San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 1

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 0 

Despite having a decent number of beers on Wednesday, I still had to get up pretty early on Thursday morning, mostly because I had to switch rooms at my hotel, so I had to repack, not that I unpacked completely. Still I did have to get all of my crap out of the one really tiny room I had on Wednesday night, so that it could be moved to what turned out to be a fairly decent-sized room for the rest of the festival.

Re-did griptape on old board for TCMFF
After taking care of all of that I grabbed my skateboard and headed out to Hollywood Blvd. First stop was the Coffee Bean across the street from the Roosevelt. I ran into Nora, the Social Media Manager for TCM. She took a picture of me any my skateboard and tweeted it a bit later that day. She also mentioned that they were going to be doing an interview of Mel Brooks in the lobby of the Roosevelt early afternoon. Then, since it was still pretty early, and most everything didn’t start until about 2:00, I figured I had some time to kill.

I took off on my skateboard and headed east on Hollywood Blvd. I tend to find riding a skateboard strangely relaxing. It forces you to pay attention to what’s happening on the sidewalk in front of you. Otherwise you’re going to miss something, fall, and hurt yourself. In doing this, you end up clearing your mind of all the crap you normally think about. This took me to the part of Hollywood Blvd that I had never been to. The few times I had been to Hollywood, I had always stuck to the few blocks east and west of The Roosevelt and The Chinese Theater. As you head east, you start getting away from the cheesy part of Hollywood, the throngs of tourists and the people in bad superhero costumes getting looking for donations to have their picture taken.

As you get away from that, you start running into weird quirky places like wig stores, book and poster shops, and vintage clothing stores. The other thing that is kind of cool is that as you go east, the stars tend to be more Classic movie people. I think newer stars want to be in that touristy part of the Blvd., so there the stars are two sometimes three deep. I went past the Pantages and the Henry Fonda theaters. I’ve been inside both fairly recently.  The Pantages doesn’t look like much on the outside, but the inside is gorgeous, incredible Art Deco ornamentation everywhere. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, take it.

Posted Thomas Mitchell's star; figured only hard-core 

TCMers would know him
I ended up skating all the way to the where the stars on Hollywood Blvd. end. Turns out, the last three stars on the Hollywood Blvd (south Side of the street) are: Stanley Kramer, Gregory Peck, and Thomas Mitchell. Not too shabby.

Even though it was early in the day, it was quite warm, so I ended skating back on the same side of the street that I'd come up on, mostly because the buildings were giving shade on that side of the street. I ended up going into a military surplus store. I do steampunk, and I could’ve spent so much money in this place. I refrained mostly because my luggage was backed to the gills as it was. I ended up buying a leather pilot’s helmet and a pair of Swiss military surplus goggles.

I made my way back to The Roosevelt, so I could pick up the pocket guide for the festival. I looked through the TCM Boutique. It was really swamped, and it was really hard to see anything. Note to self: next year, unless there is something I absolutely have to have, wait until later when the crowds have died down. I found a seat and started making notes on the schedule. Everything is scheduled in blocks, and often you only have and hour or so between screenings, so not only do you need to plan your screenings you need to plan when you’re going to pick up food, when you’re going to run back to the hotel to change clothes if need be, etc.

I took off and walked to Fresh and Easy to buy a sandwich, some fruit, and a drink that I could eat easily on the go later. I also wanted to find the way to get from the Roosevelt to the Chinese theater through the back of the mall that @wilmckinley had posted. The idea was to avoid the crowds and craziness of Hollywood Blvd and get there faster by a longer route. Unfortunately, I got distracted by this really cool candy store that was an odd mix of movie memorabilia and confections. Had to really struggle to not buy anything. The end result was that later when I was trying to get from the Roosevelt to the Chinese theater, I did have to fight the crowds, and it was a minor nightmare getting to where I wanted to be. The mall that is built around the Chinese theater is one of those touristy places that is designed to be a maze, so trying to get somewhere specific the first time or two is a a bit of a pain.


Clapboard for the taping in The Roosevelt Lobby


I went back to The Roosevelt and spent my time in the lobby alternating between finding a place to sit and look at the schedule and watching them tape promo's and interviews for airing later.




They took a break a bit before 2:00, but said they would be interviewing Mel Brooks in the next segment. There were only two things going on Thursday afternoon. The first at 2:00 was Meet TCM, followed by Sons of Gods and Monsters at the Hollywood Museum at 3:30. I figured a chance to see Mel Brooks interviewed was worth missing Meet TCM for.

I took a position on the left side of the stage which turned out to give a unique vantage point of Mel Brooks' left ear. Despite trying my darnedest to get a good photo of Mel Brooks, Every time I ended up getting clear but not good pictures of him. Aurora standing right next to me got this great shot that somehow I managed to miss.  I did get this video this video of him horsing around before the interview. Hindsight being what it is, I probably should have got on the other side of the stage for a better angle on Brooks, but it did seem that there were more lights and other equipment on that side of the stage, so it might not have made much difference. Still, I did get this video of Mr. Brooks telling a great story about Cary Grant:




Most of the Mel Brooks interview was about the films he produced that will be aired in May on TCM. They also discussed Blazing Saddles for a Fathom Events screening later this year. I took off right about the time Mel Brooks left the stage and was able to just catch a glimpse of him as he entered his limo. Since I still had my skateboard, I was able to get to the Hollywood Museum several blocks away in just a few minutes. 

