The TCM Film Festival - Yes, it was THAT fun!

Thursday, April 22nd:

"Do I look hot?" My friend Christy asks.

Yes, she does.  She is filming a Fan Retrospective this morning and we are rushing to get out of the house while giving MrCutter the space he needs to get ready for work.

We manage to get out on time and head over the hill (Laurel Canyon Blvd) to Hollywood.  Laurel Canyon Blvd started out as a horse bridal trail a hundred years ago.  Forty years ago, it was ground zero for the numerous rock and roll and folk singers (Mamma Cass, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell, Mickie Dolenz, etc)  who were making top 40 hits.  Today, it is one of four ways to get from the Valley to Hollywood.

We get to the Roosevelt and amazingly enough, they have our early check-in almost ready.  We get checked in, stow our luggage (did I mention Christy travels with a small caravan of luggage - she has to for all her costumes and jewelry and accessories that I will borrow over the weekend.) and they tell us our room should be ready when she is done filming.

We go upstairs to the penthouse suite where Carol Lombard and Clark Gable once had a love nest.  We meet a couple of TCM staffers that I knew from my trip to Atlanta and Christy tries to shake off her nerves.  Before we can get comfortable (and get a Diet Coke, oh sweet elixir of life), we are whisked up the stairs to the rooftop where Christy is to film her piece.

We are in heaven.  Christy and the crew are hitting it off big time.  Me, I'm enjoying being up there with the giant rooftop neon sign.  Where we came up from the stairs is a small cupola that reminds me of the Hotel Del Coronado down in San Diego where Some Like It Hot was shot.

For the next hour Christy charms the crew and answers all the questions asked of her.  She does voices, talks about her mom and how she would make pies when ever a movie would upset Christy, she talks about costumes and how her mom and aunties would make the costumes that Christy loved on the silver screen, she sings songs from classic films.

All to soon the hour is over and we head downstairs.  We get some swag on the way out.  MrCutter will have a new TCM Film Festival tee-shirt and baseball cap to add to his collection.

We are able to check into our room and I get ready to go to the Academy Room to film my Fan Programmer Update spot with Robert Osborne.  We go up to the Mezzanine to the Academy Room (which is not where the first Oscars were held).  The crew is getting the set ready,  putting a filter film on the window that overlooks Hollywood Blvd (which the portion directly below us has been named Turner Classic Movies Way).

Two other women are there.  One is waiting her moment in the spotlight talking about the Film Festival with Robert O.  Lo and behold, they are from Texas and Delana's daughter is from Baytown, where Christy is from!  Old home week!

For me it is old home week as well.  TCM's director, Sean Cameron, calls me over.  We hug and I tell him I am ready.  He tells me not to worry, I look great (I keep playing with my hair and wondering why I didn't get a haircut before this moment).

Next thing I know, there is our patron saint, Robert O.  We hug and sit down in the chairs.  Just before we are to start filming a loud noise comes from outside and down on the Blvd.  We crane to see what the commotion is.  All we can see is Tom Brown and a crowd crossing towards us.  Tom is throwing kisses to someone we can not see. 

The buzz on the set is that the noise problem is being taken care of.  And just like that it is!  Quiet on the set and we are off to the races.  It is a quick shoot.  I talk a bit about seeing films on the big screen and how important that is, the panels I want to see and my new job as the Digital Archivist at The Walt Disney Family Museum.

Next thing I known, Sean is calling cut.  The shoot a pick up with Robert O to end the piece with and we are done.

We each get our picture taken with Robert O (hoping Christy remembers to send me mine) and we go back to our room.

The sunny weather has turned overcast.  We change clothes and head down to the lobby to meet Filmlover and Kyle (and hopefully others) to go to In-N-Out Burgers for some much needed nourishment.  Kyle calls me to say he is running behind schedule and will meet us later.  We go down and check out Club TCM, in the Blossom Room where the first Academy Awards were held.  TCM has turned the room into a nightclub setting with lots of places to sit, a bar, snacks and they are running montages on the screen and the side walls.

We meet up with Peter (Filmlover) and Paula (Countessdelave from TCM City) and her sister Tracy.  We walk down to In-N-Out and order.  Once we are seated, David (Kingrat) joins us.  He'd been waiting at the other entrance and decided to come inside and look around.  He finds us immediately.  It helps that Paula and Tracy have vintage hairstyles (in anticipation of the big gala later in the evening.)

We are all getting along great.  We enjoy our food and talk classic film.

