THE MOORE THINGS CHANGE: Requiem for Globe
The cinema was as still as a morgue at midnight.
Indeed, the scene on the wide screen was a morgue. The actor playing Ugandan President Idi Amin and his retinue entered the room. After a few minutes, Amin asked everyone to leave him for a moment of prayer at the unfortunate passing of one of his detractors.
Standing over the corpse of the outspoken bishop, Amin opened a penknife and started carving. With the camera shot at chest level, he came up with a long, red slice of flesh, threw back his head, slid the meat into his mouth and began chewing. You could feel the shock and awe in the packed cinema.
As if to release the tension, the longest, loudest steupse I ever heard, and a dismissive basso profundo growl came up from the Pit: “Who he t’ink he foolin’? Dah is piece-ah ham, man!”
And The Globe erupted. It was several minutes before patrons settled back in their seats.
That was my last visit to The Globe at Roebuck Street, a stone’s throw away from where I grew up just off Hall’s Road.
The passing into ultimately some other commercial usage a week ago ended a special era of the old-fashioned cinema in Barbados. The Globe hung on for as long as it was economically possible to do so as the tide of technology and changing tastes took its toll.
The Globe was where Viterose and I stole our first kisses in the dark of the balcony at matinee. It was the venue for a series of variety shows ranging from the popular Miss Barbados pageant through live performances by Mighty Sparrow, Miriam Makeba, Sam Cooke, Chubby Checker, Brook Benton, B.B. King, Byron Lee, Johnny Mathis, Eddie Heywood, Winifred Atwell and the Ice Follies, to food-eating contests featuring “Goot”, putting away a mountain of rice-and-stew, and “Borky”, gulping down a case of 24 red Ju-C only to bring it all up minutes later.
“Goot” would fast – we called it “purge” – for two days before those gormandizing spectacles on the stage.
One night, Jackie Opel upstaged American soul singer Joe Tex. Tex promised to help Jackie break into the big time in the United States. It didn’t happen.
Then, there were the people associated with the cinema. I recall the impresario Maurice Jones, the first manager, whose contribution should not be forgotten, and charming Jewel Small, who greeted patrons entering the House and the Balcony.
But it was the Ali family, of Trinidad, who took over in the mid-1950s and kept The Globe going for more than half-century until the final curtain came down.
Like ageing siblings in a large family, The Globe is the last to leave the scene, following The Empire, The Olympic, The Roxy, the three Plazas at Bridgetown, Barbarees Hill and Oistins, The Gaiety, The Astor, The Vista, and one that few Barbadians seem to remember – The Royal.
Hurricane Janet blew that to smithereens on September 22, 1955, with winds packing 120 miles per hour. The Vista appeared on the same site a few years later.
Except The Royal and The Astor, all those movie houses are still standing and are filling different economic roles – well, not quite; The Gaiety in St James became the Roman Catholic Church of St Francis of Assisi and we don’t quite know yet what to do with The Empire – apart from the talking – and the recent formation of a Facebook flash mob.
The Vista has undergone a few iterations – from cinema to church then back to cinema. It’s now a branch of Cave Shepherd and Co. Ltd.
So, The Globe has left the stage with only its Drive-in relative remaining. Even drive-in cinemagoing, I’m told, is losing its appeal.
Cinemagoing has switched to the Olympus giant screens at Sheraton and, more recently, the spanking, up-market Limegrove at Holetown in St James.
As the song goes: Everything must change; nothing stays the same.