100 Things About Me #87

Forever in the Dark
The most sought after Christmas gift I ever received arrived in 1961. I had simply told my mother I would be getting the Kenner's Give-A-Show Projector.

I simply told her several times per day for several months.

She obeyed. I found the show-business-in-a-box under a dangling Santa stocking, much to my stunned surprise. I still can't believe how lucky and excited I was!

Basically, this item was a flashlight, which allowed poorly drawn slides of cartoon characters to pass through the bright white beam. Images akin to a newspaper comic strip could be projected anywhere, onto a wall or a ceiling, or a baby brother.

The whole set-up was pretty lame, actually, but offered a pleasurable diversion, seeing a behemoth Huckleberry Hound hiking a haunch on his hat or something.

I was nine, embarking on a path of escalation.

Less than two years later, I was apprenticing as a professional 35mm motion picture machine operator at the neighborhood theatre.

By 13, I ran the Saturday films all by myself -- for pay!

Within months, I worked in two area theatres each weekend.

I had become a keener give-a-show projectionist.

That was a childhood. I had the best one I could imagine -- plus endless free popcorn, James Bond flicks, and real cartoons. Acquiring unrestricted access to a movie theatre and its projection room is possession of the greatest toy.

I continued to show movies throughout the school years and the bulk of my adult life. I tell people the superb "Cinema Paradiso" is my story. Except for the parts about growing up in Italy and looking adorable in knee pants, the picture is amazingly me!

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Okay, I was being modest about the knee pants.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic story!
Do you know what attracted you to projection in those early years?

Mike Durrett said...


I plan to write more about this subject, so I don't want to give away an earlier incident quite yet, but there is an ironic moment, yes.

I took to movies and television immediately. There is just something about show business that always intrigued me, the comedians mostly. I had to be near it until I could do it.

Gaining entry to the behind-the-scenes operation of a movie theatre, as a child, was truly an irresistible playground for me.

Anonymous said...

As a kid there was something similar that I loved to play with, I forget the name though (this would have been early 80's). It certainly didn't launch such successes that you've had though, other than ensuring that I would never stop talking during a movie!

Mike Durrett said...

My understanding is Kenner marketed the Give-A-Show Projector until the late '70s, including a "Star Wars" edition. I had several toy (primitive) 8mm movie projectors, too, as a follow-up to my Give-A-Show.

There were a bunch of projector toys to follow, including this list I found at ToyNfo.com:

Projectors 1960-1976
Easy-Show - hand-crank movie projector with 4 movies
Give-A-Show Super Show - 112 slides
Deluxe Give-A-Show - 224 color slides plus blank slides and color pencils
Play-N-Show - Phono Projector
Screen-A-Show - Cassettes
See-A-Show Hand-Held Stereo Viewer (HTF)
Star Wars Give-A-Show Projector
Talking Show Projector with Record
Talking 1000 Story Machine - Records Only

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