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.