Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 8 -The Drive In

Wildwood, New Jersey – July 1984

Even though at 22 I was glad I still had my summer of 1980 and California powers with women, Betty was a lovely compliment to my history. I loved all of our deliciously devilish encounters. She was gorgeous, had a slamming body, and most of all experience. Being a woman of 32 she was different than the girls I’d dated up till then. They kind of didn’t know what to do with or to a man to bring him to a boil. It all came from me. My desire and uncontrollable urges. But Betty was a woman, not a young girl. She knew how to touch and please a man. She had things she could do to enhance and sometimes even slow down the encounter to make it longer and more enjoyable. I realized why her husband had cheated on his first wife to get with Betty. She was a little dynamo in the bedroom. My time in California had changed me from a kid selling cookies in a town full of werewolves, into Lon Chaney himself.

But I loved my new girlfriend and being the gentleman I had come to be, I wanted to take her on some fun dates. I think I loved romance and courtship even better than sex. Sex is an act that celebrates how we feel about each other in a physical union. But romance and courtship take more time and are far more elegant. I know I’m right. Have you ever watched one of those nature shows about the courtship of some birds? The male does a fantastic dance, a show, collects stuff, and makes a shrine to his potential mate. When the female finally gives in and chooses him, it’s over in like a second. I’m like… dude, you did all of that just to get laid? Yes, yes I did, says the bird. Because it’s called romance, son.

Look at this guy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWfyw51DQfU

I told her about all of my wonderful fun times at the drive-in movie theater in Rio Grande and she wanted to go. She said she’d never been to a drive-in movie and it sounded fun. 

So the following weekend we hopped in her BMW and went to the drive-in. We stopped at the liquor store on RT 47 before we went in and I picked up some beer. Always Miller ponies because they were small and stayed colder longer. (You also consumed them a bit faster because they were so small) We found a good spot and parked. I set up the speaker on the driver’s side window and we were good to go. I ran to the snack bar and got us a big bag of popcorn and we were all set. 

I’ve always loved movies and I especially loved drive-in movies. You’re in the privacy of your own car, you can talk, drink, smoke, and do whatever else you want in the privacy of your vehicle. 

The movies playing that night were Footloose and Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. a perfect 80s double feature with my best girl.

We were munching our popcorn, sipping cold beer on that warm summer evening and all was right in my world. I liked this part of our relationship. Betty liked to smoke pot so she sparked up a joint. I didn’t smoke back then, because I didn’t like the sudden confusing feeling THC gave me, so I declined. I noticed when Betty was high she’d get a little snippy with me but in an endearing way. She offered some hits to me but I said I was fine with just beer. “You’re always saying no to me, Chaz.” she’d say. I knew that wasn’t true. I was a young buck at my peak of physical prowess but I was sitting next to a woman in her sexual prime.

We enjoyed the movies and acted like a couple of teenagers. Betty said I made her feel like a young girl again. She said she loved the way she felt when she was with me. She missed being a single girl and going out on fun dates.  I knew she’d love this. I could see from my actions this was going from more of an illicit adulterous hook-up to a real romance. 

It was a lovely night and after the movie, we decided to drive around a bit. We drove out to Cape May and I wanted to show her the concrete ship. It was a famous tourist spot not only known for its cape may diamonds, but a sweet make-out spot. 

I remember the road that led out to that place is incredibly straight. I once asked my dad about that, and he told me that a trolley used to run out that way. We were a mile or two away and I asked Betty if she could pull over. We sat in the car and talked for a little bit and then things became a bit more amorous, but then I suddenly pulled away. “Can I drive the rest of the way?”

“Ummm… oh, why not, Chaz.”

We switched seats and I got behind the wheel. I knew the road was deserted at night and straight as an arrow. So when we got to the beginning, I floored it and the BMW responded just like Betty did to my touch.

Betty was giggling and not angry at all. I knew she’d yield to my wishes. It felt great to drive a car with such performance. I’d never had a chance to drive such a car. We reached the coastline in a minute or two and I hit the brakes and parked.

We parked and climbed into the back seat. As she fell into my arms laughing, I realized that I had broken not one, but two of her original rules that evening. I’m sure it never crossed her mind, but it did mine.

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 1 – Home Video Center

Winter 1984 – Wildwood, NJ

Upon my return from California after failing to become a metal god, I took a job as a sales clerk at Home Video Center in Northfield, NJ. The last job I had in Los Angeles was at a video store called Videon. It was a new idea back when VHS & Beta were in their infancy. The owner of a chain of stores in LA called Music + decided that home video was going to take off and wanted to create a new line of stores that catered only to video. So I had a little experience in a new industry.

I was 22 years old.

It was a fun job, and I liked the people I worked with. We had 500 titles in both formats, VHS and Beta. We carried, all kinds of titles. Drama, comedy, horror, thrillers, kids movies, and also adult titles. (The adult titles were all stashed on the very top of the shelves so kids couldn’t see them.) It was funny how people rented pornography back then. There was no internet, and the only place you could view porn back then was in magazines, or some sleazy adult theater or peep show in a rough part of the city. Now video brought pornographic movies right into the homes of America for the first time. It was funny when people would rent porn. They would get a few legitimate titles and the porn box was always at the bottom of their stack or sandwiched in the middle. They had to hide their desires. But we were trained to be professionals and after a while you ring up the titles like anything else you do in a job. It’s simply another transaction. Like when I worked in a bank. The money loses it’s meaning because it’s just part of the job. You might as well be handling lettuce. The companies that made porn videos back then must have made billions of dollars. They already made their films on the cheap. (Every movie is about the same thing) and they already had all of the films, so they just attached themselves to a new delivery system to get their products into the hands and pants of America. But surprisingly, adult titles were a very small part of what we rented. People wanted quality films they could enjoy at home with their family and friends. It was a good job. We were selling entertainment. That’s a good thing. (But, please, be kind, and rewind the tape when you’re finished watching it!)

