This is a sad Carnegie Hall Cinema story from late ‘78 or early ‘79. I was working as a manager of this cellar-level, not-for-profit repertory house, which was owned and operated by the moustachioed, semi-rapscallion Sid Geffen (who also ran the Bleecker Street Cinema).
The name of the young woman who worked in the CHC ticket booth has faded, but let’s call her Deirdre of the Sorrows. When I called this a sad story I meant it was about unfairness, and it boils down to this: Not only did poor Deirdre suffer trauma through no fault of her own, but she was blamed for it.
One fine weekday afternoon the Carnegie Hall Cinema was robbed of $170 or $180. (Or more — I was never much for numbers.). A stick-up man walked up to the street-level booth (Seventh Ave. just north of 56th), pulled out a pistol, told terrified Deirdre to fork over and she did.
I quickly called the fuzz. I can’t recall if it was a plainclothes or a uniformed beat cop who dropped by, but he interviewed Deirdre and myself and maybe Sid, filed a report, etc.
Two days later the place was hit again — same guy, same gat, same terrified Deirdre. So Sid fired her.
Sid had figured or intuited one of three things: (1) Deirdre had made the first robbery too easy or anxiety-free for the thief, so much so that he figured that double-dipping would be no-sweat, (2) Deirdre was “in on it” with the thief — a theory that I found paranoid and silly, knowing Deirdre as I did (and no, I hadn’t even thought about trying for any sort of erotic entanglement — that would have been crude and unprofessional plus she wasn’t my type), and (3) Deirdre was a Jonah or a bringer of bad luck.
I didn’t think Sid gave any serious credence to the cahoots theory, but anyone would consider (1) and (3), especially the easy-mark thing.
Sid never asked for my opinion, but if he had I would have said “Deirdre is a responsible, decent person…this was just bad cards.” And those last five words would have, in Sid’s eyes, helped to seal her fate.
Dooley Wilson’s “Sam” in Casablanca: “Leave him alone, Miss Ilsa. You’re bad luck to him.”