Wednesday, September 01, 2010

in 1968, I saw "Valley of the Dolls" in downtown Richmond on my last night of freedom

Mark Robson’s ambitious 1967 film “Valley of the Dolls”, based on the novel by Jacqueline Suzanne, depicting pill-popping adventures of three ladies (Sharon Tate, Patty Duke and Barbara Parkins), has a particular claim to notoriety in my own life. It was the last flick I would see before my formal induction as a draftee into the Army in February 1968.

On Wednesday, February 7, I took a Greyhound bus from Washington down to Richmond, and got to the AFEES too late to be inducted that day. So they put me up in the Jefferson Hotel (since remodeled), and that one last evening as a civilian, I wandered down Broad Street in a mild foggy drizzle to find a movie. It’s the lilting song that I still remember; it still plays in my dreams sometimes. (I didn’t venture as far as Carytown.)

The widescreen film from 20th Century Fox was pretty ambitious, running over two hours. I needed time to dilate that night, as if the movie closed a whole chapter in my life (when the next one might lead to involuntary risk). Later I would have a roommate show up at the Jefferson, who would relate to me how he had been scarred by a chemistry accident.  That would be a bizarre way to start my Army period, given the political issue that would erupt 25 years later.  (Something like this happens in the 2012 movie 'The Candidates"; see Aug. 11, 2012.).
The first flick we would get to see on post privileges at Fort Jackson SC some weeks later was “Planet of the Apes”.

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