I danced The Twist with Eegah! Yes, really!
Back to the drive-in movie.
One night my dad asked if I’d like to meet a movie star; he was showing Eegah! that week, and Richard Kiel, poor guy, was making a publicity tour to help promote the film. The fact that the producers would spend money to send someone to a not-that-great drive-in theater in Columbus, Ohio to generate a fan base for the movie should be an indication of how desperate they were. Drive-ins could hold maybe a few hundred cars, and patrons usually spent intermission time(which was used for this sort of Star Appearance opportunity) standing in long lines at the restrooms or fighting the crowd in the snack bar to get some greasy popcorn and a watered-down soft drink before the next feature.
I don’t know where RIchard Kiel was before the intermission break, but as soon as the cartoons and trailers came on, my dad announced an invitation over the PA system for everyone to come to the snack bar area and meet the real Eegah in person. The projection booth was right in front of the snack bar, so all I had to do was get out of the car and walk behind it a few feet. And there he was!
He was indeed a giant. I was told he was 7’2″ tall, but sources say he was a half-inch shorter than that. He was dressed in his caveman outfit (can you imagine touring the country and greeting the public in a loincloth? Wait – don’t answer that).
For some odd reason, it was decided Eegah needed to do The Twist (I can’t recall if there was a handler with him, or what), and since I was one of the first people to get to him, he paired up with me and started dancing to the music. Well, I’d seen The Twist on TV, and there wasn’t much to it, so even though I was just a kid, I went along with it and began dancing. Then he ‘got into character’ and acted as though he wanted to haul me off to his cave, at which point I ran off in fear.
Of course, there was nothing to fear. By all accounts, Richard Kiel was considered a nice guy. Born in 1939, his career managed to escape the abyss that Eegah! may have sent it to, and became known as “Jaws” in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me (a James Bond film), as well as several other more credible movies and TV productions. He passed away from a heart attack, in September of 2014.
To me, he will always be remembered as Eegah!