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July 29, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Shared memories of the Huntridge could be crucial to its revival

Image

Joe Schoenmann

Bob Coffin, far left, and Steve Evans, far right, reminisce about the Huntridge Theater in the historic building’s parking lot Wednesday, May 15, 2013. A film crew was recording memories of the theater to be used to raise money to buy and renovate the 69-year-old property.

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A very early photo looking east on Charleston Boulevard with the Huntridge Theater, almost completely surrounded by desert, on the far right.

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The Huntridge marquee is shown Wednesday, May 15, 2013.

If the walls of the Huntridge theater could speak, they might tell the story of Bob Coffin's first kiss. Or of seeing John Angus in stitches at the hilarious musings of Danny Thomas. Or Michael Cornthwaite's numerous visits to see bands ranging from the Beastie Boys to the Smashing Pumpkins.

A dozen or more people showed up Wednesday outside the Huntridge, at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway, to tell those stories for a film crew from Silver State Production Services. A montage of those stories will likely be used to promote a kickstarter program to gain the funding needed to buy and renovate the 69-year-old historic building.

Cornthwaite, Joey Vanas and Rehan Choudry formed Huntridge Revival LLC, which signed a contract with the theater's owners to renovate and relaunch the theater. Sources estimate the purchase price would be about $4 million with renovations costing well over $10 million.

"To let this go away would be a tragedy," said Cornthwaite, who described the building's interior as "an empty shell."

"I care about this building, I have had experiences here and I want to preserve this bit of history," he said.

In talks about the building with the family that has owned the building since 2002, Cornthwaite said they believe this might be the building's last chance for survival.

"They said if we can't make it happen, it probably isn't going to happen," he said.

The revival, though, requires money. To start that campaign, several people showed up Wednesday to tell their Huntridge stories.

In his teens in 1970, Steve Evans, 58, remembered seeing the movie, "Love Story" with his parents and sister, who during one point in the film yelled, "she's going to die." The same sister, he recalled, said very loudly, "Mom, Dad's crying."

"And I think I had my first kiss here in the babies' room," he added.

Angus, 71, who now lives in Idaho but as a kid in the 1950s lived on Wengert Avenue, about three blocks away, said the Huntridge was the only place in town that sold his favorite candy bar, Idaho Spud.

A memory that stands out was from 1952 when he saw comedian/actor Danny Thomas do a show there. "Oh gosh, the place was packed," he said.

Later in life, Angus spent 12 years behind the wheel of Formula Two race cars, then started and later sold a monthly classical music newspaper in San Francisco. Now in Las Vegas visiting, he saw a notice for Wednesday night's filming on Facebook just hours earlier.

"Every Saturday morning I kept my schedule open, because I knew I was coming here," he said.

Bob Coffin, 70, and Angus were friends and lived near to each other downtown. Coffin still lives only six or seven blocks away on 5th Place.

"They used to call this area the Bel Aire of Las Vegas," said Coffin, who was a state senator for many years and is currently serving on the Las Vegas City Council.

Coffin had his first kiss here, he remembered, and spent hours in the theater watching movie serials — short episodic films such as ""Flash Gordon" — Saturday mornings.

When one of the theater operators, Harry Zumar, came into the theater "to find troublemakers," he said, chuckling, "we used to tease him; we'd all say 'zooom, zooom‚' as he walked down the aisle. We had a ball."

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