December 16 - 18, 2002, L.A., Calif. & February 23, 2003, Jamestown, Calif.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

The Hill Valley Courthouse Square (aka Universal's Backlot) on the night of Monday, Dec 16, 2002.

Life is pretty dang weird sometimes. I never thought I'd spend the day the BTTF DVDs came out doing anything more than student teaching, then booking it to Target or Best Buy to pick up the Future DVDs to view at home. (Or not; my intent was to wrap them up and put them under the Christmas tree for me. Something BTTF-related to look forward to, I suppose.) But after hearing about a special screening on Tues, Dec 17th of the original BTTF at the Arclight theater in L.A., which would be followed by a Q&A with Bob Gale himself, things changed. I'd wanted to see BTTF in the theater forever, since it was the one filmed I missed having that experience with. And seeing Gale in person would be a thrill; I am probably most intimidated by writers above all else in creative arts.

It started out fairly innocently, in an IM exchange with an old friend (who happens to be a BTTF fan, too) in Sacramento. I lamented how much I wished I could go to that; she wished she had someone to drive down with to L.A. And then one thing led to another, I checked some flight prices, begged my parents for an "early" birthday gift, and suddenly I had a trip booked down there. (Unfortunately, I did not get word about Michael J. Fox's star dedication on the Hollywood Walk of Fame until, literally, an hour after I booked the flights. And I was too lazy or something to change things, which I regret to this day....)

Anyway, the original plan was to fly into Sacramento on Monday, Dec 16th, then my friend, Nicole, and I would drive to L.A., maybe spend the evening checking out Universal CityWalk, and the following day touring some of the BTTF film location sites before the movie screening. What we did not anticipate was the unexpected fortune of getting into the special Universal-sponsored DVD party that Monday night with a small group of fans who had commuted to the area -- or that we would spend the next day touring the film sites with said fans. Kevin Bosch spearheaded the bulk of the organization, which got a little crazy (for him; try organizing something when you're in another state!). But it all ended well. And in the end I had amazing memories and experiences that will last me a lifetime. And which I have struggled to capture as best I could in the following overwhelming selection of photographs....

The DVD Party: Monday, December 16, 2002 6:30 P.M.
Universal Studios Backlot

The Arrival....
Our small group of fans all arrived late to this most important of events. I blame the L.A. rush hour traffic. That, and the fact the earliest flight from Portland to Sacramento didn't arrive at the latter until about 10:30 A.M. Nicole and I drove like madwomen to L.A., though no time barriers were broken in her Honda Prelude when it reached 88 MPH. Then we had to check into the hotel and change. I was sweating and cursing to relieve my helplessness against the freeway rush hour, terrified we would miss the mysterious "special presentation" at 7:30. We got a bit turned around trying to find the entrance to the place, then had to pass through a couple security checks before driving a narrow road into the backlot at Universal Studios. The deal started at 6:30; we met "the guys" -- Ryan, Danny, Scott, Chris, and, of course, Kevin -- at 7:30 on the nose, practically, at the check in table for the shindig. After getting nifty blue BTTF wristbands snapped around our wrists, and checked off on The List, we went up a few stairs, turned left and found ourselves in a kind of tarpy tunnel on the Red Carpet. This being an hour after arrivals, it was pretty dead, so we mugged for some shots with the DVD posters, excited....

Red Carpet
A shot of the walk to the entrance of the tent, which covered the courthouse's grassy square, and where the party was actually held. Note the small cluster of people ahead to the left.... They came our direction, and someone else started posing for pictures with the posters, surrounded by a small crowd. I thought absolutely nothing of this, too busy trying to tell my brain that I was indeed here in the flesh. It was hard -- I had been up since 4:30 A.M., had about 3 hours of sleep the night before, and had skipped dinner because my stomach was so knotted and spinny. I was more eager to get to the end of the carpet and the party beyond.

It was about then when someone -- I think it was Kevin -- began to say, in a kind of half whisper, "Kristen, Kristen! There he is!"
I thought Kevin meant Bob Gale; I looked around, but saw no one I recognized, period. "Who?" I asked, not getting it. "Who is he? Where is he?"
"Michael J. Fox!" came the whispered reply.
I didn't see him -- and then the small cluster of people a few feet away parted and I saw him. Michael J. Fox. In the flesh. No more than ten feet away. He looked so familiar to me after so many years of seeing him on the TV and on photos in my room. The moment had surreality to it. He was posing for photos with his son, Sam. I froze and stared and suddenly had this wild urge to back away. I was also afraid to say anything or move anywhere towards him. I knew that I would probably see him that night at the party -- his name was in the press release, after all -- but I had not expected to run into him there on the red carpet. At all.

None of our group moved, too polite or shy or stunned to intrude or interrupt. I assumed Fox was with his family, since I saw his son there, and a few girls who were about the age of his twin daughters. (I later found out that this wasn't so; just Fox, his mom, and Sam had come out for the events in L.A. that day.) Before things could sink in, he went off down the carpet with the little group, under the plastic tarp curtains, to an area cordoned off from us. Sigh. But I was far from upset; I figured I'd run into him later and could get a picture and a moment to tell him how cool he was. So we went on to the party....

