Tuesday, June 21, 2016



Spring 1988 -- I was well into being Captain Fucking Movies and had to see everything I could in a theater; I mean movies that like no 15-year-old on earth would’ve given a shit about, but from around age 12 or 13 I started getting more and more obsessive about going to the theater instead of just renting stuff 5 or 6 months later.  There was a brief era in here for a couple years where my mom – who previously hadn’t that big on going to the theater – became my Moviegoing Buddy, which led to such great formative fucking moments as me and Ma coming home from the Cineplex and Dad asked what we saw and the answer was the incredibly unmanly sounding “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which I clarified by saying “It’s a WOODY ALLEN film, Dad!” which did not help my case, because my old man ABSOLUTELY fucking hated that guy and anyway I’m sure there was some big ballgame on that night and your already-dorky son in Coke-bottle glasses bragging about a night on the town with Mommy to catch the latest Barbara Hershey movie couldn’t have sounded any fucking gayer if I threw some confetti on him like Rip Taylor.  It’s because of moments like this that I still half-think my family suspects I’m gay and living some Steve Inwood-in-Cruising existence in the big bad city 2,000 miles away.

But Mom was pretty cool and had fun seeing the big shows with her son, and Woody Allen excepted, was oddly into guy’s-guy movies, so things like “Color of Money” and “The Hitcher” and “Platoon,” she’d take me and I didn’t think anything of it…. Until “The Hidden” came out, that Kyle Maclachlan alien movie, and for fuck-knows-what reason I went with my MOM to see this, and not only was some striptease part a little odd to watch stifling a boner from a seat away, but we saw it on a Friday night, and upon exiting the theater, like half the Cool Kids Class of ’91 was hanging out outside smoking and bullshitting like a scene from Wild Life or Fast Times, and out waddles my dorky ass clearly going to the cinema with Mommy on a FRIDAY NIGHT at age 14, and some fat chick made fun of me In Front of My Mom about it, they’re all “HAHAHAHA He goes to the movies with his Mom! HAHAHA!”  Fucking mortifying, and while I think my mom treasured our little outings, she was pretty understanding thereafter about me feeling a little weird about this, and wanting to start spreading my wings by – oh, what a badass – going to movies BY MYSELF!

This long movie-related preface is only to establish which oughta be fucking obvious by now – I didn’t have any goddman friends.  These are my later junior high years, the worst, bleakest days of my life, where puberty and awkwardness were meeting head-on with daily bullying and occasional beatdowns, kids tripping me in hallways, Trapper Keeper flying, some fuckbag who’d call me VELOUR always on my case.  My mom still bought my clothes, and this is like 1986, ’87, ’88, I didn’t understand fashion shit or care at all, but seemed like EVERY KID had some WHITE T-SHIRT WITH A CRAZY BEACH BAR LOGO, like a big fucking Koo-Koo-Roo looking bird and it’d say like JERK SHACK on it, they’d wear it with acid washed and some Michael Biehn high-tops.  I didn’t know how to explain this uniform of the day to my mom, but everyone else’s clothes seemed all casual and bullyish and carefree, and instead I’m still repping Selections By Mom, which were still from the 1979 Columbia Pictures Palette, and BROWN O’CLOCK, always like some ill fitting CORUROY JEANS with a SKIN-TIGHT AS FUCK BROWN PLAID SHIRT or MAROONS.  MAROON AND BROWN, yeah, just the ticket in the days of the Lost Boys and hair metal and Tiffany and whatnot.  Anyway, yeah, the one shirt was a MAROON VELOUR V-NECK which I can’t imagine WASN’T the gayest fucking shirt in HUMAN HISTORY, and this asshole named Joe something-or-other, some little hateful Pittsburgh white-trash fucking midget would go “VELLLLUUUUUUUUURE!” and start tearing at it.  Bunch of dudes circling me like a fucking Sasha Grey blowbang all shouting “VELOUR!” including this fuckhead named Farrare who was a close friend in elementary school but turned on me in junior high, and when I tried fighting back, the Joe kid spit a mouthful of Goldfish crackers on it then Farrare tore it, I had to spend the rest of the day red-faced and ashamed with a RIPPED SHIRT like a loser, everyone making fun of me then the INSANE GUILT where I couldn’t tell my mom that this all happened because she was still dressing me in these absurd fashions.

It had been a little better in 7th grade when my friend Bobby still was around – Mentioned this elsewhere, but he was kind of Dennis Gilder to my Arnie Cunningham, cool kid from across the street who was into music and playing drums and stealing cigarettes and ripping off his dad’s porno mags.  Just a great regular dude, but he and his family moved away at the beginning of eight grade, and I was left pretty friendless, NERVOUS AS FUCK entering the lunchroom like it was the prison yard, ultimately sitting with the biggest fucking nerds in the school, the only guys that’d have me, including some rod named Heckla who already had male pattern baldness at FOURTEEN YEARS OF AGE, and some towering lurch who I think was 100% mute.  So it was a regular cringing misery every day at lunch with this crew, who unlike my bro Bobby didn’t do jack or shit when some fuckhead rolled up to us and put a booger on my mom’s home-packed Bologna sandwich, or laughed at me drinking a can of SHASTA with a STRAW (“Huh huh huh….You like sucking on straws?  I bet you like sucking on straws….”)  Great, thanks, fuck off.

