Event Recap: FORGOTTEN HOLLYWOOD’s Manny Pacheco Q&A/Book Signing @ Makara Center for the Arts, Santa Ana 2/27/19
Creative Director - Los Angeles Arts Society
There have been two things that I’ve wanted to do as long as I’ve been with Los Angeles Arts Society: one was to host an event at the Makara Center for the Arts in downtown Santa Ana, and the other was to work with my broadcasting instructor and mentor Manny Pacheco on something for Forgotten Hollywood, his award-winning film history book series. Although LA Arts can proudly say it has several successful events under its belt, our emphasis has mostly been on film screenings. We did hold a book signing with Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski for their book Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa, but that was part of our December screening of Godzilla. For this reason, my partner Alex and I decided to try something new - an oral presentation followed by a Q&A and book signing - and after getting in touch with both Manny and the Makara’s director Marytza, we were able to arrange the whole thing just like that!
Compared to our last program, this event was simple and straightforward. While we had to do a lot of running around and coordinating to ensure that Godzilla ran smoothly, Forgotten Hollywood was much more contained and thus much easier to manage. It probably helps that the Makara is a smaller venue than the Frida Cinema, meaning that everything we needed to handle was in the same space and also that we had less guests to contend with. Such an intimate spot comes with an appeal all its own, with the books and artwork on display giving it the inviting, creative atmosphere that you’d expect from a library. Although in hindsight I enjoyed the natural high that came with the adrenaline rush of running Godzilla, I also appreciated the painless pleasure that came with hosting Forgotten Hollywood.
Though I was the host for the night, I actually ended up having to do very little hosting as Manny carried the show exceptionally well by himself. The most I spoke was when I introduced him, cataloguing his various vocations and fondly recalled my time at Fullerton College with him. When I finished, he quipped that I was making him blush, a classic Manny way of returning my praise that set a humorously warm tone for the night. From that point on, it was his show, and, aside from a few moments where he asked me to chime in, all I really had to was sit back and listen. And listen I did, because he spoke solo for a good 50 minutes or so, regaling our guests and I with animated retellings of stories from his books.
Manny made clever use of a good amount of tricks and techniques to immerse us all in his stories. Affecting a creepy Middle-European voice to conjure The Maltese Falcon’s Peter Lorre and pulling up a chair to stand in (or sit in, rather) for the one Lee Harvey Oswald was found in when he was apprehended by the Dallas police, his larger-than-life delivery of the material reflected his broadcasting background. It also gave the event the vibe of a one-man show rather than an academic presentation, making the facts and trivia he shared both accessible and real to us.
By the time our star finished his talk, I almost felt silly opening it up to the audience. He had covered so much territory that I couldn’t imagine there were any stones left for us to unturn, and apparently they thought so too because the room fell silent when I asked if anyone had any questions. This is always a possibility with Q&A sessions, so luckily I had the foresight to bring some questions of my own, asking Manny about why, as he wrote in the preface to Forgotten Hollywood Forgotten History, he “had to write it” and what made him “glad [he] did.” Without so much as a second thought, he cited his grandmother as his inspiration, explaining that she instilled an appreciation for old movies in him when he was a kid. It was funny to me that he should have said that because I have a similar relationship with my grandma (who, incidentally, was kind enough to join us for the evening) in that she supported and encouraged my interest in the arts and culture early on.
At any rate, I guess that my pick-up questions inspired the audience because the next thing I knew they were asking all about the books as well as the movies and stars covered in them. Everything from which movies were Manny’s favorites (Casablanca and Whiplash, to name a couple) and whether Drew Barrymore is related to Lionel Barrymore or not (she is) to which movie featured Mickey Rooney in yellowface (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) was on the table, and all of which he was more than eager to answer. Quite the change in attitude on the part of our guests, but it was a welcome one as it meant they were at least as excited about Manny’s material as I was.
You might have assumed our guest of honor brought it down a notch when the Q&A wrapped up and the book signing started. Not at all: he just kept going and going and chatted and bantered with each and every guest who came to meet him at his table. It was a cool little table too, holding a clapboard prop and covered with a beautiful table cloth decorated with scenes from The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. He enthusiastically and proudly pitched his books to his guests, making one of them burst into laughter when he praised the chapter titles in one of them as if they were written by someone else. Everyone received his self-promotion in good humor though; they viewed it as part of the carnival barker charm that he so earnestly cultivated.
The show had to end eventually, but Manny made sure we enjoyed every second until it did. I have to thank him for, on top of being a brilliant teacher and a true friend, joining us and making the evening as entertaining as it turned out to be for everyone. I also would like to thank my friend Thomas for lending his impressive services to us and capturing the whole program on video (footage of which will be coming down the road), and, of course, Alex for being open to this experiment of mine and facilitating it. And lastly, but hardly least, I’d like to thank Marytza and Greg from the Makara for allowing our event to be held in such a cool and unique space and for being such gracious and accommodating hosts. I like to think that the night whetted everybody there’s appetite for more like it and also that, with any luck, LA Arts Society will spend many more evenings with Manny for more fascinating stories of Forgotten Hollywood.
Photos by Alex Martinez and Reggie Peralta
The views expressed in this recap are those of the author’s and not necessarily the views of LA Arts Society. Let us know what you think of this recap in the comments section below. For more recaps, reviews, events, and other news from LA Arts Society, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you’d like to book an event, volunteer with LA Arts Society, or have any other questions, feel free to reach us on our Contact page.
