Jamie Reidy shares the funny story of the first time he and his father watched an R-Rated movie together: “Animal House.”
That Saturday night in 1982 marked an unprecedented moment in Reidy family history: father and son watching a higher-than-PG movie together.
Our Home Theater was set: The aroma of excessively buttered popcorn wafted through the downstairs; the ceiling’s fluorescent lights were off, replaced by the lone bulb in the stairwell; Dad and I sat next to each other on the ancient couch, soda in one hand and half a paper napkin in the other (to this day, for still unknown reasons, he strangely forces us to split one).
The television set was turned to HBO for an 8:00 PM showing of “Animal House.” Now, this wasn’t the actual world cable premiere – the film had been airing constantly for months prior. This was simply its premiere for us, as we had only recently gotten cable.
My old man was excited to show his 12-year old son what he thought was my first R-rated movie. Only it wasn’t. And I’d already seen this particular movie.
A year before, a buddy called me one day after school. “Do you like nudity?” he asked. Assuming he was referring to women, I replied in the affirmative. “Duh.”
But that bravado masked my nerves; I’d only seen naked breasts in “Playboy” until that point. I was also concerned that my parents would be able to tell afterwards that I’d seen an R-rated flick; prisoners at a SuperMax facility have more privacy than kids in the Reidy household.
Regardless, I hopped on my Huffy and pedaled to my friend’s house. We watched it in his parents’ bedroom, which, for some reason, seems kinda creepy now.
Turns out that I didn’t like nudity; I loved it. Obviously, I did not share that information with my old man as we sat on the downstairs couch.
He turned to me with a welcome-to-the-club grin. “You know, my father never did this kind of thing with me!”
I knew that to be true – and not just because cable TV didn’t exist back then. In my grandpa’s house, hugs and “I love you” occurred far less often than Manhattans consumed. While “Big Steve” Reidy had an easy charm and a superb wit, warmth wasn’t his strength. One-on-one time didn’t exist.
Once he became a father, Rich Reidy made it a point to make sure his kids knew he loved us. A just-Dad-and-Jamie movie typified that effort. And he was absolutely correct: “Animal House” proved to be a very bonding experience.
That is, until the lovely ladies began their topless pillow fight in the Tri Pi sorority house.
Judging from his beet red face, my old man had never considered the possibility of the movie containing any nudity. We did not speak of the beautiful, bountiful breasts bopping on screen. An awkward tension hung in the air.
Gradually, the mood returned to normal as we laughed at the Deltas’ antics. But then Pinto’s supermarket cashier girlfriend passed out on his bed and her bra fell off.
With my eyes glued to the naked boobies on screen, I failed to notice my old man squirming with awkwardness.
“Uh, Jamie?! Why, uh, why don’t you go upstairs and ask your mother if she’d like some ice cream?!”
I could think of a thousand reasons why not to go upstairs and ask my mother anything – one specific pair of reasons, in particular – but I quickly surmised that arguing would only delay my return to the Ta-Ta-A-Thon.
I sprinted into the living room where my mother sat engrossed in a book.
Her eyes never lifted from the page. I waited. As soon as her chin began to move sideways, I pivoted and raced back to heaven.
One night in the summer of 1975, the universally recognizable sound of the Ice Cream Man’s bell rang through our neighborhood. I ran outside, calling for Dad to come out with some money.
He yelled to me, “Tell the guy to stop!”
“Stop,” I said, barely above conversational volume. The ice cream truck continued past our house. Five years old and ice cream-less, I started to cry.
“HALT!” Rich Reidy bellowed through the kitchen’s screen door.
SCREEECH. The Ice Cream Man slammed on his breaks. I gleefully ran up to order my Bomb Pop.
Seven years later, my father’s voice hadn’t lost any of its fastball. The walls shook. And to think I’d nearly made it back downstairs, too.
“Jamie, uh, just wait there a minute.”
I sat down on a stair and buried my head in my hands like a guy who’d just lost the Wimbledon final. Time passed slower than a slug crossing the beach. Finally, the nude scene ended and Dad beckoned me to the couch.
Alas, the rest of the movie remained fun-bag free.
But all was not lost.
I will never forget my father’s laughter. I’d seen him fall into hysterics before, but only with his brothers, uncles and cousins. And even then, he knew all the stories, all the punch lines in advance.
But the hijinks of Bluto, Otter and the gang caught Dad off guard. Uproarious and unbridled, his laughter infected me; I giggled at things I didn’t even understand, simply because he chuckled. I wanted to freeze that night and keep it forever. Bonding, indeed.
A few months later, my father and I watched a nature program with Patrick (3) and Anne-Marie (1.5).
As one amorous duck mounted a female duck, the narrator intoned, “And springtime came to the woodlands…”
I flashed Dad a grin and turned to my siblings. “Hey, kids, why don’t you go upstairs and see if Mom wants some ice cream?”
Rich Reidy coughed in surprise, unable to stifle his laughter.
Years afterwards he told me that was the moment he knew he was raising a wiseass.
I like to think he was pretty psyched about it.
This essay is an excerpt from Good Feed Blog co-editor Jamie Reidy’s recently published third book. A Walk’s As Good As A Hit is a collection of funny and poignant essays about his relationship with his Dad. It’s theme is, “A son attempts to avoid becoming his father. Resistance is futile.” If you’re scrambling for a late Father’s Day gift, this is it. Buy two, and start a father-son book club. Jamie recommends drinking while discussing. A Walk’s As Good As A Hit is also available as an eBook for Kindle or the Kindle app on iPad.