Friday, September 3, 2021

The 10th Anniversary of #TCMParty

Today is the 10th anniversary of TCMParty. For those of you who are wondering what TCMParty is, it is a collective live tweet of movies on Turner Classic Movies using the hashtag #TCMParty. "TCMParty" is also used of the group of TCM fans who tweet using that hashtag. In the beginning TCMParties were scheduled and had hosts who tweet trivia about the specific movie then airing. Essentially, they curated the live tweet. While there are still scheduled TCMParties with hosts, over time TCMParty has evolved to where it takes place 24 hours a day and often without a host. Since that very first TCMParty on September 3 2011, TCMParty has become an established part of Turner Classic Movies fandom. TCM has announced TCMParties on their official Twitter account and TCM hosts have served as hosts of TCMParties. On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of TCMParty, Turner Classic Movies celebrated along with the rest of us. Today TCM released a video recognizing the 10th anniversary.

While TCMParty would become the best known collective live tweet of movies on Turner Classic Movies, it was by no means the first. In June 2011 TCM scheduled classic drive-in movies each Thursday of that month. With a block of giant insect movies airing on June 9 2011, then, a group of TCM fans live tweeted to the films using the hashtag #TCMBugOut. That night fans then live tweeted to Them! (1954), Tarantula (1955), The Cosmic Monsters (1958), The Black Scorpion (1957), and The Wasp Woman (1959). I remember I live tweeted to Them! until my power went out, although I was unaware of the hashtag #TCMBugOut until after the fact.

Of course, the following Thursday Turner Classic Movies aired drive-in movies in other genres, so the hashtag #TCMBugOut was then no longer appropriate. For the following Thursdays, then, the hashtag #TCMDriveIn was used. While #TCMDriveIn ceased being used at the end of June 2011, after which TCM wasn't showing drive-in movies every month, it would give rise to the #DriveInMob, a collective live tweet every Thursday to a classic drive-in movie (not just the ones showed on TCM).

As to TCMParty, it was Kathleen Callaway, who was using the Twitter handle hockmangirl at the time, who came up with the idea. Here it must be noted that Kathleen was unaware of #TCMBugOut and #TCMDriveIn at the time she conceived TCMParty. Anyway, like many TCM fans at the time (including myself), Kathleen would live tweet movies on Turner Classic Movies. She decided live tweeting to movies on TCM would be easier if there was a hashtag with which fans could keep track of all the tweets. It was then Kathleen Callway who was the first TCMParty host, choosing a specific movie from the schedule and then letting everyone know that there would be a TCM Party for that particular film. It was then on September 3 2011 that the first TCMParty was held to the classic Casablanca (1942).

In October 2011 the name most associated with TCMParty joined as a host: Paula Guthat. Paula's impact on TCMParty would be such that she is usually counted as its co-founder. It was after Paula began hosting that it was decided that TCMParty should have its own Twitter account. Since tcmparty was already taken, it was then decided to use the handle TCM_Party. Not long afterwards Tumblr and Facebook pages were created for TCMParty as well.

TCMParty would see changes in its hosts over time. Kathleen Callway left in March 2012 to concentrate on her handicrafts and animal rescue. Paula had convinced silent movie Trevor Jost to guest host the F. W. Murnau movie Sunrise (1927). With Kathleen's departure, Trevor then became TCMParty's newest host. It would be later that Joel Williams, the name most associated with TCMParty besides Paula Guthat, would become a host. Of course, there have been a number of guest hosts over the years. Illeana Douglas guest hosted on Friday nights in May 2013 when she was hosting the TCM programming block Second Looks. Other TCM hosts have also guest hosted movies on TCMParty, including Eddie Muller and Professor Jacqueline Stewart. Beyond TCM hosts, there have also been TCMParties hosted by various film historians and journalists. I have been a guest host several times and I seem to be the default host any time TCM shows A Hard Day's Night (1964) or British New Wave films.

To this day there are still movies chosen from the Turner Classic Movies schedule for "official" TCMParties. These scheduled live tweets are usually hosted by one of the TCMParty hosts (Paula or Joel) or a guest host. Eventually TCMParty would evolve to where informal TCMParties are going on 24 hours a day. Sometimes during these informal TCMParties someone will act as a host, live tweeting trivia, but more often than not there is no host at all.

Fortunately, TCMParty has had very little trouble with trolls over the past ten years. This is fortunate as there is very little TCMPartiers can do to stop trolls from using the hashtag beyond reporting their tweets and blocking them. For a time we did have a problem with spammers using the hashtag. In the summer of 2012 a bunch of porn sites began misusing #TCMParty. A bunch of us spent the best of two days reporting them until it stopped. In 2012 there was a stranger sort of spam whereby fake accounts would steal tweets and tweet them. Many of these tweets were from TCMParty. While none of us could figure out what their end game was, we reported them nonetheless. Fortunately, that stopped after a time as well. Since then Twitter has improved its security so that bots and spammers usually don't last long. Except for the rare porn site misusing the hashtag, we haven't had many problems since.

