Dream theater: 13-year-old set to take reins of Colfax landmark
COLFAX – The Colfax Theatre’s new owner is a singer, actress, horror-film buff and aspiring marine biologist.
She’s sung for Harlem theater audiences and plans to use her talents as a performer to bring live acts to the one-screen theater that first opened for business months before the start of World War II.
Oh, and there is that one other thing. Paris Endicott-Chase, who was recently deeded the venerable single-screen theater by the man who saved the landmark from destruction, is only 13.
She can’t drive to the theater or watch many of the movies scheduled to play there.
She can’t even sign her employees’ paychecks.
But there is an undeniable buzz building in this town of 1,700, where the theater, with its towering neon sign, will this weekend witness both the cinema’s ceremonial rebirth, as well as a sort of debutante ball for the spirited home-schooler with a diva’s pipes.
For Paris, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” just like the song she sang Wednesday in the theater, serenading journalists in rocker chairs.
“I’m just so happy to get this theater in my name,” Paris said, dressed in a pink miniskirt and black tights, her neck bejeweled with baubles. “I’m not scared, no. I’m really confident I will make the same effort my grandpa did and make it a success for years to come.”
Asked how she would accomplish this, Paris breathed deep and looked into the spotlights.
“Hope. My parents always said, ‘Just follow your dreams.'”
She has already hired an agent to help field television roles, and a voice coach awaits in Los Angeles to tutor her for music gigs.
Nevertheless, she’s ready to man the popcorn machine, just as she did as a child … um … younger child.
In transferring ownership to his granddaughter, Wendell Jacob said he is confident she’ll work out.
“There’s not a bone of fear in her body,” he said.
Jacob, 75, began working with movie reels at the old Varsity Theater in Davis as a teen. He purchased the theater in Colfax at a time when many in town believed the cinema was doomed. He gutted the theater, refurbished it with seats from the old Village Theater in Sacramento and laid carpet woven in Ireland before opening for business in 1989.
A collection of projectors dating to the first decade of the 20th century greets visitors in the lobby.
Jacob plans to help his granddaughter, her mother, Cynthia, and the rest of her family run the theater. The family recently moved from the Los Angeles area in preparation of the theater purchase.
While Paris won’t be signing contracts, she will be selling tickets, filling popcorn boxes and eventually learning to run the projector.
The town’s mayor, Sharon Gieras, who serves as the theater’s bookkeeper, will handle the money for the 240-seat venue.
“This is one of the special places in town,” Gieras said.
Saturday, the town is getting dressed up for a party that includes a special showing of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which was the first film played at the theater. The party will also feature an appearance by Tyrone Power Jr., the son of the star of the movie, along with live bands, and a 10-foot cake.
The family said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called to say he couldn’t make it, so he sent a special note to Paris instead.
Along Main Street, hopes are high for Saturday and beyond.
Over at The Hair Studio a few doors down, Suzanne Tustin of Alta cheered Paris’ moxie.
“That’s a pretty generous grandpa,” she said. “At first, the idea sounds bizarre, but I think it’s kind of cool. I think she’ll learn to appreciate it.”
Mike Garman, owner of the X Mex Taqueria and Cafe, was stoked for Saturday.
“It’s Colfax, man, let’s be real. We could use a little publicity. It’s awesome.”
Paris said she’d eventually like to expand live performances at the theater, perhaps staging a few concerts of her own. As the afternoon wore on Wednesday and patrons lined the lobby for the 4 p.m. showing of “Along Came Polly,” Paris sighed.
“This is kind of a fairy-tale life,” she said. “I love my life. I’m not going to be one of those stars who said they had a miserable childhood.”
With that, she slipped out of the room. Across the railroad tracks at home, a belated birthday party with cake, ice-cream and pre-teen friends waited.
She did, after all, just turn 13.
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