Monday, January 30, 2017

45th anniversary party

Feb. 11, 2017, is the 45th anniversary of the first-ever party at the Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. Appropriately enough, The Bijou, at 304 E. Broad St., will be the location for the party to celebrate that occasion. Doors open at 2 p.m.

The party's proceeds will benefit the Bijou Film Center. Admission will be $5 at the door. Note: Bijou members will get in free. Beer and wine will be on sale. And, naturally, some surprises will unfold. Oh, I almost forgot: The Big Guys are playing live, starting around 2:30 p.m. 

Mark your calendar; more news about the event will follow.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Derby Day No. 36

The 36th annual Biograph Derby Day reunion party will unfold between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on May 2, 2015 at Forest Hill Park in Shelter No. 2.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Have You Got Your Tickets, Yet?
Click here for more information at the Bijou Backlight. 
Click here to visit the Facebook event page.
Click here to buy tickets online.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Derby Day 34

The Biograph's 34th Derby Day reunion party will take place at the home of Larry and Wendy at 1204 42nd Street on Saturday, May 4th, from 2 p.m. until dark.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Derby Day 33

The 33rd annual Derby Day reunion party will take place between 1 pm. and 6 pm. on Saturday, May 5th. Once again Shelter No. 1 in Bryan Park will be the site, rain or shine. As usual, bring grills, food, full coolers and so forth. The Facebook event page for this party is here.

No softball game will be attempted, but if you want to throw and catch a little with somebody, bring your glove (and a ball). There is a good Frisbee-golf course close by.

We will be raising our glasses to remember two former Biograph team members, friends who died in the past year -- Branch White and Puby Stallard.

Click here to see a map of Bryan Park.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Biograph 40

Click on the art above to enlarge it.

For more information go here.

To see the Facebook event page and for information about tickets go here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Soon: The Biograph's 40th

On its 40th anniversary, the Biograph Theatre, or perhaps something akin to its reanimated spirit, will serve up a pair of highly acclaimed films as a double feature.

In other words, the James River Film Society will present “Breathless” (1960) — a 50th anniversary restoration 35mm print, no less — and “Lonely Are the Brave” (1962) at the VCU Grace Street Theater on Saturday, February 11, 2012.

“Breathless” (1960): B&W. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg. Note: An opportunistic thief on the run becomes irresistible to a pretty American journalism student in Paris. Uh, oh, the guy is dangerous. How long can it last?

“Lonely Are the Brave” (1962): B&W. Directed by David Miller. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau. Note: To help his friend, a free-spirited cowboy flings himself recklessly at the hobbling effects of modernity … then tries desperately to escape.

"Breathless," based on a story by Fran├žois Truffaut, did much to set the French New Wave in motion. "Lonely Are the Brave," with its screenplay by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, was an apt American reaction to the artsy European films of that time.

For the JRFS, this special event will kick off a three (or more) part series titled The Golden Age of Repertory Cinema. It will also serve as a fundraiser for the volunteer run nonprofit and an opportunity to officially launch its campaign to establish a small storefront cinema in downtown Richmond.

Soon more information on the event will be available, including the scoop on the post-screening party, plenty of background on the Biograph (1972-87) and the essential how-to-buy-advance-tickets details. Please note: Only 225 seats will be occupied once the light hits the screen. So, mark your calendars and when the advance tickets become available, be smart -- don’t wait.

The JRFS's Biograph 40th Anniversary Facebook event page is here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stories: Discover the Fan

Thirty-eight years ago an ad hoc group of 21 merchants in the VCU area cooperated for a one-time-only promotion that went over quite well -- Discover the Fan. Alas, none of the participating businesses are still there and open for business.

Click on Rebus' nose to enlarge the art.

On April 14, 1973 the weather was absolutely spectacular. For that Saturday afternoon the 800 and 900 blocks of West Grace Street, and environs, were packed with an unprecedented amount of foot traffic. There was live music. Hundreds of helium-filled balloons and free prizes donated by the merchants were given away. The street was not closed and the vehicular traffic was slowed to a crawl all day.

