You Can Almost Go Home Again... Almost.

Damn, I missed the Bear Tooth TheatrePub in Anchorage. Since I moved to sunny Suntown, Sunnystate, USA, to an area as close to Movieland Ground Zero as I could wish to land without having to actually endure living there, I have been disappointed by the cinematic opportunities in the area. Yeah, there are some dollar houses about, but they are far enough away to make it a chore to get to them. There is a theatre that specializes in showing silent movies lurking about, but it is in LA, which is just a tad inconvenient for us to get to too often. There are also a great many movie chain theatres here, but for the most part, they are just extensions of the ol' Evil Empire, no matter how much the names change from year to year depending on which group has purchased or swapped about which batch of theatres yet again. On the plus side, I have had occasion to attend a couple of advance screenings for new films (for the record, they were the underfed Lucky You with the abhorrent Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore -- you may attach the adjective to either or both, as far as I am concerned -- and The Return with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who at least made the journey through the rather rote "it's not a horror film, it's a thriller" horror film pleasing to the eyes), and have also had to turn a couple of showings down due to scheduling conflicts (I am now on a recurring list).

And there is nothing here like the Bear Tooth. If there is, they are keeping it a damn good secret, and I have complained about this to practically every one I have met here, in the hopes that one of them will let slip with the secret if there is indeed something here even approaching the comforting atmosphere of the 'Tooth. And while I am careful about proclaiming such-and-such a place as having the best this-or-that at the drop of a hat, I have sorely missed the pizza at both the Bear Tooth and its mothership restaurant in Anchorage, The Moose's Tooth. I have only found two places here in California that have even halfway satisfied my craving for pizza -- Earth, Wind and Flour in LA with its Boston-style crusts (visited appropriately enough with my friend Bostin) and JoJo's in Brea, where I am reminded almost perfectly of the type of the homemade pies my mother used to serve us each and every Saturday night in our childhood. I certainly have a multitude of other places to test out here in Orange County and beyond, but nothing beats the now-ancient fact that I could just wander a mile down the road to the 'Tooth anytime I wanted to grab a slice and/or (usually "and") see a movie on the cheap in a perfectly plush setting. $3 a movie, a choice of booths if you get there early, beer and wine should you wish to down it, and such a grand selection of excellent food that I personally only know three people who have purchased popcorn in my presence in the place.

And I have been missing this immensely since I left Alaska. Since I save the ticket stubs from every movie that I see, it was an easy feat to discover that since the place opened in April of 2000 until I left in April of 2005 (almost exactly a five-year span), I had seen over 230 movies at the Bear Tooth TheatrePub. (This includes an amazing 22 in one week when the National Film Registry tour arrived in 2000.) When I found out I would be traveling to Alaska to see my mother in to the hospital for a rather serious operation, I knew that if there was anything that I needed to do on the outside of that time, it would be to see another movie at the 'Tooth. (I also had an immense craving to go to The Arctic Roadrunner, my favorite burger place, but that didn't quite work out for me.) Luckily, everything went fine for my mom, and so my late night carousing schedule opened up for my brother and myself. Able to hang out with a plethora of old pals, I made damn sure that my brother Mark got to finally see a film at the 'Tooth, no matter what it happened to be. As it turned out, it was Children of Men, a thrice Oscar-nominated film (one of the Mexican trio) that neither one of us had seen but of which we had great interest in catching.

And it was all too much for me. I needed more time in the place. It used to be that I would get there well over an hour before a show to make sure to grab one of the much fought-over booths. But the rules had changed since I moved. You now have to reserve a booth, and with it, you must purchase four tickets, and these go for $5 apiece instead of $3. Gone are the days where I could go to the first show by myself, and then hold the booth for my friends to arrive for the second. Because Elle reserved a pair of booths for our ever-growing horde (meaning that we still needed a few seats in the row in front of us to accommodate the lot), I didn't need to get in line, and so this freed me up to wander about and catch up on my old hangout. One of the countergirls beckoned me over so that I could order right away, talking to me as if I were a novice, so astounded was I to be in the place again. I explained that I saw a movie here on its opening night (not counting the hoity-toity ribbon-cutting junk) and had probably been here more nights watching movies than she had worked it yet. I was right: she had only worked there four months, and she allowed me to step back and swoon in my Bear Tooth reverie.

I stared at the menu for about ten minutes, hardly even putting the variety of items on the menu into any sort of legible language in my mind. All I could smell were the myriad of things that I had not tasted in two years, and my head was swimming with the combinations that I wished to purchase. My attention kept wandering because more friends, even ones like Mad Dog, Zieh and Cashby, none of whom I was expecting to see, arrived to surprise me, and in Cashby's case, to surprise them. I finally settled on a small spinach garlic chicken pizza and a Dr. Pepper, but because I was out of my first-in-line routine, I missed the new ritual where they seat the booth-holders first, and I ended up waiting for the peon line to enter. As a result, I really didn't get much of a chance to suck in the atmosphere inside my beloved hall (outside of its career as the Tooth, I had been seeing films here since I was a kid when it was the Denali Theatre, a discount dive but still cherished). The previews started just after I sat down, and the film kicked in just as my pizza arrived. The unfortunate part about the food arriving after the film starts is that it kind of takes you out of the early exposition, and Children of Men is definitely a film to which you need to pay deep attention, even though it is essentially one long chase scene.

Regardless of the situation, the film was fine and extremely intriguing, the pizza was exquisite, and the company was my old, wonderful gang. I was, for the first time in the trip, and for all intents and purposes, home. As much at home as one can get in a movie theatre. And it was terrific, despite the atrocities being committed onscreen, to get one's mind off one's personal distress for just a couple of hours. Isn't this what going to the movies is all about?

Long live the Bear Tooth...


Lindsay Lamar said…
I love (and miss) the Bear Tooth! I try to go to at least one movie there on my trips up. I loved your description!
Bostin said…
Indeed! Although I don't have the relationship with the Bear Tooth that you do, there are things in Alaska/Anchorage that I have never been able to find anything close to and become targets of a must-do when I visit now. #1 among them probably being the Guido's SuperSub...there is nothing like this exquisite piece of culinary delight anywhere! At least that I have found in my travels...Also, my favorite little burger dive, Hamburger Haven over on Muldoon...I hope as much as Anchorage changes over the years that these places never quit being what they favorites!!

Rik, by-the-by, you may also enjoy Damore's pizza...they probably don't have any locations near you (, but I talked with the owner one day at the Westwood location and he was talking about he tried for years to make a good pizza, turns out he was from the East Coast and he discovered it had to do with the water, so he imports it! Not sure what kind of pizza you are into, but this one is pretty yummy! And yes, Earth, Wind & Flour is yummy as well...
chewy said…
Guess where i went, during my one weekend surprise visit last year?

Some say that eating at a restaurant by yourself is weird. I see nothing wrong with me and myself enjoying food.
Anonymous said…
When I use to live in Anchorage, I would go to the Bear Tooth every Thursday night for a triple feature. Didn't matter what was playing. Just loved to go there. Sat in the same seat, new the cleaning crew and management. Have a platter of nachos for dinner, a pitcher of root beer and one of their great desserts.

When I got married and was getting ready to leave Alaska they gave my wife and I a free dinner and movie.

I have always thought it is one of the best places to see a movie anywhere. It's comfortable, friendly and very reasonable.

Looking forward to a return visit to Anchorage in 08-09. I do miss the place.

An Anchoragite living in England

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