The 80s were a harrowing time. The threat of nuclear war. The threat of having to repeat an entire school year because you thought your shell shocked geometry teacher’s pedagogical method was, in a word, lacking.
Ok. That last one was a lie. Well, to be more accurate, the latter half was. When I was fourteen years old I didn’t know what “pedagogical” meant. I did nearly flunk my geometry class. And my teacher was rumored to be shell shocked.
Then there was the ever-looming threat of library fines where I spent almost as much time as I did at school. That part about frequenting the public library? That was true, though I kept that a secret from my friends. They weren’t readers, by and large, not even Tolkien whose books, at that time, were still popular among potheads like us.
One Saturday night there were no parties to attend, no one out in the woods with beer or Boone’s Farm. Someone said, “let’s go to the movies.” What? I thought. Walk there? Just then our friend Mike showed up in his 1979 Chevy Impala. He was a junior. We were freshmen. Four of us climbed inside. One friend produced a joint. We smoked the whole thing. Then Mike took out a joint twice as large as the first. By the time we got to the movie theater, we were all potted up.
The trouble began when someone confused Blame It On Rio with Cat People, Michelle Johnson for Natassja Kinski.
Someone said Natassja Kinski got naked in Cat People. Another friend reminded us that she was European. “Natassja is European, man,” he said. “German. And you know what they say about German chicks.” None of us did. We’d never been east of Wildwood, NJ.
Mike was the only one old enough to get into an R-rated movie. The lady in the ticket booth made us so paranoid we just pointed to the Blame It on Rio movie poster without reading the title when she demanded to know what movie we wanted tickets for.
She asked me, “When were you born, young man?”
I said, “seventeen years ago.”
My friends found that hysterical. I didn’t mean to be funny. I had visions of the police showing up and ultimately getting pimped out in prison just because I lied about getting into Blame It On Rio. Somehow, we got tickets anyway.
There may have been a trip to the snack bar before going into the theater proper. All I remembered of Blame It On Rio was Michael Caine’s giant eyeglasses. Then, suddenly, the movie was over.
In school on Monday one of my friends remarked, “I still can’t remember anything about that movie.”
There was good reason. On the night of the living potheads, the five of us had walked into the theater for the last fifteen minutes of the movie. By the time I figured out the mystery of memory loss with regard to Blame It On Rio, the 80s, a harrowing time indeed, were long over.