They had more movies in one place than I had ever seen. It was amazing, because we could rent up to three movies at a time for free. I saw so many films I had been dying to see for so many years and this was a huge win for a film guy like me. Home video changed the way people got their entertainment. We were no longer chained to local programming and cable TV. We could watch what we wanted when we wanted for a fee. This was the beginning of the way we get our entertainment today.

Here’s a post I wrote a while ago about how wonderful that experience could be when shared between family members.

My Father’s Chair

I worked the rental counter with a few other people, and they had one or two sales guys that sold VCRs, TVs and video cameras. When I think about that technology now and how groundbreaking it was, it all seems so ancient now that I can do all of the things that all of those machines did with my cell phone.

There were five owners, and they banked at First Fidelity bank where my dad was a regional manager. He got me the gig at Home Video Centers. Again, my father helping me find gainful employment. He told me to go apply and they naturally hired me. It’s funny how history repeats itself. My dad got me the job at Hunt’s Pier, Home Video, and later Circle Liquors. I got my daughter the hostess job at The Continental when she first moved to Philly in high school, then the gig at Bar Bom Bon, and later a part-time position at a local smoke shop during the pandemic. So it goes full circle. My father led by example, and he taught me to walk where he walked… not where he pointed. I’ve tried to do the same for my daughter.

The other four owners were silent partners. Brad ran the operation for the stores. (We also had a site in Vineland, NJ.) They had a manager that was in charge of the staff, named John. A cool ex marine that had a humorous intensity about him. I really liked him. I’m pretty sure he was married to Brad’s daughter and that’s how he got the job. Speaking of family, one of the partner’s daughter’s worked there too. Her name was Valerie and we used to call her Video Val. (I think because her monogrammed  license plates said that.) She was a sweet girl who loved all things Madonna. I mean, LOVED Madonna like I loved Aerosmith. So I got her passion. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, Madonna was the Britney Spears of the music scene back then.  I remember taking Val out for some gin and tonics and then we wet to see the film, Suddenly Seeking Susan, a movie that Madonna had a small part in. Val always liked me and we were good friends back then.

It was a good crew of people. The one owner Brad was in and out, or up in his office. John managed the place and there were a few guys who worked in the repair shop in the back. Can you imagine that now? There was a whole workshop back there where a few tech guys would repair and clean ppeople’sVCRs. I remember some guy brought in his front loading betamax and said it  something was wrong with it because he couldn’t put a tape in it. When the guys opened it up, they found a little toy car inside that his son had put inside it thinking it was a garage for his matchbox cars.

Sony Betamax ARABIA SL-T20ME RED PAL & SECAM Beta auto voltage *free shipping*

I have to admit, it does look like a little garage door on the front. You could jam a whole fleet of Hot Wheels in that thing. I’m sure the man wasn’t pleased.

It was a good group of people working together in a relatively new industry. I remember when I was back in California I went to a party at some rich dude’s house and he had a VCR. Nobody I knew had one of those back in 1982. It cost him around $1500 back then. It was new desirable technology back then and they could charge what they wanted for it.

We also sold some of the old big screen rear projection TV sets. That was an amazing yet primitive hunk of furniture and technology. They made them 36 inches up to around 40 inchesscreen-wisee back then. They were thousands of dollars but we sold a lot of them. Back then it was the best way to watch a movie at home or a sporting event. Some of them weren’t that bad, (Sony, and Mitsubishi made the best ones of course) but most of them really didn’t have much clarity as classic tube sets of the day. Little did we know that one day you could have a 50 inch flat screen that you could hang on the wall for around $300 from Walmart!

I remember one day this guy came in and there were a couple of us guys hanging out on the sales floor. The conversation went like this:

Guy: “Do you guys sell anything that I can use to get stains off abig-screenn TV?”

John: “Hmm… I could check in the back.”

Guy: “Okay.”

Me: “Actually, we have a product like that. It’s called, “Cums Off.”

We all burst into laughter, including the guy, who got the ‘big screen, you’ve been watching too much porn reference.’

Me: “I’m sorry sir, I just couldn’t resist. I would just turn off the set, unplug it, and use a little light soap and water on a cloth. Wipe the screen down vertically.”

It was a riot.

Working at Home Video Venters was a cool job. I watched all of LIVE AID while at work. It was on every TV all day and a magical day for a musician and music lover like me. It was amazing to watch all of the music stars of the day rock out in an all day live concert up in Philly.

I saw the whole MOVE thing happen in Philly as well at Home Video Centers. I watched as they burned down Osage Avenue on 30 TVs around the store.

I learned everything there was to know about VCRs, VHS, Beta, and wiring up audio and video systems to work together. I once rewired an entire media room including all the HIFI aspects of the system to make it all sing together in one room.

I saw my first Pioneer laser disc. I saw my first compact disc at that job. I remember putting the demo disc in a CD player in a 100100-wattstem and hearing the band Rush’s song, Tom Sawyer for the first time digitally. I was blown away by the power and clarity and sound of this new technology.

Plus, I’m surrounded every day by bunch of people who love film and watching movies. I remember going to see Hitchcock’s, The Man Who Knew Too Much with a buddy of mine at a small revival theater. It was amazing. I had never seen any older films in the theater in my life. Only new stuff. Just brilliant!

Oh, Betty? I’ll get to her in the next installment. Tune in next Tuesday. I’ve had too much fun writing about the video store!

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California Dreamin’ – VIDEON

Santa Monica, CA – 1983

I always loved music and films, so at some point, I decided that working in a music store would be better than working at a restaurant. I applied at several around Los Angeles and got an interview with a chain called Music Plus. They sold albums, tapes, videos, and concert tickets. I remember acquiring tickets to see David Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour from there! But that’s another story.

Here’s another author’s memories in regard to Music Plus:

https://www.championnewspapers.com/opinion_and_commentary/chino_memories/article_4d1201f6-23d7-11e8-88aa-9faa52530da0.html

They liked me well enough but told me they didn’t have anything available in their music stores. But they were opening a flagship video store on Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I knew that VHS and Beta were emerging in the home video market and thought it would be a cool job. Music Plus was a retail chain around LA, and since video was growing they decided to designate a whole store to just videotape sales and rentals.

