“I’m not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass”
When I was growing up, there was one clear hero in our house. It didn’t matter that I was into books and my brothers were into motorbikes, cooking, skateboarding, Arsenal, Spiderman, Little Rabbit Foo Foo and Jim the window cleaner at different periods of our joint pre-adolescence. We were in absolute agreement that Danny Zucco, the jive-talking, leather-clad, dimple-endowed fuckboy of Grease was the epitome of cool. Our parents even went as far as taking us to see the musical in the West End which was a huge extravagance displaying how high our passion for the man was. It wasn’t quite the same when Shane Ritchie was doing it but we were enthralled nevertheless.
I mention Danny Zucco because there’s still an element of the desire to be him that follows all three Schiernecker boys into adulthood. We dig chicks man. We dig chicks and we put the pedal to the floor. We dig chicks and we put the pedal to the floor and our chills are electrifying. He shaped us in a way he will never understand because he’s a fictional character.
When I was a teenager, and didn’t know how to deal with talking to women, I prayed for the drive in cinema. I was sure the reason I was so unsuccessful in the love/lust department was I didn’t have the excuse of parking up in the dark with a chick and making a move on her. There were no drive in movies or cinemas in the UK. If you just park up in the dark with a chick and make a move on her, you’re essentially trying to create a local dogging scene. Somehow, having a screen makes it acceptable.
That was how #29 made it onto the list of the 30 things I wanted to do before I was 30.
I was fortunate enough that on the very day I mentioned the fact I had never been to a drive in and wondered if there was any way I could make it happen during my upcoming trip to the States, Steph told me a series of films were being shown at the Ally Pally the following month. Well goodness gracious, great balls of fire, if this wasn’t my T-Birds aligning on the bleachers for a-wella-wella-wella-ooh, I don’t know what is. I had to go. We scanned through the list of available films and discovered Grease was being shown. Unfortunately it was a sing-along version. If there is one thing I can’t stand more than the Flaming Dukes, it’s a sing-along. I noticed Top Gun was an option. I had an awareness of Top Gun but had never watched it. My experiences of Top Gun had only ever come via others. I had only ever been second-hand smoking Top Gun. All I knew was it was a regular costume choice for male students who saw it as being some kind of fantasy for women to get with a Top Gun pilot. More on the sexual persuasion of those aviator-wearing bitches later.
The next obstacle we encountered was that neither Steph or I have a car. We can both drive but as a result of our current circumstances don’t own cars. That’s a whole other line of enquiry. If we were to attend a drive in cinema then it was essential we did so in a car. I learnt an important lesson on rules of this ilk in my teenage years when a friend and I tried to skateboard through the Drive Thru at a McDonalds and were promptly turfed out by a manager who was probably our age. People can get very uppity on rules. If we wanted to go to a drive in, we were going to have to drive in.
We hit up Google, as people are inclined to do whenever they face any kind of barrier. We found Enterprise’s website and looked at the cost of booking a hire car for the day. This was going to be an expensive cinema trip, my most expensive to date.
On the day of the screening, Steph went and collected the car and worked from home, excitedly texting me as it was the first time she had driven in a number of months. She asked what the policy on naming a hire car was. The pair of us had previously had a number of conversations about the naming of things. I assign names to my phones, my guitars, my laptops and historically, to my cars. I told Steph I was sure the same rule applied to hire cars as it did to camels. She, quite understandably, asked what I meant.
When I took part in a hundred kilometre trek of the Sahara desert for charity (and boy do I love to talk about it), we were assigned a support camel. He would carry the water for the group each day. Don’t worry about him, he loved it. We asked our guide if the camel had a name and he looked at us as if we were insane, which I guess is fair. Despite the fact we were sure the camel had previously been given a name by other groups who had walked with him, we wanted to give him a name so it felt like he was part of what we were going through. It would also make it easier for us to refer to him. We called the camel Alan. For the time we were with that camel, he was Alan. Once we left and headed back to our privileged little lives, that camel was still out carrying water around the desert for people. He would cease to be Alan but would continue to be a camel. I decided it was the same with the car. While we had the car we could give it a name but it would then go back to just being a hire car.
When I clocked that the number plate ended with the letters CLO, I decided we could just call her Clo.
Just as I was going to leave work for the day, my friend Jess clocked my outfit.
