Sunday, December 3, 2017

Ted Turner helped shape who I am

Yes, that Ted Turner and no I've never met the man and I don't know the man personally.
Image courtesy of tedturner.com
Image courtesy of tedturner.com
A couple of days ago I was thinking about who I am as a person. I’m normal, yet strange. I feel like I am a fair mix of both of my parents, with a dash of my grandparents and a few quirks of my own. If I sat down and described myself to you, I would do so with a list of my favorite things.
I would say, my name is Nikki and here is a shortlist of my all-time favorite things (not including my family and friends and all the dogs in the world), classic movies, baseball, the Three Stooges, Saved by the Bell, Paul Simon, and Robert Redford. There is so much more to me, but this is the list I would give. I feel that this list of random things says a lot about who I am as a person.
As a classic film lover, I would say that I am ‘old school’ and ‘classic.’
I think baseball says that I’m romantic and low maintenance, give me a hot dog, and a game and I’m set for hours.
My love of all things Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Moe, says that I have a sense of humor-maybe, not sophisticated humor, but I love to laugh.
Finally, my love of Saved by the Bell would tell you that I am corny and very colorful.
I’m sure there are a thousand different ways of looking at how each of these random insignificant things shapes me as a person, but they did.
When I think of who I am now and compare it to how I grew up, there is one significant connection, and that connection is a 78-year-old man from Ohio.
Ted Turner, ‘Terrible Ted,’ ‘The Mouth of the South,’ or that guy who started CNN, has had more of an influence on my life than I could have ever imagined. Up until recently, I knew very little about the man. I remember him being married to Jane Fonda (kisses fingers, pops them in the air and points to the sky. That woman is a damn goddess, and I will physically fight you if you want to come at me about that.) and I knew he is the all mighty Turner in Turner Classic Movies, but other than that I knew very little.
During a CNN series about the 1980s, I learned more about Turner and all of the things he dabbles in during his exciting life. In 1976 Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS) became the nation’s first ‘superstation’ using satellite technology to go nationwide. In the early 90’s TBS, channel five to those who had it in Dawson, the Village of 100 people that I grew up in played babysitter to two little girls.
At 4:00 p.m. every weekday, TBS played a good two hours of Saved by the Bell. The stupid, yet loveable show of my youth could always be found on channel 5. Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) was my first huge crush. Until the fairly recently, I was confident I would someday marry Zack Morris. I learned several life lessons from the thousands of hours of watching this show. I learned not to drink and drive, don't hire an actor to trick my school principal, and most importantly I learned not to give up on someone you love. All such cheesy life lessons that I laugh about today, but back then it was intense stuff. Saved by the Bell was my religion and for years nothing else mattered. The evil Ted Turner would often interrupt my religion with baseball.
The Atlanta Braves are the first baseball team I can remember watching. My intense hate slowly turned to love as I couldn’t look away from their outfielder David Justice. Let’s face it, the man isn’t Bo Jackson or Derek Jeter, but he was good enough to hold my attention. He had a beautiful face. I understood baseball and what he was doing. I loved Dan Marino and Troy Aikman, but I didn’t and still don’t quite understand their sport. My wild love affair with baseball began and stuck thanks to that evil Ted Turner interrupting my show.
My favorite thing about TBS was the 24-hour marathons they would often have. Saved by the Bell and The Three Stooges were the usually the subject of those marathons. My sister and I would try to stay up to watch all night as we used the VCR to tape our shows to watch again day after day. We didn't have a Three Stooges collection of DVD's at that time, just our treasured TBS marathon tapes. My grandpa Alexander usually played host to these events and would join us for as many Three Stooges as he could handle. My love for Larry, Curly and Moe runs as deep as my love for classic movies. It reminds me of my sister, grandpa and I curled up on the couch laughing until we cried.
In 1980 Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour news network. It isn’t listed in my favorite things, but I love the news, especially during an election year. CNN and I go way back to the 2000 election when my beloved Al Gore ran against President George Bush. I spent hours, days and weeks attached to CNN. That was during a rough period of my adolescence, so it was a good distraction for me. Again, Turner pulls through for this girl.
In 1985 Ted Turner acquired MGM-UA Entertainment, including its library of thousands of classic films. Nearly ten years later Turner Classic Movies is launched. What can I say about my biggest love? The people whom I have met because of the films shown on this network have changed my life for the better. I met my best friend because of TCM and Turner. I have the most fabulous week of the year because of TCM and Turner. I have my closest friend core and group chats/texts because of Turner and TCM. How incredible is that?
When I first started getting deeper into black and white films, I would go and search the internet for my favorite movies or stars. That searching led me to groups devoted to specific films or actors, which led me to the people. I have had so much fun with these people. They have encouraged me to come out of my shell a LOT. I have been invited to write for magazines, blogs, and other publications, as well as do radio interviews. I have done fundraisers for the Harold Lloyd birthplace and been active in getting people in my community involved in learning about classic film. I have also met several people in our area who share my love and who visit me to talk about it.
I am again preparing for another trip to Hollywood for the TCM Film Festival. It is something that I look so forward to attending. It’s not the just films, but the people, my people.  I wouldn’t trade the amount of time I have spent watching and learning about old movies for anything. It’s a love, a passion that runs deep-it’s a big part of who I am.
In 1992 The Cartoon Network went on air and, my grandpa spent hours with my sister and I watching the classics. Back then they showed The Flintstone’s, Top Cat, The Jetson’s, and Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. My grandfather passed away in 1998, but the time we spent together watching the Cartoon Network, and The Three Stooges is time I treasure and hold so dearly. That was something we had in common. We laughed and laughed, and now I share that common thread and those shows with my son.
Who would have thought that so much of what I love has been made so easily accessible thanks to a billionaire philanthropist? Thanks for everything Ted, even Ted’s Montana Grill.
UPDATE, April 2019. TCM will be honoring my beloved Ted Turner at the TCMFF in Hollywood next week. I am so excited this wild man will be honored by my friends and people I hold so near and dear to my heart. I hope I get to witness this event. I'm fuzzy on details, but I hope its something I get to be a part of next week. Thanks again for the memories and this wonderful life Ted.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Five, Part Two