It was a great idea at the time and the owner was truly a visionary for coming up with the idea. (We all know what happened in the coming years with the arrival of Blockbuster, but this was at the very beginning of the home video craze.)

VCR’s cost over $1500 back then and were the size of old electric typewriters. They weighed a ton and I think Beta was the only format in the beginning. Sony invented Beta and VHS but Beta was the better format. More compact with a simpler mechanism with better sound and video. They sold off the rights to VHS because it was inferior. But more companies bought it up and started making VHS VCRs like crazy. VHS ultimately won out in the format wars simply because more companies manufactured the machines and they were more available to the public. Funny, how the superior format failed to the inferior one simply based on availability. Man-made selection at its best!

I was 20 years old and just happy to not be working in a hot, sweaty kitchen in a bar and grill until midnight every day. This was a cool, clean job in a new industry.

The day manager was this super French guy who was easily well into his forties. He knew a lot about film and especially foreign films so that was cool. In the evenings they had another manager named Renee who was probably around twenty-five. She was short with brown hair and eyes. Kind of cute, but that was ruined by her bitchy personality. She seemed over her head in the position and was always short-tempered and stressed. She was always scheduling me to close with her because she liked me. Even though she was cranky a lot of the time, I knew she dug me. She would always ask me to smoke a joint with her out in the parking lot after work. I obliged because I figured maybe she’d be nicer if I hung out with her.

One night that parking lot smoke turned into a bit more and we ended up back at her place. I was young and didn’t possess the moral compass I have today. (Come on… who am I kidding? You’ve read this blog.)

There was one other girl who worked there most days with me, who was the quintessential 80s girl. (Think one of the members of the band The Go Gos) She was after me as well. Where were all the available men in LA back then? Nothing ever happened between us because I just wasn’t that into her. She seemed weird.

We had a good time working there and it was fun being around all of those movies all day. I learned a lot about film and the video industry working there. The whole store was arranged by studio, not by subject. So we had a section for Warner, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, etc.

The best part was, at lunch you could go in the back and watch a video while dining on your sandwich.

But here’s the interesting part. This was a legit spin-off from a big music store chain. Everything was above board. For the most part.

You won’t believe what the home video experience cost back then. It was a fledgling industry and everything was new, so that means expensive. The machines were a fortune, and the tapes were really pricey as well. Most videotape movies started at $59.95 to purchase. But we did have a rental program. It was $100 to join and to rent a movie it was over $20 and you had to leave a huge deposit on your credit card every time you rented some movies. Isn’t that crazy? It was like renting an automobile!

I remember when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on videotape. It had made so much money worldwide, they released it for $39.95 on VHS and Beta. This was unheard of. A groundbreaking low price for a blockbuster film.

Next was the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and the music video all in one tape. That was released for only $29.95. The lowest price ever offered for a home videotape ever. We sold the hell out of them.

There were NO Disney titles of any kind on VHS and Beta. I think they were waiting to see what the NEW format would do for their stockholders. (Now they own everything!)

We didn’t have hundreds of copies of popular movies back then. Most of the films available were from the past. So everything in the store was from the 70s and back. New movies were in the theaters and it would be years until they landed on video. But there were plenty of great films to watch. But the only place I could check out titles was during lunch in the back.

But here’s the twist to this upstanding business called VIDEON. We sold the occasional tape to some wealthy people who wanted to own some quality films to show their friends and family.

Home video was in its infancy and it was like the wild west back then. Here’s what they did at VIDEON. Say, someone rents a few films. They watch them and return them after the 3 day allocated time. We take that tape in the back room. There is a table with a spool of shrinkable cellophane on a roll and an industrial blow dryer. We rewind the tape and rewrap it in our own little shrink wrap. We sear the creases on the spool so it seals the wrap. We then hit it with the blow dryer and that shrinks the wrap so that it clings to the original box with the tape in it. Does it look brand new? Does it look like it came from the factory? No. But do the customers know that? No.

So basically they were renting movies all the time and then repackaging them and selling them as new to unsuspecting customers. I wasn’t comfortable with this practice because it just didn’t seem right. People were tricked into thinking they were buying something brand new and paying the top retail price. But in actuality were being sold a used product. That smells like fraud to me. It had to be illegal. But like I said, back then it was the wild west. I was getting a paycheck every week so I never said anything about their diabolical criminal enterprise.

The way to tell was, I knew what the rewrapped shrink wrap looked like, and if you looked through the window on the tape, the tape on the spool was slightly uneven. When they’re new, this is not the case.

I don’t know what happened to that company, but I’m sure they were devoured by Blockbuster some years later. (It was the last job I had before leaving California)

It’s funny how when something’s new, it costs a fortune and feels so exclusive. But in a few years, it’s all cheap and available to everyone. Now, it’s all gone. You can simply stream everything. DVDs aren’t even a thing anymore.

But it was a fun job and a peek at was to come in the world of home video in the future.

I recommend you watch the documentary The Last Blockbuster on Netflix. Very interesting. The best bits are about the business and corporate end of that industry. The rest is just a bunch of self-absorbed clowns talking about their love for Blockbuster and home video.

But I will say this one last thing. I do have some wonderful memories of picking up my little daughter on a Friday night and heading over to the local Blockbuster. We’d pick out some movies, popcorn, and candy for the weekend. It was a fun ritual that just about everyone I know once did together.

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Tales of Rock – Who Invented Speed Metal?

Speed metal is an sub-genre of heavy metal music that originated in the late 1970s from NWOBHM and hardcore punk roots. It is described by Allmusic as “extremely fast, abrasive, and technically demanding” music.

