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.