“Oprah is the special guest this evening!” enthused Linda as we huffed from the Telluride’s Palm Theater to toward town after our morning movie.
I mentally started to rejigger my schedule.
In addition to moving films like Tigerland, about saving tigers in India and Russia, and Gay Chorus: Deep South, Mountainfilm has lots of extras. There are early morning coffee-talks with authors and film makers, often with the subjects of films in attendance. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, is the guest director and she was on the schedule as doing a special interview tonight. I was already planning to go. I’ve admired her writing and did a class with her last fall. But now getting a seat would require strategy, and missing an afternoon movie slot.
“They didn’t announce it,” said Linda, “because they were afraid people would come to the festival just to see her.” Linda had just been to a coffee talk with Cheryl so she was a good source.
Typically one hour before a movie starts a staff member with a red umbrella passes out numbered Q cards. You line up, in order, half an hour before show time. That half an hour will let you grab a bite to eat. If you aren’t in order they send you to the back of the line. I asked the fellow at the front desk if there are special procedures for Oprah.
“We’ll pass out Qs at five. You can get one extra Q if you have the person’s pass.”
“How many patrons are there?” I asked, referring to high-rent passes that allow folks to jump to the front of the line.
“There are 200 patrons,” he said. “They won’t all come of course, but we will start Qs with
200 since we need to accommodate all of the patrons. There are already about 10 people in line.” It was 1:30. She was supposed to be on at 6.
Figured it was safe to go grab some lunch and when I came back in about 40 minutes I was about 20 yards back. It was a festive atmosphere. People had lawn chairs. One group had a big cooler and a picnic. I’m sure they’d share if I asked. Some folks had bouquets of passes they were holding for others. This one’s husband was off playing soccer. (“He’s 80 years old,” said a friend.) The line grew by the moment. I was happy to be in the shade of a sign since I’d left my sunglasses at home. In a little bit the person with the red umbrella came to explain a change in program. “We are going to pass out Qs at 3:15.”
Some people–me, for example–were happy about this and others furiously started texting or calling loved ones to get their butts over to the Palm. I got number 389. From which you subtract 200 for the patrons and I was probably more like 250. For a 650 seat theater that was very comfortable. I’d even get a good seat downstairs.
So many people. There was a sea of people in front of me and an ocean of people behind me. And across the parking lot there was a lake of people waiting without Qs and with fingers firmly crossed. We were 8,750 feet closer to the sun and it felt like it. I put the hood of my coat on my head to protect part in my scalp.
Even though we were tired, everyone was good-natured, as usual at Mountainfilm only more so. Oprah is building a home here and there’s a lot of self-congratulatory talk about how Telluride is the best place in the world. I do love it here, but I’ve also been to other nice places.
Why did I think it was a good idea to wear my thick hiking socks?
And when are they going to open the doors?