Tag Archives: Rio

Girl Of The Rio

By Cat Cook: January 2022, Greece (the place, not the movie!).

I’ve seen quite a few references on this blog and on the Bearsden Academy FB page to the Rio cinema and I guess if you grew up in Bearsden (or nearby) in the 70s, then you’ll probably have a few memories of the old place.

Me?

I virtually lived there.

Not because I loved that old cinema – which I did

Not because I was such a huge movie fan – which I was

I had no choice really, my dad was the manager of the Rio for 15 years, my mum ran the kiosk, my big brother helped out after school and our house overlooked the damn place, it was a real family affair and there was no escape really!

When my dad took over the management of the Rio in 1971 it was already 37 years old, having been built in 1934 during the art-deco period with an original capacity of 1,120 seats, sadly there don’t seem to be any images available of when it was in its prime.

The old girl, pre-demolition

I was only 7 when the Rio came into my life, but I have so many strong memories of the place.

One of the first films I can remember sneaking into see as a 7 year old, was ‘A Clockwork Orange’, I’m not going to pretend that I knew what the hell was going on with the gangs in their white outfits, bowler hats and eye makeup, drinking milk – but it always stayed with me.


I also remember seeing the Exorcist age 9 and realising it wasn’t a Disney movie – “Your mother sucks cocks in hell” was something I learned not to repeat at the dinner table!
Similarly, seeing Carrie as a 9 year old was a bit heavy and brought about a few sleepless nights!
I should also add at this point that I loved Bambi and Mary Poppins too, I was quite normal really!
I just had access to all the cinematic experiences on offer and my Mum & Dad were sooo busy running the cinema 24-7 to worry about me skunking about the place.

Of course, being a ‘cinema brat’ had its benefits, apart from having the privilege of ‘access all areas’ I was spoiled rotten by the staff and my Birthday parties were always extremely popular.

One memory still treasured was the Rio Saturday Club, especially at Christmas when we’d collect donations for Strathblane Children’s Home.
In fact, if I had to choose my favourite Rio perk, it was going to the wholesalers to select the gifts for the kids at the Home before going up there with dad to hand them out.

As you can imagine, I saw so many great movies at the Rio, often multiple times!
I reckon I must have seen Grease about 30 times and Saturday Night Fever wasn’t far behind.

My big brother Graham and his mates (Russ Stewart & Des Marlborough – both of this parish) were regular cinema-goers as well, but I remember they were more interested in the “adult themed’ genres of the day!


Whenever I see a great 70s movie now, like The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars or Airplane it transports me back to the first time I saw them at the Rio and reminds me of the long queues of expectant movie-goers forming outside the cinema an hour or so before the doors open

Like any business that deals with the public, running a cinema wasn’t always plain sailing, particularly at weekends, and particularly as the Rio was equidistant between Maryhill and Drumchapel.
There were quite a few incidents with rival gangs, mainly in the car park thankfully, and with gangs threatening people in the queue before relieving them of their money.
The local police were usually quick to react to the situation, often handing out their own justice, at the rear of the cinema.

It was funny to see people trying the same old tricks, time and time again, always thinking they were the first to think of them!

Like – the folk who would pay for one person and then try to open the fire-doors for their mates, always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.

Like – the folk who would try and hide in the toilets to see a movie twice. Always believing they were the first to try it and couldn’t understand why they got caught.

Going through the lost property box was always good fun as well and it was amazing to see what people left behind…. everything from umbrellas to frilly knickers.

Everyone mucked in and there was a real kinship behind the scenes, a lot of the staff became like family to us, especially after my brother Graham died.

Me and my big brother

Many folk reading this may even remember some of the Rio team: Mary and Linda the young good-looking girls, Wullie the friendly doorman and Jimmy the projectionist, who would nip out onto the roof for a fly smoke and sometimes miss the changing of the reel, leaving a blank screen and a lot of disgruntled customers….
They were all great people, who always turned up whatever the weather with many of them travelling by foot from Maryhill or Drumchapel daily. 

