Besides that Padres baseball game, our Dad took us to see a San Diego State University football game on another occasion. Don Coryell was in his last year as the head coach there before stepping up to coach the Chargers. His assistant coach at State was Joe Gibbs, an alumni and letterman on the Aztecs from 1961 – 63. When Coryell left, Gibbs took the helm at San Diego State and led them to an undefeated season his first time out. Watching football was relatively new to us, but Dad managed to explain the basic nuances of the game as it played out so we would know what was going on. It was just as fun and loud as baseball. Midway through the third quarter and my second soda, I had to find a bathroom.
The men’s room facility was absolutely horrific. It was under construction maybe, I don’t know, but there were no barriers between the urinals or toilets. The center urinal was a long, open knee-high tub, twelve feet long, equipped with a sprinkler bar above it to keep it flushed. You stood on either side of it facing someone else, adults, unzipped and exposed. If that wasn’t disgusting enough, rows of toilets were out in the open. Guys sat on the pots with their pants around their knees, staring sullenly at the floor tiles. I pretended I only came in to wash my hands and got the hell out of there. Outside, I found my way to the back of the building and left my mark on the wall.
We faced more horror that night when Dad decided we’d take a little detour on the way home. We headed south, to within a mile of the Mexican border.
“You guys like scary movies, right?”
(Does a bear shit in the woods?)
“Yeah,” we answered.
“I’m gonna smuggle you in.”
“What — Yeah?”
My dad may have spent most of his money that night at the game or he just wanted to save a buck, or we were too young to be allowed in; I’m not sure, but he had a plan. He was in the military, after all, having once worked in a U.S. Embassy and had to know about espionage techniques and stuff. We pulled over to the side of the road when The South Bay Drive-in sign came into view. It was featuring a triple-header of blood-sport. Before I ducked down I read aloud the movie listing: “Color Me Blood Red, 2000 Maniacs and Blood Feast.”
“Ok, you boys duck down behind the seat, that’s right, on the floor. I’ll pull backseat down and cover you up. Don’t say a word, don’t breathe, I’ll handle this.”
“Sir, Yes Sir!”
When the car pulled up to the admission/guard booth we held our breath. What would happen if we were discovered? Was there a law about smuggling kids into bad movies? When the guy said, “Evening, how many?” my dad intentionally cleared his throat and calmly answered, “Just one.” I almost blew our cover with a fit of suppressed giggling. My heart raced as the money was exchanged, papers examined, or whatever went on. “Thanks,” I heard Dad say as we pulled away from the checkpoint. I waited for the guy to figure out our cunning ruse at the last possible second, and yell out in a thick German accent, “Halt! HALT!” followed by a spray of machine gunfire.
Instead, I heard the pop of gravel as we drove up the hill and the sound of distant screams as we drove into the movie lot.
“Are we there yet?”
“Shhh! I’ll tell you when it’s safe to come out.”
After another loop around Dad found an open spot with no vehicles on either side of us and steered the car into position up a small incline. He flipped up the folding seat and announced, “The coast is clear!” Joe and I stealthily crept out into the bright flickering light of the movie screen, looking guiltily around. The lot was half-filled and nobody seemed to pay us any mind. Mission accomplished. We eagerly climbed through the windows and pulled in the metal speakers from the posts and rolled the windows halfway up to hook them on the lip of the window.
Dad made a quick run to bring back some refreshments as the closing credits for the first feature “Color Me Blood Red” was scrolling down the screen. Shame, I probably would have liked that one because it was about a painter who used human blood, (altar-sacrificed model’s blood) when he ran out of crimson red. Oh, well.
Herschel Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore” directed the infamous blood and mayhem trilogy. They were visceral campy drive-in fare that sidestepped vague censorship laws and quality film making that would have made fellow low budget director, Ed Wood, (Plan 9 from Outer Space,) proud. The Lewis films unlocked the door that let out Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers in the 80’s.
“Blood Feast” was about this insane bug-eyed Egyptian caterer who butchered people for their body parts as a sacrifice to an Egyptian god, Ishtar, who actually was a Babylonian goddess. So much for details, and for that matter, good acting and film technique… let the slaughter begin!
I’m not sure what made you cringe more, the dismembered limbs or the acting. But the ending was pretty satisfying. The two dumbass detectives, as Dad called them, finally did something right and somehow managed to chase the killer into the back of a trash truck. It was an unfortunate choice for a hiding place; the caterer was crushed in the compactor.
“Two Thousand Maniacs” was a fun knee-slappin’ Hee Haw kill-fest with a lively bluegrass sound track. A carload of Yankee tourists is lured into a small off the road Southern town. The welcoming citizens — vengeful ghosts of the Civil War, invite their special guests to the town’s carnival-like centennial celebration. A girl gets a splinter in her thumb and a friendly local pulls out his whittling knife and offers to remove it. Her thumb, that is. She, well, parts of her, are roasted over a barbeque pit as the rednecks passed around moonshine jugs and sang hillbilly campfire songs. Four horses pull apart her boyfriend limb by limb. Yee Haw! The tension was unbearable; (Oh No, Dad finished off a big box of popcorn. In an enclosed space like we were, the consequences could be deadly.) Another couple is dispatched soon after. The girl is tied down on a wooden platform below a huge boulder as the folks take turns until one hits the bull’s‑eye, triggering the release lever.
Having personally survived a similar ordeal, minus the nails, the worst death scene was the last. The squashed girl’s boyfriend gets rolled down a hill inside a barrel; his was spiked though with nails. The boy was hamburger when he reached the bottom. The third couple escapes so the movie ended on an uplifting note. Joe and I clapped our approval. We thought the movies were bloody good.
There was one last possible horror that awaited us when we got home… Mom. She would be absolutely appalled if she found out what we had seen. Dad briefed us, making it clear that what we saw that night was to be kept “Top Secret.” In case we happen to be cross-examined later, we’d have to come up with a good story. After a brief discussion on the ride home, we decided on a Godzilla double feature: “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Mothra Against Godzilla.” The plots, easy… Godzilla kicks King Kong’s Kiester and Godzilla makes mincemeat of Mothra.