Too soon, it's time to head back and get ready for the Welcome Party.  Some are going to the Gala Screening of Star, David is going to Dirigible and Kyle and I are going to Neptune's Daughter.

I find a young man in a tux at TCM Club who is part of the hired staff to help out.  I ask about lining up for Daughter and though he doesn't know the answer, he says he'll be back.  When he comes back, he has all the info we need.  He becomes our go-to guy at Club TCM whenever we have questions about events in the hotel.

The Welcome Party is fun.  David and I stake out a spot on a sofa and observe the crowd.  Guys in tuxedos, white suits, tails and top hats, women in long gowns, short cocktail dresses and some of us just in casual wear.

The Club thins out once the Red Carpet begins.  We see Diane Baker leave with Robert O and she looks fabulous!

Christy, Paula and Tracy head for the Red Carpet, David for the Chinese.  Kyle and I stay put and are joined by Peter.  We make our way down to the pool to see [b]Daughter[/b]. 

As the crowd grows, there is no sign of rain.  As the hour grows near, we are welcomed by Genevieve McGillicuddy, the director of the Festival who after a few words throws it to Ben Mankiewicz, who welcomes Esther Williams and Betty Garrett.  Ben has three chairs set up but as soon as he realizes that Esther is in a wheel chair he deftly and without much notice (ie me and Kyle who are sitting right there to see it) quietly gets rid of the extra chair.

Esther and Betty are great.  They have great banter.

"Everything sounds better underwater" says Esther.

"I can't hear everything you are saying so if it's something bad, I'll hear about it and smack you later." says Betty.

The Aqualillies are a big hit, performing their synchronized water ballet the perfect tribute.  Once the movie starts, Kyle and I move back inside to Club TCM where it is warm.  Christy goes off to the Vanity Fair after party having scored an invitation from someone who can get her in.

David (Kingrat) comes back and tells us about the Capra boys introducing Dirigible.

We have a drink or two and call it an evening knowing that tomorrow starts early.

Christy gets in about 3 am having had the time of her life and getting to meet everyone from Alec Baldwin to Diane Baker.  I am glad for her but to tired to stay awake to hear the stories!

Coming up:  Friday!

Friday, April 23rd

"There's some fiddle-faddle going on here." Marjorie Main, Murder, He Says

Up and out the door early Friday morning for the screening of Murder, He Says. One of the best things about the Festival is the fact that you can roll out of bed and walk across the street to the Chinese for the morning screenings. The Egyptian is only a few blocks down the street. Having the Roosevelt as the anchor turns out to be wonderful. No cabbing, no driving, no subwaying, it's all within easy walking distance.

While waiting to be let in, I met Liz. She's a wonderful woman from Vancouver. She walks with a cane and we are sitting waiting for them to let us in. She tells me she saw Monkey Business on its initial release and has loved movies ever since. She's never seen this one and is looking forward to. When she was a child, there was a fire in a theater and children died. Instead of strengthening the fire code, they made it illegal for children to go to the movies. Her mother used to smuggle her in. She is loving the TCM Film Festival over the Toronto and Montreal Film Festivals because this one is so easy to maneuver.

We get let in and pick easy chairs to get in and out of in the back of the theater.

We are in Chinese #6, one of the smallest theaters, seats 177. The place is full. My buddy, Mike Schlesinger, who was instrumental in bringing Sony to the table to deal with TCM for the Columbia library, introduces the film. He is hysterical, comparing himself to Marjorie Main, asks how many have NOT seen the film and 3/4 of the audience raises their hands.

Mike talks about the early split screen work that was done and credits cinematographer Ted Sparkhul for his great work in the twin dim-witted sons of Marjorie Main. He points out this film was made possible by the Broadway success of Arsenic and Old Lace because it made comedic works about murder possible.

The movie unspools and is wonderful. Starring Fred MacMurray, Marjorie Main, Helen Walker and Barbara Pepper with Peter Whitney as the dimwitted brothers and features Francis Ford.

The audience loves the film and it is an absolute hoot.

Couple of things that stand out, early Friday morning the escalators going up (there are none going down) aren't turned on. Neither is the air conditioning in the Chinese complex. Luckily that gets resolved by the next day.

After the screening, I grab a bite to eat at one of the numerous pizza places on the Blvd.

In front of the Egyptian, Mel Brooks had just received his Star on the Walk of Fame. The street is still closed off and the emergency teams are still standing by.

After the Star ceremony, Mel and Robert O walk back towards the Egyptian for a short interview session.

