coast) was particularly appealing to him and his wife and muse, Gala.  She played a huge role in development of three museums maintained by a foundation named after the famous, flamboyant artist.
THE 'TEATRE-Museu Dali" (Dali Theater Museum) is a highlight of Catalonia and eastern Spain.
The Dalis lived several decades
in their beloved Portlligat home.
The Dali House-Museum in Portlligat and Gala Dali Castle House-Museum in Medieval Pubol round out his triangular museum legacy.
Prepare for an intriguing melange of Dali imagery and iconography that can only be
described as fantastic.
In "Atomic Leda," with Gala as the centerpiece, Dali disguised himself as a swan and fills the painting with mythological allusions.
In "The Argonauts," the artist's talent and attention to detail can be seen:  on the foot of one of the Argonauts are wings with gold, rubies and emeralds.
Dali's "Persistence of Memory"
takes on time, mortality and more.
This Dali work is a clever trick -- two and multiple figures.
Depending on where you stand, you see a different painting.
Keller checks out Dali's museum in Figueres, a three-level maze, treasure hunt.
"The Persistence of Memory," perhaps Dali's most famous painting, tackles the weighty issues of time, mortality, the complex issues of being human, and more.  It is not in Spain, but in the Museum of
Modern Art, MoMA, in New York City.  So if you can't cross the pond right now to view Dali's delights, he is represented in the Big Apple, and has his own museum in St. Petersburg, Florida! (Where he also re-visited his famous 1931 "Memory" painting thesis.
AND THE drawers. Dali gave new meaning to "chest of drawers" and his drawers are a metaphor for the many layers and secrets he believed we all possess.  A great admirer of Sigmund Freud, Dali said, "The only difference between immortal Greece and our era is Sigmund Freud who discovered that the human body, which in Greek times was merely neoplatonical, is now filled with secret drawers only to be opened through psychoanalysis."
Dali's museum pays homage
to Mae West in an intricate display.
Drawers reign in Dali's art. They're everywhere.
Mae West's room (Dali was fascinated by the buxom, be-wigged and earthy actress) features the risque actress as only Dali could create her: she's part jewels, part furniture, part paintings.  Her lips are a couch and there's a staircase for viewers to climb and get a new perspective.
THE HUGE, beautiful ceiling in the foyer of the building -- a former theater -- features Dali and Gala flying to heaven, watching their own idyllic burial and boat trip to the next dimension. Wow!
Dali's childhood in Figueres affected in his decision to base his museum here. 
    For splash and dazzle, only a couple other Spanish names vie for the eye appeal: Pablo Picasso, of course, and Antoni Gaudi, who died in 1926 when Dali was not quite a teen. Dali said, "I want my work to be like a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object.
'PEOPLE who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream."
Gaudi, considered an avant garde architect, had his own dream, for he was the magician behind the fabled La Sagrada Familia.  Gaudi's passion for 43 years of e, toil ("The Holy Family") is a curious homage to geometric perfection and sacred symbolism.  Barcelona's eccentric and still-under-construction cathedral is replete with pineapples and an elaborate nativity facade telling the story of Christ's birth and the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
Gaudi's imposing LaSagrada Familia is impossible to miss in Barcelona's skyline.
THE 12 apostles are not yet fully installed, but -- look upwards -- and sometime in the next 20 years, the cathedral patrons hope to complete construction.
What would Dali do with those cranes?
Perhaps he would integrate the last one on the site, maybe in a "sculpture" making use of the crane's natural cross. How could he  resist preserving the crane as the integral part of the project it created. (Then again, what would the Pope think?)
Perhaps Dali and Gaudi
are sharing a sherry in the great "teatre-museum" in the sky.

Between the tiny village of Aiguablava and the larger town
of Dali's youth, Figueres, Spain, are farm land and castles. 
COMING SOON:  Dali's love of light and landscape are shared by many Catalans, who farm, fish and frolic in land that their ancestors have lovingly tended for centuries. Have a look as we drive this lovely corner of Spain, aglow in winter sun with its furrowed fields and castles.
THEN  we visit a first-rate parador named after the most beautiful village in Costa Brava, Aiguablava. Its fantastic food, gorgeous appointments, glowing blue water and backdrop of pine trees make a relaxing yet exciting get-away.  Then back to Barcelona, where we take a closer look at Gaudi's gaudy and extraordinary masterpiece. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at: www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, December 13, 2013

On the trail of Spain's splashy Salvador Dali: he lived, loved, created with a larger than life approach

The  Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain, sets the tone for a magical day, with its egg-topped facade.

