Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot and Naked At the Movies!

Movie projectionists are a small and seemingly in my admittedly limited experience, a very odd lot. I worked for several months at the Greenwich Theatre in NYC back in the early 1970s taking tickets, sweeping up the lobby and generally sitting around doing not much of anything. Not a bad gig, when you think about it.

One hot July evening a couple of folks from the audience came out to the lobby, disturbing my reverie, to complain that the movie, Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet," had stopped. There was no direct communication with the projection booth - a decades old intercom system no longer worked - so I was told by the manager to trudge up there and see what was going on.

Upon my arrival at the top of the auditorium I opened the door into the sweltering booth which was not air conditioned. There was the projectionist, a balding man probably in his fifties and perhaps forty pounds overweight, about ten feet away from me, sitting in a small plastic chair, stark naked and asleep - or I dearly hoped he was asleep. Now, do I really want to wake this guy, and if so, how? I had no great desire to walk in and shake his shoulder to wake him. The "ich factor" was strong in me, I can tell you. I didn't even know his name, had never knowingly laid eyes on him.

I rapped on the open door a couple of times to no avail. I spotted a rag of some sort on the floor in what appeared to be dubious condition within reach of the doorway. I picked it up, gingerly at first, but then thought: What the hell! I wadded it into a ball, and threw it at him fortunately hitting him in the neck and shoulder. It did the trick. He roused and looked about him momentarily disoriented. Upon seeing me, I thought he'd scramble to cover himself, but no. Unfased, he apparently gathered in the scenario, rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, and generally shook himself awake - which was, I might add, quite a spectacle in itself. He then got up and nonchalantly sauntered over to one of the two giant projectors in all his glory and flipped it on. He waved me off saying everything was under control while fumbling with a cigarette. I had my doubts, but wanted more than anything to get the hell out of there. I closed the door, descended down the balcony and back to the lobby whereupon I reported all of this to the manager. He just shook his head. Happily, the projectionist kept things moving without incident the remainder of the evening, presumably in his birthday suit.