The first outdoor movie I ever saw was The Frighteners. It starred Michael J. Fox and was the second feature of a relatively unknown director named Peter Jackson. Things turned out okay for him. I was in college up in Poughkeepsie one summer night when we made a pilgrimage to the local Drive-In. I remember sitting on the hood of my friend’s car, stealing peeks at the night sky in between on-screen ghosts. Turns out I love sitting under the stars watching a film. To get my outdoor movie fix in LA I used to drive to the City of Industry to the Vineland Drive-In Theater. There is nothing scenic about the spot, but Harlow and I could enjoy an inexpensive double feature from the comfort of our automobile. That’s until I discovered Street Food Cinema plus the great friends that help make it a Summertime tradition. That’s how I find myself one Summer night in August at Glendale Central Park watching Dirty Dancing. No one puts Harlow in a corner!
Street Food Cinema began in 2012. It’s produced by TIL Lifestyle Marketing and Events, a creative marketing and event production company based in Los Angeles since 2001. The template is simple; Saturday nights at different venues all over Los Angeles, food trucks gather, a DJ spins and folks congregate on picnic blankets to watch a movie under the stars. The site lists 16 Venues in all. Last year we caught E.T. at the Pacific Palisades, the year prior Fight Club in Griffith Park. A list of food trucks is available before every screening to whet your appetite. Dogs are welcome. A photographer roams the crowd and an M.C. runs an obstacle course with volunteer kids from the audience before the movie starts. Alcohol is “prohibited”, but it’s a toothless policy. Everyone is opening bottles of wine, just discreetly. Tommy and I take turns hauling a cooler into the event filled with wine, beer, and ice. So, maybe less discrete than others. For me, it’s a perfect summer night activity. Find a movie you like and get out there, it’s well worth your time.
I sit in the back seat with Harlow as Tommy, Karen Larkin and I carpool to the show. Karen Larkin is educating Tommy on the challenges of her new gluten-free lifestyle, having been recently diagnosed celiac. Like a good friend, I help out by chiming in that I am officially revoking her Italian ethnicity now that she can’t eat pasta. In the backseat, Harlow sports a softball t-shirt to cover her recent surgery scars. This may have been prescribed by her vet to keep them protected, but in the end, I think it may spark a fashion revolution in dogs. She’s thrilled to be out of the house, laying in the grass, and employing her sad puppy eyes to beg a taste of everyone’s food. Glendale Central Park is a more intimate venue than the others I have visited but just as fun. We meet up with friends Rrrrramon, Lauren, Joy and Joy’s impossibly cute new bulldog puppy. Merry little band complete.
I opt for the Baby’s Badass Burgers food truck. It seems in keeping with the theme of the night. The truck is painted bright pink and only after when I look it up online do I learn the concept is, “pretty girls serve gourmet burgers”. I go for The Other Woman which has blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, sautéed onions, and bacon. And fries. I’m dieting. It’s a really fine burger. I’m the first back at the blanket with food. As I enjoy my burger Harlow sits inches in front of me, with pain and hope in her eyes. In between bites, I whisper sweet nothings to her. Before I’m done I give her one small bite of meat. She has me wrapped around her paw. The 2018 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc is the first wine to go down smoothly. Its high acidity makes my mouth water. Strong citrus and stone fruit flavors dominate the dry white. Hints of herbs and chives can be found for those looking. It would be better paired with fish tacos rather than a burger, but hey, we make do with what we got. And it’s too hot to drink red. Lauren gifts me a shrimp taco and Joy & Tommy offer bites of lobster & steak enchiladas respectively. The adult chosen to serve as a foil to the kids in the obstacle course race has triumphed. He sports a Kellerman’s t-shirt (the resort from the movie). “I carried a watermelon” and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” t-shirts can also be spotted in the crowd. Darkness has crept across the sky and we settle in for Dirty Dancing.
The movie holds up. Jennifer Grey is disarmingly awkward, connected, and heartfelt. Patrick Swayze looks like a God. Jerry Orbach plays a pitch-perfect Frank Capra styled father. The smaller character roles click to perfection. We all confess to having once owned the soundtrack and wiggle and shake when our favorite tunes play. The 2016 Chateau des Bertrands Elegance Rose lubricates our entertainment. A dry Provence Rose, gentle touches of nectarine, peach and white pepper reside in each glass. Or in this case, plastic cup in a park. On-screen leather jacket clad bad boy Johnny (who never actually does anything remotely bad), gives inexperienced and awkward Baby sensual dancing lessons on route to romance. It’s funny to see it now, with adult eyes and think of an entire generation of women I grew up dating who were raised on this film. My name is Johnny, I got that going for me. When the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” line is uttered the audience erupts into raucous cheers. I’m applauding right along with everyone else. And then, dancing. Another season in the Catskills comes to a close. We shuffle in the darkness out of the park and to our cars. I can’t think of another night this Summer I traveled home so satisfied.