In the summer of 1978, Doug Tirola’s parents took him to see “Animal House” at the Fine Arts Theater (now Restoration Hardware).
He was not yet a teenager, but he loved it. When the film ended, he and his father got right back in line for the next show. It remains one of the funniest movies he’s ever seen.
Soon, Doug sought out National Lampoon — the magazine that spawned the movie — at the Merritt Superette, Westport Smoke Shop and Christie’s Country Store. He was swept up by its boundary-breaking irreverence.
A few summers later, Doug was working at the Westport Country Playhouse. He earned 25 cents for every business that put an “upcoming show” poster in its window. With his hard-earned savings, he went to Remarkable Book Shop and bought “National Lampoon’s 10th Anniversary Anthology.” Even today, he says, that collection of art and articles seems outrageous.
Many years passed. Living back in Westport, Doug — now a filmmaker himself — and his wife were invited to a dinner party. With the economic downturn underway, the man seated next to Douglas lectured him about all the rules needed to get things going again — which applied to everyone except the man himself.
Doug made a poor, not-Lampoon-worthy joke about German profiteers in World War II. It ruined the dinner party, and a woman told him “Doug, you always go too far. You always have to say the thing everyone might be thinking, but you’re not allowed to say.”
He’d never heard anything like that. It got him thinking about that National Lampoon 10th Anniversary Anthology. He’d kept it with him, during moves all over the country. He realized that one book had influenced his entire life.
He had just finished his 2nd movie, for his company 4th Row Films (where he teams with fellow Staples grad Susan Bedusa). The 1st was acquired by HBO. The 2nd was about to be released in theaters, and on Showtime. It was time to make a film about National Lampoon.
The result was “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead.” It premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and after playing at Tribeca was picked up by Magnolia Pictures.
The Fine Arts Theater is now just a memory. So is National Lampoon.
But tonight, Doug
sfilm will be show at the Avon in Stamford (7:30 p.m.). Friends and family — and Lampoon’s many fans — will enjoy the film.
A film that would never have been made, if not for Doug’s laugh-out-loud experiences decades ago in Westport.
And, of course, that dinner party a few years back.