I received a couple of phone calls that piqued my interest. One was from a cage-fighter named Chuck. He told me he wasn’t calling about a party; he wanted me to know that he liked my column. He told me about his website and said that if I ever needed a bodyguard, he’d be glad to accompany me to parties.
The other call was from a woman who belonged to the Cinema Society of San Diego. They were having a party at the Sheraton in La Jolla — plenty of good food and actors talking about their new film.
Food in La Jolla and mingling with film stars sounded pretty good. When I found out it was for a documentary called Hats Off, chronicling the life of 93-year-old actress Mimi Weddell, I figured Chuck’s services wouldn’t be needed.
I sat at a table with Sherry and her accountant friend, who wouldn’t be staying for the movie. She had to work.
Most of the crowd was older. One member told me he’d been in the cinema club (which is in its 25th year) for 15 years.
I introduced myself to Andy, the president and founder of the cinema club. I had heard him tell a story about Charlton Heston. I asked him about that. He talked about doing a movie premiere with Heston that was outdoors in Colorado. It was so windy, the screen was torn before the movie was shown. Andy thought the studio’d fire him, but Heston said that he wished he had the rod that parted the Red Sea. That made headlines in papers worldwide. The movie didn’t screen, but the studio was thrilled with the press.
Andy also told me about a time he watched Heston sign autographs as he walked to a limo. Heston told him to get in the car. As Heston got in, still signing autographs, the car pulled away from the crowd. Heston explained how he handled autograph hounds, but Andy was more worried with getting the movie star to his next location in one piece.
There was a large spread of food set out. I grabbed some pineapple and headed back to my table. I saw a few people talking to Mimi Weddell, who wore white gloves and a hat. One guy had a few pictures he was asking her to autograph.
I remembered seeing her in the Will Smith movie Hitch. She played the lady at the end who pretends to choke in order to help her granddaughter meet a young doctor. I decided not to ask her anything about Smith.
We all headed over to the AMC Theatres next door to watch Hats Off.
It was a better documentary than the well-known Young@Heart, which followed around a senior citizens’ choir that specialized in punk songs.
In the film, Mimi went on auditions and 14-hour cattle calls. She has filmed some Nike commercials in which she did gymnastics. She did perfume and clothing ads and a few Woody Allen films. I remembered seeing her in a Nicholson movie when they showed the clip. She played a character who fell asleep during a wedding scene.
I felt horrible watching her travel the streets of New York, going from audition to audition. One would think the studio would know if they wanted her or not and that she wouldn’t need to read for parts.
I also felt bad that she seemed to be disappointed in her daughter (who was at this event). The daughter didn’t like to dress up and get her hair done the way Mimi thought a woman should.
Mimi’s husband, who at one time worked for a big record label, lost his job and passed away. She ended up moving in with her daughter and grandkids.
After the screening, the director and Mimi answered questions. They had been filming this project for over 11 years and had 200 hours of film to edit down to make the movie.
One person asked if she ever dated another man after her husband died. She said there was never another after Dick.
Someone asked about her constant smoking. She said she usually smokes a quarter of a cigarette. She said, “A nice young man drove me from the airport. I asked him if I could smoke on the curb earlier. I smoked half the cigarette.”
I asked if she ever goes to her movies when they play at the theaters. She said no. I also talked about a scene she did in which she looked through a peephole at a young couple kissing outside. I said, “It’s obvious where the joke is on a scene like that. Do you ever have a script you’re reading and you don’t understand what the joke is?” She smiled and said, “Oh, yes, all the time. I hardly ever understand them.” The crowd laughed.
The Cinema Society isn’t your regular crowd of filmgoers. They know a lot about movies. They asked about Hats Off being screened at film festivals and how it will be distributed. Director Jyll Johnstone seemed to have her hands full answering such questions. We found out that Johnstone was a friend of Mimi’s daughter. She thought her friend’s mom was interesting. After Mimi did a Dracula cult film, Johnstone thought it would be interesting to follow her around and do the documentary.
I walked out to the lobby and talked with a few women about a friend of mine named Alice, whom I hadn’t seen in years. Alice belongs to the cinema club. They told me they thought she had a death in the family.
I saw a couple that I wanted to talk to earlier. They seemed happy together. The woman was a tall blonde; the guy was short with dark hair. They told me about the student films they are screening and a contest they organize for young filmmakers. They described a few of them, and it sounded interesting.
After talking with the crowd about movies, my girlfriend suggested that we join the cinema club. We looked at one of their flyers. They had cruises, film screenings with actors and directors, and several other interesting events.
We then saw the price for an annual membership and decided it was out of our range.