I clicked on Gothamist this morning and was first startled and then saddened to learn that after 71 years, New York City’s Paris Theatre has closed.

Unfortunately, our lease has ended and the Paris Theatre is now closed.
We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all of our guests
over the years. Thank you for your patronage and we regret that we
cannot continue to serve you.

They may be decades old, but I have many fond memories of going to the Paris, where my visits were almost always spontaneous.

Through much of the 70s and early 80s, I was a real New Yorker. I had an apartment on the Upper West Side; the Paris was Midtown; I often walked to work or meetings on the East Side.

I’d learned the territory.
After moving to Manhattan from Kansas, I quickly figured out how to navigate the city. Learning mass transit took no time at all; making my way around on foot took longer. For a transverse trip, West Side to East Side and back again, 57th Street wasn’t an ideal. Many hours of the day, 57th was body-to-body residents and tourists bumping into each other, pausing to look in store windows, and otherwise impeding my strut. The pedestrian traffic on 59th Street—Central Park South—was similar. But, with the addition of luggage carts, people departing and arriving at hotels, and the north-south foot traffic to and from the park across the street, it was also a very slow-walk block.

But 58th Street. What a joy! Regardless of the time of day, I could time my cross-town walks almost to the minute.

twma2Passing the Paris.
On one of those walks, this one in the spring of 1973—around Eastertime, I believe—I was on my way to an audition at an ad agency on Madison Avenue. I paused at the Paris Theatre to gaze in awe at this magnificent movie poster. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

On the way back home from the appointment, I stopped again and noticed that the next showtime was just a few minutes away.

Watching the film, I was absolutely mesmerized by Maggie Smith. The George Cukor film was also a feast for the eyes.

And Jay Allen’s script, based on Graham Greene’s 1969 novel, was clever and smart:

Aunt Augusta : Steward! More champagne.
Steward : But we’re just about to land.
Aunt Augusta : Then you’ll have to hurry, won’t you?

In much the same way that I discovered Travels With My Aunt, I found and watched dozens of other movies at the Paris over the years.

Just off Fifth Avenue, across the street from the Plaza Hotel, and next door to Bergdorf Goodman, the little theatre—with less than 600 seats—is a jewel box of a building that fits in perfectly with its storied neighbors. A couple of months ago, when Jacob and I were in New York for PRIDE we’d sometimes leave the Park Lane Hotel by the back entrance on 58th Street—I pointed the theatre out to him.

The Paris was a treasure, and I’m glad I saw Maggie Smith there saying, “Poverty is apt to strike suddenly… like influenza.”

I continue to think of that from time to time.