Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blast From The Past

We watched South Pacific Tuesday night. For some reason neither of us had seen it before. We were both surprised by it. For some reason we were both under the impression that it was going to be a light frothy musical like On the Town. Well, it's not. Oh it has it's fun moments, especially the scenes with Ray Walston, but it has a serious racial acceptance theme. And it was very well done. I imagine that was tough stuff to get out there in 1958. I hope everyone involved with the play and the movie took some pride in what they were doing. But as I always say, this post is not about that.


What this post is about was my surprise in the opening scene of the movie. The setting is a WWII fighter jet bringing a marine on special assignment to "the island." As soon as I saw the pilot, I leaned forward and practically yelled, "Oh my god! That's Billy Jack!" Does anyone else remember Billy Jack?:

Seeing him brought back a lot of old memories. When we moved to Durham from Goldsboro in 1973 we moved to a nice brand new townhouse apartment in a mixed subdivision with houses and our large apartment complex. The whole area was fronted at the highway by a strip shopping center. I was in heaven. I was from a rural area where we had one small country store. I thought I was all "in the city." Of course after I became best friends with a guy from Manhattan, he set me straight. He complained all the time about us having "No place to walk to." Perspectives are funny like that.

The strip mall had a large store called "Murphy's." I guess it was a sort of modern dime store. It had a bunch of cheap things and a cool little diner area. I was addicted to their apple spice cake, which was fine, because I walked all the time all over the place. As you can see in the above pic, our apartment was nestled down by the river. Everything was uphill from there. Closest to my house was the movie theater. It, along with the steakhouse/pizza tavern were named "Riverview." Which is funny, because you obviously could not see the river from any of those places. The steak/pizza place was interesting. The front door opened into a steak/seafood place and there was a little side door at the back which housed the pizza tavern. When the pool (the white block above the Murphy's arrow line) wasn't open, we practically lived in that pizza place. We'd order a pitcher of cider with mugs and imagine we were all grown up drinking a pitcher of beer. We'd even stir our mugs to try to get a froth. Was that foreshadowing or what? (and I bet they hated us.)
My friend from Manhattan, Art, had a Polish last name that was crazy to spell and he had a THICK yankee accent. And of course I was from rural eastern North Carolina so he thought I had a crazy thick accent. We must have seemed like total opposites but we got along like gangbusters. Once a month we were all excited and made the trek all the way down to the 7-11 for the latest Mad Magazine. And we'd get an Icee and some fun candy. It was a ritual that we both loved.
The Riverview Movie Theater was really a piece of work. As you can see by that pic up there, it doesn't even exist anymore. It kinda looks like a softball field or something. It was a funky dirty smelly place. It played B movies that were a few years old and a lot of blacksploitation films. Those "Foxy Brown" movies and stuff like that. Well they ran Billy Jack and we all found it fascinating and went back to see it over and over and the audience grew and grew. It got to where this funky little theater would be actually packed. And we'd boo and cheer and well, I guess that's how cult movies happen.
It's so funny how we booed the "dirty evil authority" and rooted for the hippies. I watched the movie maybe 20 years later and the hippies were just as annoying as the "bad guys." I remember thinking, "Well, pretty much everyone in this movie is an asshole." I felt like I had been duped in my youth. Perspectives are funny like that.


VioletSky said...

Where have I been? Never heard of Billy Jack. So I googled it. Don't remember anything about the movie - except that annoying theme song (hated it) which I never knew was from a movie.

sigh. I now have One Tin Soldier crapping in my head.

Jazz said...

I vaguely remember watching South Pacific on TV years and years ago. As for Billy Jack, I remember the name, but never saw it.

Anonymous said...

I vaguely remember seeing Billy Jack, but I guess it never took off as a cult flick up here since I don't remember anything about it. We did South Pacific for our high school musical one year. I don't remember anything about that either except that we got to be half naked on stage.

Anonymous said...

Bali Hai may call you ... one of my favorite spots on the globe is Kee Beach on Kauai, with the real Bali Hai (at least the one in the movie) looming above. Musically, that is my favorite of the genre. When you write of the serious them, read Michener's Tales of the South Pacific on which it's based. I fell in love with the tropics when I read that book.

geewits said...

~~Sorry about that. If it makes you feel any better, someone put an even worse song in my head today. I won't mention it.

~~You didn't miss much.

~~You just remember the fun part.

~~You know my husband grew up in Hawaii and he recognized some of the islands. I asked him if we had that Michener book and he said no. I think I'll get it from the library.

Carole said...

Gee, South Pacific...seriously? On the way home from lunch today I had a song from that musical stuck in my head, only to get home and find your post. I haven't seen that movie for years! I'm pretty sure you sent me that song choice today via brainwaves!

Yes, I remember Billy Jack well. I had a dear old friend who always wore a Billy Jack hat.

geewits said...

~~I bet he thought he was cool in that hat.