Motörhead is often credited as the first band to invent/play speed metal.[1] Some of speed metal’s earlier influences include Deep Purple’s “Fireball” and Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” (which was eventually covered by the thrash metal band Metallica), from their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack,[2] and Deep Purple‘s song “Highway Star“, from their album Machine Head. The latter was called ‘early speed metal’ by Robb Reiner of speed metal band Anvil.[3] Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown“, first released in January 1969, could also be said to be an early template for speed metal as mentioned in Mac Randall’s.[4]

Speed metal eventually evolved into thrash metal.[5] Although many tend to equate the two subgenres, there is a distinct difference between them. In his book Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy MetalIan Christe states that “…thrash metal relies more on long, wrenching rhythmic breaks, while speed metal… is a cleaner and more musically intricate subcategory, still loyal to the dueling melodies of classic metal.”

I’m going to have to say, Queen’s song, Sheer Heart Attack from their LP News of the World does it for me. It’s a mix of punk and metal played at breakneck speed. It is an absolutely furious song that I used to jam out to in my bedroom on my guitar.

Listen to this tune and prove me wrong.

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Wildwood Daze: At The Drive In

Wildwood, New Jersey – Summer, 1981

First, a little history…

The Wildwood Twin Drive-In owned by Fox theaters of Philadelphia opened on July 28, 1950, as a single-screen drive-in. In 1976 a second screen was added. This drive-in had a capacity of 470 cars.

The Wildwood Twin Drive-In closed after the 1986 season. The original address was Wildwood Boulevard (Route 47) at exit 4A of the Garden State Parkway.

The drive-in theater was the idea of Richard M. Hollingshead who opened the very first drive-in theater in Camden, New Jersey on June 6, 1933. It wouldn’t be until 1950 that Cape May County would have its own drive-in movie theater. Mel Fox, of Fox Theaters from Philadelphia opened the Wildwood Drive-In theater on a 13.5-acre lot on Wildwood Blvd., in Rio Grande. With space for 470 cars, a Simplex X-L projector and a sound system with Simplex in-car speakers, the drive-in was ready for its grand opening, Friday, July 28, 1950, with the showing of “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.” The box office opened at 7:30 pm with a 60-cent admission per car. Free popcorn was given to everyone on opening night. They ran two shows each night during the week and three shows nightly on weekends. The property was sprayed with DDT every week. Sometimes every night! (Darn mosquitos!)

In the Fall and Winter of 1981, my father taught me how to drive. We would go out each morning and I would practice driving our 1969 Volkswagen minibus. It was a four-speed manual transmission and had a blind spot on the back right quadrant of the vehicle. So it was fun to try to parallel park that sucker. Especially fun was learning how to K-turn the van. Each street had a crown for water drainage in Wildwood, so the vehicle would roll and stall out all the time as I struggled with the gas, clutch, and brake. But in time I figured it out, (with my father’s patience) and soon I could hold the van on a hill and even roll it back and forth on the incline using only the clutch and brake.

I passed my driving test and my dad gave the van to me. You can read all about the history of that family vehicle in the links in the above paragraph.

The Summer came around and I now had possession of the van. One of the first things I wanted to do was take my friends to the drive-in movie out in Rio Grande off the island. I always loved movies and especially horror movies so it was a natural progression for me to want to hang out there.

We’d drive out Rio Grande Avenue which turned into route 47. Delsea Drive as it’s better known. The reason route 47 was called Delsea Drive is that it runs from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean. (Get it? Delaware to the Sea. Del-Sea!) When you passed the bay and the grassy sound and you’d arrive out in Rio Grande on the mainland. There were shops and roadside vendors and even a little mall out there. (It was more like a small enclosed shopping center) There were a few old motels out there and maybe a trailer park or two but what stood out was on the right was a drive-in movie theater.

I had heard of them as a kid and thought it was a cool idea. Just sit in the comfort of your car and watch a movie. You could eat drink and talk and nobody would bother you. When I was a kid I would sometimes see the big screen of a drive in while we passed it at night in the car. I just thought I had to experience that one day. So once I had the van, I was going to make that happen.

We pulled the van off the road and into the entrance through a grove of trees. Sort of like a little tunnel of trees that you had to drive through to get to the box office. The path was littered with broken seashells that crunched under your wheels as you rolled up to buy your tickets. It didn’t cost that much and people were always sneaking their friends inside the trunks of their cars. But we had the van and all they had to do was look inside and see who was in the car. As I said, it was cheap and we didn’t mind paying for whoever was in our crew.

We’d get there at dusk just to get a good spot and hang out a bit. It was cool. the surface of the lot had these humps of dirt built up that you’d pull your vehicle onto just to raise the nose of your car to point the car toward the big screen. You’d pull your car up to one of the speakers that hung on poles that were stuck in the ground all over the lot.

Drive-in Theaters Start Kickstarter Campaigns, Ask for Donations to Pay for Digital Projector Conversions | TIME.com

They were these big metal waterproof portable speakers that you unhooked from the pole and then hooked them on the edge of your driver’s side window. It had a volume control on it and that was it. Many of them didn’t work or were badly oxidized from being outside for years. But for the most part, they did their job. You don’t go to the drive-in for a rich film experience and superb audio quality. You go to the drive-in for the fun of it.

A lot of people back then would bring their kids with them. The parents got a night out and didn’t need a babysitter because most of the time the children would pass out and sleep in the backseat of their car or station wagon by the second feature. But for the most part, it was young people and teenagers like us just looking to do something different on a summer night. (You can only have so many nights on the boardwalk and in the nightclubs before you need a break!)

By the time we arrived at this drive-in, it was already 30 years old and its best days were behind it. The screen was a little banged up and so was the old wooden plank fence around the lot. But here’s the cool thing about that. Once night fell, you could walk over to the fence toward Delsea Drive and slip through a hole in the fence behind whatever stores aligned the fence. So we’d go over there and zip through the fence and no one would see us. Once outside the lot, we’d walk about 30 yards to a roadside liquor store and grab a few 8 packs of Miller ponies. We didn’t drink much back then and those mini beers were enough for us, and they were small enough to stay bubbly and cold on the floor of my van. We’d sneak back under the cloak of darkness and have our beer and snacks for the show. I wonder now why we didn’t just buy the beer in Wildwood, hide it in a cooler in the van and then go to the drive-in. Maybe we thought they would check the car and I know there was a “no alcoholic beverage rule” in place at that theater. So maybe that was it. But it was actually more exciting to pull a caper and sneak through the fence and get our beer.

