Urbana, Illinois has become my annual vacation spot thanks to “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival.” The festival’s reception party, which was normally held at the president’s mansion (University of Illinois) where Mr. & Mrs. James J. Stukel reside, took place at the Krannert Art Museum. A special movie poster collection was on display, an extra bonus for festival guests who came from all over the country. U of I President James J. Stukel was the first to pick up the microphone to welcome guests.
When my friend Mike Hall and I arrived, we parked just outside the museum. Turned out we made a woman angry because she thought we stole her parking spot. On her way to the party, she yelled from a distance, “You guys are pretty sneaky!” We were shocked because we had no idea she wanted the spot. Later at the reception we apologized and found out she was Veronica Cartwright, the actress who played one of the astronaut wives in the movie “The Right Stuff.” We all ended up laughing about the incident and we became friends.
Another shocking moment for me was to see Chris Gore. Gore publishes my Critic Doctor column on his Filmthreat.com web site. He is also author of “The Ultimate Film Festival Guide” and host of the TV show “Festival Pass with Chris Gore” on Starz/Encore. Gore wasn’t sure if he was going to make it to the festival or not and luckily he did. We had a blast hanging out together for three days. He participated in panel discussions and was quite honored to finally meet Roger Ebert.
Then I met up with Dusty Cohl, a regular festival guest. FINALLY, folks! I earned my Dusty cowboy hat pin and it wasn’t easy, let me tell you. It took me three years and Dusty offered to give me one at this year’s reception. Those who have the pin are required to wear it at every film festival they attend. Roger Ebert wears his pin for the entire duration of the festival. Actress Jacqueline Kim (Charlotte Sometimes) was very intrigued by my silver cowboy hat pin and wanted to get one for herself. I advised her to simply ask Dusty. She later found it’s not that easy. I told her, “Don’t give up. Next time you see Dusty at a festival, bring up the issue again.” Good luck Jacqueline!
The Critic Doctor checks out some flicks in part two of EBERTFEST: THUMBAPALOOZA 2003>>>