San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TCMFF 2014 Day 5

Back to TCMFF 2014 Day 4

Technically, there is no Day 5 for the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF). Everything had ended the night before, but since just about everything that happened the Monday afterwards was TCM related, I figured I'd talk about it. First thing in the morning, I had booked a spot on the TCM L.A. Film Locations tour. Turns out that day, April 14, was the actual anniversary date for TCM, and this was the last tour they were running. Hopefully, they will bring it back next year.

The tour was at 9:30, but I wanted to get there at least 10 or 15 minutes early, and since I was checking out that day, I had to pack and have the people at the hotel store my luggage. Now, I'm not much of a morning person, even less so after I have been drinking. Then again, the only alternative was to sleep in and miss the tour, so that wasn't happening. It turns out, several of the people I'd been hanging out with over the weekend were taking the tour as well: @willmckinley, @Paula_Guthat, @EliseCD, @CitizenScreen, and @ClassicMoviesTO.

The tour was awesome, the guide was someone who does Hollywood tours all the time, and he was a fountain of knowledge and corny jokes, but not in a bad way, okay, only real bad some of the time. To me, it seemed like the tour was kind of a normal movie location tour that had been tweaked for classic movies, but that was fine. As we went through the different locations, a monitor at the front of the bus showed clips of the movies and then you would see the actual spot where the clip was filmed, so that was pretty cool. My only real complaint had nothing to do with the tour per se. It was just hard to get decent photos out of the bus window.

The tour started from the Chinese theater in Hollywood proper, passing several major studios:


  • Chaplin Studios, now the home of Jim Henson Company, hence the photo of Kermie dressed up like Chaplin. An interesting story about this was that when Chaplin bought the land and announced that he was building a new studio, residents complained because studios tended to be big ugly structures. Chaplin promised to make his studio look like a quaint country cottage and pretty much lived up to that.
Chaplin/Henson Studios
  • Red Studios, the former home of Desilu, where everything from I Love Lucy to Hogan's Heroes to Ally McBeal were filmed.
  • Paramount Studios, including the famous Bronson Gate where Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim arrived in Sunset Blvd. in her Isotta Fraschini.
Paramount Studios, Bronson Gate
But also there other things including:
  • The "Full Service!" gas station from L.A. Story. A really cool old Art Deco designed gas station that has gone completely derelict. Really kind of a shame to see it this way. My picture came out bad, but with some research I found a decent picture (screen grab from Google maps, street view):
Gas station from L.A. Story
  • The Ravenswood Apartments, which was the home to May West, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner, May West moved in when she first came to Hollywood in the early 30s and lived there until she died in 1980.
Eventually, the tour made its way to Downtown L.A. Although it went past lots and lots of locations, mostly what stands out at this point are the things I got decent photos of:


  • General Otis statue in MacArthur Park, where Buster Keaton hid from the police in Hard Luck.

Buster Keaton and Statues

  • The Second Street tunnel, under Bunker Hill, which has appeared in Blade Runner, The Terminator, Sneakers, and Independence Day.
Second St. tunnel


There were only two stops on the tour, the Bradbury Building and Union Station. The first was the Bradbury Building, where the last part of Blade Runner was filmed. That alone would've made the tour worthwhile. Getting to go inside the Bradbury was a rare treat, such a cool old building. The iron work alone made it worth seeing.


Inside the Bradbury Building


Left to right, Aurora (@CitizenScreen), Paula Guthat,
and Will McKinley
Me with some homeless guy
After The Bradbury, we continued through downtown ultimately heading for City Hall and Union Station. On the way, we passed a bunch of old theaters, I don't think one of which was still showing movies or live theater.


The State Theater, now Spanish-language church
Another highlight was the Warner Brothers Office Building, where Warner Brothers once ran the business end of their movie business. There's very little left to indicate its former heritage, just and an inscription in the stonework just under the roof cornice, and hiding behind a sign for a jewelry wholesaler, you can still see the Warner Brothers cast iron shield.


Warner Bros. Office Building: Under the
diamond you can see the Warner Bros. shield

The other stop was Union Station. I was tempted to buy my train ticket home, but I really didn't know how long after the tour ended it would take to get back there. Union Station has been in probably hundreds of movies through the years, numerous film noir classics, and just about anytime they needed something that could pass for an airport or evening Spain or Morocco because of the architecture. 