We’d hit the snack bar and try not to get devoured by the hordes of mosquitos that ruled the place at night. I remember keeping a can of OFF behind the seat of the van just for that reason. We’d buy popcorn, nachos, soft pretzels, and whatever other kind of junk food they sold there. We’d load up and head back to the van.

I found this great video of intermission shorts on Youtube. I love how it takes me back to being at that beat-up old drive in theater. The campy voiceover, the crap animation, the photos of the “delicious” food which was terrible and even looks bad in the photos! Such great memories!

Once it was dark, usually just before 8 pm, the first feature would begin. As I said, the place had already been there for 30 years and all they normally showed at that theater during the week was horror movies. Mostly slasher films from the late 70s which were all the rage since the inception of John Carpenter’s Halloween. (I remember one evening we laughed through  Bucket of Blood and Demonoid!)

We loved it. Most of the films were bad but made in earnest by the filmmakers. We didn’t care. We’d watch them and eat, sip cold beer, and smoke cigarettes, and were in our teenage glory.

One night I recognized my friend Joe’s (Best bassist on the island) car a few yards ahead of mine. I thought I’d walk over and say hello. I tried to peek in the window, but they were all steamed up. I tapped on the glass and the back window rolled down. Then I saw my pal Joe with his shirt off and beneath him lying on her back was some pretty girl. I quickly backed away from his vehicle and apologized for interrupting his movie experience. (Which neither of them were watching!) So I realized that the drive-in was a cheap, mobile hotel for amorous couples!

One of my most enduring memories of that place was in 1984 when I took my girlfriend Betty Ann to the drive-in. She had never been to a drive-in movie so it was all new fun to her. We pulled up in her blue BMW 5 series and had a grand old time. We drank beer, smoked pot and saw Footloose and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was a fantastic night. She loved it and I found out first hand that the windows really do steam up pretty quickly! (I’ll be covering the full Betty Ann saga in a series this fall, so stay tuned!)

Once a group of us went to the drive-in and I pulled the van up on the hill sideways. I opened the sliding door on the right side and the passenger door next to me. I passed around the can of OFF spray and everybody grabbed a beach chair I had brought and sat outside the van. I went over to the two speaker poles that were at each end of the car and left them on their poles and just cranked up the volume on each one. So we had four speakers going. We all camped outside around the van and could hear the show. They played the film Purple Rain and everybody went wild over that. It was a spectacular night of music and laughter. (After that, who didn’t want to cleanse their soul with Appolonia Kotero in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?)

Years later they tore it down and put up a shopping center and if you went out there now you’d never know the place ever existed. The advent of home video rentals killed the drive-in movies.

It now lives only in my memories.

I’d love to hear your comments on what your experiences were at this amazing place!

Check out my new book, LAWNDALE on Amazon. It’s packed with stories from my youth growing up in Northeast Philadelphia!

My next book, DOWN THE SHORE, a collection of stories from my summers in Wildwood in the 70s will be released in May of 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

LAWNDALE – The 312 Magee Avenue Playlist

The Lawndale book is just one week away from being published!

While writing the Lawndale book I started to think about all of the music we listened to growing up in the house on 312 Magee.

There was always some sort of music playing somewhere in the house at any given time. Whether it was my mom listening to Andy Williams on the record player in the dining room while she did her housework, or us kids listening to our records.

My father always loved music and would listen to classical and operas in the basement while he worked or read his books.

We had the jukebox on the porch that had been loaned to us by a couple that my dad was friends with and we loved that thing!

There was the the 8-track player in the 1969 VW minibus that we all rocked out to on trips on the road with dad.

We listened to the radio in the kitchen and would hear all the new popular songs of the day.

I would sometimes bring a little record player to the dinner table and sit it on the seat next to me. My dad wasn’t home, and it would be just my mom and my sisters. I would put little 45 rpm records on and we would all sing to them. It was a riot!

I got into listening to some of my favorite songs and bands recently on Spotify and thought about creating a playlist of all the music we heard in our house growing up as kids. Not just the music we owned, but all the theme songs from our favorite shows that were on TV in the 60s and 70s.

At first I thought it would be cool to share it with my sisters for nostalgic reasons. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be great to share it with all of the people who might remember some of these songs from their past as well.

So I’ve decided to add to the anticipation of the Lawndale book coming out next week and share it with everybody as a soundtrack to the book.

Some of the songs you may not recognize but some will make you smile and take you back to a simpler time. This is an eclectic mix of music and themes from the 60s and 70s that were alive in our house at 312 Magee growing up.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you’ll listen to it in the background while reading my book! (Don’t worry if you don’t have a Spotify account. It’s free and you can just go on and check it out!)

Here it is! The 312 Magee soundtrack!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/5nQ0QYz4dBIphiU7hiIZR4?utm_source=generator

I hope you all enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I’d also be happy to add any songs I may have forgotten!

Enjoy!

LAWNDALE the book will be available on Amazon next Tuesday on August 9th!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please like, comment, and most of all, FOLLOW Phicklephilly! I publish every week on Tuesdays.

Wildwood Daze – Botto’s and the Office

North Wildwood, New Jersey – Late 1970s

Botto’s

One of our favorite hangouts growing up at the shore was the beloved Botto’s Arcade at 10th and Surf Avenue. It was 2 blocks from our house and was a meeting place for the local kids.

In the first half of the decade, it was a small market full of food staples, sundries, and beach stuff. It’s where we used to go to buy our kites and string. But because Russo’s Market at 9th and Ocean was such a juggernaut and go-to spot they sort of ran Joe Botto out of business. Just geographic competition. Botto, a retired Philly cop, was never happy about that, but shifted gears and turned it into an arcade much to the joy of the neighborhood youth.

