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Stephen King: movie and concert traumas

EW’s pop-culture columnist asked you to tell him about your worst experiences at a cineplex or music venue — and you had lots to share!

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Janet Leigh, Psycho (Movie - 1960)
Everett Collection

Stephen King: movie and concert traumas

One night during my junior year at college, while high on considerably more than life (it was the ’60s, so sue me), I took it into my head to go — by myself — to an Alfred Hitchcock retrospective playing in the Memorial Union. The film that night was Psycho, which I had seen before…but never with the entire world seeming to melt at the edges and change colors in the middle. Yet things were going along pretty well until the last 20 minutes, when I became convinced that Norman Bates’ mother — in all her shriveled, eyeless glory — was sitting directly behind me and would soon reach out to stroke the back of my neck.

I remembered this a couple of weeks ago, when I happened upon Psycho playing on cable. Talk about flashbacks! It made me wonder how many others had had bad entertainment experiences — I mean really bad, the absolute pits — and so I put out a query on my website. I was deluged with replies. People have suffered all sorts of entertainment traumas. Many, as you would guess, have to do with that ever-popular combination of alcohol and rock & roll. Several end with forcible ejections from the human body, occasionally on some other concertgoer’s head.

Teresa wrote about going to see Queen in 1978 (”Freddie Mercury was still alive then”) in a pair of satin pants that were all the rage. A drunk threw an empty bottle, bonk!, on poor Teresa’s head while she was trying to work her way down to the front so Freddie could admire her groovy threads. She regrets the stitches, mourns the pants. Her sad conclusion: Blood doesn’t wash out of satin.

Sometimes it’s the talent who’s out of control. Ayla wrote about going to see Hole in Adelaide, Australia. ”Courtney Love staggered on stage, played a few songs, then started ranting about being stung by a huge Australian bug. [She] stormed off stage screaming she was going to die…. Not cool.” And Susan recalls a show where the always-inspired Billy Idol grabbed the drummer’s sticks and began playing his own leather-clad crotch. Tasteful!

NEXT PAGE: ”Mary was taken to The Godfather at the age of 13. Her parents rarely went to films, but they’d heard there were ‘some great Italian wedding scenes”’

Bev writes about the night that Rice Stadium in Houston flooded while Pink Floyd was playing. The Floyd struggled on valiantly for an hour as various pieces of equipment shorted out, then David Gilmour announced to the crowd: ”We’ve run out of instruments that still work. Good night.”

And when Ariel went to see the punk band Die Toten Hosen (the literal translation, rather funny in itself: The Dead Pants), it turned out to be possibly the shortest concert in history. The drummer managed one riff before the stage collapsed and the entire band went down, clutching their instruments.

Many people seeking amusement have been traumatized at the movies. Brian writes about settling in to watch Deep Impact when a fellow fresh off the Appalachian Trail settled in right beside him. ”Every time he shifted his weight,” Brian says, ”a cloud of death would puff from his Umbros [i.e., soccer shorts].”

David recalls going to see Shrek and winding up near a woman who had smuggled her Chihuahua in. ”I was ready to tell her to shut him up if he started to bark. He never barked. Instead he crapped like there was no tomorrow.” All this and popcorn, too!

James waited in line three days for the first showing of The Phantom Menace. The good news: He got on TV, and local restaurants brought him food. The bad news: Twenty minutes into the showing, the projector broke down. ”Bummer!” James writes. (But probably not as bad as actually seeing the whole movie.)

One memoirist remembers going to Love Story with her husband and feeling a weight settle on her shoulder halfway through the film. It was another man’s head. She thought he had gone to sleep until the ”sleeper’s” wife gently moved him upright and the guy snapped awake. He’d been having a mild epileptic seizure.

Mary was taken to The Godfather at the age of 13. Her parents rarely went to films, but they’d heard there were ”some great Italian wedding scenes” in The Godfather. There are, of course, but the one Mary remembers most vividly is ”Sonny banging the bridesmaid against the wall.”

My favorite movie story came from Kelly. She remembers the night when her grandpa Henry took her to see Alive. She was 12 at the time. This is the film about the rugby players who resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive after their plane crashes. ”This guy takes a knife (or whatever he had) and sliced a piece off a woman’s rear end and eats it. My grandpa said (loud enough for the whole theater to hear): ‘Damn! Wouldn’t mind a piece o’ ass myself!’ I just about died of humiliation.”

I got hundreds more, and some stories are truly awful. Like Chad’s. He writes, ”Last Tuesday I sat through an entire episode of According to Jim. Yes, I know…excruciating.”

Got stories of your own? Post them on the message board below, but keep them under 100 words. I can only stand so much horror.

More entertainment-related trauma:
Movie-theater horror stories from EW staff

Movie-theatre letdowns: Is the thrill gone?

Multiplex etiquette: An EW guide

Moviegoers’ Bill of Rights