Sunday, December 11, 2011


70s and 80s Movies Memoir with Odd Adventures

1979 began with Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose still showing to sell-out crowds.  Although we didn't know it yet, the exhibitor chain with two screens in town was about to change the rules on how the new releases were picked.  In hindsight it's easy to see they were never going to allow another year like the 1977s movies Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever to slip through their fingers again.

The rest of the movies we played early that year are nothing to brag about with the possible exception of the Late Great Planet Earth which was released around this time. It was heavily advertised on t.v. and brought the Christian and curious crowd into the theater in droves. It's interesting to ponder and compare - if I'm not mistaken - it's theme of emanate doom and gloom with what's being bandied about at the present time.

Also around this time a new employee began work at the Flick.  His name was Ricky, a thin brown-haired fellow, maybe 21 years old.  He bore a remarkable resemblance, in a masculine kind of way,  to Judy Garland; which was a good thing considering he was one of of her biggest fans at the time.  The great singer and star of The Wizard of Oz had passed in 1969 and back then in '79, as I'm sure today, she had a massive following.  His big collection of memorabilia was even featured later on in one of the major tabloids.  Ricky was to figure in a big way with Pop T later on.

Behemoth.  What can one say about the strangest hanger-on of all to ever pass through the doors of the movie theater. Pop T had installed the new video games in the lobby, Pac-man being the first, and this is what initially brought this odd-ball-twenty-something in.  As I describe the self-named Behemoth, it is not done with any attempt at cruelty or malice. To put it bluntly, the man looked like a clothed Neanderthal.  He was medium height with dark hair, bushy eyebrows, and a lower jaw that jutted out a good half inch or so from his uppers.  His torso was the original Michelin Man and when walking the gait was reminiscent of a duck waddling.  Joel, Ricky, Angie and I became quite fond of this outrageous misfit, that is until the times he got a little too insistent on his favorite subjects: the movies Mothra and Behemoth vs Mothra- and of all things the Disney movie Pollyanna! The boy had a serious gripe with women who wore pants and was forever pontificating on the wonder of Haley Mills and her dress in that 1961 movie. Sometimes he would sit beside me on the seats in the lobby and bemoan his fate at never being able to have a girlfriend.  I truly felt sorry for him when he was in one of these moods and would do my best to point out the fact that there's somebody out there for everybody. The encouraging words were always to little avail with the dress loving Behemoth however.

The absolutely funniest scene the chap ever caused happened like this: during one movie, with a good twenty or so people waiting for the next show to start, Behemoth began questioning a young couple a little too insistently on, yes, you guessed it, whether they liked Pollyanna of not.  Sitting right beside him, in a low voice, I began singing what I could remember about that old song that goes something like, 'they're coming to take me away ha ha, they're coming to take me away'. The tongue-in-cheek one about a mental institution escapee. Behemoth immediately picked up on this and with his eyes focused straight ahead, and in a loud, somewhat basso type voice, started to sing the lyrics to the song perfectly, word for word. Now dear reader, recalling the appearance of our subject, you can imagine the reaction of the folks hanging loose when the initial surprise wore off. Out-side of the movie shows themselves, I've never heard a more spontaneous outburst of rib-tickling, rip-roaring laughter from a group of people in my life. The patrons had  gotten their money's worth before even plopping their fanny's down in our rocking chair theater seats!

The Summer Hits

The summer movie season took off with a bang.  It's a peculiarly interesting fact that of the top ten films that year, the Flick got the two at the top,  and the couple of screen big exhibitors showed the other eight. Rocky part two was every bit as engaging and successful as it's predecessor.  This time of course Rocky wins, but how could it have been any other way.  Didn't matter to the viewers, and either it or Kramer vs Kramer was our biggest hit of the year.  The franchise and sequels to Rocky had been successfully launched although we were never to see another one.  Perhaps this was a sop to Pop T getting  Rocky part two, for the eight top ten movies they got that year.  I'm not sure in what fashion the changes were made in the way new releases were picked but they hadn't figured out things completely yet and there were still many great movies ahead.

The second big feature that summer was a wonderful film called 'The Main Event'.  It starred Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal in a plot that had something to do with Barbra managing Ryan for a boxing match.  I don't really remember- except for certain scenes- exactly what the rest was about other than it was fun and did very good business.  Another one was 'Wanda Nevada' with a young teenage Brooke Shields and Peter Fonda which was entertaining.

