Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

O.G. Gringo

In the lost cinema of the barrio

Stairs to what was the peanut gallery in the 1914 Metro Theater’s heyday.
Stairs to what was the peanut gallery in the 1914 Metro Theater’s heyday.

“Let me show you something,” says Gary Harper. It’s around nine on a Thursday night. We’re both taking a moment out on the sidewalk away from the music at Border X in Barrio Logan. I was just saying how the barrio was changing.

Gary Harper

He leads me a short way down Logan Avenue to what looks like an old warehouse. He fumbles with keys, and presto! We’re inside what could be an ancient lobby.

“If you were standing right here 104 years ago, you would have been in the foyer of the newest theater in town,” Harper says. “The Metro. This was where all the kids of the barrio came on Saturday afternoons to see cartoons and movies. Adults sometimes came to see live burlesque. I lease this as my studio now, but the theater’s intact.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Harper is an artist, a bit of an entrepreneur and a designer of bars. “Havana in the Gaslamp, El Chingon, Meze, Border X. Had a hand in all of them.”

Art has found a home. Will theater rise again too?

We’ve just come through a plywood division wall separating the foyer from the main auditorium. It seems all the bigger for the high exposed timber roof and naked brick walls.

Well, not quite naked. “That’s one of mine,” Harper says, pointing to a mostly abstract four-by-six-foot painting leaning against the wall, mainly cream-black-red-blue horizontal bars, with either a beating sun or a black hole in the middle. “It’s called Deep Thoughts,” he says. “Just sold it for $16,000. Someone on the East Coast.”

Standing in front of Deep Thoughts is a life-filled sculpture of a man with his hands ready to buffer off some threat. “That [was done by sculptor] Bobi Postelnek. Selling for $15-$20,000. She’s famous. Lives in the Barrio.”

“So, with artists like you and her, things are changing? Gentrification?” I say. “Rents rising? The next cool place?”

“Well,” Harper says, “everything changes, but not really. Like, this Metro Theater is where the community has been coming together since 1914. And yes, I’m here now. But I know there are legacies be respected.”

He says he even has a real ghost, “a lady in a Victorian white dress” who sometimes moves through the empty spaces at night.

“But it’s more than that,” he says. “I’m Gringo, and the first advice I got when I moved in here was to play it slow. Show respect. Learn. And let people get used to me. Not be pushy. So I spent countless afternoons sitting outside, reading, saying hi, just kind of being here, letting people know I wanted to be part of this community.”

A big breakthrough came recently, Harper says, when he overheard a couple of local heavy hitters passing by, looking at him.

“‘O.G.,’” one of them mumbled to the other. “I had to ask around. What did that mean? ‘Oh God’? ‘Old Guy’? Like I was still a stranger? ‘Oh no,’ this friend of mine said. ‘That meant “Original Gangster.” That meant you’d paid your dues, been around long enough to be accepted.’ I tell you, that meant more to me than anything I could have heard. The barrio only accepts change on its own terms.”

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Encinitas goes beyond plastic straw ban

New rules allow only reusable or compostable cups, plates, bowls, trays, take-out boxes, stir sticks, lid plugs, and utensils
Next Article

Sandollar, Courtly Noyse, Shelbi Bennett, Jewel, and Punk Rock Chili Dog Social

Folk, world, punk, rock, and reggae in Ocean Beach, City Heights, Carlsbad, Little Italy, downtown
Stairs to what was the peanut gallery in the 1914 Metro Theater’s heyday.
Stairs to what was the peanut gallery in the 1914 Metro Theater’s heyday.

“Let me show you something,” says Gary Harper. It’s around nine on a Thursday night. We’re both taking a moment out on the sidewalk away from the music at Border X in Barrio Logan. I was just saying how the barrio was changing.

Gary Harper

He leads me a short way down Logan Avenue to what looks like an old warehouse. He fumbles with keys, and presto! We’re inside what could be an ancient lobby.

“If you were standing right here 104 years ago, you would have been in the foyer of the newest theater in town,” Harper says. “The Metro. This was where all the kids of the barrio came on Saturday afternoons to see cartoons and movies. Adults sometimes came to see live burlesque. I lease this as my studio now, but the theater’s intact.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Harper is an artist, a bit of an entrepreneur and a designer of bars. “Havana in the Gaslamp, El Chingon, Meze, Border X. Had a hand in all of them.”

Art has found a home. Will theater rise again too?

We’ve just come through a plywood division wall separating the foyer from the main auditorium. It seems all the bigger for the high exposed timber roof and naked brick walls.

Well, not quite naked. “That’s one of mine,” Harper says, pointing to a mostly abstract four-by-six-foot painting leaning against the wall, mainly cream-black-red-blue horizontal bars, with either a beating sun or a black hole in the middle. “It’s called Deep Thoughts,” he says. “Just sold it for $16,000. Someone on the East Coast.”

Standing in front of Deep Thoughts is a life-filled sculpture of a man with his hands ready to buffer off some threat. “That [was done by sculptor] Bobi Postelnek. Selling for $15-$20,000. She’s famous. Lives in the Barrio.”

“So, with artists like you and her, things are changing? Gentrification?” I say. “Rents rising? The next cool place?”

“Well,” Harper says, “everything changes, but not really. Like, this Metro Theater is where the community has been coming together since 1914. And yes, I’m here now. But I know there are legacies be respected.”

He says he even has a real ghost, “a lady in a Victorian white dress” who sometimes moves through the empty spaces at night.

“But it’s more than that,” he says. “I’m Gringo, and the first advice I got when I moved in here was to play it slow. Show respect. Learn. And let people get used to me. Not be pushy. So I spent countless afternoons sitting outside, reading, saying hi, just kind of being here, letting people know I wanted to be part of this community.”

A big breakthrough came recently, Harper says, when he overheard a couple of local heavy hitters passing by, looking at him.

“‘O.G.,’” one of them mumbled to the other. “I had to ask around. What did that mean? ‘Oh God’? ‘Old Guy’? Like I was still a stranger? ‘Oh no,’ this friend of mine said. ‘That meant “Original Gangster.” That meant you’d paid your dues, been around long enough to be accepted.’ I tell you, that meant more to me than anything I could have heard. The barrio only accepts change on its own terms.”

Comments
Sponsored

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Wilma to Power

Woo-ten waves goodbye
Next Article

Live Arts Fest, San Diego Bayfest, Cardiff Dog Days of Summer

Events July 18-July 21, 2024
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox Movies@Home — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close

Anchor ads are not supported on this page.