And this shit didn’t stop at just school.  They’d crank call my house, I’d be watching “Top Gun” on VHS and a party full of little assholes would call asking for me then laughing and calling me “fag,” and the phone would ring over and over and my Mom would get on and yell at them as I cringed and couldn’t focus on Goose’s YAW RATE HEARING.  And worse than that was some bullshit called CCD.  For those who aren’t Catholic (lucky fucking you), it’s this afterschool or Sunday School type shit where you go and some dude teaches you/…. Fuck, I don’t even know.  I stuck with it through 12th grade and maybe I just blanked it out, but I never learned a fucking thing except guilt and misery and depression from it, it’d be some “teacher”/volunteer guy telling you about Jesus or burning in hell or “don’t jerk off” or something, and ALL the fucking cool kids who hated me seemed to be there too, and I’d be stewing that these alleged fucking Catholic angels were all bullying and partying and crank-calling my mom and shit in their downtime.  In eight grade our CCD “teacher” was this absolute prick who looked like the “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” guy from Night of the Living Dead, and the guy could NOT having given less of a fuck, he’d put on MTV and let the kids shoot the shit as Motley Crue, that great Catholic example, wailed in the background..  One cold wintry Pittsburgh night in this depressing classroom, his “lesson” was on our burgeoning sexuality and making “the right choices,” and as part of his INCREDIBLY HIP PATTER, he offhanded, “By now, all of you are starting to have feelings.  You might be starting to date, and might be PASSING NOTES.  I’m sure everyone here as at least PASSED A NOTE now, unless you’re a COMPLETE LERP.”  On cue, this weaseally asshole named MONROE pointed at me and declared “HE’S A LERP!” and the teacher DOUBLED OVER, just HOWLING WITH LAUGHTER, “Is that true? You’re a LERP?”  And then selected kids started changing LERP! LERP! LERP! as I got all red-faced and slunk into the key lime-colored cement floor.

After “class” one night, the hits kept coming with the bullying and bullshit until I RAN OUT like a bitch, and they circled me with their CDD PROGRAMs, kind of like a baseball program size, rolled up and started whacking me with it.  I was ducking and bobbing and terrified and somehow WALKED INTO A FUCKING BROKEN OFF RUSTY PIPE that was protruding from a Dumpster.  It broke one of my two front teeth in half.  Just chipped the whole bottom half off so I had half a tooth.  I screamed “My tooth! My tooth!” as the sensation of the exposed nerve kicked in.  They laughed at this for a few seconds before realizing they’d seriously fucked up, but, hey!  Their rides home were waiting and everyone pretty much shuffled off in their own directions, leaving me there stunned and shocked and feeling fucking amputated, and some dumb fat oaf goes “Here’s your tooth, dude,” as he had found it for me on the ground.  Everyone dispersed and my mom 10m later rolled in to find her son in the snow under a lonely basketball hoop missing a tooth thanks to fucking Catholic class.

She went on a warpath looking for some soccer mom to yell at, but the head culprit was apparently from some white-trash hateful family and the parents couldn’t have given a FUUUUUUCK, and told my Mom it was my own dumbass fault for not being coordinated like the immortal champion Pittsburgh Steelers when it comes to ducking a pipe sticking out of a Dumpster on a frozen shitty evening.   I got my tooth mounted/capped within a day or so, and as a beacon of kindness toward me and my Mom, this other awesome mom whose son was there but not part of the bullying called our house to see if I was okay, said her son Scott saw it and felt horrible about the whole thing and wanted to hang out.  I’m fairly sure this was sort of an Arranged Playdate of sorts encouraged by his mom, maybe partly out of guilt that he had witnessed this scene, but me and Scott had gone to elementary school together in 6th grade when I first moved to Pittsburgh.  We had been pals then but gone our separate ways a little bit in junior high, but still saw each other once in a blue room and were pretty friendly.  This is basically how I finally got another friend I actually liked and got along with, and who wasn’t a complete fucking dork like the lunchroom crew.  We even soon enough got a third pal, this guy Phil, and sometimes an assist from this bozo named JIMMY JACK on Zeppo duty -- and before you new it there was camaraderie and occasional outings like ballgames and birthdays, and some of the psychosis and social cluelessness of 7th and 8th grade subsided and the slightest hint of confidence entered the equation.  I was still getting called a “fag” and a “dork” and I would occasionally have some loathsome bush-league Repperton stick his sweaty gym clothes in my locker as a prank, but bolstered by having a friend or two, my funny side came out a little more, and in classes where I felt comfortable (usually English classes) and no bullies were around, I’d do my comedy lines and cut loose a little with the “wacky guy” persona I’d comfortably had as a Rodney Dangerfield-obsessed 10-year-old in laid-back Maine.  Fuck, even some of the “popular kids” started thinking of me as funny and stood up for me a little, and the beatings dropped off entirely.  Say it with me, Johnny Drama: Victory!