They are not passing out Queue Cards at the Egyptian they way they were at the Chinese. At the Chinese, you get one of the Queue cards and walk around. At the Egyptian, they want to stand in line when you get the Queue Card.

I am going to see the first episode of Moguls and Movies, the seven part series that TCM Original Programming produced.

"This is the series we should be making" Tom Brown, VP of Original Programming

I meet up with Kyle and we join the line up.

Once inside, we get the usual introduction of turn off cell phones, no texting, no talking.

The episode is amazing. After years of various documentaries that claim to be on the history of American Film, I think we may actually have the real deal in this one.

With a diverse group of film historians from Leonard Maltin to Robert Birchard, the first episode is called Peepshow Pioneers. It begins with a history of magic lantern shows and takes us through the 1910s of movie making.

You have to pay attention as this is filled with historical information and rarely seen footage.

When it is over I feel like I have seen the first documentary that might actually be able to complement Kevin Brownlow's wonderful Hollywood series. It has taken almost thirty years for me to feel that way.

The Q & A is headed by Michael Wright, the head of Turner Broadcasting, Jon Wilkman whose company did the heavy lifting and created the series and Tom Brown, the VP of Original Programming who produced the series.

The series is two years in the making. It was originally planned as a 10 hour series but they realized that the Mogul and studio era ends in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

As Tom Brown pointed out, two great docs have been made about 70s filmmakers, Raging Bulls, Easy Riders and Decade Under the Influence. Also they feel that not enough time has passed to properly put the 80s till today's films in their proper context.

If the next six hours are as good as this first "rough cut" hour we saw, we will all learn more about the era of film making we love.

The show begins airing the first Monday in November and each Monday after that. Each week the previous eppy will air before the new one. Sometime in late December, they will air all seven hours back to back.

After that screening, Kyle and I head over to the Roosevelt for the TCM: Meet the Network panel.

"You're Our Heroes!" Audience member to TCM Panel.

The room is full of TCM fans including us, David and Paula. The panel is moderated by Scott McGee, a producer for TCM On-Air Promos. Panelists include Pola Changnon (yes, named for Pola Negri and proud of it) with TCM On-Air promotions, Charlie Tabesh the VP of Programming, Tom Brown, the VP of Original Programming, Richard Steiner with the TCM On-line group, Digital Platforms and Darcy Hettrich, the VP of Talent.

Darcy is late getting to the panel because she is busy dealing with last minute problems. She does announce that Luis Rainer has arrived safely and will be part of the Festival. Seems Rainer was on the last flight out of Paris before flights were once again canceled.

They start the panel by reiterating their commitment to their mission statement and how they feel they are one of the last channels still adhering to their original mission statement.

They reiterate their commitment to remaining commercial free.

An audience member from Canada asks why he has such a hard time trying to see Topper Takes a Holiday Each time it is on the American schedule, it is pre-empted in Canada.

Charlie Tabesh fields the question and explains about the problem with Canadian rights and how 95-99% of the films there are no problems with but a small handful like Topper are.

Various ideas are bandied about including Tom Brown's idea "Show it just once without obtaining the proper clearance and we'll hear from a lawyer first thing the next morning telling us who has the rights to the film.")

The conversation continues and finally Tom says "Charlie doesn't want you to see Topper" which brings down the house.

A couple of college students talk about trying to restore a movie theater in Denton, Texas. There's lots of talk of "inspiration" and thanks to the channel for being there 24/7.

Charlie also talked about a new idea he is working on with studio libraries, which would be fewer encore runs for the chance to pick more films from the Paramount and Fox libraries. Here's hoping......

The one TCM employee that wasn't on the panel did garner a lot of attention. Genvieve MacGillicudy, the director of the Festival and a VP of Brand Marketing received a number of positive nods and remarks from her co-workers.

"I could talk about Brainstorm but I won't" Douglas Trumbull.

I caught the last portion of Trumbull's talk in Club TCM. When I came in he was recounting his work at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas with Showscan.

He also talked briefly about Brainstorm but without going into detail.

He raises donkeys in Massachusetts.

Worked with a writer on elaborate bonus features for 2001 including being able to access Kubrick's archives. Unfortunately, WBHV wouldn't go for the idea.

Says Spielberg came to him to solve the special effects problem with the original Back to the Future.

He would still love to work in the industry.

Friday night I chose a nice meal in the 25 Degrees restaurant in the hotel and then hung out with friends as they came back from screenings.

Saturday morning would start early enough.

Up in our room TCM is airing Hell's Angels '69 . It is really bad and I go to sleep with no problem.