People have been noticing.

Depending on which side of the historic Fox Theater tower you see at night, the letters "OX" or “FO” or some other English teacher's nightmare will shine in happy, brilliant, misspelled neon.

The clock also has some problems, Theater Manager Matt Spindler said Wednesday as he and Fox Foundation Board President Gilbert LaRoque led a Californian reporter on a backstage tour of the iconic theater.

"We used a GoFundMe at the Visalia Fox for a major plumbing disaster — and we had success," said Spindler, who managed the smaller Visalia theater before taking the reins in Bakersfield in 2017.

So they decided to launch a GoFundMe drive to ask for the Bakersfield community's help in bringing the Fox's beautiful tower "back to its full glory."

And it's working.

After being up seven days, the GoFundMe account contained about $2,200, more than one-third of the fund's $6,000 goal. In addition, an individual had just dropped off a check for $1,000, which isn't reflected in the GoFundMe total.

"This gives the community the opportunity to see what's going on here," LaRoque said. "It gives people an opportunity to get involved." 

There's excitement in the air at the 88-year-old theater, the men said. There's both new blood and experienced hands on the board. And for the first time, the operations at the Fox and the nonprofit foundation are essentially one and the same.

Bringing in big-name talent is important, Spindler said, but there's also value in promoting as many events as possible that "allow us to turn on the lights more often," and give people in the community more opportunities to enjoy being at the Fox.

"It's about making this space as accessible as possible," he said. "Bringing the community in as much as possible."

Hosting movies in the Cults & Classics series is just one example. It's not a moneymaker, LaRoque said, but bringing in several hundred people on a Monday night — a night on which the theater would otherwise be closed — to see this week's screening of "Citizen Kane" or the upcoming March 11 showing of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is just one more way for the community to enjoy the venue.

If the community comes through on the GoFundMe account, the hope is that California Neon will be able to make electrical repairs on-site and replace blown transformers. A neon artist will be on hand to repair or re-create neon glass as needed. Spindler said he wants electricians to find a way to make it possible for the Fox to leave the white part of its marquee lighted when the theater is closed so passers-by can always see what's coming up at the Fox, even at night.

And as a way to cap off the fundraising effort, theater staff are planning a March 2 showing of "Back to the Future" — the movie's connection to a town's old clock tower being central.

This "cute idea" came from someone in the Facebook community, Spindler said. Admission will be free, but donations are, of course, welcome.

"To help save the clock tower," Spindler said.

"The Fox tower," LaRoque added.

All they need now is a 1981 DeLorean parked out front. And an electrical storm.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

(2) comments

She Dee

I enjoyed reading this piece on the FOX...but why do you say it was misspelled? The lights are out. Over the years they have been fixed many times. Neon is nice, but I think it's time for an update into a more efficient light source. It won't change the look...just the daily running costs.


There are four sides to every 'SIC'(?) question here.
What about the other up-street 'approaches'?
GoFundMe is good, but how much is this gonna cost?
Is this not an enterprise unit with maintenance agreements?
With proper scheduling, would this even be . . . "a story", Stevie?
(that's 4)
BTW, that's not an "o" facing 20th . . . it's #6 from the end of the alphabet. 'Course, literacy's not a real biggee in "Bikurstown" . . .

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