Monday, March 19, 2007

My Early Movie Career

It's not as interesting or as glamorous as it sounds. I was only in one movie, but we'll get to that later.

No, I'm talking about my first real job. I was an usher at the movie theatre in my home town. This was starting back about 1970 and continued off and on, in various capacities, through probably 1974.

We actually had two movie theatres. The big one, on the main drag, was The Beyer. They had free Saturday matinees for the kids and you could pick up your free tickets from various local merchants. A lot of the movies were recycled movie serials from the 40's and 50's or really bad sci-fi or horror movies. Not so much "B Movies" as "C or D Movies". But, they were free.

But there was another, smaller theatre just off the main drag named The Siloam. It had been closed because it couldn't compete with The Beyer. Until a guy I will call Mr. Bob bought it and reopened it under the name "Cinema 21". It was called Cinema 21 because the first movies he started showing there were porn flicks. In retrospect, I doubt that they were actual "porn". Probably more like "Midnight Cowboy" (the Brokeback Mountain of 1969 and the winner of 3 Oscars), or "I Am Curious - Yellow". But it was "porn" to the townsfolk who went apeshit and besieged the place with their pitchforks and torches until he finally relented and started showing tamer fare.

But in the meantime, he ceratinly grabbed everyone's attention and got a lot of free publicity. Clever man, Mr. Bob.

Mr. Bob looked a lot like Richard Benjamin, but a bit older and sleazier.

Mrs. Bob, who did all of the books looked like Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers.

We always suspected that they were actually "swingers" and that a lot more went on in the movie theatre after hours than we knew. On the other hand, I was 15 and it didn't take much encouragement for me to start imagining all sorts of kinky shit.

But I digress.

It was about the time that Mr. Bob domesticated his cinematic offerings to a level that the community could tolerate that I went to work as an usher.

The main purpose of an usher was to help people find a seat in a dark theatre without falling on their faces and sueing the owner.

But there was a darker and much more pleasurable side to being an Usher. That was the responsibility of Maintaining Order at all times. It was the job of The Usher to ensure that a pleasurable, movie-viewing environment was enforced. No talking! No throwing of concession items! No putting your feet on the back of someone's seat! You will observe a respectful, silent, demeanor throughout the movie or you will incur my wrath.

The standard issue, weapon of choice for the experienced Movie Usher was a standard flashlight equipped with a tapered, colored cone at the "business end". Looks like one of those flashlights that the guys at airports use to guide the planes to the gates.

I prefer to think of it as a snub-nosed light saber! I could stand at the top of the aisle, next to the entrance, and hit any seat in the house with a "hip-shot". Lighting up anyone who dared to disobey one of My Rules.

I was a fucking Nazi! My very first night on the job, I kicked eight people out of the theatre for various "infractions". One of them was my little sister. I had NO MERCY!!

After we closed that first night, Mr. Bob pulled me aside. He said "Look. I rely on you to Maintain Order out there and you can kick out anybody you want, for any reason, and I will back you a 100%. But next time, wait until after Intermission, OK? Let them spend their fucking money on pop and candy first. After that, I could give a fuck. Go nuts. Kick them all out and we'll all go home early."

Mr. Bob also had some sage wisdom to dispense the first night I sold tickets to the movies. It was an old movie theatre that had one of those little "ticket dispensing cuppolas" jutting out front. The movie that night was rated "R". Movie ratings were new back then and kind of a big deal. So I asked my boss, Mr. Bob, "Should I be checking IDs?"

His shoulders sagged, his head hung down as he shaked it from side to side. Clearly disappointed that his staff did not yet grasp his entrepreneurial vision. I could sense his frustration as he explained "If the kid is tall enough, to reach his hand up, and lay the money on the counter...let the little fucker in. Now go sell some some fucking tickets."

That's probably enough for Chapter One. More on XO's Early Years later.

Oh, wait. I teased you about the movie I was in. LOL! OK.

It was "Adam at Six A.M." with Micheal Douglas.


emawkc said...

Ha Ha! You have inadvertantly outed yourself.
We now know your true identy, Xo... Or should I say Joe Don Baker.

By the way, I loved your performance in Fletch.

Keith Sader said...

Dude, I was impressed by the batmobile! Now, you're fucking movie star!

Spyder said...

Rated R for some language and brief nudity. (2004 re-rating)

Hmmm... XO do we get to see you nekked?

Spyder said...

A young, respected California college professor (Michael Douglas) believes there's something lacking in his present existence. In questioning his lifestyle, he decides to spend the summer in "tranquil" Missouri working as a laborer. But after toiling as a farmhand for a few weeks, he realizes that his "normal" neighbors are as screwy as any of his old friends. Joe Don Baker, Lee Purcell and Meg Foster co-star. Robert Scheerer directs.

So says Neflix. But they don't have it for rental yet!

"tranquil" Missouri --I love that. I bet it wasn't filmed during our tranquil weather. And screwy neighbors! Was this filmed in my neighborhood in Raytown?

Xavier Onassis said...

spyder - not only do you NOT get to see me nekked, you barely get to see me at all. There is a scene at the Drive-In when they are sitting in his Porsche. Through the back window you can see the blurry blue shirt of someone coming back from the concession stand. That was me.

The movie was filmed in and around Excelsior Springs, Henrietta and Orrick. A bunch of locals got to work as extras for $15.00 a day and all the catered food we could eat.

Other than partying backstage with ZZ Top one Halloween and sharing an airplane ride with Slim Pickens, that was my only real brush with fame.

crse said...

wow, this post is RICH with targets upon which to comment. I dont even know where to begin. I too worked in the theater (dollar movies) but my boss never said fuck. You make me want to blog about this memory! And a movie star no less. And a richard benjamin reference. You wonder why I stalk you?

travelingal said...

I guess we're all gonna have to be your "groupies" now that we know you're famous.

Iwanski said...