Saturday, September 22, 2007

Soft-core memories of the Drive-In

Left: THE STEWARDESSES which of course you know is the highest-grossing 3-D movie of all time!

In my post yesterday, I mentioned soft-core porn. In reading it back, I wondered if such a thing even exists now? What was called soft-core in my youth, could now be broadcast on regular network TV with no trouble and no censorship. And certainly, a movie like Midnight Cowboy, (which, believe it or not, was rated X when it first came out), barely qualifies for an R these days.

But what I loved... ah!... were the soft-core movies at the Drive-In! These movies had occupational names like The Stewardesses and Private Duty Nurses. (This was one reason early punk bands sometimes chose names like The Waitresses.) The women in these movies were often in semi-formal competitions with each other, to see who could bed the most guys, and alas, one would always fall in love and have to quit the competition. It was sweet!

The dialogue was weird, as it was usually written by men. Thus, it was the kind of sexual talk men assume women do outside of their presence. (Check out the fabulous song GIRLS TALK by Elvis Costello; at least Elvis knew he didn't have a clue, which just made him more nervous.) These B-movie girls sounded like guys in a locker room, not surprisingly. What's interesting is that they always seemed to be enjoying the dirty dialogue and performed their sex scenes with aplomb. In one of these (and I regret to say I cannot remember the title, as they all tend to run together in my mind), one woman reached over and turned a lamp on during sex, and smiled the dirtiest smile I've ever seen, before or since. Like the guy in Citizen Kane who remembered the girl with the parasol once a month for the rest of his life... I have always remembered that wicked B-movie smile.

I saw these movies at that transcendent and resplendent place called THE DRIVE IN... I miss drive-ins so much, at times, I fear I will scream when I see photos of them, and particularly (((shrieks!)) if I see a photo of one I actually went to, like this one.

The Drive-Ins showed old movies, second run, B-movies, foreign, whatever. The screens were so enormous, you could see them a mile away. Outside one restaurant parking lot (with an excellent view of a drive-in screen), several of us as teenagers would collect randomly to watch the movies with no sound--and it was in this manner I saw several bad movies (LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT), as well as movies that required no sound to enjoy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS).

Working-class couples used to take their kids to the drive-in; as children, we'd all be asleep by the time the dirty movies (second feature, usually) came on. Taking the kids in a car meant no babysitting costs; it was a cheap way to have a good time. As kids, we would go in our pajamas and run around like crazy before the movie started, then at nightfall we would be suitably exhausted and fall asleep right after the cartoons, even before the opening credits. The adults might take some beer and some eats, maybe invite the cousins or neighbors--I can recall a "line" of cars that was my stepfather's family--two of his brothers, their wives and children. Lots of people would "meet" other cars at the drive-in and then move from car-to-car--as you might recall from the movie Grease.

If your mother had forbidden you to see a certain boy, you dated his friend, and when you all showed up at the drive-in, you could change places. :) Likewise, pot-smokers, gay folks, and people having extramarital affairs, all found fun stuff to do at the drive-in, and everyone was very discreet.

At the drive-in, leaving your car at night (to go to the bathroom, buy some sodapop or whatever), and moving amongst the microphone-stands, was a thoroughly magical and hallucinatory experience. The microphones, hundreds of them inside cars or outside on their stands, broadcast the movie in unison. This created an amazing, haunting stereophonic echo: drive-in polyphony, as beautiful in our memories as a medieval choir.

I can still remember going to get some 7-Up and hearing the most fantastic noise of my life, and I turned transfixed to see a 50-foot-high, white-fringed Roger Daltrey on the screen in front of me, which was as incredible as if Jesus Christ had come back to earth. Holy shit!--I thought. I stood there in the dark, hypnotized by the huge screen (beautifully surrounded by trees and crisp Midwestern summer night), as those hundreds of microphones brought to me the sound of the greatest rock band in the history of the world. (No, that is not open to debate. Not for nothing is my email "Who fan"!) And I can remember the sound of the film WOODSTOCK at the drive-in, as The Who, Paul Butterfield, Alvin Lee, and so many others radiated rhythm from all of those little microphones...

My wish for everyone is that they should have such a wonderful memory.


A.W. said...

It was interesting, I knew what a dead drive in looked like before I ever got to see one whole; when I was younger and lived in the trailer court (before the street next to it had rows of stores, it used to be all field) there was a drive in screen frame, the majority intact and standing, with nothing but a small patch of cracked pavement round it. It looked, to my mind...sad. As if it used to be a very important piece of adult machinery and then it was carelessly discarded, and I finally, after much pondering and several instances of forgetting, remembered to ask what it was. Then, several years later, I actually went to a drive in. An incredibly large image of Sean Connery (I think that's his name) dominated the screen, and that's all I really remember from the drive in. At least, that's the most detailed, the other movie visits weren't nearly as memorable. Several hours of watching him weave about the screen. Twas great.

Tried to go last year, now they want, what was it...8 bucks a person? They don't pay by the car here anymore. S'more expensive than the blasted movie theater now, and the ride didn't like the idea, so twasn't doable.

kate said...

Oh the drive-in! I remember them too. My father took my brother and I there a few times to see movies -- until he caught me looking at the screen behind us (a double screen drive-in)where naked figures were convorting in black and white around a pool. Needless to say, that was far more interesting to even my seven year old mind than seeing racoons cavorting on the legitimate screen.

I've gone to drive-ins with boyfriends and with friends in pickup trucks, heard stories of friends packing up the trunk to all get in for the price of two tickets.

I even remember going to a porn flick with my ex in the eighties as that was pretty much what drive-ins had been reduced to. I was young and a bit too creeped out by the all the silent vans parked everywhere, separated by seamy lust and secrecy. We left shortly after the opening credits. That was my last visit to a drive-in. My kids have never been to one as they don't exist around here anymore.uyhj

bint alshamsa said...

I saw my first drive-in movie when I lived in California. We baked a pan of brownies for the kids and went to see a double-feature. It was great. I wish we had one here. All that's left is one of those abandoned fields with some left behind machinery on Haynes Boulevard across from Lincoln beach in New Orleans East.

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