Of course, there was a lot of ‘back-row’ action back then as the cinema was one of the few places you could go with your boyfriend or girlfriend when you were too young to go to the pub.
In retrospect I should have started a gossip column as I knew everyone who was dating at the cinema on a Friday & Saturday night.

Funnily enough, when I went on a teenage cinema date myself, I still went to the Rio, the perks were too good to ignore.

A friend of the family managed the Odeon in Glasgow so I could always go there if I fancied a change. Basically, I never had to pay to see a movie back then.

My dad managed the Rio from 1971 until it closed in 1985 and was turned into flats.

How it looks today…

By 1985 I guess I had temporarily fallen out of love with the cinema as Nursing, Boys & Holidays came into my life.
I did rekindle my love as the facilities and options improved through the modern multiplexes but for me there will only be one cinema that is truly in my heart.
In the words of Simon Le Bon – Her Name is RIO……

Police Encounters in the 70s.

Russ Stewart: London, May 2021

I do not have any tattoos….
Resisted peer pressure whilst drunk in parlours. 
Witnessed too many pallid limbs celebrating non-existent Maori heritage.

Rationale: a tattoo might compromise any future capability to go off grid and anonymise.   
Now in my 60s that scenario is unlikely, having led a blameless life. 

However I have been subject to stop and subsequent questioning by the police, in the 70s in particular.

Typical scenario:  Aged 14 to 16 or so walking back home to Hillfoot, from Ray Norris parents’ house in the Switchback area, at about 1am, usually carrying a guitar case. 
Sober, fizzing with caffeine, (we  liked figuring out Humble Pie riffs whilst drinking coffee).
Milngavie Road seemed to be awash with cops in those days….. obviously on the lookout for guitar rustlers. 

No small talk.  Non negotiable attitude.  Did not bother me. 

Glasgow in the 70s had a much higher crime rate, particularly in relation to violent crime than it has now. 
Bearsden was deemed safe. 
As Ken Dodd would say “you could have a reign of terror with a balloon on a stick”.  

Well, almost, I was once mildly chibbed.

Not only was 70s policing more robust, the coppers were too. 
I recall being stopped a couple of times by a gigantic 6’ 6” sergeant who worked out of Milngavie nick. 

70s doctrine example 1:   
Mr Mac managed the RIO cinema at Canniesburn Toll. 
He was a great guy who let all his late son’s pals in for free to see any film.
One time the cops were called to deal with rowdy, rather simian of countenance, Maryhill neds in the foyer. 
Order restored… cops ask Mr Mac if he’s agreeable to the neds being taken to the rear of cinema for some moderate correction. 
Of course he declined.

70s doctrine example 2:  
The late Paul Murdoch was caught travelling on the blue train without a ticket. The cops were doing a planned sweep at Hillfoot station.  
Cop : “Have you anything to say?” 
Paul : “in future I’ll take the bus”.  
As a juvenile they let him off.  Actually all cops hate arresting juveniles as the paperwork is arduous and the waiting for social workers, parents etc. takes up a whole shift.

The noughties:
Police are very polite and approachable now.

A few years ago a pair visited to counsel me with respect to post burglary trauma.  A daytime “express”  burglary”  had occurred, the intent being  acquisition of cash and jewellery.
None of either in my gaff.   

The burglars did find my Katana (short Japanese sword),  my antique (legal) Adams Revolver and my souvenir handcuffs from a previous career.  They left these items on the floor.

I appreciated the officers cod psychology… however I would have preferred it if they had re-directed their efforts to the smiting of footpads with Taser and Baton.

Saturday Night at The Movies.

(Paul Fitzpatrick: London – April 2021)

I think it was the author Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ‘life is a journey not a destination’, which is a quote that grows in relevance as the years roll on.

His quote is relatable to me in a few ways, one of them being how tastes and preferences change.
Take going to the cinema as an example of changing times and tastes.

The first cinema experience for many of us was Saturday mornings spent at the the ABC minors club, or the like.

Those weekly events were a big step towards our adolescent freedom… pure independence from the minute you left your house and hopped onto the bus or train until the minute you got back.

