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Private Eye

Downside Story

SLC needs more than a theater

By John Saltas
Posted // August 10,2011 -

I’ve been out of town for nearly a week, doing some business and some pleasure in Chicago and Milwaukee—two cities that are about as different from Salt Lake City as can be. Well, after New Orleans, anyway. Despite the time away, and despite that I’m now on Gogo Wi-Fi somewhere over South Dakota, I’ve promised City Weekly Editor Jerre Wroble a column for this week’s issue. It’s not that easy in cramped seats and 1,000 miles from your editor, I assure you. Luckily, I have the good fortune of having an editor sitting next to me in seat 11E. So far, he’s caught three typos and four punctuation errors.

See that comma up above, after the word “luckily”? Yep, it wasn’t there originally, but seat 11E pointed out I needed one. So, comma, now there’s a comma in the right spot, period. It’s great to finally sit next to someone on an airplane who isn’t either spitting up or trying to elbow me into the next county but who instead is making an effort to make me a better grammarian. Ain’t gonna, happen. I’ve been misusing the English language my entire life, and I’m not going to get better at it now. How I ever got into the newspaper business with such an aversion to proper English doesn’t speak well of me, I know, but it does speak to how anyone in America can do just about anything.

For example, I just learned that the guy who operated on a good friend of mine’s left knee is really a ventriloquist. Somehow he got a medical degree, and my buddy is still limping like Festus.

Another problem with writing after being away is that I have nearly no idea of what’s going on back home, outside of BYU signing that Hinds kid to play football for them. Here’s what I think about that—nothing. Big deal. So what?

And I guess there’s still some question as to whether Salt Lake City needs a new theater downtown. Ostensibly, we need one because a city cannot be classified as a real, important, major city without certain things like professional-sports franchises, enough sustainable customers to allow a good life for cab drivers, quality arts and concert facilities and theaters capable of seating most of the residents of Herriman all at one time. Could be. I don’t really know.

I do know I like Broadway shows, though. It’s argued that we don’t get the really good shows until late in the game or minus certain special effects, since our matronly Capitol Theater isn’t up to snuff. Maybe so, but I’ve seen Annie there a half-dozen times, and it looked fine to me. I don’t know that Wicked or Oklahoma could have been better in a new theater. The most recent capper is that if we don’t build a new theater, we natives who have lived without it our entire lives won’t have the chance to see The Book of Mormon onstage for another decade. Ain’t that a shame? I mean, isn’t that a shame? Thanks, 11E.

I am not against a new theater. Not at all. This past week, I saw West Side Story in Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theater (the guy playing Tony was lousy; Anita stole the show). I saw Shrek there in 2010 (the guy playing Shrek was great; Shrek’s wife was great). It’s a beautiful theater with roomy, comfy seats. Comparatively, our Capitol Theater has nothing to be ashamed about, other than seating around 500 fewer people. But there were probably 500 empty seats Friday in Chicago. And that’s despite the advantage of having 7 million people living within an hour’s drive.

It may have been an off night, and you might know the play itself hasn’t exactly gotten raves. Not to mention the Cubs were playing, Lollapalooza was taking place a few blocks away, other theaters were open, the streets were hopping and the bars and restaurants were full. Each of those certainly siphons of potential theatergoers. In Utah, it remains rational to wonder if a large theater could fill up at the same time a Utah Jazz game is taking place. I don’t wonder; I think it could. Why? Because there’s not much else to do in Salt Lake City, that’s why. And that’s the rub.

If Salt Lake City wants to be considered a major metropolitan city, it has to be able to become one. And it never will so long as the Utah Legislature continues to punish the restaurant and club industries with archaic laws written by religious zealots. Great cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., offer their residents and visitors something more than a theater or Jazz ticket. There is a vibe in those cities that Salt Lake City can never match. Utahns go to events and go home. A meager few go early for dinner, and fewer stay late for a cocktail. Great cities build a great energy, combining nightlife with theater or sports. In Salt Lake City, the experience just doesn’t exist.

Here, it’s like the difference between watching the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs. The commercial district around the Cubs’ Wrigley Field buzzes for hours before and after a game. For the White Sox, people just cram on and off their trains, leaving that rather empty district few dollars.

If Salt Lake City really needs this theater as its newest star, it also needs a better supporting caste. I mean, cast, or it will be just one more sterile building in an increasingly flummoxed city that is increasingly difficult to do business in. Thanks, 11E—now go see if Mr. Becker can use a hand, too.?