Motorists traveling toward the West End were shown something rather unexpected, given the neighborhood's bohemian image. (Grace Street was a busy one-way street heading west in those days.) There were thousands of ordinary-looking people milling about having a good time. Many of them seemed like tourists. Kids with balloons were everywhere. Suddenly that strip known for its hippies and beer halls looked safe as milk.

The handbill above was done by yours truly. With its list of participating businesses it provides a snapshot of the area in what was probably the zenith of the hippie age. Some of the characters who ran those businesses were rather interesting people.

At the time I had been the manager of the Biograph Theatre for a little over a year and the promotion itself was my project. Many people helped put it together, but it couldn't have happened without the help of Dave DeWitt and Chuck Wrenn.

Below is a piece about this event, written by the late Shelley Rolfe:
Shelley Rolfe’s
By the Way
Richmond Times-Dispatch (April, 16, 1973)

It was breakfast time and the high command for Discover the Fan Day had, with proper regard for the inner man, moved its final planning meeting from the Biograph Theater to Lum’s Restaurant. Breakfast tastes ran a gamut. Eggs with beer. Eggs with orange juice. H-hour -- the operations plan had set it for noon -- was less than three hours away. Neither beer nor orange juice was being gulped nervously.

Terry Rea, manager of the Biograph and the extravaganza’s impresario, was reciting a last-minute, mental things-to-do list. There was the vigilante committee, which would gather up the beer and soft drink cans and bottles that invariably infest the fronts of the shops in the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Grace St., focus area of the discovery.

The city police had promised a dragnet to sweep away the winos who also invariably litter the neighborhood. The day had bloomed crisp and sunny, the first dry Saturday since Groundhog Day. “I knew it wouldn’t rain,” Rea said with the brash confidence of the young. “Lots of young businessmen around here,” a beer drinker at another table said. The free enterprise system lives.

REA WAS assigning duties for the committee that would rope off two Virginia Commonwealth University parking lots that would serve as the setting for a fashion show and band concert. The committee to blow up balloons, with the aid of a cylinder of helium [sic]. One thousand balloons in a shrieking variety of colors. “If we only get 500 kids... two to a customer,” Rea said cheerfully.

“I need more people,” said the balloon task force leader.

Twenty-one businesses were involved in the project. Each of them had contributed prizes, and gift certificates had been put into plastic Easter eggs. An egg hunt would be part of the day, and Rea had a message for the committee that would be tucking the eggs away: “Don’t put them in obvious places, but don’t put them were people can get hurt looking for them.”

“We talked about doing this last summer but we never got it together,” Rea said. There had been fresh talk in late February, early March, and it had become airborne. The 21 businesses had anted up $1,500 for advertising, which was handled by Dave DeWitt, proprietor of a new just-out-of-the-Fan, small, idea-oriented agency.

“Demographically, we were aiming for people between 25 and 34,” Rea said. There had been newspaper advertising and spots on youth-oriented radio stations. “We had a surplus late in the week...” Rea said. The decision was made to have a Saturday morning splurge on radio station WRVA. “Hey,” said a late arrival, “I heard Alden Aaroe talking about it.”

“We wanted people to see what we have here,” Rea said. “People who probably close their windows and lock their doors when they drive on Grace Street and want to get through here a quickly as possible.”

Well, yes, there must be those who look upon the 800 and 900 blocks as symbolic of the counterculture, as territory alien to their visions of West End and suburban existence. Last November the precinct serving the 800 and 900 blocks went for George McGovern, by two votes. Not a landslide, but, perhaps, a trend.

NOON WAS approaching. Rea and DeWitt set out on an inspection tour. Parking lot ropes were being put into place. Rock music blared from exotically named shops. The balloon committee was still short on manpower. An agent trotted out of a shop to report, “They’ve got 200 customers ...” And how many would they normally have at this hour of a Saturday” “They wouldn’t be open,” Rea said.

