This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. I’ve neglected this series for other things of late. Shame on me. However, a certain film that reached its 25th anniversary this week, one that arrived to bracket a crossroads time, will bring it back. What’ll be missing, though, will be the ‘M’ component. I can’t quite nail the movie we tried to see this particular Sunday night.
Overshadowed it was — I’m almost sure it was The Last Emperor — but can’t claim for certain. I think you’ll see why this movie date left that in the background.
“Please, folks, don’t attempt to cross the street until the copters have finished their run.”
Fall 1987: I had survived the breakup that came the year before. No easy task as I’d lived with this woman for almost 7 years and experienced much with her during that time. She-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned had meant a great deal to me, and we’d seen a lot of movies together over the course. Now, no longer a couple, we had distilled back down to what we once were. Reverted to the connection that sprung after my mother had died, before the 80s had arrived. Just friends, the type who’d still go out on occasion to take in a flick.
She’d come by, or I would call her to swing passed, now and then for this. This last day before a new work week began, we had returned to the old haunt that was the Century Plaza Cinemas. Well experienced we were to know and park at the nearby Century City Mall and pay less than the exorbitant rates charged at the ABC Entertainment Center, which housed these theaters. Relatively short walk it was, usually with many other movie patrons doing the same, as we made our way there.
This time we’d be delayed.
Walking up to Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars we’d found large groups of people milling around the corners of that junction. For some reason, no one was crossing in any direction of the intersection, green light or no. Then, we noticed the camera setups and the people in charge of the scene. If we’re anything, Los Angeles remains a company town. Make that, movie-company town. Live here long enough, and you’re bound to come across a location shoot, as we’d done by going to this particular time and place out of the blue.
We hushed that evening when the guy with the bullhorn announced all of us to stay put till the copters had whizzed passed us. We looked up, but saw nothing. Where the hell were these things, we wondered? Then, we heard the familiar, one-of-a-kind Huey Wop begin to echo in between the buildings.
Six months of planning, preparation by the filmmakers and stunt coordinator had come down to this moment. They’d have two hours to complete all the filming this Sunday night. Supposedly, “everyone within 500 feet in the line of flight had to be an employee”, director John McTiernan said. The helicopters made 3 runs, 50 feet above the street at about 70 mph, using multiple camera crews to capture it all.
I mean to tell you, when we saw the two choppers, following closer than some cars on our notorious freeways, make the turn onto Constellation from Century Park East, only a few stories off the ground, and then wheel steeply sideways to get onto and scream up Avenue of Stars toward the Fox Plaza skyscraper, we-were-left-buzzing. The Bell UH-1s used were low enough, mind you, to clip the water spewing from the famed fountain located on the avenue’s median. All of us there clapped in appreciation, or just plain astonishment, of the feat we’d just witnessed.
We then crossed the street, a little less than nonchalant, to try and make the showing that brought us here. One of us asked the other, “I wonder what movie this was for?” All would change by the time it finally showed up.