‘Hang on a second’ she said, ‘tonight is the night you’re going to the drive in, isn’t it?’
‘Yes’ I said.
She started laughing.
‘Is that why you’re dressed like that?’
I looked down at my cool leather jacket, faded blue jeans and trusty Converse.
‘I always dress like this.’
‘You’re dressed like you’re in Grease Paul, and you know it. The jacket, the turn ups. You’re so stupid.’
‘Tell me about it stud.’
‘You shouldn’t say that.’
I got to Ally Pally all by myself which was an act fraught with danger because the train I was on didn’t announce its arrival at each station and I was seated in an awkward submarine on tracks so there were no windows.
Steph explained to me that when she had gone to pick up the car they had asked, in passing, what she was going to be using it for if she was hiring it for just one night. In her panic she said she was going to visit a friend in Essex. I asked why she couldn’t just tell them the truth and then thought about how ridiculous what we were doing actually was and why sometimes it is better to lie.
We loaded up the backseat with blankets and then drove two minutes up the road to the Alexandra Palace. Signs led us round the side of the building and into a clearing where a silver caravan was placed and several cold looking staff were waiting for us. We gave them our ticket and they gave us menus and explained how the evening would work. I had previously wondered how the issue of sound would be resolved. It was March and there was no way we could sit with our windows down while a set of speakers beside the screen blasted out Kenny Loggins. The answer was revealed at the top of the menu. We could tune into 87.9FM, a radio frequency especially set up for the event so you could enjoy the film in the bubble of your own car. It meant that as you walked across the car park area, it was relatively quiet but you knew in each of those cars, people were wrapped up in the experience.
We tuned in and I was pleased to find Grease Lightning was playing. I ran my hand through my hair in the hope it would mostly remain slicked back but a single strand would curl between my eyes and I could be really flippant towards authority and walk like I had pissed myself. It didn’t work.
We looked through the menu and decided we needed to get some hot dogs and maybe later, some popcorn. It was all part of the experience. It also felt like a situation where we should smoke, despite the fact both of us consider ourselves to be non-smokers. It was a condition of the hire of Clo that we didn’t smoke or allow pets inside. We couldn’t smoke even if we wanted to. They didn’t say anything about hot dogs though. Take that authority!
The hot dogs had some of the most incredible names I’ve ever heard. I had one called Clinton’s Love Child – “you’ll come back for more-nica” I believe was the catchphrase used on the side of the caravan from which they were being sold. It was delicious and didn’t cause me to be on the front page of all the papers despite the fact I did have sexual relations with that hot dog.
We got back in the car and cranked up the tunes. When the film started I got the kind of excited buzz that visiting the cinema brings. I like how immersive the experience can be. It’s one of the few occasions when I refuse to be distracted by anything else. You watch a film at home and there’s always something else going on. There’s social media or text messages, there’s something in the oven or someone in your ear. At the cinema I shut off and get completely sucked into the experience of it.
The film was brilliant. It has some of the most terrible clichéd characters and the homoerotic subtext levels were off the chart. The soundtrack was so good we had to listen to it again when we got in. Another great thing about a drive in is that you aren’t bothering anyone else if you decide to laugh at how ridiculous some of the lines in the film are. I also pointed out to Steph each time I was sure Tom Cruise was stood on a box beside another actor.
We turned on the hazard lights which was the accepted signal we wanted someone on rollerskates to bring us some goddamn snacks. When a girl came over we were befuddled at the very idea and wasted her precious time before deciding to get a box of popcorn and a pack of minstrels which kept us going through the rest of the film as well as our ridiculous comments on the film.
Basically, the end of it *spoiler alert* is that Tom Cruise isn’t the Top Gun but is responsible for the death of his best friend who had a great moustache, a kid and Meg Ryan to plough through. Iceman is Top Gun. He deserved to be Top Gun. He knew what it was all about. You can’t expect to ride around town in a little strop with a dead squirrel attached to the collar of your leather jacket and expect to be Top Gun. What did you think would happen? You thought because you were balling one of the instructors you would be Top Gun? You’re just not Top Gun Tom. You’re not. You’re bottom bitch if anything.
Where was I?
Yeah. Funny film. Great soundtrack. Career defining abs on show. Lots of loutish camaraderie. Maverick and Iceman don’t kiss at the end which is the logical conclusion. Would recommend.