The Knockturnal got to Gilmore Girls Fan Fest, a 3-day fan-created and town-sponsored convention in Kent, Conn., just in time to sing along with Louise Goffin, Carole King’s daughter and duet partner on the show’s theme song “Where You Lead,” and witness the weekend’s final Q&A panel with select cast members from the original run and the revival, plus a spontaneous video chat with Lauren Graham (Lorelai Gilmore) between pilot meetings.
Getting to Kent, a small New England town oozing with charm and famous for foliage that could make it the fictional Stars Hollow’s fraternal twin that’s grounded in reality, and back home to Manhattan, depended on the kindness of strangers. It’s a two and half hour, scenic Metro North ride away, but upon landing there was not an Uber or Lyft to be hailed. Getting a room at any inn like the Dragonfly or Independence that Lorelei ran was a no-go, because not only was the festival happening, but it was a nearby boarding school’s Parent’s Weekend. A kind soul who had also landed in Tenmile River and was headed to Kent with a friend and offered a ride. They were two of the boarding school’s alum, and the driver’s parents even owned a store in town that sponsored some of the festivities. What could get more Stars Hollow than that? They happily chatted about the quaint town’s updates since leaving for the city (let’s call them Rory Gilmore and Lane Kim, since the parallels are just too perfect). Their names and the family business for plug purposes were lost in the rush to get to town in time. So, if you happen to be reading this, Rory and Lane, or if any readers have friends that fit the description and talked about picking up a random writer from the train station, please close the loop on this missed connection!
As legend has it, Gilmore Girls’ creator Amy Sherman-Palladino was inspired to create the magical wonderland that is Stars Hollow when she stayed at a Bed & Breakfast in nearby Washington Depot, Conn. And though last year’s festival was also held there, just in time to ring in the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, event volunteer Whitney Bria said in our drive back to the train that the festival’s organizer Jennie Whitaker (with husband Marcus) stumbled upon Kent after she was rerouted there on a drive, in yet another meta plot twist. Whitney is an appraiser and auctioneer Clarke Auction House in Larchmont, N.Y. and recent transplant to Kent. She loves how the Kent Library sells $7 plastic bags for you to fill with as many books you can get your hands on and out the door, another perk for Rory-esque bibliophiles who live in town or just stop in for a visit. After workshopping who Whitney might be in this GG alternate-universe, she became the Paris, with her appetite for learning and fierce loyalty in a moment of need. Plus, an auctioneer can certainly deliver Paris’ quick-tongued lines!
The panel itself was as warm and cozy as the feeling the show’s fans know and love and keep coming back for. TVLine’s executive editor Kim Roots moderated the panel that included the legendary Liz Torres (Miss Patty, who came out midway through singing The Beatles’ “Yesterday” from offstage, accompanied by Todd Lowe [Zach] on the guitar), Keiko Agena (Lane Kim), Emily Kuroda (Mrs. Kim), Rose Abdoo (Gypsy/Berta), Rini Bell (Lulu), Alan Loayza (Colin), Tanc Sade (Finn), Sam Pancake (Donald), Mike Gandolfi (Andrew), Biff Yeager (Tom), Aris Alvarado (Caesar), and Eric Henry (Nat). We got to hear new scoops about the revival, since they couldn’t discuss the revival secrets, or those infamous final four words at last year’s convention. Todd Lowe recalled having the final four words come to him in a dream, and in a rare email exchange with Sherman-Palladino, she confirmed he was right. Rose Abdoo had some major scoops and proved she was another unsung hero of the revival by cutting out the middle man to secure Melissa McCarthy during her stint on Mike & Molly and clued us in on how she got the part of Emily’s longest standing maid Berta in the revival, by pinch-hitting during a table read. She made up her weird Spanglish-gibberish hybrid by changing out letters in Spanish words in order to make a language that “Spanish speakers couldn’t understand.” Rose tested it on Alexis, who’s of Mexican and Argentinian descent, to make sure it was wrong enough to be right.
We also got a recorded audio message from Sally Struthers (Babette, the yin to Miss Patty’s yang, after they were also co-stars on All in the Family) who wished she could come. The cast gave tons of time for attendees to form long queues for questions, that ran the gamut from asking if the cast still hangs out (The Life and Death Brigade does, so do Keiko Agena and Emily Kuroda, and Todd Lowe cheekily gave the iffy hand sign and an “Ehh… I’d answer the phone if they called me!”), to what kinds of causes they are involved in, which included Cerebral Palsy research, the Hispanic Federation and Puerto Rico Relief, She is Powerful, Write Girl, School on Wheels, and the L.A. Gay Men’s Chorus. Unexpectedly sentimental moments came from Biff Yeager, who played the sarcastic yet tender-hearted construction worker Tom, as he recalled falling in love with Lauren Graham’s blue eyes as they ran lines, and finding himself tearing up as he watched Alexis Bledel’s Rory crying on the shoulder of Jared Padelecki’s Dean when she couldn’t handle her Yale course load and kept missing her mother. Tanc threw some candies out to the crowd and shamelessly flirted with the audience, and the cast brainstormed other TV show conventions they’d want to go to (Game of Thrones, Monk, and The Sopranos), and Gilmore Girls characters they’d want to play (most gender swapped).
But nothing brought the house down quite like when Sam Pancake, the delightful addition to the revival and longtime close friend of Lauren Graham, video conferenced her in to thank us for being there as she wiped away tears. The phone’s connection wasn’t that great but it was clear that the community’s connection to her was flawless. She later texted that she would “sure try” to make it next year and asked us to eat junk food in her honor. Two nearby attendees, Kristen Oxendahl and Karissa Kjos, came all the way from Williston, N.D. and had a spread of cheese and crackers and immediately offered to share, just before offering to drive me to the train when they heard about my trek. This instantly solidified them as the Lorelei & Sookie, two great friends on an adventure together, ready with food to go around like they were at a Town Meeting.
Karissa loved meeting “Colin,” the Life and Death Brigade’s big spender Colin, and “embracing the small-town, quaint Connecticut culture,” she said. “It was fun being with fellow Gilmore Girls lovers and attending the festival,” with Kristin, who said it was a trip of a lifetime. “I have felt so connected to the show and its characters from the very first episode I saw,” she said. Her favorite part was hearing the actors share their personal experience with Gilmore Girls. “It warmed my heart to know that this show was as special to them as it was to me.”
Photo Credit: Chela Crinnion.