Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 4
In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!
I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.
I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).
Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After a breakneck 3 days of being bussed to Universal Studios, the town of Fillmore, and a number of areas around the Los Angeles area, day 4 of We’re Going Back’s events slowed things down a bit.
The majority of the day’s events, would take place at the Hollywood United Methodist Church, at the corner of Highland and Franklin Ave.
It may seem odd, but the church is connected to the film series. For portions of the interior Enchantment Under The Sea dance scenes, the filmmakers found that Whittier High School’s gym was too ‘modern.’
The old-fashioned feel of the Methodist Church’s gymnasium, seemed just right for the big event that we saw on film.
As we lined up to head into the gym, several WGB volunteers were setting up the Lyon Estates signs, that we had seen up in Arleta the night before. Word was the signs would be part of the day’s upcoming auction.
The line soon started moving, and as we entered through the gym’s rear exit, my ‘reference-senses’ started tingling. We were entering through the area in the first film, where Marty exited the stage, and talked to Lorraine and George, before heading off to get back to the future!
The view from inside the gymnasium, was a little different. While we had seen it decked out with sea-specific theming on-screen, it was a whole other world as an ordinary gymnasium.
Chairs had been set up in the center, and a number of tables had been placed against the walls. Close to the stage, a number of display cases were set up, showing several of the same auction pieces that we saw up in Fillmore, on the second day.
Many of us quickly took our seats, for the morning’s first event: the premiere of Outatime: Saving The DeLorean Time Machine.
The documentary was only an hour long, but I was very impressed by what had been captured! I grew up watching making-of specials regarding things like cars, film, and animation, and the structure of the special reminded me of those great and informative pieces.
We also got to know a bit more about the condition of the vehicle over the years, as well as the monumentally crazy ways the restoration team went about returning the vehicle to its former glory.
During its time on the backlot, the vehicle’s Mr Fusion went missing, and in its place, Universal’s craftsmen had concocted a faux-Mr Fusion. It was basically a wrapped metal cylinder, with the logo on it, and the team brought it along to show the audience (see left).
After the film wrapped, the main floor was turned over to those that were going to be bidding on the Screen-used.com auction, which would take bids from both our group, and online bidders.
One of the original dresses that Mary Steenburgen wore in Part III was also on display as part of the auction, and Ms Erica D Breig accepted my request to take a picture of her next to the original prop.
Erica had caught my eye (and the eyes of many others), with her Facebook announcement that she was crafting her own version of Clara Clayton’s purple travel dress, to be worn during the 5-day event. We had seen her wearing it the day before, but today, was probably the last time we’d be able to see her version, as well as one from the actual film, together under one roof!
Looking over the screen-used dress, it was amazing to see so many details up-close. The buttons on the front were flower-shaped, and an intricate array of beading was interwoven into the piece. There were even some intricate leaf patterns stitched into the darker portions of the dress: details you would never see on-screen!
The auction soon got under way, and a number of different props and production pieces were soon paraded in front of the group. Some of them were not on hand, but would be sent to the winning bidder later on.
In a few cases, it was a mad roundabout between bidders online, and those in their seats. A set of blueprints from one of the 1955 sets, went for upwards of $1,200 at one point.
One of the most surprising moments came in regards to a set of 100 pages of casting/call-sheets. These sheets had pages from the period of time when Eric Stoltz played Marty McFly, up through when Michael J Fox took over the role. Bidding for the lot started at $4,000, but after several minutes of trying to get the audience to ‘bite,’ the lot went unsold!
During the auction, I wandered out into the main courtyard of the church. Preparations were already being made for the evening guests in various places.
Notable among the setups, were these black panthers, supporting a reproduction of the film’s iconic clockface, a nod to the three items that sat high above Hill Valley’s town square. Word afterwards, was that these panthers were rented directly from Universal, and happened to be the same ones we had seen on-screen!
After the auction ended at 1, we were give a 5-hour break, while the crew set up for the dance.
During this time, I and a few other people returned to Griffith Park, to take a closer look at the ‘starting line’ and tunnel locations we did not get to see the previous day.
Finally, as 6 pm approached, many of us made our way to the church. While the majority were dressed in dance-appropriate attire, there were some that were casually-dressed, and quite a few were in costume.
After walking the Orange Carpet, we passed through a gated archway into the main courtyard, where the panthers and clockface resided.
A number of selling tables were also set up in the courtyard area. Terry and Oliver Holler manned their booth raising funds for Fox’s foundation, and the authors of The Back to the Future Almanac (which is said to contain information on every BTTF-related product there is!) were selling their book as well (word was that a number of Australian fans were eagerly snapping up copies, as shipping and handling on the huge book, would have been equal to its $55 price-tag!). We’re Going Back also manned a table of their own, where a number of specially-made shirts for the event, could be purchased from.
