Earlier this year, the TCM Backlot hosted its first ever TCM Backlot Guest Programmer contest where the winner would be flown to Turner Studios in Atlanta, Georgia to present a night of films alongside host Ben Mankiewicz. The lucky winner is a radiologist in South Florida whose warm personality and love of films makes you instantly feel like family. His name is Humberto Martinez.
As a fellow Backlot member, I entered the contest and in doing so, you can see each of the entries. I must admit that when I saw Humberto’s I immediately said, “that’s the guy who’s going to win.” I said that because Humberto is what makes and what we all love about TCM. Humberto is a classic movie fan with a passion and friendliness that radiates off the screen. I felt like I already knew him in that 90 second clip. He has this wonderful energy that made the clip so fun to watch. It turns out that Humberto is my neighbor. He doesn’t exactly live next door, but lives about ten minutes away from me so we were able to connect before his big TCM debut.
Humberto invited me to his home theater that he opens up to residents and his students every Friday. It’s his haven for his classic movie memorabilia but also the place for him to share his passion. When I arrived, he was standing at his door proudly wearing his TCM Backlot shirt and he told me quietly that whoever comes into his home must know that his home is their home and that hosting and talking about film is what he loves. That man in the Backlot video giddy discussing film is just as infectious in real life. Humberto took me to his home theater which is adorned with both classic and contemporary movie posters. Memorabilia including plates from Gone with the Wind and Casablanca are adorned throughout as well as a lot of Disney posters, pictures and figurines. Humberto was right, I felt at home.
Humberto filmed his TCM intros with Ben Mankiewicz on March 24th. He received a call from Yacov Freedman, the manager of the TCM Backlot club, that he had been a finalist. Shortly after Robert Osborne passed and Humberto believed the offer was over that there was no way TCM would be able to pull off the contest. This speaks to the professionalism of TCM. They knew they had a job to do and worked through their grief to select the winner of the contest. When Humberto found out he won, he couldn’t believe it.
He was flown to Atlanta, Georgia like a star. The morning he arrived at TCM, he was handled like a VIP getting wardrobe and makeup treatment. He tells me he got goosebumps sitting in the chair when his makeup was getting done because he was in the same room used by Robert Osborne during his tenure. When he arrived on set, he felt the warmth of the studio lights and there it was, the TCM set right in front of him. Everyone on the set was as lovely and friendly as he imagined. But what he didn’t imagine was that he would be assigned a person who would fill his cup for him with whatever drink he wanted during the duration of the shoot. So that’s what life is like on the other side of showbiz?
Humberto called the shoot an “out of body experience.” The day after he thought he dreamed the whole thing because it was an experience that exceeded his expectations. It almost didn’t happen as smoothly. The night before he had an allergy attack due to the feather pillows in his hotel room. He says you’ll notice he has a coarse to his voice during his introductions and promises he sounds much better in real life. And I can attest to that too. He considers himself very lucky to have been given this opportunity and wishes every fan can have the chance.
Catch Humberto Martinez’s Guest Programmer night Wednesday, May 24th on TCM beginning with Pal Joey at 8:00 PM followed by The Eddie Duchin Story and Bye, Bye Birdie.