Thursday, August 9, 2007

Childhood Years with Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, my Father and Johnny

The year must’ve been 1968 or maybe even 1969. My father, who had business to attend to, dropped my boyhood friend Johnny and myself off at the Market Street movie theatre in Inglewood. The exciting action movies 1967’s BULLITT with Steve McQueen and 1968’s POINT BLANK with Lee Marvin were re-touring the country as a double bill. Although the films carried a parental warning for mature audiences only, the theatre manager assured my father that there was nothing to worry about. He was right. We entered the theatre and watched these two now legendary films.

When I spent the summer of 1981 in San Francisco, I tracked down all the locations used in BULLITT. The next time I watched the film, I laughed hysterically to myself at all the geographical bouncing around done during the famous car chase sequence. McQueen’s Mustang flies down a hill in North Beach and the next minute races along a freeway in South San Francisco. The suspension of disbelief is a marvelous human ability, particularly when watching a movie, not so good when judging politics or religion.

As for POINT BLANK, I now live eight blocks from Second Street in Santa Monica where John Vernon fell off the Huntley Hotel roof stock naked and fell penis first onto the asphalt below. Across the street remains the stately brick building where Lee Marvin ties up two roommates and creates a distraction so he can sneak into the hotel. Once inside, he makes it past the mobster’s bodyguards and up to the penthouse where gorgeous Angie Dickinson (hidden beneath the bed clothes) pretends to seduce Vernon. Marvin interrupts their private party and holds a gun on Vernon, demanding back the money he was cheated of. Nakedly vulnerable Vernon has no choice but to cover himself with a bed sheet, and when he falls off the roof, he comically leaves the bed sheet behind. Although not pornographic by any stretch of the imagination, seeing a movie character fall naked to his death was quite an evocative moment for two 13 year olds to watch. It’s something my friend and me would laugh about for the five years left that we would know each other.

Huntley Hotel Tower
Brick Building Across the Street
Where John Vernon Fell

No comments: