Sleepo Man

The Saturday night we saw "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" at the drive-in, it played third on a dusk-to-dawn quadruple bill with "Repo Man" (1984), "13 Ghosts" (1960), and "Switchblade Sisters" (1975).

We would have a good reason to skip church.

I was ready to watch "Repo Man," but this car wreck of a movie about wrecked cars, wrecked flying saucers, and Emilio Estevez's wreck of a career soon made me consider the error of my ways.

I knocked on the door of the projection booth, a little building in the center of the parking area. The kindly operator peeked out from behind a clutch of burgers and a teeming mountain of Ketchup Packets of the Gods.

"May I borrow your 'Methodist Hymnal?'" I asked. I thought I'd practice for church after all.

He shut the door in my face.

My burden had grown wearier. I returned to our seats and gazed up into the gigantic, tired face of Harry Dean Stanton.

I like Harry Dean Stanton, but he is not the most animated of actors. Walt Disney took off after him with an art gum eraser. Pixar would be stumped.

I looked at Harry, The Nap in a Tatty Suit, and knew I was in desperate need of a caffeine infusion. Otherwise, I had no hope of remaining alert through four full-length features.

I stepped to the front of the refreshments line and said, "Hi, there, I'd like coffee, please."

"We ain't got no coffee," said the young lady.

"Ummm," I yawned, "let me have some hot chocolate."

"We ain't got no hot chocolate!" she yelped.

I raised the left eyebrow. "Espresso Crème Brulée?"

She stared at me.

"Nope," I translated.

I chewed a lip.

"Then, I'll have a Diet Coke. The biggest--"


I stared at her.

"If I give you 10 dollars, will you slap me in the face?"


I zombie shuffled away.

I had lost my quest and even the will to inquire of vichyssoise.

Previously in This Thread: Two for the Chow | "Revenge of the Cheerleaders"
Next: Spectacles in the Dark


"Revenge of the Cheerleaders"

Golly, some of the garbage the Starlight shows at its annual Drive-Invasion B-movie marathons is just too snickering awful not to attend.

In 2004, we made the long haul to Atlanta to partake in a revival of the cheesy and teasy "Revenge of the Cheerleaders." I had seen the original, "The Cheerleaders," and always wondered how the epic saga turned out.

I hoped Fredo lived.

"Meet the sex-crazed cheerleaders of Aloha High (Jerri Woods, Patrice Rohmer, Susie Elene, Penthouse Pet Helen Lang and drive-in goddess Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith) who spend their days and nights raising the spirits of the boy's basketball team (including a young David Hasselhoff as the ever-ready 'Boner'). But when the girls discover a plot by the evil developers to condemn their beloved school, they strike back with a plan that includes high-protein breakfast shakes, drug-laden lunches, locker room orgies, giant dinosaurs and a secret weapon for winning the big game. All rules -- and uniforms -- are officially off: This is REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS." --Amazon.com

Not regular dinosaurs, but "giant" dinosaurs T&A. Those kids knew how to party.

Somewhere during the second reel of this horrendous, amateurish mishmash, I tired of tallying exposed jiggly boobs on my laptop abacus.

That statement may be about the best definition of "crummy" ever told.

The mind wandered to other issues, including my sanity. Why was I plopped in a wobbly lawn chair on an asphalt slab at two-twelve in the morning, watching this junk? I could've been home doing a service for society like tweezing the refrigerator.

We've got to clean that thing.

Our old tomatoes aren't stewed. They're downright angry and revolting.

The 1999 broccoli souffle is channeling Salvador Dali.

We no longer forage for food. Instead, we play bonus rounds of "What's My Poultice?"

Sitting outdoors, now counting the actual frocks in "Revenge of the Cheerleaders," too tired to deal in double digits, I also recalled a true anecdote my projectionist buddy, Scott, wrote about this same flick.

"'Revenge of the Cheerleaders' has had a special place in my heart, since the night in 1977 that I noticed on the marquee of the NE Expressway Drive-In [in Atlanta] that we were playing 'Revenage of the Cheerleaders.'

