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Dear 2016 TCMFF attendees and staff

Photo from Raquel at Out of the Past
On April 28, after several flight delays and mini breakdowns, I made my way west to Hollywood. I made the trip alone-only personally knowing two people who would be attending the festival.
I've known several of the attendees of the festival for years through social media. We have bonded over our love of classic films, Cary Grant, Buster Keaton, and hard liquor drinks. Many of these people I consider close friends who understand the feelings I have for Beatrice Lillie and Harold Lloyd while every other person in my life asks “who?”
Way back in August I agreed to share a room with a girl I've talked to for years. I wasn’t anxious at all about spending five days sharing a room with her and having her show me the ropes of the festival. We planned and often talked about how wonderful it was going to be. A few months before the Festival, two more roommates came on board with us. Two girls, I knew but was admittedly nervous about rooming with. I want desperately for everyone to like me, almost to a fault. 
The moment I stepped off the plane people were already awful. I'm usually the one with the crappy attitude, but I was too happy to be an ass right off the bat. I was on cloud nine and unusually cheery. The woman at my shuttle gave me the business for not alerting her to the fact I was standing beside her waiting. She did have eyes and did see me there, but I guess she was upset that I didn't announce myself. The driver of my shuttle stopped on a random side street just off of Hollywood Boulevard, got out, grabbed my bag, opened my door and pointed at me to get out. I told him I didn’t think this was my stop, but he insisted I get out and get out fast. I got out and stood on this unfamiliar street all alone with a large suitcase and backpack wondering where I was. L.A. had already been unkind, but the moment I stepped foot into my apartment for the next four days, my luck changed.
Four women in one small apartment should spell disaster, but we were there for one common goal, to have the most incredible time watching as many classic films as possible. We all loved Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, Scott McGee, and Sean Cameron when most of our or my peers don’t know who any of these men are.  I was new to the Festival while these other ladies were veterans. They knew the ropes, the people, and the places. Those three could have gladly told me to have fun and bail, but they didn’t. They introduced me to their group of close friends and helped me find my way through Hollywood with friends.
It usually takes me a while to get comfortable with people, but there was no time to be standoffish; I had to jump in head first, and I found myself getting to know the people I knew online. I spent over an hour in line with Lara talking about Marion Davies, Dan and I discovered our shared hatred of the song “Jack and Diane,” Matt sent me home with an incredible autographed Jerry Lewis DVD set and Angie, Kristen and Jessica gave me entertaining stories for years.
Years of seeing everything Alec Baldwin was in came to a head the moment I saw him on the red carpet. These fantastic people shared that moment, that excitement with me. At both of the midnight showings of Roar and Gog 3D, I laughed until I had tears rolling down my cheeks with these people. I wasn’t ashamed to let out huge loud belly laughs at Ben Mankiewicz interviewing Adam West because I wasn’t alone-I was with my people. They understood how incredible that moment was. They felt the magic I felt on a random Thursday night poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, something that you just don’t get to do, like ever.
Over those four days, every encounter with a TCM fan was a pleasant one. Everyone was happy to be there and happy to share his or her story. Each day I went to bed knowing ten more people who shared this great passion with me. 
The staff of TCM, what can I say? A couple of years ago I was involved in a TV show for a major network; it was a reality-based show that was far from reality. The experience was one I won’t soon forget. The people behind the scenes were rude, and the people in front of the camera were somehow even ruder. It killed me to know that people in television are truly awful and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Every single person who wore that TCM staff badge was incredible. In line, I was asked how I was doing, if I was having fun and told to have a great time. Everyone smiled and seemed happy to be there. On Sunday morning when a gentleman on Hollywood Boulevard was giving me some grief, a TCM staffer asked if I was all right. Any run-in with Ben, Scott or Sean was great. Nobody acted like they were too busy or important to deal with a fan. Ben listened to me tell an oddly random story after I had a glass of straight vodka and no food in my stomach. He smiled, listened and took a photo with me. He probably could or should have told me to take it down a notch, but he was kind. I never felt like a stranger or felt out of place. I was always welcomed and accepted.
I so often hear others call this a family reunion of sorts and I finally understand what they mean. I fell in love with these people and here days after I had to say goodbye, I’m still sad. The TCM Film Festival is such a crazy, chaotic event, but you share something pretty special with these people. I came home and tried to explain how my body felt after sitting through hours of films, only getting three hours of sleep. Nobody here will understand the pain in my knees from sitting in a theater or how at some point you will find yourself sitting on a dirty floor because standing in line for long periods of time is rough on your body. Nobody else will know what it’s like to adjust the phantom lanyard around your neck two days after you’ve gotten home and taken it off.  Nobody else will know how thoroughly acceptable it is to spend gobs of money on a piece of chocolate because it happens to be named after a film. Nobody else truly understands the feeling you get when you see the silhouette of Rocky on a billboard along Hollywood Boulevard. Nobody understands except those of us who gather once a year and put our bodies through hell for the love of films and friends.
Thank you, everyone, for making my first festival such an amazing experience. I can't wait to do it again next year.


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