Much of the gymnasium was open for dancing, with The Flux Capacitors providing the majority of our night’s entertainment. They whipped through several songs from the 80’s, and while they didn’t get around to covering We Built This City (on Rock and Roll), they did press my buttons when they tackled Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, and brought us all together with renditions of Huey Lewis’ Power of Love, and Back in Time.
While lunch had not been provided earlier in the day, many wondered if we’d be fed at the dance. Along with bottled water, the event organizers had taken a cue from Back to the Future Part II’s marketing, supplying us with an evening supper of Pepsi products, and Pizza Hut pizza.
Along the walls at the back and to the far-right of the stage, were designated tables for guests to talk and sign autographs at.
Given the closeness of the dance to the hostel I was staying at, I took the opportunity to purchase Michael Klastorin’s newly-released book, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, straight from the man himself (he was also the Unit Publicist on the trilogy’s 2nd and 3rd films)! It was funny when Michael got a kick out of us sharing the same first name (seriously, there seemed to be a lot of Michael’s working on the trilogy!), and his wife later said she wished she had taken a picture, as my face seemed to light up as Michael personalized his signature to me.
A few other members of the crew showed up at the event, including editors Arthur Schmidt, and Harry Keramidas. Both of them had worked together on the entire trilogy, but I had wanted to talk to them about editing two of my favorite scenes: The Mall Chase, and The Clocktower Scene. These moments had been etched into my brain for years, and I often cite them as great examples of building tension, and inspiration whenever I try to build tense scenes, either on paper, or when editing in Premiere or After Effects.
There were also a number of cast that appeared, with the biggest draw being Lea Thompson, who took to the stage to welcome us, before spending most of her time meeting and greeting fans at her autograph table.
A number of other cast members showed up as well, including (just to name a few), Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker from Part 1), Jeffrey Weissman(George McFly from Parts II & III), and Harry Waters, Jr (Marvin Berry, from Parts I & II).
Of the actors, Harry was a man I had to talk to. His interview in Caseen Gaines’ book We Don’t Need Roads, had been one of my favorite parts to read about, and I had to have a few words with the man whose rendition of Earth Angel, was probably the version almost all of us born in the 1980’s knew about (moreso than the original sung by The Penguins).
Later on in the evening, Harry would come to the stage several times. Along with re-enacting his role of Marvin Berry (complete with bandaged hand!) and singing Earth Angel for all of us, he gave a personal croon of the song to several couples, who had made the song their ‘first dance’ at their wedding.
Then, he took to the stage for another special surprise. Many of us had been witness to a special marriage on the steps of the Courthouse at Universal a few days before…and tonight, another couple was taking a major step forward, into their future. Though not in the way of marriage, but a proposal…and the answer…was “Yes!”
Along with Harry and Lea, a number of special guests also entertained us on stage. Just like at 2010’s event, AJ Locascio came prepared with a guitar, playing and singing Johnny B Goode for us. AJ gained notoriety in the fandom, when he became the voice of Marty McFly in the Telltale Games’ release of Back to the Future: The Game in 2010, and it was nice to see he had taken the time to come out for the big event this time around.
We were also surprised when Mark Campbell took to the stage. Mark served as the singing voice for Michael J Fox on Johnny B Goode on film and on the soundtrack. While his voice may have changed a little over the years, there was something rather interesting about the singing voice we heard on those albums years ago, being on stage right in front of us.
And speaking of the 1980’s, one of the biggest surprises was when E Casanova Evans helped close out the night. Evans is known for being a Michael Jackson impersonator, and played the Max Headroom-like version of Jackson, in the Cafe 80’s scene in the second film.
Evans created a surreal image, as he performed 4 of Jackson’s songs, surrounded by props from the film, along with the dance’s banner hanging behind him. It was as if during those moments, the stage had become a ‘temporal junction point’ for our fandom…on the other hand, it could have just been an amazing coincidence thanks to our We’re Going Back event planners.
At 10pm, the lights came up, and the dance was officially over. While some walked out through the main exit, I couldn’t help but once again want to emulate Michael J Fox, and took my leave through the church’s exit door, near the stage.
Even after all that excitement, there were still “timely” surprises to be had afterwards.
Going around the hostel looking for an outlet to charge my phone later on, I rested my feet aching feet on a couch, and began to dig into The Ultimate Visual History. A few pages in, a new arrival at the hostel asked me where the bathroom was.
When he saw my book, what started as a little conversation about the We’re Going Back event (of which he had heard of!), soon snowballed into a 45-minute discussion about the trilogy, what was in Michael’s book, as well as the past few days (I’m still surprised noone poked their head out of a nearby door, telling us to be quiet).
As much as the big moments in my travels can be memorable, it’s often the little things like this encounter, that stand out. It was similar to encountering a couple dressed as Marty and Jennifer on ‘Future Day’ walking Hollywood Blvd, or meeting one family who were going ga-ga over all the Time Machines up in Fillmore.
Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 5 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. We head over to City of Industry, CA, and the Puente Hills Mall. The day will include chats with several of the crew from the trilogy, before a grand event in the mall’s rear parking lot, with a few surprises in store!