To me, the Melbourne of the late 60's and 70's was a thriving hive of softcore sexual succulence.
I didn't have internet porn when I was a kid. I couldn't get on-line and stream obscenity until my balls turned blue.
No, I had newspaper ad mats like these.
I guess they're responsible for my insane filmmakers' optimism.
In order to be a filmmaker, you've got to be insanely optimistic while attempting to remain realistic. It's not an easy line to walk.
I certainly didn't walk it well when I was seven years old. In fact, I must have been some sort of nutcase to even ask my mother to take me to I Married You For Fun. What the fuck was the likelihood of that happening? See, insane optimism?
Still, I persisted. I pointed to the ad and said "Can I see that movie? I'll mow the lawns for two years if you let me."
I never saw the movie, but I still mowed the lawns for two years.
The Star Adult Cinema on Melbourne's Elizabeth Street fascinated me for a decade. I actually thought you'd find people lounging around naked like this inside. Every now and then, my mum would take me into the city to see my eye doctor. On the way back to the station, I'd always insist on walking past the Star. It had flashing lights, pictures of semi-naked girls, and men in long coats buzzed up and down its grimy steps. Sometimes I'd take a short detour down those steps, but my mum's firm hand always pulled me back into line.
What's a "loving feeling"? I asked myself. Are those people on the poster experiencing one? "Beautiful birds," the poster sings. "Beautifully stimulating." Stimulating? Was that something I could be part of?
Not on your fuckin nelly, mate!
Steptoe and Son was a popular British TV show screened on Channel 2 in Melbourne. 'Steptoe' was a grumpy old coot and his son tolerated him. I made no attempt to see this one at the drive-in because I could already see it on TV. Didn't other people realize that?
Of course, this was a slightly raunchier version of the TV show. The girls probably said "Saucy!" a lot and acted like they didn't want sex -- not unless they had a beer first.
Forbidden Decameron screened at the Playbox, not a traditional Melbourne porn venue. The theatre became a traditional live venue in the late 70's and never turned back.
The film, riding on the Decameron bandwagon, was a '72 flick from Italy. I never saw it, but I was fixated on the fact that it was "a more sensuous insight" into the writings of a bloke I'd never heard of.
What did "sensuous" mean? Could I be part of sensuous things?
I didn't know the answer to that one.
The word "romp" was used, too. I was learning quickly that a "romp" usually involved naked things.
A '78 film from Germany in which a lot of girls romp and act sensuously, I was 16 when it hit local drive-ins, but because I was in the middle of important high school exams at the time, I was denied the film's subtle pleasures.
The support, Alice Sweet Alice, is one of my favorite horror movies ever.
I took the Slaughter ad mat to school and achieved temporary popularity very quickly. This was as close as my classmates got to women with bumps on their chests. Bumps AND guns upped the ante considerably, so I rode my legendary status for a day or two.
I grew up knowing that Jim Brown was a very important American. I couldn't figure out why he wasn't President. He had more girls than the President. Well, maybe not more than JFK.
The Wife Swappers was another of my youthful fixations. When I finally saw it, I wasn't disappointed. It delivered.
But back when I was 8 in 1970, the concept of wife swapping confused me. I wanted to know the mechanics of wife swapping, so I asked my mum.
"What's wife swapping?"
Mum's answer began in the usual way: "Who wants to know that?"
My reply was the usual also: "A kid at school."
"Where did you hear that?"
"It's in a movie."
"What stupid movie?"
My investigation into wife swapping almost ended there. Almost.
"Mum, does dad swap you?"
"Does dad do some wife swaps?"
"Don't be ridiculous. He's at work."
That wasn't an answer, but it popped my balloon temporarily.
Until dad got home.
I approached him after dinner as he settled down to watch a popular Melbourne TV show called League Teams. On the show, they announced upcoming line-ups for Saturday's footy games.
"Dad, what's wife swapping?"
Dad looked through me while pondering the question.
He'd heard me, but he needed time to recover.
"What's wife swapping?"
"Oh, I don't know. Who wants to know that?"
"A kid at school."
"I dunno his name. Just a kid."
Dad tried looking at League Teams to avoid looking at me. A bloke named Lou Richards was speaking.
"Dad, have you ever swapped mum for another mum?"
He didn't do it much, but dad looked at me and smiled. It was a smile that came before a low volume answer.
"Nah," he said. "I wouldn't get away with thinking about that, let alone doing it."
I didn't know what dad meant, but I was sure he'd shared something a little grown-up with me. I appreciated that.
This one confused me. "Some girls do, some girls don't."
"Do" what? What do they "do"? What don't they "do"? What was I missing out on?
Pre-The Blood on Satan's Claw, the beautiful Linda Hayden in the classic Baby Love. Saw this at the Burwood drive-in with dad. The main feature was Medak's The Ruling Class, a film I didn't really get at the time. I did get Baby Love, though, and I fell in love with Linda Hayden.
Lucky for me, there was a girl who lived out the back of our local Milk Bar named Louise. I started to think that she looked like Linda Hayden after I fell for Linda. Louise could do no wrong. I followed her down to the park once and watched her smoking a secret cigarette, one she'd pinched from her own mum's Milk Bar. Smoking looked sexy when Louise did it.
Nothing serious happened with me and Louise, but I did go "digital" with her on one occasion. That's another story, and I didn't need to marry her, either.
I urged both my parents to take me to see The Initiation. I promised to make beds, dry dishes, mow lawns, and forsake five years of birthday presents for the privilege of seeing this. A Canadian flick from Denis Heroux, a future producer of Scanners, I worshipped the artistic poster, and was deeply affected by the idea that three people could be naked together.
I made my case with mum while I was drying the dinner dishes:
"It's about flowers," I said.
Mum took a quick glance at the ad mat I'd already pasted into my scrapbook.
"Why do you even want that in your book?" she said, not at all pleased with my interest in illustrated threesomes.
"It finishes next week," I said.
"Good," she said, "and good riddance. We don't need films like that."
What do you mean "we", I thought. I need films like that.
"Can't we see it?"
"It's not for children," she said.
"Then who's it for?"
"I thought you said I'm a grown-up now," I countered.
"You're not THAT grown-up," she sneered, flipping the dish towel onto the rack. "And it's time you went to bed, too."
I persisted. "I'll see it on my own if you don't let me."
"You won't be seeing it on your own or with anybody. It's not for you."
And that's what stuck in my head for years: "It's not for you, it's not for you, it's not for sure." The statement echoed in a cheap echo chamber.
When I did finally see it, those words made it more enjoyable. I was finally watching a film that wasn't for me, wasn't for me, wasn't for me. I was defying my mother. Not even a great score can make a film as enjoyable as one watched in a state of defiance of your mother.
I tried hard to convince dad to take me to The Hitchhikers. Despite the fact that it was restricted to children over the age of 18, I almost succeeded. I recall him looking up where it was playing and studying the ladies on the ad. To me, that was as good as a yes, let's hit the road, son!
Unfortunately, nobody hit the road. I hit bed instead.
I never saw the film for another twenty years, but I sure enjoyed waving to female hitchhikers whenever our family went on a holiday at Xmas time. Dad never stopped to pick any up because he didn't want me having too much fun, I guess. Or maybe he was scared of what mum what say. She'd already put her foot down on wife swapping. God knows what she'd think about hitchhikers.