Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rainy Days and B Movies

The State Theatre, Boyertown, PA
I have a confession to make.
There is nothing I'd rather do on a rainy day than watch (or more accurately, listen to) a B movie. Even worse, my preferred genre is horror, with sci-fi as a close second. I love them. I have bought Cd's of B movie soundtracks. I was an avid fan of MST3K ( before its untimely demise several years ago. My Saturday mid-mornings were planned around that program; I saved boring chores for that hour and a half each Saturday, and laughed at the puppets' snide remarks while I plodded through piles of laundry or sinks full of dishes. I joined Netflix to have access to these old gems, though I humor my husband with "real" movies from time to time.
I'm not going to apologize for this obvious character flaw. I have great memories of the little black and white TV I had as a kid, rabbit ears and all. If I was really lucky, I could tune in to a very grainy but somewhat recognizable channel 48, where Chiller Theater played on Saturday nights. I didn't get out much as a kid, apart from the gazillion small jobs I had. One of my pre-adulthood jobs was in the local movie theater, where the first movie I ever worked for was "The Frogs" . I was in hog (well, FROG) heaven. Oh, yeah. Big time. I had some great times in that theater. I graduated from candy-counter girl to projectionist in a few short years. As projectionist, I had control. I opened and closed, and spent many late evenings alone or with one or two other co-workers in the empty theater. I believe my later interest in both acting and set design may have begun with the love of that silent space. Empty old theaters are magical places that seemed to be holding their breath, just waiting for the curtain to open. As projectionist, I knew the secret handshake, the magic and mystery. It was a sacred space.
The State Theatre in Boyertown ( still used carbon-arc projectors in the 60s and 70s. Ollie, the projectionist who taught me (and a great friend) used to open the side of the projector and tan himself. We spliced film, made manual changeovers, and used extra movie reels to make a miles-long paper chain of chewing gum wrappers. Life was simpler then. He gave me a ride home on the back of his Triumph one night so I wouldn't have to fight off the drunks that ogled me at the Mansion House, where my father sometimes bartended, and where I had a short stint as a dishwasher. I wasn't wearing a helmet; we got pulled over by the local policeman, who listened to our story and let us go. It was a small town. My parents never knew.
So, I allow myself the occasional thriller. Nothing too gory; more laughs than shudders. And I fondly remember growing up in the anticipatory dark, and the smell of pop-corn.

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