I got there right about the time Sons of Gods and Monsters was about to start. When I got to there, I was informed that the room where the presentation was being held was at capacity, but I was free to visit the museum. Thus, I successfully missed the first two programs at TCMFF in exchange for seeing Mel Brooks. Am I happy with that tradeoff? Oh heck, yeah. I spent about 10 minutes wandering the museum. The Hollywood Museum had four floors, but I only checked out the ground floor. I figured that I wanted to shower, change clothes, and wolf down that sandwich I'd bought earlier, before the evening festivities.

I really wanted to wear a white dinner jacket to the opening of Club TCM and even found a place in San Diego that sold them dirt cheap. Despite having lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, I was still 5 or 10 pounds away from being able to fit into any of them. However, I did have a Nehru jacket that fit me very well, so I went retro hip instead of retro classy. When I got back to The Roosevelt, the lobby was slammed, jam-packed with festival goers waiting for the Club TCM doors to swing open. 

I went to the bar and spent about 10 minutes trying to get the bartender to stop pretending he didn't notice me. While waiting, I chatted with a pair of sisters, Sara and Dammit, I Can't Remember Her Name. Sara was from Tuscon and Can't Remember Her Name was from Medford, Oregon. I do remember that Medford, Oregon is where the guy who was on the observation car with Walter Neff in Double Indemnity was from. I really need spend more time working on my people skills, and less time on my old movie trivia skills. When the bartender finally acknowledge me, I asked what beers they had, he pointed to a menu on the bar and made a drink for someone else. I'd forgot my reading glasses and the light wasn't good enough for me to read the list of beers.

I had Can't Remember Her Name read off the list of beers and about the fifth one down sounded interesting, Grumpy Monk IPA. Can't Remember Her Name asked if I could order their drinks too, so they wouldn't have to wait another 10 minutes. Sara had a Diet Coke and Can't Remember Her Name had a Grumpy Monk, like me. We talked a bit longer, and then I wandered off to wade through the massive throng still waiting for Club TCM to open. I had a couple of people make comments about the Nehru jacket, including @salesonfilm, I think it was her, who asked if it was a real Nehru jacket. I confessed that I'd bought it at a thrift shop and had no idea, but I'm pretty sure it never belonged to anyone named Nehru.

By this time, they had started to let people in, but since I was kind of in the back, when I actually made it inside the room, it was packed, and from where I was you couldn't see much more than that occasion glimpses of the tops of the people's heads on the stage. I hung around a bit, and I gotta say, everyone I talked to was really nice. At one point, Kim Novak walked past about 8 feet from me. Dang, she looked good, and as jaded as I am about celebrities, I have to admit, seeing her that close was a thrill. 

I left fairly soon. After missing two events in the  afternoon I didn't want to miss my first screening. Since I hadn't actually followed through on finding my way to The Chinese theater the back way, I ended up braving Hollywood Blvd. and with things shut down for the Red Carpet, that meant about a two block detour to get to the theater. I was relieved when I was waved past the standby line and into the screening of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Turns out, the two sisters from earlier were there, and I ended up sitting next to Can't Remember Her Name.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was introduced by Charles Busch, and he was great. He told how his father had loved movies and took he and his sisters to see it when he was about 6. At first, I was a bit horrified. What kind of parent, would take a 6-year-old to a movie like this. Then it dawned on me that I'd let my son watch John Woo movies with me at about the same age, so I'd lost any hope for the moral high ground. Mr. Busch also mentioned that this was one of those movies that you really had to see or risk losing your Gay card, so I do have that to look forward to. Fabulous.

I had only seen Whatever Happened to Baby Jane once about two months ago, and as intense as it was, way more so in the theater. About halfway through I realized that my lanyard wasn't attached to anything, and there was a brief moment of panic as I realized that I might have lost my badge at a time when I had no chance of replacing it until the next morning. Turns out, it was on my lap, and the little strip of plastic that the hook on the lanyard went through had broken. I think what happened was that as the movie got intense, I started to cross my arms across my chest. Then as it got more and more intense, I think I literally ripped the badge off myself.

The choices for the next block of movies was Johnny Guitar, The Heiress, and Bachelor Mother. After the intensity of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I was glad that I'd already decided on Bachelor Mother. A light comedy really seemed like the best option at that point. I immediately got into line for Bachelor Mother, and even so by the time I got into the theater, it was pretty close to full.

Bachelor Mother was introduced by comic Greg Proops. He was charming and very funny, but despite this I think he was my least favorite of the celebrities I heard over the four days. I think the chief difference was that he came off like a comic doing a five minute bit about the movie, while the others I heard just explained why they loved the movie, like a genuine old movie geek. For me, me that worked better. I had never seen Bachelor Mother, except for about 10 minutes of it on TCM about a month ago, as I ate breakfast before leaving for work one morning. It was delightful and the perfect way to end my first full day at the festival.

I think I did stop briefly at The Roosevelt, but didn't stay very long. Despite a very late lunch, it had been way too long since I'd eaten. My hotel was next door to In'N'Out, a really good Southern California burger chain. I got a burger and a strawberry shake and scarfed them down in my room before collapsing.

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