Back to the Fab: Bygones With 'the Wind'

Continued From: "100 Things About Me #170: Fabulous Fun" and "Fox: In the Box"

Recently, Scott phoned from The Fabulous Fox, "Mike, come run 'Gone With the Wind' with me on Sunday."

"Aw, we don't need to do that, do we? Haven't we shown it enough?"

"Apparently, not," he said, considering our yearly unspoolings in the '80s and intermittent bookings since. I last showed the four-hour southern epic there 11 years ago and Scott: five. "Gone With the Wind" always delivers a crowd in Atlanta.

"Well, ohhhh-kay," I said in my little boy "don't wanna do chores and stuff, Mommy," voice.

And days later, after seven years on furlough, I was back, working the Fab.

Durrett and Rhett, together again. Scott and Sc'lett, too.

Frankly, I did give a damn, when I said, "What do you mean 'they're going to feed us'?"

"We get meals now, part of the deal," Scott explained, morphing into and out of Santa Claus. "We order. Theatre buys and delivers."

"If I had known that," I said, "I would've shown 'The Hottie and the Nottie' with you. 'The House Bunny,' even. I'm free 'Paul Blart, Mall Cop.'"

Soon, we were underway. On Scott's cue, I was to push the large, green, thumbs-optional buttons underneath the porthole. I prefer the thumbs to, say, an index and a pinky. My thumbs are powerful and exacting and seasoned veterans. I give the audience professionalism, knuckled strength, and, yes, humanity.

No awards, please. I was on the clock -- with hot sustenance and sporks to come.

Thumbs #1 and #2 punched, synchronized and cute, changing the bright light beams tilting down to the screen from the digitally-shown "Fox Theatre Feature Presentation" header over to the 70/35mm film projector.

As Max Steiner's stirring "Gone With the Wind" overture enveloped the audience, I heard myself say, "How do, Cap'n Butler!"

Adding, "Enough work, when do we eat?"

I've always been inquisitive.

"We've got to do the sound checks, first," Taskmaster Scott informed me. "You walk around the auditorium and listen. I'll stay here and adjust the levels, if need be," he said, presenting me with a portable two-way radio.

It took me a few minutes to negotiate the numerous stairways descending to the balcony and onto the main lobby floor, where I sharp right-turned and passed unobtrusively through the packed, mammoth orchestra audience to a position near the stage, underneath the screen.

Scarlett O'Hara squeezed into her swangin' hoop party frock. Scott whispered into his radio, "Mike, are you there?"

"Look! I'm walkie and I'm talkie! Now, you walkie and talkie, Taskmaster Scott. I'm walkie and talkie! Are you walkie and talkie?"

"Good, Brian Regan, ha, funny. It's the Civil War, Mike. They had dashie and yelpie."

The movie volume was assessed to be about as balanced as it can get inside a gargantuan plaster room with 4,000-plus popcorn munchers gawking shoulder to shoulder.

I returned to the booth. We settled into our projection caretakers' routines for the duration of the matinee, selecting items off Today's Menu.

Lunch arrived shortly after Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground.

"That battle was a terrible, terrible thing, and right here on Peachtree St.," I sighed. "But worth it for this complimentary cheese and spinach ravioli."

Scott was lost in thought -- probably something highly technical concerning the show in progress. He said, "What kind of wine goes with 'Fast & Furious 4?'"

"That would be Yoo-Hoo," I offered.

Minutes before five o'clock, "Gone With the Wind" concluded. The theatre closed its doors for a quick clean-up, as Scott and I reset the equipment for another round. We also made a small adjustment.

Sometimes the intelligibility of the dialogue on a 1939 film is difficult to discern via 2009 amplification methods. Scott took his tiny jeweler's screwdriver to the sound racks and administered the surgical correction. We conferred and we were confident, on the next show, Rhett would not be heard to say, "Frankly, my dweeb, I don't give a drat."

It comes with experience, folks.

The evening's throng was ushered into the Fab and we began again. This "Gone With the Wind" went off without a hitch.

Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground. Persistent bastard, I'll give him that.

"Would you like chilled, bottled grocery store tap water with your Panini, sir?"

I nodded to Scott and smacked my thanks, before sharing the bad news: "I'll need to be off whenever 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' plays. I'm a vegetarian."

"What if you only ran the reels pertaining to clear skies or simple red sauce?"

"Mmm. Okay," I caved, arm twisted. "Maybe we can order Chinese."

"You ever thread a projector with chopsticks?"

"Fortune cookie say, 'Anything possible.'"

At 11:07 p.m., we closed out the movie and the final capacity crowd of happy customers headed home.

"Fabulous," Scott said to me.

"What say we run a late show? I'm hungry."
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