For the fans in all of us who love nostalgia of the bygone days when we had heroes in movies and television and love meeting some of those stars in person, then the place to be is The Clarion Hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia for the Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest.

It starts today November 10th-12th and you will have the opportunity to meet movie and TV stars, hearing great stories, get their autographs and pictures, finding those vintage, hard to find collectible games and toys from yesteryear, see vintage movies on the big screen and get to ask the celebrities questions during Q&A sessions on stage.

The celebrities scheduled to appear are: Tom Arnold, Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Mariel Hemingway, Karolyn Grimes, Morgan Fairchild, Geri Reischl, Luciana Paluzzi, Jon Provost, Tara Buckman, Jo Ann Harris, Patrick Wayne, Jeremy Ambler, and Aileen Quinn.

For all the exciting info, go to https://www.williamsburgnostalgiafest.com/

Yiorgo: With us today is Karolyn Grimes who is best known as little Zuzu, the daughter of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. She treasured her rose petals and spoke the now very famous line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Karolyn appeared in 16 movies and worked with such famous actors as Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife, Randolph Scott in Albuquerque, Bing Crosby in Blue Skies, John Wayne in Rio Grande and many more.

Also with us is Martin Grams, the events organizer. Martin, why should people come to the Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest? What will they get to do, see and experience?

Martin Grams: Our Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest is indeed a throwback to the days gone by when we had heroes in motion pictures and television. Today the majority are populated by antiheroes. Today’s programs have a chemistry teacher, who sells meth on the side, a soccer mom, who sells pot to other mothers, etc. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, we had heroes to aspire to.

We try to bring in at least half a dozen celebrities every year who were inspirational behind the scenes… Eric Estrada, and Larry Wilcox, for example, were the stars of the TV show Chips, and a large number of people decided to become police officers and make that a career because they were inspired by seeing them on television. We give the fans attending a weekend to meet their heroes.

Also throughout the weekend, they can watch some of those old films, have their photos taken with the celebrities, ask questions, get their autograph, shop the vendor tables which are filled with tons of collectibles, and attend a few slideshows, seminars and celebrity Q and A’s on stage.

Y: What has been the biggest compliment that you hear over and over from those who attend?

MG: The most common compliment that we receive from people who show up at the convention for the first time is that they tell us afterwards that they wish they had come in the prior years. They never realized how much fun it was until they were there for the first time.

Y: You rely on a lot of volunteers to help make the Fest a success.

MG: Yes indeed and I would like to personally thank all of our volunteers. I always like to say, while people come to me as if I am the big guy in charge, it is the volunteer staff that each has a separate position throughout the weekend to make the event run smoothly that are truly in charge. I empower them to make decisions when needed rather than come to me to make a decision every time a quarry comes up. I always tell them whatever decision is made that is best for the attendees is the best decision.

Y: Ms. Grimes, it truly is an honor to be talking with you today. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my top five movies of all time.

Karolyn Grimes: Thank you so much. Our Christmas movie has become one of the great classics. The director Frank Capra, created magic. He made the story and I am a little part of that. This movie is a tradition to show at Christmas and everybody comes together as a family. It’s so special. Because the studio did not renew the copyright in the early 70’s, it became public domain, meaning free to show on TV. The movie has been passed on to each generation, that magic and tradition of watching it together not just Christmas time but year-round. What the movie tells us is that we do touch people’s lives, we do make a difference and I just love being a part of it.

Y: What will you be bringing with you at the Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest for the fans to purchase?

KG: Well first I’d like to say that this Fest is a great gift for all of us, fans and the actors who attend these gatherings. I’ll have books, ornaments with scenes from the movie, and a whole plethora of wonderful items for sale and I will sign them as well.

Y: Speaking of books, can you tell us about your amazing cookbook?

KG: The cookbook is a celebration of the remastered 50th celebration cookbook. This is for the 75th Anniversary. We’ve added a lot of new information. On the bottom of the pages there is a question, with the answer on the next page. There’s plenty of trivia, new interviews from those involved with the movie who are no longer with us and some fun recipes. Like Potters Crabby Crab Cakes. Each one of them is named after someone or something in the film. Some of the recipes are mine, some are my co-authors and some I have collected from others through the years.

Y: Why do you do these fests and conventions? What do you enjoy the most about them?

KG: I enjoy meeting the people the most because they are fans of the film. The minute they realize who I represent in the film, their mouth drops and they say, “That’s my favorite movie. And you’re Zuzu.” It’s so gratifying to see how much they love that movie and that makes it so exciting for everybody.