Minors of the ABC anthem

For those that remember, the ABC minors club was a feast of cartoons and old black and white movies like The Lone Ranger or The Three Stooges, with a few pop hits of the day thrown in at the intervals to allow you to fill your face with Kia-ora and choc-ices.

Jump forward a few years and the next stage of the cinematic journey involved going on dates… with chicks to the flicks.

Saturday night at eight o’clock
I know where I’m gonna go,
I’m gonna pick my baby up,
And take her to the picture show.


Saturday night at the movies,
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re huggin’ with your baby in
the last row in the balcony?

Sounds romantic doesn’t it, but it never quite worked out that way.
there was no pickin’ your baby up for a start, she was usually dropped off (and collected outside cinema the minute the film finished) by an overprotective Dad, drawing daggers at you as you gormlessly stood there drenched in Brut.

My Local Cinema – The Rio in Bearsden, Glasgow

Looking back…. sitting in silence, side by side, in a large room with no lights was probably the perfect scenario for all involved, particularly when you were a 13/14-year-old monosyllabic boy with a bad haircut.

Back then, I hadn’t mastered the art of small-talk, (or banter, or bantz as it’s now called) or even basic conversation, so what could I chat to girls about when the only topics I could talk about with any authority were football and…. well actually nothing else, just football really.

It was clear therefore, that the perfect setting for this total lack of discourse was the dark silence of the local fleapit, regardless of what film was viewing.

Of course, what goes on in the back row stays in the back row so there’s going to be no juicy gossip shared here, but as most of you will remember, 75% of the film was spent contorting your arm around the shoulder of your date, 24.5% was spent fighting cramp and building up the courage to make that awkward next move…. and if you eventually overcame all your fears and anxieties, then you maybe got to share a wee snog for 90 seconds before the lights came on… realising you’d missed the conclusion to the film.

I was genuinely gutted to learn years later that General Custer did not survive the Battle of Little Bighorn, and that (spoiler alert) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde also perished in the dying embers of said movies.
No wonder there were no sequels!

Where The Drifters got it spot-on however, was that when you were that young it genuinely didn’t matter what film was on… the event was everything.

Within a couple of years however, it was a different story, we started to become a bit more discerning about the movies we wanted to see, and it’s at this stage X rated movies came onto the radar.

In our mid-teens gaining admission to an (18) was a badge of honour but as things transpired some of the best features at that time just happened to be X-rated.  

As an example, five of the best movies of that period were all (18) X-rated……

A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Enter the Dragon The Godfather 2 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

A Clockwork Orange was a strange one, it was probably my least favourite of the five, but culturally it had a huge impact on us back then.

Within a couple of weeks of seeing it the impressionable ones amongst us were wearing Crombie coats, white sta-prest trousers and nicking our Dad’s umbrellas so we could be suede-heads and strut about like Malcolm McDowall’s character, even in the rare days that the sun was splitting the sky…
We must have looked like the numpties we undoubtedly were.

The cinematic landscape has changed a lot since then.



I can think of six cinemas that I used to go to regularly in that period, only one, The Grosvenor in Hillhead, remains open as a cinema, the rest are flats or in the case of The Salon, also in Hillhead, a trendy bar (Hillhead Bookclub) where patrons play ping-pong and drink concoctions called coconut firecrackers.

I have mixed emotions when I go there now, trying to work out where I used to sit, and remember who with.

It’s nostalgic to see the remnants of the great old cinema, but it’s also poignant to think of all the fantastic movies, the nervy first dates and the collective memories that the grand old building harbours.


Who knows what the old playhouse will be transformed into next but at least we still have access to it today…. which is a blessing.

Inside the Hillhead Book Club, Glasgow. Formerly the Salon cinema.

We all seem to be time-challenged these days but if you needed to kill 4 or 5 hours in the 70s there used to be some great double bills available to see…. a couple I remember with relish were Blazing Saddles + Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Midnight Express + Taxi Driver.

Thinking back… including intermissions each of those double bills accounted for approximately 5 hours’ worth of entertainment…. even the 70’s adverts were hilarious.

