I’m almost positive that this event didn’t happen fifty years ago today, but I know it was sometime in September. I was hanging around with a friend of mine who was several years older and lived in the Herman Gardens, a low income housing project on the west side of Detroit. I don’t remember his name, but he had a little shoe shine kit, and we spent a good part of the day wandering into most of the dark, smoky bars up and down Warren Avenue between Southfield and Greenfield roads. It was daytime and no one chased us out. He was a fast shiner and tried to teach it to me. I took a turn every couple of customers. I am happy to say that I was NOT good at it. My future skills lay elsewhere.
As we approached the Warren Theater, we could see that there was a long line waiting outside. My buddy saw that it was the new Beatles movie, “Help!” that was causing the attention. Back then, the Warren Theater, a neighborhood movie house, would have shown the film a few weeks after the downtown theaters had a shot at showing it. Anyway, he was determined to get into the show and see the film if possible—for free. So we fought through the line and got inside and asked to see the manager. Surprisingly, with all of the commotion, we weren’t just kicked out, but hung around with the manager who did want a shoe shine. We had to stick close, he told us, while he got things ready for the start of the movie.
When we weren’t in his office, we were walking around in the area behind the seats where the vending machines were. I was able to catch the intro credits where Leo McKern was throwing darts at The Beatles. Awesome! Seeing that black and white start with the gigantic ring that Ringo Starr wore was breathtaking! I had not even planned on being able to see the film for awhile, so this was GREAT! At that point, I was dragged back to reality because a shine still had to be given. I was chosen to do it so my friend could try to pay attention to what he could hear in the movie.
I, apparently, couldn’t handle the pressure of shining the manager’s shoes and got a little bit of black polish on his sock. He was not happy. My friend had to take over and bail me out. He also didn’t let us stay. I guess my slip up cost us both a chance to see the movie at night. It’s a goofy memory of a band that meant—and still means everything to me!