The rest of the movies we played early that year are nothing to brag about, with the possible exception of the Late Great Planet Earth, which was released around this time. It was heavily advertised on TV and brought the Christian and curious crowd into the theater in droves. It's interesting to ponder on and compare - if I remember correctly - its theme of emanate doom and gloom with what's being bandied about at the present time. The main images retained in my mind from this flick is a huge lava flow of burning, molten rock, and narrator Hal Lindsey's mustache.
Also, around this time, a new employee began work at the Flick. His name was Ricky; a thin, brown-haired fellow, maybe 21 years old. He bore a remarkable resemblance, in a masculine kind of way, to Judy Garland; which was a good thing considering he was one of of her biggest fans at the time. The great singer and star of The Wizard of Oz had passed away in 1969, and back then in '79, as I'm sure today, she had a massive cult following. His big collection of memorabilia was even featured later on in one of the major tabloid papers. Once when I was helping clean out Pop T and Mrs. Dot's basement, I found an old shellac disc of Judy's songs from Meet Me in St. Louis. The Trimbles were kind enough to let me have it on request and I just turned around and sold it to Ricky for thirty dollars. He surprised me by paying that much for it.
Behemoth. What can one say about the strangest hanger-on of all to ever pass through the doors of the movie theater. Pop T had installed the new video games in the lobby, Pac-man being the first, and this is what initially brought this oddball twenty-something in. As I describe the self-named Behemoth, it is not done with any attempt at cruelty or malice. To put it bluntly, the man looked like a Neanderthal wearing badly mismatched contemporary seventies clothes.
He was a bit heavy at medium height, with dark hair, black bushy eyebrows, and a lower jaw that reminded one of a boxer dog minus the fang teeth. His torso could have been original model for the Pillsbury Dough Boy and, when walking, his gait was reminiscent of a duck waddling. Shock Jock Howard Stern would certainly have offered Behemoth an honored spot in his Wack Pack of unusual individuals if the boy had had the temperament for being the butt of hilarity at times, which he definitely didn't - except for maybe one time told of in a minute.
Regular employees Joel, Ricky, Angie, all of us, really, became quite fond of this outrageous misfit; that is until the times he got a little too insistent discoursing on his favorite subjects: the movie The Giant Behemoth, and of all things, the Disney movie Pollyanna! The boy had a serious gripe about women wearing slacks and jeans and was forever pontificating on the wonder of Haley Mills and her dress in that 1961 movie. Sometimes he would sit beside me on the seats in the lobby and bemoan his fate at never being able to have a girlfriend. I truly felt sorry for him when he was in one of these moods, and would do my best to point out the fact that there's somebody out there for everyone. The encouraging words were always too little avail with the dress loving Behemoth, however.
The absolutely funniest scene the chap ever caused happened like this: during one comedy movie there was about twenty people waiting in the lobby for the next show to start, when Behemoth began questioning a young couple sitting next to him on a lobby bench, a little too insistently on, yes, you guessed it, whether they liked Pollyanna or not. Seated right beside him on the other side, I began singing in a low voice what I could remember about that old song that goes something like, 'they're coming to take me away ha ha, they're coming to take me away'. The tongue-in-cheek one about a mental institution-type person.
Behemoth immediately picked up on this and with his eyes focused straight ahead, and in a loud, somewhat baritone voice, started to sing the lyrics to that song perfectly, word for word. Now dear reader, recalling the appearance of our strange- looking fellow, you can imagine the reaction of the folks hanging loose in the lobby when the initial surprise wore off. Outside of the movie shows themselves, I've never heard a more spontaneous outburst of rib-tickling, rip-roaring laughter from a group of people in my whole life. Amazingly, for the one and only time I can remember, this didn't stop or bother Behemoth one little bit and he kept right on singing. The patrons had actually gotten their ticket's worth of belly laughs right before plopping their fanny's down in our rocking chair theater seats!
The Summer Hits
Rocky ll was every bit as engaging and successful as its predecessor. This time, of course, Rocky wins; but how could it have been any other way. Either Rocky ll or Kramer vs Kramer was our biggest hit of the year with the tail-end of Every Which Way But Loose a close follow-up.
The franchise and sequels to Rocky had been successfully launched, although we were never to see another one. I like to imagine this was a sop to Pop T, getting Rocky ll, for the eight top ten movies the big boys got that year. I'm not sure in what fashion the changes were made later on, or in the way the new releases were chosen, but they hadn't figured out things completely yet so there were still many great movies ahead for us.
The second big feature that summer was a wonderful film called 'The Main Event'. It starred Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal in a plot that had something to do with Barbra managing Ryan for a boxing match. I don't really remember- except for certain scenes- exactly what the rest was about, other than the usual love angle, but it was fun to watch and did very good business. Another one was 'Wanda Nevada', with a teenage Brooke Shields and a rather subdued Peter Fonda, which was somewhat less entertaining.
The previous fall I had met a girl, who for a year and a half became sort of a part-time girlfriend. Her name was Teresa. She was lithe, with long, light brown hair, and an outgoing personality. To state the situation plainly, Teresa fell in love while I, though very fond of her, just wasn't ready to commit myself to anyone yet. It didn't help matters any that Teresa had some odd ways; for example, she absolutely refused to wear shoes anywhere unless there was no way around it, and make-up didn't exist in her grab-bag of female enhancements.
It's not that she wasn't a nice girl in many ways, it's just that at the time I wanted a woman-woman, not a shoeless tom-boy or neo-hippie. The only time I remember her putting on a dress was when she tried to convince me to shack up with her in some ratty, broken down trailer she'd found somewhere. Bless her heart, that just wasn't going to happen.
We had many good times in our year and a half together, though, having free passes to the competitor's shows being one thing we had fun doing, kind of like a date. We were super surprised, a bit frightened actually, watching that creature pop out of the space traveler in Alien, as apparently some of the actors in the scene were too, not being told by the director exactly what was going to happen.. That's also the only time in a movie I can remember ever having to shield my eyes from something.
Two or three years after our last good-bye, I heard Teresa had become a Dead Head. She had started following the Grateful Dead rock band around everywhere( not that there was anything wrong in that mostly heart and soul scene), instead of pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian. It's my fervent wish that life treated her kindly, and any heart-breaks that were caused to her on my part (I never told her I was in love) was to come back on me full force before four years were out, when a woman I was in lust and love with left me.
The end of the 70s
The words had no more left his mouth than a good ol' boy's huge fist shot over my left shoulder, from behind (I didn't even know the big guy was behind me), and landed flush in the center of the Persian dude's mustachioed face. Both of us left the store lickity-split, and, I noticed on leaving, the Iranian's legs sticking out from behind the counter, jerking in spasms as he lay knocked out cold on the hard linoleum floor. He never saw it coming it happened so fast. I've always been a non-violent person unless attacked or defending someone, but can't say I'm not happy Mr. Foul-mouth got what was coming to him.
As the years went on I began to reflect on those Iranian students, especially on the friendly one who wanted to be a U.S. citizen. After those guys voluntarily left or were sent back to their county, it wasn't long before the eight year war between them and Saddam Hussein's Iraq broke out. Many of those fellows probably died or were wounded in those human wave attacks against fortified positions we saw about them making on our TV news.
The last film of the 70s the cinema played, was also somewhat surprisingly the top box office draw of the year in the U.S. This was especially surprising considering the subject matter. Kramer vs Kramer was about divorce and a child caught in-between it all. It stared Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep in some riveting performances. It was also quite engaging and as word of mouth spread it went on to do good business. The film had an incredible box- office take of $106,000,000 in America alone and swept the Oscars the following March.