I must admit to visiting the original Drexel’s location just once. It’s the spring of 1997 and Crash, alternately either excoriated or championed in every article I’ve read, spools out this week at the Drexel theater, a locally owned matinee in the affluent Bexley subdivision. Alan hasn’t the first inkling when I suggest this flick, but all it takes is a whisper of its NC-17 rating and an abundance of nudity to lasso him along.
Fifteen minutes shuttling downtown by interstate, then east, nestles us snug within Bexley’s 1950s time warp. Descending this off ramp into a community isolated yet buttressed, the city’s greenest pasture both in money and the trees which overhang each funereal quiet street. Surrounded by ghetto but populated somehow with sprawling mansions and trendy cafes, upscale seafood restaurants and a tiny community college directly opposite the theater, Bexley is long rumored the inspirational backdrop for tv’s Family Ties. At any rate, with its narrow, pedestrian friendly avenues and quaint, half century old storefronts, parking and walking down the main drag here feels like a stroll down someone else’s memory lane.
Still, this reverence for yesterday allows the Drexel to survive, thrive, a throwback with its meager screen selection and bulging backlit marquee. Warbling maroon headers protrude where wall meets ceiling, curve around corners, with one central stripe of blue neon added above the half oval ticket stand, running the lobby’s length, where concessions are also sold. Faded red carpet sprouts absurd plant patterns in white, black, and gold, and throughout, other Art Deco touches proliferate. Heavy on brass and mirrors, muted lighting, a ceramic exit sign, more blue neon spelling out TELEPHONE atop a WWII era booth. Framed vintage posters, and a small cherry dais supporting this tiny metal statuette. A similarly adorned coffee shop attached up front, as though last updated during the big band heyday. Chief selling points, these, along with the $3 admission they offer this one night a week.
We settle into seats, grimacing at the initial painful spike of such hard and flimsy chairs, well past their prime, with awkward wooden armrests. Joining us in the darkened room are dozens of far too serious students, clutching notebooks and pocket flashlights, scribbling furious notes once the film starts rolling. Yet from the opening frames of a tall blonde starlet opening her blouse in an airport hangar, rubbing her admittedly exquisite nipples along the sleek, metallic surface of a glittering car hood, we’re not so much aroused or mentally stimulated as we are tickled out of our seats. On the heels of this promising intro, primary participants of a vaguely name brand cast descend into staging car crashes for sexual highs, an unintentionally hilarious premise. We’re the only two in the room laughing out loud at what amounts to a softcore porno, grinning with delight at the plentiful shots of naked female anatomy, except even this angle eventually loses its luster. Three quarters of the way through, I hear Alan snoring beside me, and while pupils from Capitol still hang upon every shot, I’m trying to recall the stated running time.
Stretching our cramped limbs en route to the car, we spot a couple ahead of us on the sidewalk, last seen suffering through Crash as well. By coincidence they’re parked near us, and pull out into the Main Street traffic just ahead of our own ride. We stop at a red light side by side, our two vehicles, and as I rev the engine with a deranged glint in my eye, stealing glances their way, the genius bug of inspiration bites me in the ass.
The light turns green and they putter forward, but I swerve to the left as if intent upon hitting them. Their eyes expand to the size of dinner plates and they look upon us with blank horror, convinced I’m about to ram their automobile. They move as far left as they can but I keep the pressure cooking, swerving into their lane, straightening up momentarily before making another lunge, straightening up, lunging. Alan’s overtaken with fits of hysterical laughter in the passenger seat, grasping immediately my impulse.
“They think you took the movie seriously!” he crows.
Struggling to shake me, they veer left onto the next major intersection, and I follow, maintaining the same steady pace beside them. Finally, assuredly nearing panic, aghast with wonder at the freaks they’ve unwittingly attracted, the guy at the wheel floors it. He whips over into the right hand lane ahead of us, then streaks up the interstate on ramp, rockets away and out of sight.