“Everything Everywhere All At Once” swept the 95th Academy Awards, taking home an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Film Editing. And if there were an award for best location, one San Fernando couple might have taken home a statue too. Kenny Majers and his wife Irene own Majers Coin Laundry, where the film was shot. They join us to talk about the laundromat's history, shooting the film, and their newfound unexpected fame.
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Steve Chiotakis: The movie was set at your laundromat. Were y'all invited to the Oscars?
Kenny Majers: Unfortunately, no. Would have been nice. But no.
Chiotakis: Were you waiting for that invitation?
Kenny Majers: Oh, I would have … definitely went if I was invited.
Chiotakis: Irene, how about you?
Irene Majers: To be honest, probably not. I think it wouldn’t be great. It's too much.
Kenny Majers: We got invited to … the watch party.
Chiotakis: What was it like at the watch party? Were you getting a lot of attention?
Kenny Majers: Oh, my friends for a long time, they know the struggles and the ups and downs I've had. So … they're all very excited for me.
Chiotakis: Talk a little bit about those ups and downs. because this laundromat has been in your family for three generations, right?
Kenny Majers: Yeah, my grandfather built it. My dad was ready to sell it, and then I took it over. So yes, [we're the] third generation.
Chiotakis: You've had to ride through a lot of ups and downs because it costs money to keep a laundromat in business, I would imagine.
Kenny Majers: There's a lot of maintenance issues and utilities. And there's a lot of setbacks. Like for example, what's going on with the gas rates is just skyrocketing.
Chiotakis: And you have gas dryers, right?
Kenny Majers: Gas water heater and gas dryers. So imagine like I have … 60 ovens going all at one time.
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Chiotakis: Kenny, how did this happen? Did the producers just come to you? Did they try to explain the movie to you?
Kenny Majers: The scout manager came by and said, "I'm looking at laundromats, I'm taking a few photos of laundromats. I like the way your laundromat looks. Were you interested in doing a movie, or film filming here?" I said, "Well, you have to pay me enough for me to close my business for a day. So if you guys can make it worth my while then yeah, I'll be definitely interested."
Chiotakis: How long were you closed?
Kenny Majers: Six days. ... They paid me for it. They’ve since filmed two commercials afterwards. So I was thinking I can use two productions like that, at least two to two times a year would be nice.
Chiotakis: You're not only in the laundromat business, you're in the movie set business, right?
Kenny Majers: They pay a lot more. ... It went right to bills like, instantly. It was like burning a hole in my pocket.
Chiotakis: Irene, the couple in the movie has a daughter, and you took your daughter to see the movie when it came out. What was that experience like?
Irene Majers: It was great. I never expected the story for the movie was going to be like that. Because when they were filming it, it was hard to … catch up with the story. But when I took my daughter and I saw — oh my goodness, it was like us, like me, my husband, and my daughter. And my daughter right now, since she's in high school, she has changed a lot [since] when she was little. Totally brought me a lot of memories. Sadness, because also at this time, she wants to be herself, and she wants to be, I mean, independent, and it's so hard for us to let her fly. And I feel like in the movie, Stephanie and Michelle, they project that respect for mother and daughter, and also the traditions, the family.
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Chiotakis: The tradition, but also the working, the fighting, because they're trying to save their business, right? And this is something that you both can really understand.
Irene Majers: Totally. The laundromat has, like Kenny says, has a lot of ups and downs. And to maintain a laundromat, it's very difficult. And just like they project in the movie, there's always a lot of bills and taxes and family. So this pretty much … they did a great job with the story, with the movie.
Kenny Majers: And one of the scenes, she was running out to her car, and then her mom was chasing after her and … I just started … got triggered … emotion of this many instances that happened in the laundromat is like raising a daughter, my daughter growing up in the laundromat business. … Now she's busy with school and her music and everything else. But when she was younger, she would be there more often with me.
Chiotakis: What was the scene? Stephanie Hsu, who plays the daughter, running out to the car?
Kenny Majers: That was the scene. And then I remember Stephanie … she saw me. I think she saw me crying. I was trying to hide it. I was like, wow, that just triggered something. She looked at me, just nodded her head yes, like ‘I know.’ … I was like, wow, what's this movie? It's gonna be special. I knew right then.
Chiotakis: Are you prepared for all the tourists, and people who want to come and check your place out?
Kenny Majers: Come by and see it. Maybe buy something from the vending machine, a laundry bag, or…
Irene Majers: Or just say hi.
Kenny Majers: I like when they come by and take pictures. I have no problem with it. But if they want to support a small business…
Chiotakis: Maybe do a little laundry, right?
Kenny Majers: There's been a couple that come by and do laundry. They were doing laundry, and I saw them taking pictures. That was pretty cool.