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Drive-in to greet Joe Bob Briggs

A noted drive-in theater writer and humorist sees a future for screens under the stars despite decades of hard times.

Joe Bob Briggs, the redneck persona that John Bloom invented while working as a reporter at the Dallas Times Herald in 1985, will be at the Transit Drive-in Theatre in Lockport Friday. There also will be a Chiavetta's chicken barbecue from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and a Bumblebee Camaro from the Transformer movies, supplied by Heinrich Chevrolet in Lockport.

"People ask me all the time how much longer drive-ins will survive. People started predicting their demise in the '50s and they have not gone away. The total numbers have declined, but they have leveled off," Briggs said.

"The whole idea of driving a car and watching a movie in the open air is so appealing it will never go away. It's just a great American institution."

Briggs is best known for writing a syndicated column on movies, books on satire and hosting the Movie Channel's "Joe Bob's Drive-in Theatre" and TNT's "Monstervision" in the 1980s and '90s.

He said he was particularly impressed by the Transit and owner Rick Cohen.

"I've kept up with drive-ins for a lot of years now, and rarely do you find one that is still in the same family, and gets 1,100, 1,200 cars, and 4,000 plus people, and has the promotions and the showmanship that drive-ins had in the '50s and '60s, in their heyday," Briggs said.

"It'll be great to be there on the Fourth of July weekend."

Briggs plans to stand on the refreshment stand and administer what he calls his "drive-in oath" to customers he created for Stephen King in 1983 at a drive-in movie festival.

The former Texan, now a New York transplant, went to drive-ins regularly as a kid. He said they appealed to him because they represented a kind of renegade culture.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com