The previous fall I finally met a girl who for a year and a half became sort of a part time girlfriend. Her name was Teresa.  She was lithe, with long light brown hair and an outgoing personality. To state the situation plainly, Teresa fell in love while I, though very fond of her, just wasn't ready to commit myself to anyone yet. It didn't help any that Teresa had some odd ways: for example, she absolutely refused to wear shoes anywhere unless there was no way around it, and make-up wasn't in her vocabulary. Not that she wasn't a nice looking girl, it's just that at the time I wanted a woman, not a tom-boy, not a neo-hippie. We had many good times in our year and a half together though, having free passes to the competitor's shows was one of them. We were scared to death watching that creature pop out of the space traveler in Alien. That's also the only movie I remember ever having to shield my eyes from. Two or three years after our last good-bye, I heard Teresa had become a 'Deadhead'. It's m;y fervent wish life treated her kindly and any heart- breaks that were caused on my part (I never told her I was in love) were to be payed back in full before three years were out.

The End of the 70's

In November of the year the Iranian hostage crisis began. Because of the college in town there were many male Iranian students around. Most of them became surly and began keeping to themselves, except for one friendly fellow who so wanted to be an American. An older, harder looking Iranian student working behind the counter of a 7-eleven convenience store, learned a hard lesson about Southern manhood one night. As I came up to the checkout counter, I asked how how he felt about the situation with the hostages and this was his reply, "I think it's a good thing"; I replied back, "Then why don't you go home." His second reply was in a nasty manner and was to be his last: "Because I want to stay and fuck all the American girls I can. The words had no more left his mouth than what must have been a big ol' boy's huge fist shot over my left shoulder from behind and landed flush in the center of his face. Leaving quickly I noticed his legs sticking out from behind the counter jerking in spasms as he lay knocked out cold on the floor. Never even saw the guy that threw the punch I left so fast. I've always been a non-violent person unless attacked or defending someone but I can't say I'm not happy Mr. Foul-mouth got what was coming to him.

The last film of the 70's for us, was also amazingly the top box office motion picture of the year in the U.S. considering the subject matter.  Kramer vs Kramer was about divorce and a child caught in-between, starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in some riveting performances.  It was quite engaging and as word of mouth spread it went on to do great box-office.  The film did over 106,000,000 dollars in America alone and swept the Oscars the next year.  Hope to see you in the new decade for the final years of the Flick.

Years 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1982 can be found on:


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Wednesday, November 9, 2011


The start of 1978 was a lesson in the ways of love and the vicissitudes of life, not to mention the movie business. Speaking of the films the Flick played that year, they didn't quite start off with a bang. One of the first ones was Blue Collar, starring Richard Pryor. As best remembered it was about labor shenanigans in the auto industry with a shocking scene where one of the auto workers is purposely trapped inside an area spraying-painting cars and comes to a most horrible end.

Two other shows the Flick ran early that year were An Unmarried Woman with the late Jill Clayburgh throwing up when she finds her husband has cheated on her.  The Buddy Holly Story was notable for Gary Bussey's fine portrayal as well as being the movie drummer/actor Keith Moon saw the night he overdosed on pills. None of these films did much box-office and it was a lucky thing we had the kung-fu late shows running.

The so called sexual revolution was at it's pre-aids peak around this time and with a liberal-arts college in town any guy with  half a game plan often did very well in the love-life curriculum.  The legal drinking age was eighteen and several night clubs took advantage of this fact. Young folks just love to mingle, get tight, dance and sweat. At six feet and nice-looking I generally had a "date" once very few weeks or so but was often too inebriated to consummate anything. However, I did discover that no two women are built the same. The lovely forms that nature has bestowed on the fairer sex come in all shapes and sizes and are as unique as snowflakes falling on a beautiful winter's day. (Purple prose but true.)

Some of the night clubs had a sideline going in the back after hours. These poker or what-ever games, where big money was won or lost, often drew a crowd of spectators. You of course had to be approved (trusted) to view or sit-in. I never played,  only watched as at the tine I still had some sense. There were pay-offs to, let's just say the proper authorities; and only an occasional knife wound or game of bullet tag in the parking lots to spice thing up further. The meaty bouncers kept things in order on the inside. All in all, these night club owners made serious fortunes until at some point in the 1980's the drinking age was raised to 21. A couple of "mysterious" night clubbing fires quickly followed.

