Semolina Pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower
And the Uniondale Mini Cinema was the only place to see such things as they were meant to be seen…at least in accordance to the invisible and unwritten rules of ‘70s youth. Drinking, smoking, whatever…management defined lax and you could get twisted right in front of the screen. The sound of empty beer bottles rolling down the cement floor was a given. Marijuana smoke wafted through the auditorium, the foyer, and out into the parking lot. We even smoked boo up in the projectionist’s booth with the legendary Ashley Stanhole, master of the Mini’s mighty 35mm lions.
Poor Ronald got a ride home, after calling his dad and pretending that he “drank too much.” Ha! He was a psychedelic ranger all the way, and a complete lightweight when it came to alcohol. But his old man bought the lie, leaving Nelhydrea Paupér and myself to our own devices. We knew the acid would thrust it’s first cerebral kick fairly early (especially if prodded by a joint or two), and had procured our separate tickets for the special midnight show. After the three Beatles movies (just under five hours total), the Mini would be hosting a witching hour premiere of the legendary Magical Mystery Tour, which no one in the United States had yet seen.
We made it through Let it Be, and another joint or two placed one in the odd position of having the munchies without having the munchies. It’s that weird paradox when weed meets acid, a drug that can register hunger while dismissing it. In the meantime, the jaw feels like a jackhammer. That grinding sensation, an indication of too much speed in the mix. Perspiration, gritting teeth, eyeballs darting to all corners of the room. If I did this shit today, I’d have a nervous breakdown.
If the Mini Cinema let its audience sit there and get wasted on weed, mescaline and wine, it seemed only fair that they take advantage of the situation by screwing with the schedule as well as our heads. Magical Mystery Tour was the main attraction at midnight…but who said they couldn’t throw in a few extras? Tripping our brains out, stoned beyond all recognition, light years away from A Hard Day’s Night and Help! and Let it Be, the auditorium grew dark, the curtains parted for the screen, and we sat there, hopeful, eager, and so bloody deranged, to feast our eyes on…the ‘entering Jupiter’ (a/k/a ‘tripping’) scene from Kubrick’s 2001. No explanation. No advanced warning. No reason. And nothing else from the movie, either. Just Keir Dullea (‘gone tomorrow…’) watching all those colors flash by. The general consensus across the room was, “What the fuck?”
They knew we were fried…they knew our circuits had been compromised, our fuses blown. After Keir Dullea, there was an odd stew of musical clips: the Rolling Stones on The T.A.M.I. Show…a Stones promo film for “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby (Standing in the Shadows)” with live concert footage from the ‘60s…followed by another Stones promo film for “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby (Standing in the Shadows),” this time with the Stones in drag. The repetition angle, having the same song performed twice in a row with different visuals, is a brilliant maneuver to freak out anyone who’s tripping.
This was followed by a clip of The Beatles. “It was live in Washington, DC, in 1964,” remembers Nelhydrea. “A videotape made from a ‘Closed-Circuit Theater’ — remember those??? — that showed once in 1964, never intended to be seen again. It was the entire thirty-minute concert…except that it ran out in the middle of the closer, ‘Twist & Shout’. No credits explaining what it was or where it was from. It felt like we were looking through a foggy telescope into the ancient past.”
Finally, Magical Mystery Tour came on. We really didn’t notice or care about the poor quality of the image (it was shot for television, presumably in 16mm, and blown up to 35mm eons before any kind of movie restorations or digital enhancement). In fact, the fuzzy picture complimented the retina under the influence of LSD. Our reality looked just like what was on the screen. The entire universe, in fact, looked and sounded just like this:
Nelhydrea reflects: “It was one of my favorite nights in my entire life. It was on a Friday, and I remember thinking that we just had to go the first night. Later on, someone said that they showed completely different accompanying stuff at the Saturday midnight show. The whole thing, by the way, had to be films belonging to a private collector.
“It was brutally cold that night. We got out very late, and had no way of getting home. No one would pick us up hitching at the exit of the parking lot. So we started walking. It was you, me and Nancy and Amy, who we met in the theatre. We walked for a good while, but there were no cars on the road and it was about twelve degrees that night.
“Then a car comes driving in the other direction. He slows down. He stops. He rolls down the window and says, ‘Hi! Do you guys need a ride?’ And we, in our teenage Long Island terror, reply, ‘N-n-n-no thanks. W-w-w-we’re walking the other way.’ ‘Well, that’s okay,’ he said, ‘I’ll turn around. It’s really cold.’ We looked at each other nervously. But we can’t say, ‘We don’t wanna be murdered!’ so we get in. All four of us.
“The car is warm. I have a very clear memory of how warm and comfortable that car was. It was a town car or something. Roomy. Nice. Warm. I sat in the back. Nancy sat up front. Amy says something like, ‘Wow man, it’s shelter’…you ragged on this statement for months afterward.
“The driver has long hair and a beard. He looks like one of us…please, Lord, not Charles Manson Jr. He tells us that he’s driving the car for someone into the city. He has time to kill, saw us out there and thought, they must be really cold. So he stopped.
“He asks if we want to smoke a joint. Maybe he’s a narc. So I say no thanks. Nancy says yes — that girl never said ‘no’ to a joint in her life. I keep my hand on the door handle, ready to jump if necessary.
“He asks what we were doing out. We tell him we saw Magical Mystery Tour. He’s floored. ‘Woowwwww. How was it?’ We gush about it — oh man, it was so cool. He wished he could have seen it.
“He drives each of us all the way to our doors. He is the nicest guy I have ever met in my life. To this day I wish I could find him and give him a big hug.”