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Personal Best sauna. via

Personal Best sauna. via

From Personal Best on the screen to personal best on the street.


NW Portland had a few more movie theaters when I moved there. One more.

The Esquire on 23rd closed in 1987.

Cinema 21 is the last silver screen standing.

That’s where I saw Eraser Head with a date who said the movie apartment looked like mine.

It wasn’t a housekeeping compliment.

Instead, call it a marriage test. The Eraser Head apartment should stun both.

Don’t marry anyone who thinks it’s normal.

One weekend I had a free afternoon and Personal Best was playing.

Why not see a movie?

Personal Best had an Oregon connection, a sports connection, and a nude sauna scene.

Oregon’s Kenny Moore played an important part. In real life he was a runner/writer, and now an actor.


PERSONAL BEST, Mariel Hemingway, Kenny Moore, 1982.

PERSONAL BEST, Mariel Hemingway, Kenny Moore, 1982. via


He’s no Woody Allen, but who is?

The movie ended and I wanted to take a run like the athletes I’d just seen. That was the plan.

I walked out of Cinema 21 with the crowd. A young couple walked in front of me, hand in hand.

Tri-met had a bus kiosk across NW 21st, one of the plexiglass rain sheds.

Something was going on in there.  A fight of some kind.

“That doesn’t look right,” I said.

The woman in the couple agreed.

“Let’s go break it up,” I said.

The three of us crossed the street. After the porn-lite feeling from Personal Best I needed some redeeming. Breaking up a bum fight sounded good.

Except it wasn’t a bum fight, it was a man punching the crap out of a woman, hitting her so hard she bounced off the plex wall. That’s what we saw from across the street, the plastic bowing and rebounding.

Her voice is still haunting.

“You can’t do this every time you get drunk,” she said between blows.

The redeeming value skyrocketed. Breaking up an abusive drunk punching a woman is so much better than bum fight.

I thought.

So I walked up just as he landed another gut punch and said, “Hey, knock it off. Let her go.”

He hit her again, so I leaned in and raised my voice.

“Stop this shit or I’m calling the cops.”

The man wheeled and drilled me in the face, blasted me right between the eyes, breaking my new wire rimmed glasses, and opening a nice gash across the bridge of my nose that flowed blood right away.

He stopped punching the woman and stepped toward me to land another blow. Not at all what I’d planned.

I stepped back and barked, “GET AWAY. STAND BACK.”

The guy actually listened and turned, grabbed the woman, and fled the scene.

Most guys like to think they can take a punch. Then they get hit and find out.

I was spinning.

“Are you okay?” asked the woman who crossed 21st with me.

Her date was silent, but he was giving my nose a good look.

“How do I look?”

“Not so good.”

“We stopped the fight though.”

“You stopped it with your face.”

“Well, it was handy.”

“Maybe you need a doctor?”

“Maybe. Or maybe we need to put a cop on that guy?”

She looked down the street and cut loose with an ear splitting whistle.

I turned where she was looking and saw the police car at the corner.

(Part Two on request. Leave it in comments.)

About David Gillaspie
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