The last night of the film festival was coming to a close, and it's probably my saddest night of the year. I liken it to Christmas night. You look forward to it all year long and then its over just like that, and you know that you have a whole other year to wait.
The film I had been most excited about had been pushed back a few hours, and I had all but given up on seeing it. I wanted to make it to the closing party and see some friends, so I chose to see Red Headed Woman and forget my beloved film.
Call it luck or even fate, but Red Headed Woman ended as Speedy was being introduced. Brian and I ran as fast as we could to make it to the intro. Released nearly 89 years ago to the day, Speedy stars my favorite actor, Harold Lloyd. I've written several times about my affection for the local actor and how I came to fall in love with him.
Harold Lloyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska on April 20, 1893. I’ve read nearly every biography about him and spoken several times with his various family members about his life in Nebraska. As I researched his life further in recent years, I found that he had lived in Pawnee City, Humboldt, Beatrice, and Omaha. Lloyd had enough affection for the home and town of Burchard that he and his famous co-star/wife Mildred Davis-Lloyd would come back to visit when they could. After doing some plays in Omaha, Lloyd ended up in California working with Hal Roach, known best for producing Lauren and Hardy and Our Gang films.
It took Lloyd a few years to establish his role as one of the greatest silent comedians of the era. In 1924 Lloyd and Roach parted ways, and Lloyd became the independent producer of his films. Lloyd worked through the silent era and dabbled in some ‘talkies’ before he retired from film. Lloyd became the director and host of the NBC radio anthology, The Old Gold Comedy Theater for a year before he devoted all of his time to the Shriners Hospital, his family and 3D photography.
What made Lloyd stand out from Chaplin and Keaton was that he kept copyright control of his films. He didn’t grant a cinematic release in the 70’s like Chaplin because he only wanted his films to be accompanied by an organ, not a piano. Therefore Lloyd was nearly forgotten until his granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd released several remastered shorts that were accompanied by new orchestral scores. Since their re-release in 2002, Lloyd’s popularity has soared.
Nearly nine years ago I held a function in Burchard at Lloyd’s home to raise money for his birth home. The people of Burchard take turns mowing and giving tours at his birthplace. They rely on donations to upkeep the house, and they sadly get little to no help from Lloyd’s family. So it has been up to the good people of Burchard and fans like myself and my friends Dan and Kathy Phillips and their family, to help raise money for the house. Our first event was a huge hit. We showed films on the side of the home at dusk, served food and had trivia and prizes throughout the day. The next event we lost money and decided that we were both not in a financial position to continue to lose our own money, so we halted the event for a while.
My love for Harold is still as strong as ever though. Speedy was the first classic film that I fell in love with. It led me down the path I’m currently on of wanting to see every film made before 1990. Speedy and Harold Lloyd showed me that not all silent films are cheesy or creepy. They are beautiful and required a special skill that not everyone has. Getting to see Speedy with a live orchestra and audience on the big screen was a dream come true.
Speedy is about chronically unemployed Yankees fan Harold “Speedy” Swift (Harold Lloyd). He dates Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), a girl whose beloved grandfather, Pop (Bert Woodruff), runs a failing horse-drawn trolley business, in a rapidly changing city where the railway is becoming king. When a crooked railroad official steals Pop’s last car, hoping to force him into a shutdown, Speedy must race against the clock to find the culprits, return the car in time, and keep the service running on schedule.
Speedy has beautiful shots of Coney Island, Manhattan and the old Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth makes an appearance as a scared passenger on a terrifying ride to the Stadium for a game.
Brian and I laughed at the same parts of the film that we had laughed at 15 years ago when we first saw it. I teared up a few times as it washed over me that I was getting to share my love of this film and Lloyd with so many other people. It was the perfect way to end the festival, and I am so glad I changed my mind and chose to see it and skip most of the closing party.
After the film, we made our way over to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to say goodbye to some of our friends. Brian was able to talk with Ben Mankiewicz. We spoke to our friends and told everyone goodbye before we went back to our hotel. It’s always so sad to see the festival end and say farewell to like-minded people who you spend at least 18 hours a day with for four days. We laugh together, eat together, cry together and understand each other. I can yell out ‘I love Chester Morris!’ and everyone will know who that is and agree that they love him too.
When I booked our trip, I chose the cheapest flight out of LA for the following day which was 8 PM that night. So we took the TCM Classic Film Tour, (I don’t recommend it) and hung out for a while before our shuttle picked us up. It was nice to just take things slow for a few hours before we went home. We made it to LAX four hours before our flight. For someone who hates to fly, I love the airport. I love watching people and eating.
Brian watched movies while I watched people. It was good until they bumped our flight to 9 PM, then 10 PM, then 11 PM. Leaving at 11 PM put us back at KC after 2 AM. After a long-delayed but smooth flight, we landed at 2:45 AM and drove two hours home.
Another end to another trip I never dreamed I’d get to take. Those four days in Hollywood are worth every weekend I sit at home and collect every penny I find. Every year is a new dream come true, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to travel and share it with you.
And I still didn’t get to see the ocean. Maybe someday I will.