Over the years we have had celebrities who have taken part in TCMParties. Not only have TCM hosts guest hosted TCMParties, but they have also been participants. I cannot say who the first celebrity was who took part in TCMParty, but I know two of our original members were celebrities. Legendary songbird Monica Lewis live tweeted along with TCMParty nearly from the beginning until her death at the age of 93 in 2015. Vanessa Marquez, best known for playing Ana Delgado in the classic movie Stand and Deliver (1988) and Nurse Wendy Goldman on the hit TV show ER, was another original TCMParty member. She was so beloved by TCMPartiers that Paula Guthat referred to her as "the Sweetheart of TCMParty." Illeana Douglas has taken part even when she wasn't hosting. Stephen Bogart, the son of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, has also taken part in TCMParties.The legendary Mitzi Gaynor has taken part in TCMParty from time to time as well.

Sadly, in the past ten years there have been TCMPartiers who have died. I am not absolutely certain, but I believe Monica Lewis was the first. She died on June 12 2015 at the age of 93. She had only been tweeting to #TCMParty three days before she died. Vanessa Marquez's death was well publicized beyond TCMParty and I really do not want to go into it here. Suffice it to say that the Sweetheart of TCMParty was greatly mourned by its members and she is still missed to this day. Also still missed is Andrea Rosen, who died in March 2019. She had attended multiple TCM Classic Film Festivals and was a regular at the TCM Parties for Noir Alley. Greg McCambley was associated not just with the hashtag #TCMParty, but the hashtags #Bond_Age and  #BMovieManiacs, and  live tweets associated with classic TV shows from Columbo to Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He died of COVID-19 on March 27 2021. Richard C. Rosen, the widower of Andrea Rosen, died on April 12 2021. Like Andrea, he regularly attended the TCM Classic Film Festival and was well loved by his fellow TCM fans. I know that there have to have been other TCMParty members who have died in the past ten years and I must apologize for not mentioning them. TCMParty has grown to the point that it is hard to keep track of everyone who has participated in it. I will raise a glass in memory of all those who have participated in TCMParty and have passed on.

As I said earlier, I have been a participant in TCMParty since its early days. While I had been aware of #TCMParty for quite some time, it was not until around 7:10 PM on December 15 2011 that I would make my first tweet using the hashtag: "I'm watching The Bishop's Wife right now. I suspect most women would gladly have an angel like Cary Grant around. LOL. #TCMParty." I didn't tweet much during The Bishop's Wife that night, but the TCMParty for The Thin Man movies on December 22 2011 would be a different matter. I had a bit of a baptism in fire that night as I live tweeted to The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (1936), and Another Thin Man (1939) using the hashtag #TCMParty. My first stint as guest host for a TCMParty came on March 11 2012 when I hosted Bedazzled (1967). Since then I have guest hosted several times. I hosted an entire month of British New Wave movies. I have also hosted A Hard Day's Night multiple times. On September 30 2020 I hosted Stand and Deliver (1988), which was perhaps my most emotional guest host stint of them all. It was a bit overwhelming seeing all the love for my dearest friend. Vanessa Marquez, who played Ana Delgado in the film. Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Edward James Olmos before the movie, but as far as TCMParty was concerned, Vanessa was the star.

Of course, as much as I enjoy being a guest host for TCMParty, I think the real fun is in just participating. There are many TCMParties I remember well. Among my favourite TCMParties took place on May 23 2003 when Turner  Classic Movies aired The Loved One (1965) as part of their Second Looks block. As I mentioned earlier, Illeana Douglas was guest host that night. She tweeted so much she landed in Twitter jail and had to switch to an alternative account to continue. Some of the rest of us landed in Twitter jail for tweeting too much as well. The Loved One is one of my favourite comedies and one that is so wild that it is perfect for live tweeting. I also remember February 1 2014 when TCM showed Oscar nominees from 1939 in honour of that year's 75th anniversary. I live tweeted nearly all day long to such movies as Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind. Another memorable TCMParty came when I was part of TCM's Fan Favourite series and got to introduce A Hard Day's Night with Ben Mankiewicz on April 11 2015. I always enjoy hosting A Hard Day's Night, but that day was particularly special as I was actually on TCM. Finally, the aforementioned TCMParty for Stand and Deliver may be my all time favourite, for obvious reasons.

