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|锘? FADE IN
INT. RIALTO THEATER. POUGHKEEPSIE Wilmer Flores Jersey , NEW YORK, 1946
"The Rat Hole," locals dub this abandoned picture palace. The label is generous: urine-stained seats, a tattered screen, and gaping holes in the roof admitting bats and pigeons that roost in the rafters.
Two thirteen-year-old boys jimmy open a rusting exit door and race along an aisle toward the lobby.
PIMPLES, curly haired and wearing an ill-fitting Eisenhower jacket, edges up a rickety stairwell.
FRECKLES, a hyperactive redhead, discovers a frosted glass partition separating the lobby from the orchestra. Previous miscreants have left it intact, so Freckles assaults the partition with chunks of broken concrete and a crazy laugh.
INT. PROJECTION BOOTH
Pimples enters and looks around.
A battered projector, its glazed eye fixed on the floor, droops like a rejected lover. A box of dusty glass advertising slides sits on a broken chair. In one corner, a five-foot stack of cardboard posters rests against the wall. Pimples turns one over.
Beau Geste, announces the poster.
Modern Times, says the next.
BACK TO SCENE
Intrigued, Pimples inspects the pile of lobby cards advertising every movie the Rialto has featured for the past umpteen years. Then he runs to the tiny window through which once flickered giant images of Katy Hepburn and Cary Grant.
Hey Tug McGraw Jersey , get up here, I found some stuff!
In a flash, Freckles is in the booth. Pimples displays a Casablanca poster.
Waddya think we ought'a do with this junk?
Freckles hefts an armload of cards and charges out of the booth.
I got an idea. Grab some...
Pimples scoops up a stack and chugs after his buddy.
INT. THE RIALTO - BALCONY
Taking turns, our delinquent heroes skim lobby cards down into the orchestra. Testosterone racing, they outdo one another, sailing the posters through a gaping hole in the screen.
I got The Informer. . .
And away it flies, landing in the third row. [$9500 from a future ebay sale, down the drain.]
I got Animal Crackers. . .
Off it flies, bouncing across a seat and skidding to a stop out of sight on the floor. [There goes another $5000.]
I got King Kong!
[$25,000 sails directly across the stage and through the hole in the screen.]
And so it goes; until adolescent boredom sets in and Freckles says -
This is a drag. Let's go downtown and score some chicks...
As I sit here in my cozy Sierra foothills home, looking out at the deer munching my wife's recently planted hydrangeas, and dredging up that spring of 1946 - with freckle-faced Eddie and me checking to see if we've been spotted as we sneak out of The Rat Hole - my few remaining hairs turn grey. Why didn't I, at thirteen, flash on the future value of those now classic posters? How come I didn't realize that Joe, my son to be, could have had a free ride through college instead of washing dishes to pay his way? And couldn't I have imagined that I might someday be tooting around in a sleek new Mercedes Travis d'Arnaud Jersey , instead of the 1987 Jeep Cherokee with peeling paint now gracing our drive?
Water over the dam; what does thirteen-years old know? And anyhow, the Cherokee is loved and dependable and gets us to places any self respecting Mercedes would be petrified to navigate.
If, in 1946, I never flashed on the someday value of those posters, I also had no clue that the Rialto wouldn't be my last encounter with movie magic. It certainly wasn't my first. But for that we need a long -
To 1937. Mom, brother David and I are living in Brooklyn. I don't even know what a movie is. So when my gentle mother leads me into a cavernous space with wall-to-wall seats and a huge rococo chandelier hanging above, I'm not sure what to expect. Sure, I know it has something to do with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, because Mom has read us the story from a picture book.
The lights go down. Pitch black. "Mommy..." I whimper. She squeezes my hand, so I feel safe. Then suddenly, magic: music, along with multicolored drawings such as those in the picture book. Except that they move; and I'm pulled along by some mysterious force, captive to the flickering frames - until Snow White's wicked stepmother, in her "old crone" permutation, suddenly dominates the screen. Then I freeze, bug-eyed Tom Seaver Jersey , as she cackles "poison, poison!" with fiendish delight, readying the deadly apple for that rosy-cheeked, animated innocent.
I cower on my seat and scrunch into a ball. Then, as an approaching female someone mumbles "excuse me," I uncoil two fingers from the hand covering my eyes and gaze up at a gigantic wavering tush about to land on me. And it does! Fortunately for the forty years in film that lie ahead, the ponderous posterior doesn't crush me. Alerted by a muffled "Help!" beneath her and realizing that she's landed on a tiny person, the Ample One quickly stands, blurts out "Oh gracious, I'm so sorry, dear," and shifts to the next (thankfully unoccupied) seat.
Think of the films that might have been inspired by this shuddering experience had I the foresight to create them: movies featuring a squishy, plush-bottomed serial killer gleefully suffocating small boys in the impersonal darkness of gaudy picture palaces. A unique thriller genre; maybe it could have worked. I might have become another Wes Craven!
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