At Very First Sight
This picture was taken as soon as I stepped into the tent, before I had time to take much in at all. It was dim; some of the quality from far off shots (especially) is shoddy. I apologize. My "nice camera" was in the hotel room, and I had borrowed my parents' Elph (which was very small) to take the photographs from the party.

We all kind of stopped and gasped upon entering. The place was filled with people and noise. Music from the BTTF soundtrack -- "Night Train," at that moment -- was playing. There were alcoholic bars and buffets of food set up, and the selection included little clocktower cookies! And all of it was complimentary!

Waiters and waitresses were dressed up in 1950's costumes. There was a dance floor set up in the center, with a kind of soda shop backdrop. Colored strobe lights with patterns were projecting on the white ceiling of the tent. Flatscreen TVs were set up, rigged to DVD players with the BTTF Trilogy DVDs in them, so people could look through and slap some headphones on to hear things.

A sign was set up near the entrance -- a replication of the "Welcome to Hill Valley" sign -- and right next to the dirt pathway on the lawn in the film. There was another part at the back where one could have their photos taken before a green screen, and get inserted into the film -- for free, of course. There were also round tables with about four or five chairs around them (some with "Reserved for [Celeb Name]" signs), and a stage to the left of the main entrance, with a BTTF-logoed curtain. Media cameras were set up and aiming their lenses there, so we figured something was coming up.

Welcome to Hill Valley
Aforementioned sign.

"Valley" Girls
Nicole and I, posing with the sign.

Another Celeb Sighting....
As we walked into the party, gawking, I looked up and saw Christopher Lloyd walking about ten feet away. I did a complete doubletake, then gasped and spun around, nearly smacking a man in the face in my excited haste. Nicole had been behind me, but she was not at the moment. She was snapping this happy picture, of Lloyd with Claudia Wells, as they walked towards where the celebs were gathering, backstage....

Media Vultures
Maybe because I was a journalism major in college, and am somewhat jaded by the media in general, but I like to collect photos of them at the (very few) Hollywood events I've been at. We knew something was up because they were all clustering their cameras towards the curtain. That one dude on the far right looks almost like a security guard for 'em....

Clocktower Cookies!
Nicole can back this up, but on the drive down we were speculating at one point what kind of food they might have, and I joked "Maybe they'll have little clocktower cookies!" Well, um, they did!

Incidentally, during this time we wandered around to check out the party layout. In one area in the back, Nicole and I saw this guy who looked vaguely familiar staring at us -- and realized it was Sting! (I saw a lot of "vaguely familiar-looking" people around that evening, but celebrities in person look different than they do on TV or in pictures, and I can honestly say that -- aside from the BTTF people -- Sting was the only one I recognized without too much brain power.) Later, when we had staked out our spot near the stage, we saw him again and I pushed Nicole over to get a picture with him. He laughed and was like, "Oh, you don't want a photo with me; I'm just some guy named Gordon, no one special. The real stars are on the stage!" Nicole came back and told this to me -- it was too loud for me to hear the exact words -- and I was like, "Oh my God! Gordon is Sting's real name! You didn't know that?!" She didn't -- and for some reason this is now a very random joke between us now.

Staging Area
This is what the curtain/stage looked like prior to the "surprise event" that had been postponed (thank God) until 8 P.M. Those were the celebrity tables -- and that woman in red dead center is Michael J. Fox's mother. I recognized her right away and I almost went up to talk to her, because the grandmother of one of my friends in grad school is actually friends with her, and knows her quite well (and my friend, Sarah, has met her several times before and said how nice she is), but my nerves kept me from doing so. Of course.

And Now, Our Feature Presentation...
The president of Universal -- I think -- came up to start the show. He talked about BTTF, a bit, and then introduced a montage of video clips and interviews with some of the cast. I was too distracted and nervous to pay much attention to this. I knew something big was gonna happen soon, and I was on edge. And snapping photos.

The Audience Watches Raptly
A snapshot of the audience during aforementioned introduction.

...And then smoke machines kicked in, the announcer said something like, "And now, the cast of the Back to the Future films, reunited for the first time!" and the curtain dropped! Flashbulbs!

They went around, introducing all the cast members on the stage, but the cheering was so loud I could barely hear it. (FYI -- That's Marc McClure stepping forward in the second shot.) I was also frantically trying to take pictures. And I noticed something -- Michael J. Fox was in the DeLorean! I could see the top of his head moving around inside!

"Michael J. Fox... And his son, Sam!"
Fox was introduced last: "And, finally, Michael J. Fox... and his son, Sam!" Sam got out of the driver's side door; Fox came out of the passenger side. I was cursing, since my camera chose this moment to finish the first role of film and rewind. This is Nicole's shot of the debut.