Grace Street was becoming clogged with cars It would become more clogged. Don’t know how many drivers got out of their cars, but, for a while they were a captive audience making at least vicarious discovery.

Also much pedestrian and bicycle on the sidewalks. Merchants talked of espying strangers, of all ages. A white-haired woman held a prize egg in one hand, a balloon in the other. A middle-aged man had rakishly attached a balloon to the bill of his cap.

The fashion show went on to the accompaniment of semijazz music and popping balloons, most of them held by children. Fashions were subdued. A dress evocative of the 1840s. Long skirts. Loudest applause went to a man who paraded across the stage wearing a loud red backpack. Everybody’s urge to escape?

ON GRACE STREET a sword swallower and human pin cushion was on exhibition. No names please. “My mother ...” he said. He wished to be identified only as a member of “Bunkie Brothers Medicine Show.”

Discounted merchandise on sale included 20-yesr-old British Army greatcoats and a book fetchingly titled “Sensuous Massage.” Sales resistance remained firm.

On Harrison Street a sidewalk artist was creating. A wino, who had somehow escaped the dragnet, lurched across the sidewalk art muttering. “Free balloons ...” In a shop a man said, “I want the skimpiest halter you have ... for my wife.”

On an alley paralleling Grace Street, a man holding a hand camera and early on a VCU class assignment was directing actors. One stationed in a huge trash bin. “Waiting for Godot” revisited? The second, carrying a an umbrella in one hand, popcorn in another, approached the bin. A hand darted out for popcorn. “I ran out of film!” screamed the director.

Everything was being done again. The actor in the bin emerged, seized the umbrella and ran. “Chase him,” from the direct. Actor No. 2 did a Keystone Kop-style double take, jumped and ran. A small crowd that had gathered applauded.

LATE IN the day. Traffic still was at a saturation level. Early settlers said the territory hadn’t seen such suggestion since the movie, “Deep Throat.” Rea spoke of objectives smashingly achieved. Euphoric talk from him on another day of discovery in September. City Hall would be petitioned to block off Grace Street.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Films: Polanski and Chinatown

"Chinatown" (1974) is my all-time favorite feature length movie. Its Richmond premiere was at the Biograph on June 28, 1974. Now with its director Roman Polanski in the news, it's only natural that his masterpiece be reconsidered.

Peter Shilling Jr. has written an excellent and timely piece about "Chinatown," as viewed through a 35-years-later prism.
Some want [Polanski] in the electric chair. Others want him in the director's chair, back home in Hollywood.
But I'll tell you this: it's all there in Chinatown. This is the great movie about Los Angeles, the greatest reflection of that city and the closest in mood to the novels of L.A.'s great writer, Raymond Chandler. Chinatown is about the menace that burns bright in the Southern California sunshine, about the undertow that pulls bathing beauties to their deaths, and makes every man, woman, and child who soaks up the sun complicit in every crime committed within its borders. It's the city that people ran to in order to escape atrocities--like Auschwitz--only to discover that sometimes Hell is a sunny place with palm trees lining the streets like a firing squad. If you want to go deep into the Polanski's life, watch Chinatown.
Click here to read the rest of the article.

And, once the award-winning director of other respected films such as "Knife in the Water," "Repulsion," "Rosemary's Baby," "Tess," and "The Pianist," gets hauled back to Los Angeles, it's going to be a media circus to rival O.J.'s trial.

Won't that be fun for the cable news networks?

No, I don't know anything about international law or extradition agreements between Switzerland and America. But one can easily get the sense that Polanski is eventually going to have to face the music in LA for what he did over 30 years ago.

Moreover, it's hard to believe that the end product of this whole process will be anything close to satisfying. No matter what a new judge in LA decides, it's unlikely it will seem much like justice that settles the matter for good, and serves society's interests.

Gladstone's "Justice delayed is justice denied" sticks to this baby like glue.