NOT ONE, BUT THREE MUSEUMS PAY HOMAGE, CELEBRATE DALI, INTRIGUE VISITORS

“Without an audience, without the presence of spectators, these.... would not fulfill the function for which they came into being.  The viewer, then, is the ultimate artist.”—Salvador Dali, 1959.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

MENTION Salvador Dali and what comes to mind?
Dali's "Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon" was painted in 1941.
The clock face melting off the table, the elaborately manicured mustache, the piercing eyes, a sense of regal daring in everything he did.
Dali pushed the envelope in the art world and in his personal life.  He teased, flirted, played.  He made his audience think.  He was a fine painter, capable of elegant  representational work, but he achieved international attention through his splashy surrealist creations:   “The Eye of Time” with its piercing and glittering clock face as eye. His own playful “soft” self-portrait, with bacon!
An art lover is dwarfed by the gigantic female figure atop a Cadillac, with boat and palm. 
THE BASKET of bread, inching its way off the table is an apt metaphor for Dali.  He walked a high wire in the art world, maintaining his balance when taking artistic chances. His partner and eventual wife, Gala, inspired his “Atomic Leda” and “Galarina,” for she was his lover, muse and soul mate,  model for many of his fantastic and fanciful works.
WHAT FUN he would have been to interview, perhaps in one of his lavish sculpture  gardens, surrounded by antiques that he and his enthusiastic partner collected throughout Europe.
DALI WAS born in a beautiful corner of rural Spain in 1904 and lived to be 85, spending his most fertile period  with  Gala, whom he married in 1958.  Together, they created three museums. One was developed from a castle with elephant sculptures adorning a labyrinth of huts built by fishermen and woven together by the couple between  1930 and 1970.
One of Cookie's favorite Dali sculptures in Figueres. 
VISITORS MAY enjoy myriad aspects of Dali’s life in all three museums, which emphasize his insistence that the visitor/viewer  participate in the aesthetic experience by entering Dali’s eccentric world.  Our entree into his world began in Figueres, with his enchanting brick and egg-festooned museum and theater. One enters through a massive courtyard with a Cadillac and giant female sculpture of a winged Venus.
LIKE DALI, the figure is over the top.  In many respects, the artist lived a “normal” life.  He had one major, long relationship, stayed mostly in his beloved birth land, and cultivated passions for food, travel, theater and art.
A detail from Dali's "Palace of the Wind" ceiling includes Dali himself.
But “normal” obviously bored him, so his Cadillac sports a mythic woman, rising to greet the beyond. A palm tree holds up a boat. A woman’s golden locks are, upon closer inspection, dozens of corn stalks.  From a close-up perch, a sculpture resembles a couch.  But at long range it becomes Mae West’s lips.  Each tableau intrigues.  
Cookie and Keller at Parador Aiguablava on the Dali trail.
DALI DIED in 1989, but his legacy lives on through a foundation which preserves his work in the three splendid and lavish venues. In Figueres, the Dali Theatre-Museum, inaugurated in 1974, presents his broad-range of work in a “more is more” theme.  From that imperious giant Venus figure with Cadillac in the courtyard, framed by the palm and boat, to the Mae West room and the world of Dali is opulent, glittery, energetic and fun! Come with us to visit the other two Dali venues!
COMING UP:  Dali's world offers the visitor a fascinating aesthetic experience, but museums are only part of it.  Add food, sun, vino, antiquities as we travel through Dali country to a unique parador on the rugged Costa Brava. Dali's love of food and wine is explored through our own "taste tests" then we visit a 12th Century village which inspired Dali, and revel in sunlit pleasures of a remote corner of eastern Spain. Remember to explore, learn and live, and visit us                                                                                                           Wednesdays and Saturdays at                                                                                                                      www.whereiscookie.com 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Performing arts center has proud history hosting world's top performers

FOX RENOVATION TOOK A LONG AND WINDING ROAD WITH A NAME CHANGE TO HONOR ALBERTA BAIR


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS from archives and BRUCE KELLER

