April 12th, 2010

carole lombard 01
  • vp19

Do the Futurist-ic 'Rumba'

Who, or what, is that? It's a groundskeeper at the Houston Astrodome, the world's first domed stadium, in the mid-sixties. The prime tenant was major league baseball's Houston Astros, so the team dressed its grounds crew as ersatz astronauts as they manicured the field. In 1966, the ballpark's second year, the field was altered from grass (which wouldn't grow after the roof was painted to make fly balls easier for outfielders to see) to a new, artificial surface called Astroturf. That turf would find its way into stadiums both indoor and outdoor before it fell out of favor for aesthetic and health reasons.

That image strikes me as rather futuristic...which brings up today's Carole Lombard memorabilia item, from the oddly-named Futurist Theatre in Birmingham, England. It's June 1935 -- nearly three decades before the Astrodome would open -- and theater patrons received a program about that week's movie:

It's for "Rumba," Carole's second dance film with George Raft and generally considered not up to the level of "Bolero," issued the year before. Nevertheless, Paramount promoted it as "The Greatest Dancing Romance the Screen has ever known...!" (Does this mean Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers weren't involved in "dancing romances"?)

Anyway, it's heading a double bill at the Futurist that includes the Randolph Scott vehicle "Home On The Range," and this artifact -- which somehow found its way to North Carolina -- is being offered at eBay (http://cgi.ebay.com/RUMBA-GEO-RAFT-CAROLE-LOMBARD-JUNE-10th-1935_W0QQitemZ250610265007QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item3a59892baf). Bids begin at $9.99 (no bids have been placed as of this writing), and bidding closes at 5:43 p.m. (Eastern) today, so if you want it, you'd better hurry.

As for the Astrodome, it's still up, but now it's generally used for rodeos and agricultural shows. In 2000, the Astros moved to a downtown ballpark with a retractable roof (a technology unavailable when the Astrodome was built), thus allowing real grass to grow. And the grounds crew? They ditched the spaceman look long ago.
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