I wake up on Wednesday 27th April. It takes me a moment to process everything. I am in Hollywood. HOLLYWOOD. Usually I’m the one sitting at home, scrolling through my friends’ Twitter feeds and wishing that I had joined them for some Hollywood Hijinks. Last year I vowed that 2016 would be the year that I finally made it over for the festival. Here I am. It’s real.
2015 was a bumpy ride and after after three years of living in London and I returned to Birmingham in November. Things needed shifting in my life. I needed a break – to “shake the waters” – and what better way to achieve this than to travel across the country (my first long-haul flight) to a country that I had never previously visited? And to travel solo. The thought thrilled me. In all honesty, from the moment I bought my TCMFF pass in November the thought of being in Hollywood in a few months time was everything I needed. I wished I had booked for longer.
I had arrived in Hollywood the previous afternoon (Tuesday 27th April) after a twenty hour day – an airport, an airplane and a minivan. This could be why my head hit the pillow at 7pm local time and, apart from a couple of interruptions, I did not wake-up until 6am the following morning. Jet-lag? Pah! I look outside into the obligatory hotel carpark and rested my eyes upon this glory. It’s a nice sight.
I step out of the hotel after breakfast and there she is, waiting for me right outside on the walk of fame: one of my favourite Hollywood icons, the “Ice-Cream Blonde” herself, comedic actress Thelma Todd. Todd’s tragic and mysterious death in 1935 is constantly debated – theories range from foul play to accident – but no conspiracy can undermine her talent or the exuberance she brought to the screen in films opposite the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy or as part of a double act with Zazu Pitts.
I spend the morning leisurely walking around and after lunch head over to Warner Bros. in Burbank for a tour by Warner Archive’s very own Matt Patterson (@mrmattpatterson). As a festival newbie, this would be the first time I’d meet everyone after years of online chat (not always about film) and exchanging Christmas cards. I bounded over to Nora (aka The Nitrate Diva) and Coleen (aka @MiddParent) and much hugging ensued. Matt greeted us and we were soon joined by new friends Melanie, and later Emily, to wander around lot, marvel at the buildings, peer around corners and just generally gawp at the overwhelming familiarity of what is directly in front of us.
Then it was back to the hotel, quick change and on to The Formosa where Ms Marya Gates (@oldfilmsflicker) had organised a Pre-TCMFF ‘Cocktail Extravaganza!’ Events would would officially start the following afternoon but this was a perfect way to kick things off with an evening of hugs, drinks and laughter. I cannot explain how much of a joy it was to finally sit across/next to those people who, despite never having ‘met’ in the traditional sense, are so dear to me and such a big part of my life (More names will appear in these posts. Don’t worry – I have not left you out!) We were a large crowd and I talked – or shouted over the noise – until I was hoarse. It was a happy night and for the first since in what felt like forever I felt relaxed, at home, and among friends.