But even though this was -- shockingly, depressingly – as close to a “posse” or crew as I’ve ever successfully maintained, on the “best friend” front it wasn’t always smooth sailing with my “bro” Scott.   The most concise way to put this is he was very much an all-American sports-loving, super patriotic ballcap-and-NASCAR, er, what do you call it? Oh, yeah, NORMAL PERSON.  And I’m a fucking fruit loop who at age 14 was more interested in seeing “The Last Emperor” because Siskel and Ebert gave it two thumbs up than in the Steelers or Penguins and who yelled at my Dad for booking our Florida vacation the week WPTT was gonna show an edited-to-fit-2hrs 96 minute version of “Serpico.”  (And I couldn’t just set a VCR from afar, I had to BE HOME to HIT PAUSE and CUT OUT THE COMMERCIALS so I could later STOPWATCH THE RUNNING TIME OF THIS CUT.)

The movie psychosis never stopped, and with regards to this Scott dude, even in SIXTH GRADE during our first go-round as pals, I remember subjecting him to my AUDIO RECORDINGS of Popeye Doyle curse words and going to some recreation night at our school and whining to him that we were missing “Up the Creek” on HBO, and in all cases, this dude just BAFFLED by this obviously unimportant bullshit.   And it continued ahoy in our ninth grade era, dude would JUST WANNA SHOOT SOME HOOPS or throw a football around like normal kids, and I’d browbeat him into watching “Assault on Precinct 13” and he’d bored to motherfucking death watching this depressing “old movie” with actors he’d never seen with that dreary music, guy just didn’t get it at all.  Which is fucking fair enough, I was the weird one, and as an adult this is why I try my damndest never to talk movies too much in real life, I tend to see movies alone and go well out of my way, at least OFF the internet, not to be too insane about this shit, unless 1988, when I was having Scott NAME MOVIES so I could wow him by having the runtimes memorized, long after he rightly pointed out, “How would I fucking know if any of these are right?”

And Scott’s old man was a fucking riot, this big, towering, John Wayne-worshipping old-school grumpy SOB who was so into telling you “I’m to the right of Pat Buchanan,” he might as well have a fucking BUSINESS CARD made up saying it.  Dude was this cigar-chomping awesome DAD built like a mighty oak and who above all FUCKING THINGS ABSOLUTELY HATED ME.  We called this guy THE FOUNDER because he looked fucking exactly like Dave Thomas the Wendy’s guy who was described as THE FOUNDER OF WENDY’s in commercials then.  THE FOUNDER would drive us to the mall to “check out the babes” and on the way there in he’d be trying to talk Pens or Buccos with Scott and my contributions to the conversation would be faggy shit like asking if he saw DAVID BRENNER on the Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show the night before, which fucking appalled him on a million levels, not the least of which was the horrifying concept of a kid of 15 STAYING UP PAST 9-FUCKING-PM.  Dude also one got so incensed his daughter bought a Japanese car that he fucking WEPT and made her say the Pledge of Allegiance then threatened to cut her out of the will for turning her back on American cars.

In short, this guy ABSOLUTELY OWNED, exactly the kind of taskmaster hardon who I’d fucking love today, but back then I just couldn’t get in good with the dude at all, who surely was worried about his all-American son hanging out with this Hollywood-lovin’ pussy.  He’d give you his WISDOM on certain topics like the correct level of BROWN on his TOAST, or how the perfect soda taste is 2/3 regular Coke with 1/3 Diet Coke, then he’d send us to CoGos to get him one from the fountain and if the fucking Coke-Diet Coke mix wasn’t SPOT-ON he’d spit-take that shit like fucking Arsenio.

Much like how my main bonding thing with my Dad was baseball, and how it was movies when it came to Mom, Scott and The Founder’s big thing was model and remote control airplanes.   Both guys were apple-pie as fuck and Scott wanted to be a Navy pilot, they loved aviation and planes and the military and all that shit, and would have these father-son bonding times when they’d built and craft these models together and get super fucking stoked to go try and fly it.  They’d try to show it to me, all excited about their newest creation or purchase or FEAT OF MINIATURE AVIATION, and true to form I was about as gracious and open to it as fucking Rain Man, all YEAH THAT’S NICE BUT THERE’S A GOOD WILLIAM FRIEDKIN MOVIE ON HBO TONIGHT.  Fucking dork.  Like it fucking BLOWS MY MIND how socially inept I am, I was, how I maintained this friendship or any other, ever.  As the Founder himself put it, “There’s something weird about you, kid.”

