My first obsession when I was wee lad way back in the 20th century was horror films. I'd have to say they were possibly my first movie crush, the genre that led me down the path to geekdom. I watched them whenever, wherever, however I could anytime of the day or night. Once my friend Albert and I made his house as dark as we possibly could as we watched HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon. Back then, there were only a handful of TV stations to choose from and I'd always insist on watching channels from the Bay Area because they showed the best stuff. I rush home from school since KGO in San Francisco played some choice morsels at four in the after noon. Late at night, KPIX ran their best of the best way after midnight. Antenna reception was questionable especially in the daytime, but I'd brave a couple of hours of snow and static to get my fix. The Sacramento stations just didn't have the programming I craved until the great Bob Wilkins Show came to my rescue when it premiered Saturday nights on KCRA.
Horror films were more accessible on TV, but I craved the movie-going experience. That was a leap to the major leagues as far as I was concerned. Once I was old enough, off I went and I never looked back.
Stockton's Fox California ( now the Bob Hope Theater. Yes, really) was the best place possible to see horror films, it being the only true movie palace in town. In fact the Fox was like a giant screening room in an old castle, kind of murky, always cold and actually rather spooky. It's where I was able to finally see films from Hammer Studios, producers of the Christopher Lee Dracula series, Peter Cushing Frankensteins and so many more gloriously gory delights. When I saw John Gillings’ PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, one of the scariest Hammer productions ever, the chilly Fox auditorium was such a perfect atmosphere that I felt like I was right in the picture, a graveyard in gloomy old Cornwall.. I spent an entire Saturday-I mean day and night-at a marathon showing of five Edgar Allen Poe adaptations from the Roger Corman days at American International including TALES OF TERROR and TOMB OF LIGEIA. By the middle of the fourth film, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, I was getting a little woozy, but I toughed it out.
I earned my geek merit badge by entering a Halloween costume contest at the Fox in a vampire get-up I created for myself. With makeup I applied at home, I honestly looked a little like Bat Boy. I headed downtown to the Fox by bus, ignoring the bewildered stares of the other passengers because I was too busy convincing myself of my impending first place finish. What I didn’t count on was that the contest was to be judged by applause and I just didn’t have any friends in the audience. You see, I went by myself as I often did and this had turned into a popularity contest. The winner was a kid with a whole bunch o’ buddies who clapped, hooted and hollered like there was no tomorrow. His costume was a hat.
And how did I rank in the contest? Well, there were crickets in the Fox California that day for I didn't receive a single solitary clap. After the walk of shame off the stage, I headed for the restroom to wash the makeup off my face the best I could. I returned to my seat and wondered why I entered at all. I did so on an impulse without informing anyone of my actions. Sure, I would have reveled in the joy of winning but I didn't and just moved on. I actually wasn't sad. This was something I found that I had to do for myself so I just went ahead and did it. Ultimately, I was rather proud of lil' ol' me so I sat back and enjoyed the show. After all, it was a horror movie and right then and there, life was good.
Such were the origins of a geek like me.