By Alison Williams
CINEQUEST Circle & Print

The Back Story
'Nightowls of the Coventry'
Hippies, Hells Angels, the Holocaust, Oh My!

Locked away for hours in a concrete cell, miserable from the repetitive nature of bars, clefs and staffs, led Laura Paglin to break out and escape for a relaxing pastrami on rye and a hot cup of joe. The year was 1985.

A jailbird she was not; Paglin was within the walls of the Cleveland Institute of Music’s practice studio, a graduate student studying classical piano for eight hours a day. Her only solace came via a favorite after-school hangout, a local 24-hour Jewish eatery in the unique and eclectic Coventry section of Cleveland Heights. It was there Paglin found inspiration to capture a soulful story about a motley group who find their way to an all-night “hotspot”.

The Nightowls of the Coventry, Laura Paglin’s first feature length film which she wrote, directed and produced, cleverly delivers a half comedy, half heartwarming drama about Marv’s Deli, one of the last Jewish establishments in an area being taken over by the hippies, bikers and “out-theres” of the 1970s. Marv (played by Seymour Horowitz), flirts with his waitresses, bounces checks to his suppliers, bets on the horses and does little to remove the roaches that scurry past his corned beef and pastrami.

Once a waitress for two weeks during her college years, Paglin, who said it’s one of the most stressful jobs going, could relate with the main character Susan (played by Donna Casey), who comes across as a wide-eyed young woman who leaves the safety of her hometown and gets a crash course in everything but normality.

Says Paglin, “Since Marv’s was the only place open after 8 pm in Coventry, you’d get every type of person: the after-the-show crowd, students, rich people, drunks, Hell’s Angels, hippies, the lonely and depressed, and personal favorites, insomniacs. You couldn’t ask for more diversity.”

Asked if Cleveland is the Midwest’s version of Hollywood, inspiring artistic stimulation, Paglin comments, “Cleveland is an excellent town for anyone who wants to make their first film. The cost of living is cheap, locations are inexpensive, one can find lots of volunteers and enthusiastic and generous people who are willing to help. But because talented people generally end up moving to the coasts, Cleveland battles the “brain drain” phenomenon. On one hand, it has its benefits. Since all the smart and talented people are leaving, there are numerous opportunities for those of us left behind. If I stay in Cleveland long enough, I may be able to become mayor.”