Monday, June 19, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Four

Saturday, April 8, was a day Brian and I were both looking forward to the most. The day’s line-up was going to be amazing, and I was going to be spending most of the day in the famed Gruman’s Chinese Theater. Last year I didn’t see one film there, so I was excited to get the chance to see several movies there this year.
Brian and I got up around 6:30 a.m. after about two hours of sleep. We had spent hours trying to get into the theater to find Brian’s phone. We lucked out that morning because our first film was in the same theater that Brian had lost his phone the night before. We went back, and while I got in line, Brian asked if he could search around. He still came up with nothing.  Brian waited at the front desk for them to open and was relieved to have it waiting at the lost and found.
We hopped in line and waited for our next film The China Syndrome. There were several films that we wanted to see during this block. It was a last-minute decision to attend because Michael Douglas was going to do a Q&A after the film. We had primo seats for the film and the interview. Neither of us had seen the movie or knew much about it, so we had no idea what to expect.
Michael Douglas produced and starred in the 1979 film about a possible meltdown at a nuclear power plant. Douglas plays the cameraman for reporter, Jane Fonda. As they tour the plant, they witness an emergency shutdown. That event leads the supervisor played by Jack Lemon to uncover some significant problems in the construction that can trigger a ‘China Syndrome’ type of meltdown to occur. Douglas and Fonda try to help Lemmon publicize the issues and save California from a major nuclear incident.
Before the credits finished, I had gotten on my phone and bought the DVD of this film. It was the biggest surprise film of the festival for me. I love a movie that takes me on an emotional roller coaster, and this one did just that. I was angry, scared, and sad. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. I cried my eyes out at the end; I really got into it. As I looked around I realized that I wasn’t the only one, several other people were crying as well.
Michael Douglas received a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage. He discussed how the timing of the film was unreal. Two weeks after the film was released, there was a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. He explained that this didn’t help box office ticket sales because the news was playing clips of the film during their broadcasts for weeks, so nobody showed up to see the movie.
It was an interesting interview and fun to hear a bit about how Lemmon was to work with (Douglas said he was great). Jack Lemmon should have won an Oscar for this performance.
Once we caught our breath and chased Douglas out into the hall trying to get a photo (I was immediately stopped), we went downstairs to see one of our all-time favorite films, The Awful Truth. Its hard to find someone whos seen this film and didn’t consider it one of their favorites. We were there very early and still ended up 306 and 307 in line. The screwball comedy stars Irene Dunn and Cary Grant. The film is so beautiful it looks like a work of art. Dunn and Grant are married and after a misunderstanding gets divorced and need to decide if they want to be together. It was beautiful to see on the big screen, but we had to leave again to head back outside the theater we were just in. Why leave one of our favorite films to get in line outside the same theatre? To be the first people in line for one of Brian’s favorite movies of all time, The Jerk.
Now The Jerk was a movie I hadn’t seen until Brian insisted I must. It has taken a few years to grow on me, but I now love it and laugh harder each time I see it. Steve Martin is hilarious and plays an idiot trying to make his way through life. That pretty well sums it up. We stood in the sun for over an hour just to get our numbers, one and two. Brian was excited to be first in line, and what we didn’t know was that it came with a perk. The first few people in line got to attend the book signing with Carl Reiner and get to talk to him.
We made our way in and found ourselves standing in front of Carl Reiner. I didn’t know what to say, so I just told him how to spell my name and smiled. Brian told him how much he loved his films, especially The Jerk and chatted him up like they were old friends. We found a primo seat and watched as my pal Jill walked up to Mr. Carl Reiner and tore her jacket open. From where we were seated it looked like she was flashing 95-year old Hollywood legend, Carl Reiner. Several people in the audience started to giggle. What Brian and I knew was that Jill was wearing a special shirt she had worn for the occasion.
In The Jerk, Bernadette Peters meets Martin’s character when she is searching for a five-year-old boy wearing a shirt that says Bullshit. Only it says the profanity and Jill was wearing the replica of that shirt. Carl Reiner’s face lit up as he saw her shirt and they began quite the conversation. After we had laughed our way through The Jerk, we went down to Jameson’s bar for a drink and some dinner, both were terrible.
Brian and I met up with our friend Angie so we could all attend The Graduate with special guest, Buck Henry. I say this about a lot of films, but I love The Graduate, and I am so glad I went to see it in that theater. Before I went to L.A., I had given Scott Schock a bit of a rundown of what films I would see. He agreed that there was something special about The Graduate and he made a point of letting me know that I should defiantly make time to see it. Now that film holds even more meaning to me.
We skipped the midnight show because all three of us had a tough time staying awake through Benjamin’s antics. I don’t regret missing the midnight film for one second and I still don’t.

Friday, May 19, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Three, Part Two


