Biography Twixtujons Excerpts Buy this Book Snapshots in Prose Home
A Mob is Ugly
First Day
LTs at the Movies

When my wife and I saw Body Heat at the movie theater on our new street, my meeting Dana and Suzanne at the refreshment counter became a potentially historic event for the two eleventh grade Lenspotters.

"Mr. Leonard, what are you doing here? You're seeing this movie?"

"I wanted popcorn."

"But isn't this a bit sexy for you?" Dana tilted her head to soften the revelation. Suzanne nodded in maternal agreement.

"My wife gave me permission."

"Your wife! Bellafortuna's here? Where's Bellafortuna?" They had hit the jackpot and dropped the cat-and-mouse chit chat. "Really? Bellafortuna's here? Where?"

"She's watching our seats."

"Can we say hello?" A Saturday night movie was never this good. A Lenspot—and a spouse.

"No. You'll scare her."
"What's Bellafortuna wearing? We'll find her!" They had the power and loved it, but since we sat in the balcony—and they sat downstairs—they never found us.

I've always loved balconies. In the golden days of movie palaces, we cigarette smokers climbed the steep steps to our seats beneath the twinkling lights of the 72nd Street "Low ese," where we legally puffed our smoke into the galaxy. When I gave up my Luckies in the sixties, I no longer sat in the balcony; but I still looked up to admire the stars through the clouds of smoke.

This night, my wife and I were sitting high above several hundred sold-out seats. Leaning into each other, we sat in the middle of a row of strangers, and the huge ceiling fans moved the heat against our faces; there were no stars above us here, no galactic space to cool us—just two teenage girls looking up to the balcony for me and Bellafortuna.

During the first adulterous scene in the movie, William Hurt looks through a window to see Kathleen Turner, who's standing inside her home. With her left hand on her hip, she slowly moves the flared fingers of her right hand down her thigh, directing his eyes across her red skirt. Hurt breaks a glass door with a chair to reach her. Turner gasps. With my wife pressing against me, I saw Turner's wedding ring, scene after scene, but I didn't wonder about her husband. I wondered about the audience. Did they approve?

Turner unbuttons and opens his shirt just wide enough to kiss his chest and neck. She turns her back to him, and he slides his right hand down her skirt and his left across her breast. She slowly turns back to him. Beneath a warm starless ceiling, I watched him tug her red skirt up and up and up until her panties appeared, and Hurt was able to slip his hand beneath the elastic and squeeze. And I gasped. My students and I were watching this together.

Turner lies back on the rug. While the fan in the background of the frame cuts through the humid air behind them, he removes her white panties; his dropping them casually behind them on the red rug fills the frame. I remembered that the juniors and I had discussed the theme of corruption and the red-and-white symbolism in Gatsby. Did they remember?

William Hurt says to Kathleen Turner, "It's not right." I agreed, but she's more convincing, "Please do it." She convinced me—and reminded me—that Dana, Suzanne, and I were listening to the language of seduction and passion.

After several torrid scenes on silk sheets, Hurt whines, "Give me a break here," but Turner doesn't and he surrenders. Dana and Suzanne gave me a break, though; after the movie they weren't waiting for me in the lobby—or the street. There were, however, no breaks Monday morning in class.

"Mr. Leonard, what did you think of William Hurt breaking the glass door?"
"Didn't see it."
"How could you not see it?"
"My wife covered my eyes."
"She probably thinks you're too delicate." Suzanne pursed her lips.

"No, she was worried about later. She was afraid her quarterback would break through the bedroom door." Dana fell across Suzanne's desk, and Suzanne fell over Dana, two squealing tag-team wrestlers.

We were family, and certain teachers were fair game. On the other hand, families come together during difficult times. There were no references to Bellafortuna—or my divorce—the following year.

Return to Top.