TCMParty has a profound impact on my life. I met many of my closest friends, including co-founder Paula Guthat, through TCMParty. In fact, I have so many close friends from TCMParty that I dare not try to list all of them as I fear I might miss someone. It was through TCMParty and live tweeting to the TV show Mad Men that I met Vanessa Marquez. For me she wasn't just Ana Delgado and Nurse Wendy Goldman or even the Sweetheart of #TCMParty. She was my dearest friend and a woman I absolutely adored. When she was murdered, I don't think I would have survived without my friends at TCMParty. They have been there not just through Vanessa's death, but through many other events in my life. I owe each and every one of my TCMParty friends so much. I have to believe that it is also because of TCMParty that I was chosen as one of the Fan Favourite co-hosts, and I honestly believe hits on my blog have gone up because of TCMParty.

I know I am not alone in the impact TCMParty has had on my life. It is through TCMParty that many people have made friends, made contacts, and even found love. TCMParty ceased being a collective live tweet to movies on Turner Classic Movies long ago. It has become a close knit community of TCM fans who support each other through thick and thin. I think I can speak for all TCMParty members when I say that it has made our lives all the more richer.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Turner Classic Movie's New Look

Today Turner Classic Movies unveiled what it is calling "a network rebrand." It includes a new logo for TCM itself, new logos for TCM's programming blocks (including Noir Alley), new sets, and a new tagline. From what I have seen on Twitter and Facebook, reaction to the new look has been mixed. Some fans like everything about the new look. Others like some aspects of the new look, but not others (for instance, they might like the new sets, but not the logo). Yet others hate everything about the new look. For any fans worried that Turner Classic Movies might be changing, I have to point out that the network rebrand is cosmetic. TCM is going to continue as it always has, showing classic movies uncut and commercial free 24 hours a day.

According to a Turner Classic Movies press release, the network rebrand is meant to reflect "... the evolution in the way modern audiences are engaging with classic movies." Pola Changnon, general manager of TCM, said of the network rebrand, "Our new look better reflects the vibrant brand and respected industry authority that TCM has become over the years, with an eye toward the future. Fans can still enjoy the same curated classic film experience, now presented with a bold new energy that reflects today’s audience."

I have to admit that I am one of those people who has mixed feeling about Turner Classic Movies' network rebrand. I love the new tagline, "Where Then Meets Now." I think it perfectly summarizes what TCM is and always has been. It is much superior to "Let's Movie," a tagline I have always disliked (the use of nouns as verbs grates on my nerves).

I also like what I have seen the new sets. While the sets are supposed to be in "a more contemporary direction," from what I have seen they have a bit of a Mid-Century Modern look. For me that is perfect for a channel that shows classic movies. Indeed, they remind me of my childhood.

What I don't like about the network rebrand are the new logos. The new TCM logo isn't too bad, but to me it is inferior to the classic logo. In fact, I don't think it "better reflects the vibrant brand and respected industry authority that TCM has become over the years." What is more, it seems to me to look less contemporary than the classic logo. While I might warm to the new logo (even if I will never love it like I do the old logo), I seriously dislike the new logo for Noir Alley. It is too bright for a programming block devoted to film noir. They really should have either stuck with the classic logo or gone with something darker. Quite simply, they should have gone with something more, well, noir. I do hope they continue to make the classic TCM and Noir Alley logos available on merchandise. I really don't want T-shirts or coffee mugs with the new logos.

TCM also has a new sonic identity, but I have yet to hear it (I haven't watched TCM yet today), so I don't have an opinion on it. I do hope they did a better job with the new sounds than they did the logos!

I do have to say that while I have mixed feelings about the network rebrand,  I will continue to be an avid TCM fan and loyal viewer. Turner Classic Movies is still the best channel out there, even if its logo might be less appealing than some others.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Media and Vanessa Marquez

Today it has been three years since South Pasadena police officers shot my beloved friend Vanessa Marquez in the back and killed her. It was truly the worst day of my life and I have been grieving her ever since. One of the hardest things I have had to deal with since Vanessa's murder has been the portrayal of both Vanessa and the events that happened that day in the media. From the beginning the City of South Pasadena developed a narrative in which Vanessa was undergoing a mental health crisis and essentially committed suicide by cop. It is a narrative I know to be false. Sadly, many media outlets would embrace this false narrative and accept it as being true. Even three years later, after protests from Vanessa's friends and plenty of evidence contradicting South Pasadena's narrative, there are still many media outlets that at least accept a portion of this narrative. Just last week both KABC in Los Angeles and Newsweek claimed that Vanessa suffered from "mental health issues (KABC also reported that the police had been called to make a wellness check, when it was the paramedics who were called to treat her for seizures, something I know for a fact as I am the one who made the call)."