Brian and I had just run across a very busy Hollywood Boulevard to get to the next big screening of the day. Mel Brooks was introducing his Hitchcockian classic, High Anxiety. We left the screening of ‘Baby Jane’ early to get better seats for Brooks, but over 300 people had the same idea, as we ended number 314 and 315. Luckily Grauman’s Chinese theater seats 1,152, so we were in good shape. As we stood for the next hour, we watched hundreds of other people file in behind us. Soon the line went as far as I could see. My pal Danny and his wife were only a few people behind us, so we were able to pass the time chatting with them. Danny had been my line partner the year before when we were in the high 500’s to see Manchurian Candidate. 
Once we made it into Grauman’s, we still ended up much further away from Mel Brooks as I would have liked to have been but to be honest, I would have preferred to be seated on his lap for his introduction. I have always really loved Brooks’ sense of humor and films. My dad is a huge fan of Young Frankenstein, and my mom loves Blazing Saddles. I was brought up in a very Mel Brooks friendly home. What I had seen of several of the stars of yesteryear during these festivals is the older, slower and quieter versions of themselves. Mel Brooks is 90 years old. I prayed he would be what I wanted, or at least coherent and mobile. What I got was so much more than I could have imagined. 
Ben Mankiewicz gave his introduction and said: “Please welcome, Mel Brooks.” Brooks walked over to Ben greeted him and proceeded to walk back and forth already mid-bit. With endless energy he shared story after story, each ending with roars of laughter and him wiping the sweat from his brow. I had recorded his interview so I could quote it and share it with you all, but the first ten minutes of my video is me laughing so hard that I can’t hear most of what he is saying all you hear is my loud, obnoxious laugh. 
At one point Ben Mankiewicz tossed his cards to the floor because Brooks was on a roll all on his own. After nearly 15 minutes Brooks sat down for the actual interview. He made fun of Ben Mankiewicz’s tie, so it was swiftly taken off, tossed to the floor and met with a huge roar of laughter. 
The film we were there to see, High Anxiety is a spoof on Hitchcock films. Brooks said he wasn’t even sure how many Hitch references they ended up with, but the entire thing was modeled after every big Hitchcock film made up until that point. He said he was nervous to share it with Alfred Hitchcock before its release. He went to dinner with the ‘Master of Suspense’ and sent him home with a screener. 
Soon after that, Hitch sent him a bottle of his favorite priceless wine with a note saying ‘Have no anxiety about High Anxiety, it’s a truly wonderful picture, love Hitch,’ Brooks mimed wiping away tears, saying it meant so much to him. 
Brooks discussed bringing Madeline Kahn in for High Anxiety after she had starred in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. He told a story about when Kahn came in to audition for ‘Saddles,’ she sang for him, and once she had finished, he asked her to lift her skirt, to which she replied ‘Oh it’s one of those auditions.’ As Brooks shared this story, I kept thinking about that famous Paul Newman quote: ‘Why go out for hamburger when I have steak at home?’ (Newman was referring to his wife, Joanne Woodward.) I think Madeline Kahn is a beautiful woman, but Mel Brooks had a steak at home, he was married to the breathtaking Anne Bancroft. Brooks continued his story saying ‘No, no, no, no! That’s not what I meant; I am very happily married.’ Brooks explained there would be a scene where the audience would see her legs and ‘they had to be good no matter what.’ 
‘So she (Kahn) grabbed a chair and straddled it and her legs, they were beautiful! They were amazing!’ Brooks shouted. He yelled ‘You got the part! You got the part!’ 
‘Then Madeline left my office, and I thought why couldn’t have been one of those auditions,’ said Brooks. Of course, this got a tremendous laugh from the crowd. 
Mel Brooks had more energy at 90 than I currently have at 33. He’s charming, funny and everyone who was in that theater fell madly in love with the man. I had always wondered how he landed a hot dish like Anne Bancroft and now I get it. There is something incredibly magical about being in his presence.  
Once the interview concluded, Brooks walked into the crowd, to the left of Brian and me, sat down and enjoyed the film. We got to watch a Mel Brooks film with Mel Brooks! 
We were riding a high as we entered the final film of the night, the midnight screening of Zardoz. Miguel Rodriguez from Film Geeks San Diego and his friend, Beth Accomado made everyone Zardoz cookies to enjoy prior to the film. They were up half the night making these cookies that looked exactly like Sean Connery, which were amazing and hilarious! (Horrible Imaginings is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was created to accommodate the lack of events in the city of San Diego that celebrate the horror genre. They are working to get their film festival off the ground. For more info you can visit, www.hifilmfest.com).  Zardoz, a science fiction fantasy film starring Sean Connery was the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Seeing Connery, a man, my grandma, worshiped, run around in a weird skin-tight romper, was funny at first. Then laughter turned to confusion. At 2 a.m. we all filed out of the theater, some tickled, some confused and some angry, but all of us near comatose. 
At the end of the night, we made it back to our hotel and realized that Brian had lost his phone. He ran back to the theatre to see if they would let him in to look. They were nice enough to let him go in and search, but he came back with no phone. At 4:30 a.m. we gave up and went to bed. We were back up at 6:30 a.m. to shower and get around so we could go find Brian's phone and get in line for our first morning's film. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Three, Part One

