me and American Grafitti

me and American Grafitti

The summer of 1973 was coming to a close. I was still at the Renton Cinemas working as an usher and a doorman. Changes lay around the corner though, all of which I was happily unaware.

What I was aware of was my excitement for an upcoming release, booked for the Cinemas. The buzz out of LA and the GCC booking department was that a ground breaking film was going to light up the waning days of summer. They had screened a film by a young film student George Lucas. And they were high on it. The title was a little out of the ordinary, a puzzler actually – AMERICAN GRAFITTI.

The booking department was right. American Grafitti became a surprise sleeper hit. We simply did not have enough seats for all the people who wanted to see it. I saw it. Many times. And in many pieces. And its music filled the auditorium.

For it was a favorite to slip in on and catch a scene here and there. And indulge in the usher’s pastime – watching the audience. (A wise man once told me that there are three audiences – others; you, yourself; and the audience of One [God]). Here I was an audience to the audience. And I was enjoying their pleasure in seeing something for the first time.

The all time favorite scene to catch was the race at the end between Ron Howard and Harrison Ford (and the build up supplied by Booker T and the MGs – Green Onions). There was a built in excuse. An usher had to be on hand anyway, to open the doors and direct the customers out. Word had circulated that an in-joke had been included by the filmmakers when they made this film. The license plate for Harrison Ford’s vehicle read THX138, a reference to Lucas’ student film THX1138, which he later remade into his first feature film for Warners.

After hearing this, I went in to check it out. And the rumors were right. There it was in Technicolor. But I also couldn’t help but notice the license plate on the other car. GLD204. Did that mean anything?

Then it came at me in a rush. The GL must stand in for George Lucas; and after a puzzling moment I decided that the D must be for Director. And it all made perfect sense. Perhaps it is all only a coincidence, but…

In a town where you are only as good as your last project, film, or whatever; you are in competition with yourself, always having to surpass the one before.

Cue – All Summer Long by the Beach Boys.