The Awarded Temple of Doom Rose
In 1984, Dr. Andy had to choose between his favorite teacher and his prom date when it came to seeing the new Indiana Jones movie.
Steven Spielberg said the second Indiana Jones movie was so dark in part because he was breaking up with his girlfriend at the time. The auteur was looking through his camera lens darkly, and the resulting film scared filmgoers and, not long thereafter, resulted in a new rating: PG-13.
I remember the film having been so disturbing that I even waited until my son Truman was 15 and a half before I sat down to watch it with him this past Friday. We both agreed that the enslavement and forced labor of children, the repeated voodoo-doll impalements of the titular hero, and the magical unscheduled manual cardiectomy (“Indy! Cover your heart!” shouted Short Round) would be a little much for the children who had so enjoyed the family film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial when they were younger Spielberg fans.
When Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in 1984, all of us in my high school were excited to see the film, but only I had tickets to the critics’ premiere. I would have gone with my dad, the actual critic to whom the passes had been mailed, but he was otherwise occupied, so I had a difficult decision to make: whom would I invite to go with me?
First on the list was my friend Sarah, the woman who would be my date to the prom later that month. Were Sarah and I “dating” if she and I were going out on two or more consecutive and planned dates? I would have liked to have thought so. Not a sports star or an actor, I didn’t have many ways to impress women, but I did have access to a steady stream of cinematic events, and in a decade well before we could imagine streaming or the internet. I don’t think that Sarah was particularly impressed with me, but she enjoyed the movies (we later attended the premiere of Breakfast Club together), and perhaps my company.
The second candidate was Will Layman, my most influential teacher in high school, and an aesthetic hero of mine. Will was a fan of everything cool, including Pynchon and Nabokov, jazz and funk, theatre, and the best action movies. For example, Will would later join the Trendsetters and me at opening night of the film Aliens in July of 1986.
Somehow I let slip that I was deciding between Sarah and Will as the lucky person who got to accompany me on this special occasion. Once during that week when I was weighing who would receive the Temple of Doom“rose,” I accidentally whistled the familiar (to all of us) Indiana Jones theme song as I walked into Will’s trigonometry class. Will merely said, “You’re killing me, Jones!” Will was everyone’s favorite teacher, but no readers will be surprised that I chose Sarah.
Standing in line on the day of the cinematic event of the year (because we didn’t know that Ghostbusterswould be such a big deal when it was released a month later), I spotted the TV crew that was following Arch Campbell, the other notable film critic in Washington DC, and one who looked up to the wacky and theatrical Channel 9 critic, and my dad, Davey Marlin-Jones. Arch was asking everyone in line how they were able to secure the coveted tickets to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. When he came to me, I told him that my dad got me the tickets, and that he was seeing a play that night at the Warner Theatre downtown. “And who is your father?” Arch asked, knowing the answer. “He’s Davey Marlin-Jones.” Oh, how I reveled in the rich irony: I was plugging my dad on a competing network!
The next day at dinner, my dad expressed some frustration that I didn’t point out that he wasn’t SEEING a play at the Warner – he was DIRECTING a play there! You can imagine how crestfallen I felt, after what I thought was such a successful media appearance. The agony of defeat was snatched from what I thought was the thrill of televised victory.
In my defense, I will point out that a UNLV master’s thesis later written about my dad revealed that he had directed more than a thousand productions in his 71 years, so my brother and Oliver and I understandably could not keep straight the prodigious iterations of his theatrical productivity. He knew so much about film and theatre that, at his funeral at the Kennedy Center, just a few miles where Sarah and I had watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, one of the eulogists compared his passing to the burning of the great library of Alexandria. Although that high praise for my dad might be an overstatement, it has always felt that way to me.
Meanwhile. I have thought often of that delicious moment of anticipation. Standing in line to see the year’s biggest movie with my junior prom date, and smiling with false confidence when I caught the eye of Arch Campbell, I remember thinking that everything was coming together. Nothing works out the way we might think – often it turns out to be better – but I’ve lodged that one moment in my Alexandrine library of memories, and there it shall remain for as long as I do.
If you are local to Davis, y ou will find it relatively easy to socially-distance at Poetry Night at the John Natsoulas Gallery on first and third Thursdays at 7. This Thursday, August 5th, we feature the Sacramento poets Susan Flynn and Laura Rosenthal. Check out the details at the website poetryindavis.com. Inspired by the work of the staff and volunteers (and donors like you) at the Yolo Food Bank, I am working on an uplifting series of poems about hunger that I will be sharing this summer and fall.
Thanks for reading.
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P.S. Love trivia? I send out a new trivia collection every Wednesday via Patreon. Here are three questions from last week’s Pub quiz:
Books and Authors. What British Romantic poet and British Poet Laureate wrote the poems “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and “‘A slumber did my spirit seal”?
Film. What 60-year-old actor was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the 2019 Pedro Almodóvar film Pain and Glory?
Countries of the World. Java, the world's most populous island, is home to more than half of what country's population?
P.P.S. A Denis Diderot quotation from my upcoming book, The Determined Writer: “Pithy sentences are like sharp nails which force truth upon our memory.”
P.P.P.S. This week at a dinner party I discovered the local musicians (and new friends) Misner & Smith. As you can see on their website, they are sharing “Rough Cuts for Rough Times.” Check them out!
Great newsletter, Dr. Andy! Wonderful story!
Also - I am utterly delighted that my favorite Proponent of Poetry and my favorite musicians, Misner & Smith, are now in each other's spheres!! They played over 70 live streaming concerts from their living room throughout the Pandemic, and not only did they save the sanity and uplift the spirits of a whole lot of us regular listeners, they built a lovely group of fans who feel like family, now. I love them, and that they were the very first Live event I attended when things began to open up! They plan to do it again occasionally (if not weekly), and I hope you and the family will tune in. their music is golden, and their hearts are kind. They are both wonderful actors, too! Their Rough Cuts are a treasure to me, as is their whole catalogue. <3