Words from Fox
Fox and his son came to the podium, and then the former made a brief speech about how it was amazing to be back, and that the weather was even making it feel like it had during the filming of the movie. (It was a cool, damp day.) And that when he was filming the sequels, Sam was born -- and now his son was about the same size as he was now!

Bob Z Speaks!
After Michael J. Fox stepped away from the podium, amid cheers, to accept hugs and backpats from his fellow past cast members, director Robert Zemeckis came up to have a few words. The bit I remember the best was that "BTTF was rejected by every studio by being too mild, and they suggested we take it to Disney -- who rejected it for being too dirty! So we were too dirty for Disney...." Heh heh. Maybe I find this more amusing than it is because I worked at Walt Disney World for a summer....

The Media Swarms!
After Zemeckis concluded his pretty brief speech, celebrities began to pose with one another on the stage for media photo ops. We were reduced with the other guests to the space directly before the stage.

More Photo Ops...
See above for explanation.

Nice Shot... If I Was Closer!
Fox, Thompson, and Lloyd pose for what was a cute shot... damn the distance I was at, and the shoddy zoom! Damn it all!

Fox and Thompson
This was the closest shot I got of Michael J. Fox the whole evening. (And I think I held the camera over my head for this one!) He left right after this -- and, rather than come down to shake hands with the audience, he left. Sniff. My one chance to meet him, gone. To this day, I would definitely live parts of this evening differently if given the sleek DeLorean time machine....

Christopher Lloyd (again)
This was the closest shot I got of Chris Lloyd on the stage. I have no idea who the guy is with him!

Some of the stars drifted away from the stage and came down to the main area of the party, where they mingled with fans. Nicole captured this shot of Chris Lloyd signing autographs, which blew me away -- I knew he wasn't partial to events like this. I was trying to work up the nerve to approach him to ask for a picture. I was so shy that I kept waiting as other members of our fan party got his autograph, etc, and by the time I worked up the nerve and took a step forward... he turned around and went off, and I was too intimidated to go after him. He left after that. Great Regret #2 of the evening!

Lea Thompson
Lea before the stage; I believe that's Bob Gale on the far left, next to her.

Famous People Eat, Too!
A shot of Bob Gale enjoying the happenin' hamburgers that were provided there.

Meeting Bob Gale
Bob Gale was throwing out the same intimidation factor for me as everyone else there, but Kevin actually got invited to the thing through some connections with Gale, so he had no hesitation in dragging me over there to introduce me. I can't remember what I said; I was terrified. (I actually spoke more with him the following night, when I saw him at the Arclight and had him sign my DVD booklet. I mentioned I was such a fan I came all the way from Portland for this, and he looked up and kind of gave me this look, and I was like, "Oh, I do have a life, I promise!" and he was like, "Well, I'm glad it includes this!") I managed to ask for a photo, and he complied quite politely. There were about 3 cameras from other people aimed at me when this was taken, hence my eyes looking in a different way. Yes, I was so frazzled it never occurred to me to STARE AT MY OWN CAMERA LENS!

Meeting Lea Thompson
With my first up-close-and-personal-encounter-with-someone-famous down, I felt more confident (slightly) and managed to approach Lea Thompson, who was nearby, and ask her if I could get a picture. She was quite nice. (Actually, everyone was; all the BTTF people I met were more than gracious and polite.) And no, I don't think we look alike! More than one person said we did after seeing this picture -- and here I thought it would hammer home how I did not look like her, because I just do not see it!

Meeting Claudia Wells
My goal for the rest of the evening was to work up the nerve to get photographs with celebrities. I managed to get enough courage to ask Claudia Wells -- the original Jennifer -- if I could get a picture with her. She, again, was super nice! And I'm not taller than her, I don't think -- I had these boots on that night that made me go from 5'6" to about 5'10"!

Meeting One of the Gang Members
Another photo with a BTTF cast member, Ricky Dean Logan. (He played one of Griff's gang members in 2015.) Also very nice.

The Clocktower!
The crowds began to thin out around 9 P.M., I think. We took the opportunity to get on the stage -- where they were taking complimentary photographs of people with the DeLorean -- and look at the clock tower steps that the stage was kind of built on.

The DeLorean!
The car that was on the stage, which was pretty dang cool. Except I kept bumping my head on that gullwing door! When I get one, I will probably give myself a concussion....

A View from the Top -- er Stage!
The party was pretty much over at this point; it was probably about 10:45 P.M. All the stress, exhaustion, no dinner, excitement, etc, hit me then. I thought I'd collapse. (And, unfortunately, I had insomnia that night from being so keyed up; I think I slept maybe 8 hours over 4 nights, total, that entire trip.)

The "Tour Group"
Before the night came to a close, we got a couple souvenirs -- a shot of us with the car, solo, and one of us all together. I jokingly refer to this as the "Hill Valley Tour Group." Seems apt. We left with plans to reunite at the "Starting Point" (where Marty took off in the DeLorean for the clocktower) at about 9:30 A.M. to begin our tour of film sights....

Continue on to the Hill Valley Filmsite Tour.... >>