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.