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Vanessa Marquez, she was an actress perhaps best known for the classic movie Stand and Deliver (1988) and the hit TV show ER. She grew up in Montebello, California and decided she wanted to be an actress when she was only three or four after seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939). Her big break came when she was cast as Ana Delgado in Stand and Deliver. Afterwards her career took off with guest appearances on such TV shows as Tequila and Bonetti and Seinfeld. She was set to have a recurring role on the television show Wiseguy, but the show was cancelled and her episodes never aired. Those episodes would later become available on DVD. She was a regular on the television show Culture Clash, starring the legendary comedy troupe of the same name. It was in 1994 that she began a three year run as Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER. At the time Vanessa's star seemed to be on the rise, and she appeared at such events as the NBC All-Star Reception in 1995 and the Red Cross Spirit Awards in 1996. She also appeared in the fashion sections of various tabloids. Vanessa would only have a few more credits on screen following ER. She made three guest appearances on the TV show Malcolm & Eddie and in the TV movie Fire & Ice.

Sadly, Vanessa's stint on ER was not entirely pleasant. She experienced sexual harassment on the set. According to Vanessa, when she complained about the harassment she was fired. She said she was subsequently blacklisted, having been labelled what can be the absolute worst thing with which an actress could be labelled. Quite simply, she was called "difficult."

Vanessa Marquez's life would only seem to go from bad to worse. She was diagnosed with refractory coeliac disease. If that was not bad enough, she would eventually develop common variable immune deficiency, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis. Vanessa was also a compulsive shopper. It was because of this that she appeared on the second episode of the reality show Intervention in 2005.

Sadly, following her murder, Vanessa's episode of Intervention has been used as "proof" that she suffered from mental health issues.  In particular, a scene in which she expresses a desire to end her life while driving has been repeatedly brought up. There are several reasons why Intervention should not be brought up when discussing the death of Vanessa Marquez. The first is that the Intervention episode was filmed in 2005, a full thirteen years before her death. In that amount of time most human beings will change and evolve, and Vanessa was no different. The "Vanessa Marquez of 2005" was markedly different from the "Vanessa Marquez of 2018." The Vanessa I knew for all those years was a much more stable and happier person than the one in Intervention, although, by her own admission, she still suffered from compulsive shopping disorder.

Second, when the Intervention episode was filmed, Vanessa was at what might have been the lowest point in her life. She had not worked as an actress in three years. She had only recently been diagnosed with refractory coeliac disease. I have to think she was also suffering from post-traumatic stress due to the sexual harassment she had received during her career. Filmed at the lowest point in their life, most people would not come off well. In 2008 my employer at the time transferred me into what was generally considered the worst department at work. As a result I developed what is known as an adjustment disorder. I hate to think how I would have looked to other people had a reality TV show crew filmed my life at the time. Given I am much better now, I would hate to be judged by how I was then. Third, it must be taken into account that Intervention is a reality show. While the show has received some acclaim (including two Emmy Awards), it has also received its share of criticism. No less than Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe has said that the show is exploitative. He also pointed out that the interventions themselves are played up for their drama value. I know for a fact that Vanessa was told she was going to appear in a documentary about addiction (not a reality show) and did not know about the intervention that was to occur beforehand. As someone who minored  in psychology in college, that strikes me as downright unethical. 

Finally, I have to address the fact that Vanessa Marquez is said to suffer from bipolar disorder in this episode. I honestly have to wonder if she had been misdiagnosed as being bipolar. My brother has bipolar disorder II and I discussed this with Vanessa multiple times. I would have thought had she been bipolar she would have then mentioned it. She certainly knew I would not judge her or think less of her for it. The fact that she never mentioned being bipolar to me makes me think that she was not. If Vanessa had indeed been misdiagnosed as bipolar, the drugs used to treat the disorder could explain some of her behaviour on Intervention. For example, Risperidone can have such side effects as anxiety, agitation, restlessness, and even mania. I once took some of my brother's Risperidone by accident (it resembled my sinus medication) and I was so out of it that day I had to leave work. The next day I told my boss what happened and we both laughed about it, but the effects of an atypical antipsychotic on someone who does not have a psychosis really aren't something to laugh about.  Regardless,  studies have shown that unipolar depression has been misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder has also been misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder. It seems likely to me that Vanessa may have had  post-traumatic stress that was mistaken for bipolar disorder.

While Vanessa was at her lowest point when the Intervention episode was filmed, she would recover. She suffered from agoraphobia in the early to mid-Naughts, but by the late Naughts she was able to get out again. When Jaimie Escalante, the calculus teacher portrayed in Stand and Deliver, was diagnosed with cancer, Vanessa was relentless in raising funds for his medical treatment. In this capacity she was interviewed by various Los Angeles news outlets. She became active in Star Wars fandom again and began attending Star Wars conventions. She was even interviewed by KTLA for Star Wars Day in 2010. Before her declining health would limit her physical activity, she was an avid swing dancer and even led swing dancing groups. After we had first encountered each other, she attended John Williams concerts and went to see Al Pacino at the Pasadena Playhouse with a friend.  The year of her death she went to see the Batman '66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum. It was in the late Naughts that Vanessa became active on social media and made many friends that way. She was an original member of TCMParty, the group who live tweets to movies on Turner Classic Movies using that hashtag.

