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This is mostly about movie theaters in the eighties, so get ready for some Grandpa Simpson storytelling. Of course, I had an onion tied to my belt, as was the style at the time…
A thing that I’m glad didn’t happen at the UA
Katherine and I were supposed to go on our first date there. It was the day after the end of 11th grade, and I asked her to a movie (after she offered to drive me home so I could ask her out, even though I didn’t know that was the plan). The movie I suggested was playing at the UA, but it was sold out. That was a good thing. Here is the actual UA Warner Center newspaper ad for that day. See if you can guess what I thought would be a good first date.
- The movie about the old guy who used to dress up like his mother and kill people?
- The movie about the car thief who murders a cop then gets his innocent ex-girlfriend involved?
- The fantasy space movie sequel that people were saying was the worst in the series without know how good it would look compared to the coming films?
- The movie where everyone pretends the creaky old spy dude can still run around, fight squads of trained killers, and have enough energy left over to sleep with women nowhere near his age?
No, it was the movie where a guy in blue tights gets split into a weakling and a drunk by cigarette tar. Superman III, the movie that said “Superman II is just too darn serious.” Be we were lucky: It was sold out, and there was nothing else there we wanted to see (I had ditched school a few weeks earlier to see Return of the Jedi), so we went to the GCC and saw WarGames, a movie about nuclear annihilation that was actual a pretty good first date film.
Before the magic of the Internet, people would check what was playing at a theater one of two ways: They would look in the newspaper for a listing like the one above, or they would call the theater and listen to a tape that listed everything. If you missed part of it, you stayed on the line and it would loop. One day the tape broke, and we ended up answering the phone directly. THIS FREAKED PEOPLE OUT. They wanted a bland recital of movies and times, not a conversation with a human! As soon as they realized interactivity would be involved they would hang up.
My solution: imitate the tape at first. “Hello, and thank you for calling the UA Warner Center Theater, located at 6030 Canoga Avenue, between Oxnard and Erwin Street, behind the El Torito, next to Wickes Furniture. Today in theater one we are proud to present… well, why don’t you just tell me what you’d like to see?”
It didn’t work, and now that opening is forever embedded in my brain.
More Magnetic Tape
Instead of the current style of pre-show commercials, there was a slide show of ads created mostly by local businesses. They had no music, but the theater sound systems were connected to an EIGHT TRACK TAPE PLAYER.
They played music in an endless loop (man what is it with theaters and endless looping tapes?), and by the eighties they were not popular. Very few people owned a player, let alone a recorder.
But Brian owned a recorder.
He had an unspoken mission: Figure out the weirdest sounds he could play without someone complaining. It might be circus music. It might be Yma Sumac. It might be throat singing. I don’t think he ever found something that he had to pull. (When Ty started working at a different theater and continued the mission there, he finally cracked the code: Patrons will complain if you play the soundtrack to “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life,” which repeats whole sections of the movie, before you actually play the movie).
The downside of getting fired to go on a date
Future dates are much more difficult when you have no money.
The upside of getting fired to go on a date
Thanks to a weird and unexpected set of circumstances, losing the job at the theater led me to my first job at a school, which eventually led to me becoming a teacher. So I guess my advice is to be lucky enough to have your screwups lead to better things.