THE ALBERTA BAIR Theater site was almost a parking lot.
Or yet another bank. And Billings, Montana, did not need another bank when we set our renovation plan in motion on a cold day back in 1976.
The "movers and shakers"
who helped create the fund-
raising effort for ABT,right.
It was winter, and the heat was turned low so we met in our coats beside the silent soft-drink machine in the once grand Fox Theatre lobby. Because of the stalwart efforts of volunteers and activists -- including (full disclosure!) myself -- the 1931 building reigns as the largest performing arts center between Spokane and Minneapolis, Denver and Calgary.
In the late 1970s, when we were struggling to save the building, we approach rancher-philanthropist, world traveler Alberta Bair, hoping she would contribute a large sum
"Sleeping Beauty"
was a big Fox hit.
to an endowment with the thought that changing the theater's name might entice her.
Businessman Ray Hart, surgeon Hewes Agnew, rancher Earl Rosell, hotelier Con Carter, art directors, librarians and many others helped convince Alberta that the theater should be saved -- and  carry the Bair name into its future. We volunteers successfully lobbied the Billings City Council to help us with a renovation effort. How proud  I was when the building opened with much fanfare in 1987.  Alberta contributed nearly a million dollars toward the nearly $6 million project.
The late director William Ball
brought his famed San Francisco
acting company to Billings.
Skip Lundby, actor
and director, played
a key role.
THE BUILDING serves an arts minded community of more than 400,000 and  was saved by the blood, sweat and tears of activists and actors and, yes, even some of those bankers who originally wanted the land for their own endeavors!  Actor Skip Lundby, who acted as the "Save the Fox" managing director for years, cooked hotdogs on the stage lights and slept in one of the dressing rooms -- a la "Phantom of the Opera," a fitting reference.  Skip directed many of the plays which raised seed money for matching funds and grants:  "I Do! I Do!", "The Fantasticks," "Promises, Promises," and a raft of others.  We produced local shows and imported many big name talents.
ONE OF MY many treasured memories of the performances I reviewed was when the late jazz pianist Dave Brubeck sold out the house in summer of 1979, urging the standing-ovation audience to "save this
Marian McPartland, the late, great
jazz pianist, played the Fox.
The late jazz pianist Dave
Brubeck, helped turn
the corner for the Fox/ABT.
wonderful building." That same summer, William Ball and his recent Tony winning American Conservatory Theater did three sold-out performances in Billings.  We hosted the actors to a pitchfork fondue and became fast friends with the actors and stage hands.  We also made $20,000 profit which added momentum to our effort and encouraged donations.
Bernadette Peters headlined one of the ABT's sold-out galas.
Jazz pianist Marian McPartland endorsed the effort, as did Judy Collins, below, and a string of "ABT
Gala" performers praised the building and preservation effort right from the stage: Bernadette Peters, Harry Belafonte,  Burt Bacharch and many others.

Harry 
Bela-
fonte
and
Bair
had fun. 

The conversion of the 1931 building, the last of the great Fox Theaters built in the country, presented challenges, but a crack architectural effort resulted in a theater that pleases people on both sides of the curtain.
Performers praise the lighting control booth, which was relocated at the rear of the main floor, and the sound control booth, which sits at the front of the balcony.

 THE FRONT APRON of the stage has its own hydraulic lift, and the orchestra pit can hold 40 musicians and their instruments.  For private events and receptions, a custom designed orchestra shell and large vinyl dance floor provide versatility.
Burt Bacharach loved the venue.
I remember that first fundraising production of "I Do! I Do!" and the shabby dressing rooms, paint peeling and no adequate heating for a cold winter's night of costume changing.
Now, two large chorus dressing rooms and two star dressing rooms can accommodate more than 40 performers.
BECAUSE OF AN enlarged lobby space, the main staircase to the loge and balcony was moved, and is now visible beyond the main shell of the building adding style and function with via an eye-catching glass stairwell.
I'm proud of my  part in the effort, and I hope Alberta is smiling down on us with pride, too!


COMING UP: The Greek Isles are a magnificent get-away any time of the year! Come with us, remembering to explore, learn and live. Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at: www.whereiscookie.com