T H E F L A S H G O R D O N 3 5 T H A N N I V E R S A R Y C E L E B R A T I O N
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B A F T A , L O N D O N
Press Release –
35th “Flash Gordon” Anniversary Celebration
BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, London
Home of BAFTA
28th November 2015
In December, 1980, the film Flash Gordon first hit cinema screens like a bolt of lightning, and on Saturday 28th November, the cast and crew once again were reunited for a celebration of that iconic film.
Creator and Show Producer Lisa Downs, event company Sledge, and sponsors Rosewood London, Stress Free Print, and Addison Lee, brought together Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Peter Wyngarde, Brian Blessed, Mike Hodges, Howard Blake, George Gibbs, Trevor Butterfield, Dave Watson and Brian Cook for a night of celebration.
The evening took place at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, for a black tie event with other UK celebrities such as Matt Berry, Nicky Clarke and Marcus Brigstocke.
A welcome reception featuring original props of the film, was followed by a screening of the 1980 classic, and a Q&A panel with host Jason Lenzi – founder of Bif Bang Pow!
To help celebrate this historic event, artist Alex Ross created a stunning and unique print inspired by the occasion that was available to all ticket holders, before being released as a print to the public next year –
The evening also raised money for the charity “MediCinema” –www.medicinema.org.uk.
Sam Jones – “Flash Gordon”
Melody Anderson – “Dale Arden”
Brian Blessed – “Prince Vultan”
Peter Wyngarde – “Klytus”
Mike Hodges – Director
George Gibbs – SFX Supervisor
Trevor Butterfield – “Hawksman”
Brian Cook – 1st Ad
Howard Blake – Composer
About BAFTA 195 Piccadilly
BAFTA 195 Piccadilly, the home of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, is situated in the heart of London’s historic West End. Ideal for conferences, exhibitions, celebrations, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings combining all the prestige and glamour of the movies, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly offers understated elegance as well as a number of spaces, which can be transformed for any requirement or theme. Event spaces include a state of the art cinema with 227 seats, an intimate screening room, mezzanine space and gallery as well as an option for a whole venue buy-out at weekends. As featured in Event Magazine’s Top 20, BAFTA 195 Piccadilly holds a full wedding licence for the Princess Anne Theatre, the David Lean Room and the Run Run Shaw Theatre, catering for weddings and receptions from 12 to 350. www.bafta.org/venue-hire
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is an independent charity that supports, develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public. In addition to its Awards ceremonies, BAFTA has a year-round programme of learning events and initiatives – featuring workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes – in the UK, USA and Asia; it offers unique access to the world’s most inspiring talent and connects with a global audience of all ages and backgrounds. BAFTA relies on income from membership subscriptions, individual donations, trusts, foundations and corporate partnerships to support its ongoing outreach work. To access the best creative minds in film, television and games production, visit www.bafta.org/guru. For more, visit www.bafta.org.
P R E S S G A L L E R Y
A series of images selected for the International press. For the full and comprehensive gallery, click here
T H E E X P E R I E N C E – A P E R S O N A L V I E W
I think it was Sam Jones himself that first hinted a Flash Gordon reunion could potentially be taking place in London – city of its production 35 years earlier – on his Facebook page. The rumours would persist as months went by and as footage from the ‘Life After Flash’ documentary steadily emerged an Indiegogo campaign popped up out of nowhere to make it official and make it happen.
Much as I had longed for such an occasion I was initially sceptical. The target seemed ambitious to say the least and as I had envisioned more of a traditional ‘con’ type event I was surprised that the ticket price was so high (even though the incentives were admittedly very tempting.) so with a heavy heart I resigned myself to not attending.
Anyways, a black tie event at BAFTA? really? This was a celebration of geekdom in the extreme for a movie that is almost the perfect definition of cult, not exactly Merchant Ivory. Where were the autograph opportunities going to be? Why do we need a screening of the film we obviously all know and love and have probably seen a thousand times already? I just didn’t understand it.
Then, a couple of revelations. First was from show organiser Lisa Downs who I had emailed (not expecting a reply) who turned out to be not only open to ideas, (I mean, who the hell was I to try and influence which direction her event should take?!) but listened carefully and considered my suggestions. When some were implemented she had me on board for good and was willing to help in any way possible. But even though she was a pleasure to talk to I still wasn’t convinced.
Word had obviously spread by now as my very good friend Chris King had gotten in touch to say he’d already bought tickets so why on Earth hadn’t I? Besides being a lifelong fan, Chris had briefly crossed the border into Tinseltown itself by having his Rocket Cycle research adapted for a full-scale recreation of the prop for the movie TED a few years back (read about it here) so was very keen to mix it up with the guests.
