For seven Golden Age veterans, the show goes on
A Vaudeville comedian still working at 100, a stunning siren who dated Ronald Reagan when he was a Democrat, a kid just out of college who sold The Ten Commandments around the world, a Disney legend who met Walt when she was a little girl and spent her life with Mickey Mouse – these showbiz vets share wisdom and inspiration garnered over seven lifetimes in the business. Residing together at the Motion Picture & Television Fund home in the San Fernando Valley, these entertainment lifers are “bonded by the show.”
It all started when I volunteered for a Bingo game with elderly residents at the Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) home in the San Fernando Valley.
That day, we volunteers were annihilated at bingo (those retirees are sharks!), but I came away a victor in other ways. My mind was filled with stories and wisdom garnered from lifetimes in the biz – tales of chances taken, passions followed, and few, if any, regrets.
The oldies seemed, somehow, younger than me.
I wanted to share that experience with the world, so my friend Hector Muelas and I began to bounce around the idea of a film about the residents.
I pitched the idea to Ken Scherer and Jennifer Clymer at the MPTF who were very supportive. The next thing I knew, I’d resigned from an extremely good job at an extremely good company to embark on a very different adventure: making a self-financed film about seven showbiz vets with a combined age of 662!
I grew up in Australia. Maybe that explains it.
As a kid, I would watch Disney cartoons on a Sunday night, Gilligan’s Island re-runs, The Cosby Show; these are my earliest memories of 'America', the place I would be lured to, fall for, and in which I’d begin my own path in the entertainment industry. And here, at the MPTF, were folks who played a role – big and small – in creating the world that had called me.
Over the next six months, I dropped in regularly and followed seven inspiring individuals.
I had gone to that first bingo game at the MPTF assuming I was the one doing the volunteering. Turns out that the amazing industry vets I met there – the 'Showfolk' – were the ones volunteering that day. For me.
Ned McNeilage, August 2014