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
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