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Oscar Hammerstein III said, “Being knowing or blasé is really the sign of a very unsophisticated person. The most sophisticated thing one person can say to another is, ‘I know nothing about that. Please tell me.'”


College and university audiences tend to be among the most unsophisticated viewers from my experience, knowing and blasé with a vengeance. That said, whenever I did programs at colleges and universities the instructors always said, “Don’t be upset when the audience laughs and talks during the movie.” I always replied, “Not today.”


Then I introduced the picture.


My programs were always viewed attentively. And always, when they ended, with spontaneous applause. And again, always, the instructors would say, “That’s strange. They have never done that before.”


I would have given my eye teeth to sit in on a program presented by Peter Bogdanovich.


Years ago I read an interview with Lillian Gish in which she was asked what direction she had been given throughout her career. She said, “Only once when I was a child. The director said, ‘Speak loudly, speak clearly or we will get another little girl.'”


I wondered, “Is that all there is to it?”


I was showing Lon Chaney in the original PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) that night at midnight with the score I created for it. I present the film not as a horror movie but as the story of every person who has ever had their heart broken by someone completely unworthy of them (which is a great many of us). I decided to speak loudly and clearly until the audience finally rioted and said, “START THE DAMNED MOVIE!”


At 2am after speaking for two hours I said, “I guess I better show you this film.” The place was packed. Collectively as one the audience said, “Must you?”


My out of town screenings in cinemas were always done at premium prices that the theatre owners said their audiences would not pay. We’re talking 1,000 seat and more venues that regularly pull 80 or 90 people tops. And we’re talking capacity houses often with hundreds turned away because the place was packed.


John Tutt, who ran Waterloo, Ontario’s beautiful PRINCESS THEATRE, described my programs as a license to print money.


It was not unusual to have a few people tell me to shut up. At one university screening in Montreal a student said, “I did not come here to hear you.” When the entire packed audience said, “WE DID!” he shouted, “You are all brainwashed.”


Bear in mind I have given talks longer than the film itself.


The motion picture industry is today like Lazarus in the tomb. It is waiting for the voice that commands, “Lazarus, come forth!”


In 1992 I was invited to New York’s beautiful (and now lost) Thalia Theatre. I did my SEX & VIOLENCE CARTOON FESTIVAL 7 shows in a row with guest appearance by Shamus Culhane at the last screening. Many in each audience stayed over not for the films but for what I brought to the table. Shamus never spoke. He came with his wife Juana and with friends. That final program had me introduced to the audience by the great Al Aronowitz (

When the program ended an ancient Asian man who had sat at the back from the first show said, “Thank you. You have given me the best day of my life.”


I chose from the start to self fund my work. I had no money. That meant I had to put bums on seats or die. I’m not saying all my programs did and do that. They did not and do not. But the ones that do are the ones that pay my bills.


I do not speak so that people will say, “What a great speaker!”


I speak so that my audience can have the richest possible experience I can give them. If I succeed, they will return. If I don’t, they won’t.


It is called SHOW BUSINESS.


In 1968 when I started a fellow said, “You are just like my uncle. He runs a drugstore. He always give people more than they pay for.”


I said, “Do you know why?”


He said, “No.”


I said, “Because when they go elsewhere they always get less than they got from your uncle. That’s smart business.”


Lillian Gish, from whom I learned so much, was asked to define star quality. She said, “Star quality is that little bit extra we give of ourselves.”


Once the audience stops taking what we do seriously we are lost. People have not been taking the movies seriously for a long time now. This article reflects that.


On the streets of Toronto posting flyers for my programs film buffs would say, “We’d come to your programs if only you would not introduce them.” I like to say, “You won’t find film buffs within ten miles of my programs.”



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