Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mods & Rockers

The 8th annual “Mods and Rockers” film festival, which features movies about the 1960s “British invasion” and its aftermath, opened last night in Hollywood. Although the topic is, of course, right up my alley, we’ve never been. This year, however, the festival opened with “What’s Happening!”—a little-seen documentary about the Beatles’ first visit to the US. I bought two tickets immediately.

Driving to Hollywood on a Friday night in the middle of summer can be harrowing, so we left two hours early. We arrived at the Hollywood & Highland mall/theater complex an hour later. Tim wanted to try a new-ish French dip place, called “The Dip,” which he had read about on one of his L.A.-based blogs. It’s owned by Ken Davitian, Sacha Baron Cohen’s memorably corpulent companion in the movie “Borat.” The Dip's French fries were sprinkled with something orange that made them taste a bit like Cheetos. Yum!

The festival was across the street at the Egyptian Theater. Leaving the restaurant, we noticed a bigger crowd than usual milling around Hollywood Blvd. I overheard somebody say a commercial was being filmed. Sure enough, there was comic TV star Drew Carey chatting to a nice-looking middle-aged woman as the crowd looked on and cameras rolled.

“Would you like to talk to Drew Carey on camera?” a man asked Tim as we walked by.

“No thanks,” he said and kept right on walking.

“What do you mean, ‘No thanks’? You used to love Drew Carey!” I nagged. “Don’t you want to be on TV?!”

Apparently not, because he kept right on walking.

Even though the Egyptian was only a block away, it took us a while to navigate through all the tourists ogling the cement stars on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Latino family excitedly pointed out Jay Leno’s star in front of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, while a young boy sat on the sidewalk, posing for a picture next to Marilyn Monroe’s star. Unimpressed, we mushed ahead.

A long line of people were just starting to go into the theater when we arrived. I quickly ran over to the will-call window to pick-up our tickets. Amazingly, we were able to find two seats in the middle of the theater, eye-level to the screen. Perfect!

“Now aren’t you glad I didn’t stop and talk to Drew Carey?” Tim asked.

Beatles music played as we filed into the theater. Several people wore Beatles t-shirts and I could hear folks softly singing along to the soundtrack overhead. A British guy came out and thanked everyone for coming. The theater then went black. I felt like a 10-year-old kid all over again.

Despite claims that this was rare footage, I knew from the very first frame that I had seen this film before. In fact, we own the DVD under a different name, “The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.” Still, it was wonderful seeing “the boys” projected onto a 60-foot screen again after all these years. For the next 81 minutes, they were young, beautiful and—best of all—all still alive. Except for the occasional burst of laughter or polite round of applause, the audience watched in rapt silence. We were transported back in time.

Afterward, the British guy, who had worked with Beatles press agent Derek Taylor, answered questions from the audience. The Rolling Stones’ documentary “Gimme Shelter” was playing next, but very few people stayed.

It was a gorgeous night, so we put the top down on the Miata, plugged in the iPod, and sang along with the Beatles the whole way home.

“There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed—some forever, not for better, some have gone and some remain . . . In my life, I’ve loved them all . . .” (Lennon/McCartney, 1965)


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