pam grier, a long time woman, and coincidence

OUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS KNOW that we don’t watch “tele­vi­sion.” It’s not that we don’t have cable or do any streaming, we don’t even have our tele­vi­sion set up to re­ceive the stan­dard local broad­casts. But we love good movies and tele­vi­sion se­ries! Our media of choice in seeing these is the in­creas­ingly an­ti­quated DVD.

So we get the oc­ca­sional call from a friend that goes some­thing like this: “Neal, I have a box of DVDs that I don’t watch and won­dered if you might want them …” Of course we want them and so, of course, we take them off our friends’ hands!

A co­in­ci­dence is a re­mark­able con­cur­rence of events or cir­cum­stances without ap­parent causal con­nec­tion.

We place our new ac­qui­si­tions in stacks:

•  movies we know we want to keep,
•  movies we want to watch and de­ter­mine if we want to keep, and
•  movies we def­i­nitely do not want to keep or even watch.

Usu­ally, these gifts come spaced apart so we know whose used DVD we are watching. This works best as it al­lows us to share opin­ions about the movies with the gifter. Re­cently, we found our­selves with two new piles of discs and they were mixed up while sorting them into their ap­pro­priate stacks.

This led me to grab a pair of movies as a late-night double-feature: Big Doll House from the Roger Corman Clas­sics se­ries (1972) and Quentin Taran­ti­no’s Jackie Brown from 1997.

Of course, I knew who Corman and Taran­tino were but knew nothing about ei­ther movie.

And this takes us on a de­tour in this ar­ticle to look at coincidences.


Poster for Big Doll House movie with Pam Grier.
Boiling pas­sions and naked lust should al­ways lead to a climax of some sort. Big Doll House was Pam Gri­er’s second ap­pear­ance in a movie and she was billed be­hind Judy Brown and Roberta Collins. That’s Pam with the ‘fro in the left corner of the wooden cage.

A remarkable concurrence of events

Merriam-Webster’s pri­mary de­f­i­n­i­tion of co­in­ci­dence is “the act or con­di­tion of co­in­ciding.” They offer four vari­a­tions of the de­f­i­n­i­tion of co­in­cide:

1a. to oc­cupy the same place in space or time;

1b. to oc­cupy ex­actly cor­re­sponding or equiv­a­lent po­si­tions on a scale or in a series;

2.   to cor­re­spond in na­ture, char­acter, or func­tion; and

3.   to be in ac­cord or agreement.

Merriam-Webster’s sec­ondary de­f­i­n­i­tion of co­in­ci­dence is “the oc­cur­rence of events that happen at the same time by ac­ci­dent but seem to have some connection.”

While I am a BIG fan of Merriam-Webster, I am going with the Google Dic­tio­nary de­f­i­n­i­tion here: “a re­mark­able con­cur­rence of events or cir­cum­stances without ap­parent causal connection.”

And I may be in­ter­preting the word re­mark­able a bit loosely.


Poster for Across 100th Street Movie.
While tech­ni­cally not a Blax­ploita­tion movie, Across 100th Street was made in 1972, the be­gin­ning of the Blax­ploita­tion era. It takes place in Harlem, has black ac­tors in key roles, and uses con­tem­po­rary soul music as its score, in­cluding Bobby Wom­ack’s killer recording of the title song.

Pam Grier and Big Doll House

My double-feature opened with Big Doll House, an ex­ploita­tion movie from 1971, the same year that Sweet Sweet­back’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft made blax­ploita­tion movies a big deal. It was a suc­cess at the box of­fice with a more than 50-to-1 re­turn on pro­duc­tion costs.

The movie opened with a very at­trac­tive woman being taken to what looks like a prison in a Third World country. In the back­ground, a woman sings:

I’m a long time woman and I’m serving my time.
I’ve been locked away so long now, I forgot my crime.
Been working on the road now, I’ve been working by the sea.
Been working near them cane fields and I wanna be free.
Well, ninety-nine years is a long, long, long time.
Ninety-nine years is such a long, long, long time.
Ninety-nine years is a long, long time.
Well look at me, I’ll never be free.
I’m a long time woman, ain’t no­body to please.
Got a nat­ural feeling like a bad disease.

Well, ninety-nine years is a long, long, long time.
Ninety-nine years is such a long, long, long time.
Ninety-nine years is a long, long time.

It was an okay song and an okay per­for­mance but didn’t do much for me. Nei­ther did the movie. I am not a fan of poorly scripted, poorly di­rected, and poorly acted movies. I didn’t last twenty min­utes be­fore I turned it off.

Then I put on the Taran­tino movie.


Poster for Jackie Brown movie with Pam Grier.
By 1997, Pam Grier was a cul­tural icon, if only for having been the pre­mier fe­male actor of the Blax­ploita­tion Era of films in the early ’70s. She doesn’t share the movie’s orig­inal poster with anyone.

Pam Grier and Jackie Brown

I knew nothing about Jackie Brown. I ac­tu­ally thought it was a mar­tial arts movie! It stars Pam Grier, which was a nice bit of co­in­ci­dence. The movie opens with Across 100th Street playing in the back­ground, Bobby Wom­acks’s gritty look at inner-city life.

The song was written and recorded for the 1972 movie of the same title. Its use here is an ex­ample of Quentin Taran­ti­no’s ref­er­ences and al­lu­sions to pop­ular culture—especially movies and music—from the ’60s and ’70s that pop up in his movies.

About twenty min­utes into the movie, the same song that had opened Big Doll House started playing: 

I’m a long time woman and I’m serving my time.
I’ve been locked away so long now, I forgot my crime.
Been working on the road now, I’ve been working by the sea.
Been working near them cane fields and I wanna be free.

Turns out it was Pam Grier singing Long Time Woman, written and recorded for Big Doll House. It was one of the few record­ings she made in her ca­reer. It was also an­other of Taran­ti­no’s al­lu­sions to pop cul­ture of the past.

I didn’t know the track at all and it wouldn’t have mat­tered to me at all if the night hadn’t been a double-feature and I hadn’t tried to watch Big Doll House an hour earlier.

And, yeah, maybe I’ve spent a bit too much time in­doors the past year—who hasn’t?

And maybe I’m get­ting a little bit long of tooth—who isn’t?

But little things like little co­in­ci­dences re­mind me of how funny—how amazing—life is.

To hear Bobby Wom­ack’s Across 100th Street, click here.

To hear Pam Gri­er’s Long Time Woman, click here.

It was double-feature night and little did I know that both movies fea­tured the same ac­tress and the same song in their sound­tracks, even though they were made 25 years apart. Click To Tweet

Pam Grier as Jackie Brown from the movie of the same name.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is the lovely Pam Grier in Jackie Brown. The movie also fea­tures Robert Forster, Michael Keaton, and Robert DeNiro, and es­pe­cially boffo per­for­mances by Samuel L. Jackson and Bridget “Surfer Girl” Fonda.


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