The backstory in question, if you don't know, is that James Gunn was fired from directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 because of some offensive tweets that he made years ago. Fans are angry, the cast stood up to defend him, but Disney won't budge and Gunn himself vanished from social media after his initial apology. There's been a lot of misinformation floating around about this, so if you've only heard bits and pieces and you're not sure who's in the right, I'd be happy to dig up some sources for you. For the purposes of the tale below, though, all that needs to be said about my own views is that I desperately want him back; as far as I'm concerned he's the heart and soul of my favorite movies.
Sign the petition, make an angry Tumblr post, sure sure, but at some point it occurred to me that it would be fun, wouldn't it, to communicate with James Gunn in his own language: a mix tape. Of course, that's impossible; how would we get it to him? Unless...I have the opportunity to go to FanX in Salt Lake City, where Dave Bautista and Michael Rooker are both going to be signing autographs? But no, I don't even have a cassette tape recorder. But maybe...I'm not in this alone?
Last Wednesday I drove out to Utah, all by myself, to go stay with taaroko for a few days. Yes, that Taaroko. Thank you, ten years of Buffy fandom, you finally propelled us into meeting in person!
I had a pack of blank tapes and a track list hastily assembled from my own ideas and suggestions from the fandom; she had a tape deck and some of her own art for the cover, but it turns out that making a mix tape in the year 2018 is still a tall order. The first thing we did when I got there was test Taaroko’s machine. It wouldn’t record. Thursday morning we went to a consignment shop and bought one to replace it. I submitted that the best/only way to get the music onto the tape would be to first put it onto a blank CD and record it from there. She concurred and asked if I had brought a blank CD. Good question! No.
Oh, but before I left home I did discover, five minutes before I had to get on the road, that the bedroom where I’ve been sleeping for the past month also has a tape deck. Compare to Taaroko's account of all this: "But then I remembered my mom’s portable tape recorder that’s older than I am, which I played with all the time as a kid. Only after asking Mom if it was still miraculously lying around somewhere at home after three moves did I remember that I have a boom box with a tape deck in my own freaking bedroom." We are winners.
Thursday evening we enlisted assistance from the aforementioned mom to print out our cover artwork and supply a blank CD. I bought each song from Amazon and downloaded them onto Taaroko’s laptop while she formatted the art. We had to make some snap decisions - I thought I had written down too many songs, but they weren’t enough to fill up the tape, and there’s only so much you want to spend on Amazon music you don’t even necessarily like that much.
“Five Years” - David Bowie
“Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” - Bob Dylan
“Break My Stride” - Matthew Wilder
“Dancing in the Moonlight” - Toploader
“The Safety Dance” - Men Without Hats
“We Are the Champions” - Queen
“With a Little Help from My Friends” - The Beatles
“Wish You Were Here” - Pink Floyd
“Me and Bobby McGee” - Janis Joplin
“More Than a Feeling” - Boston
“Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” - The Carpenters
“Raise a Little Hell” - Trooper
“Take On Me” - A-Ha
“Carry on My Wayward Son” - Kansas
“St. Elmo’s Fire” - John Parr
“End of the Line” - The Traveling Wilburys
Hidden track after a long gap on Side B, because you can do that on cassette tapes, and oh yes we went there
“Never Gonna Give You Up” - Rick Astley
Taaroko took care of getting the playlist burned onto the CD, using the household desktop since her MacBook refused to do anything but spit the blank CD back out. There were some slight complications on the desktop too. At one point she started yelling at the program for playing the hidden track when she hadn't meant to. Yes, you read that right: she rickrolled herself.
We came home with the CD and an insert-sized print of the cover art and an idea in mind for what to call the mix. When we got back to Taaroko’s apartment, she wrote out the track list on paper along with the length of each song, and did the math to see how the tracks should be arranged on the two sides. There were only a few hiccups from there on (mainly the result of how long it’s been since either of us had used a tape player), and the actual recording wasn’t finished until the next morning, since you have to listen to the whole damn thing when you record onto a tape, and it was late.
In addition to the cover art, we printed out a mini page with a couple of my sketches in the corner, and wrote Gunn a brief letter to slip inside. And thus, a mix tape was born!
Friday morning we got into the line to meet Dave Bautista as fast as we could. They had each line marked out in a serpentine pattern, so for a while we were hanging out right in front of him, but it moved slooowww. Sometimes not at all, and it was hard to tell when he was going on a break or even when the signing session was over. Later we heard that there were technical difficulties with his photo ops, and the delay bled over to signings, and we also heard that he’s exceptionally chatty with fans (which kind of made me forgive everything, because it’s cute).
When his first session ended, we were given a voucher so we could come back after lunch to regain our place in line for the second session, but we did that and the voucher really didn’t do anything and there was another hour or so of waiting in a line that didn’t move. We had a whole con to go to. We gave up.
So that’s how I didn’t meet Dave Bautista and didn’t give him the mix tape for James Gunn.
...AH HA HA WE GAVE IT TO MICHAEL ROOKER INSTEAD!
Yeah I thought it would be fun to psych you out while I was writing this, but the truth is it was pretty early on in the Bautista line when we realized that Rooker’s line was practically empty. (Not totally sure on the why of this, but part of it seems to be that he goes to more cons and had been at this one last year too.) The guy in front of us held our place, and we skipped out and rushed over and, people, I am not accustomed to talking to celebrities, let alone asking favors of them, and I was nervous as hell, but fortunately, Rooker is one crazy nice dude.
Taaroko and I both stammered out an explanation of what we had done as we showed him the tape. “We’re big fans,” I said, “and we’re big James Gunn fans, and we made him this, but we have no way to get it to him...?”
“So you want me to give it to James?”
We nodded meekly. “We just want him to know that we support him, and we miss him,” I said. Taaroko explained a little bit about all the effort we had put into making the tape. My heart was racing.
“That’s sweet! I don’t usually pass things on, but I’ll do it.”
HEART EYES. We thanked him profusely and he gave each of us a high five before we retreated back to the Bautista line. My knees were literally shaking and I didn't even know for sure that was a thing that happened in real life.
I don’t honestly expect to ever hear about whether the tape did make it into Gunn’s hands or how he feels about it if it did, but I do believe Rooker is a man of his word and that he at least understood and appreciated our intentions. In short - we did it.
Your movies have inspired millions and changed lives. Please don't be silenced - we miss you and are here for whatever you create next.
Love from your fandom -
We Are Groot