Going Home: Movie magic

Day 17: How the Tower Theater and James Bond changed my life...

The first movie I have any memory of seeing is Goldfinger and I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered.

Goldfinger came out in 1964 and showing an 11-year-old boy James Bond in action was like introducing Keith Richards to heroin – I’ve been addicted ever since.

I know I must have seen movies before 1964, but clearly the great theme song, the tricked out Aston Martin, the martinis shaken not stirred and the solid-gold naked lady in Goldfinger knocked all those other movies right out of my head.

Did John Wayne’s horse have an ejector seat?

Did Mary Poppins have a license to kill?

Did the Zorba the Greek have a bad guy trying to give him a vasectomy with a laser beam or a girlfriend named Pussy Galore?  

(BTW: Wikipedia offers the helpful information that Pussy Galore is a fictional character, which I think every American male has already found out for himself.)

Bottom line: everybody else’s movie shit just didn’t match 007’s movie shit and I wasn’t the only one to think so. John F. Kennedy was a huge James Bond fan, so even a guy who was President of the United States and reportedly had access to Marilyn Monroe thought 007 was badass.

And I met Bond…James Bond…at Roseville’s Tower Theater.

This picture was taken recently, but this used to be our house in Rocklin, California.

My sister Gloria had one bedroom, Bobby and I had another and my mom, Paul T and Danny shared a third. Linoleum floors, flimsy hollow-core doors, one bathroom for six people and a backyard that was mainly giant-ass granite boulders and blackberry vines.

In the driveway was our Ford Victoria that wouldn’t always start and had a rope tied around the steering column to the passenger door handle to keep the door from flying open and ejecting one or two kids whenever a hard left turn was required.

Everything I wore was a hand-me-down and all my jeans featured those ever-so fashionable iron-on patches at the knees and sometimes on the rear end.

If my mom lost her mind and splurged on a big bottle of Coke, it had to be shared six ways.

That was life as I knew it.

Now let’s compare the Tower Theater.

Just look at it: to us the Tower Theater was the height of glamor and just a step-and-a-half away from Hollywood.

Being taken to Roseville to watch a movie was like visiting Shangri-La: an earthly paradise, isolated from the cares of the world, a place where you’d never grow old and also provided fresh popcorn.

Thick carpets, velvet ropes, wood and glass candy counters, velvet curtains trimmed with gold brocade; we figured this must be how rich people lived. If I got to meet the Sultan of Brunei and his house looked just like the interior of the Tower Theater, it would not have surprised me one bit.

You could buy a ticket, a box of popcorn and a soft drink, then see two movies and some Warner Brothers cartoons in-between. Five hours of Paradise.

And if you really had cash to throw around (and we never did) you could pay for loge seating, which in the Tower Theater’s case meant sitting above the rabble who could only afford to sit in the regular mezzanine seats. If Howard Hughes had dropped by for a matinee, I’m pretty sure he would have sprung for loge seating because that’s what rich people did.

And James Bond could be seen there?

Shit, I done died and gone to Roseville.

In my mind Goldfinger set the bar for every James Bond film to follow and Sean Connery was and always will be the real James Bond. 007 had a license to kill, so the actor playing him should seem dangerous and to me Roger Moore didn’t cut it.

Just look at that picture of Sean; he looks like he’s just decided to cut some guy’s throat and his biggest worry is getting blood on his tuxedo.

Timothy Dalton? Too much of a pretty boy.

Pierce Brosnan was OK, but never had the physical presence to make you think he could kick your ass in a fight.

Daniel Craig is pretty good, but a blond James Bond?

George Lazenby? Who the fuck is George Lazenby?

Nope, Sean Connery is still the James Bond and Goldfinger showed me a world I wanted to be part of, but that created a problem:

When you’re 11 years old, poor, living in a three-bedroom house with five other people, have to push start the family car and your new role model is James Bond, you’ve got a shitload of ground to make up.

So how have I done?

James Bond could say something cool to a woman he’d met seconds before and in the next scene they’d be between the sheets. Apparently my James Bond pick-up lines still need work because this woman just sat and stared at me.

James Bond drinks his martinis shaken not stirred. To me a martini tastes like something you’d use to power a lawn mower, but when I order a drink I too am very specific: Bud Light…bottle…not can.

James Bond would wear a tuxedo if he was digging a hole for a new outhouse. I get most of my stuff from Target and in my mind a formal occasion is one which requires a shirt with buttons.

James Bond can drive a car like a British cousin of the Chitwood family and make funny remarks while doing so. I once accidentally ran my Ford Fairlane over a log while watching my highschool girlfriend get off a bus.

James Bond drove an Aston Martin with an ejector seat and machine guns. I’m driving a used Toyota Matrix and if I’m not careful when I get out of the car and catch a sleeve on the door post, the plastic part of it will pop off and land in the street next to me. Also I could use some new seat covers.

James Bond defeated Goldfinger, Dr. No, Jaws and Oddjob. I couldn’t defeat the HR lady at McClatchy Newspapers.

James Bond could save the world. I’m still working on my 401k.

So has my life been a total failure?


I never got that license to kill, but I did get a license to ridicule and did OK with it. I may not wear a tuxedo to work or drive an Aston Martin, but if the Tower Theater ever decides to have another showing of Goldfinger I’ll do my best to be there.

And this time I can afford loge seating.