Our third day in Los Angeles was packed full of events. Brian and I got up bright and early to attend the Ginger Rogers film, Rafter Romance. The film was at the Egyptian Theater, which was the furthest from our hotel. We opted for breakfast at the hotel because nothing beats a free hotel waffle in my opinion. We chatted about our day, checked our schedule and made the sudden decision to attend the Hand and Footprint Ceremony.
This year Rob and Carl Reiner were honored in front of the historic Grauman's Chinese Theater. Once we started thinking about who could be in attendance, we decided to get in the long line for the once in a lifetime event.
We stood in line for a couple of hours before we were ushered into our standing room only section. We waited hoping to catch a glimpse of someone we knew and loved. Rob Reiner walked by and greeted us, and that was pretty great. Rob, 70, directed several iconic films you may have seen. Stand by Me, A Few Good Men, This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and one of my all-time favorite films, When Harry Met Sally.
His father, Carl soon joined him near the stage. Carl, 95, created The Dick Van-Dyke Show and directed The Jerk and collaborated with one of my favorite men on earth, Mel Brooks.
Former Saturday Night Live comedian, Kevin Nealon; Carey Elwes from The Princess Bride attended (and later attend the screening of ‘Bride’); All in the Family creator Norman Lear; but then the crowd parted, and everyone got quiet when Billy Crystal walked in. I love Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. This star sighting was enough to assure me that we had made the right decision in attending this historic event.
There were several more big names, but I watched Crystal the entire time. I was mesmerized by seeing the Harry Burns (Crystal’s character from When Harry Met Sally) right in front of me. We listened to several friends praise the Reiner men including Crystal.
"I played what was described as the two-hundred-year-old Jewish wizard that lived in the woods, which to me meant typecasting. That [The Princess Bride] lead to Rob trusting me to the part of a lifetime Harry Burns in “When Harry Met Sally.”  An amazing script by Nora Ephron, phenomenal cast that Rob put together, the incredible Meg Ryan, Bruno Kirby, Carrie Fisher, who is no longer with us, but will always be with us in that amazing movie.”
Then the two [Carl and Rob Reiner] men took the podium each speaking about the honor they were receiving and their love for. movies and each other.
“The thing that is most important for me and why this means so much is, first of all, we are the first father and son to do this at the same time, but my father was my idol and I looked up to him. He stood for everything I wanted to be in life," said Rob Reiner.
His father, Carl said "I have favorite movies I watch, one is The Count of Monte Cristo, second is Random Harvest, a romantic movie and the other one is The Princess Bride, and time you feel low, put on The Princess Bride and you will go away smiling, My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”
Once the ceremony finished, we raced up to the theater to get into the Judy Holiday classic, Born Yesterday. If you haven’t seen a Judy Holiday film, please take my advice and do so as soon as possible. She was beautiful, talented and very funny. She is often forgotten due to her passing sooner than she should have. Sadly, we were too late and had to make other plans. We had more than enough time to kill waiting for the next film to start so we decided to have lunch at California Pizza Kitchen.
We made our way up to the next film and our timing was perfect as we were number four and five for the film I was most excited about, Barefoot in the Park. 'Barefoot' stars my very favorite duo, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Brian hadn’t seen it so I was giddy to share it on the big screen with him.
While in line Brian decided to meet and fell in love with another woman. Miss Zillah was roughly 75 years old and a ball of fire. Somehow she and Brian struck up quite a friendship that's still going strong today, as I got a message from Zillah asking me to tell my husband hi for her just last night. They discussed films, sports, where they were from and how much they hated standing in line because of the body aches. I guess I was too busy looking around and taking it all in because before I knew it, Brian had his back turned and was in Zillah’s world. This spitfire made such a big impression on everyone she met, that when I posted a photo of Brian and his new girlfriend several people commented and said they loved ‘Z’ and had spent a lot of time with her at past festivals. (Sidenote: The New Yorker ran a cartoon several weeks ago about the TCM Classic Film Festival and the cartoonist's experience at the event. She told her story through illustrations Zillah is featured, and the play’s a large role in her story, as she now does for many of us.)
There was nothing like seeing Barefoot in the Park with a crowd. Redford plays Paul, a conservative lawyer who has just married Corrie (Fonda) who is vivacious and everything I want to be in life. The couple navigate their way through the first few weeks of marriage and adjusting to life with each other. The film is hilarious and both Redford and Fonda are stunning to watch.
After the movie, we had a few hours to kill because we hit our only block during the festival that didn’t have one film we needed to see. Brian suggested we go back to Micelli’s Italian Restaurant, so we did. It was just as amazing the second time as it was the first. We sat and listened to music and enjoyed a drink before we made our way down Hollywood Boulevard and back to The Roosevelt Hotel for another event that I had been looking forward to.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? poolside. 'Baby Jane' is another favorite due to the sheer insanity of it all, as well as the amazing acting by Bette Davis. I have the song ‘I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy,’ on my phone and play it often. I knew it was going to be so much fun to see with a group out by the pool at the Roosevelt. I really wanted Brian to see a film poolside and though he isn’t a fan of either actress, he was a good sport and got into it. TCM staffers were handing out ‘Team Joan’ or ‘Team Bette’ ribbons to wear during the film. It was a great promo for the FX series Feud that had started the week prior to the festival. If you have a chance to see Feud, please see it. The series is now over but look for it on-demand. It’s really wonderful and stellar acting by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange.
We stayed and laughed and cheered with the rambunctious crowd until it was time to go get in line for my number one must-see celebrity at the Festival, Mel Brooks. I wasn’t going to risk not seeing Brooks so we left 'Baby Jane' early to get in line for High Anxiety and I am glad we did.

