Overbrook Contributing Stories

Show business

Updated: 2013-10-29T19:24:56Z

Donald Bradley

The Kansas City Star

Show business

Nothing like a college education to skew one’s view of things.

In 1978 after six years of study for a four-year degree in radio, TV and film, I returned to my home town of Rich Hill, Mo., population 1,500 in the middle of farm country.

I wanted in show business.

An old movie theater sat closed on Main Street and I went next door to the funeral home office to talk to the owner. The two businesses had long been a joint operation. When I was boy, my friends and I saw Frankenstein and Dracula movies at Booth Theater. Booth Funeral Home had bodies in coffins. Made perfect sense.

The owner back then was an elderly woman with lots of jewelry and a big, dark perm. She wore gold slippers and drove a long, black Cadillac. She was glamorous or eerie, I couldn’t decide.

Anyway, I leased that theater because I knew the town was hungry for culture. Years had passed since Kitty Wells played the high school gym. I headed to Kansas City’s film row to book movies and buy popcorn. This was my strength. I knew movies. I knew Fellini and Bergman and Woody Allen.

Turned out I didn’t know anything. My hometown didn’t want art house snobbery or New York whining.

The night that Allen’s “Interiors” played, I stood at the closing credits and noticed the place was empty except for my girlfriend and myself. I woke her to voice my dismay.

My theater career didn’t last long. “Smokey and the Bandit’ nearly saved me, but to cut losses at the end, a film rep let me have “Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair” for a flat $25. People lined up down the block to the only phone booth in town.

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