Because last fall’s New York Film Festival Lincoln Center showing of the restored Ben-Hur was such a bust, I decided to check out last night’s screening of this 1959 classic at the American Cinematheque. It looked pretty good and for the first time in my life, I saw the 2.76 to 1 aspect ratio on a large scale. But the center dialogue track was on the weak side — you had to cup your ears to clearly hear every word. There’s always something not quite right or good enough.

But honestly? I didn’t want to go to the Cinematheque at all because of the film bums who always show up at these screenings. The late Stuart Byron coined this term in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and I think we all know what it means. It means older film obsessives who always look a little saggy, beefy and tattered. Paunchy, T-shirty, easy-fit jeans, sandals with socks, jowly, unkempt. They never attend with women because they don’t have girlfriends — they never do. I’m sorry but it creeps me out to sit in their vicinity. Slightly. I walk into a theatre and see them sitting there and I think to myself, “Oh, Jesus…I can’t be near these guys.”

I would feel differently if they attended with ladies or with a small group or with male friends, even, and if they dressed more uptown (sport jackets, leather jackets, freshly-pressed slacks or 514s or anything with a little style, flamboyant socks, quality leather lace-up shoes). Or…you know, if they just suggested in any way that they have a life.