The culture has changed quite a bit since 1977. "Pretty Baby" and even "Manhattan" wouldn't get made today. Polanski's victim, 45-year-old Samantha Geimer, seems to want no part of punishing him at this point. Some money has apparently changed hands between Geimer and Polanski.

Yet, there's no way a moral society can countenance the sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski must wish he'd have stayed in France. Now he's trying to finish his current film project from inside the walls of a Swiss jail.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Biograph on Facebook

The Biograph Theatre's ghost has a Facebook group page. The group is called Swordfish. Click here to see the page.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


1994 was the last season for the Fan District Softball League. That year a longtime Biograph player, Billy Snead, defected to play for Chiocca's, his favorite watering hole.

Snead's old Biograph teammates struck back by announcing they would walk Fan League Hall-of-Famer Billy Snead every time he came to bat in games in which the two teams faced one another. They called their payback strategy F.B.S.

Three games were scheduled and in all three Snead was indeed given a free pass to first base with each at-bat. Chiocca's won all three games, with Billy scoring the winning run all three times. In the finale, he even made the final putout at home plate as Chiocca's catcher.

It made me glad I'd left the team ten years earlier, also to play for another team. And, it was the most failed strategy I've ever seen in sports. The blow-back made Billy look like a hero. That Biograph team's chief conspirators know who they are.

Consequently, I created the piece above, a laminated card with Billy's head mounted on Babe Ruth's body, and I gave them away to the guys who most needed to see them (click on the art to see an enlargement). Later the same concept inspired a F.B.S. T-shirt; I'm told Jack Nicholson has one of them. But that's another story, for another day.

Billy has Leukemia.

Good luck, Billy.

Update: Actually, this episode inspired two T-shirts that I designed for the Biograph softball team. Ernie Brooks sent me this photo from the 2006 Derby Day party, which shows Billy in the second one. We all look forward to the caption being proven to be appropriate once again. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)
The shot below is one of mine. It's from 1981.
With three of his old Biograph teammates I visited Billy today (Sat., Aug. 23) at MCV. He was quite himself and we all had a good time. To visit Billy's web site click here.

Update: As of Sept. 26, Billy is in remission. I had a beer with him that Friday in Chiocca's. Happily, his wife and daughters were there, along with several of the regulars. It was a roomful of smiles -- a scene I'm glad I was there to see, firsthand.


Update II: After a rough winter, Billy's condition has improved with the warm weather coming in. On Apr. 22 Billy was in Chiocca's and looking much his old self. He will be at the Derby Day reunion on May 2. Call Larry for details (804) 233-2295.

Update III: Billy enjoyed a good summer and is doing fine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The photo above documents one of Larry Rohr's rides through the auditorium during a midnight screening of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Larry only performed his feat on special occasions, such a anniversaries, etc. This time it was for the night that "Rocky" broke the local record for consecutive weeks that a movie played at the same theater.

The record (I think it was 88 weeks) had been held by "The Sound of Music" at the Willow Lawn in the '60s.

So, at the Biograph we had a little fun by having a ceremony in which we literally broke the "Sound of Music" soundtrack album, the record, as seen below. Bravely, John Porter held the vinyl, as the tuxedoed manager of the repertory cinema wielded the hammer.

Larry's rides always took place during the scene where Meatloaf crashes out of a frozen vault on his motorcycle. "Rocky" went on to play for exactly five years before its run ended. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

-- Photographs by Ernie Brooks

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mondo Softball

The video above to below is a promo for a show about softball that ran locally on cable television in 1990. Mondo Softball was hosted by Mutt deVille, the sportswriter for SLANT, a Fan District-based magazine (1985-94).

The 30-second spot spot features brief glimpses of several Fan District Softball Leaguers in the day. They include: Paul Joyce, Boogie Bailey. Dennis Johnson, Jack Richardson (the headfirst slide), and others. There’s even a quick look at Leo Koury, the umpire for the Fan League who left town in a hurry.

