Waiting for our only local movie house, the Callicoon Theater, to reopen, I got to thinking about what going to the movies has meant to me. “Oklahoma” was the first movie I ever saw in a …
Waiting for our only local movie house, the Callicoon Theater, to reopen, I got to thinking about what going to the movies has meant to me. “Oklahoma” was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was about five years old and the experience of watching the surrey with the fringe on top move across the big screen on a dusty Oklahoma road made me nauseous. My mother hurried me out of my seat to get to the bathroom but I lost it in the aisle.
When I got older, my brother Chris and I would go to the Loews on Broadway to see the latest movies. ”The Parent Trap” was a favorite of mine as was “Gigi.” Chris liked the Bond movies. We saved the money we got from bottle deposits to pay for our tickets to the Saturday matinees. Sometimes we got Junior Mints and Coca-Cola. The Coke always made the Junior Mints fizz in my mouth. So much sugar!
I went to the movies with my dad only once. He and Mom were divorced. It was a spy thriller, “The Ipcress File,” at the Waverly on Sixth Avenue. We sat in the balcony. The movie was a little hard for me to follow as an 11-year-old, but I liked being there with my Dad. I noticed his fingers were stained orange from his hand-rolled cigarettes.
In 1966, I lied about my age to get into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by myself. I was 14 but I recognized the behavior of the couple onscreen. My mother had recently divorced my stepfather. Booze and recriminations had played a big part in their marriage.
That same year, Mike Walker, a boy I liked, took me to see “A Man and a Woman” at the Paris Cinema. Unknown to me, Mike’s mother was hosting Anouk Aimee at her Connecticut home that very week. Aimee was hiding from the press as she was carrying on an affair with the film’s director, Claude Lelouch. I remember the special feeling of walking through Central Park with a young man after seeing that film.
After Dad died that summer, I saw the one movie I know he was in, “Edge of The City.” He only had a momentary on-camera scene but I was thrilled to see him alive on film. I wished he had made hundreds of films so I could watch him whenever I wanted. When I was five, we were in a movie together. It was filmed in Washington Square Park. My role was to arrive in a Checker Cab, get out and run to his arms in the park. We only did a few takes and then I went home with my mom. I never did see the movie.
My brother became an actor and was in the movies and on TV. I can see him whenever I want, on a train with Danny DeVito or on a Diamond District street with James Gandolfini. Or sitting at a table in “Roadhouse,” selling a feel of his wife’s breasts. I can hear his voice in children’s cartoons and animated movies, or see him in that stupid TV show where he plays the fat neighbor. The week he died, we took his kids to the movies to see “The Lion King.” I still cringe at the choice of that film for entertaining children who just lost their father.
Going to the movies has always meant more to me than just the movie. The whole experience can sear memories that last a lifetime. Sitting on the couch just isn’t the same thing.
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