After hundreds of viewings over the years and countless hours of studying it in reference books and interviews, I finally got to see "The T.A.M.I. Show" on a big, silver screen with a capicity crowd. By the scheduled 7:30pm starting time, the 150 seat screening room was filled to the gills with 10 extra people in folding chairs, lining the walls and a line of people stretching out the lobby. Many people were turned away for this single showing of the greatest Rock Concert film ever made. After many delays and opening comments, we were treated to two unrelated short films that totalled about a half an hour. Then, after a proper introduction for T.A.M.I. from Film Archivist Adam Sekuler, we were off and running at about 8:30pm. It was much, much more than a movie going experience, it was Church.
The print itself was what I expected. It was, to my eyes, a dupe of a 16mm television syndication print that itself was reduced from a 35mm print. In fact, except for splices in different places (of course) it looked exactly like my super 8mm copy. It was zoomboxed (the opening credits were regularly lopped off the sides of the screen) and contrasty.... but it was T.A.M.I.; big, beautiful and glorious. The sold out crowd hooted, hollered and cheered throughout the movie, giving applause to the most deserving of performances. The Film was also greeted with eruptions of laughter from the overzealous dancers to the inappropriate-at-casual-listen lyrics for Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas' hit song, "Little Children". Make no mistake, no one in the theatre was laughing derisively; this was honest, loving laughter. There was some grumbling about the Supremes and The Barbarians segment being out of sync, but every optical print of "The T.A.M.I. Show" has that problem. It played out of sync during it's initial run. The crowd, overall, was incredibly varied: Black, white, old, young. There were old hippies, moms and dads taking their children for posterity's sake and film scholars (both self made and legit), all sharing the love of this very rare and special event.
All hell broke loose in our theater, predictably, when James Brown hit the stage. People applauded when he sang "Out Of Sight", and some cheers erupted at the climax of "Prisoner of Love", but when he tore into "Please, Please, Please" it was liberation and deliverance at it's most raw and primal. Every time The Godfather fell to his knees and was ushered off stage, a cape draped across his shoulders, an electric wave washed over the audience. I saw fists pumped into the air. People were fighting the urge to stand up and cheer. The hoots and applause threatened to drown out the already loud mono speaker. It was so incredibly electric that we all used the Rolling Stones finale to calm ourselves down.
After the movie, everyone filed into the lobby to gather themselves. I'd never seen a group of people so genuinely intrigued and curious about what they just witnessed. I took it upon myself (since I was so Jazzed, I just had to talk to SOMEBODY about it) to teach and preach the gospel of T.A.M.I. to a few people asking questions to each other. I hope I was informative without being snobby. I think I was OK, though.
I came home and a friend of mine from LA had dropped me a note saying that Dick Clark Productions was, indeed, preparing a DVD of "The T.A.M.I. Show" for an imminent release and that new film elements for the Beach Boys segment were recently found. That probably explains the repeated delays. If that's the case, then good, I'd rather wait for a perfect release than get something substandard. I've waited this long, what's another 10 - 20 years? LOL.
As a coda to this fine evening, I'd like to thank Adam Sekuler for bringing T.A.M.I. to the Pittsburgh area. He's really a heck of a guy. It's a shame he lives so far away. I'd like to hang out with him someday. Ya done good, my man. It was one of the best movie going experiences I've ever had... and I've had quite a few.
(Guess my note wasn't so quick after all!)