Once upon a time, there was a beautiful orange and white kitty cat. The cat loved his family very much, but one day, the mom and dad broke up and the kitty and his brothers and sisters were kicked out of the house.
A woman named Sally Strasser heard about the kitties, and her son ended up finding one of them. Sally and her son already had a house full of cats and no room there for any more. But they owned the local movie theater, the Adirondack State Theater, and that seemed like a good place to give the cat a home.
Sally's son named the cat Kuki, though Sally isn't sure why - he's a big reader, so she figures it was something in a book he was reading at the time. They got Kuki fixed, got her shots, and made sure she was healthy. And she moved into the movie theater on Park Street in Tupper Lake.
A theater kitty
Kuki loved hanging out in the theater. There was tons to eat everywhere, and new friends to make every day. She was great with kids and loved snuggling with people.
As each new crowd settled in and each showing of a movie began, Kuki would find a lap to grace with her adorable kitty presence. The owner of the lucky lap could pet the soft, warm kitty for the entire length of the movie.
Kuki even inspired at least one movie-goer to go out and get her own kitty by reminding her how delightful and comforting it is to have a tiny fur ball curled up tightly on your lap, purring away and being adorable.
Of course, there were a few patrons of the movie theater who complained of allergies, but the vast majority declared how wonderful it was to have a cat in the building making the movie theater feel like home.
And besides making theater-goers smile, Kuki also earned her keep: She kept the mice population down in a place that is quite prone to the tiny pests. There's a long tradition of cats who lived in theaters due to the popcorn and other edibles often spilled on floors, though it's much less common these days.
The historic Adirondack State Theater first opened in 1914, when it showed silent movies and vaudeville performances. It operated over the subsequent decades, with sound being added when it was owned by a company that operated movie theaters throughout the Northeast.
Sally has owned the movie theater since 2004. With the help of the Adirondack North Country Association's Go Digital or Go Dark initiative, Sally was able to raise enough money to convert her theater to a digital one in 2013. She loves running a small, independent theater, and she tries to do cool things in addition to showing all the big flicks like show movies with local interest once in a while, or show independent movies like the one she recently screened, "Queen of Katwe," by one of her favorite directors, Mira Nair.
Eventually, having Kuki at the theater got to be too much. Sally was a single mom, traveling to New York City frequently to work in the Walt Disney Screening Room there, and it was hard to get the kids who worked at the theater to do the things involved in taking care of Kuki. Teenagers aren't always going to be up for scooping poop if it's not their cat, unfortunately. So Sally started to look for a new home for Kuki.
Enter Joelle LeBlanc and her husband Paul. On Valentine's Day in 2008, Joelle and Paul went to see "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." They didn't like the movie much, but they loved the company. As soon as they saw Kuki, Joelle called to her, "Kitty, kitty, kitty!" Kuki came right away and tested out Paul's lap. After a trial run there, she spent the rest of the movie on Joelle's lap. The couple was enamored with the cat right away.
As they left the theater, they saw a sign notifying guests that Kuki was looking for a new home. They saw the name and something clicked; they call one of their sisters "Kooky," so they decided that it was a sign and they had to bring this theater kitty home.
A new home
After years of eating popcorn and candy dropped by theater patrons, Kuki was a chunker - she weighed about 14 pounds, and her new mom and dad joked that she looked like a basketball with legs. She was never too interested in cat food; instead she would try to get at all the human food she could. One time Paul heard licking noises and found her in the kitchen licking a stick of butter.
Joelle and Paul were floored at Kuki's ability to stand with all four feet on the ledge of the litter box, rather than get her feet dirtied by the kitty litter. They wanted to record her doing it; they were sure the video would win the $10,000 prize on America's Funniest Home Videos.
Kuki quickly fell madly in love with Paul, sleeping on his hand or his chest each night and spending lots of time staring into his eyes. Joelle runs the Brown Pelican tanning salon from her home in Long Lake, and Kuki went in to visit the people tanning frequently. She got to run around the house with her new brother, a male cat named Dusty.
But recently Kuki started to lose weight. Joelle and Paul were happy for her, thinking she was getting more healthy. She was spryer than she used to be, jumping around where she never could before. But the weight continued to come off, past a healthy point, and they found out she had a tumor and she had to be put down this June.
Joelle and Paul remember her fondly as a good kitty, and they still call out to her.
Rest in peace, Kuki!
Sally loved having Kuki in the theater, and she believes that Kuki had a better life because she got to meet so many people and have so much fun while living at the theater. She even still gets people asking about the cat when they come to see a movie.
Sally is on the lookout for a new cat to live at the State Theater. You need a certain kind of cat to let it be around different theater customers all the time. But when she finds a cat with the right temperament, she looks forward to having a feline presence at the theater again.
So make sure to stop by the State Theater, and who knows, the next time you do, you might get to be part of another cat's wonderful life.
Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?