There’s a genre of movies out there – you know the ones: Smokey and the Bandit, Detroit Rock City, etc. – where our heroes are determined to get a certain place by a certain time despite all odds stacked against them. A KISS concert. Texarkana and back with a truckload of suds.
That is the story of my friends and I trying to see the sneak-peak, midnight showing of Batman way back in the summer of nineteen hundred and eighty-nine. Four hours of total chaos, the small matter of violating several federal codes, followed by our eventual detainment and release by military police. Spoiler alert: we made it to the Totem Theater in Anchorage, Alaska in the nick of time to see Batman.
All’s well that ends well.
By this point in our lives, my friends and I had established a vast network of theater workers that were more than happy to hook us up with advanced showings of any flick in town. Good times. Good friends.
My best friend lived in what was called hospital housing at the local air force base, and I was tasked with getting to his place for a little pre-Batman rabblerousing before hitting the road to see the show. As I had no car, this meant walking.
Back in the day, it used to be extremely easy to sneak on to virtually any military base in the country, excepting Area 51. Elmendorf Air Force base in Anchorage was no exception. Cross the highway, look for the hole in the fence, watch out for the odd moose or two, and pop out of the woods in hospital housing.
Being so close to the Fourth of July, we had plenty of fireworks on hand. Some of them may have been set off in inappropriate places. Blame it on youthful exuberance. Blame it on the rain. We were certainly juvenile delinquents, but harmless ones. We smoked grass and set off a few firecrackers now and again, but we weren’t strong-arming old ladies for their purses or anything.
But that night, our luck ran out.
Our first and most obvious problem was that we were the only punk rockers on base. Everyone knew who we were, including all of the MP’s. After our little pre-Fourth fireworks celebration at the expense of the peace and quiet of the neighbors, we left to go pick up more friends and cause trouble elsewhere before the movie. As we were leaving the base, one of the MP’s jumped out in front of our car and pulled his gun.
This was new.
We were teenagers and scared witless. We stopped and were immediately pulled out of the car and arrested for fireworks, alcohol possession, etc., and were brought down to the pokey. I wound up with the additional charge of unauthorized entry onto a military installation.
Being underage, they didn’t lock us up with the wayward recruits, but split us between various offices at the station. Here we had something of a Goldilocks moment. My office was much too small. My other friend’s office was far too large. But our third friend, his was just right. Despite detaining the lot of us for minors in possession of alcohol, they set him up in the room – wait for it – where they kept all the confiscated alcohol. It wasn’t long before I heard, “Pssst. Pssst.” I leaned my head out of my office in time to see my friend take a swig of the complimentary Jack Daniels.
Later, a couple of MP’s came into my office and made me empty my pockets. Wallet, keys, loose change, cigarettes, and a little metal box I used to keep in my jacket. I was small, goldish in color and had a tiny metal clasp.
“This better not be what I think it is,” said one of the officers grimly. Implying this was where I kept my cocaine, or PCP, or whatever it was they thought I had.
“It’s not,” I replied, trying my hardest not to come off like a smartass.
The MP picked up the tiny box. He opened it and was surprised and delighted to see the cascading images of Disneyland circa the early seventies come unfolding out of it. We had a good laugh and the military cops and I were good after that.
They kept us in the offices for another hour or two waiting for our respective parents to spring us from hoosegow. There was no bail – despite our offences, our punishment amounted to nothing more than going to bed without any supper, followed up by a stern letter from some general. My friend followed my mother and I in his car long enough for me to hop out at a red light and jump in his car. We flipped a U-turn and made it to the theater with minutes to spare.
We no longer had any booze, but we did have a heck of a good movie before us, and an even better story behind us.
Oh, and the movie was good too. But then again, you already knew that. Michael Keaton is will forever be my Batman of choice.
Tell Me Something, My Friend, Have You Ever Danced With the Devil in the Pale Moonlight?