Monday, April 24, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day Two

Day two of my 2017 TCMFF adventure was much different than the previous year. It was Thursday the official start day of the Festival.
Brian, my friend Angie and I all went to Starbucks for a snack and coffee before we attended a morning Q&A with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. As we stood to wait for our coffee, I noticed the man behind us was a sunglass-wearing Ben Mankiewicz. All three of us stood staring at him trying not to act as giddy as we were. He looked at us and our passes and starting talking to us like we were old friends. He asked if we were attending the Q&A and thankfully we were. Last year I spoke to Ben and had my photo taken with him, but this year after chatting with him at Starbucks I really got a feel for who he was. He came across as down to earth, kind, generous with his time and not at all as pretentious as he should be. I mean this man’s uncle wrote Citizen Kane, he’s big stuff to us film fans. His family's also a big deal to the political fans (me too), but that's for another day.
We bid our goodbyes and went to stand in line for his Q&A. We were among the first and had front row seats for the interview. It was great to learn more about the man who comes into my home nearly every night. He loves baseball, his wife (who he met at a TCM Film Festival) his daughter and his work. It was worth getting up early to attend and get to know more about our Ben Mank.
After the Q&A we immediately got in line for the ‘Remembering Robert,’ program. We were in the spillover line outside and from what I’ve heard, more people had to attend another theater and listen to the whole thing. I think TCM underestimated how much people truly loved Robert Osborne. The staff of TCM gathered and shared their memories of the legend who had recently passed away. I cried, everyone around me cried, I'd say 95 percent of the people there cried. It was a beautiful tribute full of personal stories and great memories. Someday I will write more about it because it was such a beautiful tribute.
My friend Scott had recommended we hit up Johnny Rockets for lunch, so we did, and it was a perfect way to start our first big day. As we discussed our next move for the day, the announcement came that changed our plans for the night. We had planned to attend the screening of Requiem for a Heavyweight, but when word got out that Martin Scorsese was going to introduce the nitrate print of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, we dropped our previous plans. We had to rearrange our entire schedule.
The fun thing about the festival is also the most infuriating. If you change one film you're probably going to end up changing your entire night. Because one little glitch in the system can make it all go haywire. So far that hasn't worked out poorly for me.  Ensuring we would get into that screening, we decided not to see Love Crazy (I kind of regret that) and instead see red carpet arrivals instead.
The opening film was In the Heat of the Night and rumor was that Sydney Poitier would be on the red carpet. He wasn’t, but he did sneak in the back, so people behind us did catch a glimpse of the legend. It was pretty disappointing for us. We had front row seats for other arrivals such as Lee Grant, Dick Cavett, Todd Fisher, Keir Dullea, John Landis, Beau Bridges, Ruta Lee, Chris Tucker and my friend Lauren Semar.
We left the red carpet a little early to grab some dinner at Miceli’s Italian Restaurant. After dinner, we walked to the Egyptian Theater to get in line for The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was a good thing too because everyone there wanted to hear Scorsese introduce this beautiful nitrate print. Anyone who loves or appreciates film was there. Nitrate film stock has been praised for the beauty of its images and for truly allowing cinematographers to use the light artistically. Whites pop off the screen and blacks are deep and rich, grey tones shimmer, but its also incredibly flammable. I heard later that those who saw other films in color nitrate say it was breathtaking. To play Nitrate films, the Egyptian Theater had to bring their film projection booth up to code because of how dangerous nitrate is.
The print of The Man Who Knew Too Much we saw was once part of David O. Selznick’s personal collection. The print on nitrate was as incredible as everyone said it would be. It was crisp and in impeccable condition. It was my first time seeing this version of the film. I had seen the Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day version years ago and when I read it on the list of films being played I had thought that what this version would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn't the film I had previously seen. I ended up liking this one better.  After a long-standing ovation, Scorsese introduced the print, and it was apparent how much he truly loves classic movies and nitrate.
“Retrofitting a theater to make it capable and safe to project nitrate is an enormous undertaking,” said the Oscar-winning director, who is also founder and chair of The Film Foundation. “This stock was used in the earliest days of cinema. It’s known for its deep, richer blacker and grey tones. They glow.”
During his remarks, Scorsese also remembered Robert Osborne, who passed away last month. “I don’t think there’s any better way to celebrate him,” Scorsese said. “He was a real lover of  lm, and seeing the films in the original way they were meant to be seen.”
Getting to see Scorsese introduce a film that ended up being a total surprise to me was a fabulous way to end my first night of the Festival.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

TCMFF 2017 Day One

On Wednesday, April 5, Brian and I woke up at 1:30 a.m., after a restless two hours of sleep. It was chilly, and it rained on us from the time we left our house until we made it to Kansas City International Airport. I had dressed for sunny L.A. weather, so I looked goofy in my romper as we waited with several other travelers for our shuttle in the cold, cold rain.
After a smooth flight we landed in warm sunny L.A. The very first day of our trip had been scheduled to be a bit slower than the rest, but it didn’t work out that way.
A few days before we left Brian was informed that he won a contest he had entered as a member of TCM Backlot the week before. He along with a guest (me) and four other people were given a private tour of some of Debbie Reynolds costumes and our host? Well, that would be Debbie’s son, Todd Fisher. Before we could go on this tour, we had to make it to our hotel and the venue. To our horror and surprise, we were given quite the detour/tour on the way to our hotel. Instead of going north and a bit east, we went east-like to Compton, then north to downtown. It was interesting to see downtown L.A. since the last time I was in Hollywood I could only see it from miles away.
After driving down every street in downtown Los Angeles for two hours, we made it to our hotel a stone's throw from TCL Theatres, where we would spend the majority of our time. It was still very early, and luckily we had time to kill so the detour wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. We waited for my friend Angie to arrive from Detroit, so we could have our second annual 'first-day lunch' at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  With Brian’s contest win we decided to not go to either of the hot dog stands we wanted to hit up. We both decided to get a hot dog at the Roosevelt instead. I got the Sonoran Hot Dog (Bacon-wrapped, caramelized onion, tomato, pinto beans, hatch green chili queso fresco onion, mustard, garlic aioli). It was delicious and officially my new first-day lunch.
After lunch, Brian decided to hit the lobby of the Roosevelt to relax, while Angie and I went to check out the Jean Harlow exhibit at the Hollywood Museum. The museum featured some of her letters, treasurers, costumes and even her car. Everything displayed in the museum was so beautiful. She is a favorite of mine, so this was a huge priority.
I had been in awe and reserved until I rounded the corner to leave. That’s when I saw Pee Wee’s bike from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I gasped and shrieked. I was so excited to see this staple from my childhood. All that separated me from that magical bike was a thin wall of plexiglass. It wasn't classic film-related per se, but it was a staple of my childhood and brought me so much joy.
I was running late to meet Brian at the Roosevelt to see the costumes, so I ran down Hollywood Boulevard dodging women dressed as cats scratching me and meowing, men dressed as Superman, and apparently insane people holding large snakes. 
Brian and I had no idea what to expect from this tour. We knew it would be a small group touring with Todd Fisher, aka, Princess Leia’s brother; aka, Grandma Aggie’s son, but it was so intimate. We were floored.
We were met by a producer from TCM who told us that Todd was meeting with some news stations who had caught wind of what he was doing. We sat by and watched ABC News interview him. Soon we were up and told to stand in a row in front of Fisher, as the dresses his mother wore in Singin' in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown shined behind him. Brian won this contest as a member of the TCM Backlot, which is basically a fan club of the network. Through www.tcmbacklot.com you can find archived footage, never before seen interviews, etc. I won my first year's membership at last year's TCM Film Festival and signed Brian up right away. We've both won contests hosted by TCM Backlot, so we are big fans of the group/site/idea/whatever you call it. Winning this was unbelievable though.
Brian and I stood directly in front of Fisher as he shared stories of his mother and sister and explained that they were exactly the people they appeared to be. Todd had chosen certain costumes of his mother’s that he loved. He stood in front of the iconic costumes of the golden age of films: The red dress and green dress from The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964);  her “Good Morning” outfit from Singin’ in the Rain (1952). He explained that Molly Brown was in a sense, his mother. He also told a story we all loved about finding an ad in the newspaper for a tractor he wanted to buy. He went to the woman’s house and stepped around a pig near her front steps. The woman said ‘move Elizabeth.’ Fisher thought nothing of it until the woman said, ‘I named that pig Elizabeth, after that awful Elizabeth Taylor-do you know what she did to that sweet Debbie Reynolds?’ Fisher tried to explain that he did know exactly what Liz had done. The woman told him that he was not old enough to know, and he finally told her ‘Ma’am, I’m Todd Fisher and Debbie is my mother.’ We all got a big laugh from that story. (For the record, I still love Liz.)
Finally, TCM Producers had to cut him off because he could have talked all day. As my friend put it, ‘Todd is finally getting his time to talk, and he is talking.’ Fisher came off as a down to earth, good-hearted person who genuinely wants to preserve the history of films and the memory of his mother and sister.  It was very interesting, and he’s worth watching if you ever see an interview with him on TV.
Once Todd left to do another interview we were interviewed for TCM. That was an experience.
After our date with Todd, we met Angie for dinner at Miceli's Italian Restaurant. It was an old hangout of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Lucille Ball. The atmosphere was magical, and the food was delicious. It quickly became both mine and Brian’s favorite spot for food. The pasta and pizza were all homemade, and there was a man playing piano in the corner. What's better than that?
To end the night we attended a party at the ‘Spare Room’ in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It had a dark, speakeasy vibe that made you feel like you had stepped back in time. It also had two bowling lanes that you would never know existed from the floor below. We said hi to everyone we knew, but left early. We were so tired and knew we had to sleep so we could function the next day.
(Photo Copyright by: EDWARD M. PIO RODA - TCMFF)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One week until TCMFF 2017

