Sunday, March 27, 2011

Midnight Flicks

That last story reminded me about Midnight Flicks. We never had money and we usually panhandled our way in. I remember standing outside the Kirkwood Cinema trying to get in. I was 15, and it was Tracy’s 17th birthday. He was older and I thought he looked down at us with disdain. His expression seemed to say, “Why would you even come if you didn’t have the money to get in?”

Most of my favorite movies were run as midnight flicks. I don’t think they could make it in the mainstream marketplace.

Harold and Maud, El Topo, The Magic Flute, King of Hearts, Reefer Madness, Eraserhead, Beatles marathons, Freaks, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Gimme Shelter and Woodstock, Night of the Living Dead, the John Waters movies, 200 Motels, The Harder They Come, and the list goes on.

I remember coming out of the Varsity after a Beatles marathon and it was day time. We got to see old films the way they were meant to be seen. Before the Tivoli went totally “Art House” they screened all the old stuff. If you haven’t seen The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D on a full screen you totally missed it. Those underwater scenes were incredible.

One night when I was standing in line at the Varsity Theater there were posters advertising next week’s flick, Eraserhead. I fell in love with the poster and somehow talked the theater owner into giving me a poster. Eraserhead is my son’s favorite movie.

These places were a good place for kids to hang out. I think they were baby sitting all the city’s adolescents. The ones I frequented were; The Tivoli, The Varsity (now Vintage Vinyl in University City), The Webster Cinema, The Kirkwood Theater, The Des Peres, and The Hi-Point.

One night we went to the High Point because Bud Cort from Harold and Maude would be there promoting his new film. When I walked into the dark theater I saw my buddy Tracy standing up front in a long overcoat. I ran up, threw my arms around him and yelled, “Hey Trace!” It was Bud Cort and man, was I embarrassed!

Naturally most of the kids were up to no good and there were a lot of drugs going around. The kids all seemed to be drawing their philosophical lines in the sand. There was a group that enjoyed mixing barbiturates and alcohol and getting totally trashed. I never understood it but I’m sure they never understood my group either. We had a friend whose dad owned a pharmacy. We had an unlimited supply of diet pills to help us through the all-nighters and we weren’t really into booze. I know both groups would seem distasteful to most people, but that’s how we rolled.

It all came to a screeching halt with Rocky Horror Picture Show. It started playing at the Varsity and was so successful they never ran anything else. RHPS was fine the first 4 or 5 times but it grew into a monster. Everyone came in drag and sang along with the movie. My friend Dan Holt got so good at the costumes, he ended up moving to Hollywood and going to movie make-up school.

All the other theaters’ business dried up and like all fads, interest finally waned but it was too late.


Dominic said...

Yup you're right. Never thought of it before but RHPS killed the Midnight Flick with its success.


Good post!

Tracy said...

Man you always said I looked at you with disdain back then... hmm maybe I did now that I think about it haha! Midnight Flicks, 17th birthday... man. You guys played at my 18th birthday (kinda). My girlfriend Jane kinda talked you into setting up in her parents livingroom as a suprise for me and I was coming over to her house that Friday night so we could do our usual shenanigans in the side room. That was a suprise alright. I an audience of 1 trying to pretend I was thrilled. Im sure I looked at you with disdain then as I noticed you guys were setup blocking the door to the sideroom. I stood watching awkwardly as the (4?) of you played like a song or 2, probably Birthday by the Beatles (speed it up boyssss, you need help carrying your gear out?? yessssss yess thats it thank yooo off ya go now). But its funny, I remember that part more than anything else. Sweet memory. and by the way Bud Cort got the only hug you ever gave me I think. That Basterd!

Doggie said...

The night of your 17th I didn't really know you yet. You were older than us then.