Ever since the videocassette recorder came along, it has been obvious that it would have an important effect on how we spend our leisure.
It was also going to have an important effect on the entertainment industry, since it would be harder than ever to lure people out at night if they could stay home and watch a good movie.
The VCR is indeed a wonderful medium. But except for the first week, when I went out and rented a different movie every day, we haven't used it as much as I might have expected. It gets to be a nuisance, renting a movie every day and having to return it the next day, and we seem to be satisfied to watch whatever movies are shown on commercial or cable TV.
Recently, for example, our cable service presented "Desperately Seeking Susan," a very amusing movie about the sexual frustration and fulfillment of upwardly mobile young people in the big city.
Meanwhile, the VCR, which cost $800, stood idle.
Maybe our trouble is that we haven't understood how the VCR can be the center of a whole new social life.
I have received a "news release" from Wendy Maurice of the Vodka Information Bureau, with the introductory remark that "home entertainment is never out of season, and fresh approaches to the conventional cocktail party are rare."
She's right. We haven't had a cocktail party in years, but as far as I know they're still the same. You invite friends over, serve some booze and crackers and dip and hope everybody goes home by 8 o'clock.
But the big new thing in home entertainment, according to Maurice, will be to "gear refreshments and ambiance to the theme of the blockbuster movie being shown" on your VCR.
Thus, she suggests, you might show "Gone With the Wind" and serve Southern fried chicken with Scarlett Citrus Frosts--the recipe for which includes four ounces of mint-flavored vodka, with orange, lemon and cranberry juices.
I don't know how many people one of those is supposed to serve, but if that recipe is for one drink, somebody is going to have to drive everybody home.
Maurice also suggests showing "Jaws" and simulating a beach party by spreading your guests out on towels and serving them Beachcombers--three ounces of dry red wine, three ounces of cranberry juice, half an ounce of vodka and a lemon twist. "After the film," she suggests, "flick on the stereo and dance to the upbeat sound of the Beach Boys."
Well, all right!
I'm beginning to get the idea.
She also suggests showing "Moscow on the Hudson" and serving vodka straight in one-ounce glasses, with Russian caviar, smoked salmon and black bread. Nazdorovye !
Another of her ideas is to show "Top Hat," starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and suggest that friends dress formally "to keep in sync with the elegance evoked on the screen."
I sort of like that one. I haven't seen most of my friends looking elegant since the polyester leisure suit came into vogue.
(Maurice asks that if any of the recipes are used, please mention St. Pierre Smirnoff, which thought them up. Since I am exploiting her work, I gladly do her that favor.)
Stimulated by her news release, I have been trying to think up some ways to gear refreshments and ambiance to the showing of some blockbuster movie.
"Casablanca" comes to mind. I happen to have a videocassette of that classic, and I can think of no other movie that would create an ambiance more amenable to the tastes and fantasies of my age group.
What a party that would be! Everyone dress like World War II. Come as Ingrid Bergman or Peter Lorre. Of course, I'd be Bogart myself. "Here's looking at you, kid."
As for booze, Rick's customers drank everything from gin and Cointreau to Champagne cocktails, so the bar would have to be well stocked. It might be the renewal of a lot of old friendships.
I wish now that I had taped "Desperately Seeking Susan." After "Casablanca," we could have everyone over for what is a pretty mod movie. Tell them to dress like yuppies, and serve white wine.
It wouldn't even have to be a movie. I could tape the Super Bowl and play it back in June, when there is no football on the tube and life can stretch out like a desert. Naturally, we'd serve hot dogs and beer.
Or we could show "A Night to Remember," about the sinking of the Titanic. Everyone could dress in elegant post-Edwardian style, and after the movie we could sing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and toast the king.
That might be a night to remember.