To bring this all back to where we came in, I have cut my mom loose as a Movie Buddy! and Scott couldn’t give a fuck about seeing such formative gems as “Fatal Attraction” and “Less Than Zero” on the silver screen, a fact that his dad the founder of Wendy’s couldn’t be more thankful over.  So I essentially resign myself to my eternal fate as a Solo Moviegoer, having Ma drop me off at the trusty Showcase theater or mall dollar house to see this incredibly inappropriate movies that should rightly bore any guy my age, who should be out on the football field or hitting some Risky Business gags-and-stunts house parties by now.  But nope, then as now, every weekend it’s ‘What’s out this week? Oh my God I have to see it now now now”  And in the spring of 1988, the MAIN FUCKING EVENT for me is “Colors,” that Sean Penn/Robert Duvall cop movie about inner-city gangs.  Just that kind of shit ALWAYS the most exciting thing in the UNIVERSE to me, COPS AND GUNS AND DRUGS AND SCARY TOUGH GUYS in LOS ANGELES, I was on PINS AND NEEDLES, and even though I knew goddamn well knew the answer, I tried browbeating Scott into seeing this EPIC IMPORTANT MOVIE with me.  IT HAS SEAN PENN! IT HAS ROBERT DUVALL! IT HAS THAT SONG BY ICE-T! IT’S GONNA BE SO COOL!  Dude gave it the TOTAL PASS, no interest anyway but this was a weekend where he and the Founder had FINALLY finished some long-worked-on RC PLANE that they were fucking GEEKED over, and I’m trying to persuade him to blow off the FATHER-SON MOMENT OF THE YEAR to go see OFFICER SPICOLI FUCKING UP STREET GANGS.  Got the resounding “no no no no no, also no” and accepted my fate, and half-promised, “Yeah, maybe once my IMPORTANT MOVIE IS OVER, I’ll swing by the park and check out your plane.”

But despite the current SOCIAL CONTRACT between me and Ma that the movies-together playdate was a little weird, somehow at the last minute she’s ALL ABOUT seeing this, mostly because of Duvall and “it looks exciting” or something.  So I’m cringing that this MOST AWESOMEST COP MOVIE SHIT EVER! is now an outing with Mommy, so I lay down some GROUND RULES that Mom is to drop me off at the curb then park and enter the SHOWCASE CINEMAS separately, she is to walk behind me at all times, and sit at least three seats away.  Just such an absolute douche move I still feel vaguely guilty about, as if ROLLING SOLO at a mediocre Sean Penn movie at age 15 makes you a regular fucking Newman in HUD or something.   So we see it and it’s, well, maybe not everything I had hoped for but still, fuck it, COPS AND GANGS AND L.A. POLICE UNIFORMS and the treasured emotional experience of hanging out with your Mom watching MARIA CONCHITA ALONSO overacting “HEY PACMAN! LOOOOK AT ME PACMAN! LOOOK AT ME PACMAN!”  Plus Duvall clearly wears WRANGLERS, which made my mom go “SEE? SEE? I GET YOU WRANGLERS!” as if ninth graders look to skid-rocking Robert Duval for fashion pointers.

But one thing that REALLY STANDS OUT is Penn’s hair, this CRISP TIGHT SLICKED BACK JERFRO OF LACQUERED BEEFARONI.  From the second it ends and we’re back in the family Truckster I’m like “Mom, do you think I could make my hair look like Sean Penn???? Do I look like Sean Penn?”  Now I have this fucking TRAVOLTA MOMENT BY MOMENT head of Italian Meatball Hair back then, like STALLONE ON THE MOTORCYCLE IN ROCKY II montage hair, can’t even get a comb through the fucking stuff, but there’s a part where Penn SCULPTS HIS SLICK with an ACE COMB or something and the SECOND WE GET HOME, I’m in the bathroom wetting and slicking my BOUNTIFUL BOUFFANT to kingdom fucking come, but it won’t stay down and TIGHT like Penn’s, my hair’s so thick it just COLLAPSES if I move two steps.  So I bring out the big guns and bust out this REALLY GAY MOUSSE my Mom had bought me the summer before, which I didn’t like the smell of.  As an aside, one day that summer or fall while I had the house to myself, I tried jerking off to the end credits of HOWLING II while using said MOUSSE as a LUBE, which I do not recommend whatsoever.

So I’m plastering my fucking pompadour with enough jerkoff lube mousse that it’s up to like Kelly Lynch heights when I finally BRUSH IT into what I feel is an approximation of the esteemed Mr Penn in COLORS, which in fact it resembles in no fucking way whatsoever, when I remember, oh, yeah, I should probably go check out Scott’s plane up at the park.  This is obviously in the pre-cellphone days on a late afternoon, but I decide to top my PENN CREATION with some SHADES which are like 2-dollar Kmart Ray Bans with ORANGE STEMS and WHAT’S MORE SEAN PENN THAN A HAWAIIAN SHIRT?  As a GAG GIFT my dad bought me an obnoxious Aloha shirt for my birthday, and of course it’s SKIN TIGHT AS FUCK but I got the POMPADOUR GOING and the SHADES, never mind I’m topping his ensemble with some nut-hugger BURNT ORANGE GAY SHORTS courtesy of Mom’s impeccable fashion sense, and I’m off to the park   Scott’ll be so happy I came to see his plane he’s so proud of.

