Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's a Vertigo kind of day

...although it's not because I'm feeling unbalanced. Well, no more than usual anyway.

Elizabeth was in the mood for some Hitchcock recently. So I connected this Macbook to the big screen and, voila!, via Netflix steaming we watched Strangers on a Train. Chances are good that The 39 Steps will be next in line.

Since then, ol' Alfred has been popping up on my day-to-day radar with unnerving frequency. Last weekend Seattle's SIFF Cinema featured a Hitchcock series. Our friend Wendy emailed to ask if we might be in Portland for Halloween, in which case we could catch Psycho screened with Bernard Herrmann's signature score performed live with the Oregon Symphony. My big blog post on the near-miss of a Hitchcock version of The War of the Worlds drove email into my Inbox as recently as this morning. Meanwhile, downstairs in our movie room, the North by Northwest poster framed above the shelves urges me to slide that Blu-ray disc into the player again. Or else Rear Window, my other Hitch fave.

And now, mere minutes ago, Elizabeth sends me email stating that our upcoming trip to San Francisco (where my stepson Austin rocks grad school, and where we have friends and relatives) will include reservations at Hotel Vertigo...
... a newly-opened homage to Hitchcock in San Francisco. It's been 50 years since Hitchcock's thriller of the same name was released (some scenes were filmed in the original hotel that occupied this building); to mark the occasion, the movie will be projected onto the floor of the lobby, and screened in the rooms 24 hours a day. Madeleine cookies (named after Kim Novak's character) are dished out to guests on arrival, and bedrooms will be decked out in a giddy white-and-tangerine combo. Hitchcock obsessives should book into Suite 13, where they can spend sleepless nights hunting for the 13 references to the film.
Maybe we'll take the Vertigo Movie Tour of San Francisco. The fact that a movie buff can make such a pilgrimage amuses me amply.

And finally, just a few hours ago I spied my most frequent Hitchcock reminder. It's exactly three miles from our house, on the other side of the West Seattle Bridge (once home to the mysterious Grouchos). It's an example of vintage neon signage that I pass routinely on my way into downtown Seattle.

That's the Vertigo Building on 1st Avenue South. The sign is indeed an image of Jimmy Stewart as "Scottie" Ferguson in Vertigo.

Although you'd be forgiven for thinking of North by Northwest:

I've seen businesses come and go there over the past five years. Earlier this year the building was empty and up for lease, so I feared that its odd and magnificent sign would soon end up either in a trash dump or on eBay. Yet this summer J&J Cigars moved in, and cigar aficionados may now gather together in the second-floor Vertigo Club. I'll gladly take that as a clue that the sign is staying.

Naturally, there's an obvious question you've already asked. What the hell's up with that sign? Where did it come from?

A little googling turns up a Seattle Times neighborhood profile from 2003. The building is owned by Dr. Scott Andrews, a dentist and developer who "imprinted his personality, hobbies and memories" on this section of the largely industrial neighborhood. The Vertigo sign is the last remaining item of Dr. Andrews' street nostalgia. The attached building next door once displayed three leaping cutouts of old-time baseball players, and a 1950s-vintage Superman hung in mid-flight on a building across the street. Those are gone now, alas. According to the Times piece,
Andrews still practices dentistry, but keeps an office in the building. He pushes a bookcase door to reveal his private theater, with eight double-wide leather seats. His party room on the same floor is adorned with movie posters and worn stadium seats, representing old Sicks Stadium. Soon, he hopes to have an old-time hotdog stand on a nearby street corner.
"Everything here relates in some way to my childhood," Andrews explains.
I wonder if he's still practicing seven years later?

Here's hoping this recent The Birds-like clustering of random Hitchockiana around me peters out soon. Not that I don't dig Hitch, mind you. It's just that any day now I expect him to start making cameo appearances in my life: