Four Inane Questions with Tivoli at the Nelson’s Jerry Harrington

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Jerry Harringhton. // Photo by Dana Anderson

Film buff Jerry Harrington has always been most comfortable sitting in the dark, engrossed in a movie. After graduating from film school, he took a job at the Bijou Theater in Westport, which morphed into a nearly 40-year career running Tivoli Cinemas, Kansas City’s oldest independent theaters. 

After the theaters shut down in 2019, he was happy to retire—but then Nelson-Atkins CEO Julián Zugazagoitia came knocking with a brilliant idea. 

“I never expected to be working again,” says Harrington. “I really thought I was retired.”

Tivoli was re-born in the newly spiffed up Atkins Auditorium at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in the fall of 2019, with Harrington acting as film curator for a wildly diverse range of movies.

And then, of course, 2020 hit with a vengeance—and months of pandemic restrictions. 

It wasn’t long before Under the Stars was born, with guests spreading blankets on the grassy outdoor area between the two lenses of the Bloch Building. Groups were able to keep their distance while watching family-friendly films. The concept was an immediate hit—and regularly started selling out. 

But wait—there’s more! Harrington says—like any good movie—there’s yet another plot twist you need to be aware of. Tivoli at the Nelson-Atkins is coming full circle back to its original mission: showing a mixture of first-run films, perennial classics, films about artists, and the always-popular arthouse darlings. So, movie fans—get ready for two short films from legendary filmmaker Pedro Almodovar: Eight Mountains which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year, and the strange and beautiful Nosferatu at Halloween. (Oh, and don’t miss the popular Oscar shorts coming this February.)

We caught up with Harrington over an industrial-size box of popcorn and Milk Duds to ping him with our not-Oscar-worthy list of dumb questions. Oh, and once again, we forgot our dental floss, dammit. 

The Pitch: What is the world’s best laundry detergent? 

Jerry Harrington: I think I have the most sensitive skin in the world. I itch like it’s my job. I can itch all day. So, I’m quite strict about using a no-scent, plant-based detergent that’s made for sensitive skin. I only use Seventh Generation.

How long can you drive around on “E” (empty) before you start to panic? 

As soon as that “E” lights up, I start to panic. I’ve been yelled at by many friends because I simply do not believe I can drive another 20 miles on empty. I’ve never tried to, but it makes me so nervous I just have to find the next gas station as soon as possible.

What tool can you absolutely, positively NOT live without? 

If by “tool,” you mean something I use all the time, it would have to be my phone. I would be lost without my phone. It is definitely the most important thing in my life.

I use it to work, communicate, find gas stations when I’m on empty, and navigate my way around the world. I’ll use it on my upcoming trip to Prague, so I don’t get lost. 

What’s the perfect amount of time for a nap?

Sorry, I must have nodded off—what was the question? Oh, napping. I think Janis Ian said it best: “As you get older, naps can be 10 minutes or four hours.” There’s a lot of truth in that. It drives my friends crazy, but I can nap anywhere, anytime. 

I think I was born to nap. And, apparently, drive my friends crazy.

Bonus 5th Question: When was the last time you did an honest-to-God spit take? Funny or otherwise … 

I don’t think I’ve ever done a spit take in my life. I wonder what that would feel like. But I did do a double take when I was walking down 44th Street in Manhattan. I saw a woman who looked familiar, and then I realized it was Brooke Shields. I didn’t say anything but “hello” to her, but I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s still got it.”

Categories: Culture