The moment I returned from L.A. last year, I started saving money for the 2017 Festival. Exactly a week from today I'll be headed to Hollywood! Besides being ready for a week-long vacation, I’m prepared for another set of incredible classic films.
The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival theme is ‘Make ‘em laugh; Comedy in the movies.’  The line-up is incredible. I made sure that I have every moment scheduled down to every meal. We won’t follow the schedule, and it will be tossed out the window the moment we get our feet on the ground, but it's a good map to have as a back-up.
Unless there is unexpected tornado activity near the KC Airport again this year, we plan to head out early Wednesday morning.
The agenda is a bit open on that day, and all I know for sure is that I’d like to eat at Pink’s Hot Dog stand or Carney’s Sunset Strip. I love hot dogs in a way that only children would understand. I crave hot dogs often, and Pink’s was on my list to visit last year. I ran out of time, so I scheduled it in for this year until a local told me that they're overrated and busy. That's when Carney’s Sunset Strip was recommended. It will be a last-minute decision, and honestly, as long as I get a hot dog, I don’t care where I get it. The other thing on the agenda is a visit to the Hollywood Museum where I'd like to see the Jean Harlow exhibit. Now on to the fun stuff; Thursday the TCM Classic Film Festival officially begins.
At 9:30 a.m. I’ll attend a Q&A with Ben Mankiewicz; then a special ‘Remembering Robert Osborne’ tribute; lunch at Jameson’s Irish Pub; and here is where it gets tough. I’d like to watch the celebrities walk the red carpet again this year. Those walking the red carpet will be the great Sidney Poitier, Mel Brooks, Dick Cavett, Michael Douglas, Todd Fisher, Quincy Jones, Kate MacMurray, Leonard Maltin, Carl and Rob Reiner, and Fred Willard, just to name a few. If I chose to watch the red carpet attendees, I’ll miss the beginning of a few movies I’d love to see. Love Crazy with Myrna Loy and William Powell; Jezebel with local favorite, Henry Fonda, and Bette Davis or Some Like It Hot, with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. In the end, if I chose not to cover the red carpet, I’ll attend Love Crazy as I have a chance to see Some Like It Hot in theaters later this year. That's followed by The Man Who Knew Too Much. Both films will be shown in the historic Egyptian Theater. Day one I estimate Ill see possibly two films.
Friday things get real. Brian and I will get up bright and early to stand in line for several hours to see Carl and Rob Reiner leave their handprints and footprints outside of the historic Grauman's Chinese Theater. We’ll follow that with Judy Holiday and William Holden in Born Yesterday; lunch at In-N-Out; my loves, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park; dinner at Mel’s Diner; then Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; High Anxiety with an introduction by Mel Brooks and we ’ll finish the night with a midnight showing of Zardoz. Whew, I’m sleepy just typing it. Day two I estimate, we'll see five films.
Saturday we'll start the day standing in line again this time it will be for Michael Douglas to introduce The China Syndrome. Then the highlight of the festival for us will be the next few hours. One of our favorite films is being shown, and I’m so excited about it. Cary Grant and Irene Dunn star in The Awful Truth. I recommend this movie to anyone. It's sweet, it's funny and its darn near the perfect film. Then they're following that with one of Brian's favorite films, The Jerk. Brian had talked up Steve Martin and The Jerk from the moment I met him. I  finally caved and loved it. This was another one we were excited to see on the list, and the great Carl Reiner will be there to introduce it. We will skip both lunch and dinner and survive the day on popcorn and coke. We’ll follow The Jerk with another Irene Dunn film, Theodora Goes Wild, then Top Secret! Starring Val Kilmer or The Graduate. I love The Graduate and its one of my favorite movies of all time, but again this one will be shown in theaters nationwide in May so I can catch it then. We will finish the night with the midnight movie, The Kentucky Fried Movie followed by dinner at 25 Degrees.
Our movie estimate for Saturday is six.
Sunday, the final day of the festival moves a little slower. We’ll start the day with breakfast at Jameson’s Irish Pub, followed by The Egg and I, with an introduction by Fred MacMurray's daughter, Kate. Then we will sprint back to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for a Conversation with Dick Cavett. I missed him in Lincoln a couple of months ago and hoped he would be attending the festival this year. Cavett is now at the top of my lunch list since Robert Osborne passed away. I love watching his old talk show. I know his stories would be amazing. Then we’ll run to catch What’s Up Doc? with Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand. Then to finish the night, local Nebraska boy, Harold Lloyd in Speedy. The silent film will be presented with the world-famous Alloy Orchestra. Harold Lloyd and Speedy are the reason I fell in love with classic movies. This one is special to me and so perfect for the final night in Hollywood. We will end the night with a midnight dinner at In-N-Out.
Monday we don’t have plans except to be at the airport in time for our 8:55 PST night. I anticipate we will wander around Hollywood and see some sights and probably eat some more delicious and fatty food. This year I won’t bore you will all the details of my trip, but I will share some of it in the upcoming weeks after a lot of sleep.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

