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)