"I knew that [name withheld because I like him] had done the marquee letters, as he always did, and spelling was never one of his favorite hobbies, so I asked him, 'Hey, Glen, what's a "Revenage," anyway?'

"'Aw, it's close enough. ... They know what we mean.'"

Previously in This Thread: Two for the Chow
Next: Sleepo Man


Two for the Chow

Here we are waiting for the show to begin at a drive-in movie event.

The question is, whose vehicle is this? That's not our roadster.

Their popcorn was good, though.

Donna wiped our fingerprints, as usual. She's so tidy.

We ended up in a Toyota with Goobers, but escaped into the darkness as the owner returned.

Once again, advancing corndog fumes provided our security alarm, the cue to scram.

I sometimes think the best part of the drive-in experience is when we visit the snack cars.

Next in This Thread: "Revenge of the Cheerleaders"


Do-It-Yourself Drive-In

As much as we enjoy drive-in theatres, Donna and I have had to alter our attendance patterns. Not only are these venues few and far between, but many also operate short of the industry's technical standards and lack adequate customer service.

One otherwise lovely Tennessee drive-in hasn't seen us in years due to their imbecilic staff yokel, who regularly hijacks and ruins the presentations. This obnoxious egomaniac (probably the owner) chit-chats over the sound system from the projection room as the films are in progress, like he's doing play-by-play commentary at a baseball game.

His incessant bumpkin rambling, also known as mental masturbation, is an unacceptable, insulting arrogance whizzed on captive audiences.

Another nearby theatre has such a dim picture on the screen, we no longer refer to it by the business name. I have annointed that place as "The Drive-In Radio."

Add automobile expenses, lackluster programming, cropped images, soft focus, film breaks, inept employees, nasty restrooms, unruly patrons, rampaging brats, drunks, poor sight lines, dangerous drivers, glaring headlights, security insecurities, broken glass, tobacco spittle, weather issues, skeeters, plus inappropriate soundtrack interruptions to plug "funnel cakes: half price" at the refreshment center and, well, drive-in movies are not necessarily a grand evening out.

We still go. We're addicts, nostalgic for better nights, however we've also created a replacement on our own sheltered porch, which currently provides the bulk of our outdoor movie events.

Believe it or not, my three-year-old, 15-inch notebook computer on a table displays a picture superior to any drive-in theatre I've ever attended. I say that as a patron and as a professional, card-carrying projectionist who has spent thousands of hours showing 35mm movies under the stars.

I know a small screen doesn't immediately suggest satisfaction, but in the dark, the mind takes over and one's perspective makes the picture appear as large as it would be in the best parking space at most drive-in theatres.

From comfortable chairs set close by, the effect is startling and impressive. The bright, crisp, colorful images shown in their proper aspect ratios (i.e., shapes) without projector weave, jitter, or flicker are unbeatable, all via precise DVDs.

Our initial feature, the superb American western, "Silverado," actually looked better than my vivid memory of its pristine 70mm indoor presentation during original release.


We watch all kinds of movies at our *drive-in,* however the coolest ones have outdoor locations. Our neighborhood crickets, bullfrogs, and rippling creek add the ultimate surround sound effects to many of these experiences. You can't buy "moos" in a commercial theatre, but the random ones I heard from an upstream farm cow during a recent viewing of John Wayne's "Hondo" were exquisite.

We've saved significant money and avoided inconveniences and disappointments by staying home. We no longer sell Donna's organs to purchase Junior Mints and flat colas. The gum on our shoes is our own.

Our only additional expense has been $14 for a pair of stereo speakers. We're contemplating a bug candle.

(Truth be told, a gnat on the screen can look to be the size of a Cessna.)

In every amenity, our porch theatre surpasses actual drive-ins, with the possible exception of first-run titles. I can wait the four months until the DVDs hit the rental store, no sweat. Besides, I'd much rather see the classic color cartoons I play before each feature. Drive-ins dropped those animated mainstays decades ago.

The one item no money-making theatre offers, we've installed in ours. It's the finest innovation since the cupholder, which we also have on the porch seats.

Our secret weapon?

Lap cats, making movies better than ever.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for funnel cake class.


Will You Enter and Drive-In, Please?

