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From the days when people yelled shit in movie theaters
Why yes, we’re still having fun Fridays. What’sa matter, you got something against fun?
OK, this is a good one. And it’s about movies, and mainly about movies you see in the theater. The idea here is to cite a time what you were watching a movie and someone in the audience (maybe you) said (yelled, muttered, whatever) something that still busts you up to recall.
Maybe this is really an old person thing, and maybe a poor person thing, because it’s been years since I heard much of anything from people in the audience at a movie show — I mean besides elderly patrons stage-whispering to each other NOW, IS THAT THE MOTHER OR IS THAT THE SISTER and such like. But back in the day, boy, it was not uncommon to hear people verbally and loudly respond to what was on the screen.
It wasn’t usually particularly clever. Usually it was a clack of morons talking about an actress’ tits or something, and back in those days theater managers (at least at the ones I attended) knew that part of their job was to wade into the audience on such occasions and loudly tell the morons to SHUT THE HELL UP OR GET THE HELL OUT, to a little ripple of applause from We the People Who Just Came to Watch the Movie.
(Know what’s funny? Back then, the morons always shut up! It was of course a simpler time, when projected fill-ums had a heavier and more respected presence in our culture, before karaoke and axe-throwing and paint bars ate into that space, and before James Holmes shot up a Batman movie.)
Sometimes what someone yelled at the screen was dumb but amusing. My roommate from Avenue B in the early 80s used to catch grindhouse showings on Times Square, partly because the audiences then offered commentary on what was playing that was more visceral (and, for some kinds of fare, more insightful) than what Vincent Canby and Pauline Kael provided. He told me once about a showing of a terrible but epically violent piece of Italian poliziottesco called Brutal Justice (aka Roma a Mano Armata, badly dubbed for the American trade); the crowd warmed to the film (not enough to stop chatting and taking/selling drugs during it, though), and over time, as crowds do, they worked out a group response for each of the many shootings and assaults on the screen that became more organized and forceful and joyous with each iteration: “BRUTAL Justice!”
For me the best one was from my teenage years, when I was home from my first year of college (I think) and me and some of my buddies decided to go see a porn movie.
Back in 70s suburban Connecticut there were some theaters that specialized in such entertainments, though I can’t remember which one we went to — might it have been the Cameo, as memorialized in this interesting Jay Allen Sandford essay on the “porno chic” era, when those places had a semi-quasi-legit status, before they became pretty much exclusively places for men to have sex with each other in the toilets? I do recall my friends and I were new to such experiences and were excited to go and felt like big adult males, though obviously we were loser virgin dorks doing this instead of hanging out with girls or anyplace we might meet any.
We came in halfway through the show, which, speaking of porno chic, was a Gerard Damiano production called Memories within Miss Aggie. Until I looked it up just now, I had remembered it as a porn version of Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” but there is no such claim in the historical record that I can now find — though it did have, speaking of porno chic, reviews; as the poster up top shows, from Variety, Playboy, WABC-TV (!), and Bob Salmaggi from 1010-WINS — you give us 10 minutes, we’ll give you the world, and porn reviews!
Man, I had forgotten all about this weird classy porn period. And I sure don’t recall who mentioned “A Rose for Emily” either — though, like that story, Memories within Miss Aggie involved a spinster lady who had a thing with some drifter sort of guy, and at the end it’s years later and it turns out she’s hung onto his corpse.
Not having read the story, I’m surely not doing Faulkner justice. Neither did Damiano; mostly I remember the stud being laconic, with lines mostly like “I don’t drink no tea” and “I think I better be gettin’ on.” (“You don’t talk much.” “Nothin’ much to say”), and Aggie being — well, fucked, mostly fucked, that’s what after all we had come for, though it wasn’t as exhilarating as I had expected.
(The film also included what was my first experience of a cum shot, which was an unpleasant surprise. I gathered, in the aftershock, that it was meant to gratify the viewer with indisputable proof that the actors had in fact been copulating, but I recall feeling that it was all well and good for them but it rather took me out of the moment.)
Anyway, to the point: at the end the “profound and fleshless grin” of the corpse on the bed was rendered by Damiano as a Psycho rip-off shock effect. And just when the skull-face was revealed, a guy in the back boomed out:
“AH DON’T DRINK NO TEA!”
Nobody laughed, including my friends and I; if anyone did, they did so lightly, and it was covered by the music (by future Pina Colada Song guy Rupert Holmes!). But whenever I think of it now it cracks me the fuck up. I imagine that guy having seen the movie before, and being impressed by the ending, and then being touched by inspiration, and brooding over it and then returning to the theater (because why not, there was action and cum shots) and lying in wait at the back for just this moment when everyone would be stunned so he could take full advantage of the opportunity. Maybe he did it every night.
Anyway, what about you? (Reminder: It doesn’t have to be porn.)