Do you remember the movie, “Top Gun” which starred Tom Cruise? The movie came out when I was in my first incarnation in this part of the world, and I was fresh out of the Army. The military lends itself to transitory relationships, and I migrated from being in the Army to hanging out with Air Force people station at Moody Air Force base just east of Valdosta. Tall Tree Apartments, where my sister was the manager, was home for a lot of the Air Force people, and truth be told, we all spent a lot more of our time drunk than we should have.
But “Top Gun” was an event. The movie is based in the adventures of Naval Aviators, but the Air Force people adopted the movie as their own. I’ll try to explain it as best I can, and the only thing I ask of you, is you never ask me, “WHY?”
Every time the movie came on HBO or Showtime we would throw a Top Gun Party. Everyone had some part in the movie to play, and everyone played their part. Remember the part in the movie where there are guys on the carrier deck and they’re waving their arms, or doing something like that? Well, we had a couple of guys who could mimic the carrier deck guys perfectly. And dialog? Remember the “Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” scene? Now that was something to watch. Mostly that was all I could do because I hadn’t memorized the movie like some people had. But I did sing along with that part, because everyone did. That was one of the high points of the movie. That was one of those alcohol bonding moments for us all. We could be sitting around the pool drinking or hanging out at the Deli Bar, or in the middle of something else entirely and suddenly someone would say, “She’s lost that lovin’ feelin’” and it was on! When we finally got a VHS copy of it there were residents of Tall Tree who threatened to burn the tape, and the building down with it. We just figured they had lost that lovin’ feelin’.
This was a long time before what was known as “surround sound” but we didn’t need no stinkin’ surround sound. We were surround sound. All the parts when there was someone speaking on a radio to someone else we had three or four people doing each part, complete with sound effects. Whatever you think you have experienced in the way of movies this was something totally different altogether. There would be one woman in the kitchen making Margaritas speaking the female lead flawlessly, another in the living room watching the movie speaking the same part, and then if someone by the pool could hear the movie, they would be dialoging sans visuals.
Sometimes we would be out beside the pool and that sound from the soundtrack, “Danger zone” by Kenny Loggings would come on the radio and the carrier deck hands would break into their positions and poses. These guys were as perfect as any drill team, as serious as any actor being paid for the part, and any mistake, no matter how small was tragic. If someone blew their part out by the pool that was a sure sign we needed another Top Gun party, and it was a given it would happen.
The really odd thing is because the military is transitory, characters came and went, but the movie lived on. We would lose a deck hand, or a fighter pilot, or even a Meg Ryan, but there was always some new person who just moved in who, lonely, drunk, or bored, or perhaps all three, would embrace the Top Gunness of us all, and begin to study the intricacies of the confrontation of Ice Man and Mavrick in the bathroom scenes. You had to do more than just memorize the dialog, you had to be able to live the part, you had to get the inflection down pat, and you had to do it while drinking enough beer to anesthetize a rhino.
We looked down on those people who would not give it their all.
We lacked a common past, and we lacked mutual old friends, and we lacked any sort of commonality at all in our lives, so we created our own culture. This would be our ritual, our Mass, and our secret handshake. No, not just anyone could do the Tom Cruise parts, and no, not just anyone could start the lost lovin’ feelin’, and not just anyone could do the deck hands wave, unless they receive some sort of encouragement from the group. For a woman to engage in the Goose and Meg Ryan piano scene with a man was part of the group’s courtship ritual. That was something you just didn’t do with someone unless you were going to sleep with them, and you never did that with someone else’s mate. Doing the piano scene with someone was high excitement. The better the scene was done, the better the sex was going to be, oh, everyone knew that. To blow that scene was to have some sort of group crisis, where everyone would demand some sort of do over. And for a couple who was in trouble not to do the scene together was a sure sign they were not going to last. When a couple broke up and one of them did the Piano Scene with someone else, well, that was like the ultimate divorce.
We lost too many people at once, we were getting bored with it, and it had to end sooner or later. It had become too important, too much the same thing over and over again, and we were not attracting new converts. My sister’s real divorce had a lot to do with it, because nothing was fun for a while, and when we lost two of the main people to transfer, it just wasn’t the same. We lost that lovin’ feelin’ and it was gone, gone, gone.