THE DECADE WHEN EVEN THE PLACE TO CLEAN YOUR CAR WAS FUN
As to any plot summary, I'm gonna keep it even shorter and simpler than usual: 1976. Black guys run an urban car wash. Comedy ensues. That's all you need to know. You're thinking 1976, black guys at a car wash, that means afros and funky music and wild boots with heels and snappy, insult-filled dialogue. I will do nothing to dissuade you of that opinion.
As with nearly every silly movie I saw between 1975 and 1980, I went with the old man. Anyhow, he'd been talking to me for a while about The Longest Yard, and how funny the final football scene was (yes, he was in his late 30s at the time, and I was 8. But that's a different story for a different day). So, one evening in the fall of 1976, we went to The Arcadian movie house in Ossining, NY, to see a re-showing of The Longest Yard, which had come out 2 years earlier.
Now, to really date myself (as if this pre-cable TV era, go-to-the-movie-theater-to-see-a-film-that-was-already-released-two-years-earlier thing hasn't done so already), in addition to the cartoons, the trailers, and the short, this was a double feature.
For those of you reading this who are under the age of 30, yes you read that correctly: for the price of one ticket, you always got cartoons -- good ones, like Bugs or the Road Runner -- and a short -- often a documentary. In 1978, when I saw Animal House, the short was a documentary on Lynyrd Skynyrd.
And, a certain percentage of the time, there was a double feature, meaning just what it sounds like: two full-length features for the price of one. And if that hasn't thrown you enough, remember that the theater was not divided into multiplexes, the popcorn had real melted butter, everyone over the age of 16 was smoking like a chimney right in their seats, and Burt Reynolds was still considered cool. Not ironically cool, like in Boogie Nights, or like Travolta in Pulp Fiction, but the number one guys-want-to-be-him & chicks-want-to-be-with-him star in the game.
So, you see? A double feature ain't that weird afterall, right?
So we got to the theater, Car Wash came on before The Longest Yard, and it was a helluva Friday night for an eight year-old kid. Needless to say, I loved both movies. As always, I remember nearly nothing about Car Wash except that it was funny as hell.
Oh, and the song: Workin' at the car wash . . . whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoaaaaa . . . workin' at the car wash, yeah.
Check out this cast: George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody, Roy Sheider's wife in Jaws).
Wait a second. You're wondering what I'm wondering, right? You said this was about a black car wash. These are all . . . white folks (or for that 70s verisimilitude, honkies). Ok, here you go:
Antonio Fargas (better known as "Huggy Bear"), Bill Duke (the dude who shot up the whole forest with that wacky, hand-held gatling gun in Predator), Ivan Dixon (the black Seargent in Hogan's Heroes -- I always love Hogan's Heroes for that kind of thing: the US Army was still segregated in WWII, but on TV in the mid-60s, the Nazi POW camp was not!), DeWayne Jessie (Otis Day, of Otis Day & the Knights), The Pointer Sisters, Garrett Morris, Otis Sistrunk (or this link if you're not sure who he is), and if I recall correctly a memorable appearence by Richard Pryor.
Now that's a cast! I assume Nipsy Russell was unavailable because he was on Match Game or the $20,000 Pyramid that day.
Finally, as always I'll leave you with a few choice quotations from the movie:
[Duane has just thrown Irwin's book into a bucket of water]
Lindy: I'm so tired of you running off at your mouth it's getting me down honey. Why don't you just leave? And be an assassin? Or is the only thing you're good at shooting off is your big mouth?
Duane: Will you please get out of my face you sorry looking faggot.
Lindy: Who you calling sorry looking?
Duane: Can't ya'll see she aint funny?
Duane: She's just another poor example of how the system is destroying our men.
Lindy: Honey, I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get.
That cast, that dialogue, that music. Need I say more?