There's a new entertainment phenomenon called MobMov, short for Mobile Movie.

In cities across America, club members receive email notifications for the next event, usually held in dark, out of the way parking lots. At the specified time, a vehicle arrives equipped with a video projector, DVDs, and an FM transmitter. In a matter of minutes, the image is beamed at an unsuspecting wall and the show is underway via the power of an automobile battery. Meanwhile, the audience parks beneath the big screen, tuning their car radios to hear the soundtrack audio.

It's the ultimate definition of a drive-in theatre.

The only variation I've encountered to challenge it is inside the glass-enclosed observation car of an Amtrak train speeding through the starry Arizona desert, watching films on overhead monitors. That's how I saw "The Mask" and "Forrest Gump" years ago -- in a driving theatre.

I've considered a relatively inexpensive video projector to zoom and view outdoor movies from the yard, but our house is not suitable for a screen.

Thirty more pounds, I will be.


What Would Jesus Do?

Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead

Okay, I'm reading "The Da Vinci Code" and I think there's a misprint.

I know that the secret about Jesus getting married and fathering a baby is supposed to be in there, because others, not the Bible, told me so.

But can it possibly be Jesus felt he was ahead of his time? He longed for Birkenstocks, Frankenberry and Boo Berry from General Mills, and "Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Musical?"

I find theology fascinating....


The Da Vinci Woe

Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead

I purchased "The Da Vinci Code" years ago. I'd devoured the first chapter when Donna confiscated the book so she could read it. I'm just now returning to the tale.

I'd managed all of this time to keep myself in the dark as to the specifics of the plot. I wanted to preserve the surprises. I haven't even read the dust jacket.

Last week, out of the blue, a radio host mentioned the novel and about Jesus taking a bride. Then, on cable TV news the other night, they blabbed about the child.


I didn't know.

Oh, well, I hope no one tells me about His college keggers or toilet-papering a camel or stuff. I'm only 40 pages into it.



Folks who didn't live through it may not realize the gigantic, seemingly overnight frenzy Don Rickles created in entertainment circles after he was finally introduced to TV audiences as an insult comic.

By 1965, he had become the hardest-working guest star in the business, appearing everywhere from "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Andy Griffith Show," "The Munsters," "The Addams Family," "Get Smart," "The Lucy Show," "F Troop," "Gomer Pyle," "I Dream of Jeannie," and "Gilligan's Island" to nearly all of the talk programs and comedy-variety series on the air.

But the true measurement of major league stardom, as the prophets foretold, is determined in just one way: comic books.

Legendary cartoonist Jack Kirby immortalized Don Rickles in a two-part DC Comics arc, 1971.


Roy Rogers Roast Beef

At the drive-in theatre, not only was I reminded of Don Rickles' "Beach Party" movies, but also the Roy Rogers Riders Club announcement struck a chord.

On his classic 1969 comedy album, "Don Rickles Speaks" about his exciting friendship with Roy Rogers.

"I've been with Roy at his [house], when you spend a big evening standing out in the front lawn, watching Trigger foam."


Rickles' Beach Parties

The masterful comedian Don Rickles celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this week on May 8th.

Coincidentally, having written in previous posts of the "Beach Party" tales, it was in these very same pictures I first noticed Rickles.

Prior to 1964, as a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, he worked as a serious actor in major feature films, opposite Clark Gable in "Run Silent Run Deep" (1958) and Debbie Reynolds and Tony Curtis in "The Rat Race" (1960). He also appeared in episodic television, including "The Twilight Zone" and "Wagon Train," both in 1961.

It wasn't until Don Rickles hit the coast with Frankie and Annette that he enjoyed fully comic roles. His simultaneous cult status as an outrageous nightclub comedian was a bubbling-under secret to the public-at-large, including myself. Soon, that would all change with his stupendous success after the big break via "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson."

Meanwhile, Rickles, who had appeared in American International's spooky "X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes" (1963) alongside Ray Milland, was cast in the studio's "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), the first sequel in the "Beach Party" series.

I recall my adolescence, sitting in a dark theatre gawking at the unusual guy in the sweatshirt and baseball cap who barked wisecracks at the shenanigans surrounding himself. He made a distinct impression, although with limited screen time in each of his three "Beach Party" vehicles, four if we include the very similar "Pajama Party" (1964).

