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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » Theatre's roof becomes practical joke?

Author Topic: Theatre's roof becomes practical joke?
Jim Rankin
(Jim passed away in December 2006)
Posts: 123
From: Milwaukee, WI
Registered: Oct 2003

 - posted June 15, 2005 07:49 PM      Profile for Jim Rankin   Email Jim Rankin         Edit/Delete Post 


The "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel" has this story about our former BAY theatre which later became the LAKE:
about how a local eccentric owner painted huge letters on its flat, black roof saying "Welcome to Cleveland" when planes fly over it to Milwaukee's airport a few blocks away. This has amused and startled more than a few flyers, and the story of it makes interesting reading. Click on the link above, and when there, click on the photo to enlarge it and see what all the fuss is about. The marquee still hangs on the front of the theatre which has been Mr. Gubin's photo studio and residence for many years now, and which has had its seats removed, but its new incarnation is probably a more suiteable usage than many others. What will become of it when Mr. Gubin becomes to old to climb the steps to his balcony-home, is anyone's guess, but maybe the roof top joke will by then have long faded away, much to the delight of both cities. Maybe the author of the forthcoming sequel to "Milwaukee Movie Palaces," Larry Widen, can get permission to copy this photo into the appendex of his new book: "Silver Screens" to appear in a year from now. He can hardly overlook this bit of trivia about the fates of our movie palaces! (a history and descripton of the BAY/LAKE is here:

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Adam Martin

Posts: 1090
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003

 - posted June 15, 2005 08:03 PM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin         Edit/Delete Post 
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A typical welcome sign? That won't fly

Jim Stingl

For 27 years it's been up there on the flat roof of Mark Gubin's building in the flight path of Mitchell International Airport. A sign painted in letters 6 feet tall tells people arriving here by air: "WELCOME TO CLEVELAND."

"There's not a real purpose for having this here except madness, which I tend to be pretty good at," Gubin said Tuesday when I stopped at his place in Bay View to see the sign.

Gubin, a nearly retired photographer, has an art studio in this building that once housed a movie theater here on the corner of Delaware and Rusk avenues. And his living quarters are where the balcony used to be.

And above that is the roof, where he was having lunch one day in 1978 with a woman who worked as his assistant. Taking note of all the low-flying planes, she said it would be nice to make a sign welcoming everyone to Milwaukee. "You know what would even be better?" Gubin said.

The next thing you know, he's out there on the black roof with a roller and white paint creating the sign that would bring more notoriety than anything else in his long career. A story about his confusing message ran in thousands of newspapers and magazines, on national TV news, "The Tonight Show," Paul Harvey, all over.

Cleveland wanted to know if he was making fun of them, a favorite sport back then. The answer was, yes, a little.

Someone in Cleveland invited him to come there and paint a sign welcoming travelers to Milwaukee, but he was too busy making a living. He heard that someone else near Mitchell painted a roof sign saying "YOU ARE NOW LEAVING CLEVELAND," but he doesn't think that was true.

Here are two other things he's been told over the years. Supposedly there was a regular Northwest Airlines flight from Denver to Cleveland that would announce to Milwaukee passengers just before landing here on a stopover that they had not missed their stop, despite what the sign says. And the security people who hover overhead when the president visits say they use his roof as a landmark because it doesn't do much good to single out just any old roof or steeple.

Gubin has kept a winking letter from then-Common Council president Ben E. Johnson saying that the sign was causing "outrage and panic" for some air passengers, but the city planned to take no action. "I was in Cleveland not too long ago and I agree with Mr. Gubin that anybody who wants Cleveland is welcome to it," Johnson wrote.

No one from the airport or airlines ever complained for real about his humorous bit of misdirection, although he did hear that some of his Bay View neighbors were embarrassed when the sign first went up. You have to hope their sense of humor has since improved.

"It was all tongue-in-cheek, just for fun. Living in the world is not a dress rehearsal. You better have fun with it," Gubin, 62, told me.

That pretty much sums up his own life, much of it spent seeing the world through his camera viewfinder. Just for grins, he owns the red, white and blue tugboat, the Solomon Juneau, you see around Milwaukee. He also has the Maid of Honour, an admiral's barge from the 1920s. And, rejecting the notion that people from years back created better folk art, he has been carving the most amazing wooden figures, flags, whirligigs and even a dresser made entirely of driftwood.

As much as anything, the curious sign on the roof hints at the artistic, eccentric man who lives below amid the glorious clutter of his lifetime.

Gubin still thrills at the thought of passengers looking out the aircraft windows during final descent and either having a laugh or summoning the flight attendant in a panic, which could be an Erie experience.

As long as the sign has been there, people are still noticing it for the first time if the wind direction brings their flight over Bay View. A colleague mentioned it to me the other day. "I'm usually too busy repeating the 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' just in case we crash-land to look down," she said.

Over the years, Gubin has touched up the letters in whatever paint he had available, usually yellow. During the 30 minutes or so that we spent talking on the roof, nine large and small planes roared overhead, affording an excellent view of the sign to anyone on the left side of the aircraft.

Figuring it was my only chance, I gave a friendly wave upward. Hey, look down here, everyone. It's Cleveland.

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