Happening across the movie King Kong on cable the other night, something occurred to me – it might have been the most influential movie of my childhood.
I’d seen the original version watching it on the late, late show when I slept over at a friend’s house in second grade. Not long after, the hype began for the remake.
It was nothing compared to the hullabaloo for some movies now – no cable, no internet – but it seemed to begin a year before and the scope and duration was something I’d never seen at the ripe old age of eight.
I vividly recall a poster in our small-town theater of Kong, astride the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center with a Santa Claus hat perched on his noggin’.
The tagline read “Guess who’s coming for Christmas?”
I knew that it would be months after the national release before it would arrive in our town. That poster should have shown him wearing a leprechaun’s hat and clutching a bottle of Guinness.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn a lesson in patience. My dad was kind enough to drive me and several friends into the city to see the movie during our Christmas break.
I did learn a lot of other things. I learned that oil company board rooms were populated by the ruthless, the kind of men who might twirl their moustaches as a train headed down tracks to which a distressed damsel was detained.
Of course, Charles Grodin as a petroleum executive had far more panache than the corporate officers I know. They burp up banalities like “sweet spot,” “drill down,” and “bring to bear.”
Grodin uttered things like “If that island doesn’t produce huge, I’ll be wiping windshields,” “Sweet Jesus! Dear Rockefeller!” and “It’s some nutty religion – a priest gets dressed up like an ape and gets laid.”
(you don’t get such rich fare in a business meeting)
The lush island scenery and the underlying message of the movie certainly made me receptive to an environmental consciousness in a way that a Native American crying over litter in a television commercial couldn’t.
As much as Christopher Cross, viewing King Kong likely fueled in me the desire to travel. I haven’t been to Indonesia – from where Grodin and company began their voyage – but I have been to Borneo and, in Malaysia, some friends and I scaled hundreds of steps, monkeys roaming about us, to reach some cave.
Jessica Lange was fetching enough as Dwan, but blondes have never held me as entranced as they apparently do most males of the species.
(although I have been known to be drawn to vacuous girls with unusual names and a flair for the dramatic, so she must have made some impression)
King Kong was also the first movie I think I ever saw with Jeff Bridges whom I’d argue might be the most underrated actor of his generation.
Not only was Bridges the dashing man of action in the flick, he was a hippie.
(of course, at eight, any guy with long hair was a hippie to me)
It was Bridges, as a long-haired paleontologist from Princeton, who taught me that a guy with long hair could grow up to be a paleontologist from Princeton, able to tangle with large apes and woo Jessica Lange.
Years later, in my twenties and en route to London, I first visited New York City and saw the Twin Towers.
I’ve seen some things in my time.
I’ve been to Bangkok.
There are few things that have left me as jaw-droopingly stupefied as standing in front of those buildings. For me, it inspired the same sense of wonder as seeing King Kong in the theater as a kid.
It was during the first few days of 1977 that I saw King Kong. I hadn’t discovered music, yet, but there was a lot of music on Billboard’s chart in early January of that year that would someday be quite familiar to me…
Elton John – Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
from Blue Moves (1976)
I can’t claim to have intimate knowledge of Elton John’s entire catalog as it does encompass four decades. I do know his extensive string of hits and I own a number of the classic albums, though, and I’d have to choose the wistful Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word as my favorite of his ballads.
Boston – More Than A Feeling
from Boston (1976)
For some reason, even though it was apparently a hit in the winter months, I think of More Than A Feeling as a summer song. Although I’m not rabid about the song, it does conjure up a good vibe for me and I’ve never quite understood the venom reserved for Boston.
Also, I find it amusing that Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit echoes the song.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded By The Light
from The Roaring Silence (1976)
When I saw Blinded By The Light on the chart, I realized something – this song was likely my first exposure to Bruce Springsteen’s music.
10cc – The Things We Do For Love
from Deceptive Bends (1976)
Since Paloma and I started collecting vinyl a little over a year ago, we’ve snagged several 10cc albums and they’ve been a revelation of musicianship, craftsmanship and quirkiness.
The Things We Do For Love is a breezy and flawless pop song.