Botto’s had everything we needed for an enjoyable afternoon or evening as an alternative to the beach and boardwalk. A phonebooth outside in case you had to drop a dime and make a call, and a soda machine full of ice-cold beverages stood out front. Joe’s wife normally worked during the day, giving out change for the machines inside and operating the bike rental part of the business.

The place was small, but just the right size for us kids. A regulation-sized, slate pool table in the center of the room, and a thunderous jukebox packed with 45’s of all the hits of the day parked against the front wall near the entrance. (It played A and B sides! This way, I could listen to Walk this Way and Uncle Salty!)

All around the perimeter of the room were pinball machines and video games. My favorite pinball machine, Flash was where I spent most of my time and quarters. They had some of the greats… Eight Ball Deluxe, Gorgar, Wizard, Playboy, El Dorado, and Joker Poker, to name a few.

But, they had all the classic video games of the day in there too. Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Super Breakout, and Asteroids.

Botto’s was a place where teenagers could hang out, play games, chat, flirt, shoot pool, drink soda and smoke cigarettes. The owners were cool, and there was never any trouble there. I’ve spent many a rainy day or health night in that arcade. The phrase “health night” came from my mother. She used to say to me, “You’re out every night! Take a health night!”

You never knew who you might run into while you were there, but it was always a solid meeting spot to hang and make plans for where you may be heading afterward. It was surrounded by motels so even though its core audience was kids from the neighborhood, they always got a few tourists in there as well.

Across the street was a place called Golf City. It was pretty much a waste of valuable real estate that was home to a miniature gold course. Fun for the little kids and they had a small arcade as well, but overall it was lame.

Botto’s was the cool kid’s place. I spent many wonderful times in Botto’s in my youth, but sadly it’s now long gone. What stands in its place now is an ice cream stand.

All that’s left to remind me of the original Botto’s in the brick face and the door and windows. So picture this place without the A-roof, the awning, the sign, the benches, the lights, and the rest of anything pink.

What’s left would be a pretty boring-looking spot. But, none of that was important. Botto’s was about what was inside. The people, the music, the games, and the laughter.

The Office

That’s not what it was called. It was a little game room on the third floor of The Flying Dutchman Motel.

Right there on the southwest corner of the 3rd floor!

The photo I used at the beginning of this post is the motel before they added the 3rd floor. But that’s what The Flying Dutchman looked like in the 70s.

We knew the owners and they were cool with us going up there to smoke cigarettes and spend our quarters on their vending machines in their game room.

The reason we called this little spot The Office, is because we used it not only as a place to hang out and play but to have meetings. If there was some local drama going down or some stories to be told, this was the place it all took place.

I remember trying to tell my older sister some convoluted story about some things that had gone down on Morey’s Pier or some other crazy news from the neighborhood one day. She was trying to understand what we planned to do about this matter and I simply said: “Office…now.”

We liked it because it was high up off the street. We had a view and also liked the games they had in there. Just two pinball machines and an old 1972 Pong machine. There’s a link I provided, but it was so basic it may have been the first video game ever invented. But a fun game! Pinball was still king, but video games were getting better with every coming season.

The biggest difference between this place and Botto’s was, this spot was quieter and more private. You could hang up there, sit at the card table they had set up in there, and just chat. It didn’t have the number of games and music that Botto’s had, but this was our spot. Most of all, it was unsupervised.

This is probably one of the most important aspects of this little game room.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Pinball machines are designed so that you can’t rock them around too much or they’ll “Tilt.” What that means is, if you shake the machine too much or lift it up to slow the ball down or anything else to upset the machine while the ball is in play, it’ll light up, TILT, and the unit goes off and your ball drains down the hole. You’re done for being too rough with the unit and most of all trying to cheat.

But kids are creative, cunning, learning machines. You know that if the adults come up with some solution to thwart our fun or sustained play, we’ll probably work to come up with a solution to beat it.

So while the machine was on, we’d have one kid gently lift the lower front up off its legs and stack quarters under the legs, one or two at a time. This would flatten the play area on the board but not enough to TILT the machine. We’d get that baby up as high as possible. This would slow down the gameplay and go virtually unnoticed if someone walked in.

By applying this simple remedy, the game would be easier, you’d get a higher score and rack up more free games. That was the main goal. Free games! 

This also assisted with the legendary, “Back from the Dead.” What this meant was if you were in the middle of a game and the ball somehow got past your flippers, and towards the hole… if it was moving fast enough to bounce back out of the hole and back into play, it was always deemed a miracle, which was met with cheers from any onlookers. The ball literally came back from th dead!

So, we did that all the time up there.

Sometimes I would just go up there on my own and play pinball. I just wanted a little time alone to think and reflect on my life living at the seashore all summer. It was a brilliant and unforgettable few chapters from my young life.

Braces off, skin clear, and finally emerging from puberty!

Here’s a pic of me in 1978 on the 3rd-floor sun deck of The Flying Dutchman. The Office wasn’t just for pinball. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet the vacationing talent.

Pictured: Me with Ann and Gina Dougherty on the roof deck of the Flying Dutchman Motel -1978

Yea… tough times for Chaz in Wildwood!

If you liked this story, you’ll love my next book, Down The Shore, coming to a bookstore near you Memorial Day, 2023!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tales of Rock: Man Accidentally Trips On LSD For 9 Hours After Cleaning A Classic Synthesizer

Eliot Curtis accidentally tripped on LSD while fixing a vintage Buchla Model 100. He was tasked to repair a piece of history, but he didn’t expect to begin seeing history and time in front of him as tripped on acid. With his experience, he added another story to the history of the synthesizer, and it’s probably a good idea to making cleaning old equipment with gloves on a standard procedure.

The Buchla Model 100 was invented in the 1960s by Don Buchla of Berkeley. He completely immersed himself in counterculture, and in 1966, his synthesizers were put on a school bus converted to play music. The iconic bus of counterculture, Furthur, was purchased by Ken Kesey, an advocate for using acid. Among their crew was Owsley Stanley, a sound engineer and manufacturer of a potent strain of LSD. While these links can explain how the drug could’ve gotten on the synthesizer, it’s still unclear exactly how the LSD got on this specific one.

