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LeBARON: Green Center biggest opening ever, maybe

Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 9:45 p.m.

Three things on my mind this week; the first one shouldn't be hard to guess.

The whoopla surrounding the opening of the Green Music Center last weekend was an occasion that cried out for the old society pages. Where was Roby Gemmell with her fur stole and gold clipboard when we needed her?

How much fun can it be to watch the changes as a town grows up?

At the champagne reception before Lang Lang's recital, people, seeking comparisons, were talking about parties past. Several chose the “Farewell to the Courthouse” party that the Lawyers' Wives threw in the '60s, just before they knocked the old girl down.

Others suggested the opening of the Flamingo 55 years back. But the best suggestion, coming closest, may have been the pride and joy that occasioned the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. Let the good times roll!

Among the frivolity, however, there was serious talk of how this spectacular facility — which got rave notices as far away as the New York Times — will change Sonoma County.

If the world beats a path to our door, if this becomes a performing arts destination, how will that alter our fortunes and our general demeanor? Will we still be, as the Spanish once knew us, La Frontera del Norte, the outer edge of the Bay Area? Or will we be whirled into the vortex of Big City culture?

The other thing people were talking about at the opening gala was, of course, what everybody else was wearing. One woman in a stunning gown accepted compliments modestly, saying: “Thank you. I wasn't sure it was the right thing to wear. It's a Galliano and I wasn't sure Sonoma County was ready for that.”

I expect we'll have to get used to this sort of thing. Some may be surprised that the roads are paved.

Welcome our visitors with pride, I say. We are Sonoma County. Nowhere else is like it. 'Nuff said.

If we want more retrospective, more talk of game-changers, we need to watch for a remarkable film called “Rebels With a Cause,” which premiered last night at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

This documentary by Bay Area filmmakers Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, produced in association with KRCB-TV Channel 22, is the long-awaited result of a good idea that occurred to KRCB's president and CEO, Nancy Dobbs, 14 years ago when she read a new book called “Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast” by L. Martin Griffin, the pioneer environmentalist cum winemaker (Hop Kiln).

Marty's stories of the 1960s included the dramatic “rescue” of the Point Reyes peninsula for a national park, the salvation of the Bolinas Lagoon, the proposed Bodega Head nuclear plant. All were near misses and narrow escapes. It was a documentarian's dream. Add in the harrowing tale of Marin-cello, the Gulf Oil-backed development that would have put 30,000 residents on the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and you have the perfect environmental storm.

“I knew that most local people didn't know these stories,” Dobbs said, and she decided to find a way to tell them.

She began by doing what public media people do first, raising funds. The earliest “seed money” came from the Marin Community Foundation and the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Dodds credits the late Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan with that important donation. McGlashan, she said, was sworn into office with his hand on Marty's book instead of the Bible.

In 2007, KRCB teamed with Kelly and Yamamoto to bring the stories to the screen. They created a concept paper, agreed on a budget and went to work.

They looked at the whole sweep of the Marin Coast, interviewing the “saviors” and visualizing what might have been, Dobbs raising money, Kelly and Yamamoto filming as funds became available.

Timing being everything, there were some magic moments in the five years of production. There are segments with former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall at 90 years old, and with 102-year-old Edgar Wayburn, a former Sierra Club president, shortly before their deaths in 2010.

They are just two of a collection of “rebels” who tell their stories in the hour-long film, which was an unprecedented sell-out at its premiere Saturday. It will be shown again on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael and is scheduled for the United Nations Association Film Festival in Palo Alto on Oct. 22.

It will, rest assured, be shown on KRCB when the film festival circuit is over and will be distributed to PBS stations nationwide. Everybody's going to know the stories.

Write in haste, repent at leisure.

In compiling the list of century-old Santa Rosa businesses while writing about Mead Clark Lumber Company's 100th year, I left off Grohe Florist, which dates to 1902, and Santa Rosa Memorial Park/Odd Fellows Cemetery, which has been here since 1885.

My most egregious omission, however, was my very own bank, Exchange Bank, which opened in 1890.

That's all. I hope.

What Santa Rosa needs is a historical society all its own — to keep track of things like this for me. And for all of you.

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