Creative Director - Los Angeles Arts Society
I didn’t grow up on comic books, but, like many of my generation, I grew up on shows based on comics. Spider-Man, X-Men, Batman: The Animated Series, and even that goofy Mask spin-off were all regular viewing during my childhood and, to this day, remain some of my earliest TV memories. Even today at the ripe old age of twenty-something, there’s a primitive part of my brain that still lights up at the thought of costumed heroes and villains duking it out for the fate of the world, humanity, or what have you. Fortunately, it turns out that I’m not the only one, as my LA Arts’ partner Alex and I’s visit to the Long Beach Comic Expo this past February made very clear.
The first thing I saw when I got there was a fleet of cars modified to look like ones central to nerd culture. Among the autos was a DeLorean decked out like the one in Back to the Future (but thankfully not plutonium-powered like in the movie), a hearse made to look like the Ecto-1 from the 2016 Ghostbusters, retro and modern Bumblebee-esque Camaros filled with Transformers memorabilia, and a Jurassic Park jeep and SUV blaring John Williams’ iconic theme. I’m not really a car guy but the geek in me internally squeed and thought it was an awesome way to pump guests up and get them in touch with their inner kid before they even set foot inside the convention itself.
The security people checking members of the press (they had a separate line for journalists, a nifty little perk) as they entered the center were noticeably polite, treating me comfortably as they scanned me and telling me to enjoy the expo when they finished. This pleasant disposition was shared by the staff inside as well, with the guard who directed me to the restroom even wishing me a good day when I came out and headed back onto the vendors’ floor. I shouldn’t be so surprised since my interactions with staff at Long Beach Convention Center have always been pleasant as far as I can remember, but it stands out to me because people working such events aren’t always so agreeable. Just making the extra effort to treat guests in a civil manner goes a long way in making them feel like, well, guests, which is exactly how I felt.
The exhibitors were similarly friendly for the most part, though there were a few exceptions. One booth selling Godzilla t-shirts caught my eye but the guy running it had little interest in conversation, answering my questions with flat “yeah”s and preoccupying himself with other business while I tried to engage him. I thought it strange that a vendor selling merch of something as niche as Godzilla would begrudge potentially interested customers trying to engage them about the focus of their product, but hey, what do I know about customer service.
Most of the other exhibitors, however, were more than happy to talk about whatever they had to offer. Writer Preston Poulter, for instance, was eager to discuss his comic series’ White Lily and Guinevere and the Divinity Factory, explaining the unique historical background of the former and the intriguing philosophical undertones of the latter. Not only was he excited to elaborate on his comics, he was also receptive to my thoughts on them, agreeing when I said Guinevere’s themes of individualism versus collectivism were “very Randian” and acknowledging the influence of the Fountainhead author on his work.
Also agreeable was comic illustrator Agnes Garbowska, who Alex and I regrettably didn’t get to talk to for long. A particularly persistent fan swamped her with commissions right then and there, so she had her hands full with pencils and paper the whole time we were at her booth. But, she took the time to take a break from the commissions when her friend Miki (who was exceptionally friendly in her own right) let her know I just wanted a signature for the My Little Pony postcard that I bought for my nieces, kindly thanking me for my purchase and, perhaps, my patience as well.
But it wasn’t just comic authors and artists hawking their larger-than-life wares. We were pleasantly surprised to meet and chat up Jackie Dallas, the actress who played the girlfriend of the teacher in Stranger Things, as well as get selfies with a bountiful bevy of cosplayers. From Darth Vader and the forces of the Galactic Empire to the Original Series and Deep Space Nine iterations of Starfleet, and from Tony Stark to Princess Mononoke, it’s safe to say that almost all provinces of nerdom were represented at the event, and with such pride too! Looking at all the costumes, one couldn’t help being blown away by the time and effort that their owners must have put into making them. Meeting superheroes like Batman and Captain Planet or even villains like The Riddler and, say, Lego Lord Voldemort may be the stuff of dreams, but through the craftsmanship of the cosplayers we met, we were able to briefly enjoy such childhood fantasies as if they were real life.
Further compounding the childish sense of nostalgia were the assorted other vendors selling and displaying art, toys, and similar goodies. Miles Toys and Treasures had an impressive selection of vintage action figures from media as disparate as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a collection made all the more grand by the fact that almost all the figures were still in their original packaging. Another booth offered a charming combination of custom Lego mini-figures and dummy weapons (life-size, not Lego-size). Other groups like the Sci-Fi Coalition and Star Trek The Fleet offered guests civic-minded venues for exploring their media interests as well as participating in community service with other fans.
Having catalogued all these sights and wonders, it kills me to say that I wasn’t able to go both days, leaving Alex to fend for himself on day two. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, that day he bumped into none other than Rachel Hollon, our very own Elvira for our House on Haunted Hill Halloween party this past October. As it turned out, she had been there for both days, but somehow she slipped past us with her killer-diller, gender-bender Han Solo cosplay the day I went. I suppose I can only let this be a lesson to make the necessary arrangements to attend both days when next year’s expo rolls around.
Speaking of which, I’m not sure if I can wait for next year! I like to think I keep up with pop culture happenings and going-ons, but I haven’t felt the way I did after attending LBCE in a long time. The cosplays, the conversations, and the quality of service by those working all made for a magical experience that brought out the kid in me and whetted my appetite for more conventions. WonderCon is around the corner and Comic-Con is coming up in the summer, but Long Beach Comic Expo is the high, memorable bar by which I will judge all others.
Photos by Alex Martinez and Reggie Peralta
The views expressed in this review are those of the author’s and not necessarily the views of LA Arts Society. Let us know what you think of it in the comments section below. For more reviews, recaps, events, and other news from LA Arts Society, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. If you’d like to book an event, volunteer with LA Arts Society, or have any other questions, feel free to reach us on our Contact page.