That’s a pretty vague and random title. I was thinking about this story as I moved into my new office.
The above is a poster from the movie, “The Sting.” It’s an original. As with most the things I surround myself with at home and in the office, this one has special meaning.
On March 16th, 1974, my dad rushed my mom to the hospital. She was going into labor. After awhile the contractions slowed down. The doctor assured my dad, the baby is not coming any time soon. Go home and relax. Instead of relaxing my dad returned to work.
At the time he was the manager of the Mall Cinema on East Harry in Wichita, KS. The massive auditorium seated just a little over 800 people. The gold curtains opened in the traditional traveler style. The lobby featured two brass chandeliers, a box office near the front door and a concession stand that ran the length of the lobby. The concession and box office had dark wood veneer sides and “marble” counter tops. Below are a few pics, they are grainy and blurry. Sorry.
A Cretors popcorn popper (Dad always called Cretors the Cadillac of poppers) sat at one end of the concession and a popcorn warmer set on the other end. The candy case had three white rows showing off the candy. A blue sign touted that candy was chilled in the case. The red carpet had gold and black circles on it. The walls were gold colored too. Dark wood beams covered a drop-down ceiling above the concession. The projection booth was in that space.
It was opening weekend of “The Sting.” A 1973 crime drama starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. I know you’re thinking the movie came out in 73 and you were born in 74, what the what? So back in the day, there were only so many prints of a movie made. With Wichita being a smaller town, it would usually take a little time to secure a print. Also remember theaters were still large single screen houses, and maybe only one or two theaters in town would show a movie.
Interesting side note: “The Sting” won 7 Oscars on April 2, 1974, including Best Picture and Best Director for George Roy Hill. “The Exorcist” and “The Way We Were” were the only other films to win multiple awards.
The lobby was packed that night. People were nibbling on popcorn and enjoying a Pepsi, while another group of people were seeing the end of the movie. As soon as “The Entertainer” started playing and the credits began to roll. The 800 people found their way out through the two main exits. There was a very brief period when the staff could clean the auditorium. My dad stood at the gold velvet ropes and brass poles that held the crowd in the lobby. During this time, I was born.
The white rotary phone rang at the theater’s box office. Marie, who is still a dear family friend, received the word. With no other way to get the message to my dad. She climbed on top of the box and yelled across the lobby. “Ken, Ken!… Kay just had the baby… It’s a boy!” There was a collective awe through the lobby and then a round of applause.
My dad went out the exit door with the crowd and hightailed it to the hospital. The doctor’s first words to my dad were, “I’ve never seen such bright red hair on a baby before.”
The movie played for a few more weeks. Once “The Sting” wrapped up, Dad decided to keep the poster.
Years later, I stumbled across the movie. My Mom was a huge Robert Redford fan, so we had all of his movies on BetaMax. I plugged it into our Sony Video and fell in love with the movie. It is still one of my favorites.
One day in the early 2000s, Dad called and said he was ready to sell his movie poster collection, or one sheets as they call them in the theater business. He said you should come over and pick out the ones you want. So, I did. I saw “The Sting” poster in the mix and decided I would take it. That’s the first time I heard the story about the poster and its connection to my birthday.