Curtis, the Broadcast Operations Manager for KPIX Televsion, was tasked with repairing the vintage analog music modular instrument they found in a closet at Cal State University East Bay’s music department. It was acquired by two music professors who taught in the university during the 1960s. During his repair, Curtis found something stuck under one of the knobs, and it appeared to be a crystal. He sprayed cleaning solvent on the residue to dissolve it a little bit, then he dislodged it from the knob to continue cleaning the area.

45 minutes later, Curtis began to feel strange tingling sensations. He speculated that he was tripping on LSD but thought that’s probably just his imagination. His original inkling, however, was true. His unexpected LSD trip lasted around nine hours.

Authorities later confirmed that residues of LSD were present on the instrument. According to reports, the place the synthesizer was stored made it possible for the LSD to remain potent. The machine was resting in a cool, dark place, so the drug’s potency was preserved so well that it was possible for the residue to be ingested through the skin. With his unexpected trip, Curtis learned a lot more about the 1960s counterculture than he could have ever imagined.

 

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Tales of Rock: The Night Rob Halford Saved Black Sabbath

When Metal Legends Collide…

In November 1992, Ozzy Osbourne was about to wrap up his supposedly final concert tour in support of the massively successful No More Tears album. Two “farewell” shows were scheduled at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, California.

To make these “retirement” concerts into an even bigger must-see event, the Osbourne camp reached out to Ozzy’s former band, Black Sabbath, with an offer to open the Costa Mesa shows. At the time, Sabbath was touring in support of 1992’s Dehumanizer album, which featured the return of vocalist Ronnie James Dio—the man who’d replaced Ozzy in Sabbath in 1980. Everybody thought this was a fabulous idea—except for Dio, who suspected that the invite was merely a back-door method to plant the seeds for a full fledged Sabbath/Ozzy reunion. Dio refused to do the shows and announced that he was leaving Black Sabbath for the second time.

No, sorry. I have more pride than that. A lot of bad things were being said from camp to camp, and it created this horrible schism. So, by them agreeing to play the shows in LA with Ozzy, that, to me, spelled out ‘reunion with Ozzy.’ And that obviously meant the end of our particular project.

— Ronnie James Dio

Various bootlegs of the Costa Mesa gigs. Note that the one on the top right says "with Rob Ralford." Ha!
Various bootlegs of the Costa Mesa gigs. Note that the one on the top right says “with Rob Ralford.” Ha! | Source

Enter Halford

In desperation, Sabbath’s Tony Iommi reached out to a fellow son of Birmingham to replace Dio for the two gigs: Rob Halford of Judas Priest fame. Rob was a free agent at the time, having split from Priest the previous year. He was also a massive Black Sabbath fan, so naturally he jumped at the chance to be their temporary front man. Legend has it that Rob only had two days to familiarize himself with Sabbath’s set list prior to the gigs.

Metal news traveled slower in those pre-internet days, so I imagine much of the audience in Costa Mesa must have been quite surprised to see Rob Halford take the stage with Sabbath on November 14th, 1992. By all accounts, the Metal God absolutely killed it, in spite of the short amount of prep time.

I’m sure that the bootleggers who were already there in force to capture Ozzy’s “last shows” on tape must have been absolutely thrilled to get the Halford/Sabbath combo as an added bonus. Their grainy VHS videos and scratchy audio recordings of the two gigs immediately became popular items in trading circles. For a brief time after the Costa Mesa shows, rumors circulated that Halford might be joining Black Sabbath full time, but obviously that never came to pass.

Night #1, Nov. 14, 1992 (Full Set)

Call for the Priest…

I own a CD of the second night’s show on November 15th (entitled The Priest Comes to the Sabbath), which seems to be the more common of the two nights available via bootleg. It’s obviously an audience recording (occasionally someone yells out “YEEEAAAAHHH!” or “WOOOOOO!” close to the recorder/mic and drowns out the music!) and unfortunately it’s missing the first song of the set (“The Mob Rules”), but aside from that it’s a decent quality recording of an amazing night in Heavy Metal history. Rob’s lack of rehearsal is most obvious during “Children of the Grave,” when he comes in at the wrong time and then has to repeat the first line of the song a moment later (whoops!). However, he quickly redeems himself with a fine rendition of Heaven and Hell‘s “Children of the Sea” (one of my all time favorite Sabbath tracks).

As the set goes on, I’d say that Rob’s singing style is better suited to the Dio era songs like “Neon Knights” and “Heaven and Hell,” but on the other hand, he does turn in some killer performances of Ozzy-era classics too, especially “N.I.B.” and “Into the Void.”

The crowd is clearly having a blast throughout the set, and it sounds like Rob himself is pretty damn jazzed to be singing for one of his favorite bands, too. I guess even Metal Gods can still have fanboy moments!

Night #2—November 15, 1992 (Full Set)

The Aftermath

Ozzy’s planned “retirement” didn’t last long. He was back out on the road again only a few years after the Costa Mesa shows, and Black Sabbath kept on truckin’ as well. Their paths frequently crossed with Ozzy’s during the late 90s at the man’s annual OzzFest attractions. Sabbath also managed to mend fences with the estranged Ronnie James Dio, releasing 2009’s The Devil You Know album with him (under the moniker “Heaven & Hell”) before Ronnie’s tragic death in 2010. A full fledged Ozzy/Sabbath reunion resulted in the 13 album, released in 2013, and a farewell tour.

Rob Halford spent the rest of the ’90s dabbling in street-level groove metal with his solo project Fight and electronic rock with the band “Two.” He returned to Priest style traditional metal with his Halford solo band before he rejoined Judas Priest in 2004.

Amazingly, Halford’s association with Black Sabbath wasn’t quite over yet. Judas Priest was taking part in the 2004 OzzFest tour, headlined by an Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath, when Ozzy came down with a bout of bronchitis at the Camden, New Jersey date. Rob was asked to step in for Sabbath once again, and even though he had already performed a full set with Judas Priest that day, he was still able to belt out an additional set of classics with Sabbath that night! “Iron Man” indeed!

