If Chuck had a dime and I was broke, he’d pay to get in. After sitting in the dark a few minutes, he’d make his way down the aisle and through the curtains on past the men’s room, open the exit door a crack, stick a clothes pin he carried into the door jam, and then return to his seat.
In the alley, I’d wait maybe three or four minutes before making my move, so nobody would notice one kid going through the curtains and two coming out. When I felt the time was right, I’d slip inside the theater, close the door behind me, take a pee in the tiny men’s room, wash my hands, and nonchalantly walk out through the curtains and up the aisle to our rendezvous point.
Sometimes this gambit worked—sometimes it didn’t.
A few blocks south of the Rex was located Portland’s wondrous burlesque house—the Rialto Theater. Chuck Brown and I were curious about the place, but at that time we were too young to be able to imagine what went on inside. We checked the Rialto’s back alley exit doors several times to see if we could sneak our way in, but it didn’t work.
A year or two later, we did finagle our way into the Rialto and as I look back now on that playful burlesque, it all seems so innocent. To my young eyes at the time, those slapstick comics were hilarious, the dancing dollies were gorgeous, and the blowzy blonde second from the left sent an illicit chill through me.
Reading the “funny papers” on Sunday morning was always a happy highlight of the week around our house. My favorites were Krazy Kat, Tarzan, Buck Rogers, and Dick Tracy. The Dick Tracy strip introduced hard-hitting realism into the funnies for the first time. Then in 1934 came a flurry of new strips. I added Terry & the Pirates, Lil’ Abner and Flash Gordon to my list of favorites.