Of course, while in many ways her life had improved from what it had been in 2005, her physical health would decline. In 2014 she set up an online fundraiser to raise money for her medical costs. Sadly, despite the fact that Vanessa had played Ana Delgado on Stand and Deliver and Nurse Wendy Goldman on ER and had raised money for Jaimie Escalante, the media never took notice of her fundraiser.

The media did take notice in October 2017 when on Twitter Vanessa retweeted an article in which George Clooney spoke out against Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced producer who had been accused of multiple accounts of sexual misconduct, and accused George Clooney on Twitter of helping blacklist her after she complained about sexual harassment on the set of ER. As to Clooney, he pleaded ignorance that Vanessa had been blacklisted in the first place and said that as he was only an actor, he had nothing to do with casting on ER. To his credit, he did say that he "took her at her word" with regards to Vanessa being blacklisted. At the time, the media seemed to take neither Vanessa Marquez's side nor George Clooney's side for the most part, simply reporting what each had said. Sadly, Vanessa's Twitter account would be suspended, even though she had only complained about sexual harassment and said that she was blacklisted. Vanessa was not the only woman to have her Twitter account suspended after protesting about sexual harassment. Rose McGowan also had her Twitter account suspended, as reportedly have less famous women (for my part I complained to both Twitter support and, in an email, to Jack Dorsey himself about the suspension of Vanessa's account). Following Vanessa's death some media outlets would resurrect the story of Vanessa's accusations about Clooney, as if it was yet more "proof" that she had "mental health issues."

Sadly, it was on August 30 2018 that Vanessa Marquez was shot and killed by officers from the South Pasadena Police Department. The City of South Pasadena was swift in developing the aforementioned narrative in which Vanessa was undergoing a "mental heath crisis" and pointed a BB gun at officers. The fact of the matter is that day Vanessa was suffering from severe seizures. She asked me to call the South Pasadena Fire Department to send paramedics. The truth is, then, that paramedics were called to treat Vanessa for a medical emergency, not to make a "wellness check" or because she was having a "mental health crisis." As to Vanessa pointing a BB gun at police officers, considerable doubt has since emerged that she ever did. Indeed, the Complaint for Damages filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother Delia with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District on June 24 2020 labelled the claim that Vanessa ever drew a BB gun on officers as false. I also cannot stress this enough. Vanessa Marquez was not suicidal. Despite her health at the time, Vanessa still maintained a positive outlook on life. If she had been suicidal, she could have simply taken an overdose of her seizure medications at any time. Any claims coming out of South Pasadena that she was suicidal should then be treated with suspicion. Sadly, many media outlets embraced the false narrative created by the City of South Pasadena wholeheartedly.

Here I must point out that there were media outlets that reported Vanessa's death with responsibility and even with sympathy for Vanessa. They mentioned that Vanessa was having seizures and that paramedics had been called there to treat her for them. Many of the same outlets mentioned that Vanessa suffered from refractory coeliac disease. They also made an effort to interview many of her friends. The morning of August 31 I had several requests for interviews, but I ignored all of them as I was still crying after hours of having not slept at all. It would be that afternoon that I consented to be interviewed by the Associated Press, even though I was still pretty much out of it. Some media outlets were responsible with regards to reporting South Pasadena's version of events, making sure to stress that South Pasadena's account was allegedly what happened. Among the more responsible media outlets reporting on Vanessa's death were KTLA, Latin Heat, and, of all things, the South Pasadena High School newspaper The Tiger. The three of them have treated Vanessa's case with dignity, sensitivity, and sympathy.

Unfortunately, there were many media outlets that simply embraced South Pasadena's narrative of what happened. This was particularly true of The South Pasadena Review, which still embraces the city's narrative to this day, even though they have been informed of the truth repeatedly. Even the generally responsible Los Angeles Times portrayed Vanessa as having a "mental health crisis," thereby leading credence to the false claim that she committed "suicide by cop." Some even failed to mention that she was having seizures and went entirely with the idea that police were there on a "wellness check.' Many failed to mention that she had refractory coeliac disease. Virtually no media outlets reported the fact that Vanessa had been shot in the back, something made clear in the  Los Angeles County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner's autopsy report as of September 3 2018.  Some media outlets reported a claim by Sgt. Joe Mendoza of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department that Vanessa had an eating disorder. I don't know where Sgt. Mendoza got his information, but it was false. Vanessa never had an eating disorder. Because she had refractory coeliac disease, on top of of a high metabolism, she had difficulty gaining weight. She actually want to gain a few pounds, not lose them. Some would even go so far as to downplay Vanessa's career, behaving as if she was a bit player on ER when in truth Vanessa's character appeared in the majority of episodes of the first three seasons and even had entire subplots dedicated to her. In the end, the "Vanessa" portrayed in some media reports about her death resembled the sweet, loving, intelligent woman I knew so little that they might as well have been reporting on an entirely different person.

