Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Life in Dirty Movies: give me some of that old time sexploitation

Back in the summer of 1977, a couple months before my older brother Duke left our little farmhouse to move to Pittsburgh and attend school at Pitt University, he pulled me aside one day & said “I have a real surprise for you, but you can’t tell anyone what we’re doing—got it?” 

I was 15 years old & ready for anything.  He said “Tomorrow night, Jay & I are going to the movies, and taking you with us.”  I asked what was playing.  He said “That’s not important.  We’re going to the drive-in, the Brownsville Drive-In.  They show dirty movies.”

The following night, en route to meet up with Jay, Duke laid out the rules.  “We’re going to leave my car at Jay’s house and go in his truck.  Now when the movie starts playing, don’t say or do anything to embarrass me, okay?  Just sit there & be cool.” Got it.  We meet his friend, climb into his truck and are soon at the Brownsville Drive-in.  It’s a double-feature, “Alice in WonderLand” & “Puss n’ Boots”.  And as I sat there, feeling a bit disappointed at the lackluster storyline & muffled sound and grainy going-ons on the big screen, my brother and Jay whooped & hollered throughout the show.  (I think I heard “OMIGOD!” shouted 25 times.)  

Oh and for the record, both movies were only rated X.  Only XXX movies showed the hardcore stuff!

 I shared that lurid memory as I just finished watching a curious documentary titled “A Life in Dirty Movies”.  It tells the story of 88 year old Joe Sarno and his 70 year old wife Peggy, a quiet couple who take care of one another in their outdated (but filled with memories) New York apartment.  In the 1960s, Joe was a filmmaker who made ‘sexploitation films’, which were actually more of the art-house variety (but with long kissing scenes and some bare-chested ladies for show). 

The movie posters painted a far racier picture than the films themselves.  Joe explained “You had to make it hot without showing anything.”  Then the 1970s began, and introduced the world to hardcore films.    

“They had real sex, but no real stories, no real actors”  Joe lamented.  “I thought they were just a fad.  I was wrong, of course.”


Some of Joe’s sexploitation films from the 1960s, he gave the audiences just enough to keep ‘em coming back for more

But the documentary focuses just as much (if not more) on Joe & Peggy’s 45 year marriage, and nevermind that there’s no longer a market for his films—Joe still has one left in him, and Peggy is going to do everything she can to help him finish his script.  “Our finanaces are terrible” Peggy admits.  “Joe doesn’t have a clue.  But this film he’s writing, that’s his lifeline.”   She later adds “Fortunately, I have a very wealthy mother… even if she never did approve of Joe’s work, or my marrying an older man.”  (Indeed, we later meet Peggy’s 100 year old mother, a New York socialite from another bygone era, who laments that her 70 year old daughter didn’t marry that successful Irishman 50 years ago when she was ‘less matured’.)

So what happens?  Does Joe finish writing his final film?  Yes and no (I don’t want to give away the ending) but I couldn’t help but feel real adoration throughout this story for everyone involved.  Joe refusing to believe he’ll never make another film, his & Peggy’s decades-long marriage of mutual admiration and respect--and even for Peggy’s upper-crusty mom.  “I admit it”  her mother says.  “Back in the day, Peggy’s father and me… we were snobs.”

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A month, a week and a day (well, give or take) since I quit my job—what’s up?

Well, I’m not sure where to begin… where has the time gone since my last post.  I really do mean that.  It seems that I’ve spent the bulk of my life either waiting for the weekend, or the last day of school, or for holiday break, or graduation, and time always seemed to drag on (especially at the office last month after I handed in my notice). 

And now here I am, closing in on my sixth week since I left UPMC and I honestly couldn’t tell you what I’ve done with the time off.  Sat here a little shell-shocked, I suppose.  I recently watched this French animated film where a near-sighted girl sings ’when it comes to life, I prefer the blur’.  Sounds good to me.

Last Sunday, my friend (and former coworker) Danielle paid a visit and treated me to breakfast at the Rusty Nail, a local restaurant up the street from my apartment.  It sure was terrific seeing her again—we’ve kept in touch pretty regularly since I left my job, but this was the first time I’ve seen her since then.

Dani’s visit to my bachelor pad—she made my little place feel pretty special, fussing over framed photos and things

Anyway, as much as I’ve enjoyed turning into a 200+ lb. sloth (shaving can be such a chore) I must admit, for some perverse reason, I stilll miss my job.  Well, parts of it. 

A week or so ago, I sat here one night reading an SQL tutorial on nesting logic and thought “I’d like to try this out on my Medicaid pricing routine!”  I guess some things are hard to let go.  I still dream about the workplace too… last night I dreamt I had just gotten out of bed & came into my livingroom, and one of the former pricing specialists I worked with (Galina, a stout Russian woman) was sitting on my couch holding a list of updates needing done.  Ironically, she was wearing a very patriotic red, white & blue satin jacket—what gives, she’s Russian!

My only regret so far is something I posted on Facebook on my final day in the office.  “After 15 years, I’ve decided to leave UPMC in pursuit of a life of leisure”.  It was actually a bit of sarcasm (given the reason why I was leaving), but most of my non-UPMC friends didn’t know that, and in the hour or so it took for me to realize that & take it down, I got 50 people wishing me a happy retirement.  I’m still hearing it.  For the record, until I’m more comfortable with things, it’s ‘voluntary unemployment’.

Are you still reading, waiting for me to get to the good stuff?  I’m sorry!  I’m still trying to figure out if I can swing this indefinitely, and even if I can, is that what I really want?  It’s funny, up until a month or so ago I was telling anyone who would listen what an old man I am, waiting until social security kicks in, and now I’m thinking I have no business sitting on this couch & watching life go by… gosh I’m still in my early fifties!

Well, on that hopeful note I’m going to close this up & go find something to do.  I just wanted to get something out there, and remind people (and myself) I still have a voice.  A week or so before my grand exit at UPMC, Danielle joked that I would soon become obscure.  I thought ‘the sooner the better’, but now I’m not so sure.