I was 5 when I saw Dracula, my first horror movie. Alone. In a tiny room lit only by the glow of a black and white TV, behind which were sliding glass doors revealing the evil darkness beyond. I knew he would get me if I left the couch. So I had no choice but to pee in my jammies while my parents played pee nuckle (pinochle) with their friends in the next room. Revenge is sweet.
And then, on a smoggy September night in Los Angeles two years later I saw my first science-fiction movie, War of the Worlds. It terrified me. I was in love! With being scared, that is. It was a re-release of one of the best sci-fi movies of the 50s, famous for its special effects–especially the Martian spaceships with their creepy, snakelike grabber thingies that reached down into buildings, nabbing unsuspecting humans! Horror! Devastation!
Mom loved to talk about Jimmy, a skinny, high-strung guy who’d previously worked with her at the crumbling old Litchenberger building in L.A. One morning after seeing the original release of War of the Worlds, Jimmy was ranting about those creepy grabber thingies! “I almost peed my pants!” he admitted. And then, as he raved (this actually happened), a plumber’s snake, controlled by a workman two floors above, suddenly broke through an ancient drain pipe and burst out of the wall in front of Jimmy, its menacing rooter-claws still awhirl!
Jimmy screamed in a key hitherto unknown to man and clocked the nine floors to the street below, setting a new land speed record, peeing all the way. Mom said she felt guilty about laughing. Uncontrollably. For half an hour. But she couldn’t help herself.
Sure, War of the Worlds scared me. But I didn’t pee. As the movie neared it’s dramatic conclusion in sticky Los Angeles, the alien spaceships began dying, crashing one by one to the ground. “What happened?” I wondered aloud. And just as the star Gene Barry was about to explain, some guy in the third row shouted, “The smog got ’em!” The audience roared.
And I peed.