It was called an Art House. But actually, it ran B movies, some little smut, and old Sci-Fi. Unfortunately, the prints were so old that breakage had you sitting in your seats in the dark longer than the movie ran. The essential thing for many of us was that it was cheap.
The theater was off in some musty corner nearby what had been old Scolly Square that the urban renewal developers had overlooked for the time being.
Momentarily it could be declared a hazard and knocked down for replacement by a new “cineplex” that we could not afford. But for now, the little theater of horrors was safe. Very often, the audience came and stayed for multiple showings. A lot went on in those stained seats that would stupify the better class of residents living on the better streets of Beacon Hill. Often, it wasn’t films acting as the magnet drawing in the clientele. It was a plexus for many activities
We snuck in our snacks in bags hidden in our coats. The ancient Ju-Ju’s and Junor Mints in the candy display were in faded boxes so old that they probably dated to the first runs of the movies we were watching. As later generations of cinema watchers, we often knew the scripts cold, and you could hear the muttering of lines like a faint echo behind the movie dialogue. When the inevitable happened, and the old projector snagged and slowed down, the best script talkers never missed a beat and slowed down and sped up with the machine.
I was a habitue of this emporium. I liked the tawdry gilt plaster ornaments from the 1930s, the old balcony with pseudo-Egyptian flourishes, and especially the cheesy feature films.
It was there that I met, wooed, and lost the exquisite Claudia of the long silky black hair. We met one night at a revival of the Revenge of the Creature. She attended an elite college for women on the other side of the river, and I participated at the Folkie Palace – an elite school for aspiring Folkies in Boston. The backside of Grove Street and elite schools rarely met under these circumstances, but we hit it off. Soon we were physically inseparable on the balcony – The revivals of trite monster movies forgotten. We both knew it could not last, and one night we ran into a group of her friends out to slum in the less salubrious sections of town. She dropped my hand, swiveled to join her friends, and abandoned me.
Back at the Harvard Gardens, my friends were barely sympathetic; what did I expect? That she’d be eager to introduce her grubby Folkie boyfriend to her classmates?
That was where it sat for months. Then, finally, I moved on. I wrote a terrible song about it that I played in coffeehouses, went on a road trip, and had an uproariously good summer. Claudia had receded into the rear window of my fast traveling life.
Then one evening, sitting in the Harvard Gardens in walked Claudia and her slumming friends. She grinned and waved at me. She gestured to her friends that they should go over, and she’d introduce everyone. My friends groaned and gave me the fisheye. I looked at Claudia, allowed my gaze to slip past lazily and beyond to focus on a random individual at the bar. I had a feeling of deja vu.
I then casually turned my back and started a new conversation with friends – snobbery is a train that runs both ways on the same track.