The bumpy path to true love often runs through a movie theater.
In honor of Valentine's Day, we asked readers to share stories of their worst movie dates ... and, boy, did they. Inclement weather, alcohol, fear, car troubles, faulty movie choices and bad behavior all have starring roles. Names have been changed or omitted to protect the guilty.
* * *
Gary Hall was 16 and living in Bellevue when he asked a girl to dinner and a movie. The steakhouse was a hit. Ingmar Bergman's subtitled “Cries and Whispers” was not.
“I knew Bergman was a great filmmaker but knew nothing of his style,” Hall said. “The deep, depressing darkness of the movie was not conducive to a happy date.”
He feared if he tried to hold her hand, she might shriek.
They never dated again.
Gary hasn't entirely learned his lesson. His wife refers to his Bergman movie rental nights as “film school,” though she dutifully watches anyway.
* * *
Ann Gentle had a high school crush on “Ryan.” Nice eyes, mischievous, a ready grin.
“On my bedroom wall were posters of Billy Idol and George Michael. But if those two plus Ryan showed up at my door, I'd have picked Ryan.”
She mooned over him, analyzing his every move with best friend Sara, looking for signs of secret affection. Nice girls don't call boys (well, not back in the '80s), and the very thought of that turned her beet-red and mortified anyway.
Out of the blue, Ryan asked her to the movies. She was over the moon.
But when a cool car pulled up in her drive to take her to “The Highlander” at Westroads, Ryan's friend “Mark” was behind the wheel.
Maybe a double date?
No, Ryan explained with a shrug. His brother commandeered the car Ryan wanted to drive. Mark offered and wanted to see the movie ... and they all knew each other, so ...
Ryan and Ann sat in the back seat. Mark silently stared in the rearview mirror. At the theater, while Mark used the restroom, Ryan explained further. It was tongue-tied Mark who wanted to ask Ann out. Ryan did it for him.
Ann's heart plummeted. Then she had to sit between them through the movie, hoping Mark would not try to hold her hand.
“Oh, it was awful. I felt like a complete idiot.”
Afterward, Mark offered to drop Ryan off first. He declined ... and started to make out with Ann in the back seat. She felt ... confused! Ryan's kisses weren't romantic, they were sloppy. And he had roving hands. And his pal was still watching in the rearview mirror.
She fled as soon as possible. None of them ever went out together or spoke of that night again. She can laugh about it now, decades later.
“Because it was high school. When everything is awkward.”
* * *
Dawna Nelson's dinner-and-a-movie date her freshman year in college held promise.
But conversation over dinner was painful, awkward, with false starts and halting stops.
Hope springs eternal. Dawna went ahead to the movie.
It was “Hooper,” which she didn't want to see. Worse, they were the only two in the theater.
“I was alone in an empty theater on a flombo date (a first date that morphs into a bomb) with a dud and Burt Reynolds.”
She was relieved when, at the last minute, a tipsy couple sat directly in front of them, loudly carrying on through the movie with comments and catcalls.
Their drunken behavior “made a terrible movie truly horrifying, but it did help speed the flombo date on to its inevitable and certain death,” she said.
* * *
Dolores Kerprich had a very strict father. Curfew times were sacrosanct. The first time she went with a boy in a car, her mother rode along. At last came her first date unchaperoned, to a drive-in movie in the 1950s.
It had rained a lot that week. The car got stuck in their spot at the drive-in.
“My boyfriend, who did not have much backbone, did not want to ask someone to help us. So I got out and walked to a car parked close by. The windows were a little steamed up, and I knocked lightly.”
To her shock, someone's large, naked rear end suddenly appeared in the window.
She ran back to her date's car and insisted it was his turn to find help. He did, reluctantly. Someone pushed them out of the mud, and she made curfew.
“But I never did tell my parents that story ... a very scary movie experience!”
* * *
Cassie Samuelson met her blind date at the theater for the first “X-Men” movie. Both were about 30. He, 6-foot-4, arrived in a T-shirt with fluorescent pink lettering that said, “Who's your big daddy?” She knew where this date was going.
“We were early, so he wanted to play video games in the lobby. He pouted when he lost. No conversation, and he never asked me to play. Just assumed I'd stand there and wait till he was done.”
The theater was packed. He started to explain about X-Men. “I said I knew, that my younger brothers liked them. He continued to explain. I glared and said 'I know' again.”
Cassie hates talkers during movies. Fifteen minutes in, he whispered, “Can I hold your hand?” Her refusal made the teenage boys next to them giggle.
Ten minutes later, he asked again. Again, no. The giggling got louder.
“A few minutes later he leans over again, and before he could speak, I went, 'No, and sshhh!' The boys laughed so hard they almost fell out of their chairs.”
Afterward her date suggested dancing. His T-shirt made her say no. Then he suggested going to his place to play video games with a buddy. She declined and ditched.
“I have seen all the X-Men movies at the theater, but with much better company,” she said. Her husband wears a “South Park” T-shirt, never asked to hold her hand at the movies (“I always make sure it's very accessible”), and though he loves video games, he never plays them while on a date with her. It's clearly a match made in heaven.
* * *
Barbara Sedlacek of Columbus, Neb., drove to Omaha with her husband to shop. They went to dinner and then a new movie, “Jaws.” Each bought a large soda and settled into the packed theater.
“The movie got to the scene when the head fell out of the destroyed boat. I threw up my arms and screamed! The large soda rained down on the people around us.”
Her husband was so embarrassed, he wanted to leave. Barbara just shrank down in her seat.
They were the last to leave the theater. And her husband made sure everyone back home heard about their night at “Jaws.”
* * *
Diane Bessette can't forget a 1971 blind date at 76 West drive-in, 76th and Dodge Streets. She worked an afternoon/evening shift, so he picked her up at her workplace downtown.
In the line of cars leaving after the movie, he got distracted and ran into the car ahead of them. Since this was a pre-seatbelt era, Diane's head cracked the windshield pretty good.
“I wasn't seriously hurt, and we continued on our way.”
But the crash pierced the radiator. The car overheated. They pulled over at 71st and Dodge and hitchhiked back downtown to Diane's car. She took him home.
“As I pulled into his driveway, he asked if I would like to go out again. I politely declined.”
* * *
Bruce Riley, Tech High class of 1947, was a senior when he asked a girl to a movie.
“Wearing a bowtie that made me look sillier than I already was, I rang her doorbell only to discover her mother was going along as a chaperone.”
Gibbering with rage, Bruce said, he wondered inwardly whether it was him or his date Mama didn't trust. But Mama turned out to be neither suspicious nor a wet blanket.
Maybe, he said, she was a steadying influence on a couple of impractical dreamers. Or maybe it was a family tradition from the old country.
Anyway, when they got home from the Dundee Theater, Mama disappeared and left them alone in Bruce's dad's 1936 Ford to say good night.
* * *
Briana Hinske's boyfriend picked her up for a movie date in a convertible. He opened the top “just so he could show off his car to me, plus seeing my hair blow in the wind.”
After five minutes, it started to rain. He couldn't close the top. They were soaked, and Briana's hairdo (it took her three hours) was ruined.
So was the date. But apparently not the romance. She married him.
* * *
Clarice Magnuson also married her bad date, even though eight months before the wedding he unwisely paired “Silence of the Lambs” with a roaring fire and a nice wine. Halfway through the movie, she remembers saying, “Why would you think I'd like this movie?” After all, her first name is Clarice. And she's now in charge of picking the movie.