Union Station
Paula Guthat and Will McKinley pose before getting
on bus for return to Hollywood
After Union Station, the bus made it's way past Olvera St., where if you needed something that could pass for Mexico, Hollywood use it. On the way back to Hollywood, the bus went through some of the older neighborhoods like Echo Park. We also drove past the Music Box stairs, when Laurel and Hardy once had a heck of a time moving a piano. Apparently, Laurel and Hardy fans meet there every year on both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's birthdays. You couldn't see the actual steps from the bus, and the guide said that if they drove the bus down that street, it was so tight, they'd never get out.

Also as the tour wound down, they asked some trivia questions for TCM swag prizes. I ended up winning a TCM journal, for mostly answering a question. They wanted to know what the five different categories were for stars on Hollywood Blvd. Since no one wanted to try to answer, I gave it a shot and came up with four out of five: Film, TV, Radio, and Music. Someone else supplied the fifth one, Live Performance, but they gave the prize to me anyway. We made our way back down Hollywood Blvd. to the Chinese Theater. As we got off the bus, they gave everyone a copy of TCM's Now Playing magazine. I said my goodbyes to Aurora, Paula, Elise, and Will. It was the perfect way to end a perfect trip.

I went back to the hotel picked up my bags, much heavier now, and headed back to the Metro station. Next year, if I'm not driving, I'm bringing a Priority Mail box to mail stuff home. On the way, I stopped and picked up a bagel and a piece of fruit for lunch. Since I had no idea how much time I would have to get my train, I wanted something I could eat on the train if need be. Turns out the first train I could catch left at 3:00, and I had about 20 minutes to sit and eat before making my way to the platform.

I got on the train and was on my way home. They announced that we should take out our tickets, for the conductor. I started looking for my ticket and freaked out. It was nowhere to be found. Not in any of my pockets, was wearing a sportcoat, so there were a lot to check, and not in either of my bags. Obviously, I figured they wouldn't throw me off the train, but I didn't want to have to buy new tickets or go through the hassle of having them look me up. When the conductor got to me, I apologetically explained that I had no idea where my ticket had gone. He asked for my ID, took out an envelope out of his pocket and compared the name on it to the name on my ID. He then handed me back my train ticket. Apparently, I had dropped it on the platform and someone turned it in. Whew.

Now I have to say something  at this point, I'm 51 years old, and I do go to a lot of comic conventions. At a place like Comic-Con, I feel like I'm old enough to be everybody's dad, because basically, I am old enough to be everyone's dad. At TCMFF, I felt like almost everyone I talked was more or less my own age. Yes, there were definitely a fair amount of people who were younger than me, but I didn't feel like I was the only person my age, which is often the case at comic conventions. That's one of the the things that made TCMFF so cool for me.

On the train, I sat across from a woman who was coming from Sacramento to visit family. We made random bits of small talk. I mentioned that I had been in Hollywood for the TCM Film Festival. At this, the woman across the aisle from me mentioned that she had been up for TCMFF as well. She was you guessed it, about my age, and we ended up talking the entire rest of the way home. She like me had never been to TCMFF, but had wanted to go for years. Since her daughter was now in college in L.A., she had a place to stay and could go to TCMFF on standby for practically nothing. Just goes to show that you don't necessarily have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy TCMFF. 

The woman on the train and I really did hit it off, and it was good having someone to talk to about TCMFF, while you were still on the high of coming from TCMFF. When we got to the Solana Beach station, where she was getting off, she suggested we exchange numbers and go out sometime. Tempted  though I was, I explained that I was kinda married, and I probably shouldn't take her number. Still, it had been a lot of years since a woman had asked me out, so that wasn't a bad way to end the trip either.

My station was about another 20 minutes away, but fortunately my house is only a 5 minute drive from there. It wasn't long before I was back at home, eating my first normal meal in almost.That night (being the anniversary), TCM was playing Gone With the Wind. I melted into the couch, too tired to unpack, too tired to go through the pictures I had taken, too tired to tweet, almost too tired to watch, but watch I did, because I didn't get a chance to watch Gone With the Wind at TCMFF.


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