The other night I went out and did a little drinking with a friend of mine–more drinking than I have in quite awhile. I’m not in training, you might say, and I got a bit hammered…when I got home, I fell asleep in my clothes on my futon couch, and then I woke up in the first light of dawn and had a sense of memory of over forty years ago…
When I was in college and my friends and I would drink (and we had to drink a LOT because the only beer allowed in that dry town was 3.2), I would end up falling asleep in my clothes, often on the sofa in the dorm lobby. Then I’d awaken at dawn and often decide it was time to catch a bus out of our little college town into the big bad city of Cleveland. It was a two and a half hour trip to Cleveland, but I would pick up a copy of the top newspaper The Plain Dealer and tantalize myself with the ads for the skin flicks that would be showing at the Standard Theater on Prospect Avenue, not far from the bus depot…
The Standard was a big old movie theater that showed softcore skin flicks like Teenie Tulip, directed by a pre-Deep Throat Gerard Damiano. It told about a girl treated for sexual repression by a daffy psychiatrist. There was a scene at the end where she masturbates (softcore style) with a banana (sucking the fruit quite obscenely) that literally took off the top of my eighteen year old head…
Here is a photo of the interior of the Standard. You can buy reproductions of it here.
I usually got into Cleveland’s bus depot before the Standard opened for its first show, however, so after having a little breakfast at a cafeteria I went across Prospect (if memory serves correctly) to the fabled Kay’s Books, the greatest bookstore I have ever been in, where I bought copies of things like Truffaut’s interview volume with Hitchcock, which I still have in all its tattered glory to this day.
I remember standing on the platform near one of the shelves in Kay’s and seeing a novel written by Errol Flynn. It was my first inkling that the great swashbuckler was also a scribe. Here’s the book that I believe I saw, the image of which I found here.
These forays into Cleveland, which started out in a vague haze of hangover which always cleared up once I finally sat my ass down in the Standard, were some of my treasured experiences of my college days. It was watching softcore skin flicks that gave me a taste for “alternative” cinema, with the cheesy but uninhibited dialogue and scenes alerting me to a world of other possibilities than mainstream entertainment.
I can’t remember the film, but in a casting couch scene in one skin flick, the producer asked an aspiring model if she had any theatrical experience. When she said no, he said, “Well, maybe you were in a play in Hebrew school, something like that?” Trying to give her every opportunity to show she had SOME experience to qualify her to be in his show and get sexually harassed by him!
Nobody talked about “Hebrew school” in mainstream movies back in the 60s. I think I knew then that sinema was to be part of my life… 😉
And it was in the Standard Theater that I got my introduction to hardcore sinema, too. As I said, the films shown there for most of my attendance were softcore, without explicit insertion of Tab A into Slot B, but then one day probably in 1971 or 1972, they showed a coming attraction which started off with the gigantic widescreen image of a woman’s mouth (about six feet across) descending on a man’s meat (about ten feet high). I might actually have rubbed my eyes and sworn off alcohol for a brief moment, because I could not believe what I was seeing. But it was real. The hardcore era had begun.