It was the summer of 1977, probably right about this time, the beginning of July. I was in the middle of a season of mass communications workshops – television news, newspaper production, film production – that had a dual purpose. In the short term, the workshops would help me meet the requirements for a minor in print journalism to add to my major in broadcast journalism; in the long run, the summer’s work would, I hoped, sharpen my writing and the other skills I’d need come the end of August when I’d leave St. Cloud State and enter the workforce.
It was also my last summer as a unattached man. I’d been seeing regularly a gal I’d met at a Halloween party in1975, but during the spring of 1977, we decided to take a break from each other. That break turned out to be temporary, but we both spent a good portion of that summer of 1977 assessing our options and seeing other people.
For me, one of those other people was a young lady who’d just completed her freshman or sophomore year at St. Cloud State, I don’t remember which. I’m not even sure at this distance how we met, but we spent a few pleasant evenings together, some sipping drinks at downtown bars (the drinking age at the time was nineteen, I think), some taking part in impromptu jam sessions with other friends at a vegetarian restaurant on the East Side and some just hanging out at either my home or hers. We weren’t serious – I was likely to be leaving town for a job somewhere else in the fall, no matter how things with my former girlfriend resolved themselves – but we had fun. We had mutual friends, we were both interested in current events and history, and we liked a lot of the same kind of music.
Except . . . she was uncritical in her love of Barbra Streisand’s music. I liked some of it, but what I liked was not at all recent: I thought that since 1971’s Stoney End, Streisand had let her ego get in the way of her musicianship, making much of what resulted less than pleasant to listen to. My young lady friend had a different opinion. It didn’t matter. We listened occasionally to Streisand when we hung out at her home – I heard nothing to change my opinion – and we didn’t listen to Streisand when we hung out at my place.
And one week, right around the first week of July, she told me that she wanted to go see A Star Is Born, the Streisand-Kris Kristofferson movie that had been released a year earlier. She knew how I felt about Streisand. She’d also read my piece in the university paper a few months earlier carping about Streisand’s winning an Academy Award for writing (with Paul Williams) the song “Evergreen” for the film. She also knew I wasn’t a big fan of Kris Kristofferson. But the movie was playing that weekend at the Cloud, one of the two drive-in theaters in the St. Cloud area, and she wanted to see it.
I went to pick her up that Friday evening determined to make the best of it. Even if the entertainment wasn’t to my taste, I was going to be spending a couple of hours with a young lady whom I liked very much, and that would be fine.
When I arrived at her home, I found her in the company of a ten-year-old boy. Somehow, a neighbor’s emergency had resulted in my young lady being drafted for caretaking that evening. He would join us for the movie. That altered the equation significantly; while I hadn’t anticipated anything too torrid, I had thought that my lady friend and I might cuddle during portions of the movie. That now seemed unlikely. I smiled and welcomed the young fellow to our evening, assuring my ladyfriend that all was well. And off we went, me behind the wheel, my ladyfriend next to me and the young fellow riding shotgun.
The movie was as bad as I had expected it to be. Next to me, my ladyfriend was enthralled, eyes fixed on the screen. On the other side of her, the young lad watched for a while and then became bored. He slumped back, occasionally kicking either the base of the car seat or the glove compartment. I knew how he felt.
After a few minutes of his squirming, the young lady turned to me. “We’re going to go to the concession stand and get some popcorn, okay?” I nodded and smiled, and I handed her some cash. She gave me a sweet smile as she and her ward left on their errand.
They returned shortly, he with a tub of buttered popcorn and she with a smaller container that we could share. She squeezed my hand. “Thanks,” she whispered, and we both turned our attention back to the movie, which wasn’t – for me – getting any better. And a few moments later, the young fellow spilled his entire tub of buttered popcorn on the front seat and floor of my car.
He was apologetic and crestfallen. She was horrified and apologetic. I was more bemused than anything else. As the two of them scooped buttery popcorn into the paper tub to discard it, I wondered where our date would rate in the annals of dates gone off the rails. I pondered the question for the rest of the evening, as Kris’ and Babs’ characters went through their travails on the big screen. And after I left my two guests at her home that night, I decided that the evening would rank fairly high on any list of dates gone wrong.
As it happened, I don’t think I ever saw the young lady again. We talked on the phone a few more times, but our schedules weren’t compatible, and the summer sessions were drawing to a close. A few weeks later, I ran into my former girlfriend and we decided to give things another try. And over the thirty-plus years since, that movie date – the Night of the Buttered Falcon, if you will – has become nothing more than the source of a funny story.
As I thought this week about that long-ago evening, I wondered if the movie and its music were really as bad as I thought they were then. I likely won’t revisit the movie, but I did some poking on YouTube and found several songs from A Star Is Born, and to my surprise, they were better than I expected. Here’s one of them, Kristofferson performing “Watch Closely Now,” today’s Saturday Single.
Tags: Kris Kristofferson