Sadly, despite the fact that Vanessa was a well-loved actress who had appeared in the classic film Stand and Deliver and the hit TV series ER, she was left out of many in memoriam tributes. She was left out of the Emmy Awards' on-air in memoriam. Even though ER was a big hit on NBC, she was left out of the in memoriam that aired on The NBC Evening News. She was even left out of the SAG Awards on-air in memoriam, even though she was technically a SAG Award winner as ER had won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 1996 and Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 1997 when she was on the show (she even got to go up on stage with the rest of the cast to accept the award). Turner Classic Movies did include Vanessa in their annual TCM Remembers at the end of the year. What is more, they gave her something of a place of honour. She appears right after one of the breaks in the video, so that there is no way anyone could miss her. Of course, it must be pointed out that Vanessa was a huge TCM fan, an original member of the aforementioned #TCMParty, and was loved not only by her fellow TCM fans, but by the staff (including the hosts) of TCM itself. 

It was because of the fact that Vanessa Marquez had been overlooked in so many In Memoriam tributes that her co-star from Stand and Deliver Lydia Nicole (who played Rafaela in the film) created a petition to include Vanessa in the Oscars' on-air In Memoriam reel. The petition would eventually attract media attention and as a result the first truly positive news stories about Vanessa since her death. Even The Los Angeles Times, who had previously embraced South Pasadena's false narrative, published a wonderful article about Vanessa. Sadly, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science elected not to include Vanessa in the on-air In Memoriam reel. That fact also made the news and generated more sympathy for Vanessa in the press. The petition ultimately reached over 12,000 signatures, which I think proves once and for all how loved by her fans Vanessa truly was.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Report on Vanessa's death was released on March 2 2020, notably the day before the Los Angeles District Attorney Election (an election that resulted in a run-off election in November that District Attorney Jackie Lacey would ultimately lose). The report came to the conclusion that the officers acted in self defence and defence of others. This is despite the fact that, as is even acknowledged in the report itself, according to the Los Angles County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner's autopsy report Vanessa was shot in the back, shedding considerable doubt regarding the District Attorney Office's conclusion. Of course, there are also many, many other flaws with the District Attorney Office's report on Vanessa's death. For instance, it identifies me as as a "woman from Alabama" (I am a man from Missouri) and falsely claims I said, "Vanessa was not acting right" (I said no such thing). It also relies far too much on the testimony of one of the officers who murdered Vanessa, an officer who would have much to lose if he was found to have acted for any other reason than self defence. Indeed, there are so many flaws with the District Attorney's report on Vanessa's death that I wrote an entire blog post tearing the report apart, "Justice for Vanessa Marquez." It seems clear to me that the District Attorney Office's report on Vanessa's death was in no way fair and unbiased. Here it must be noted that historically police unions had contributed millions of dollars to political action committees supporting Jackie Lacey. Perhaps because of this, she would almost always refuse to prosecute police officers throughout her career as Los Angeles County District Attorney. It should then perhaps be no surprise that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Report on Vanessa's death should be so filled with flaws and inaccuracies. In fact, I think then District Attorney Jackie Lacey knew that the report would not stand up to close scrutiny, which is why it was released the day before the election. She knew that a report so flawed could lead to her losing the election. As it is, she lost the runoff election anyway.

The same time that the District Attorney Office's report was released, so too did South Pasadena release a six minute, edited video of the body cam footage of Vanessa's death. Here I must state that they did this without warning Vanessa's mother Delia ahead of time, nor anyone else who knew and loved Vanessa. Now as a matter of full disclosure, I must say that I have never watched the video for the simple reason that I think doing so would push me over the edge. That having been said, those people I know who have watched it said that it proves the police officers in Vanessa's apartment on August 30 2018 behaved incompetently, unprofessionally, and irresponsibly. Will Gotay, who played Pancho in Stand and Deliver, said after viewing the six minute footage, "...what I saw for myself on the BodyCam footage was undeniably wrong!” He also said that the police officers "...need to be held responsible for what they have done" and bluntly, "They murdered my friend." I know of no one who has seen the video who believes that the police acted in self-defence or that they even behaved competently or professionally or responsibly.

