I’ve met the godfather of drive-in theatres twice, once accidentally, the other not.

meeting Roger Corman
meeting Roger Corman @ ACMI 2003

There really should be no dispute over the impact the Corman has had on cinema. He may not always have produced great work, but produce work he did, and he knew enough about how to do it to be able to keep doing it. that meant a lot of schlock, just to keep the gears turning, but to produce that gunk he was smart enough to use the best he could fine.
But as a result, he used the best, and the cheapest he could get, and lucky for us all, Roger had an eye for talent. and he knew, and was quite open about what he was doing. He gave any great film makers their start, but was very open about how, if they did well, they would never work for him again. There are the obvious, freshly out of film school types – Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppolla, Jonathan Demme, etc but also the talents of the likes of James Cameron, who went from various jobs including a truck driver to making his own short films then working from Corman, initially as a production assistant on Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979).

Anyway it was about 1995, and a small group of us were seeing the stage production of Little shop of Horrors at The Enmore theatre in Sydney. I was a smoker back then, nd so before the performance I had the gang (Michael, Shaene, and I) waiting outside while i had a quick coffin nail before the show. A limousine pulled up and out stepped Mr Corman and entourage. Michael was the first to recognise him, mainly he said from Cormans recent cameos in the likes of Apollo 13.
So I finished my cigarette, and got him to sign my Little Shop theatre programme. I thanked him for visiting Australia (he had been giving film maker talks, mainly in Newcastle)
Before the performance they announced to the audience that there was a special guest in the audience – Roger Corman. He didn’t get the standing ovation that he deserved, but we did applaud.
I can’t say I am a big fan of the musical version, I much prefer the darker humour of the original film. and some of my favorite elements from the original film (the police detectives, the mother and her diet and music programs) were just left out of the musical.
I remember that the Australian cast made a good job of it, and the stand out moment was James Rayne as The Dentist and his entrance, which was down the side aisle (right next to us) on his motor cycle, straight onto the stage. Wasn’t expecting that, and it was right next to Shaene, who was really there just for James Reyne.

A few years later, and I’m still treasuring my signed program. I have also read his biography “How I made a hundred movies in Hollywood and never lost a dime” by this time (thanks to James who got me a cheap hardcover copy), and low and behold, Roger Corman is doing a fireside chat at ACMI (possibly one of the Popcorn Taxi events). So I went along, and got the book signed this time.

from this event I remember him telling a few familiar stories from his book, and I was actually a bit put off by the number of films like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000 in particular where that credited directors (Alan Arkush and Paul Bartel respectively) didn’t get a mention. That didn’t seem right, though this was the guy that was there, and he was certainly a good enough director in his own right.

Afterwards I went to the bathroom, only to have Mr Corman join me two urinals along. I didn’t look, but recall that every time I use the ACMI bathrooms.