Speak To Me!

Posted on January 1, 2010 – 11:06 PM | by OldManFoster
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By Tony King   photos by Jesse Vasquez

Take a cursory view of Sacramento, and this town would appear to be nothing more than just another State capital, home to politicians, lobbyists and a bunch of column-lined marble buildings with nearly nude statues affixed to them. Under the surface, however, Sacramento is teeming with scholars and intellectuals; artists, writers, musicians, architects, poets, culinary geniuses, and people who have lead rich and interesting lives. The Sacramento Living Library, a brand new lecture series hosted by Time Tested Books shines a spotlight on some of the River City’s most extraordinary individuals.

Peter KeatThe Living Library series is the brainchild of Peter Keat, the co-owner of Time Tested Books, a Midtown fixture since it opened in 1980. Keat is a warm-hearted, middle-aged man who greets everyone who walks through Time Tested’s front doors with a kind, genuine “hello.”  Assessing the diverse glut of Sacramento’s living legends, it seemed only natural to Keat to give these folks a forum wherein they could discuss their trials, tribulations and successes in front of an audience.

“We’ve had a number of authors here for events from all over, and this year we had a poetry series,” explains Keat. “But we wanted to draw attention to Sacramento people, and what Sacramentans had to offer each other, and so we thought up a series of living legends; people who have something significant to say about Sacramento history and the Sacramento area.”

Assisting Keat in this endeavor are Finian Scott-Small, Mazelle Lolmaugh and Midtown Monthly’s own Tim Foster, who will be hosting. “Peter mentioned the Living Library concept to me last summer and asked me if I could think of any people that I’d like to see speak,” explains Foster. “I thought it was a really great concept and I worked with them on some ideas for the series.”

“We really are so pleased that we got people who are the top Sacramento notables,” Keat says. Those notable Sacramento luminaries include Sacramento Bee Associate Editor Ginger Rutland, Darrell Corti, the president of Corti Brothers Italian Grocery Store, and past Mayors Burnett Miller, Phil Isenberg, Anne Rudin and Heather Fargo, among others.

“I’m sure the first six months will be successful,” Keat notes of these speaking engagements, which will take place during the first half of 2010. So, what about the next six months? “The challenge is to find people of an even remotely comparable draw.”

“It’s going to be hard to follow-up,” Keat chuckles.

The first person being interviewed in the Sacramento Living Library series will be Russ Solomon, which seems like an obvious and natural choice. Solomon was, after all, the founder of the internationally renowned Tower Records/Books/Video empire, and is now the current owner of R5 Records on Broadway. Well into his eighties, Solomon shows no signs of slowing down. There is no denying that Solomon is quite an interesting character.

Interviewing Solomon for this event will be his long-time friend (and Editor in Chief of  Sacramento Press) David Watts Barton. “We’ll be talking about Tower and R5,” Barton explains. Despite the presence of more downs than ups currently in the record industry, Barton is quick to note Solomon’s dedication and enthusiasm for selling recorded music. “He’s very up on things, so I expect that we’ll have an interesting conversation about things coming down the pipe.”  Keat expects the question and answer period to be lively, especially with Solomon.

“We’ve gotten a lot of suggestions for other people,” notes Keat of possible panelists. The names on the list of potentials Keat is working on includes cookbook author and owner of her namesake restaurant, Biba Caggiano, Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully, and the famous literary figures William Vollmann and Joan Didion. “We’re talking about getting someone who’s an expert in Sacramento baseball, and we’ll probably have him here in October.”

“I hope people realize that Sacramento is full of amazing people with amazing stories to tell,” reiterates Foster. “We actually had dozens of people on the ‘wish list’ as speakers, but we only had 12 slots. Once we started putting everything together it was like, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to hear this or that person speak.’”

The first six months of hosting great speakers, however, is what Keat and his partners are focusing on for now.  The goal with the Sacramento Living Library is to expose Sacramento residents to the rich and diverse histories, insights and perspectives of those individuals who have helped shape this city into what it is today; people who, in their own subtle and dynamic way, have kept mediocrity and cultural vacancy at bay. At first blush Sacramento may seem like nothing more than a political pit stop, but thanks to Peter Keat and company, the Sacramento Living Library will shine a light on the intellectual lifeblood flowing just below Sacramento’s surface.

The Sacramento Living Library will take place every third Sunday at Time Tested Books, 1114 21st Street. Doors open at 6PM, and the discussions starting at 7. These engagements are free and open to the public.

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