Monday, June 23, 2008


"Matinee Madcap": Shot in 16mm in and around the Biograph Theatre in 1974, it is a chase-scene-driven, Black & White comedy.

"Biograph 10": News coverage of the Biograph's 1oth anniversary party. "My Dinner with Andre" premiered and Chris Gibbs, who catered the meal featured in the movie, served the same meal to the premiere's audience.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Derby Day softball reunion on May 3, 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


This year the Derby Day party (the 29th annual reunion) for the Biograph softball team and friends will incorporate into its format a Fan District Softball League reunion, which enlarges the gathering. Which means players and fans associated with any of the league’s teams over the years will be welcome, with a few exceptions (you know who you are).

The event will take place on Saturday May 3rd at the usual place. Contact the event chief Larry Rohr, (804) 233-2295, for more info.

The Fan District Softball League (1975-94) established a Hall of Fame in 1986. The first class was elected by the 12-team league’s designated franchise representatives prior to the annual All-Star game/picnic. To be eligible then one had to have retired. Ten names were selected.

The same rule held true in 1987, but by 1988 a few of those who had been inducted into the Hall had unretired. So, in 1988 it was opened up to anyone who seemed deserving and those already in the Hall got to vote, as well.

For 1989 no one was voted in. In 1990, ‘91 and ‘92 additional names were added. In all, 41 players and two umpires were tapped. The list leans heavily toward those who made significant contributions to the league’s lore in the early years of play.

Those in the FDSL HoF are: Ricardo Adams, Herbie Atkinson, Howard Awad, Boogie Bailey, Yogi Bair, Jay Barrows, Otto Brauer, Ernie Brooks, Hank Brown, Bobby Cassell, Jack Colan, Willie Collins, Dickie deTreville, Jack deTreville, Henry Ford (depicted on the right), Danny Gammon, Donald Greshham, James Jackson, Dennis Johnson (depicted top left as the batter), Mike Kittle, Leo Koury, Jim Letizia, Junie Loving, Tony Martin, Kenny Meyer, Cliff Mowells, Buddy Noble, Randy Noble, Henry Pollard, Artie Probst, Terry Rea, John Richardson, Jerry Robinson, Larry Rohr (depicted above as the pitcher), Billy Snead, Jim Story, Hook Shepherd, Pudy Stallard, Durwood Usry, Jumpy White, Barry Winn, Chuck Wrenn.

Art by F.T. Rea, the illustrations are from the old Sports Fan (1977-81).

Saturday, October 20, 2007


This shot of Katey and her father was taken by Ernie Brooks at the 20th anniversary reunion party at Twisters on W. Grace St. (the old location of the Back Door) Feb. 9, 1992.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


This year’s Biograph softball reunion, the 28th annual on Derby Day, took place on a damp and almost chilly afternoon. Most of the time it was misting, rather than actually raining. But with the help of some tents and tarps the group had a place to lay out a headquarters with food tables, etc.No softball game was played and I heard no one say they missed it. It’s not the first time the game has been blown off. It surely won’t be the last.

The old Fan District Softball League’s official Hall of Fame plaque, with the 43 names of those who were inducted into the hall engraved on brass plates, reappeared mysteriously. It had been missing for some time, said to have been stolen by unknown agents, perhaps even some sort of fanatics. It looks a little more beat up than the last time I saw it, but perhaps it has more character now.In the past the piece itself has hung in various bars, including the Cary St. Cafe, Soble’s and Poe’s Pub. Hopefully it will find a new and appropriate home soon.New faces at this year’s get-together included John “Big Daddy” Richardson, Howard Awad and Jack deTreville. Well, maybe it’s a stretch to call those guys’ faces “new.” Let’s just say it was nice to see the concept of expanding the party to include players and friends who were associated with other Fan League teams is picking up steam.The party went much as it usually does, ending with the Kentucky Derby being watched on little battery-powered televisions. Unlike some years, no one got hurt today. Not playing the game has its upside.
Photos: SLANT