"Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained."
-Philosopher John Stuart Mill
Whistler was a small place in the 1970s. And still very much on the edge of the world. Skiing ruled in those days. Powder and vertical were the twin mountain gods that everyone worshiped.
But when the lifts shut down at the end of the day, there wasn't much to do. You could either drink bad beer at the Ski Boot pub or drive your car to the dump and smoke dope and watch the bears gambol through the garbage. I know. I know. Didn't take much to qualify as entertainment back then...
Fortunately there was Fred Flores and his movie nights at the Keg. From the summer of 1976 until the end of 1980, Fred's Cosmic Film Presents filled locals' Sunday evenings with humour, passion, pathos and parody. Seriously — it was one of the entertainment high points of the week. A social occasion you just couldn't miss. Ask anybody who lived here in those years. Better yet, just mention his name. Fred Flores... or Cosmic... and watch their reaction.
"It was just after the health department had closed down the Whistler Lodge," remembers Fred. "Suddenly there were no more movies in the Valley..." A waiter at the Keg, Fred knew the restaurant's disco room was empty on Sunday nights. "So I approached Rookie, the longtime manager there." He shrugs. "Rookie asked me how it would work and I said, 'You don't charge me rent and I won't charge you promo.' He looked at me right in the eye and said, 'OK let's try it.'"
He launched his new enterprise with Roman Polanski's The Tenant. "That was my first film... mostly because it didn't cost me a lot," he admits. And laughs. "Still, it was a strange tale that gave a hint of the kind of films I would choose."
The new movie night became an immediate hit with the young locals. Starved for any kind of "public" entertainment, they soon transformed Cosmic's Sunday night gatherings into a weekly ritual. "It was a very cool scene, for sure," he says. "Especially since I knew pretty much everyone in the room."
And what a tribal rite it became. Scores of young ski bums – high on mushrooms or weed or beer or just plain ol' mountain air – all watching Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse Now, Woody Allen's Manhattan and Brian De Palma's Blow Out. Remember, this was before videos, before discs, long before the Internet. If it hadn't been for Fred's films, some of us would have been seriously under-educated.