PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 19

When Natalie learned from Gorman that the picture was opening the following weekend, she immediately experienced feelings of ambivalence. On the one hand, as she had told Gil when they had gone to see Gil’s documentary in Pasadena at the beginning of the year, she was not a fan of the type of movie Gorman usually produced. On the other hand, she also knew that for the last six weeks Gil, between bouts of nervousness and anxiety over Gorman’s opinion of his work, had talked excitedly about his experiences making the film. They had almost literally talked about nothing else since the picture had been wrapped.

So it was with mixed emotions that she agreed to go with Gil to its premiere. They compromised by agreeing that since it was really a drive-in picture anyway, they should go to a drive-in to see it. This way they would be private, in the car, and Gil could talk as much as he wanted about various things that happened during the shooting, and Natalie could ask him questions without the problem of disturbing other members of the audience. The bonus was that they could also bring a six-pack and a couple of  joints.

They settled on a theater called the SkyView Drive-In in Santa Monica fairly close to the beach. On a pleasantly chilly late October Saturday night just before Halloween, Gil with Natalie beside him in the Honda drove up to the drive-in’s entrance and purchased for two whole dollars an admission which covered all occupants of the car, and then drove to a space somewhere around the middle of the parking area but close to the little shack that served as a snack bar. They had brought food and drink but they wanted to be near the snack bar as that was where the rest rooms were located.

It was a clear night and a big orange harvest moon was just beginning to rise behind them as Gil rolled down his window and took the metal speaker from the post on the driver’s side of the car. Hooking it onto the top of the window he rolled the window back up to secure it and then checked the volume knob. The sound was tinny but they deemed it acceptable.

As they settled back into their seats they were satisfied with the view. The drive-in screen was basically a large flat wall about twenty yards from the front of their car and on it was displayed a variety of commercials for snack bar items, interspersed periodically with a clock face that showed how long it was until the first feature began.

They had only to wait about half an hour, as by eight o’clock it was dark enough to start the film, and they settled back to watch Gil’s masterpiece unfold on the big screen.

At first it seemed to Natalie like your normal beach party surfer film, but at Gil’s urgings and explanations she watched and listened more closely. Soon she realized that much of what she and Gil had read in Joe Bob’s review of the film was actually true. It did have really great production values, especially for a film of this kind. Some of the dialogue, she noticed, was actually very intelligent, sometimes bordering on the existential. She particularly like the scene about halfway through the film in which a scrawny hippie-type guy with long straggly unkempt hair and dressed in a long Indian shirt was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the beach house living room, playing guru to a young woman who looked to be only in her late teens and was dressed in a tight T-shirt which highlighted her ample breasts and a pair of very short cut-off jeans. She was sitting across from him on the floor only half listening as she was obviously more interested in the joint she was smoking.

Hippie Guy: You see, my child, we are all but grains of sand gathered together on the beach of life.

Hippie Girl: I guess that explains why everyone walks all over me.

Hippie Guy (not noticing her satire): As our lives on this planet are short indeed we must try to give each other all the pleasure that we can.

Hippie Girl: So far, it seems to be only the guys that get the pleasure.

Hippie Guy begins to intone more nonsense but Hippie Girl interrupts him: Oh for heaven’s sake, if you want to ball, why don’t you just say so?

Hippie Guy (dropping the pose): Yes, I want to ball! Please, please, please!

Hippie Girl (gets to her feet, stubs out the joint in a nearby ashtray, rolls her eyes heavenward, and extends her hand): Oh all right. Come on then.

Hippie Guy gets to his feet, grabs her hand, and she leads him into a nearby bedroom and closes the door.

Camera pans to another guy who is lying sprawled on a ratty sofa smoking a joint.

Second Hippie Guy (to no one in particular): Man, that dude better work on his pickup technique.

There were several scenes like that, but the one that puzzled her the most was the one that occurred later in the movie. The scene was at night on the beach, the moon was out, and it shone with a silvery glint on both the ocean waves and the white sand. Here and there the hippies had built small impromptu fires and were roasting various semi-edible objects over their flames. As the camera moved in for a close-up on one of these fires a large hippie dude approached another one who was sitting by the fire eating a hot dog.

Large Hippie Dude (looking and acting worried and anxious): George, George, you gotta help me.

Sitting Hippie Dude: What is it, Lenny? What’s wrong?

Hippie Lenny: You gotta help me, George.

Hippie George (note of exasperation creeping into his voice): What is it for God’s sake?

Hippie Lenny: I’m really really stoned, man. I can’t feel my body.

Hippie George: So? What’s so unusual about that?

Hippie Lenny (reaching out and shaking George’s shoulders): You gotta promise, George.

Hippie George (fending off Lenny as best he can): All right already! What’s so important?

Hippie Lenny (now sweating and looking George seriously in the face from a distance of about three inches): I don’t want to embarrass myself, George, you gotta tell me when I need to piss.

Hippie George (turning his head towards the camera and feigning humoring a mental patient): Suuure,  Lenny, suuure. I’ll let you know.

Hippie Lenny (standing up again and giving George a big relieved grin): Thanks, George, I knew I could count on you. You’re my best friend.

Hippie Lenny walks off unsteadily but happily down the beach while George once again looks at the camera and, giving the universal whirling finger sign that indicates the insane, hums the first eight notes of the Twilight Zone theme.

While this scene was playing on the movie screen, Natalie was snuggled up close to Gil on the front seat of the Honda, her head against his shoulder, her left arm draped around his neck, while she idly stroked his ever-expanding manhood. Looking up at him at the conclusion of this scene she asked with mock innocence, “Can guys really tell when other guys need to piss?”

