100 Things About Me #136

Talk the Walk
The writers strike reminds me of a 1976 incident, when I participated in a picket line. My projectionists' union was on strike against a movie theatre, north of Atlanta. It was a labor dispute, of course, and there may have been demands for an end to the flat Cokes.

Following my co-workers' footsteps, I walked laps in front of the building with my trendy picket sign propped against my shoulder. 'Twas the summer day when "Ode to Billy Joe," a Robby Benson epic based on the monster hit record by Bobbie Gentry, opened there.

The big lure of the picture was the mystery of why "Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge," a point never explained in the tune's lyrics.

"What the song didn't tell you, the movie will," promised the "Ode to Billy Joe" posters and, for that matter, the entire advertising campaign. [Spoiler alert!]

Every patron had to cross the picket line to reach the box office. Ideally, customers would honor our plight and go elsewhere, but some would continue on into the theatre to watch the show. We accepted their decisions gracefully.

It was the unprovoked jerks who made snide comments that irritated me, as they stormed by to purchase tickets.

With a pleasing, winning smile, I'd say to them, "Enjoy the surprise. Billy Joe's gay!"

Well, that went over like thumbtacks in a thumb. The twits would emit blue cumulus clouds of curses and often U-turn back to their vehicles.

The theatre went out of business not too long thereafter, which was doubly good because the picketing also ended and none of us had to go run films in that dump again.

Now, the location is a nice restaurant. My projectionist buddies gather inside for reunion lunches. They sit at a table where the movie screen used to hang, laughing and sipping the effervescent beverages.

And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge.

And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

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(With apologies to Bobbie Gentry)
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