Damien the Omen part two was a well made and eerie flick with anyone getting in the way of the junior Anti-Christ being dispatched in unique and horrifying fashion.  Corvette Summer with Mark Hamil of Star Wars fame I'm sorry to say is totally forgotten in my memory. Either the third or fourth biggest grosser that year was a Burt Reynolds feature called Hooper about the lives of stuntmen.It's a singularly sad fact that around this time Reynolds was voted top money- making star by the "National Alliance of Theater Owners Association" but his career seemed to go down hill from there.
Farrah Fawcett, (the poster girl of every other young man's bedroom wall at the time) was in a re-release called  Myra Breckenridge; and she appeared in that film in little more than a cameo role.  In the movie she has a scene where she wears a not so see-through nightie.  The advertisements on the tube made it seem like, "come see Farrah in the nude!" and come they did; but generally for only half the running time and a bit upset when they came out.  Couldn't blame them; but we got took just as bad and had to deal with the fall-out.

If there was ever a son of a sleeper ticket seller, National Lampoon's Animal House was it.  This film is often considered the prototype "gross out movie" and it was the top box office film of the year at 121,000,000 dollars.  The Flick got it's fair share of that sweet pie in addition to the employees having the pleasure of watching John Belushi and all raise hell.  The show was seriously funny and the movie goers were delighted with it from beginning to end.  Before we get to the last box office winner of that year a couple of personal remembrances are in order.

During the showing of Animal House one night, there were as usual a good sized gang of Joel's buddy's hanging around the lobby after the last show had started. One of these guys was known by the name of Big Moe. He wasn't the brightest of fellows but what happened that evening was little short of moronic. I noticed a stranger dude eying all of us up and the next thing you know he's chatting with Moe; and then they suddenly disappear. A couple of hours later during the late shows, Moe comes a huffing into the lobby with quite a tale. The mustached stranger had talked the big boy into unloading his plane full of pot at the local airport into his van while he observed from a ways off.  When we asked Big Moe what the guy had given him for payment, the lug pulled out two skinny joints like a kid with a lollipop. He was very pleased with this reward and even offered to share one with everybody. The rest of us, as can be imagined, were dumbfounded to the point of falling over with laughter.

It was also around this time I began chauffeuring Pop T and Mr. B on the trips to their mini empire of drive- in movies.  They owned or were partnered up with maybe six or seven screens all around the state.  These two gentlemen were not only wonderful men, but also extremely interesting to hear talk.  In Mr. B's case he would often reminisce on the old days and about certain movie and  t.v. stars he knew or had meet.  One time he began to talk about an old Hollywood story he experienced as a young man just starting out in the business.  It seems a group of them visited a house of ill repute where all the girls resembled the then-1930's-current lady stars of the silver screen.  A Madam "Snares" had them pick a partner for the evening and then brought the ladies back in after the selections were made with bags over their heads.  With a chuckle, she then asked the boys to pick out the one they'd just picked.  Mr. B said not a one of them could, much to Madam Snares cackling delight!  Sometimes coming back we would all start singing old songs like, "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean."  It was endearing and bonding.

The second biggest film the Flick showed that year was I believe also the last.  Every Which Way But Loose starring Clint Eastwood and an Orangutan named Clyde. Foul Play was possibly our third biggest grosser of the year and had that hilarious seduction scene with Dudley Moor and Goldie Hawn but came no where near the belly laughs this one had. Eastwood's interplay with Clyde and his crazy but lovable mom coupled with the motorcycle gang that couldn't ride straight trying to track Clint down was a joyous and delightful way to end 1978.  It had been a decent year, all thing considered.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


JAWS! There it was in big block letters; underneath the movie cinema’s name; The Flick. These were the three words that day in June of 1975 that may have saved my bacon. After coming out of the seafood joint with the latest job rejection behind me; no hello, no nice to meet you, no application to fill out or a sit down interview, just a loud NO the second he saw me with my longish dark brown hair, turning on his heels and going back to the kitchen where he came from. Thus were those huge block letters up there on that marquee, about to announce that my manna from heaven had finally arrived: I just didn’t quite know it yet.

