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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vic Skolnick 1929-2010

For most of you in Durham, Vic's passing yesterday at the age of 81 is not going to mean anything. Vic, along with his partner Charlotte Sky, was the founder of the New Community Cinema in Huntington, New York back in 1973. It was a shoestring operation at first, and for many years after, but Vic and Charlotte had a love of film and radical politics and culture that kept the Cinema going at a time when the overwhelming blandness and commodification of Long Island life was driving much of my generation away.

It's hard to describe someone as a friend who i had maybe half a dozen conversations with, the last a brief one at a mutual friend's 75th birthday a decade or so ago, but i think anyone who ever met Vic considered him a friend.

I have one story about Vic that i want to share. In 1981 or so i was a grad student in Public Policy at SUNY Stony Brook. I was also producing public affairs programming at the radio station there. Vic and Charlotte had managed to book a first-run documentary at the cinema, and it's possible that it was an exclusive showing in the New York area. It was a thing called The Atomic Cafe, and it traced the history of atom bomb through media portrayal from the 40s through the 70s, including, as i recall, the infamous 4 minute Duck and Cover "educational" short that terrorized a generation of US schoolchildren. It also had a killer soundtrack. Vic asked me if i would help produce a PSA for the run that could air on non-commercial stations in the area. It seemed that selling out the Cinema was pretty important. Of course, they couldn't pay, but i wouldn't have taken his money anyway. I spent about 20 hours putting a 60 second spot together. Vic and Charlotte loved it, and as far as i know it got a bit of airplay on a bunch of stations. I got a pair of passes from Vic as a thank you, and a couple of weeks later i took a date to a screening of something that i have no recollection of. Free movies, though, are a pretty nice thing for low paid grad students. Maybe not quite as nice as being on the list with a plus one for a Clash concert, but not bad.

So we went to the show, i gave Vic the passes, and to my surprise he gave them back to me when we walked in. "What's that for?" i asked. "Oh, those are good for a whole year," he replied. "Use them as often as you like."

I probably should have gone more often, but Huntington was a few towns away, and not always the easiest place to get to. But for the half dozen or so times i went, Vic, i was always appreciative of the chance to help you out, and your generosity in return.

Long Island is a better place for your having lived there.

Rest in peace.



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