As the weeks went by and contributions went up and up I started to believe there may be some merit to this thing after all – and then the whirlwind that is Jason Lenzi breezed across this site and straight into my inbox with such unbridled enthusiasm that I was reconsidering going just to meet him –
The sheer charisma that is Jason Lenzi. Read his interview here
The final impetus for buying the ticket (besides the campaign actually hitting the target!) was the wonderful Bob Lindenmeyer. We had been in touch for some time regarding my Flash costume reproduction and he had assured me he’d be bringing along some items from his astounding collection, including the iconic sword and red tank top. Now that I couldn’t miss, even if the event didn’t live up to expectations…
After the months of buildup, the night itself seemed to come literally in a Flash. Chris, his lovely girlfriend and I pulled up in a taxi in our Sunday best outside of BAFTA in Picadilly and were astonished to see crowds of autograph hunters and paparazzi outside waiting on the celebs. Right then and there I realised my perceptions about this whole deal had been wrong. Far from a busy, sweaty con, this was Oscar Night on Planet Mongo and we were there for the afterparty.
BAFTA itself is an appropriately grand building adorned with black & White portraits of stars old and new. In stark contrast to the plain walls of the David Lean room was the colourful table of Flash props and costumes as promised, all 100% accessible and meticulously laid out . After a warm greeting from the girls at the reception we took our VIP passes and hurriedly went over to realise the first of many boyhood dreams…
The Mini-Mongo Museum – A sight to behold.
Standing proudly next to his artefacts, Bob Lindenmeyer was the first person we encountered. Having emailed back and forth so long it was such a pleasure to find Bob every bit as cool and savvy a character as you could hope to meet. He’s well aware of the significance of his items to fans and is pleased to share it – even offering the opportunity to handle these most rare of props. As with most screenused items, up close they are surprisingly rough and thrown together and all the more fascinating for it. Just to know these things were actually on set all those years ago was worth the admission price alone.
Despite a glittering guest list, my biggest disappointment early on was the cancellation of the long-touted Ornella Muti. I had consoled myself with the idea there would only be fleeting glimpses of the celebs on the night anyway so It mattered not. Wrong again. The stars not only made an appropriately glamorous entrance, but went straight into meet & greet with the crowd. Before I even knew what was happening I had my arm around Dale Arden herself, and she approached me!!
If you have ever had the privilege of meeting the delightful Melody Anderson before you will know what I’m talking about. Personable, grounded and no end of fun she was a sheer delight.
I had in no way expected what was basically a social gathering with the stars where you were free to rub shoulders and take pics with them while enjoying (several) drinks. No con I had ever been to had come close to the sheer class of this night and to think I had given it no credit. Credit was, unsurprisingly, all due to Lisa, who had shattered all my misconceptions thus far. But there was much more to come…
Sam J. Jones is the living embodiment of a comic-book hero. Literally larger than life with beaming smile and gravelly voice, his swagger alone is enough to convince he could save every one of us. Commanding the room with his beautiful wife beside him, Sam cut a gentle swathe through the crowd, taking time to speak to everybody. This was, justifiably, his night and it was a delight to see him interact with fans.
Contrary to the schedule as illustrated on our passes – (another great design, Bob at it again!) the screening was already an hour late and there was a Q&A to follow! though the socialising could’ve gone on and on we were finally ushered into the Princess Anne Theatre to take our seats. The setting (red drapes etc) was perfection and even though everybody present must have seen the picture many times there was definite anticipation in the room.
First to take the stage was Lisa and after a short introduction an exclusive trailer (featuring new footage) for Life After Flash played out to a captive audience, followed by a genuinely touching trailer for MediCinema. For the unitiated as we were, it is clearly a very worthy cause –
I had emailed Lisa ahead of time to ask about the condition of the print, as having seen some other films from the era screened unrestored looking dirty and horribly dated I was concerned it might spoil the experience. In fact, having not seen it theatrically since my dad first took me to the Kings 123 Cinema in West Bromwich in 1980 I was full of trepidation. Would I enjoy it as much? Could it still hold up on the big screen?
In fact, the crystal clear print and booming sound were the least of it. What made it so rich was the atmosphere and reactions of my like-minded fans I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by. While not quite a sing-along event Rocky Horror style all the famous lines (you can imagine which) drew the appropriate responses and it lived up to my every expectation –
Take my seat for the phonecam video above which manages to convey the sheer awesomeness of the post-screening Q&A session better than I could ever express. Kudos to the comparing talents of Jason Lenzi who had the unenviable job of trying to restrain the uncaged beast that is Brian Blessed in full flow while challenging the rest of the panel with some inspired and original questions.