On the way over, the WIND STARTS KICKING a little and takes hold of my PACMAN COIF and by the time I get there I can feel that this shit is sky-high like fucking Mark Blankfield as Mr. Hyde.  Now imagine that then imagine me coming over a big green hill looking like an absolute DORK and spot my best friend and his dad FLYING THE SKIES with their prized fucking RED BARON RC whatever-the-fuck, swear to God The Founder half has a tear in his eye, this is a beautiful moment between father and son, TOTAL Chris Cooper-Jake Gyllenhaal moment from OCTOBER SKY, they handcrafted this plane and tested it and tweaked and it DID THIS TOGETHER, probably the last beautiful formative moment before Scott gets into girls and other interests and they lose touch a little, don’t have that same closeness, but they’ll always have this, this plane, this amazing experience….

Then me shouting “HI SCOTT! HIIIII!” from up on some fucking hilly plain in my BURNT ORANGE SHORT SHORTS with my hair nine feet high with a HAWAIIAN SHIRT on running at them flailing my arms, blurting in on their great day and beaming “I JUST SAW COLORSSSSSS WITH SSTHHHEAN PENNN! DOESN’T MY HAIR LOOK JUUUUUUSTTTHT LIKE SEAN PENN?”  If the Sean Penn of 1988 had been the political hot-potato Sean Penn of 2016, I swear the fucking Founder would’ve flown that goddamn Red Baron right into my ballsack then and there, but even then and no chance he even knew who the fuck I was talking about, the dude’s rage-glare was one inch from horse-whipping me like the fucking DUKE, this nancy tubby goober rambling about some Commie cop movie on his BIG DAY, me just CLUELESS and FUCKING STUPID AS EVER blaring I LOOK LIKE SEAN PENN I LOOK LIKE SEAN PENN….

Until Scott cuts the tension and goes “You look more like Sam Malone.”  His dad broke character and hit the fucking DECK, holding his belly and pointing HAHAHHAHA HOLY SHIT IT’S SAMMY!  HEY SAMMY POUR ME ANOTHER BEER! which wasn’t really a particularly clever line but it brought down the house for those two dumbasses, “You look like TED DANSON!” Scott kept repeating, obviously his dad having no idea what the actor’s name was so he kept with the HEY SAMMY! HEY SAMMMMY! for what seemed like nine fucking years til it finally ran its course and they quickly, their moment totally ruined, showed me one quick loop of this little contraption they’d put all this effort into before the dad packed it in for the day, semi-dejected, and they went home muttering and half-chuckling about “Sammy” as I stood there, yet again, red-faced, deflated, ashamed, and confused that discussing a stupid movie could EVER be ANYTHING but the most important subject at any given moment in time.

All that said, Scott remained a fairly good pal and long after I moved away and moved on, we’d keep in touch a little and have a few laughs, though the last time it seemed like maybe enough time and distanced had passed that not much was there to riff about anymore, and that’s fine.  Things even seemed to come full circle as he was in total Dad mode around his kids last I saw him, bellowing WISDOM and FOUNDER RULES, and he and his nice wife seemed about as mystified by this awkward dorky lone wolf dude from California they both probably barely recognized or remembered, yet knew all too well and nothing had really changed.  They were excited about me meeting their awesome kids, and as per usual I was weird and dropping ill-timed movie references about BURT REYNOLDS to a five-year-old showing me his matchbox cars, and I was still asking incessantly about old high school people they likely hadn’t thought of in a decade, me in De Niro The Fan mode living in the distant past.  Much as I think I’m more self-aware now than I was in the Sammy Malone days, I guess maybe I’m really not, or I only see how off-putting I am when I wallow in and fixate on the past rather than being normal in the present.   When we all said farewell that night, I kinda got the feeling it’d be the last time we’d hang out, and indeed a day or two later we were supposed to hit a bar but one or both of us canceled, no hard feelings.  Eighteen years later, I’m still pushing away real-life relationships and opportunities to make sure I catch “Triple 9” at the first available matinee, so I guess literally nothing has changed, except I don’t have the Ted Danson hair anymore.

Friday, June 17, 2016


When I was a kid, “Escape From New York” was basically my favorite fucking thing ever.  I was already into movies from like 6 ot 7, and to frame it this way, my mom was the big movie fan and my dad was the sports guy, and there was almost no overlap between the two, so my childhood in my younger years was like a perfect 50% enthusiasm for baseball with the old man, then lounge around watching movies on HBO with Mom.  With what would become my single-track mind later in life, I guess I could’ve gone either way and you’d be reading my moony 2016 reminiscence about Tim Foli’s fucking ‘stache and hair combo right now, but that’s for the alt-universe version of this blog you ain’t reading anyway.

