At 8:30 p.m. the parking lot for the Frost Museum of Science seemed exceptionally full. Walking towards the lobby a security guard warned passersby, “All the shows are sold out.” A sign scotch-taped on the entrance reiterated the same message. It was Saturday night, the final night of the museum's classic rock laser light shows, a local institution since 1975.
The shows scheduled for that night included Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. The line to get into the 9:00 p.m. Beatles show filled up quickly as people reminisced about their past laser show experiences: First kisses sprawled out on the carpet as Jim Morrison sang along; Friday nights hanging out with high school friends you’ve long lost touch with. For many, this was a definitive end to entire chapters of life. The Frost Museum of Science is closing down at the end of the month at its site across Vizcaya with plans to open in a new location Downtown in summer of 2016. The planetarium, which opened its doors on November 4, 1966, will follow. We've been told laser shows will be part of the new location, but who knows if it'll ever be the same.
Five minutes to nine the doors swung open as ticket takers handed out the special glasses that make the lasers even more psychedelic. The walls toward the auditorium were lined with black and white photographs of images of the museum’s past and posters from the ‘70s advertising old planetarium shows.
There are several rows of seats in the planetarium. A couple laser show veterans point out the middle row as the best vantage point before adding, “But, of course, the best spot is laying on your back on the ground.”
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“Ladies and gentlemen there is no eating, drinking or smoking in the planetarium,” Mark Bennett, director of the planetarium, said into the microphone. He's been at his post since '88, and can remember when smoking inside was an option. “Now sit back and relax to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
The audience sang along with the opening line “It was 20 years ago today…”
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The lasers often took literal interpretations to the lyrics. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” showed a girl surrounded by jewels. Kites danced around the sky during “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite." A rooster made an appearance with that opening cock-a-doodle-doo in “Good Morning Good Morning." Other songs, like the sitar heavy “Within You Without You,” got more abstract.
The album made it through its 40-minute running time in what felt like 15 minutes. The show closed with "A Day in the Life," and as the last laser disappeared, the crowd, not quite ready to say goodbye, slowly took off their glasses and shuffled to the exit.
And then it was over. Lasers, something that once represented the future, were now in our past.