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The Silver Streak Washroom. Oh, THE SHAME!


TomJH
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Do you remember that scene in Silver Streak? The one in which Gene Wilder disguises himself as a black man in order to allude authorities, while Richard Pryor desperately tries to show him how to act “hip black.” It’s an hilarious moment because Wilder is so ludicrously over-the-top that he appears more drug-induced deranged than anything else. My favourite scene in the film.

 

Well, it was filmed in Toronto’s Union Station washroom in 1976. And as the years passed and I felt the call of nature at that train depot I would walk (sometimes limp) past the other washrooms in the building and go to the upper level of Union Station – to the Silver Streak washroom.

 

And as I used those gracefully aging facilities there, I would happily look around and think yep – it’s still all here and looking EXACTLY the same as it did in the film. Oh, they may have changed a washer or two over the years , but, essentially, it was the same old washbasins, the same smeary mirrors, the same open air urinals that Wilder and Pryor worked beside and (I liked to think) once used.

 

I regarded that washroom as Union Station’s shrine to a great moment in screen comedy.

 

I recall one time I was in the washroom and mentioned its historical significance to another patron there washing his hands at the time. He recalled Wilder in grease-smeared (or whatever it was) blackface, too, and smiled in his realization of the hallowed grounds upon which he stood and splashed.

 

 Some years later I mentioned it to another person while we were both in there doing our thing. He had never heard of Silver Streak and, therefore, looked duly unimpressed. “Cultural boor,” I looked down my nose at him, “We’re in a urinary shrine right now.”

 

Anyway, a couple of years ago the City of Toronto hired a contractor to start huge multi-million dollar renovations  on Union Station. When it’s all completed (possibly two years from now) there’s supposed to be a major shoppers’ mecca there, I believe, in addition to being the city’s central transportation terminal.

 

As a result of this parts of Union Station have been cut off from view as workmen are sighted everywhere, along with the sounds of drills and hammers and what not.

 

Naturally, my great concern was for the Silver Streak Washroom.  I, if no one else around here, have my priorities. The first time I was at Union after construction had begun I naturally rushed to the washroom, even though I didn’t really need to avail myself of its chambers. Thank goodness it was still there. The place where Wilder shucked and jived! I was happy, feeling great relief (though perhaps not the quite same kind that I normally experienced there).

 

A few months later when I returned, however, the Silver Streak Washroom had been cut off from view. Massive boards were erected where Wilder and Pryor once performed. Since they are now modernizing everything at Union Station’s other washrooms (motion activated taps and urinals, sparkling new tile floors you could eat off, mirrors where you can actually see yourself) I know that the Silver Streak Washroom is no more.

 

The last time I was in Toronto and at Union Station I took a sad stroll near where Wilder had jived and Pryor had grimaced in response to that jive. Still boarded off, still no sign of any kind of washroom even returning there. For all I know that spot will now become the location of a fancy dress shop or drug store. Oh, THE SHAME!

 

A construction worker passed by me as I looked at the spot . “Have you NO respect for film history,” I thought. Okay, I’m rational enough in the midst of my mourning to know that he’s not personally responsible. He is, however, symbolic of the inevitability of change.

 

So it’s gone, folks. And I’m sorry if I added to the burden of your day by sharing this tragic news with those who, like I, love that scene in Silver Streak.

 

The Silver Streak Washroom - may it R(estroom)IP.

 

 

 

 

 

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So it’s gone, folks. And I’m sorry if I added to the burden of your day by sharing this tragic news with those who, like I, love that scene in Silver Streak.

 

The Silver Streak Washroom - may it R(estroom)IP.

 

LOL

 

Well, while I thoroughly enjoyed reading your lament to one aspect of the bygone era of Hollywoo..err..TORONTO movie history here Tom, I gotta admit that it didn't quite bring me to the same level of melancholy I experienced recently after watching that video in another thread about the demolition of San Francisco's Fox Theater.

 

(...though if it makes you feel any better here, your story here WOULD presently rank a good close second!) ;)

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LOL

 

Well, while I thoroughly enjoyed reading your lament to one aspect of the bygone era of Hollywoo..err..TORONTO movie history here Tom, I gotta admit that it didn't quite bring me to the same level of melancholy I experienced recently after watching that video in another thread about the demolition of San Francisco's Fox Theater.

 

(...though if it makes you feel any better here, your story here WOULD presently rank a good close second!) ;)

Thanks, Dargo. It's good to know that someone can understand my pain. ;)

 

 A part of Toronto film history just flushed away.

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Reading this makes me think of when an old ballpark/stadium/arena  is being torn down and all of the hard core fans go and rip the seats out of the place before they just get tossed into the trash. Tom, you should have gotten in there and saved one of the old toilets or urinals before they got discarded. What a great conversation piece to have in your den or living room :D

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Do you remember that scene in Silver Streak? The one in which Gene Wilder disguises himself as a black man in order to allude authorities, while Richard Pryor desperately tries to show him how to act “hip black.” It’s an hilarious moment because Wilder is so ludicrously over-the-top that he appears more drug-induced deranged than anything else. My favourite scene in the film.

 

..........edited for space

 

So it’s gone, folks. And I’m sorry if I added to the burden of your day by sharing this tragic news with those who, like I, love that scene in Silver Streak.

 

The Silver Streak Washroom - may it R(estroom)IP.

Thank you, TomJH, for sharing. I do commiserate. Most disturbing, of course, is the blissful ignorance of those not reverent of the history of that hallowed ground. Too bad you didn't take a selfie before it was too late. ;)

 

I remember way back when the first of the three single plex movie theaters was razed. Little did I know the theater I loved most then was run by the movie studio I love most now, i.e., RKO. MGM was behind Loew's, yes? We also had an independent theater, what a town. Now it is run by ghosts and thieves.

 

Anywho, the theater was being demolished and on the sidewalk were dumped the beautiful, although tired, red velvet seats of days gone by. Not having a place of my own or parents who would agree to humor me, I lost out on a piece of history, the place where I cried at the demise of Rodan and saw, in person, Nikki: Wild Dog Of The North.

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Tom, you should have gotten in there and saved one of the old toilets or urinals before they got discarded. What a great conversation piece to have in your den or living room :D

You're right, mrroberts.

 

I could have mounted a toilet on my wall, with a sign underneath:

 

"Wilder Was Here. He Had A Pryor Commitment."

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I visit a Facebook site that caters to the ramblings of people who grew up and lived and still live in my old hometown of Lincoln Park, Michigan.  Every day there ruminations with sadness that some old institution is long gone or just now facing demolition.  It is saddening.  Just today there was discussion about how the city's only movie house is possibly being either demolished or repurposed as something else. 

 

The same theater I saw Many a movie in during my youth.  How many Saturday afternoons did I spend in that place?  Watching Burt Lancaster raise canaries in prison?  Jimmy Stewart get credit for shooting Lee Marvin?  Elvis getting the girl?  How the WEST was won?  Motor cycle gangs taking over small towns while Davey Allen and the Arrows played super fuzz-toned guitars?

 

The sadness of no longer being able to go there to see quality film.  Their desperate grasp for life as a concert venue.  Their final spiral to obscurity as a porno house.  Now it WILL be gone.  And my sadness will be complete.

 

Sepiatone

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The movie used Canada's Via Rail passenger trains with just enough retouching to say Silver Streak and AmRoad on them.  Amtrak has always been very reluctant to have their trains shown in movies.  I believe most of the movie was made in Canada, but the final scene was in Chicago.

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