Anyway, 1982 is considered by every guy my age some SEISMIC YEAR for cinema, in particular geek cinema and horror and sci-fi and that kinda thing.  But I was a total HBO kid;  My Mom wasn’t big on going to the theater, really, so I got everything exactly 11-12 months later when it hit HBO.   So as this heralded year of “geek classics” like Blade Runner and Conan and Halloween III and The Thing were dropping in theaters, I was just getting to the GEMS from the last year.  This is the year I was 9 years old and I was working up this psychotic obsession with movies and the HBO GUIDE and memorizing what movies were showing what days, I had been into Bond and Rocky and The Pink Panther and Jaws and Alien – those were all my favorites up to this point, but I guess I didn’t really have that “personal Star Wars moment” so many kids pinpoint as being EXACTLY when it all came into focus what  a director did and what style was and how transportive movies could be and how in that INSTANT all you guys knew you wanted to be George Lucas or Luke Skywalker or whatever.  But this particular year a lot of stuff that shaped my tastes came into my world, from Looker to Wolfen to Nighthawks (which I should do one of these on next) and all these other awesone-ass movies that gave me this fantasy of some big, awesome scary nighttime world of cops and long hair and hotness and guns and Puerto Rican muggers in cities with big-ass skyscrapers and stuff.

I was also still dazzling the old man with my OMAR MORENO Topps and Fleer completism and even starting to like music like some regular dork, like all these little formative influences coming together but still being really young and jolly in our little super laid-back part of Maine.   My dad generally couldn’t have cared less about movies unless it was Airplane! or some SNL-type comedy with Belushi or Aykroyd who he loved, and he especially latched on to “Caddyshack,” a big favorite that just busted me and Dad up, completely mystifying to my mom who thought it was in bad taste and “juvenile,” but I didn’t give a fuck, I thought Rodney was the funniest fucking shit EVER.  But generally he didn’t care for flicks, so when he did, I took that one to heart because it would mean a rare time we’d bond over that instead of just sports.  Anyway, one day he’s cracking up telling me about some epic-sounding shit he watched the night before and as his MO, even when he likes something he ALWAYS describes at as being stupid, terrible, the worst thing ever. No idea why, and I’ve kind of inherited this too.  Like  a slight tendency to bag on something so you don’t sound too fucking lame gushing over it, I guess.  He’s like ROLLING about this ”stupid movie” that had “Isaac Hayes” (doubt he knew who any of the other actors were by name at that point)  that I just had to see, and I was DOWN..  I’d seen it in the HBO GUIDE, and it had some awesome looking pic of a guy with long hair and an eyepatch and a weird long gun on one page and other pages it had the head of the State of Liberty with people running around it, and I thought, “Yeah, that does look fucking awesome.”  But I didn’t know who Kurt Russell was from Adam, and I kinda still didn’t know what a director meant, but it was described either there or in the TV Guide as being “from the director of Halloween,” which I’d watched half-hiding under a blanket with my mom yelling “turn your head, this is the bad part!” when they showed P.J. Soles’ tits.

So next time it was on, I was THERE, on our BROWN-ASS ICE STORM COUCH in my fucking GLORY from frame one.  It’s like everything I would ever think was exciting and forbidden and scary and COOL all in one movie, starts out with that SINISTER-ASS SYNTH music over those SATANTIC CARPENTER FONT CREDITS, then the words “1997 – NOW,” I was like NINE and this SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME, like wooooah, this could really happen.  What if the world ends?  What if the world’s a prison?  I won’t be that old! I want to live to be old but they’re gonna turn New York City into a fucking MAXIMUM SECURITY PENITENTIARY,  I was hooked, I was scared, it was fucking AWESOME/

I’m sure I’m blurring together a LOT of formative viewings of it, because I was off to the races spazzing out like Feldman seeing tits in Friday Four, watched it EVERY TIME it was on HBO, first time maybe had my dad’s “hahaha it’s so bad it has Isaac Hayes in it!” riff in mind but even then I knew that meant he kinda dug it.  My mom didn’t get it at all and thought it was “stupid” how they keep repeating lines like “I thought you were dead,” like she really thought that was just bad moviemaking, which would probably come as a surprise to a million Film Studies scholars with a Howard Hawks encyclopedia in their heads.  But the whole thing was at NIGHT and SCAR, this guy with an EYEPATCH who didn’t give a fuck, with LONG HAIR. LONG. LONG. ALSO HIS HAIR IS LONG. 

I had became obsessed with having LONG HAIR already from the “major leaguers” whose coked-out Deke DaSilva disco coifs came out the sides of their ballcaps, so much so that instead of practicing my swing or developing any hand-eye coordination I’d stand in front of mirrors trying to “wing my hair out” sides of the ballcap, which between that and the uniform seemed way more exciting than actually playing.    But seeing Kurt’s GLORIOUS COIF was amazing, like as good as seeing a real naked lady.  My mom would NEVER let me grow it like that but any time my choppy Danny Torrance bowl cut felt a mild breeze I pictured myself looking exactly like SNAKE FUCKING PLISSKEN my whole childhood.  And he had an eyepatch and shit, and EVERY SECOND OF THE MOVIE just seemed to have some riveting image that my 9-year-old head was blown away by, from SNAKE’S OUTFIT to TOM ATKINS WALKING UNDER THE STATUE OF LIBERTY lighting up a smoke in that control booth, they bring in Snake on some BUS and the BUS BREAKS HISS and it lowers and Snake rolls out and you’re like ‘Who’s this awesome motherfucker,” then he WALKS THROUGH THE HALLWAYS and the HALLWAYS ARE SUPER SINISTER and LOOK AT THAT POINT and is that creepy voice lady saying “debarkation” or “deportation” –  I’m 43 and have seen this movie 200,000 fucking times and still don’t know.

