Wild Women of Wongo

My brother-in-law showed me this movie a little while ago; we both tend to love bad movies. This one is Florida-bred, so it gets bonus points. The plot to this movie meanders terribly, but the basic subtext is this - two warring factions: a beautiful race of women living with ugly men; and a handsome race of men with not-so-beautiful women learn to live together. They anger the Dragon-God (a 3-ft. plastic souvenir alligator tied to a branch) on Tahiti Beach in Coconut Grove; the women dance the frug at Coral Castle, wrestle sedated alligators in Silver Springs and run aimlessly around at Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

Tahiti Beach

Behold the Dragon-God!! Ok — it's a souvenir alligator from Miami Beach tied to a stick...

Tahiti Beach then

Tahiti Beach today (Bing Maps)

Now home to multimillion-dollar estates. The tidal pool and beach still remain, as do the Australian Pines to the south. Nearby Bebe Robozo lived (R.M Nixon friend & millionaire).

Coral Castle

Crazy Alligator-head go-go dance at Coral Castle.

Queen of the Dragon-God on her seat of power. The most she does is yell “DANCE! DANCE!” to her minion.

Coral Castle today on US 41 in Homestead.

Fairchild Tropical Gardens

Fairchild Tropical Gardens. 

The landscape designer was William Lyman Phillips, the same designer who created the gardens at Bok Tower in Lake Wales, among others. Apparently just what the set-designer of Wongo had in mind. Or that is was 5 minutes away from Tahiti Beach...

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Carib Theatre, Clearwater, FL - 1954

The Carib Theatre was one of the last “Dream Palace” theaters built in Florida. It was located at 1148 Cleveland St. in Clearwater, FL. It must have held 1000 people. The Caribbean facade on this theater is spectacular — even as a kid I was fascinated with it. The coral stucco on the front wall sets it off perfectly. It reminds me of those pictoral maps you see in 1950s guide books.

I recall going to many films here in the late 60s/early 70s — there was a giant red velvet curtain that opened revealing a Panavision screen. For the Panavision releases, there was two projectors running at the same time, each projecting 1/2 of the picture; left and right. They would spend some time at the beginning of the film lining them up. The motif on the very high walls were of Egyptians, involved in daily activities. There was also balcony seating. And in 1954 - it cost all of ¢.40 for the late show.

Well this slide has it all! A pair of Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars float along on clouds of floral vinyl accompanied by red lightning bolts. The Air-Force wings logo bring up the rear as southern Belles and enlisted men wave to the crowd. Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan would be proud! Pepsi-Cola must have partnered with the Air Force Reserve and sponsored this amazing Parade float which was in this 1954 Fun ’n Sun Parade. It somehow fits in with the Carib's Marquee.

Another view facing west down Cleveland St. The ROTC band girls look so serious. Wouldn't it be fun to drive that train around late on a Saturday night and freak out all the drunks driving home from the clubs? Cattle Queen of Montana is the movie playing today. The tagline: She strips off her petticoats . . . and straps on her guns !

Carib Theatre in Miami. Note the similar facade depicting the Caribbean basin.

An ad from the Clearwater Sun from November 21, 1963. The movie shown is in Technicolor® Panavision®! It was probably originally a Wometco theater; it was bought by Floyd Theaters, broken up into two smaller rooms, and eventually became a budget theater. It played its last picture in 1983, being unprofitable, probably due to the multiplexes in the malls east of town. I don't know what happened to the great sign when it was demolished, but I hope it survived. The one in Miami didn’t. (This paper was saved because Jack Kennedy was in Tampa the day before, and on the 22nd was fatally shot in Dallas.)

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