Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Memories of Norman Lloyd at #TCMFF

Ben Mankiewicz and Norman Lloyd at the Live at the TCM Classic Film Festival screening (Press photo)

Today is Norman Lloyd's 102nd birthday. To celebrate TCM willl be airing the 2015 Norman Lloyd Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival. I was in the studio audience for that legendary interview. It was an experience I'll never forget and I'm excited for everyone else to see it. To commemorate his birthday and the airing of the special I'll be sharing my memories of seeing Lloyd from three different TCM Classic Film Festivals.

Back in 2013 when I was preparing for my very first TCMFF, Laura of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings had pointed out that 98 year old Norman Lloyd would be in attendance at a screening of The Lady Vanishes (1938) and that it was not to be missed. Taking her suggestion I quickly altered my TCMFF schedule. And so began a series of amazing encounters with Norman Lloyd.

The first was at the 2013 TCMFF but before the film screening. Aurora (Citizen Screen), Laura and I were at Club TCM sitting in the way back by the main entrance while attendees were participating in the So You Think You Know the Movies? trivia game. And guess who walks through the door? None other than the man himself, Norman Lloyd. Aurora pointed him out to Laura and I and we all stared in wonder. No one else had spotted him because he had slipped in as a surprise guest and everyone's attention was on the main stage. Aurora went right up to him and shook his hand. That was one of a series of "Aurora moments" named after her special encounters which resulted from her determination and some luck. She inspired me to make my own moments at future festivals. (More on the experience here.)

Norman Lloyd at Club TCM
A couple of days later I attended the special screening of The Lady Vanishes (1938). Leonard Maltin was on hand to interview Norman Lloyd about Alfred Hitchcock and his work. Lloyd was as fit as a fiddle at 98 with a mind as sharp as a tack. The interview was fascinating. He regaled us with stories and charmed our socks off. You can watch the full interview below and check out my transcript and notes on the experience here.

Norman Lloyd getting a standing ovation at TCMFF 2013

Norman Lloyd at TCMFF 2013

Little did I know that these two experiences were only beginning. Even more amazing encounters were to come.

Fast forward to the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival and Norman Lloyd returned as a festival guest. I had such a fabulous time seeing him in 2013 that I made a point to see him again.

That year I decided to sit in the bleachers and watch the stars walk down the red carpet on opening night. Norman Lloyd was one of those guests. Here he is on the red carpet with Ben Mankiewicz and Sean Cameron greeting the fans in the bleachers.

Norman Lloyd bows to the fans in the bleachers. 2015 TCMFF

Next up was a screening of Reign of Terror (1949) hosted Eddie Muller of the Noir Foundation with special guest Norman Lloyd who plays Tallien in the film. 

I almost didn't make it to this screening. I got there kind of late having just come from Christopher Plummer's hand and footprint ceremony. Lucky for me I got one of the last seats. Unfortunately it was in the front row at the far right which proved to be an awkward spot for viewing the film. However it was the perfect spot to see Norman Lloyd come down the stairs for the interview after the screening. 

Eddie Muller and Norman Lloyd
At 100 Norman Lloyd was STILL as sharp as a tack. At one point in the conversation he went off topic and started to ramble but remembered to come back to the original question, something I can't even do and I'm several decades younger. You can read my post about the interview here.

After the interview Lloyd at to walk back up those stairs and I had the perfect vantage point. He was going to walk right past me again and this time I was determined to talk to him. I'm a shy person and can get tongue-tied very quickly. But I can always say "thank you". It's simple, it's direct and I can't mess it up. And when Lloyd walked up to the stairs I gave him a big smile and said "thank you." He looked and said "thank YOU". I was on cloud nine. I can't believe that I spoke to the great Norman Lloyd. And that wouldn't be the only time either. More on that to come.

Set-up for the Live at the TCM Classic Film Festival with Norman Lloyd

Press photo of Norman Lloyd greeting the audience at TCMFF

At that point I couldn't get enough Norman Lloyd so it was imperative that I attend the Live at the TCM Classic Film Festival interview hosted by Ben Mankiewicz and featuring Lloyd. I blocked out an entire morning to get in line and attend the two hour event (it'll be edited down to one hour for television). 

Press photo of Ben Mankiewicz and Norman Lloyd at TCMFF

Words cannot express how wonderful this experience was to me. I ran the gamut of emotions: I laughed, I cheered, I cried. I loved listening to Lloyd's stories about the Great Depression, working with heavyweights like Hitchcock, Chaplin and Welles, his work on film and TV, his beloved wife Peggy who past away a few years ago, his most recent film Trainwreck (2015) and countless other stories. My favorite moment was when Mankiewicz asked Lloyd about seeing Babe Ruth at Yankee stadium. Lloyd stood up, animated and regaled us with the story.  I sincerely hope that moment made the final cut. After a year and a half I'm curious to see video of this day, to refresh my memory on things I forgot and to relive all those emotions. Lloyd charmed us all (he even flirted with the make-up artist) and I hope he'll charm you all too.

Can you see me? I'm to the left of Norman Lloyd's head peeking out from above his chair! (Press Photo)

My Norman Lloyd story doesn't end there. I got one last glorious experience with him at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival and it was totally unexpected. 

When I was preparing for my fourth festival, I was determined to fulfill my dream and interview stars on the red carpet. I got the full guest list for opening night and I studied all the names closely. Even though Norman Lloyd wasn't technically a special guest at the festival, he was going to walk the red carpet and attend the opening night party. This was my chance to talk to him again! I was at the end of the interview line and by the time he came down my way he was no longer doing interviews. However I knew I had to work fast to make an Aurora moment happen. I seized the opportunity to have some sort of  interaction with him.

I called out to him proclaiming "WE LOVE YOU NORMAN LLOYD!". He stopped looked around trying to find who was calling out to him. I repeated "WE LOVE YOU NORMAN LLOYD!" He looked over at me and said "beautiful!"

Norman Lloyd looking over at me. 2016 TCMFF red carpet.

Then I replied, "no YOU'RE beautiful!" And I blew him a kiss.

Norman Lloyd blowing me a kiss. 2016 TCMFF red carpet.

And you'll never believe it but he blew me a kiss back! I almost fainted. What an experience. I flirted with Norman Lloyd on the red carpet! I didn't get video of the encounter but I have these three photos, eye witness accounts and my own memory of the event. 

Can you find me in this picture? I'm in the pink dress in between Norman Lloyd and TCM's Sean Cameron
(Press photo via Zimbio) 

I want to wish Norman Lloyd a very happy 102nd birthday. I want to thank him for all those wonderful moments at the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as his body of work in film and television which has entertained many of us for decades. Happy birthday!

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