Then HAUK his name is fucking HAUK, how much does that owns has HORN RIMMED GLASSES and when he sets them down the STEMS REVERBERATE and MAKE THIS AWESOME NOISE and he interviews Snake and if there’s one mild complaint I have about this movie, it’s that really? You can’t picture KURT RUSSELL DOING AAAANY of this shit, like FLYING THE GULP FIRE as I thought Lee Van Cleef was saying and being some MASTER CRIMINAL and PSYCHOPATH, even as scary as his outfit was Kurt seems like such a GOOD SOLID DUDE, so it’s kind of the DUKE thing where he’s this legendary outlaw but really it’s some amiable oaf with an obvious shit skid.   But then THAT FUCKING MUSIC, like E CHORD REPETITIVE MUSIC, changed my whole life and explains how I got into metal because it had that dark repetitive sound, even though that wouldn’t come till YEARS later, Atkins and Van Cleef showing him these AWESOME LOOKING WEAPONS  yet there’s like some sun dial looking thing on the table as the music goes DUH-DUH. DUH-DUH. DUH-DUH. BRRRREEURRR ROWRRRRR….. BROWRRRRR RRRRROWRR.  You know the part.

Then HOLY SHIT they shoot him with like NEEDLES IN HIS NECK and NOBODY WHO’S EVER SEEN THIS MOVIE has understood if the charges were real because he gets the NEUTRALIZER at the last second instead of the timeline that CRONENBERG describes.  Then fucking GOD KURT is SAILING OVER NEW YORK CITY with this HIGH-TECH AS FUCK DOT MATRIX ASS OUTLINE OF THE CITY ON HIS SCREEN and his HAIR IS SO WINGED OUT IN THIS PART I LITERALLY WANT TO FUCK IT, and they play this AWESOME AWESOME synth part that Carpenter or somebody said was based on DEBUSSEY whoever the fuck that was, but I guarantee that doesn’t sound as cool as the EFNY soundtrack with the HOWARTH SYNTH.

Then he rolls around the city and there’s a little bit of downtown as he MEETS THE HOTNESS and almost steps on a RAT and the best shit EVER I MEAN EVER I MEAN EVER in a movie, Snake’s exhausted and the leads aren’t panning out and he just had to endure GEORBE BUCK FLOWER singing LA-DEE-DA-DEE-DA, and what does he do?

What does Snake do, I ask?  HE PULLS UP A CHAIR AND JUST SITS DOWN. FUCK YEAH. Got electrodes in his neck, double-crossed by everyone, doomed die, completely fucked, he pulls up the card table chair from my grandma’s game room in 1974, just SITS DOWN and flops his hair.  GOD RUSSELL.

Like watching all this shit as a kid was like LEVITATING TO VALHALLA, EVERY SECOND OF IT, or that CHINESE GUY WITH THE GLASSES FRAMES THAT HAD NO GLASS IN IT and HAYES TWISTING THE ARROW and scariest of all, ROMERO who I later saw again as THE ICE CREAM TRUCK KILLER in Assault on Precinct 13 and whose hot daughter is on Mr Robot and once sat behind me at the movies.   Has this ALL-NIGHT ADENTURE and that seemed best of all to a kid, the idea of STAYING UP ALL NIGHT, being in a SCARY CITY at NIGHT. NIGHT. NIGHT.  I see so many Marvel homos talk about how they wanted to be a SUPERHERO as a kid but I wanted to SKLUK AROUND A BOMBED-OUT 1981 HELLHOLE WITH A GUN ducking from Puerto Rican muggers and BLACK DUDES WITH CHANDELIERS on their car.  HAHAHAHA and how about that OVERACTING ROMERO does when DUKE OF NEW YORK’S POSSE ROLLS IN and he steps out of the car and does this exaggerated coast is clear search motion, HAHAHHAA ROLLING just THINKING ABOUT.

Then what does Carpenter hit you with????  THE SUN STARTS COMING UP.  You have STAYED UP SO FUCKING LATE that it’s THE NEXT DAY.  And LEE VAN CLEEF smoking a probable WINSTON looking EXACTLY LIKE YOU KNOW CARPETNER IMAGINES HIMSELF STANDING AT THE TOP OF THIS 50-FOOT CONTAINMENT BRIDGE with this BIG-ASS CITY BEHIND HIM at dawn.  The best image Carpenter ever shot, completely destroys The Thing which rules and I’d never say an ill word about but when it’s not in the GORGEOUS BLINDING WHITE SNOW, there’s a lot of parts in The Thing that are in some DEPRESSING BUNKER BOILER ROOM HALLWAY and look kinda BROWN.

