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Accomplishment #8,536

Charles and Maria Sotelo of High Desert Monuments in Hesperia, the creators of the "Modern Times" memorial plaque, with film historian Leonard Maltin, at the 2011 SCV ChaplinFest in Newhall, California, on Saturday, February 5, 2011.

When I was 18 years old, I attended a lecture given by John Goddard, the “world’s greatest goal achiever.” I remember being enthralled that day by a film he made about navigating the entire length of the Congo River in Africa. Afterwards, he exhorted all of us in attendance to go home and write down the ten things we most wanted to accomplish in our lives.

I took him up on it, and soon found that ten things weren’t enough. Ten items became twenty, which became fifty, which eventually grew to encompass thousands of things.

Since that day over thirty years ago, I have maintained the list, adding and checking things off almost daily. Thanks to power of writing my goals down, as of today, I have listed 8,536 items on my accomplishment list.

The entry for accomplishment number 8,536 is only three words: Help create ChaplinFest.

That’s it. But I think of these three words as the title of a book, with the thousands of sights, sounds, and memories of the event representing the words inside.

Michael McNevin, Tippi Hedren, Kimi, E.J., and Patrick McClellan at ChaplinFest on Saturday, February 5.

As a way of thanking all of the people who attended our inaugural 2011 Santa Clarita Valley ChaplinFest last Friday and Saturday, I would like to list some of these moments as they appear in my head:

Leonard Maltin and Tippi Hedren mimicking Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard in the final scene from Modern Times by walking arm-in-arm down the center of Sierra Highway near Agua Dulce … Seeing Chaplin’s overalls from Modern Times as well as his prop wrenches and oil can … Kimi and I hearing our names on Jack FM during our friend Tami Heidi’s “Jack-tivities,” in which she announced ChaplinFest … the beautiful monument created by the equally wonderful Maria and Charles Sotelo of High Desert Monuments of Hesperia … riding to the actual Modern Times site with Leonard and Alice Maltin … finally meeting author John Bengtson, who I have admired for years … spending time with David Totheroh, who is the grandson of Chaplin’s longtime cameraman, Rollie Totheroh … hanging out with our buddies Chris and Charlie Epting … all the great vendors … the hundreds of hours of hard work put in by volunteers like Ed, Ralph, Brenda, Paul and all the others too numerous to name … the graciousness of Tippi Hedren, and the love she has for her staff at the Shambala Preserve … the bus that serves as a mobile film studio Hugh Munro Neely brought from the Mary Pickford Institute … seeing the very first copies of Steve Bingen’s new book about the MGM backlots … watching Tippi clown for the cameras with our cardboard Charlie Chaplin cutout … the humor of Alice Maltin and the generosity of her husband Leonard … the beautiful proclamations presented to us by the state, county, and city … the amazing Q&A session between Leonard and Tippi on what it was like for her to work with Charlie Chaplin on A Countess From Hong Kong … the dynamic duo of Jim and Pam Elyea talking with David Totheroh about what it was like to work on Chaplin … Tippi’s story about how an elephant at Shambala once ate Sophia Loren’s address book … the donations we received to help pay for the monument … the performances of the great Michael McNevin and Tracy Newman … the laughter coming from members of all generations during our screenings of Modern Times and The Pilgrim … the crowd cracking up when Tippi asked Leonard during the Q&A if he would like to know what it was like for her to work with Chaplin, and Leonard jokingly responding, “No!” … and especially, the camaraderie shared between all of our organizers: Ayesha Saletore, Beth Werling, Rachel Barnes, and my beautiful wife Kimi …

I could go on and on.

If you were unable to attend this weekend, don’t sweat it. Because of the HUGE success of our first event, there WILL be a 2012 ChaplinFest that you can attend!

Put it on your list of things you want to accomplish.

The "Modern Times" monument which we plan to place at the site of the final scene.

To see more ChaplinFest images, click HERE

To make a contribution to help pay for the monument, click HERE

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Quite A Lady

Tippi Hedren.

I couldn’t let the month end without sending belated birthday wishes out to a very special neighbor of ours.

This woman, like many good neighbors, works a lot around the house, does a ton of volunteer work, as is famous for loving her cats.

But in her case, the house she putters around is called the Shambala Preserve, and much of her volunteer work goes towards housing and feeding her cats – some which weigh hundreds of pounds!

You see, this special neighbor happens to be movie legend Tippi Hedren, who rescues lions, leopards, ligers, tigers, and bobcats at her preserve near Acton, California.

Tippi’s Shambala Preserve, which is maintained by the Roar Foundation, grew out of a film that she starred in and produced in the early 80s called Roar, which was filmed at Shambala’s current home on Soledad Canyon Road.

She began rescuing exotic cats a short time later, and today Shambala houses over 70 exotic wild animals, including Michael Jackson’s Bengal tigers which she acquired when Neverland Ranch closed.

Working around wild animals is a cakewalk compared to the stress Tippi must have felt making her film debut in 1963 for legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds.

Before this, Tippi worked as a model. Hitchcock was first captivated by her striking Nordic beauty after seeing her in a television commercial. She was directed by Hitchcock again the following year in Marnie.

While her days with Hitchcock are well documented, most people forget that she also appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s final film in 1967, called A Countess From Hong Kong. In all likelihood, Tippi is the only person to have ever worked for both of the two knighted English film masters.

Countess was filmed in London after Chaplin was exiled from the United States. Tippi co-starred in the film with Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, and Chaplin’s own son Sydney.

Tippi, who celebrated a birthday on January 19, works tirelessly to support Shambala, to get laws passed that prevent the breeding of exotic cats as pets, and somehow still finds time to appear in the occasional film and television role.

Tippi will be at ChaplinFest this weekend to help us honor the 75th anniversary of the release of Chaplin’s landmark silent comedy Modern Times, which had its final scene filmed just a few miles from the Shambala Preserve. ChaplinFest kicks off the evening of Friday, February 4, and continues all day Saturday, February 5 at the William S. Hart Park.

We will be placing a monument honoring the final scene inside the park on Saturday at 3 PM, and later that evening, Tippi will be interviewed by Leonard Maltin before a dinner and a special screening of Modern Times inside Hart Hall.

Tickets are still available! For information, please check here.

And speaking of ChaplinFest, did you happen to catch our article on the cover of AOLNEWS.COM yesterday? You can read it here. Here is a picture from the home page yesterday.