My first recollection of going to the movies was when I was a little kid in Brooklyn. My mother would send the three of us every Saturday morning to Linden Theatre on Nostrand and Rogers, a dive within a dump that served as a de facto babysitter. We each got a quarter — 15 cents to get in and a dime for candy.
There were nickel candy dispensers and dime dispensers. I always got two nickel candies — red hots, potato stix, etc. The dime machine held chocolate candies that were usually discolored or as soft as ointment.
We’d get a “Newsreel” to open the show — a documentary about how the United States was winning whatever war we were in, then a couple cartoons — usually Casper the Friendly Ghost, the Road Runner, or Popeye et al, and then a “B” movie (think The Three Stooges) before the “feature,” which almost always involved Abbott and Costello and a mummy, a tomb, a monster, or some medieval pratfall they stumbled upon.
I remember the first time I went to one of the majestic Big Houses like it was yesterday — The Lowes State Capital, so regal we had to wear dress-up clothes usually reserved for funerals. The rugs were as thick as furs, the hand rails appeared to be gold, and men in tuxedos handed you hot towels in the bathroom.
One stood by dispensing what I first thought were shots of booze. I was going to meander over and drink one like I used to see the guys in the neighborhood do at the bar, until I realized it was cologne.
We lived in Sag Harbor during the summer. The last time I wrote about our beloved movie theater here I got in hot water because I mentioned it was full of rats. Now that it has undergone a multi-million renovation I will (under pressure) categorically state those must have been cats we saw all the time, but they sure as hell looked like freakin’ rats, and I’m from Brooklyn.
Sag Harbor Theater cost 30 cents to get in. The candy counter carried the same items from year to year — I mean, the SAME items. No one ever bought them, and to my knowledge, management never removed them from the candy case, either. It was a war of wills.
Though we didn’t buy candy, we smoked, a lot, in the appropriate lounges. I was about nine.
I enjoyed movies enough to go to East Hampton on weekend nights as a teenager, especially since by then we were dating. In those days there were smoking sections. If you sat in the middle, you couldn’t smoke. Instead, people from the left and right aisle blew their smoke directly at the middle of the theater. Most of the non-smokers probably died from second-hand smoke inhalation and most of the smokers probably teach yoga nowadays.
Then they banned smoking altogether (I called it “The Day the Music Died”). The movie theaters didn’t hold the same allure for me, being they didn’t sell alcohol. I mean, you could go, spend three hours watching a boring movie, or go the Black Buoy, drink, smoke, play pool, and maybe meet a would-be movie starlet to boot.
I met Paul Newman in the Buoy. I played pool with him. The funny thing is, I’m not making this up. Beers were 15 cents.
Nowadays, I have dueling 65s — two brand-new Samsung flat screens. I can order any movie on Earth. If I donated the money I spend on pay-per-view, I could help fund a cure for a major disease.
What’s missing is other people. It’s not only about getting out and going to see the movie, but getting a cognac afterwards and discussing the nuances and performances and dissecting the poignant scenes with similarly-minded cinephiles. And then paying $100 for a round of cognac.
As a writer, I am in my glory talking about “the hues the filmmaker paints borrowing the techniques of Kawasaki, the great Japanese director who constantly reminds us of a greater good, one not only etched in the dialogue but the actor’s expressive facial gestures.”
No one ever asks me what I mean when I say crap like that. Meanwhile, I spent the whole time staring at Jennifer Aniston’s cleavage because there was no meaningful dialogue.
HINT: Always call actresses ACTORS. It means you’re an insider.
The truth is, I love the energy of this weekend. The Hamptons International Film Festival attendees are not unlike avid sports or music fans. They have found a passion and it thrills them, and they find being in the midst of like-minded aficionados rejuvenates them. They find it invigorating, and rightly so, given the nuanced hues that transfix viewers, enabling nostalgia and technology to meld into a miasma of ratatouille-like thrombosis. I’m sure you agree.
Watch out for the rats . . . er, cats.