GILBERTINE & THE EXCHANGE (Volume One) — Chapter 9, Part 2: “This Means War!” 12 August 1964

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As if a memo had been circulated ahead of time, the boys – and any of the girls who were there to actually hear the Beatles and see the movie – were up in the balcony with us.

All the girls who’d come there to scream – which was most of them – had obligingly remained below, taking seats well away from both the Flats and the balcony.

It was an arrangement that – unofficially – had probably started back when Eddie Cochran had appeared onscreen singing Twenty Flight Rock in The Girl Can’t Help It.

 

On the whole, the arrangement worked out well. Although the Fox predated even Crosby, Sinatra and the bobby soxers, much less rock’n’roll, whoever’d designed her had seemingly anticipated there’d one day be gaggles of girls in the auditorium choosing to wail and scream like banshees rather than watch the movie. They’d designed its acoustics in a way minimizing the exposure of balcony to the caterwauling below. Thus, apart from affording a certain ambience – perhaps a tint – to what was going on onscreen, no screaming coming from downstairs could really impair any enjoyment of what was to come.

We were certain of that.

We were wrong.

Just before the film was about to start a cluster of about fifteen girls engaged in a breach of unofficial protocol by sitting together in the row at the very boundary of Amorous Acres, directly below and beyond the railings of the balcony. From the way they were giggling and carrying on, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were going to be first magnitude screamers – and they were.

From the moment A Hard Day’s Night began to roll, the screaming from below would’ve drowned out a fleet of 707s ready for takeoff. Making the problem worse, they sat in the only part of the auditorium where 90% of the noise wafted its way directly up to where we were.

If the three of us hadn’t already known the title song note for note, chord for chord, we’d have never been able to recognize it. As for dialog, forget it! The screaming beneath us subsided a bit, but we still couldn’t hear a word. The ushers tried to get them to ease up, but got no cooperation at all.

 

“Shut up, Eccles,” I yelled down in my best Bluebottle voice. “You filthy, rotten swines, you’ve drownded the film!”

“What?!?” Angles and Charlie exclaimed simultaneously. So did some of the older banshees – and some of the ushers – who all looked up at me, momentarily dumfounded.

So I switched to my best mockney. “Oi! Shat y’gobs. We wants th’Beatles, no’a bunch o’screamin’ gits.”  Granted, my mockney was scarcely better than Dick van Dyke’s, but it was good enough for this crowd. A decent sized cheer and fair amount of applause rose from others around us in the balcony. Even the ushers looked appreciative.

The younger “banshees” were looking up too, taking stock of Angles’ and my hair and my “accent.” They looked ready to start screaming and wailing at us, until older ones thumped their heads.

“That’s not your real accent,” Angles said out of the corner of his mouth.

“They dunno that,” I replied from the corner of mine. “Scouse accents’re too gentle, too soft. This one might impress them, might give them a giggle – but would definitely get their attention.” I switched to a comic brummie accent.

“B’soides, Om frum th’Midluns – w’doy yav ocksens.”

Seven weeks on, the joke should’ve been wearing thin, but Charlie and Angles still laughed gamely as if they’d heard it for the first time.

 

“Yeah, booger butts! Why don’t you nimrods cool your chops a sec so the rest of us can enjoy the movie!”

 

A surfer kid about my age in tee and cutoffs, with disheveled shaggy blonde hair, a trim, wiry frame and a sunburn that had a sunburn, was now hanging over the balcony, putting his tuppence in. He’d been among those cheering and applauding me a minute ago, and we returned the accolade. He stood on the lower balcony rail, bowing elaborately.

 

“Go soak your heads, dorks,” one of the older girls shouted back. “We’ll do whatever we want.”

Surfer Boy and I looked at each other. “Thithss meanthsss wahrr!” he roared down in an abbreviated but halfway decent impersonation of Daffy Duck.

 

He looked back at us and motioned with his head towards the lobby. Angles and I nodded and, Charlie tagging along behind, followed surfer boy and his two confederates into the lobby,

“Jumbo Pepsis all around?” Surfer Boy asked.

“No, blow’em all away wid Teem!” I replied, riffing on the ad.

 

I’d already guessed what he was planning, and cola stains. If we got caught, paying for ruined girls’ clothes would cost major bread.

“Wow. You really arrr English!” he exclaimed.

“Fresh from th’Motherland,” I replied, with a small nod and smile.

Biiiiiitchennnn!” he said in a drawn out, classic California surfer drawl, grinning.

Others drawled murmured, if less than articulate, assent. Less than two minutes later, we all had Teems in hand.

“Let’s go,” he ordered

 

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