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.

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