Y: What have been some of your favorite stories that you have heard from fans?

KG: They tell me that they have a favorite time that they watch the movie. One of my favorites is this young lady who said her grandmother started watching the film on New Year’s Day. That became a tradition for many years, to watch it together on New Year’s Day. Her grandma passed away but she continues to watch it on New Year’s Day and she feels like her grandma is right there with her.

Y: Where were you born and how did you get into the movie business?

KG: I was born in Hollywood. My mother was a stage mom. I was her only child, and she started off giving me any possible lesson you can imagine. I had dancing, singing, drama, I played the piano when I was three and the violin when I was five. She encouraged all this and doted on me until I learned all these different things. Then she took me to see an agent named Lola Moore. She pretty much had most of the children in the Hollywood area. She was known as the childrens agent. Every kid from It’s A Wonderful Life came from her stable. She loved me so she took me to the interview and I got the part. I was 6 years old and I was accompanied by my mother. I worked when they asked me to come in, it was all fun. I never looked at it as work even though you are under those hot lights for a long time sometimes.

Eventually my mother became sick, was not able to go with me anymore and my dad never really approved of the movie industry so he would hire someone to go with me for the interview then hire someone else to be with me on the stage if I got the part. It became difficult so he didn’t push it and by that time I discovered boys so I didn’t push it either and that kind of ended my career. In eight years, I have done 16 films.

If my mother had not died, my life would have been a lot different and not necessarily in a good way. Both of my parents died and I was forced by law in California to go to a little town in Missouri. I was in hell for a year but after that first year I realized what real people were about and they made a difference in my life. I felt like Hollywood was shallow, dog eat dog, full of themselves and I did not want to go back. Eve though it was a sad thing that I lost my parents, it got me out of an atmosphere that I would have gotten down hill. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Y: Can you share a couple of memories with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed?

KG: I remember Jimmy Stewart because he made an effort to create chemistry between us. He paid a lot of attention to me and he was so kind. I realized that I liked him a lot. As far as Donna Reed, I might be standing next to her in a scene or in his arms but I don’t even remember her. I was all about him because he made it a point to make all that happen. I just thought he was the cat’s meow.

Later on in life, he had his secretary call me up to check on me and we got together again and he was the nicest, down to earth man ever. We did a couple of things together and that was very nice.

Y: The Target store was responsible for reuniting you with the other children from the movie. Can you tell us about it?

KG: In 1993 the Target company used It’s A Wonderful Life as a theme in their stores for Christmas and they made a whole line of items from the movie. And the key was that they were going to reunite the Bailey kids and send us on a tour. That was my first experience of seeing people’s reactions. We went all over the country, taking pictures and signing autographs. That’s when I realized what an impact the movie had on so many people. That’s when I decided I would start touring and sharing the magic of the film. I have been on the road since 1993. It’s a wonderful way of life and I will continue to share it with the fans.

Y: What was it like the first time you saw the movie?

KG: The first time I saw it I was an adult, I saw it on TV and I cried. I went through the emotional rollercoaster that everyone does especially with the first viewing and I realized what a fabulous film this was.

Y: One of my other favorite movies is The Bishop’s Wife. Can you share some memories from it?

KG: Cary Grant was probably my favorite star I ever worked with. There is a story behind that movie. Originally the parts of the angel played by Cary Grant and my father the Bishop played by David Niven were reversed. Cary Grant was my father and David Niven was the angel. Well the studio head came down, he did not like the way the movie was being filmed. He didn’t like anything about it. He fired the director, hired Henry Koster to direct it and it was Mr. Koster’s idea to change Cary’s and David’s roles. It worked perfectly but David Niven was not happy that they took away from him being the angel. They were cool or distant with each other and Loretta Young stayed to herself reading her script most of the time.

I believe that Cary Grant had a photographic memory because he never held the script in his hand. He was so nice to me. He would read and tell me stories. There was an actual ice skating rink on the stage and he would come get me everyday at lunch, put me on a sleigh and pull me around on the ice skating rink practicing his ice skating. He was a wonderful, wonderful man and he loved kids.

Y: Can you share a pinch me moment or two?

KG: I’ve had so many. If I had to pick one it would be because of It’s A Wonderful Life, I’ve had a total second career. I was a child actor and the way my life is now, what a gift. My whole life is a wonderful life.

Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.

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