Down there, way down there, across that big parking lot to the strip mall; was a long line of people in what must have been the hundreds. The proverbial light -bulb went off.  If jobs were to be had around here, that would have be the place. So I sauntered on over gently pushing my way through the crowd at the door and then asked for and then sought out the boss man. As he approached, it was immediately obvious the man was a little short, stout but not really to much over weight. He also had a limp. The sweat was forming around his thinning dark blond hair and his mien looked all business. It was to be a few days before I was to see one of the grandest, most genuine smiles I was to ever see in my entire life.

His name was Bob, Bob Tremble to be exact. At first he kind of gave that kind of look the other two potential employers had that day; but Mr. Tremble took a second glance and told me to come back tomorrow after lunch time. Sleep was very sweet that night; a little apprehensive and a lot of relief for this eighteen year old with no past but with the sudden possibility of some kind of future. One that was about to take this young man eight years through a smorgasbord of people and life he would never forget.

Up bright and early that next morning, by noon I was ready to go, have the interview with Mr. Tremble and find out my fate. Driving down the little road from the duplex in a Camero that my maternal Grandmother Mimi had been so kind to buy for me-- I waved good-bye to her and zoomed off. The theater was crowded as it had been the day before and Mr. Tremble (soon to be Pop T) followed me up the stairs to the office inside the projection room. There he introduced me to the manager Joel, a fellow not too many years older than me. Joel was a slender guy about medium height with long straight black hair, and a pair of intense but friendly green eyes behind some wire-rimmed glasses. Joel finished some business and departed. For some reason Mr. Tremble apparently had pretty much decided he was going to hire me right then and there. I suppose the unexpected success of “Jaws” had something to do with it; and after filling out a short application and the tax forms I began my first day at the Flick. The pay by the way was 125 dollars a week.

That first days labor was really nothing more than patrolling the long lines and counting. The theater held 360 some seats and I had the unenviable task of stopping at a certain point breaking the bad news to the last half of a line that there was to be no Shark for them at this showing. The recommendation was to wait until after the first show started and then go back and buy advanced tickets for another show that night. It was to go on like this for many weeks.

At one point many years later, after we hade all begun to call our boss Mr. T, with no objection from this extraordinary man, I asked him (for the once and only time) how much he had netted on “Jaws”. Thirty thousand was his clipped reply. As time went on and I learned more and more about Pop T and his alcoholic but golden- hearted wife Mrs. Dot, I came to the conclusion that they surely deserved it.

There was one more person I was to meet at this time who worked at the Flick besides Joel who spent the entire eights years working with me. Her name was Vicky; she must have been twenty or so and had moved south from Maine with the rest of her family after their father had dropped over with the big one at an early age. I always felt sorry for her and her younger sister and even younger brother. I’m going to state it plainly: Vicky was not a sexy girl; she had long, very frizzed out mousy brown hair, a little dumpy and only wore lumberjack shirts and blue jeans.  Her basic duties were to sell tickets and concessions.. Generally after a show had started she would sit in her chair there next to the register and read. Occasionally she would throw out a comment now and then but usually would have to be asked to join in any conversation. She grew on us all and except for a time or two, we became right fond of her.

Bob Tremble was an independent theater owner with one screen competing against a big exhibitors chain of two screens in this town of maybe 30,000 people. Old Hollywood had finally crashed and burned around 1971 and a whole new paradigm in the movie business had opened up. The major production studios for quite a while had almost no idea in which way things would finally be sorted out for a proven and sure-fire way to proceed. This small window of opportunity—roughly from about the mid-seventies to around the earliest years of the eighties-- opened the doors for filmmakers with true vision and passion to get in there and have their movies green-lighted. Some of the greatest films in American history were made during this time; the list of course is far too numerous for this Hub to mention.

The last half of 1975 was pretty mundane in comparison with what was to come. A parade of crazy characters, (ie Behemoth, Vampire Clown and others) outrageous and humorous situations, sex (there was a largely female alumni at a local college in town) love, violence, Boss Hogg corruption and life lessons in some ways more valuable than a university degree. The four movies I remember from that year are of course one; the arguably first true block-buster movie of the post old Hollywood era: Jaws. The other was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which did a very surprising, near Jaws like box office. Finally, below are two, somewhat lesser known films the Flick played that year.