Noir and Tear Jerkers

To this day, I’ll scroll ahead on Turner Classic Movies or American Movie Classics looking for them. Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Dark Victory.

Traces of my first professional career job.

Fresh from a year in a broadcasting technical school in the Twin Cities, I stuck my foot in the door of the Broadcasting Industry (Marshall McLuhan’s caps) by watching old movies.

In the middle of the night.

At KAKE-TV in my hometown of Wichita. My first brush with noir and I connected with its innate cynicism.

Fred McMurray plunges hard for Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity:

“Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money... and a woman... and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?” 

My job was the epitome of behind the scenes. It was 1979, smack in the middle of a technological transition. The movies were on actual 16-millimeter celluloid film and I’d thread them through behemoth film projectors, projecting into a video camera through a series of mirrors to be received by the Sony Trinitrons in the basements and bedrooms of insomniacs throughout Greater Doodah and the central Great Plains.

The commercials were on 2-inch videotape cartridges, roughly the size of a pint milk carton, which I’d load into a state-of-the-art (then – today, it’s an antique) wall-covering conveyor belt carousel.

Then I’d settle in at Master Control (exactly what the name implies), a Wurlitzer organ-esque array of flashing buttons, knobs, faders and levers. I felt like Lt. Sulu at the helm of the Enterprise.

I was 21.

Foot in the door, because I had no intention of remaining behind the scenes. My overnight shift was bookended by lunch pail-carrying lifer technicians and there I sat in my polyester and platform heels and can remember thinking, my God, I don’t want to be like these guys when I’m that age.

Ann Blyth as daughter, Veda, to Joan Crawford’s Mildred Pierce: 

“With this money I can get away from you. From you and your chickens and your pies and your kitchens and everything that smells of grease. I can get away from this shack with its cheap furniture. And this town and its dollar days, and its women that wear uniforms and its men that wear overalls.” 

For “lunch,” I dined either on a vended Tuna Salad on Soggy or ordered up a cheeseburger from the Denny’s across West Street, waited for a lengthy segment of the movie, propped a book in the front door of the TV station and hoofed it across the street and back.  

Ambition infused with arrogance.

Bette Davis jerks tears as a young socialite who overcomes hedonism as she dies from an inoperable brain tumor:

“Nothing can hurt us now. What we have can't be destroyed. That's our victory... our victory over the dark. It is a victory because we're not afraid.” 

Immediately, I started working the system and within a year parlayed a job downstairs in the same building as the overnight deejay on KAKE Radio 1240-AM.

Adult Contemporary.

England Dan and John Ford Coley told me love is the answer when I was still tryna figure out the questions.