Walter Mencken 12:02 p.m., May 30
4th row center: The naked projectionist
It was an unbroken string of 90 degree days. The auditorium of Chicago's Parkway Theatre was properly chilled, but outside in the lobby, the consessioneers had all they could do to keep the M&Ms from melting inside the display case that suddenly doubled as a humidor. What, no refrigerator? We couldn't sell ice cream -- there was barely enough room behind the glass display case for a popper and two staffers let alone cooling apparatus.
Picture yourself stationed behind a cramped glass box in a small, non-air conditioned lobby. Add to that a pair of sweltering 35mm lamp housings and you can only imagine how unmanageable the heat in projection booth was.
The home office suggested that we keep the supply of candy on display to a minimum, rotate the stock whenever necessary, and place a fan in the upstairs locker where we stored the surplus snacks.
The matinee crowd performed a clean sweep of the candy counter. With 20 minutes left before the next feature, I hiked up the stairs to restock.
What sounded like a slow leak greeted me the moment I unlocked the shed. "Psst. Psst." It wasn't coming from the fan. "Scott," cried a voice from above. At the foot of the stairs outside the balcony door stood Lenny, my projectionist, wearing nothing more than a pair of black socks and a look of panic. The balcony was seldom open. During the scorched summer months, Lenny took to projecting in the buff. Emerging from the booth for a momentary cool down, Lenny forgot to unlatch the door and had accidentally locked himself out.
I let loose with a double-take that would have snapped a lesser man's neck (and made Vernon Dent proud). "Do you need me to pick up your dry cleaning?" I deadpanned.