A “friendly” query

Dear Georgette: What, you don’t think the Paramount is friendly? You got some kinda problem with the Paramount that Ace needs to fix for you? Like maybe with a fat punch to the schnoz?
    Ha! Just kidding, Georgette. Ace is a man of peace, and always friendly—just like the beautifully restored Paramount. But still, that sign has always struck Ace as a bit much: it feels like the Paramount is trying just a little too hard. To figure out exactly when the theater began to self-promote its jocular nature, Ace placed a call to the theater’s resident historian, Sandy DeKay, who was intimately involved with the long restoration process. Although she didn’t have an exact answer as to why the old theater needed to advertise its friendliness (“I’m sure it was just a marketing thing,” she says), she had much light to shed on when the appellation was added.
    “In the ’50s, we think, that sign was painted on the back of the building,” she explained. “It eventually wore away, but we had a photograph, so we had it re-painted.”
    Interestingly, when the work was being done, the restorer noticed an even older sign beneath the “friendly” slogan. “He said, ‘You realize there is some evidence that there was an earlier sign there,’” DeKay recalls. “And once it was pointed out to us, we could clearly see the P-A-R of the old Paramount logo.” That would be the old Paramount-Publix theater chain, which was owned by Paramount Pictures. Interestingly, Paramount was among the first studios to capitulate to government demands that they divest their sprawling theater holdings, in 1949. Perhaps, to put a good face on the trust-busting, the newly liberated Paramount covered up the studio logo and added the word “friendly” to fool the still-suspicious Justice Department.
    Of course, no matter how “friendly” the ’50s-era Paramount claimed to be, it was still a strictly segregated theater, with a separate entrance for black theatergoers. The new Paramount has a fine educational display about this hidden piece of history inside the old Third Street entrance, and Ace highly recommends that you stop by and take a look.
    Now get outta Ace’s face, why don’tcha? Go on, scram!

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