Thursday, August 18, 2016

FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL / Tura Santana

The South Shore Drive-In was located off 128 outside of Boston over the Blue Hills from my suburban development of split-level houses. No one went to the twin screens in the daytime, but on summer nights my father drove my mother and their six children to the open-air theater, where we watched THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and Doris Day-Rock Hudson movies from our station wagon's back seat.

We loved the popcorn from the concession, however neither my older brother nor I left the car, since my mother insisted on our wearing pajamas.

"I want you ready for bed when we get home and what's the problem with wearing pajamas?" She thought of us as her babies, even though we were 12 and 11.

"They can't go to the concession stand dressed like that. They're almost teenagers." My father interceded for us. "Other teenagers say things."

"They shouldn't care what those hooligans say." My mother had heard about the wickedness of 'submarine races' from the parish priest. "The drive-in is for movies and not sin."

My mother was never more right than when she was backed up by the Holy Roman Church, but the South Shore Drive-In was more like a Midnight Mass in comparison to the Neponset Drive-In.

The single-screen's management showed adult fare on the monolith silver screen to the right of Route 3 and my parents ordered us to shut our eyes whenever we passed the Neponset Drive-In on the way into Boston.

Biker films were regularly screened as the first show with the second movie offering bare skin.

Our pastor regularly condemned this torrid combo during his Sunday's sermon.

"These films are filth. They are sin. They are the work of the Devil."

The pastor had been born in Ireland. His brogue rang with his devotion to a decades-old celibacy and he sought to enlist altar boys into the ranks of black cloth. None of the boys on the cusp of teenagerism sought to suffer the curse of lifelong virginity, especially not in 1965, which was a good year for go-go girls and outlaws.

My older brother was in 8th Grade.

He had kissed a girl at the matinee of the Mattapan Oriental. She had let his hands roam to second base in the pitch-black balcony. My next-door neighbor, Chuckie Manzi, and I had found stroke books in the woods below Chickatawbut Hill. Our hands belonged to the Devil and our souls were lost to God, especially since I had been an atheist since age 8.

That spring we wanted more and no Hollywood film preached sin more fervently than FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL. Ads for Russ Meyer's movie were splashed across the local newspaper entertainment sections and lurid posters promoted the no-holds barred cinematic experience on brick walls of small towns.

The first night showing was scheduled for the upcoming Friday.

Our parish priest pleaded with Sunday worshipers to tear down these offensive placards and our parents obeyed his edict.

Their devout fingers bled from the effort.

One evening my older brother and I salvaged two tattered posters of three buxom Amazons proudly standing before a foreign sports car. I kept mine under my bed. My brother stashed his four in the attic. My mother would have killed us, if she found one, but we worshipped them as unholy relics of our increasingly rebellious youth.

The girls in FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL drove a Porsche 383.

James Dean had died in a Porsche.

The poster was black and white, but our next-door neighbor Chuckie guessed that the sports car's color was red.

On Monday morning the 7th discussed the upcoming Russ Meyer film on the bus to OUR LADY OF THE FOOTHILLS.

"What do you think they do in the film?" I whispered to our friends.

"No sex, but a lot of skin." Chuckie's answer was a good guess.

"There's only one way to find out." My brother looked at us and we instinctively knew what we had to do and that week we plotted an expedition to the Neponset Drive-In to broaden our adult awareness.

Our plan was simple.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was featured at the local movie house.

The film starring Julie Christie and Omar Sharif had won almost every Oscar at the previous month's Academy Award.

On Friday evening I asked my father for permission to see it with Chuckie and my older brother.

My mother objected to my request.

"It's a love story about communists." She remained a McCarthyite a decade after Tailgunner Joe's death.

"Pasternak was a great poet, but this is only a love story." My father had attended college in Maine. He spoke French and overruled her politics.

She stormed upstairs.

The slamming of the bedroom door was her good-night.

"Boys, remember when you're teenagers that your father stood up for your rights."

"Yes, sir."

On the cusp of forty he belonged to another generation, but he was a good father and drove us in the station wagon to the local theater.

The early show coincided with the sunset.

FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL screened twenty minutes later.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO ran three hours. The theater was two miles from the drive-in, which was a forty-minute walking distance or a ten-minute trot. Our scheme was planned to the last detail, even to hiding binoculars under Chuckie's coat, because we would watch the FAST PUSSYCAT KILL KILL for free from the other side of the river.

