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PCR #229  (Vol. 5, No. 33)  This edition is for the week of August 9--15, 2004.

Book Review: “Florida's Miracle Strip: From Redneck Riviera to Emerald Coast” by Tim Hollis
 by William Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
Headline '89: "Grindhouse Cinema Fans Storm Tampa Theater"
 by Andy Lalino
Happy Birthday, Nolan!....Doom 3, It Was Worth The Wait
  by Vinnie Blesi
Tampa Comic & Toy Convention
 by Brandon Jones
In Honor of the Nol-Meister....Bush Speak
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Happy Birthday....Movie Lines....Movie News....Next, Please....Passing On....Meet The Beatles, Part 29
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Odd but true:
"Grindhouse Cinema Fans Storm Tampa Theater"
(Actual 10/27/89 Evening Independent Headline)

Dear N'sPCR readers,
I wanted to share with you a strange story I encountered while doing some research on local movie theaters. I encountered it while thumbing through an old edition of the now-defunct "Evening Independent" newspaper dated Oct. 27th, 1989; the headline read: "Grindhouse Cinema Fans Storm Tampa Theater! Demand Sleaze!". Yes, it's true. It was there in black & white - check for yourselves. Totally captivated, I read on...

It seems that on that wispy Oct. 27th night, a group of horror movie fans approached the Tampa Theater, and "took it over" for one night. Here's a verbatim account from Tampa Theater assistant manager at the time Ms. Petra V. Frenchel:

"It was a quiet night; at the moment I thought the night's biggest event was our malfunctioning latte machine, but then I heard a ruckus outside on Howard Avenue. The next thing I know this group of people dressed in black were marching toward the box office holding lit torches! Can you believe that? Lit torches! I mean, it looked like something out of a bad "Frankenstein" movie!"

"I remember they began knocking on the box office glass partition, to the shock of our ticket-taker at the time, named Liza Deveroux. They demanded to know why Tampa Theater kept showing films like "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" and not indie grindhouse movies, like "Snuff" and "The Last House on Dead End Street" like they did in the early '70s. I overheard the conversation, and thought 'what films are these lunatics talking about?'. I never heard of them. I'm more a 'Another Country' type of person."

"My vantage point was from the lobby, you see, and the mob proceeded to lock poor Liza inside the box office with a bike chain. I recall her beating on the door with her fists. Then, two of the hooligans did something weird; they took out a 13" TV/VCR combo and placed it on the platform in front of the box office window. The apparatus seemed to be modified and powered by batteries. When they hit 'play', I saw the title of the movie: "Three on a Meathook". Gah! It was full of disgusting gore, violence, and female nudity. I was repulsed. But I noticed Liza kept watching it, as if entranced. She took her hand and placed it...well, you know, down there...and while watching it she seemed to achieve org- oh, I can't say that in the newspaper."

That's where Ms. Frenchel's account ends and the newspaper reporter, Danny Mothersbaugh, continues. The mad horror fan mob proceeded into the ornate Tampa Theater lobby, chanting "42nd Street Forever!", and defacing several Merchant-Ivory lobby posters.

They next stormed the concession stand, destroying everything except the popcorn machine, the Coke tap, and Jujy-Fruits. At this point, Ms. Frenchel relayed more of the account:

"The stunned concessionaires were rounded up and placed in a pantry where we keep our cappuccino supplies. I think we stored cinnamon buns in there too, but that's beside the point. The gang then marched into the movie theater, and that's when all hell broke loose!"

Tampa Sheriff at the time, Helmut T. Roswell, picked up from here:
"Three deviants broke off from the main mob and busted into the projection room, frightening the beejeezus out of the projectionist [Leonard Scab]. From Scab's account, the three 35mm film reels of "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" were ripped from the projector, and defecated on by the three participants! They were sick degenerates, I tell you! I can't even tell you what they did to a poor print of "Room with a View"! By this time, the theater seats swelled with these sick, twisted 'horror fans' as they took seats in order to enjoy their sick 'Grindhouse Festival'. Someone should tell these punks it isn't 1974 anymore - it's 1989! Look how far we've advanced!"

At this time Ms. Frenchel continued:
"The theater lights went black and the movie started. The first instance of insanity was what surfaced from the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, which is located on our stage. It was rode by this nude fat fellow that resembled Terry Jones from the 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' show intros. He was playing this strange, scary music that sounded like it was from this awful '60s horror movie (ugh!) that I once saw - 'Carnival of Souls'. The organist was followed by a horrendous cavalcade of bad movies, the first being an utterly repulsive picture called 'Pieces'. I demanded they yank the movie off the screen, when one of them took me and placed me in a center aisle seat. I remember shouting to one of them: "Give me 'Koyaanisqatsi' or give me death!". They put a contraption on my face that looked like something out of a movie called "Clockwork Tangerine", or something like that, by Stanley Kubrick. I only remember the title because it was a Kubrick film (my favorite being 'Barry Lyndon'), and the only reason I would watch a violent science-fiction film like that is because Kubrick's name is associated with it, but that's beside the point. They forced me to watch this movie 'Pieces' while dripping water into my eyes with an eye-dropper. I was helpless! I recant the crowd screaming and laughing with delight as scantily-clad co-eds were getting their heads, arms, and breasts sliced off with chainsaws! Oh, woe is me!"