Curiously, I was drawn to Mr. Rickles even then, but once I had witnessed his unbridled insults and quick-witted rampages on TV, I was mesmerized by his mind. Don Rickles was the first -- and only -- person to knock me off of a bed onto the floor by the sheer power of his words. He was so fresh, unexpected, and astoundingly funny. He became and remains my second comedy obsession, following Jerry Lewis, and preceding W.C. Fields, Steve Martin, and David Letterman.

For the record, Rickles is Jack Fanny (spoofing body builder Vic Tanny) in "Muscle Beach Party." He returned in the hat and other shirts with his name on them in "Bikini Beach" (1964) as Big Drag and in "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965) as Big Drop. "Pajama Party" presents him as Big Bang the Martian.

I've had two close encounters with Mr. Warmth, so dubbed by Carson.

In 1984, in the stand-by line for a taping of "Late Night With David Letterman" at NBC Rockefeller Center, Rickles stood within four feet of me as he arrived for his guest spot. I was denied entry to the show, but I went away happy. He had raised those eyebrows in his patented "big deal" manner at Security.

Fifteen years later, I finally found myself in his concert audience in Las Vegas. At age 73, Don Rickles had the stamina and bite of a man half his age. That was a great night and a fine memory.

"It's better than laying in a dam watching a beaver eat your jacket or something."


Sons of a "Beach Party"

While watching "Beach Party" (1963) at the drive-in, I was reminded of confusion concerning the series.

There were numerous, sandy, happy-go-lucky pictures distributed by several studios in the 1960s, but it may be surprising to note only four are true "Beach Party" sequels -- and those do not include "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), disqualified primarily for its noticeable lack of water and anyone named Kahuna, plus "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" (1964), excluded for Don Knotts swimming openly without a bathing suit and nobody asked him to.

The official "Beach Party" follow-up movies star Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello: "Muscle Beach Party" (1964), "Bikini Beach" (1964), "Beach Blanket Bingo" (1965), and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" (1965).

The five films chronicle the characters of Frankie and Dee Dee (Dolores), although in "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini," except for an uncredited cameo, Frankie is absent, off on reserve duty. I suspect, however, he was off making "I'll Take Sweden" with Bob Hope.

American International Pictures, the low budget cheese wizards behind the epics, worked overtime to milk gold out of their lighthearted, youth formula. Five additional productions were rushed into release and are often referred to as "Beach Party" flicks, but, while they headline Annette and/or Frankie and many of their surfing buds, the characters and settings are not the same.

The titles are "Pajama Party" (1964), "Ski Party" (1965), "Sergeant Deadhead" (1965), "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" (1965), and "Fireball 500" (1966). Annette's missing in several of these, probably off on reserve duty or doing "The Monkey's Uncle" (1965) for Mr. Disney.

Walt, by the way, was the one to insist his former Mickey Mouseketeer, Annette, not wear bikinis in the "Beach Party" stories for reasons of decency. She agreed because of her respect for him. I've often pondered his reaction to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, later Mouseketeers-turned-mice-lice.

In 1987, Paramount unleashed "Back to the Beach," as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the earlier, unrelated franchise. Frankie and Annette returned in differently named skins, married with children with surfboards.

Mr. Disney was off on reserve duty or doing something heady.


Happy Trailers

Before the features the other night, the Starlight Drive-in projected several reels of vintage coming attractions previews. A rare Roy Rogers Riders Club introduction, used as a welcome at children's events held more than 50 years ago, was screened, too.

Roy was known as "King of the Cowboys," making as many as eight western films per year during the 1940s. He moved to television for "The Roy Rogers Show," 1951-57.

I'm guessing the footage is from the mid-to-late '40s. In it, heroic Roy and his spectacular Golden Palomino stallion, Trigger, gallop into view, stopping short of the camera.

Actually, I found this moment to be a bit thrilling.

My earliest memories include watching "The Roy Rogers Show." I also liked Roy's girl, Dale, and her horse, Buttermilk. I recall my grandmother serving me warm milk during those episodes. I'm trying not to become disturbed.