Now there would be media outlets that would question both the District Attorney Office's report and the bodycam footage. Some even went to the trouble of interviewing Vanessa's friends to get their reactions, all of who disapproved of the report. Unfortunately, many media outlets accepted the District Attorney Office's report as gospel and somehow ignored that the bodycam footage showed the police present on August 30 2018 acted incompetently, unprofessionally, and irresponsibly. In fact, some less responsible, less reliable media outlets claimed that the bodycam showed Vanessa pointed a BB gun at the officers, when it shows no such thing (they apparently did not watch the video). Some even repeated the aforementioned false claim by Sgt. Mendoza of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department that Vanessa had an eating disorder.

The tabloids seemed to have a field day with the Los Angeles County DA's Report and the bodycam footage. The Daily Mail published a particularly reprehensible article in which they not only portrayed the police who murdered Vanessa as "heroes" (in my opinion they are complete and utter cowards), but had the bodycam footage set to autoplay on the article's webpage. I found having the bodycam footage on autoplay particularly reprehensible, as it could well trigger post-traumatic stress in those of who love Vanessa. I wrote The Daily Mail a very angry email in which I reminded them of their support of Fascism in the 1930s and stated flatly, "You haven't changed much." They never replied, but they at least published an article much, much more sympathetic to Vanessa when her mother filed her lawsuit. The tabloid television show Inside Edition also did a reprehensible story in which they referred to Vanessa as "mentally disturbed" and even included some of the bodycam footage. I also wrote Inside Edition an angry email in which I informed them I would never watch their show again. They never replied and did not even bother to cover the lawsuit Vanessa's mother filed against South Pasadena or the settlement she received thereafter.

It was on June 24 2020 that a Complaint for Damages was filed with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles, Central District on behalf of Vanessa's mother against the City of South Pasadena and the South Pasadena Police Department. The complaint shed yet further doubt that the officers who murdered Vanessa Marquez acted in "self defence and defence of others." It was as a result that media coverage of Vanessa's death would become more sympathetic, to the point that some outlets even questioned what the police officers did in Vanessa's apartment on August 30 2018 overall. It was in February of this year that a settlement was reached in the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother. Unfortunately, it was only for $450,000. As far as I a concerned, it should have been for much, much more.

Sadly, even following the settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit, there are still media outlets that insist Vanessa suffered from "mental health issues," the aforementioned stories from KABC and Newsweek last week being perfect examples. Now it is true that Vanessa never overcame her compulsive shopping and I have to think she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which are technically "mental health issues." The problem is that when a newspaper or TV station uses the phrase "mental health issues," laymen are apt to think of outright psychoses, mental disorders in which an individual has lost touch with reality. I will say this now. Not only was Vanessa not suicidal. She was not psychotic either. Saying she suffered from "mental health issues" then seems unwarranted.

When Vanessa was murdered by South Pasadena police officers on August 30 2018, I thought surely the media would treat her story with sympathy and dignity. After all, she was not only a petite, disabled woman (she only stood 5'3" and weighed 87 pounds when she died), she was also a talented, beautiful, and beloved actress who had appeared in Stand and Deliver and on ER. And it was not as if the media had not treated victims of police shootings with sympathy before. When Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, the media turned his case into a cause célèbre. I was in for a rude awakening. While there were media outlets that questioned what happened in South Pasadena on that day and treated Vanessa with sympathy, there were many others that simply accepted South Pasadena's false narrative as fact and as a result treated Vanessa unsympathetically. 

I have to think that the reason so much of the media coverage of Vanessa's death painted her in a negative light was simply poor journalism. Various media outlets simply did not go to the trouble to research Vanessa's life, interview Vanessa's friends, or anything else beyond listening to the City of South Pasadena. Indeed, I find it notable that those media outlets who bothered to do their research painted much more sympathetic and realistic portraits of Vanessa.  I also have to say that the students who write for the South Pasadena High School newspaper The Tiger have done a much better job of covering Vanessa's death than many professional journalists.

I think another reason so much of the media coverage of Vanessa Marquez's death was not particularly sympathetic may have been racism, if only on a subconscious level. Vanessa was a Chicana, a Mexican American. Sadly, even though  Chicanos are shot and killed by police disproportionately, their deaths often go uncovered by the media. When their deaths are covered by the media, they are often not given the same sympathy as other ethnicities. Part of me cannot help but think that had Vanessa been white or Black, her death might have been treated with much more sympathy by the press.

Another reason I think so much of the coverage of Vanessa's death was not particularly sympathetic may have been misogyny, again, if only on a subconscious level. Even today women are considered to be more emotional and less rational than men. If a woman is intelligent and outspoken, and dares to stand up for herself, she is sometimes labelled as "crazy." Because of systemic misogyny, some reporters may have found the idea that Vanessa was suicidal and pointed a BB gun at police officers more realistic than incompetent, unprofessional (but male) police officers mistaking her phone or some other object for a gun.

