― Steve Maraboli
Behavioral scientist and author
“Life, the Truth and Being Free”
When we first talked — on the telephone and probably some time in the late ’70s, as I recall — Calvin Harvey didn’t hold back.
The man was upset. Back then, Skype was just some kind of weird sci-fi make-believe in “Star Trek,” so peering into the telephone at the other talker’s image was thankfully impossible. But had I been able to see Calvin’s face, I’m sure it would have been beet red.
Like I said, the man was mad.
As a young reporter in the same newsroom of this same Cleveland Daily Banner, I used to write reviews of some of the latest flicks I would see at the Cleveland theaters. Back in the day, those consisted only of the Village Theater, located on First Street adjacent to what is now the Village Green; the Cinema Twin, located on Grove Avenue in what is now the Habitat for Humanity offices and ReStore; and the Star-Vue Drive-in which closed sometime after our Cleveland arrival in ’77.
As anyone who knew Calvin will remember, he managed the Village Theater. The Cinema Twin was his biggest rival. I don’t think the managers exchanged pleasantries regularly nor was one included on the other’s Christmas card list.
One of my first movie reviews must have been from a Cinema Twin showing. The review was published on the Entertainment Page. Calvin saw it. Calvin must have read it because Calvin got hot. As I recall, his first phone call was to former advertising salesman Ron Kosemund who worked the Village Theater account. Calvin must have given Ron a good scolding about giving his competitor some free advertising with the review because Ron then stepped into the newsroom and alerted me that I would be getting the same phone call.
Ron was correct.
Calvin called. And as I said, Calvin was hot.
Reflecting on that call, I can’t remember much of its content. I do recall doing a lot of listening. I don’t recollect getting in many words other than “But, Mr. Harvey ...” because once he got started Calvin had a hard time finishing.
That was how I met Calvin Harvey.
A few days later, I leveled the playing field for Calvin by viewing a movie at the Village. I can’t remember the flick, but I must have enjoyed it because I gave it a favorable review in the paper. The popcorn and Diet Coke were pretty amazing as well. Back in those days, I think they still popped the corn with coconut oil ... a later taboo for modern-day moviehouses.
The day after the review published, Calvin called. He was a happy man. He also apologized for his prior remarks. They were made by a stressed businessman who was doing nothing more than trying to make ends meet against a competitor who had two screens to his one. Later, Calvin renovated the Village and split the massive auditorium into two, thereby giving him twin screens as well.
For several years I wrote movie reviews for shows at both the Village and the Cinema. On occasion, the managers furnished passes which weren’t requested but always appreciated. Besides, I always bought the popcorn and DC.
Over the years, Calvin and I became good friends. I would walk in to see a movie. He’d meet me at the door to ask which flick I was seeing. He’d tell me if it was any good and whether I was wasting my time and dollar. Sometimes I took his advice. Sometimes I didn’t. Most of the time he was right.
Once Calvin did me a huge favor. I felt guilty accepting it, but he assured me the movie wasn’t going to sell out and that everyone would get in. I had three others with me at the time — including my wife — and we were waiting to buy our tickets in a single-file line that stretched into the parking lot. We had 20 or so folks in front of us and about as many behind us.
Calvin stepped outside the doors and walked over to us.
“How many do you have with you?” Calvin asked in a low tone.
I motioned three.
“You all come with me,” he said, and promptly turned and headed back to the lobby doors. We followed. He let us in free of charge and I only hoped not too many people in line were watching.
“I didn’t want you to have to wait,” Calvin told me when we stepped inside. “You folks enjoy the show. And buy lots of popcorn.”
We did ... and candy and drinks.
That was the Calvin Harvey of the 1970s and ’80s I’ll always remember. His heart was bigger than any theater. He was a community man. He was a good man.
Three years ago a much older Calvin called. He noticed my byline had returned to the newspaper after a 21-year absence. He thanked me for a column I had written for our “Cleveland Life” magazine.
“You ready to get back into theater work, Calvin?” I teased.
“Lord no!” he chuckled weakly. “I’m 85 years old. But I’m glad you’re back with the paper.”
For the next couple of years my wife and I would occasionally run into Calvin and Betty at the Captain D’s on APD 40. Physically, he was going down. But in spirit he was the same old Calvin.
“You’ve not lost your sense of humor,” I once told him while waiting for our fish and hushpuppies.
“No, but you’ve lost your hair!” he chuckled. Calvin’s eyes sparkled.
On the evening of July 24, my wife noticed the incomplete obituary on Page 2 of the paper. It listed little more than name and funeral home until details could be completed.
“Is this our Calvin Harvey?” she asked from the living room.
“Yes,” I answered. “That’s our Calvin.”
Betty had passed only weeks earlier. And now Calvin had joined her.
The next time we see a flick at one of the ultra-modern, multi-screen, mega-theaters, my wife and I will offer a Diet Coke toast to the Harveys.
And the first bite of popcorn will crunch in memory of my longtime friend.
Sit back now Calvin, clear your mind and enjoy the show. Reviews I’ve read say you’re gonna love it.