Is it any wonder then, that these old cinemas went out of business? Nowadays a blockbuster will be shown on a loop, five or six times a day on one screen in a multiplex that has 10 separate screens…. so up to 60 showings a day.
Compare this to two showings a day on one screen in the old style cinemas and do the maths…

I guess it’s just another example of changing and developing tastes…. we start off as impressionable kids thinking that nothing can beat these grainy old black and white movies on a Saturday morning…. that our local cinema is the most exotic place in the world, and before you know it, we’re watching computer animation in a 10-screen multiplex with queues a mile long waiting to buy rubber hotdogs, cardboard popcorn and a gallon of carbonated liquid for a small ransom…..

Sometimes, the ‘journey’ doesn’t always take you to a better destination!

For anyone who’s interested, here’s my top ten 70’s movies in no particular order, based on repeat viewings over the years…

  1. The Godfather
  2. The Godfather 2
  3. Blazing Saddles
  4. Monty Pythons The Life of Brian
  5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Young Frankenstein
  7. The Sting
  8. The Jerk
  9. Rocky
  10. Saturday Night Fever

As a p.s. here’s some of those classic cinema ads from the 70’s, they don’t make ’em like this anymore….

Pearl & Dean
Taste of India
Kiaora Leonard Rossiter ad.
Babycham ad

teenage kicks – Alistair Fleming

Name: Alistair Fleming (Flum)

Where did you live: Bearsden/Courthill

Secondary school:  Bearsden Academy

Best mates at school: Whole load of friends during my time there but for first 2/3 years it was Andy Nall, Iain Cochrane, Stevie Smith. Ian Russell & Dav Sharp

Funniest memory from school: Apart from my Deuchars episode probably Granny Smith. She gave me lines and I didn’t do them. She told me if I didn’t hand them in the next day I would get one of the belt and it would increase every day until I did them. When she gave you the belt she took you into the corridor and put the lights out because she didn’t like to see you in pain. After four days she gave up as it was hurting her more than me.

First holiday with your mates: First holiday was in 1975 when me, George McKechnie and Geoff Kaczmarek went camping to Arran. It rained constantly and after 3 days and with a river running though our tent we went home.
First proper holiday was 1976 when me, Ian Martin (Teeny), Davie Boyle, Geoff Kaczmarek (Skinny), Ian Fleming (Lugsy) and Gordon McKechnie went to Morecambe.
Outstanding memory was going into first English pub ordering 6 pints of Tetleys bitter and Elton John & Kiki Dee were playing on the jukebox.
Other than that getting questioned for attempted murder!

What was your first job: Worked as a trainee quantity surveyor in Wellington Street for 30 quid a month. Left after 3 years and went to see the world with my brother.

Who was your musical hero in 70s: Bryan Ferry

Favourite Single: Pyjamarama by Roxy Music

Favourite Album: Roxy Music debut album

First gig: Think it was Roxy music at the Apollo with big Geoff Kaczmarek (Skinny), who was a mega Roxy music fan.

Favourite movie in 70s: Blazing Saddles at the Rio with Ian Martin, Neil Mackay, Alan Campbell (Sammy), David Goudal (Bug) & Johnny Reay.
This was the the same night we got pulled up by a team of Drum boys who pulled out there steel combs and walked up the line threatening to slash us. They got as far as Johnny who stuck the nut on one, I booted another one and it was just kicking off when the Polis arrived.


Who was your inspiration in 70s: Pat Stanton (Hibs legend) was my inspiration as regards to football. I didn’t have any posters on my wall.
I shared a bedroom with my oldest brother Brian who was a bit of an artist. He had painted portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Leonard Cohen on the walls.

What do you miss most from the 70s: Everything (especially the art of tackling!)

What advice would you give your 14yr old self: Wouldn’t change a thing – I lived it, experienced it and wouldn’t change it.

I was a one woman man in the 70s
Okay maybe I was a two woman man!
Awright I admit it, I was a man-slut!

70s pub session, you’re allowed to invite 4 people dead or alive from 70s: Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Jock Stein & Eddie Turnbull….. wonder what we’d talk about?

May be an image of Alistair Fleming and smiling
FLUM NOW – A PILLAR OF SOCIETY AND A PICTURE OF CONTENTMENT