Missing from the video is the closing of the panel which was a long letter (read aloud by Brian Blessed) from a relative of Dino De Delaurentiis bringing some much needed closure to any misunderstandings that had endured in the intervening years and thanking everybody for their contribution. This was echoed by Sam Jones who was keen to set the story straight about his allegedly turbulent relationship with the Producer, acknowledging him for providing his big break.
Heading back the the David Lean room with mind positively swimming by now I wondered what else could possibly top the evening so far. I was pulled from my daze by FlashFan Rob Beardsley who recognised me from the site and introduced himself. Rob is a friendly giant and we hit it off immediately (look out for contributions from his great collection in future posts). As we talked about what precious memorabilia we’d managed to snag already on the night I noticed noneother than Mike Hodges himself was trying to enjoy a quiet drink but was in fact being mobbed. I waited for the crowd to disperse a little and slid my programme under his pen to sign while thanking him for making such a groundbreaking movie. As I turned round I bumped into Sam and did the same –
Curiously I had not seen Bob Lindenmeyer since I noticed he left the screening 10mins in and when he reappeared looking smug I had to ask where he’d been. His bombshell was that the cast had been sat in the adjacent Green Room during the show catching up on the last 35 years with hilarious results, and he had witnessed it all. Before I had chance to say how much I envied him he hurriedly beckoned me over with my camera as apparently something very special was about to take place –
Preferring to avoid the crowds, legendary British actor Peter Wyngarde had taken quiet refuge by the reception desk and was sat observing the furore. Sensing opportunity, Bob had yanked out the Klytus mask and hood from his prop display and had been granted an audience by his representative, beckoning me over to capture the moment on camera. And what a moment it was. Peter seemed as genuinely touched to be presented with his iconic costume as Bob was pleased to show him (read Bob’s reaction below). Of all the staggering occurrences that had befallen me so far, this was top amongst them –
Bob was on a roll now and had gotten the attention of Mike Hodges, also having been shown the Klytus mask was then given a guided tour of the costumes and props and seemed just as bewildered by their prescence as the fuss all around him. With so much effort made to bring these precious relics across the pond, Bob had earned every plaudit and was clearly enjoying the responses provoked…
Catching up again with Chris King as the evening was coming to a close he told me how he longed to speak to Sam about his efforts to recreate the Rocket Cycle for TED but was hesitant to approach. Sam had worked the room long and hard all night, not once denying any fan his time and attention with his beautiful wife patiently watching from the sidelines. Eventually Chris seized his moment and told Sam all about his endeavours to accurately reproduce the famous prop. Sam seemed genuinely impressed, mentioning the producers had gifted it to him and it was now parked in his garage, which Chris was overjoyed to hear and made his night…
One item of merch that I had never quite managed to obtain to date was the Flash orchestral score on CD, a desire compounded by having just listening to the affable composer’s fascinating stories about its creation. Missing out again by not winning the several copies raffled out earlier I was amazed to see a few randomly appear on the programme table available to purchase there and then for a donation to MediCinema!
Buying it up quickly I turned to see an empty space where Howard had been standing and was told that he had just left for the evening. Due to all the other lucky encounters so far It felt churlish to not be able to get his autograph on the cover so didn’t worry but then Bob dashed back into the room saying ‘Howard is still here!!”. Never had rapid removal of cellophane felt like such a pitched battle but just as Howard slipped his raincoat on, my Sharpie was in his hand and my night just kept getting better –
With that the event was drawing to a very satisfactory close and the guests had started to make good their escape. I felt I should shake the hand of Sam J. Jones just one more time to at least try and show my gratitude to him for continuing to be such a positive influence and class act. As ever, his grip is solid and the demeanour genuine.
Finally, as the parting gift of Special Edition Alex Ross Flash posters in their cardboard tubes were hauled away by all, I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to Lisa Downs and thanking her for efforts in transcending this event from the potentially mundane to the positively sublime. I already felt so totally spoiled by the experience to the point where I imagine no con could ever aspire to it . Bashful and sweet, Lisa thanked us for coming and for all we know probably collapsed from exhaustion under such pressure soon as the doors were closed. From the funding campaign to the BAFTA stairwell the whole thing rested on her tiny shoulders and she had managed to put on the fanboy celebration to end them all. For this and the unimaginable encounters in-between I will be eternally grateful.
Martin Lakin – Webmaster, GORDONISALIVE.com