Upon arriving at our town theaters, we were surprised by the line of young boys snaked around the corner.

"Certainly a long line for a love story." My father had read Pasternaks's book in college and I had consumed the short novel this week. We were covering all the bases.

"Julie Christie is beautiful." My brother had her picture under his mattress far from the posters of FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL. He was a die-hard romantic and dreamed one day that he would end up with Julie, but it wouldn't be tonight.

"Yes, she is." My father liked her too. "I'll pick you up in three hours."

We bought tickets and waited out front for several minutes.

Several clusters of other pre-teen boys also lingered on the sidewalk. None of us had any intention on seeing DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Darkness drenched the eastern sky and stars clustered across the overhead sky.

Chuckie nudged my ribs.

"Let's go."

The three of us walked down the side street and around the corner we broke into an easy lop. Within minutes we were running over the hilly golf course overlooking the Neponset River.

"There it is," Chuckie declared from the summit.

The drive-in was packed with cars.

The big screen was showing 'Coming Attractions'.

Inbound traffic on the Expressway was snarled for the free show.

We heard the hoop of the other boys behind us. Our prize was within reach. As we pelted downhill to the river, I recounted the plot of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO to my brother and Chuckie, in case my father and mother quizzed us later.

They weren't fools.

We reached the river's edge to discover that the drive-in was not visible from this vantage point.

"We could swim to the other side." Chuckie suggested and unbuttoned his shirt.

"And how are we going to explain how our clothes are wet?" My older brother was determined to attend law school and his concern for his permanent record deterred his detours from the straight and narrow.

"We're not." I pointed to the highway to where boys were filing across the expressway's bridge.

It was a good way to get killed and cars beeped their horns, yet we joined their procession to the other side of the river.

Our next obstacle was a dump rank from the stench of trash burning in the glowing incinerator.

We spotted the top of the screen and ran like hounds hunting a fox to the twenty-foot chain-link fence preventing our entrance to the drive-in.

None of us needed to go any farther. Our eyes were filled by the sight of 40-feet high big-breasted women in skimpy clothes.

"Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams," Chuckie spoke the actresses' names. He had memorized the poster. We sat on the ashheaps of the garbage dump.

Nothing had prepared us for the female mayhem and violence. No man was safe from the Pussycats' terror and for the first time in my life I realized that women were not the weaker sex.

Ninety minutes later we walked away from THE END in a state of exhaustion.

None of us spoke on the way back to the town theater.

In the back of the station wagon on the way home Chuckie whispered in my ear, "I'm in love with Tura Santana."

"Me too." She looked a little like his raven-haired sister, Addy had been my babysitter. Her breast-size was a 36-B. Chuckie had once shown me her bra. It smelled of powder.

Chuckie never met Tura Santana, although years later I met the director Russ Meyer at the 1984 Deauville film festival.

We had a couple of drinks at the Hotel Atlantique. I paid for them thanks my expenses being backed by a French magazine. The big man spoke about his serving in the Army's 166th Signal Photo Company.

"I was 15 and somehow was assigned to a combat film crew. I shot a camera across France, but when I got back to LA I couldn't find any work, although I did some of the camera work on GIANT." That George Stevens film was being honored by the Deauville Film Festival.

"Can you remember which scenes?"

"I'm lucky to remember my name, but enough of my blowing wind. You're here as a journalist. You have to have some questions for me?"

"Only one. What ever happened to Tura Santana?"

"Why do you want to know?"

I explained about Chuckie, my older brother, and countless other boys going to see FASTER PUSSYBAR KILL KILL.

"Ha, you're not the first kid to tell me that. 1965 was 21 years ago. Now you can find porno everywhere. Back then there was only me. I still don't know why they let me do what I did."

"Me neither, but we were glad they did. What about Tura?" I had heard enough of his bullshit.

"I saw her a couple of years ago and you know what the worse thing about my movies. Not that feminists think that I was sexist, because they're wrong. All my women beat up on men. They even kill them, so I can live with that label. The worst thing about my films is seeing all those beautiful women lose their beauty. It makes me feel like crying. Same with Tura, but she hung onto it longer than most and if I close my eyes I can still see her on the set in the Mojave. What a woman."

And she still is even though Tura Santana passed away several years ago.

For me she will always be that big beautiful woman on the drive-in screen and I will always be a young boy.

It's a love thing.

FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL KILL forever

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