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When I got out of high school at three o’clock each day, I went to work giving away movie passes and hanging up posters in barbershops and drugstores for coming attractions at the Iris or the Texan or the Ritz theaters in downtown Houston. Unfortunately, when I graduated I didn’t have any money to go to college, so I worked full-time at the Iris as an usher and a janitor and a popcornmaker and a ticket taker and a general handyman. I led a monastic life. Then, when I was finally able to start at the University of Houston, I kept my job and went to school from six-thirty to nine-thirty every night. It took me seven years to get my undergraduate degree, but movies stayed on my mind all that time in the sense that I grew up in movie theaters; I must have seen hundreds and hundreds of movies. I loved the cowboy stars: Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson. God, I loved ’em! Of course, I’m passionately in love with the entire movie arena; some are wacky and crazy and off the wall, but none of them is dull. I count dullness as the one sin for which there is no expiation.
Jack Valenti was born and raised in Houston. From 1963 to 1966, he was a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson; ever since, he has been president of the Motion Picture Association of America.