The Rear End

Drama Downtown

why a downtown theater and Harrison Ford are a part of my childhood

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Beth Czech |

In the year 1990, I broke the law. Kind of. Well, maybe I broke the law. Actually, maybe I didn’t break the law. OK, after some quick Googling, I’ve realized that in 1990, I didn’t actually break any kind of law. But so what? Back when I was 13 years old, I thought I was breaking the law – and that made all the difference.

Basically, I got into an R-rated movie before I was old enough. Sure, it’s not shoplifting or graffiti or bribing UN weapons inspectors, but if you were raised in a Catholic school system in Wisconsin, it felt bad. Which is to say it felt good. The movie? Presumed Innocent staring Harrison Ford. The plot? Here’s what has to say:

Presumed Innocent, like most of director Alan J. Pakula’s films is a complex character study. Based on a best-selling novel by Scott Turrow, the courtroom murder mystery tells the story of prosecutor Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford) who is accused of murdering his former mistress, the beautiful and ambitious Carolyn Blah, blah blah boopty floopty blah.

I had no idea what was going on in the movie, and I didn’t really care. My friend, who had recently (and sheepishly) admitted to sneaking into R movies on a regular basis, had convinced me to do it. He assured me that the older kids at the ticket booth wouldn’t even bother to check our age, and if they did, we could just lie. He was a genius. A few tense moments after walking into the theater, I was standing in line for popcorn, my sweaty hand wrapped around my ticket. It was disappointingly easy to purchase.

In our seats, as the lights went down, my friend told me the reason he’d wanted to see this particular movie was because his brother had seen it and told him about the nude scene where Harrison Ford has some hot lawyer sex with Greta Scacchi. And sure enough – that’s what we saw. Yes, kids, this was before the internet when preteen boys had to pay $4.40 (plus popcorn) and sit through two hours (and seven minutes) of courtroom murder mystery to see, like, 30 seconds of nudity.

I’ve never been able to look at Indiana Jones the same way again.

But man, was I on a high after seeing that movie. Breaking the law! Nudity! Courtroom drama! We walked home to my friend’s house through the cool night air, discussing how mind-blowing it was that Harrison Ford’s wife had been the killer. By the way, Harrison Ford’s wife is the killer. I’ll never forget that twist at the end. And I’ll never forget the time (I thought) I broke a law. I felt so grown up. It was like peeking behind a curtain to see that the grown-ups really aren’t paying attention a lot of the time because they’re too busy or just don’t care.

I’m sure lots of you were (and are) getting into R-rated movies well before the age of thirteen. Heck, some of you were probably in the police report by then, but it was a big deal for me. It made me feel independent.

And all of this happened at the Hollywood Theater in downtown Eau Claire, which has since been converted into a large church. Ironic, eh? I really miss that place and its lax admissions staff, because I’ve got a lot of good memories from the Hollywood. I can remember my mom taking me there to see (non-animated) Disney movies in the middle of a summer afternoon. My dad took me to see The Lone Ranger there one time. I freaked out while watching E.T. there. (Why’s ET in the big metal coffin, Mom!? Why!?) As I grew older, it’s one of the first places I went to do stuff all on my own.

I wish I could say that I took my first date there, but as you know, I’m a big dorky geek and didn’t do anything along those lines until well after the Hollywood had closed down. But all the same, it’s a part of my childhood and teen years. At least the exterior has remained largely unaltered – so I can relieve those thrilling days of yesteryear when I took advantage of a lazy teenaged ticket taker and got to see Harrison Ford kissing a half-naked lady. Those were the days, my friends.

Those were the days.