Movies al Fresco

Susie and I went to the Olympic Swim and Racquet Club last night for movie night.  (I had forgotten about it, until my friend Pat mentioned it to me over lunch yesterday.)  They never seem to know the name of the movie that far in advance.  Pat told me he had just learned the picture was going to be Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  I am not a big fan of fantasy-adventure films, so I looked it up on The Internet Movie Database once I got back to the office.  It sounded like something Susie would enjoy, since she could easily sit and watch each of the Harry Potter movies one after the other.

Olympic shows outdoor movies 3-4 times during the summer, and it’s the closest I’ve ever come to going to a drive-in.  (Yes, folks–I am 47 years old, and I have never been to a drive-in movie.)  Since I’ve never had a driver’s license, I can’t initiate a trip to one.  My first exposure to the concept was watching the opening and closing credits of The Flintstones, and passing the Riverside Drive-In on St. Rt. 7 heading out of Marietta toward Belpre or Parkersburg when I was younger.

Since the movie ads were usually opposite the funnies, I perused them in between glimpses of “Peanuts,” “Blondie,” and “The Family Circus.”  That was when I realized there were certain movies that never seemed to appear anywhere but the drive-ins.  The title that jumped out at me particularly was Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.  That’s the type of title that you don’t easily forget.  Just how much it stayed with me became evident when I bought a VHS copy of it at one of the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Conventions in Cincinnati, along with a tape of Little Lulu cartoons and an equally memorable cinema classic called Robot Holocaust.

The Riverside Drive-In usually featured such fare, and the newspaper was the only way to know what was playing.  It seemed like no matter what time of day or night we passed it, the marquee usually read

3 & 10
with no signage or advertising telling you what was playing.  (Usually, however, it was such fare as The Gumball Rally or They Call Me Trinity, or whatever Porky’s precursor they could get away with.)
Drive-ins posed a logistical question that puzzles me to this day.  What if you live near one, and they’re showing an R- or X-rated movie?  When I was in eighth grade, our class took a day/night trip to Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh to see the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  (Our music teacher was/is a true musical genius whom I never appreciated at the time.  Rather than playing us scratchy Beethoven records on a boxy classroom mono phonograph, he chartered a bus and took us to hear Beethoven performed under the baton of André Previn.)  That night, all of us tired and cranky, we headed back to Marietta on I-70.  I remember passing a drive-in, and getting maybe a 10-second look at what was on the screen.
“Oooh-la-la, looky what they’re doing!” I ogled to my seatmate, gesturing out the window.  (I seem to remember it was a Western–probably The Outlaw Josey Wales or a revival of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.  Nothing pornographic.)  He gave a cursory glance out the window, considered the source, and rolled his eyes.  (This particular classmate took a very jaundiced view of his classmates’ obsessions with sex and fixations on the sex goddesses of the day, such as Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Lynda Carter.  He–along with rest of us–took for granted this was because he had a vocation to the priesthood.  As it turned out, he was gay.)
So, if you lived near a drive-in, and you constantly had to keep your kids away from the windows because they’ve scheduled a Linda Lovelace film festival, would the courts just say, “If you don’t like it, move!”  (Granted, it’s not like they’re living near a nuclear waste dump.)
In the past, Susie used the movie nights at Olympic as an excuse to swim after dark.  Olympic keeps the big pool open, and shows the movie on a bed sheet stretched across the rear fence.  Susie was in and out of the water for the first 20 minutes, and then was hooked on the movie from then on.  I watched with one eye and started to read (my latest attempt!) Norman Mailer’s doorstop about the CIA, Harlot’s Ghost with the other, but I came away making a mental note to give myself a refresher course in Greek mythology.  I think I’d start by seeing if I still have my dad’s old hardover of Bulfinch’s The Age of Fable.
I’m glad Susie became fascinated by the movie, because the lifeguards cleared the pool when heat lightning appeared.  I didn’t even realize it at first.  The sky was clear, and the moon was almost bright enough to read by, but when I glanced up, I did see flashes here and there.  There was never any thunder, and Susie and I walked back home afterwards without any precipitation.
Outdoor movies continue tonight.  Susie and I are going to pack a small picnic and see The Wizard of Oz at Whetstone Park tonight at dusk, a movie she never tires of seeing.  (I had never seen it in a theater until I took her when she was three or four.  I had only seen it on TV.)  She is so fascinated by the movie that she even watched while I tested the urban legend about whether Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is deliberately synchronized to the movie, as described in this Wikipedia entry.  (It isn’t, except when all the clocks and chimes go off at the beginning of “Time” is when Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West makes her first appearance.)
And, as I type, Susie is out with her godmother Anne seeing Marmaduke.  A very cinematic weekend for her, leading up to her being at camp all next week.