I’m feeling sort of awesome as I walk into the King Vidor Awards reception at the SLO International Film Festival’s office on Higuera St. It’s Saturday, March 19, and I’ve got a foxy lady on each arm—Jen Anthony and Aura Joy Van Dyck—and as soon as we walk in we’re rubbing shoulders with James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile), Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, Revenge of the Nerds), and director Norman Jewison (The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Fiddler on the Roof, Moonstruck, The Hurricane). Hollywood glitz! Woo hoo!
Just then I see my friend Ryan Johnson, cinematographer/producer extraordinaire, who’s with a really lovely young woman who turns out to be Rocio Palacios. She works at Arroyo Grande High.
“Wow, you must have the high school boys pretty wound up,” I blurt.
“I would hope not!” says Rocio.
“Really, you’re not into hot young high school boys?”
“I’ll never tell,” she quips.
Ryan’s been working on a web-only episodic show called Townies, so I ask him how it’s coming.
“We just had our wrap party and we’re in editing now,” he says. “I want to have all 11 episodes edited before we release it. It’s about a girl trying to get out of a small town. She has a dead-end job at a cookie shop.”
“Cowboy Cookies?” I ask.
“That’s where we filmed it, yes.”
When it’s released in a few months, you’ll be able to watch it on townies.tv, but right now there’s a trailer, some still photos, and a filming blog on the site.
I wander off into a gaggle of stylishly dressed old ladies.
“Are you Poly Dollies?” I ask, to tittering laughter.
“We’re the Widows Club,” one of them says.
“We’re the Sensational Singles,” adds another.
“Wow, I’m single, too,” I say.
“You could come over and entertain us sometime,” says another.
I’m not sure what they have in mind, so I herd them over to James Cromwell, who graciously poses for a photo.
Then I see director Norman Jewison and I ask him if he’s working on something new.
“Always,” he says, eyes twinkling. “It’s called High Alert, and it’s a remake of The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming.”
“No way!” I exclaim.
“Yes, we’re filming in Nova Scotia.”
“That’s probably the best time,” I say, thinking about that cold northern climate.
“That’s the only time!” fires back Jewison, who adds he’s been talking to Sigourney Weaver, Eugene Levy, and Dan Ackroyd about roles.
“Oh, so it’s a serious drama, huh?” I say. “I guess since you won the King Vidor Award a few years ago, your sad, lackluster career is finally taking off.”
“I tell you, without that King Vidor Award, I don’t know where I’d be today,” joked Jewison.
Holy crap! There’s Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Awesome!
“I want a picture with him,” says Aura Joy, so I ask and he graciously agrees, and since Jewison’s right here, I get him and Jen in the photo too.
Buffalo Bill! I’m picturing him naked with his penis tucked between his legs. Creepy, I know! He also just did a super creepy turn as the warden in Shutter Island. I ask him if he’s got anything lined up and he says, “Nope,” and he seems pretty happy about it.
Then I see SLO Mayor Dave Romero making his way through the crowd with his charming wife MaryBell.
“Hey, Dave, you’re rubbing shoulders with the stars, eh?”
“Oh, I don’t care about that,” he says with an impish smile. “We’re here to celebrate the SLO film festival.”
Aura Joy, Jen, and I make our way out to the back patio to take a breather, and as we arrive paramedics are hauling away a gentleman on a stretcher. Too much excitement.
I ask one of the paramedics what happened, and he says, “Something cardiac’s going on.”
We take a seat at a little picnic table and soon a few women are gathered around looking at my feet. What the hell?
“Did you see a little vile of nitroglycerin?”
I look around but don’t see anything.
“Oh well. They’ll have some for him at the hospital,” she says.
Then I spy Valentine Pillow, son of local thespian John Pillow and local sculptress Lindsay Wilcox. He tells me he’s 13 now and a student at Laguna Middle School, and how he took the young filmmakers’ workshop again and has a film in the festival.
“It’s called The Creek Boy,” he says.
“The Creek Boy?” I ask incredulously.
“The name wasn’t my idea,” he says like a good little Hollywood buck passer in the making. “It’s about an abandoned boy and all the things he does to survive. There was one fight scene, but we had to stop filming every 10 seconds because we were laughing so hard.”
“So, do you like Alan Arkin?”
“The first film I saw him in was The Rocketeer, which I liked a lot. Then my mom and I watched The Russians Are Coming the other night. The best scene is when the Russian sub and the townspeople face off. You can really feel the tension in the air. I absolutely loved that scene!”
Just then Jane Marsh sits down. She worked on the short film The Last Elephants In Thailand, an amazing documentary about an elephant hospital and elephant smuggling.
“Where are you from, Jane?” I ask.
“I’m from the vineyard,” she says.
This being a hoity-toity film industry event, I ask, “Martha’s?”
Somehow we get on the topic of how no one from the Vineyard acknowledges the Hollywood stars when they visit, and then we talk about the whaling industry, and then Jen, Aura Joy, and I decide to go back in and find James Cromwell, but he’s already gone.
Instead we see Ryan Johnson and Rocio Palacios, the latter of whom announces that Alan Arkin is “a dick!”
Turns out Ryan worked with him on The Rocketeer, so he and Rocio stopped by to say hi to Alan.
“I said, ‘Hi, Mr. Arkin. I worked with you on The Rocketeer,’ and he said, ‘As what?’ I said, ‘Don’t you remember those 15 windy, sand-filled days we spent shooting in the dunes?’”
Turns out he doesn’t.
To test the Dick Theory, Aura Joy goes up to Arkin and asks if it’s okay to get a photo with him.
“How long will it take?” asks Arkin.
What the hell? 1/100th of a second, dick! It’s a freaking photo!
Since I’m feeling theoretical, I decide to see if it skips a generation, so I walk up to his son Adam and say, “George Clooney! I love your work!”
Adam Arkin starts laughing and says, “I look about 20 percent like George Clooney, so by my calculations, I should be making about $4 million a picture.”
Adam tells me he’s been directing, and he just finished the season closer of Justified. As an actor, he’s also wrapped the pilot for a new series on ABC with Jane Kaczmarek called Who Gets the Parents?, about divorced parents who decide to become more involved in the grown kids’ lives.
Suddenly everyone starts filing out to see the awards ceremony at the Fremont Theater. Jen, Aura Joy, and I have had about all the Hollywood glamour we can stomach, so we wander down Higuera Street where the rest of the town seems oblivious to the fact that we’ve been rubbing shoulders with the stars. Don’t these people know who we are? Sheesh!
Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.