DATELINE: Classic City, 1963 — It was still just a town, but it may as well have been Metropolis when compared to the one-traffic-light podunk burgs three counties away. The couple came in their Chrysler from the east as the sun was setting from the west. Big night on the town, yeah. After dining, a flick. Walking arm in arm under the lamplights of Clayton Street, Carl and Helen could see the marquee of State Theatre shimmering ahead. Carl froze, gazing up at the blazing sign.
“What is it, Carl?” Helen asked.
He pointed up at the synchronized bulbs framing the red plastic letters: Laddadog.
“We didn’t come this far to sit through a damn dog movie.”
“Yes. A movie about a dog. Lad. A dog. Laddadog. We’re leaving.”
– – – – –
Flash-forward: Classic City 1991
Martha leads George by the arm under the lamplights of contemporary Clayton Street.
“C’mon, we gotta get good seats.”
“Alright, alright,” George muttered half-heartedly.
“You’re gonna love it. You’ll like her more after you’ve seen the movie.”
George shrugged and looked up at the marquee: “In Bed With Maria -- The Hit Documentary of Diva Maria Mauvaise”
“Let’s get this over with,” he said as they got their tickets and entered.
One-hundred and fourteen minutes later, George and Martha walked out of State Theatre. Though George wasn’t the slightest bit impressed, he did offer up some lukewarm, neutral commentary vis-à-vis Martha’s cloying praises: “It was interesting.”
The movie itself was indeed a documentary about a self-proclaimed diva. Complete with de rigueur forced outrageousness and artistic proclamations, it had descended unsurprisingly into unintentional self-parody. It was the kind of movie that appealed to people who confuse spectacle for empowerment and mistake controversy for content. Empty calories. Low value.
It made George think of the story about Laddadog.
Standing under the marquee in ‘63, Carl and Helen must have known that that particular film wasn’t going to be their cuppa joe. A probable tale, one could guess, of a canine and his ragamuffin child companion, beset by the challenges of man and nature, told in a typically treacly way. Value there, perhaps, but not of the couple’s choosing.
But George had stood before the same marquee, suspended prejudgment, and came out worse for the wear.
Damn, he wanted a hot shower.
Who would have thought that cornpone cinema of 1963 could morally, if not aesthetically, trump the vapid, narcissistic cinema of 1991?
George shook his head. Ever the optimist, he hoped that some things would change for the better come fifteen or twenty years.