Twitter: @JohnSaltas

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Posted // August 13,2011 at 09:38 Oh Saltas, you globe trotting jet-setter you. Did you read what Mayor Sparky said about Democrats? Oh dang, Sparky grew a pair. Sparky shredded the Crats oh yes he did. I always knew Mayor Sparky had it in him. Bold and capaciously bold.
Say and speaking of "mayors", how's Mayor Beeker doing? Talk about spineless. Gosh and somedays there is such an air of nostalgic home-sick washing over the Pacific Inland Northwest Empire. I mean, I miss the Front and I never thought that could happen. Not ever.
I miss the "old days" Mr. John and the Shubrick and our neighborhood. Dang, I guess the federal judges wrecked that zone for sure.
Okay well, I was just passing by and thought I'd drop in and say hello. Hello.
You know, Salt Lake doesn't need a new theater. Nope. Salt Lake needs a good bar where one can just walk in and order up a decent three dollar vodka martini and get that martini 'dirty'. Yup. You know, without having to prove your "manhood" to Wimmer or Utah's other legislative apostlic buffoons.
Oh yeah and, I don't speak or use the "English." Nope. I speak the Amerikan and as roughly as is Westside possible.


Posted // August 16,2011 at 15:51 - If it's local and skanky, I'll do anything in an afternoon.

It would appear my friend Bill has me at a disadvantage, he seems to know me well but I can't place anyone named bill I've shared a skanky with.


Posted // August 16,2011 at 11:55 - You know, I'll bet if you buy Mannos a six-pack of skanky, local "craft" beers, he'll do it this afternoon.


Posted // August 15,2011 at 22:05 - Spellchecker for comments? That's a fabulous idea! Seriously. Gawd I hope that idea catches on. Can't promise much on the comment editor idea, though, but point noted.


Posted // August 15,2011 at 15:04 - Great, John meet Skluz, Skulz meet John. . .now can we have a comment editor or at least a spellcheck program?


Posted // August 13,2011 at 18:03 - Hello, Skulz, whoever you are, but one with the good taste and sense to say things I pretty much always agree with. Skoal.


Posted // August 13,2011 at 09:42 - Criminy, I can't spell for fishguts. That bottom part should read "legislative apostolic buffoons."
Hey Saltas? The comments thingy needs an 'edit' function. Oh yeah.


Posted // August 13,2011 at 05:37 I read your column while my wife and I visited Portland and Seattle. You are so right. It is healthy to get out of Utah, a very backward state, now and then. It's not necessarily about alcohol, though that is key to Utah's problems. I can get drinks in Utah almost any time. I also make out-of-state runs for booze.
What makes Seattle, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, LA, etc., great cities is their quest for good culture, adult culture and, yes, even family culture. But liquor availability is the lynch pin. Bars, restaurants, eateries, pubs. They are key to what makes some cities great.
Salt Lake City will never become great because of the childish liquor laws in Utah. In Seattle, you go to a baseball game. Afterwards, you and friends, go have a drink and talk about the game. Have a snack, drink a couple beers, go home or whatever. In Salt Lake, you go to a Jazz game then go home.
In Seattle, we saw thousands of people walking downtown streets. Yes, it's cooler there, but still people are out and about. Now so in Salt Lake. Why? There is nothing to do in SLC. No window shopping, no little snack shops, no quick Japanese, Chinese food eateries on the main drag.
In Utah, there is the constant feeling of big brother. Can we do this? Can we do that? What if I do this?
People in Portland and Seattle are a thousand times more friendly than people in Utah. Same with Minneapolis and St. Paul.
SLC will never make it. It will always be a mediocre, bland, uninteresting city. Nothing innovative, nothing in terms of creativity.
God, how I love to leave Utah for the real world. Reminds me of how, while I was in Vietnam, I longed for the real world.
For those of you who will urge me to leave since I don't love it, I can't. So up yours.


Posted // August 13,2011 at 18:04 - Looks like they're stuck with us, eh, Tobiasrex? Up theirs, indeed!


Posted // August 10,2011 at 13:01 The question is whether "Salt Lake City wants to be considered a major metropolitian area." It is an assumption based on what goal? To attract more people? Why? Where will they live? What is so good about being a "big" city? I've been to a lot of them-around the world, from Hong Kong to Paris, from New York to Milan. Frankly, it is a relief to come back to Salt Lake City. If I wanted to live in a big city, I'd move to one.


Posted // August 10,2011 at 13:39 - Yup, what AJ said. How big is big enough? We can't support the businesses that are here now. We already suck at having a downtown, why can't Becker just concentrate on making the city better as it is? At least until we find out what impact City Creek will have other than starving out marginal places at Gateway.


Posted // August 10,2011 at 09:45 "If Salt Lake City wants to be considered a major metropolitan city, it has to be able to become one."

Ironic-sounding, on the day The Metropolitan announced it's closing and selling.

Had no idea you were a Broadway fan. Somehow that doesn't fit with your image of a tough-talking, Crown Royal-sipping, football-playing former member of a track gang at Kennecott. If you use the word "fabulous" just once, I'm oughta here.