Plus, "The Smartest Horse in the Movies" has one of my favorite scenes of all-time in "Son of Paleface" (1952). Trigger's in bed with Bob Hope!

From the vantage point of the 21st century, the surprising thing about the Roy Rogers Riders Club message is Roy welcomes the buckaroos to the theatre and immediately bows his head to pray.

Trigger, too.

The Cowboy's Prayer

Oh, Lord, I reckon I'm not much just by myself,
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me to ride it straight the whole way through.

And in the falling dusk I get that final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send,
Above all else, the happiest trail would be
For You to say to me, "Let's ride, my friend."

The world has changed.

"True," says my friend, Frank. "So few praying horses these days."


Sarong of the South

The second half of Tiki Torch Night at the Starlight Six Drive-in Theatre was devoted to "White Savage," a 1943 tropical island adventure -- and the new print on view was Sabutiful.

I had never dared to dream I would ever see the actor Sabu in a drive-in, except, maybe, sweeping up after the Saturday-Sunday afternoon flea markets, but there he was in all of his ingratiating, wide-grinning splendor.

He had crash-landed his magical flying carpet into a South sea sand dune, forcing himself to trade-up his elephant for a fiddler crab named Simba Baba. (I wrote his back story during the show in order to not doze into my Twizzlers.)

Sabu shared the screen with white guy Sidney Toler, doing a look-alike, sound-alike of his celebrated Charlie Chan character. That's a velsatile actol.

The true star of "White Savage" is Maria Montez, alternately known as "The Queen of Technicolor" and "The Caribbean Cyclone." The crowd at the Starlight came to calling her, "Hey, Man, Where 'Scary Movie 4' Playin'?"

"White Savage" was directed by Arthur Lubin, the auteur behind the beloved Francis the Talking Mule pictures and television's talking horse, "Mr. Ed." Sharp eyes could see the peanut butter Lubin smeared on Miss Montez's gums to make her speak, too.


Back to the "Beach Party"

Over the weekend, my latest drive-in theatre excursion took me and the car to see the original 1963 "Beach Party," which spawned a flurry of schlocky sequels and rip-offs.

I'm always happy to visit the Starlight in Atlanta, one of my haunts when I moonlighted as a relief projectionist. In those days, the machine booth was located inside the snack bar building, sharing a corridor with the men's room. Customers passed my door for one or two reasons.

That's the best joke I could come up with.

And it's better than any in "Beach Party." The flick was screened as part of Tiki Torch Night, an event sponsored by a nearby Polynesian restaurant, celebrating 30 years of overpriced drinks with teensy umbrellas in them.

The movie's headliner is Nervous Tic Bob Cummings, always a favorite of the Clearasil set.

Bob had been a successful motion picture and television star for three decades. Taking a role in this quicky American-International project must have been somewhat of an embarrassment, especially when third and fourth-billed Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon became the beneficiaries plucked into the spin-offs to follow.

Frankie and Annette were Elvis in their films, mimicking the gold-plated Presley formula to success. They'd croon a couple of tunes and hotrod and surfboard via rear-screen projection.

I'm still trying to book a plane that way.

In "Beach Party," Bob is the quintessential square professor, complete with bad hat, bad bow tie, and bad beard. He's studying the mating rituals of the modern young people, so his slipping into a full-bodied 1920s bathing suit with skirt does help out in the incognito undercover work.

Eventually, the professor is brought into a crazy, swinging world of electric razors and Morey Amsterdam poetry recitations, where everyone ends up with the right boy or girl and they twist a lot.

There's something endearingly sweet and innocent about the picture, although it's more Jurassic than classic.

I enjoyed my first viewing of the comedy since attending 1978's Beach Party Film Festival at the lackluster -- heck, lackluster would have been an improvement -- at the lack-any-amenity-known-to-mankind Smyrna Drive-in, north of Atlanta.

When theatres had slogans, like the Central ("Always Paramount"), the Fox ("The South's Finest Theatre"), and the Loew's Grand ("The Home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures"), the Smyrna boasted, "Always Out of Focus and a Pebble in Your Shoe."

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