Thursday, August 19, 2010
Back in the late 1980's, I was an assistant manager of a movie theater in Pasadena, California. The theater was located on Colorado Blvd., which as you may know, is the route for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. One year, a bunch of us decided that it would be fun to spend New Year's Eve in the theater, and then watch the parade from the roof the next morning..
Now, I don't remember reading anything in the United Artists Employee Handbook specifically prohibiting the use of the theater premises for an overnight New Year's bash, complete with private showings of first-run movies, informal bar service and sleeping accommodations, but then again, whoever wrote the handbook could probably not have anticipated such a thing occurring.
On New Year's Eve 1988, such a thing occurred.
The theater was open on December 31, so it was business as usual until closing time. The last "official" movie of the evening ended at 11:30, and the paying customers were out by 11:45.
The "bar" opened at midnight.
The concession stand was equipped with refrigerators and ice bins, which on this night were perfect for keeping the beer cold. Mixed drinks were also available for those of that persuasion. On Rose Parade Eve, tourists start lining up along the route early, so the streets outside the theater were packed. This provided an outstanding fundraising (read: beer money) opportunity, as the theater restrooms were much more comfortable and convenient than the port-a-potties provided by the City of Pasadena. You'd be surprised how many people will pay $2 a shot to take a crap on a clean toilet. And then pay $5 for a beer on the way out.
It's pretty hard to run a full-sized Christie movie projector while under the influence, but as it turns out, not impossible. I cranked up a couple of films, and our invited guests enjoyed some free entertainment for the evening. At about 4:00 AM, we all pretty much sacked out in the projection room, a pile of exhausted, drunken idiots.
One evening, out of sheer boredom, Roger decided that he would spend his entire shift walking like a one-year old. Weight forward, knees locked, goofy-ass smile on his face. He even fell a couple times, just to add authenticity. It was hilarious.
Another time, he noticed that a customer was trying to enter the theater on the "wrong side" where the three sets of glass double doors were locked so they could only be used to exit. As the customer tried unsuccessfully to open the doors from the outside, Roger, instead of helping, counted the failed attempts in the voice of "The Count" from Sesame Street.
"ONE! ONE LOCKED DOOR! AAH! AAH! AAH!"
The customer proceeded to the next set of doors. He pulled the handle . . .
"TWO! TWO LOCKED DOORS! AAH! AAH! AAH!"
On to the third and final set. The poor sap was going for the fumblebuck trifecta.
"THREE! THREE BEAUTIFUL LOCKED DOORS! AAH! AAH! AAH!"
Anyway, we crashed out on New Year's Eve, and were still sound asleep when the parade was ready to start. Meanwhile Roger, who I don't think even bothered to go to sleep, had found the bull horn that we sometimes used for crowd control and appointed himself as our unofficial (and certainly unrequested) wakeup call.
"WAKE UP! WAKE UP! THE PARADE IS ABOUT TO BEGIN! WAKE UP I SAY!"
We wanted to kill him. So, hungover and groggy, we dragged ourselves up to the roof of the theater. Roger, still armed with his trusty bull horn, began heckling the Tournament of Roses Parade.
"IS THAT YOUR FLOAT, OR DID THE EQUESTRIAN TEAM AHEAD OF YOU FORGET TO CLEAN UP AFTER THEMSELVES?"
"HEY, SECOND TROMBONE PLAYER, YOU SUCK! AND YOU'RE OUT OF STEP, TOO! GET WITH THE PROGRAM, YOU SCHMUCK!"
"I SAW THREE OF THOSE ROSE PRINCESSES OUT ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD LAST NIGHT! THANKS FOR A GREAT TIME, HONEY!"
At one point a guy on the street yelled up at Roger telling him to, and I think I'm quoting this correctly, "Shut up with the bull horn, you asshole."
Roger, though, was impossible to fluster. "OH, LIKE YOU WOULDN'T DO THIS IF YOU HAD ONE!"
"OH MY GOD IT'S SHIRLEY TEMPLE! HEY SHIRLEY!"
Ms. Temple looked around confused, like Governor Connelly after the first shot rang out in Dealey Plaza.
"UP HERE ON THE ROOF!"
Finally, she spotted Roger and waved sweetly. Frankly, I wish she'd have shot him the bird. How funny would THAT have been?
"YOU'RE PRETTY HOT FOR AN OLD BROAD, SHIRLEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING LATER?"
She blew him a kiss and winked. Roger just about fainted.
When the parade ended, we were completely exhausted, still somewhat hungover and nauseous, and ready to call it a day.
But it was time to open the theater for business.