Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Divine 99

Ah, the drive-ins! Not only were they great places to see movies, but also fine institutions of learning. Why, one's sexual education could be formed for all time in a single evening, on and off the screen.

From the pages of my first magnumopus, IN THE DARK: A LIFE AND TIMES IN A MOVIE THEATER, a sweet summer memory from my hometown of Stockton, California.

Then, there was the 99 Drive-In. Oh. My. God.

The 99, so named because it was just an exit off Highway 99, was the strangest location for a drive-in ever. It sat right next door to 99 Speedway, the local racetrack featuring stock cars, midget racers, modified hardtops and even the occasional destruction derby. These were usually run on Friday nights and sometimes Saturdays thrown in for good measure, which were also generally the busiest nights for drive-ins. Isaw a lot of movies at the 99…Speedway, that is. We Cherneys were auto racing aficionados and I caught many a silent movie, silent only in the sense that the roar of the engines would drown out the soundtrack. The screen was in full view of the grandstands.Anybody who was sitting on the other side of the fence trying to enjoy a nice, relaxing night at the movies would have had to have been incredibly tolerant, deaf or just plain stupid…that is, if it was any other drive-in.

But, this was the 99 where sound was, basically optional anyway. It specialized in exploitation with a capital X. Rude, raunchy and rowdy were the only criteria for this  place. It featured a lot of early splatter works like BLOOD FEAST, 2000 MANIACS, THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS and THE CORPSE GRINDERS. The latter dealt with some fine lads who ground dead bodies up into cat food, giving kitties a taste for human flesh. When Granny ran out of Purina Dead Chow, her starving pussies ate her instead! Fine motion picture entertainment.

Just to add more fuel to the fires of their patrons, the 99 also booked an array of big giant booby movies from the 1960s. These epics had
proportions to match, especially those of the incomparable Uschi Digard and her Mammaries Dearest. The 99 had noqualms whatsoever screening these whenever they felt like it and that included during race nights. Was it any wonder I grew tired of racing? How the 99 got away with this I’ll never know. Were they trying to drive the speedway out of business? As far as I was concerned, it became the main attraction.

During one particular race called the Trophy Dash, the four cars involved were circling the track getting into formation before taking the green flag to begin. Suddenly, the drivers caught a glimpse of two enormous breasts peaking over the south wall on the screen next door. All four of them parked against the wall in a straight line, one right after the other and watched the movie for about a minute. When those bombastic boobs disappeared, they started the race. Who won? Everybody.

Copywright 2002 by Scott Cherney

Alas and alack, the 99 Drive-In (aka the 99-E) is no more, just like 99% of all drive-ins. The 99 Speedway is gone now too. Both have been swallowed up by the onslaught of progress. Both the Speedway and the Drive-In on 99 represented the sights and sounds of summers gone by and memories that live on in the hearts, minds and even loins of those who were fortunate enough to experience them back in the heyday.

Living here in Oregon, it fills my heart with sweet joy to know that in the nearby town of Newberg, one of the last drive-ins in the nation is still in operation. Its name? The 99W.

And for more swell stories about movies, theaters and, well, the wonderfulness of me, check out IN THE DARK: A LIFE AND TIMES IN A MOVIE THEATER at Amazon

To read another excerpt, go to my website
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