My best friend Robbie and I went to the movies the other day, a rare treat for us. The last movie we saw together was "The Tooth Fairy" in January 2010. Yes, the frothy fantasy for kids, starring Dwayne Johnson. No, we didn't take any kids or grandkids. We just wanted to see The Rock, without car chases or explosions or any of that silly macho stuff. At first, we were a bit self-conscious being the only grown-ups in the theater without a child in tow, but when Dwayne took off his shirt and flashed that dazzling smile at us . . . well, that alone was worth the price of admission and a large popcorn.
This time, our moviegoing motive was more highbrow. We went to "The Descendants" because we wanted to see whether all the buzz was true, all the raves warranted. We wanted to see how accurately Hollywood portrayed Hawaii. And we wanted to see George Clooney, who is not as ripped as The Hunk Formerly Known As The Rock, but every bit as attractive, in a more highbrow way.
I'm happy to report that Robbie and I were pleased with what we saw, even if George never took off his Tori Richards shirt on camera. Besides the fun of recognizing local folks and locales, we appreciated the authenticity of the characters and their issues. We spent the rest of the evening and a good part of the next day discussing our favorite moments and vowing to go to the movies more often.
Some of my favorite memories were made in Maui's old movie theaters. "Mary Poppins" was the first blockbuster I remember seeing at the Iao Theater. Of course, the Iao was also where we watched dozens of Japanese samurai films. My parents wouldn't take me to the obake movies - too scary. Later, when I was old enough to be dropped off with friends, I saw "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" there and developed a schoolgirl fascination with Maggie Smith.
When "Woodstock" played at Iao Theater, I was 13, too young to be dropped off at an R-rated movie. So my mom, bless her heart, accompanied me. She slept through most of it, waking with a start when the theater audience joined Country Joe & the Fish in the raucous FISH Cheer. "WHAT did they say?!" she asked me. Little did either of us know that 40 years later, she'd be shouting something even more provocative on screen herself, in the 2010 movie "Get a Job." But that's a topic for another column.
The next R-rated film I saw, also at the Iao, was "M*A*S*H." This time, Mom stayed home. My date was a 17-year-old honor roll student athlete who actually asked my parents' permission. They were charmed and so was I. We only dated for a couple of months after that, but "M*A*S*H" remains one of my all-time favorite movies. Whenever I catch it on TV, even the bleeped versions, I recall the thrill and agony of teenage courtship, sitting through a risque movie, holding his hand and my breath, feeling embarrassed and awkward and grown-up all at the same time.
Around the corner and up a block on Vineyard, the King Theater showed a whole different level of grown-up fare. I was 15 when another 17-year-old took me to one of those flicks. He didn't ask my parents' permission. We lasted less than 10 minutes before boredom and the grunts of old men in the dark drove us to seek refuge at Dairy Queen.
The Maui Theater opened at Kahului Shopping Center while I was in high school, and I enjoyed many movies there. It's a church now, but to me, that building will always be the home of "Carrie" - I swear my heart stopped for a few seconds when her hand popped out of the grave - and the place where I fell in love with Kris Kristofferson, first in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and again in "A Star is Born."
By then, Maui's drive-in theater was long gone. Located where the University of Hawaii Maui College now stands, the giant screen dominated the Kahului landscape when I was a little girl. I thought the folks who lived on Wakea Avenue were the luckiest people on the island, getting free, albeit silent, movies. I remember seeing "Blue Hawaii" and "Girls, Girls, Girls" there with my aunt. An avid Elvis fan, she used to drive me to tears, teasing me about which of us should be his girlfriend. If she were still alive, I would have taken her to "The Tooth Fairy" even if it meant arguing over Dwayne Johnson.
I've got to go to the movies more often. With Robbie. We have similar tastes, and she's willing to share.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.