My love affair with movies began at the age of 10. I had been out of school for six weeks due to a fabricated illness and, during that time, would eventually come to watch 1-2 movies a day. All kinds of movies, too. Film noir like Repeat Performance with Joan Lesley and Louis Hayward; classics like Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Lilies in the Field; The Devil at 4 O’clock, starring Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy, a disaster-redemption movie with some cheesy special effects; and a long string of musicals, horror, and comedy films filling out the mix. I educated myself and probably learned more watching movies on TV than I would have learned from Sister James in the classroom during those same six weeks.

The first movie I ever saw in the theater was with my family, though I don’t remember it, The Sons of Katie Elder. My brother Chris told me I cried because the mother had died, and the father was murdered. A good old-fashioned Western with John Wayne and Dean Martin and gunfights and revenge. I remember seeing The Last of Sheila, Papillon, the Raquel Welch version of The Three Musketeers, Three Days of the Condor, Billy Jack, and Jaws. I saw Jaws the first of 100 times at a Manhattan, Kansas, drive-in in the summer of ‘75. I saw it again that same summer with my mother at the Maplewood Movie Theater in Jersey. I got such a kick watching her leap when the head with one eye came popping out of the boat’s shark-bitten hull. That was Hollywood’s first certifiable blockbuster and the last movie I ever saw with my mom.

I made a couple of 16 mm student films with my friend Tom Foligno. He was majoring in film editing at William Paterson University. The first film was made by the seat of our pants, and the second one had a real crew in charge of the sound, lighting, and camera. All I had to do was act, and that I did, and Tom directed and edited it (we loved saying “edited it”). He earned high marks, and, regrettably, would lose the prints to both films. (Proud shoutout: Tom lives out in California now where he continues to ply his trade as an editor. Google Tom Foligno on IMDB to see from what greatness I hail.)

A cast and crew of approximately 20 NYU students took over my parents’ house for two weeks in the summer of ‘82 to make a horror film called No Fear. I desperately wanted to be invited to join the production team in some way. I was willing to be the assistant to the assistant’s assistant Best Boy. My parents were super gracious and allowed the filmmakers to move furniture all around and use the space every day for hours. Our house was transformed into a place of demonic possession. Come to think of it, I guess it wasn’t really much of a transformation.

RLRS students at Theater at Monmouth performance of Henry V, circa 2017.

I formed a loose band of moviegoing friends in the ‘80s who, during our college years and slightly beyond, would join me on Sunday evenings to see movies. Those in attendance changed from week to week depending on who was around and who had the time. A friend dubbed this weekly event the Tim Straub South Orange Movie Club (TSSOMC). I was deep into entertainment news and reviews. I rarely, if ever, picked a dud. I switched up the venue regularly; my personal favorite was the Bellevue Theater in Upper Montclair. We’d have our pre-movie prep and post-movie wrap-up at a diner or bar. We knew those times weren’t going to last, so we made memories that would.

Whoever thought of marrying movies with buttered popcorn was a genius. This combined with salt was a blessing for the taste buds, and a boon for cardiac surgeons. And, lately, theaters are carrying an expansive variety of seasonings: bacon cheddar, cheesy caramel corn, garlic parm, pignut basil turpentine, etc. They also offer nutritional yeast to fool us into believing we’re pursuing healthy choices.

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In the fall of 2014, I was enlisted to play the role of an upset father arguing with his wife, played by the unflappable Kate Philbrick. Tori Dailey, an NYU student at the time, was directing. She brought a large crew to film in Oquossoc. The short film, Carry Road, was about a hit-and-run, and it was set in Oquossoc. You can find a snippet of it on Vimeo. Kate and I are still waiting to hear if we won any awards for our realistic portrayals.

Val and Jeff Zapolsky purchased the Lakeside Theater in 2011 and hired me to manage it, which I did until January 2020. What a thrill, an actual dream come true. The Lakeside Theater is a jewel socked away in the backwoods of Maine’s Western Mountains; an oasis of culture, a place for the whole community to gather and be entertained. I was sitting in the makeshift manager’s office the first time I heard the projector’s machinery begin to whir, hum, and rapidly click-click-click-click-click, the 35 mm film being fed into the projector through a complex unspooling system.

I felt transported, temporarily removed from the land of responsibilities and brought to witness what Dionysus had wrought for us mere mortals. I peered through an office window and saw the audience’s heads silhouetted as the opening credits rolled. My son, Sam, who was the projectionist, looked through a small, rectangular window connecting the projection room and the office. We smiled at each other knowing that by the movie’s end the bad guys would be dead, the gallant hero would ride off into the sunset with the lucky damsel, and the audience would walk, like zombies, readjusting their eyes to the daylight, returning to the reality waiting outside as the ending credits scrolled.

The End.

 

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