By Linda Shortman
I was a volunteer at the Newport Film Festival in the early 2000s. What a great time I had. The other volunteers and staff who were not only hard-working and dependable, but they were also like me: big time film fans! Camaraderie and conversations came easily.
I enjoyed working the transportation desk because I got to meet so many interesting people. I didn’t really know the mean streets of Newport at first, so I worked dispatch, organizing rides for festival guests to and from the airport, train station, and around town was a blast. Eventually, I decided to get behind the wheel. And led to a wonderful adventure.
In 2005, the festival’s Man of the Year was Michael McKean. He was hosting a retrospective of his film work, culminating with a screening of This is Spinal Tap, along with his co-stars Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer. When I arrived for my shift early in the week I looked at the schedule, and my name was alongside Christopher Guest’s.
I approached the transportation coordinator and asked, “Do you want me to drive Christopher Guest?” He smiled and said, “Yup.” I was thrilled, being a huge fan of the filmmaker’s work.
On Saturday morning, I drove to the hotel to pick up Guest and Shearer. I took the men to a sound check, the awards ceremony and their acoustic set at the local jazz club. They were kind, funny and conversational. The acoustic set was fantastic and I got a taste of what celebrities go through, when our car was surrounded by fans in the parking lot of the venue. I used all back entrances after that. It was a memorable day. And that was that, I thought.
On Sunday, however, I got a call to pick Guest up at the hotel and take him shopping and sightseeing.
Yes, me! For the next several hours we strolled the streets and docks of the City by the Sea and I helped him buy souvenirs for his family. On our way to look at shoes for his wife and daughter he said he did not understand women’s fascination with shoes. I shared a theory I heard in the film In Her Shoes, that shoes are the one thing that always fits. Women find comfort in that.
That that made sense to him. In fact, he shared that he feels the same about guitars and told me that he has a larger-than-it-should-be collection of the instruments. The next time I watched This is Spinal Tap, the scene of Nigel Tufnel giving a tour of a room full of guitars had all new meaning.
For the rest of the afternoon we talked about our families, travel, history, fishing and food before he had to go to the airport. Interestingly, we never discussed film. I am so grateful to have spent time with this thoughtful person.
Though Christopher Guest was not chatty about his work, these are rentals that showcase both his directing and acting talents.
In The Princess Bride we follow a quest for one true love. Guest plays the six fingered man and gives a funny, swashbuckling performance.
England’s loudest band goes on tour and goes to eleven. As the moody Nigel Tufnel, Guest plays a rock star with an attitude and a heart.
Guest explores all of the wonderful quirks of small-town theater as Corky St. Clair in a very funny, very sweet portrayal. Maybe someone from Broadway will make a discovery.
A memorial concert that features The Folksmen and Mitch & Mickey. Behind the camera, Guest brings a sweet story of love in the world of music… folk music.
In one of the most recommendable films I’ve ever seen, Guest walks us through the wonderful world of dog shows. The characters are unforgettable.