"It seemed like this torture would never end. "Pieces" was followed by other icky, goopy, sex and horror-filled abominations such as "I Spit on Your Grave", "Sex Rituals of the Occult", "Burial Ground", "Stryker", and "Ms. 45". I was forced to watch them all. Amazingly, this crowd of degenerates seemed to love every second of these films - if you want to call them that. All I could think of is what Andie McDowell would do in a situation like this!"

Ms. Frenchel was asked if her captors communicated with her. "Yes", she said. "They were spouting off this drivel about how they were taking me back in a trip through time to 1974, when Tampa Theater showed these awful B-movies. 'Orrible titles they were. "Blazing Stewardesses". "Candy Striped Nurses". "Cannibal Girls". Oh, the shame! They said it was like the way "Grindhouse Cinemas" were back in the '70s, akin to New York City theaters on 42nd Street. I asked what "Grindhouse Cinema" was; to me it sounded like a go-go bar. To my horror, one of these lunatics took out a pet carrier, and released several live rats out into the theater! I shrieked. He told me this would not be a total Grindhouse experience without crawling rats, sick movies, and unspeakable stains on the seat cushions." She was asked if she got any names. "One was called 'Canovis' or 'Cannona' - I couldn't make it out. Some others I thought I heard were "Morleyaty", "Tooker", and "Smythe". The sadist who let the rats out was named "Latino", I think. Probably some twisted Mexican hoodlum."

You may think all this is strange enough, but the real weirdness was just beginning. I go back now to Sheriff Roswell:
"We got a call at dispatch from a motorist passer-by who saw the mad mob enter the Tampa Theater with lit torches. That's a fire code violation, you know. We had to check it out. I myself went down there along with two helpers: Deputies Elfman and Bators. When we arrived at the theater, the first thing we noticed was a nude ticket-taker in the box office howling in intense pleasure while watching some dadgum videotape! Deputy Elfman placed his taxpayer-funded jacket over the box office window, but it kept falling down. Next, we marched to the glass lobby doors, which were open. I started to pull the door, when this thing came at me! It was see-through, like a pressed face in Saran wrap. It was shaped like a human male. As soon as I tried opening the door, the "ghost", which is what I think it was, held the doors! Now, I've heard of the old Tampa Theater being haunted, and now after this experience - I'm a believer, as Mickey Dolenz would sing. Me and my boys were helpless. Held at bay by an apparition! It was downright eerie, I tell you!"

"Feeling utterly beaten, I called for backup. I wanted the S.W.A.T. team so I could take out all these mutherfuc- I mean - suspects, at one shot. They arrived within five minutes. We all tried to get inside the theater to rescue the workers, but the damned Phantom wouldn't let us! We had to wait it out until dawn."

Finally, the sun rose the next day, and the SWAT team and Sheriff Roswell were able to open the lobby doors. They rushed inside, first rescuing Liza Deveroux, the nude ticket-taker, who screamed in protest as she was ripped from watching Jess Franco's "Demoniacs". They rushed into the auditorium only to find the place - completely empty, except for Ms. Petra V. Frenchel, who was still watching the current feature, "Ilsa - Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks" while still strapped to the "A Clockwork Orange" apparatus. Sheriff Roswell noted that the concessionaires that were allegedly locked in the cappuccino pantry were present in the auditorium balcony in compromising positions.

Sheriff Roswell: "That brought us to the mystery of where the grindhouse-mob went. It's like they vanished into thin air! I guess that those Bozos had a point to make - in their opinion it was high-time that Tampa Theater revert back to a grindhouse cinema venue, circa 1974, in place of these 'artsy' films it's currently plagued with. You gotta hand it to 'em - they voiced their opinion effectively. But damned if I don't know where they went to. It's like they wuz ghosts or something!

The following weeks saw Tampa Theater revert back to the femme-y art films they were currently (and still are) famous for. Latte is still being served, as is cappuccino, and tasty croissants. For one spectral night, however, the true fans of Grindhouse cinema had their way, experiencing the best and most sleazy B-features in historic Tampa Theater.

I perchance happened upon an Evening Independent edition that was dated two weeks after the Grindhouse Incident, which had a follow-up to the victims of the night's mischievous activities:

- Ms. Petra V. Frenchel immediately quit her Asst. Manager position and became a dancer at 2001 [adult night club] on Dale Mabry [in Tampa]. Her 2001 co-workers noted that while on break she sits in the break room before a TV/VCR combo and endlessly watches Grand Guignol movies. Years later, I discovered, she hooked up with her fellow comrades from the theater (the nude box-office girl and the frisky concessionaires) and started a direct-to-video horror film company called "Scantily-Clad Sinema" which features all concerned in nudie pics, some guest-starring Misty Mundae.

In a recent interview, Sheriff Roswell recounts: "Yep. I'll never forget that crazy night. The only other time I've been to Tampa Theater in the past 15 years is when they were showing 'True Grit' during their 'Summer Movie' series. Damned if I thought I saw see-through rats scampering past my feet - as if they were specters! And during the movie, the film seemed to break, and all of the sudden this movie came on called '2000 Maniacs'! The whole theater got up and left. The theater owner couldn't explain what happened - when they looked back at the 16mm print of 'True Grit', it was untouched and not damaged!".

He concludes: "I'm still on the lookout for these horror-mob fellers with a hankerin' for Grindhouse. If anyone out there knows anyone named 'Cannovis', 'Latino", 'Morleyaty', 'Tooker', or 'Smythe', please call the Sheriff's office immediately."

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.