My friend Carrie brought up in one of the comments the times we saw New Jack City. I haven’t thought of it in a while, and it brought back a lot of good memories we had seeing that movie. I’ve seen New Jack City more times than I can remember and many of those times were midnight showings at a dollar theater in the hood.
Back in the day, the first dollar theater that opened up around my way was in Andrew’s Manor. For those that are unfamiliar with Andrew’s Manor (which I suspect many of you aren’t), it wasn’t the popular place for surburban whitey. But it had a dollar theater. A dollar theater! I didn’t care where it was, the movie was a buck, and I was going.
Let me make something clear, when I say ‘hood’ I’m not talking Compton-like dangerous, but you definitely didn’t see much white bread in the area. Anyone who knows the Temple Hills area of Maryland knows what I’m talking about (at least in the late ’80s, I don’t know how much it may have changed now). Yet it never bothered me, nor my friend Carrie.We always had a blast at the theater.
The first few times we saw City, it was a slew of us. Me, Carrie, Dave, Melinda, Mike, Michelle, Joe. Jafo may have even gone (I’m not quite sure if he was running with us at that time). I was always the first in line to buy the tickets. The second or third time we went up to see City, the guy who ran the ticket booth, a huge black guy that no doubt doubled as security for the theater, gave us the once over.
“Weren’t you guys here last week?” He asked.
“And your back?”
“Well… yeah,” I said. I was worried he wasn’t going to let us in for some reason.
“Do you know where you are?” He asked, a smile forming on his lips.
“Yeah. The dollar theater.” I said.
“No, I mean don’t you know where you’re at?”
“Oh!” I got it, finally. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”
“And it doesn’t bother you?”
“Not me. It bothers this guy,” I pointed to my friend Joe, “but that’s because he’s a racist. Fuck him, though. The movie’s only a dollar. And it’s good.”
He laughed. One of those hearty, booming laughs you expect from a man from his size.
“Well,” he said, “you have any problems, any problems at all, you tell them you know Big T and Big T said you’re okay.”
“Just Big T?” I asked. It was comforting to know that I had a big security blanket named Big T.
“Yes, Big T is enough. They’ll know who you are talking about,” he replied, still chuckling.
As the weeks went on, most of the group dwindled for the New Jack City showings, and eventually the last few times we went it was just me and Carrie. I think she and I probably saw it at least 12 times at that theater, all midnight showings. And each time Big T chuckled and shook his head when he saw us. I later learned the T was short for Tyrone, but Big T was definitely more appropriate.
While every time we went we got strange looks (and even a dirty look a time or two), we were never harassed. I’m pretty sure word was out that we were under the protection of Big T. Towards the end of our trips (a dollar theater had opened in our area), I even thanked him for looking out for our cracker asses. His response was simply, “Hey, you are just up hear having a good time. No need for that to be ruined because of some nonsense.”