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Jacqueline Bisset at the Orinda Film Fesitval

It had been reported in the San Francisco newspapers that Jonathan Winters would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the 2nd annual Orinda Film Festival. The film Swing (in which he costars with Jacqueline) would have its world premiere at the Festival's opening night (18 Sept 2003). Jonathan Winters would be feted the following night. This was also reported on the Festival's website. The website said that other cast and crew would also be there, but there was no mention of Jacqueline. I was pretty sure, in fact, that she would not be there.

But since you never know if an independent film is going to get distribution, I decided I would go to Orinda to see the film. And I did bring along my wife's digital camera.

I arrived at the theater about 6:15 or so; the film was scheduled for 7:00. After picking up my ticket from will-call, I got in line. There were a couple of hundred of people ahead of me, I guess. A group of swing-dancers was putting on an exhibition, though I couldn't see them very well from where I was standing. Sometime after 6:30, the line started moving as people were let into the theater. I was getting close to the door--there were only about 6 or 10 people in front of me--when the line was stopped. The usher announced that they were holding the line because "Miss Bisset is arriving."

Wow. Wow. Wow!

It was repeated again that Jacqueline Bisset and Jonathan Winters were arriving, and we would have to wait for them. (Fine with me.) Sure enough, a vintage convertible (Cadillac? I can't remember now; bright yellow, maybe) came down the street, made a big U-turn and parked. Within a few moments, the guests of honor were being escorted into the theater. I tried to get some pictures of Jacqueline, but there were too many people in the way.

Then they continued letting people in. I got in the lobby, and Jacqueline was signing autographs and so on. I had her autograph my ticket, and I told her what a big fan of hers I am. I also snapped a few photos from the side. Then she was led off to her seat, and I found myself a seat on the aisle.

There was a short welcoming speech and some announcements. The director and stars would come up on stage after the movie and take some questions, and then there would be a no-host party. Then they showed the movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it a 3.5. Good performances, some witty lines, but a bit predictable. The cinematography was nothing special, except in one of the swing dance scenes, in which they used a moving overhead camera. Like they could only afford one crane-shot.

Jacqueline, Jonathan Winters, director Martin Guigui, and a couple of other people (I think writer Mary Keil was one). Each made some remarks about the film. Jacqueline didn't have much to say but was ready to take questions. Jonathan Winters rambled on about various things and was quite funny.

I had a couple of questions in mind for Jacqueline, but didn't get called on. Someone else asked one of them: whether she had had any previous swing dance experience (the answer was yes).

After the Q&A was over, everyone was again invited to the "no-host" party in the theater square. The Orinda Theater has a beautiful art-deco interior. Around the theater is a group of shops and cafes that make up the "square". I followed the crowd out of the theater and gradually worked my way through the square to the stage door of the theater. Along the way I saw a private "Press Party" in one of the shops (a beauty salon). A few more people trickled out of the back door of the theater, but there didn't seem to be anything going on there. I didn't want to buy any food or drinks. So I headed back toward the press party.

I could see through the glass that Jacqueline was inside. However, the doors were now flung open, and a lot of people were wandering in and out. I decided to give it a try, and walked in. No one stopped me; everyone was pleasant. But it was very crowded and noisy inside. The accoustics were terrible: hard surfaces everywhere.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of people trying to talk to Jacqueline. I also made my way toward her. Because of the noise, you couldn't hear what she (or anyone else) was saying, unless you were right beside her/him. People would come up and talk for a few minutes, maybe get a picture or an autograph, and the move aside, and someone else would move in. When I finally got close enough to hear, she was talking to someone about "Dangerous Beauty". I said something like "Oh, yes, that was good movie", and then mentioned (again) that I was a big fan and that I ran the most popular website devoted to her. At least, I think that's what I said. It's all a bit of a blur. Then I moved out of the way, and let some other people have there chance.

Since everyone has asked, yes, she looked beautiful. She was quite tan. She does show some signs of age (wrinkles at the corners of her eyes), but didn't look 59 years old; she's in great shape. She couldn't have been more gracious.

Since I didn't know anyone else there, I just meandered around a bit, and eventually circled back to Jacqueline. I managed to talk to her several times. At one point when the crowd has thinned a little, no one else was coming up, so I got to talk to her for 5 or 10 minutes straight. (Though my sense of time may be inaccurate.) The conversations blend together, so I don't remember in what order the subjects came up. But some of the things we talked about were "Swing" (some of her favorite lines got cut); "Inchon!" (she'd only seen it recently for the first time and thought it was a terrible movie); "The Capetown Affair"; current and new projects (she didn't mention anything definite, possibly something with Klaus Maria Brandauer); "Fascination" (no word when it might be released); and a bit more about "Dangerous Beauty".

At some point, some other people came up for photos. I asked someone if he would take my picture with Jacqueline, with my camera, which he did. Unfortunately, I have a goofy look on my face. There were many things I had thought of before (and after) to ask her, but I just didn't think of (or have time) to ask. After that, I hung around a few more minutes, but soon it felt like it was time to go, so I headed home.

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