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 My Kind of Guy

After all of these years, producer Kroger Babb (1906–1980) is still my number one idol. When I was ten years old, the nuns in Catholic Sunday School (the Magdalene Sisters of film critics) would tell us we would go to hell if we ever saw his “condemned” movie, Mom and Dad. This phony sex education film played on and off for many years in Baltimore, and its record-breaking grosses at the Century Theater inspired my love of cinematic atrocities. By showing the “actual birth of a baby,” you could legally see a full-fledged vagina on screen for the first time. The horny men in the audience just ignored the baby and concentrated on the pubic hair. Birth as a masturbation aid seemed so new and exciting.

As a lunatic child, I would secretly pretend I owned a dirty movie theater and would redesign the advertising campaign for Mom and Dad in a much more lurid way and imagine the horror it would cause in my parents’ neighborhood. Luckily, no adults ever found my secret drawings of filthy ads. Wanting to run a sexploitation theater when I grew up wasn’t an option on “career-day” in my grade school. It would have been hard to explain.

Kroger taught me cinematic defiance. He paid fake nurses $2 an hour to sell sex education pamphlets up and down the aisles of Mom and Dad. He’d “four-wall” (rent out) theaters and segregate the audience by sex: women admitted only in the afternoon, men at night. It’s rumored that Mr. Babb had employees release nauseous gas from the theater vents so when ticket buyers would faint, the press would have photos of “shocked patrons” being carried out of Mom and Dad. In unsuspecting neighborhoods, he’d blare come-on ads from loudspeakers mounted on the top of cruising cars. According to writer Rick Trembles, Kroger even married an Indianapolis theater critic named Mildred Horn who had complained to a local exhibitor about playing such a “cheap, mislabeled morality play.” They stayed together for the rest of their lives.

Kroger’s response to the Catholic outcry against his films was the smart-ass title Father Bingo, and I wish to this day I had seen it. Later he made a movie called One Too Many, and it was mainly shown at AA meetings. He finally announced plans to film The Best is Yet to Come with an ad-line that promised “All there is to know about cancer.”

I still worship Kroger. I met the very nice man who now lives in the Babb apartment. I have Kroger’s original business card and his ballpoint pen with his engraved signature on it. Sometimes I pretend I’m Kroger all day long.

Like Mr. Babb, I’m a carny at heart. One day I’m going to buy a Tilt-A-Whirl. This classic amusement park ride costs $250,000, which is fair, I guess; it’s the $65,000 shipping fee that makes me balk. I’m told you can make a couple of dollars every minute of every day and night this ride is “working.” Lie back, do nothing, and collect money from supposedly normal people who pay you to get on a machine that makes them feel like they are going to throw up. Sounds like showbiz to me.


Notorious writer/director John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) returns to NC-17 territory with an outrageous, provocative and wickedly funny challenge to the norms of mainstream morality and good taste. Tracey Ullman stars as grumpy, repressed housewife and blue-collar convenience store owner Sylvia Stickles. As a result of a concussion to the head, she experiences a carnal lust she is unable to control…much to the dismay of her shocked and horrified friends and neighbors in Baltimore. Co-starring Mink Stole, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville and Selma Blair.