Maurice Hayes taught me about “geeking out” on a movie.
You might call it something different but I think it’s something every movie nerd does. You find a movie, preferably old and bad, but not necessarily. And you gather a bunch of your friends together to watch it while you make fun of it. You’re basically creating your own Mystery Science Theater 3000 in your living room. But with references and inside jokes that you and your buddies all understand and build off of.
You might call it something different. Mo called it geeking out.
I met Mo when I was 18 or 19, and only a burgeoning armchair film critic. A friend of mine at the time invited me to a Palladium game (it’s a pen and paper role-playing game, similar to Dungeons and Dragons). I got there early because I wanted to make a good impression with these strangers I was about to play pretend with. Mo and another member of the group Wayne showed up a bit after I did looking super serious and eyeballing the “new guy” with a serious “don’t mess with me” attitude. Years later they would both admit it was a bit of a put on to intimidate this young kid that was invading their game space.
I was the youngest in the group by a few years so over time I kind of became everybody’s mascot to varying degrees. Mo seemed to take a particular liking to me. We ended up hanging out all the time. He was a huge horror buff so we would watch horror movies that you’ve probably never heard of, some of which I’m still not completely certain if they actually exist or not. I said earlier that the movies had to be “preferably old and bad” but that’s not entirely true. And wasn’t always making fun of. Sometimes it’s calling out something appropriately badass. Or cheering along with a particularly nasty put down or one liner form the main character. Mo, Wayne, Kenyan, Andy, and myself would regularly watch anything that seemed vaguely interesting and even stuff that didn’t. New, old, horror, anime, action, martial arts, even Saturday morning cartoons were fair game.
I remember another friend of ours, Kenyan, had this ancient VCR (look it up kids) that he would use to tape episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and we’d all watch together. What we were watching didn’t even matter. We were building a community and this weird, little family with a massive catalog of inside jokes that we could drop out in public and laugh at hysterically while other people looked at us funny. We built whole scenarios out of a throw away reference to some background character in a movie. One night, we essentially created an entire new concept for the 90’s Lorenzo Lamas TV show Renegade where he went from town to town fighting yetis.
Wayne called me today and told me that Mo was found dead last night.
I haven’t really properly spoken to Mo in quite some time. People grow older and grow up and grow apart. We exchanged some pleasantries, holiday and birthday wishes and whatnot, via text and short phone calls. We tried multiple times to schedule a lunch or a movie or something but last minute cancellations always seemed to get in the way.
Now I’ll never get the chance. All that grown up BS and missed opportunities and cancellations are like a weight. A weight that it will take some time to shed.
But years and years ago. I had another podcast before this one. It was about a kind of terrible TV show called Heroes. That podcast only ran for 12 episodes. The website that hosted it is gone. For most people it’s like it never existed.
Today it’s one of the most important things I’ve ever done because Mo was my co-host for every, single episode.
Sitting on a hard drive, there’s hours and hours of conversations I can listen to and relive. After I’m done cringing at how bad the production quality is and what a terrible podcaster I was of course. I don’t have any pictures of Mo, we didn’t buy each other gifts or anything, no tangible memories, really. But I have these conversations. This audio that will live as long as I care to keep it alive.
The fact that I have those and now all these new conversations with friends, new and old, is comforting to me. Regardless of whomever listens to them and how long I keep making them, I have them and maybe they will keep somebody else’s memory alive someday. Maybe somebody will care enough about me to dig one up and listen to me wax poetical about the Coens or Christopher Nolan or Martin Scorsese.
Maybe they’ll just want to hear me geek out.
I’ll leave you with some trailers for a few of my all time favorite geek out movies.
RIP: Maurice Hayes
Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence
The Unnamable 2: The Statement of Randolph Carter