As in the case with most epics, many colorful events occurred during my final days at the Starlite. Most of those colorful events were driven by colorful people, people that I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the Starlite which was sort of a vortex of idiosynchracy. One of those people was Wayne Green.
Wayne was a regular at the Starlite, as well as a drive-in afficianado. One particularly slow night, Shane came in from his car and we began a snack bar conversation about drive in culture etc. Wayne became so engrossed in the conversation that he missed the second feature which was The Deep with Nick Nolte and Jackie Bissett. Due to no faul of our own, we had been playing the movie one reel short and out of order but nobody complained except one time when the sound went off for a minute or two and a few people honked. That’s when I realized that people didn’t give a shit what they were watching as long as they could hear it.
Wayne asked me how to operate the popcorn machine, I showed him. He was immediately hooked on concession stand life.
I told Wayne that anytime he wanted to stop by and help me run the stand, we’d let him in for free. Most nights, Wayne would show up and volunteer his services as popcorn popper. Wayne wasn’t the only one. Towards the end I had six or seven people who enjoyed the concession stand so much that they would come to the drive in just to hang around every so often going back to their cars to drink beer or whatever. The concession stand became an oddball country club. Almost every night one or two or more of these volunteers would show up to pop and pour. In the end, they were basically running the stand and I was spending more and more time in party cars.
Outside of the stand, I didn’t know much about Wayne of the other “volunteers but I figured they were either geniuses or lunatics and probably both. We’d get into some pretty crazy conversations on slow nights and since we kept playing Jean Michael Vincent level movies without half price admission or free popcorn, there were a lot of slow nights.
One night Wayne and I were talking about making lemonade of lemons, making a fortune out of a misfortune. Wayne told me about a guy that he knew whose truck caught fire the same week that the engine of his boat blew up. Shane told me that the guy welded the body of his boat on to the frame and motor of his car, got some dealer plates and drove around in his truck boat.
I had trouble believing that one. I told Wayne so. He assured me that the story was true. I said “yeah, right” and forgot about the whole deal.
About a month later, I was mowing my lawn when a boat with dealer plates pulled into my driveway. Wayne was at the wheel. How can I describe this contraption? I know. A speed boat on wheels and that’s exactly what it looked like although you couldn’t see the wheels too well. I called up a few people and there were already a few folks partying in my hose. Everybody changed into shorts and swim suits. The guys stripped off their shirts. Before long we had a boat chock full of nuts all singing “ooh Wee, Ooh wee Baby, come and let me take you on a Sea Cruise.” We set off driving through Mendon like five dimensional survivors from a demented Beach Blanket Bingo flick minus Frankie and Annette with Beach Boy, Dick Dale and Surfaris music blasting from the deck on the deck.
You should have seen the cars as they passed us. Imagine a cool late September afternoon. You’re driving down Mendon Town Line Road. Suddenly you see a speed boat approaching you full of lunatic/geniuses mash potatoing, twisting and watusiying to Msirlou or I get Around or Wipeout. My only regret is we didn’t take the time to grab Seymour the pig, throw some shades on him and include him in the voyage.
We cruised around Pittsford and Mendon for a half hour. Truck boats use an awful lot of gas. Eventually, we pulled back into my driveway and abandoned ship.
I never doubted Wayne again.
The Starlite era had ended. The truck boat had been revealed. Apparently Wayne’s purpose in my life was fulfilled, including one bit of information that I was awake enough to remember.
As we were heading back to the house, Wayne asked me if I wanted to take the wheel. Paranoia set in. I could see the headlines, “Local teacher crashes into telephone pole in truck boat filled with passengers without seat belts or life jackets.”
Wayne was silent for a moment, keeping his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel. He asked me “if I remembered the night when all the cars pulled out of the Starlite and then pulled back in.”
I said, “of course I remembered that.’
Wayne said that He hadn’t believed ME when I told him that story.
Wayne believed it now because he knew the guy who was the first person to pull out, the guy who had started the entire righteous exodus. The guy who helped right the wrong.
Turns out the guy was on his first date that night and legitimately wanted to see the movie because he and his date were fans of Will Sampson and Tonto.
The guy’s named was Ovid and his date was named Julia.
The date had been a success.