The movie squad is watching you

Russell Baker

August 08, 1991|By Russell Baker

NEWS ITEM: A well-known children's entertainer (male) was arrested in Sarasota, Fla., last week after engaging in a &r solosexual encounter inside a pornographic movie house. The arresting officer was one of three policemen the sheriff had on movie house duty to enforce, among other things, laws against indecent exposure.

It's the homicide squad that gets the glamour, the vice squad that gets the fun, and the narcotics squad that gets to issue the ridiculously bloated estimates of the street value of the latest big drug-raid seizure.

The burglary squad isn't jealous, though, because the burglary squad gets a priceless education in great paintings, rare antiques, fabled jewelry and expensive interior decoration and gets it inside the town's glitziest houses.

Even the traffic squad gets the thrill of a high-speed chase now and then, while the fingerprint squad not only gets to meet rich and famous people, but also gets to hold their hands.

But think of the poor movie squad. What does the movie squad get out of life? Eternal pallor, popcorn heartburn, Arnold-Schwarzenegger envy. And nobody even knows they're out there, which, technically speaking, they're not. They're in there, maybe sitting right alongside you.

If so, you can bet you're under corner-of-the-eye surveillance if you happen to be absent-mindedly letting one hand dig into that ancient wad of dried chewing gum stuck under your seat while you're wondering what America is coming to when they charge $7 for a movie with no plot, no actor anybody will remember six months from now, and so much gunfire that you're numb with sleepiness.

Ability to conduct surveillance out of the corner of the eye while the rest of the face is aimed at a movie screen can be mastered only by intense training at movie-squad academy. Even then, many people lack the genes required for such remarkable management of face and eye.

Others sometimes have to drop out of the academy because their eyeballs become permanently stuck at the eye corners when the vital eyeball flexor either rips or loses its tensile strength during the rigorous training exercises.

This difficulty can often be surgically repaired, though the academy does not recommend it, considering the bankruptive cost of surgery and hospitalization, which would increase the already extortionate price the academy pays for health insurance.

The word most often applied to the movie squad is "unsung." As a result it's hard to recruit young officers to do the important work of movie patrol. "If I can't be a star, or even a legend in my own time, I'd at least like to be sung," one bitter movie-squad cop told this reporter.

He'd told it to his bosses, too, but they had sent him to the academy anyhow. To escape the unsung life, he tried to fake the above-mentioned genetic shortfall that makes it impossible to face a movie screen while conducting surveillance out of the corner of the eye, but was caught and charged with engaging in a fraud in order to be sung.

As punishment he has spent the past 10 years standing in the back of a pornographic movie house arresting people who put slugs in the candy-vending machine.

If the movie squad is unsung it is because the bigwigs of policedom like it that way. They fear that the public, which is given to hysteria about occasional onsets of criminal violence, might fail to understand the urgency of movie-patrol work.

Their reasoning seems sensible enough. Americans, as we know, are all too prone to irrational thinking. This is why we constantly hear statements like, "Any country that can put a man on the moon ought to be able to get George Bush's mind off Cyprus and onto the United States."

A people with such slovenly thinking habits might just as easily ask, "Why do we pay three cops to sit in the neighborhood dirty-movie house when we can't even stop the military-industrial complex from conspiring with Congress to rob the treasury?"

Does the movie squad confine its work to theaters showing porno flicks? Of course not. Are they likely to have three detectives watching you watch car chases this very night? Such information is closely held for obvious reasons. Just make sure that's really chewing gum you're touching.

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