Top Gun Day


topgun

May 13 was, apparently, Top Gun day…

Anyone who is anyone knows that Top Gun is Tom Cruise’s principal contribution to Western culture and that TOPGUN is the place where real aviators do way cooler stuff than was ever in the movie…

Everyone also knows that movies like Top Gun are all about the toys and not about the boys…

topgun256Top Gun was released in 1986 and screened in New Zealand later that same year. I’m pretty sure it was 1986 because it was my first year in the Army and I used to crash on many weekend at my mate’s flat in Picton Ave…handily the corner with Riccarton Road on which the KFC sat…

The good thing about going to the movies in the 80s was that we were spared the torrent of media releases, spoilers, making-of, etc, etc, etc and going to the movie was actually the first part of the experience not the last…

At that time in NZ, Ready to Roll was the weekly TV Top 40 show and that was where we might get an inkling of what a movie was like from the music video. But in 1986, TVNZ had a falling out with the music producers who demanded a royalty for the screening of said music videos. TVNZ’s position was that it was providing free advertising for their product so no way…as a result, we missed some of the better music videos from the mid-80s, of which Top Gun‘s Danger Zone was one…

That Saturday night Top Gun was our movie night pick – we didn’t have great expectations, modern aviation based movies to that point topping out with Blue Thunder and hitting rock bottom with Iron Eagle.  My mate Paul had other plans for the evening so I went with a chap named Dom Kelasih.

Now at the that time, our chose mode of transport around Christchurch was motorbike. When I had come up from Invercargill in January for my infantry training, my first act, like very first, as soon as I rode into town, on arriving was to trade this…

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…in on this…

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I usually rode it with the side covers off as they were only thin ABS and used to keep cracking…this is it all packed for Christmas ’86…from memory, I was house-sitting for a friend in Christchurch and working over the holidays…this is porobably just after the Top Gun incident…

Anyways…so Dom and I sent out in plenty of time from Picton Ave into the movies in the centre of town – from memory, it may have been the Embassy Theatre. The most direct route was through Hagley Park, and a road with some lovely gentle curves. Dom’s chariot of choice at the time was a 50cc ning-ning machine but he rode it like a maniac…right up to the point when the cop parked by the hospital waved him over – and then me,because we were obviously riding together…

We had been travelling a little over the 50kmh urban speed limit and this could have been expensive. I played the soldier card, good old country boy from the wilds for Burnham Military Camp just having a quiet weekend in the city but worried about getting lost and so my only concern was getting lost and keeping up with my guide. Many of these cops were ex-Army and/or Territorials and this was often a successful approach…as it was this time…for me…

Poor old Dom was not quite so lucky being somewhat deficit in some of the his critical documentation, like a license and maybe a warrant of fitness, and rode away a lot poorer…

As a result, we got to the theatre late, although this was the good old days of trailers and shorts so we still got to be seated before the main feature kicked off…seated right at the very front, in the veriest front row…so close to the screen that the action flew (literally for this movie!) beyond the extent of our vision…getting all that glorious ACM from  neck-crickin’ proximity…

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Top Gun is probably the only movie that I have seen that was a pain in the neck in a positive sense – have seen many others that have been pains in the neck – and elsewhere – in more negative contexts…

Of course, we had to revisit it the following night…at a more sedate pace…and from seats more in the viewing sweet spot…

Top Gun…probably one of the best recruiting movies ever made…one of the first blockbusters that introduced an element – in a  very Hollywood manner but who really wants to pay to see a military training movies..? – of what the military really does…

At the time it was also quite topical: earlier in 1986, there had been another misunderstanding between Libya and the US Navy over access to the Gulf of Sidra, one that had been resolved by naval aviation and ELDORADO CANYON was the follow on act to this later that year…As young soldiers, brought up in a Cold War environment  (as close to it as you got down under), we wondered what these events might lead to, especially before the Challenger disaster was found to be the result of a cheap washer and not some Middle Eastern nutjob…

While I’m not convinced that it deserves its own day, Top Gun (two words, only first letters capped!), the movie, the soundtrack, and the ripper quotes, did shape and define our 80s…

 

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