“Paranoid” With Rob Halford—2004

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now on sale at Amazon!

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Tales of Rock: Meet Connie Hamzy — Rock And Roll’s “Most Notorious Groupie” And Bill Clinton’s First Sex Scandal

There was one drummer who got away, though. “I haven’t had Neal Peart. That I regret,” she said.

“Sweet” Connie Hamzy Parente (born January 9, 1955), also called “Sweet Sweet” Connie or Connie Flowers, is an American woman who is known as a groupie who claims to have had sex with numerous rock musicians. Hamzy also received some attention for her claim that she was propositioned by Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas.

Connie Hamzy Parente
Born
Connie Parente

January 9, 1955(age 64)

Little Rock, Arkansas
Occupation Media personality, groupie

She is mentioned in Grand Funk Railroad’s song “We’re an American Band” (“Sweet, sweet Connie, doin’ her act/ She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact.”)

Hamzy personally claims to have given oral sex to various members of the many bands that have traveled through Little Rock. Her alleged groupie escapades were detailed in a Cosmopolitan profile in 1974, and in 1992 she wrote a tell-all article for Penthouse.

In 1991, Hamzy was briefly in the news due to her claim that, in 1984, she had been approached by an Arkansas state trooper on behalf of Bill Clinton. She claimed that she and Clinton had looked for “a place where they could have some privacy for an assignation, but couldn’t find one.” George Stephanopoulos later recounted that Clinton told him a different story of his meeting with Hamzy. According to Clinton, Hamzy had approached him in a hotel lobby, flipped down her bikini top, and asked him, “What do you think of these?” Stephanopoulos secured affidavits from three people who had been accompanying Clinton and confirmed Clinton’s recollection. When asked about Hamzy by reporters, Stephanopoulos responded by denying the story off the record and offering to provide the affidavits, also off the record. Although CNN Headline News reported Hamzy’s allegations once, neither CNN nor other mainstream news organizations pursued the story further.[2]

Hamzy published a memoir in 1995 under the title Rock Groupie: The Intimate Adventures of “Sweet Connie” from Little Rock.

In 1996, Hamzy sought to run as an independent for the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas’ 2nd congressional district, but ultimately did not appear on the general election ballot.

Hamzy was featured in a segment of the Insomniac with Dave Attell episode in Little Rock.

Image result for connie hamzy

She was also interviewed on the Howard Stern Show on December 4, 1991, and again on December 8, 2010

As long as there’s an American band around, Connie Hamzy will keep “doin’ her act.”

Connie Hamzy, born Jan. 9, 1955, in Little Rock, Ark., has collected several nicknames over the years. Some call her Connie Flowers, “Sweet” Connie Hamzy, “Sweet Sweet” Connie, or just simply “Sweet Sweet.” A prominent rock groupie, her celebrity status was solidified in two lines from the Grand Funk Railroad’s 1973 song, “We’re an American Band,” which became the group’s first number one single:

“Sweet, sweet Connie, doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact.”

Connie Hamzy’s early escapades

Bands she was allegedly associated with include Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Bad Company, ZZ Top, and the Doobie Brothers. In 2005, Spin dubbed her“the world’s most notorious rock’n’roll groupie.” But she wasn’t just a 70s groupie. Hamzy was in it for the long haul.

Hamzy was only 15 years old when she was with her first rock star, the drummer for Steppenwolf, Jerry Edmonton. Then she moved onto to Keith Moon of The Who and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

Arkansas groupie claims she and Bill Clinton 'fondled each other ...

Drummers soon became her niche. “The drummers gravitated to me because they wanted to hear about John Bonham and Keith Moon,” she told Howard Stern in an interview. There was one drummer who got away, though. “I haven’t had Neal Peart. That I regret,” she said.

In the 1980s, while her fellow groupie comrades like Pamela Des Barres and Bebe Buell slowly drifted out of the scene to start families or write books about their wild exploits, Hamzy continued her groupie lifestyle into the 90s.

Connie Hamzy’s affair with politics

Connie Hamzy

In fact, some of the biggest waves she made came in 1991, shortly after Bill Clinton declared his candidacy for the presidential nomination. In a tell-all published by Penthouse magazine, Hamzy alleged that in 1984 she had an encounter with Clinton in a North Little Rock hotel while he was governor of Arkansas and married to Hillary Clinton. Hamzy said Bill spotted her while she was sunbathing by the hotel pool. The two of them went into the laundry room and fondled each other until they were abruptly interrupted.

Hamzy said that the incident fell on deaf ears. Political journalist George Stephanopoulos got affidavits from three individuals who said she approached Clinton and he rebuffed her. CNN picked up the story but dropped it after the affidavits were produced.

In 1995, she wrote a book titled Rock Groupie: The Intimate Adventures of “Sweet Connie” from Little Rock, but her love for rock stars didn’t stop. In her 2005 interview with Spin, when she was 50 years old, she told a story of a recent encounter with Neil Diamond while she was hanging on a tour bus.

Connie Hamzy - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

“Then he gets high with us and disappears backstage. A few minutes later, his manager says he wants to see me in his dressing room. So I knock on the door, and there’s Neil waiting for me in a blue robe.”

It wasn’t an unlikely encounter, given that Hamzy was reportedly backstage at every Arkansas gig well into the new millennium. “She’s a legend in Little Rock,” said Chris King, owner of the local music venue Sticky Fingerz.

Howard asked if Connie ever felt insulted that the rockers just passed her around like a plate of potatoes. “Well, a plate of good potatoes,” she replied.

Connie Hamzy, now 63, was back in the news in October of 2016, when she rehashed the sexual episode with Bill Clinton. She took a polygraph test about the alleged Clinton scandal and mailed the results over to Donald Trump’s campaign, who she gave her full support to.

This is Connie now.

Image result for connie hamzy

“Rock and Roll devours it’s own young.”Phicklephilly

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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