“Nope,” Gil replied, a grin spreading across his face. They had both shared one of the joints and were working on their second cans of the Rainier Ale six-pack that Gil had picked up on the way. “Not unless they dance around and grab their crotches a lot.”

Natalie giggled at that and squeezed his nether region tighter. Then however she saw something on the screen that made her sit bolt upright. “Turn that up,” she told Gil.

She was looking at a scene where a bunch of guys were on the beach and a tall figure was walking up to them holding in his hands a case of beer with a large pizza box on top of it. “Is that you?” she asked Gil in an awed whisper.

Gil put his finger to his lips in a shushing motion as one of the guys on the screen exclaimed, “Hey, dudes, it’s Bert Toast back with the beer!”

“Bert Toast?” repeated Natalie.

Gil looked at her with a wide grin and tousled her fluffy hair. “Yeah,” he admitted. “Pretty cool, huh? I decided that since this was an improv picture anyway I’d give myself a cameo. You know, kinda like Hitchcock?”

On-screen, Gil/Bert was handing the pizza and the beer to the several hippies who grabbed them eagerly and began consumption. “Good old Bert Toast,” one of them said, “he always comes through.”

“Yeah,” said Natalie, still incredulous. “But Burt Toast?”

“I made that up myself,” said Gil. “Pretty cool, huh?”

“If you say so,” she said, and returned to her idle stroking.

On-screen the climax was coming. There was a huge muffled cheer from the cars in the lot as the gang of bikers swooped down onto the beach, some of which clearly bore the colors of the Santa Monica chapter of the Vultures. There was much yelling, drinking, smoking, and groping until a terrible figure rose out of the waves.

“That’s Trigger Mortis,” explained Gil. “He’s in a wet suit that we glued a bunch of stuff on to make it look like iridescent fish scales.”

As this was obviously the monster that had been doing the previous off-screen damage, both bikers and hippies turned on him at once and with various implements of destruction soon drove him back into the sea. Broken and bleeding he soon sank beneath the waves, never to be seen again. That left only the final orgy/party scene as the bikers grabbed the hippie chicks and the bikers’ tough-looking mamas grabbed the hippie guys. Soon their naked bodies were writhing and cavorting all over the beach as the music swelled and the screen proudly proclaimed The End.

As the credits rolled Natalie was amused to see that the last name in the actors’ credits was simply, Bert Toast. Looking at him more seriously she exclaimed, “Wow. All those naked bodies have gotten me more than a little horny.” She eyed him with a little suspicion. “How did you survive this day in and day out for nearly four weeks? It must have been hard.”

“No kidding,” responded Gil with feeling. “It took all I had to keep my mind on my work.” He gave her a serious look and squinted. “Camera angles. Shot compositions. Entrances. Exits. All that kind of stuff. And Richard the cinematographer was a big help. He kept reminding me I was shooting the scene, not just watching it. But most of all,” he looked at her tenderly, “I kept picturing you lying there at home. What you probably looked like in bed. That kept me going and kept my hands off forbidden fruit. I don’t think I could have done it a year ago. You know, before we started, uh, you know…”

“Right,” she said briskly, “I know.” And then she said with a leer, “Hey big boy, wanna do it in the car?”

He looked at the movie screen, which was still showing about twenty minutes until the next feature. “Sure,” he said, “why not.”

They decided that first they would make quick but separate trips to the rest room so as not to leave the car unattended. When they had both returned, Natalie climbed into the back seat and Gil did the same. Unfortunately his lanky frame was not able to stretch out in the cozy confines of the Honda, so he pulled his pants down and placed his knees on either side of Natalie’s hips and was able to function in that manner. Unfortunately, a side effect of this position was that his unclothed posterior was pressed firmly against the not-yet sufficiently steamed side window of the Honda so that it looked for all the world as if he was mooning anybody within noticing distance.

And sure enough, when they had finished and Gil had removed his rear from the window, they heard muffled cheers and applause from the next car over. Bobbing their heads up to window level, they grinned and waved at the people in the car who grinned and waved back. Then with a big grin Natalie pulled Gil down on top of her once more, planted a big wet kiss on his lips and declaimed, “Bert Toast, I dig you the most.”

As they once again rearranged their clothing to a more presentable state and settled themselves back into the front seat again Natalie remarked, “Just another reason why it’s fun to go to the drive-in.”

By this time the second feature was about to start and Gil turned the speaker up once again. The second feature was the perennial Halloween favorite Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, starring Christopher Lee as the always-coming-back-from-the-dead bloodsucking count, together with a bevy of nubile partially-clothed beauties with obvious front and rear assets. Gil and Natalie smoked, drank, ate popcorn, and giggled through the movie, and when it was over they realized two things: One, that it was well past midnight, and two, that the popcorn was not enough to stave off the galloping munchies.

Fortunately Natalie knew of a drive-in hamburger joint only a few miles down the beach that stayed open on weekends until about three to accommodate the bar rush. So they drove out of the drive-in, doing the mandatory horn honking and headlight blinking and, stoned as he was, Gil had little trouble maneuvering the Honda down the quiet beach road, finding the drive-in and maneuvering them into a parking space.

After gorging themselves on cheeseburgers and fries, they decided to take the car down close to the beach and walk along the shore. It was a beautiful evening, crisp, cool and clear, and the harvest moon had passed its zenith but was still high in the sky, its beams making a sparkling reflection on the gently lapping waves.

They both took off their shoes, rolled up their jeans, and began walking down the beach, arm in arm, smoking their last joint and giggling fondly at each other, as the moon continued to shine and the waves continued to shimmer and whisper.

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