I think it is also possible that the fact Vanessa had dared speak out against sexual harassment on ER and accused George Clooney of helping blacklist her may have affected some reporters' view of her. Even in the era of #MeToo, there is often a tendency not to believe women, particularly women of colour, when they make accusations of sexual harassment. At the same time, while his career is not what it once was, George Clooney is still a popular actor and perceived to be loved by audiences whether he actually is or not. There may have been some reporters who may have been offended when Vanessa accused Clooney of blacklisting her, and as a result this influenced their view of Vanessa. As I pointed out above, some media outlets included Vanessa's accusation that Clooney helped blacklist her in their stories as if it was yet more "proof" that she was "mentally disturbed."

I also think the media may have underestimated just how popular Vanessa Marquez really was. One of the things I have learned following Vanessa's murder is that she had more fans than even I thought she had.   A reporter told me not long after he death that Vanessa was royalty in the Chicano community of Southern California. As I pointed out above the petition to include her in the Oscars' on-air In Memoriam reel exceeded 12,000 signatures. Since Vanessa's death I have been contacted by fans on occasion who just want to let me know how much they admired her. On her YouTube channel there are many, many comments in which people express their admiration for Vanessa. I think the media failed to realize just how beloved Vanessa was, just as they failed to realize that the majority of people rejected the false narrative created by South Pasadena. From my experience, most people do not believe for a moment that Vanessa committed "suicide by cop."

Of course, I don't think it mattered to tabloid media outlets such as The Daily Mail and Inside Edition how popular Vanessa was. I think somehow they were convinced that portraying Vanessa as a "mentally disturbed" woman who decided to commit "suicide by cop" was a better story than portraying Vanessa as a disabled women in the middle of a medical crisis who was murdered by incompetent, unprofessional police officers. Of course, it must also be noted that The Daily Mail has always been conservative in politics and as a result their coverage would favour the police. I was actually shocked when they published a sympathetic story about Vanessa after the wrongful death complaint was filed on behalf of Vanessa's mother. I guess it is possible my email to them did some good. 

Sadly, I think the unsympathetic portrayal of Vanessa Marquez by some media outlets would have a deleterious effect. Despite the fact that Vanessa was a beloved actress, not to mention a petite, disabled woman, I think part of the reason that one did not see protests over Vanessa's death on the scale of those on behalf of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor is that so many news outlets insisted on portraying Vanessa as having committed suicide by cop. If many more media outlets had reported Vanessa's murder accurately and had portrayed Vanessa sympathetically, I have to think that protests on her behalf would have occurred earlier and there would have been many more of them. In the end, Vanessa may have received justice by now. Instead, her murderers are still walking around free.

The unsympathetic portrayal of Vanessa by some media outlets would even have a deleterious effect on those of us who love Vanessa on a personal level. Aside from Latin Heat, I believe I was the first to tweet about Vanessa's death on Twitter. It was a tweet simply expressing my love for her, my grief at her death, and that she was one of the sweetest people I know. Many of my fellow TCM fans expressed their condolences to me, as did others on Twitter. Unfortunately, I also received a number of hateful, insulting tweets from right-wing trolls simply because I had dared express my grief at the death of the one person who mattered most to me. Keep in mind that at this point I had not slept at all and I had been crying nonstop for literally hours.  I have to think if many media outlets had not portrayed Vanessa's death as "suicide by cop," then perhaps I would not have received those tweets, or at least not as many. 

As it is, the often unsympathetic and inaccurate articles about Vanessa following her death hurt and I believe that they actually compounded my grief. It reached the point that I simply avoided any stories regarding Vanessa unless they were vetted by friends.  No one wants to see someone they love portrayed in a negative light that bears absolutely no resemblance to reality. The Daily Mail and Inside Edition are not the only media outlets I have emailed regarding Vanessa's death by a long shot.

Now I realize there may be those who will claim that I am so consumed by my grief and so angry over Vanessa's murder that I am seeing the media coverage in an overly negative light. And, to be honest. I cannot deny that there might not be some credence to this. That having been said, many of my friends  and many of Vanessa's friends have also noticed that some media outlets tended to portray Vanessa unsympathetically and never considered that South Pasadena's account of her death might not be true. 

Fortunately, it appears that since the settlement against South Pasadena on behalf of Vanessa's mother, coverage of Vanessa Marquez has become more positive. I am hoping that this trend continues. Of course, I am also hoping that eventually Vanessa will receive justice and her murderers will be in prison where they belong. Until that time, I am going to continue fighting for Vanessa. I will continue writing various government agencies and other entities in an effort to get her justice. And any time I see a media outlet portray Vanessa or her murder inaccurately, they are going to hear from me. Vanessa meant the world to me. I can do nothing less.