But this is all BLACK AND BLUE cinematography, though in early viewings on HBO and the eventual EMBASSY CASSETTE with the two-tone white-and-black box my Dad later bought me for my birthday in 1984, the palette was almost DEVOID OF COLOR, all washed out and somehow that made it even scarier.  HALLOWEEN used to have that look too on cable and the MEDIA VHS.

So they bring in OX BAKER and his GOATEE is scary, his BALD HEAD is scary, and most of all his fucking MATTE of back hair is SCARY, and he gets a SPIKED BASEBALL BAT into the back of the head and everyone starts changing SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE! And like Snake becomes this GODLIKE LONE WOLF CELEBRITY WHO KICKS ASS and GETS THE HOTNESS and HANGS OUT WITH HARRY DEAN FUCKING STANTON and hey as an aside CHARLES CYPHERS in this looks almost exactly like my old man.

And then HAWKS SUPERFAN Carpenter’s MOST HAWKS MOMENT EVER, when BARBEAU in her BIG CANS is given this MOMENT OF ASS-KICKING DIGNITY and Snake forks over that AWESOME-LOOKING GUN and gives her a Forster-worthy tip o’ the cap, respect, props, feminist solidarity and all that a thousand times better and more believable than some CW cheese chick in gay-camp catsuit in the MCU.

Even the last fuck-you from Snake, RIPPING UP THE CASSETTE, as a kid I was like WOAH I HAVE CASSETTES.  CASSETTES ARE SINISTER.  I would never do that to a cassette.  Like I think I wanted to re-enact SNAKE PULLING OUT THE TAPE on my Memorexes but didn’t have the nerve because I’d have nightmares the tape itself would come back and strangle me, like Videodrome before its time or something.

Long story long, I watched it every two days every time it was on HBO, and if I missed ONE airing because it was on at like 3am or something, I’d CRY ABOUT IT.  It aired on HBO that year and into 1983, and in December 1983 we were in the process of moving to Pittsburgh, and I was really down about it, and the old man was on the phone from down there scoping out houses and stuff and in his hotel room said, ‘Guess what’s on!” and he put the phone up to the TV and it was HAUK’S INTERVIEW WITH SNAKE and it cheered me up.  That same month it played on the local Boston channel in an edited version and I was fucking FASCINATED how they dropped some profanities, like HOW DO THEY DO THAT?  I was so consumed by this that on the re-air I HELD A MONO TAPE RECORDER, MacReady type one, to the CONSOLE TV SET and made like TWO AUDIO CASSETTES worth of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK because we hadn’t figured out the VCR yet.  I’d sit in my fucking room and LISTEN TO AN AUDIO RECORDING OF THE MOVIE.

Also somewhere in there right before we moved, I “wrote” a treatment in my head for a ripoff called “1997.”  I didn’t realize you couldn’t just wholesale ripoff remake a movie from your bedroom in Portland Maine at age 9, but I’d whip up little STORYBOARDS for “1997,” a TOTALLY DIFFERENT MOVIE where Snake Plissken did the exact same plot except I’d change the actors around a few of the plot points and references.  I drew a fake HBO GUIDE picture ad for “1997” and fuck, I wish I could remember who I fantasy-cast as Snake in my alt-world version, I wanna say it was TIM MATHESON or something.  HAHAHAHA.

Anyway we moved and I sucked at sports and got lonely and depressed and my happy childhood kind of ended around age 11 thanks to bullying, but as said, my dad did buy a $79.95 copy of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK for me summer of 1984 or maybe 1985 because it hadn’t been on cable in an “eternity,” which then was probably like six months but to a kid that’s two decades.  Of FUCKING COURSE a week after he bought me this cassette, it came back on HBO, and when I saw this in the guide I got ashamed and felt really guilty and kept trying to hide the TV Guide so dad wouldn’t find out I could’ve just taped it off HBO for free.

But I still watched that thing almost daily, one day my WORLD RECORD was some lazy humid July day I watched the fucker FIVE TIMES IN A ROW, and would do little IMAGINARY INTROS in my head like I was fucking Dana Hersey or Ben Mankiewicz or something.  It started my interest in directors, because along with Landis and Spielberg those were my first guys where I put together what a director did, what a “style” was, what a “sheen” was, and how you could watch movies by some guy like that and recognize little winks and stuff recurring from one flick to the next.  My obsession with it was shaped by and then flip-side informed my interest in LONG HAIR, in BEING UP LATE, working NIGHTS, staying up til the sun comes up, it MADE ME WANNA SMOKE (what brand is Snake repping, anyway, almost look like 100s)…. It made me get into Lee Van Cleef when THE MASTER came along where he played the world’s only 94-year-old white Ninja who walks with a fucking limp.  Basically made me wanna work in film and wanna look like Kurt Russell and direct movies like John Carpenter and only listen to heavy, downcast repetitive scary music…. It had fucking everything, not even the other chestnuts in JC’s career have this much cool stuff all in one place.

So I guess I’m saying I liked it.