Thursday, December 31, 2015

4.9.69 - my new and not very salubrious career

4.9.69 (midnight)
Billy Graham preaching outside
the Compton in the early 60s
Dear Mum, I’d better write now, because I haven’t really the time during the day at the moment. I’m trying to organise myself fairly thoroughly, and so far things are going quite smoothly. I’m just home from work, of course; six hours of selling tickets to men who obviously haven’t much else to do with their time. This club as I think I told you shows pretty grotty films: what they call X films here (which is why the cinema is licensed as a club, and must function according to police regulations) and which they wouldn’t bother showing at home. [In NZ, I assume I meant.] Quite why men want to come and see them I don’t know ˗ for the same reasons that striptease clubs make a nice profit I guess. [As far as I knew at this time, pornography, in NZ, was barely visible, though it presumably existed in some form.] Old Compton St, where I work (it’s just off Wardour St, which is very famous as the English film industry’s street, as you no doubt know) has two or three strip clubs in it ˗ one practically opposite the cinema, and a variety of restaurants of greatly differing quality, a Cinerama theatre, several clothes stores ˗ the ones who can’t make Carnaby St, which is also not far from there ˗ and the usual number of pubs. (The Soho average is slightly higher than elsewhere in London, about three a street I should think!)
The Compton [Cinema]is nearly all underground; I’m in the only bit that isn’t, and I shouldn’t think it holds more than 200, if that. The people who come have to join first, at 15/- a head! ˗ then they pay 12/6 on top of that. No wonder they make money there. The film runs continuously from ten in the morning till (this week anyway) 11.47 at night. There are shorts, but the point is that the place never closes once it’s open. Only men can become members (!) but since they can take a ‘guest’ in, some of them take their wives or girlfriends in. God alone knows what they think of it! We had one man last night who wanted to take both his wife and his dog in. Tonight I had a Czech who spoke no English at all, and as little German as I do, so though he wasn’t keen on the idea, I finally let him in for £1-7-6 (he wanted to go in for 12/6, like some of the English people who can read the signs do), but it was only after innumerable gesticulations on my part that we got anywhere.
Compton Cinema in the late 60s
Lots of the men come in without their cards, and at present the filing system is in a complete state of chaos, so that it’s well nigh impossible to find anything. There is an old set of names with thin strips of cardboard stuck in metal plates that are detachable from their main stand and which should be on the wall but isn’t. The strips fall out whenever you try to find anything, and anyway they aren’t in order except that they’re under A or B or such. There’s a new card filing system which is in perfect order, but lots of the cards haven’t yet been filed, and there’s a list being typed (again not strictly alphabetically) into a book. This will soon be stopped, I think. Or at worst you can look in the daily records book where each name is entered against its membership number. This may only take a good half-hour, depending on whether the guy can remember when he came in before or not!
What amuses me about the place is that nobody, as far as I can make out, and I think I’ve met most of the staff at one time or another who work there, ever watches the films that are shown! Even the management. Mr Neilson, who as I said is not much than older than me, is going on holiday tomorrow, and Mike ? is taking over. He’s from Jersey, and is filling in time till he can get the right sort of union card to be able to work in the floor management side of TV. He’s done it before, but apparently can’t do it just now. Anyway, I may yet get another job out of it all. There’s a new cinema being opened in Tottenham Court Rd, on the same sort of system, so I may be lucky enough to get the same sort of job. It would suit me fine, because I’m starting to make some headway with what I’m doing in the daytime.
Remember how my foot was damaged? Well, it’s now getting to the repaired stage, and somewhere along the line, I’ve now been bitten (I think) on the other foot, and it all swelled up! I’ve put the Englishman’s favourite antiseptic on it (TCP) and I haven’t yet looked at it since I’ve been home.
The weather today suddenly went mad and shot back up to the 70s, just as we were all putting our winter wooly vests back on. Crazy. Monday was August Bank Holiday, though as usual it fell in September (!), and Hazel and Ian (who is an old friend of Hazel’s) and I went out in Ian’s car for the day. We didn’t go far, only to Epping Forest, where we walked (and picnicked, rather unsatisfactorily on biscuits and apples), and then when we finally found the car again, we went to Hampstead Heath, and had a look at the fair. Actually there were three fairs, but all of them were pretty dull. We went to see Some Like It Hot in Hampstead, at 4.00, [this would have been the second time I’d seen it] and then when we found all the restaurants we wanted to go to were closed we went to a singularly ‘caff’ type place in Soho, and then went to a pub next door to Hazel’s present abode (she’s rented out her own flat, as she leaves London for some time soon), then went to Hazel’s present abode and listened to The Rite of Spring! Very curious day, but also very relaxing. Ian and I got to know each other considerably better too. [Hazel was due to go off as stage manager in another part of the country.]
[Handwritten on the back] Next day. Other foot this morning seems to be calming down somewhat, and is back to its normal size. Call me YS029399C!! from now on. That’s the National Insurance. I wrote to the Post Office about Postmen’s work, and you should see the rigamarole of forms they sent back to fill in ! I was only asking ˗ you’d think they thought I was already joining!

P.S. And I’d have to take a test!! [I’d worked as a Postman in Dunedin, for a couple of months.]