Last week, I ended almost 20 years of curiosity by finally watching Beetlejuice.
My friends couldn’t believe I had never seen it. It is, after all, kind of a childhood staple and one that helped put director Tim Burton on the road to success. It’s not that I didn’t try when I was younger. Fate just wouldn’t have it for me.
Growing up in Powell County, our film options were exceptionally limited, particularly in the days prior to being a licensed driver. Mom and Dad couldn’t just easily hop in the truck and drive me and a group of my friends to The Big City of Lexington to watch a movie on a whim. There had to be some planning involved, resulting in me being able to remember specific details about several of the movies I watched as a child.
Of course I recall catching The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi on the big screen (down to the strangest of details for the latter with Bowen Smallwood, including Bible school, eating Chicken McNuggets and spying a praying mantis in car dealership’s parking lot). Others include Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, E.T., Savannah Smiles, The Fox and the Hound and Gremlins.
Then there was the epic The Karate Kid, Part II viewing, which involved Wanda Clark and Linda Nolan stopping by the city pool to ask James Clark, Chris Nolan and me if we wanted to leave early to see the sequel to what we considered the Best Movie Ever That Wasn’t Part of the Star Wars Series. I’m not sure if we even dried off before hopping into the car to go watch the movie, which we loved despite the constant annoyance from the teens behind us passing a plastic bag back and forth, with the rustling interrupting Miyagi’s sage advice and Peter Cetera’s heartfelt pleas for passion. (Even at that young age, I knew that it was lame to like “Glory of Love,” but I’m still a sucker for that song; he is , after all, a man who would fight for your honor).
During the summer, Powell Countians had the option of visiting the drive-in, but I don’t recall ever going with my parents. Instead, I usually went with the Todd family, which was great because they allowed us to watch R-rated flicks, which were a no-no with ol’ Doc and Rose. Thanks to the Todds, I got to see Predator, The Running Man and They Still Call Me Bruce, the highlight of which was Derrick being amazed at the site of a naked breast’s areola, prompting him to exclaim, “It looks just like a pepperoni.”
And you know what? It did, with a little sausage tip on it, too. So yes, as a child, I apparently thought women were made from pizza.
We also had the option of visiting the Video Library (later Video Solution), but back in those days, it would be at least a year before a movie came out on video, and when it did, the wait for hot new releases was so incredibly long, it would be another month or so before you could be lucky enough to rent it.
All of this conspired to prevent me from ever seeing Beetlejuice. (As an aside, I had difficulty watching another Tim Burton movie: Batman. Prior to its summer release, I owned Batman books, Batman T-shirts, probably Batman underpants. I couldn’t wait for it to be released. Too bad nobody wanted to take me. So, summer came and went before finally toward the end, Chris Nolan agreed to go with me, so Mom and Dad took us to Lexington to see a 12 o’clock showing at North Park. I strolled to the box office to order a ticket, only to be told by the jackassy clerk that it was for midnight, not noon. Even at age 13, I explained to her the need for the ad in the newspaper to differentiate between noon and midnight because just listing 12 is more than a bit misleading. She didn’t care).
Perhaps what’s most strange is that I remember renting Beetlejuice on video, but for reasons I can’t fully explain (or recall), I never watched it. Oh, I had time to watch Baby, Secret of the Lost Legend, but not what looked like the funniest movie ever made. Clearly, I was a disturbed child.
I watched Beetlejuice (I was slightly disappointed, too, but maybe my decades-in-the-making excpectations were too high), and can now scratch it off my To View list. Other surprising titles on the list include any James Bond movie and Annie Hall. I’ve rented Casino Royale, but I never got around to watching it and had to return it. I’ve held out this long on Annie Hall because it defeated Star Wars at the Academy Awards that year, and yes, I’m that big of a nerd.