So long old pal

There have been some really wonderful men in my life. Many I’ve known since birth, others I’ve only known for part of my life, and a select few I feel like I've known for a hundred years.
This post is about a man that I’ve never even met. This man by all accounts is a smart, talented and kind person. I dreamed of meeting this man someday, but today that dream died.
I found this man in 2002. I had seen his face before, but I never paid him any attention. On this night I was in a tremendous amount of paid from the car accident I was involved in the night before. I opted not to go to the hospital and save some money, so I was healing with the aid of over the counter medication. My bruised face was filled with glass, and my chest stung each time I took a breath. Sleep was off the agenda for the night, so I turned on the television.
I flipped through channel after channel, until I found a handsome man in horned-rimmed glasses having fun at Coney Island. It was a silent film, and it caught my attention. To say I was hooked would be a gross understatement. I watched through until the end. During the middle of the night, there was no intro to the films, it just went from movie to movie. As the sun started to rise on my marathon classic movie binge, I had developed a bit of a fascination with these old films. I decided to take a bit of a nap and maybe see if I was still interested a little later.
I woke up several hours later. I was in extreme pain and not feeling those movies anymore. They were cute, but maybe it was like a fever dream.
A 19-year-old 'party' girl wasn't going to (in all reality) stop inviting people over to drink and party every night because she discovered this magical channel that had fantastic movies that were so great she had to stay in and discover them all. That stuff didn't happen. Harold Lloyd didn't really happen.
The TV in my room was still on from the previous night, and a man appeared. 'Hi, I'm Robert Osborne. This older handsome man with the smooth, deep voice of an angel called me to class and started my education that day in spring of 2002. School was in session.
For 15 years we met nearly every night or at least until we went off the air for class.
That man who had a kind spirit and quiet demeanor had hooked me. As time went on I found myself searching for his face more often than not. I remember the warm sunny day he introduced me to my second favorite movie of all time, The Women. I was carrying a load of laundry in my new house that I shared with my soon-to-be husband. I heard him say that the film was entirely made up of women, including the animals. This grabbed my attention as I told myself that any movie without a man couldn’t be that great. The music swelled up, and Norma Shearer’s beautiful face flashed across the screen. It was one of the perfect movies I had ever seen. I can remember that day so vividly. I can remember the way my living room was arranged, and there was a grass scented candle burning in my house. It was that important of an event to me.
It became a trend of this man selling me on these classic films that I had never seen. He knew every detail and every behind the scene tidbit you would want to know.
Another day that is so vivid in my mind is the day I thought I was going to break. My baby boy was crying for no reason for hours on end, I was tired and collapsed to the floor to cry. Then this man appeared on the screen to inform me that today was a day of silent films. I listened and learned about the film they were about to show. I knew I wasn’t going to get to sit and watch it as my angry, red-faced baby demanded my full attention.
I placed Alex in his little seat on the floor and as the credits started, a miracle. He stopped crying and focused on the television. The musical score and quick movement grabbed his attention. From then on we found silent movies to be a lifesaver when Alex couldn’t be soothed by us. I felt that this man had somehow known that he was about to swoop in and save the day.
I relied on him for years to get me through the bad times. When I needed a constant in my life, he was there for me. If I needed someone to keep me company, I turned on the DVD of his interviews. When I needed someone to talk me into sitting down and watching a movie, he did that. When I was far away from home and feeling a bit homesick, he was there, calming me down and keeping my anxiety at bay.
The man that can do it all is Robert Osborne, the first host of Turner Classic Movies. I hear a lot of people tell me that they don’t like to read about movies or that I’m way too obsessed with TCM. Robert and TCM are old friends to me.
When the dates were announced for the 2016 TCM Film Festival, I turned to Brian and told him that I needed to go. It was now or never; I wanted to meet and thank Robert Osborne for keeping me company all those years. With my ticket purchased and my plans made, the announcement came that Osborne wouldn’t be attending the festival for the second consecutive year.
I had hoped he would attend this year, but Robert Osborne passed away at the age of 84, on Monday, March 6, 2017.
When I was in Hollywood last year, I took only a few photos of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but I made time to take a photo with one star, and that was Osborne’s. His star was located near the entrance of the Ricardo Montalban Theater. For the festival, TCM had roped it off knowing that it would be an attraction for all the festival attendees. I’m glad I at least took the time to take that photo, but I am sad I waited too long to meet him.
I wonder if he knew how he helped so many people in so many ways. Especially a dumb little 19-year-old girl who partied way too hard. Thanks for everything Robert, you'll be missed more than you know.

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