"Where were you in '62?" asked ads for American Graffiti in 1973, a year when theatergoers everywhere seemed to be watching George Lucas' movie. That's where you can find yourself Sunday, when the historic Tampa Theatre commemorates the 40th anniversary of American Graffiti with a 3 p.m. showing, part of its Summer Movie Classics series.
Nostalgia was the driving force behind American Graffiti even when it was new. Lucas' movie was set in his hometown of Modesto, Calif., when heaven was cruising the strip with one hand on a steering wheel and the other wrapped around a dream girl. It's the last night before high school graduates leave town for college or Vietnam, or stay put and probably regret it. The era may be ancient, but the anxiety of what comes next is timeless.
So is the cast, many of whom moved on to celebrity careers. Harrison Ford became one of Hollywood's biggest stars ever, and Ron Howard one of its finest filmmakers. Richard Dreyfuss won an Oscar, Cindy Williams became half of Laverne and Shirley and Charlie Martin Smith became "Charles" and directed Dolphin Tale. Suzanne Somers went from being a blond obsession in a T-bird to Three's Company and HSN.
Tampa Theatre's newly installed digital audio system will get a workout with American Graffiti's soundtrack, a pastiche of '50s and '60s rock and doo-wop but no whop-bop-a-lu-whop-a-whop-bam-boom since Little Richard's Tutti Frutti didn't make Wolfman Jack's playlist.
Tickets are $9 or $7 for Tampa Theatre members, available at the box office or at tampatheatre.org (a $2 convenience fee applies). Be there or be square.