TCM Cruise Report #2: The People

29 Oct

20141024_000158389_iOSNow, this is probably true of any such gathering, but it occurred to me at some point on this little jaunt about the seas that the TCM Cruise is rather like a university filled with people who are fancy honor students in their respective high schools.

Among your friends, on your pub quiz team, for your family who still calls you asking what that one guy’s name was, the one with the hair, you know, the one your mother doesn’t like, among these people you are a one-person IMDB for all their recommendation and 2am argument-solving needs. But once aboard…well, let’s just say that every pub quiz team on the Eastern seaboard would’ve been doomed had anything happened to this ship.

Fortunately, this was an atmosphere not of competition but of glee. Everyone there was just so happy not to be the one weirdo who wanted to have a conversation about William Castle or Buster Keaton or whichever or both that a bunch of people of wildly varying ages and levels of social comfort seemed able to chatter away without much concern. We weren’t boring each other the way we do the rest of you, is what I’m saying. We were like ugly towel ducklings who in each other’s presence blossomed into beautiful towel swans.

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(Sometimes with towel elephants on our backs for some reason that may have involved unwillingness to undo the towel origami.)

The very first couple we ran into, sitting at lunch on day one (Bill & Michael, Sarasota, early 60s?) were friendly enough at first, probably thought us younger even than we are, but at some point our mutual copious knowledge of the life and work of Esther Williams became clear. Suddenly we were in. “Oh, so you know movies,” one of them said, as if perhaps one runs into casual flik-watchers on this ship. And the bond was formed. From there we could get down to specifics – that scene in that movie filmed on that Thursday afternoon, etc. No one to impress and no one playing catch up. It was time to spend a week watching these things and talking about them, their history, their influence, our love.

And God forbid one of us should run into Shirley Jones in the atrium.

(As far as that goes, we didn’t have much luck with the Fancy Old Movie Star guests. We’re too polite; if Shirley or Dreyfuss showed up in a hallway or sat in a bar they were accosted by a coot swarm, or sometimes one Little Old Lady with the aggressive force of a coot swarm on her own. And into the woodwork we’d fade. Fortunately, The Wife encountered Ann Blyth long enough to tell her her Ann Blyth Story of being compared to her by a college professor while she studied musical theatre, something she still holds as a high compliment. Ann seemed to think that was lovely as well. There were cheek-pressing hugs. Yes, the cheek that Joan Crawford slapped.)

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It was also a pleasure to meet, however briefly,  a couple of TCM Party frequenters, Scott McGee and Illeana Douglas. Nice to finally put faces with their names. I KID!

We were even lucky enough to have great dinner companions, two couples in our generational ballpark (there were plenty, of course, but it was nice of whatever powers handle such things to lump us together) with a general liberality and quiet appreciation of a good drink. Not to mention the couples and individuals we ran into regularly at screenings.

(The only source of mild social tension I noticed on board was our sudden realization that because of the aforementioned Little Old Ladies, we were never ever going to be able to take an elevator. But it’s a cruise. I kept saying that to myself. Over. And over.)

Good people, is what I’m saying. The part one worries about on such an excursion was no worry at all.

More to come.

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