My Lucky 13 -- Who Say Who?

What we were calling Messerschmitts looked nothing like the famous German fighter planes, but we called them by that name all the same. I was engaged in teaching my brother Mark a trio of paper airplane designs I had learned in school earlier in the year, not least of which was a snub-nosed model with wide wings and flaps torn into the back edges. This is the one I called a Messerschmitt, and while I probably knew the names of roughly a dozen other planes at that young age (I had a poster which portrayed planes and jets from around the world), I had actually picked the term up from a World War II-obsessed school buddy. The chief reason we called this particular design a Messerschmitt was the way this model would swoop for a short burst, and then flip over and over and over again until the plane would slam, usually ungracefully, into the ground. This made them perfect as the unfortunate victims of the other paper airplanes, most often long, sleek and pointed in the traditional way that even the most inept nebbish can build almost perfectly by accident, and most often identified by our youthful gang of brainwashed patriots as an American aircraft. Naturally, over a quarter century after a war which our tender minds could not even begin to comprehend, Germans (and not necessarily Nazis) were the imaginary evil of childhood's choice.

On that particular day, our paper-folding activities fell under the somewhat watchful eye of a middle-aged, chain-smoking daycare specialist (whom I recall as possessing the name of Nancy, though I have been called on this fact before -- I still believe I am right). We had a routine, Nancy and I, where I would do something bratty (for that is what I specialized in -- and still do) and she would tell me to knock it off. This would cause me to inquire in the biggest, booming voice my tiny lungs could muster, "Who say who?," to which she would reply in similar tone, "Me say me!!" Of course, I listened to her for the most part, but it wasn't for fear of reprisal against the evil I was undoubtedly perpetrating against her and the other children. It was because I knew what would happen if I did behave: while the other kids would eat their lunch at the kitchen table and then go off doing their little kid business, I was allowed to take part in the daily ritual at play upon the television from noon to two p.m.

This was the
KIMO Lucky 13 Afternoon Movie, which seemed to the unwise to be nothing but a normal TV matinee show, but which beheld to me a secret wonderland of thrills and cinematic education. Hosted by the well-known (in Anchorage, at least) hostess, Beverly Michaels, Lucky 13 would often start with a short interview with a local celebrity or politico, but would then dive into whatever movie from whatever package the ABC affiliate could afford to run. This brought a great diversity of flicks to my attention over the few years that I devoured its contents, but naturally, I mainly remember the genre fare that was presented to me, and certainly not the generally boring romances that would pop up now and then.

And it was on this day, with the phony notebook-paper Messerschmitts crashing unloved into the stained and foul-smelling shag carpeting that was a hallmark of bad household decoration in that mostly horrendous-looking decade -- I can still bring its aroma to mind, though I certainly recall its like from many other homes and apartments of that era -- it was on this day that I paid attention to the Lucky 13 Afternoon Movie for the first time. Long before the monster movie shows that would carry me through my earliest double digit years, here was the springboard for my first movie feature show addiction.

The movie was the theatrical feature version of the Adam West Batman TV series, featuring his four greatest villains -- the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and Catwoman - POW! WHAP! BAM! -- and I found myself ceasing altogether my normal frenetic behavior and sinking into that nasty carpet for the full two hours. I was already reading Batman comics by that time, and had seen nearly every episode of the series several times in its perpetual rerun loop late in the afternoon. But I had never seen the movie -- hell, I didn't even know it existed -- and here was the greatest thing I had ever seen with my barely formed peepers. The battles were so epic to my young mind, I could barely think straight for days, and spent weeks recreating the fight scenes with my brothers and my friends (some of whom, like my best friend Rusty Jackson, had lucked out and gotten to watch it, too).
I had no idea how completely hokey it looked to adult eyes, and while I laughed a lot while watching it, I really did not realize it was all comedy. Then, as now, I felt Batman's adventures were meant to taken seriously, even if the hero had a serious paunch and a stilted acting style (neither of which I noticed either, but keep in mind, Batman was a real guy to me).

The chief revelation, though, was that I suddenly found a place where I could regularly see adventures like this. In a time before widespread cable systems and home video devices, I had the good fortune to briefly be in the care of a babysitter who liked to turn on the local movie show every single afternoon, and boy, did I reap the profits. Before long, I was seeing Jules Verne adventures like Five Weeks in a Balloon, traversing the African jungle with Spencer Tracy in Stanley and Livingstone, and diving in a nuclear-powered submarine in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis became regular pals, often with a different wacky movie in the series showing nearly every week, and Bob Hope and Danny Kaye comedies crossed my path every now and then.

Sure, there was a lot of genuine crap, too. Not good crap like I was watching (for the most part), but genuine crap. Anything with more than one female lead was sure to be given the coldest of shoulders. And if a romance showed up? Well, they were certainly icky beyond belief, but they posed no real problem. After all, there were plenty of paper airplanes left to build... and plenty of Messerschmitts dotting the skies of that smoke-filled battle arena, and every one of them doomed to perish ignobly in the hellish flames reserved especially for such villainy. Who say who?

Me say me...


Popular posts from this blog

Refilling the Flagon of Chuckles (or at Least an Extra Tall Improv Glass)...

Before We Take Off...

The Monster's on the Loose!!! Non-Chaney, Pt. 2: Werewolves Along the Wall

Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters at LACMA 2016, Pt. 2

Ignoring the Ignoramus...