Bench seats in the Chevy, AM radio crackling from the dashboard, and every Friday night at the local drive-in. Those were the days before home video, where the drive-in was only place to view classic favorites. Dusk-to-dawn marathons of horror, motorcycles, prison babes and corn porn were a staple around Jacksonville during the heyday of drive-in theatres when everyone tried at least once, hidden away inside the trunk, to slip past the ticket taker — and got caught.
At one time there were thirteen outdoor movie theatres in Jacksonville. You could visit the Midway on Beach Boulevard or the Fox over on Normandy. The Southside Drive-In dominated the corner of University Boulevard and Philips Highway. Near the intersection of University and Atlantic was the Atlantic Drive-In, and the University Drive-In towards JU is now the home of the new public library. Unfortunately, the last remaining drive-in movie theatre here closed three years ago.
Be not forlorn you window-speaker warriors, the Cult Fiction Drive-In underground film and cult cinema convention is coming to Jacksonville May 20-22 on the Southbank at the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk hotel. There will be dozens of 70s-era action film stars on hand for panel discussions, film retrospectives and autographs.
Some of the most notable celebrities making an appearance will be Pam Grier of Foxy Brown fame, Fred The Hammer Williamson, Jim Kelly from Enter The Dragon, Bo Svenson of Walking Tall, along with Dyanne Ilsa The She-Wolf Thorne and the ever-insane Sid Haig. There is also a reunion of the original Inglorious Bastards and a Critters series reunion with Dee Wallace, Don Keith Opper and Liane Curtis.
You can view movie memorabilia, join the chatter about old film favorites and view classic film features outdoors on Friday night with the original Inglorious Bastards, directed by Enzo G. Castellari and starring Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, and Peter Hooten. Follow that up with Hell Ride, with a special introduction by writer, director and actor Larry Bishop. On Saturday evening enjoy Coffy, introduced by Pam Grier, followed by Critters II, introduced by the Critters cast.
Visiting Jacksonville for the Cult Fiction Drive-In Cinema Convention will be Fred Williamson. A 1960 graduate of Northwestern University in Architectural Engineering, Fred also played football while in college, which led him to an eight-year career in the NFL/AFL. He has the distinction of playing in Superbowl I, and proudly wears his Superbowl I ring, never taking it off! He will be introducing the Friday evening showing of the original Inglorious Bastards.
Since football is on everybody’s mind these days, in a recent interview we asked Fred how he made the transition from Star Athlete to Hollywood Hunk.
“After I retired form pro football, I decided I was going to work full time as an architect. The sitting behind a desk, an hour for lunch, the 9-5 didn’t fit my personality, so I was looking around for something else to do. One day I was watching the Julia show, and I noticed the guest star role each week was a new boyfriend, and I said ‘Shit, I’m better looking than any of those guys. I’m going to Hollywood to become Diahann Carroll’s boyfriend.’ It took me three days to accomplish that. All you have to do is believe you have something to bring to the table.”
Fred Williamson was part of the cast in the original 1978 film Inglorious Bastards. We asked Fred about his experience on that film. “Inglorious Bastards was made in 1976 with Bo Svenson, in Rome, Italy. The movie was kind of ahead of its time. A lot of European movies didn’t make it to the American market, but this film did because it had so many Americans in it. That was Enzo Castellari’s opportunity as an Italian director to be known in the American market.”
We also had a chance to catch up with Pam Grier to get an update on what this Foxy lady was up to these days. In the spring of 2010, Pam Grier released her memoirs in a book called Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Talking with Pam about the book and the promotional tour to support it led us to discuss why she loves appearing at conventions so much.
“After I started the book tours last year I made it a point, I wanted to meet 40 years of fans and the fans that support not only the film industry, but have supported and been interested in my work. Without them there is no actor, there is no film, there is no theater. I want to go see who these people are. What they have to say is really important, so I decided to do this. Last year I toured over 35 cities and traveled over 150,000 (air) miles, plus did three films. It was amazing. So I thought, if I can do this it’ll be great. I get a chance to actually see, hear, and talk to people. They’re important. Fans are important. They’re your business partners in a way. I hope that the young actors coming up will have that gratitude and appreciation.”
Pam will be a guest at this year’s Cult Fiction Drive-In Cinema Convention, introducing the showing of her smash hit Coffy on Saturday night under the stars. I asked her about the nostalgia of drive-ins.
“Drive-Ins are still big here in Colorado. They’re coming back, making a resurgence, where they haven’t sold the land to developers. There’s nothing like a drive-in with your children watching great films. They’re trying to bring HD to the screens. It’s just so nostalgic and it’s wonderful. The food’s better, and the cars are fantastic. I’ve always loved the drive-in movie.”
Pam recalled, “My first drive-in movie I think was a Disney film. My Mom took us. There were like six kids. It was a safe time where kids could play around the car and be safe. It was a different time. A wonderful time, when people were caring and gentile, just different. Today people are a little bit more aggressive and propelling anger back at the screen. I don’t know if, in some demographics, drive-ins will return because of the safety issues. But hopefully they will in certain country towns, where they still nurture and love the authenticity of the drive-in, and such things that are great.”
Pam also has a very unique take on the movie process as a whole and the importance of an actor — to represent for the film when meeting fans.
“When you think of a film, you think of the actor, that’s one entity. Then you think of all the people, the hundreds of people, that support that actor. From the director, writer, special effects, lighting, grips — all the numerous amount of people — it’s outweighed. I think when the actor goes out and thanks the public and the fans, that also supports all of those craftsmen — all of those people that work and make it a film.”
So grab your mosquito coils and get ready for a weekend of film nostalgia that will get your blood pumping. The Wyndham Riverwalk on the Southbank is the ideal venue, with Indoor film screenings as well as celebrity Q&A sessions throughout the weekend. Vendor/Celebrity room hours are Friday, 4 pm to 10 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm; Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Outdoor films begin at dusk with short intermissions between each film with classic grindhouse trailers playing.
The fun kicks off on Thursday night starting at 8:00 with the Cult Fiction Drive-In movie party at Mavericks. You can win free convention passes, enjoy discounted drink specials with no cover charge, and get a big screen preview of the weekend’s big events.