Sit down, you're rockin' the boat

So, remember that whole Tinsel and Rot tumult when I found out that it would cost $250 to buy a ticket to the Country Music Association Awards? Of course, you do. How could a momentous occasion like that just slip out of your brain?

Anyway, a month or so ago, I received a phone call early in the morning from a Tinsel and Rot operative out in the field that I should check my e-mail, for Seatfillers was offering the opportunity to attend the CMAs as a, you guessed it, seatfiller. So that meant that while the great unwashed were plunking down their $250 for seats way up in the 300 level at the Garden, I'd be on the main floor, being led around by the overstressed Seatfillers coordinators during commercial breaks to fill the large hole when Big and/or Rich needed to use the potty.

Honestly, I felt a little bad for those who paid $250 (plus fees), since I was getting better seats for free. But I had to wear a suit jacket, so it was just about an even trade.


As I'm sure I've either explained to you at some point or you've experienced firsthand, seatfilling is a very tedious and demeaning way to see a show. Basically, it is your job to fill the vacancies left when someone far more important than you gets the urge to stretch his or her legs. And you do that because someone apparently did a study at some point that said the average TV viewer will be shocked to see an empty seat, and will instead flip over to a show where all the seats are properly filled and all is right with the world. It seems insane to me, but what do I know?

So, you are herded into an area a good three hours before the show starts, branded (this time with a blue ribbon) and separated into groups (at the CMAs, I was part of the "Saddle" group), and eventually given a speech that assumes you are a moron incapable of being in such close proximity to a famous person. This talking-to is generally highlighted by the reminder that if someone taps you on the shoulder and says, "This is my seat," you get up and go, no questions asked. Whoever it is, he or she, it is to be assumed, is clearly more worthy of a seat than you. And the other highlight is when you are told not to talk to the celebrities. Unless they talk first. Then, I guess it's OK. I'm still not entirely clear on that. Fortunately, I've never been in that situation

This speech is almost always delivered by the same person, a woman with a sharp, piercing laugh that invariably makes me feel uncomfortable and/or like she might be capable of murdering me. During her CMA talk to the Saddles, the frightening speech was frequently interrupted as she tried to defuse some other situations developing regarding the other group, the Boots. I kept waiting to see her head explode, but no such luck.

Finally, everyone was herded over from the Theater to the actual arena, where the CMAs were being held. And then we stood in a hallway for about an hour while people passed by us, alternately asking, "What are the blue ribbons for?" and whispering, "You know who they are? Those are seatfillers." It's what I imagine what living in a zoo is like, except you're not standing in your own excrement. Or at least I wasn't. I shouldn't speak for the others.


In what was either a great stroke of luck or a terrible misfortune, our group of Saddles didn't get into the arena until Kenny Chesney had already begun his opening number. And there seemed to be mass confusion among the Seatfillers coordinators, as they led us from one area next to the soundboard to the side of the main space, and then back to the soundboard area. Finally, they sat us down in the holding area, where, theoretically, they would be coming back to get us when seats needed to be filled. Or, you could do as I and my fellow Tinsel and Rot operatives did, which is just ignore any frantic-looking person with a headset and just enjoy the show from a partially obstructed seat in the middle of the main floor.

The women who were initially sitting next to me were not happy, however, because they desperately wanted to be on TV, a desire I bid adieu to a long time ago, just after I appeared on TV (see "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," Episode 2, the pale guy right behind the Hot Seat). So, attired in their prom dresses (some people take the seatfilling thing way serious), they bolted for greener pastures, or at least a Seatfillers coordinator, after the first commercial break. Meanwhile, I contemplated how sad it was going to be when Garth Brooks performed, thus ending what I had hoped would be a lifelong streak of never having attended a show where Garth Brooks appeared. Luckily, tragedy was averted on a technicality when it was announced that Garth would be performing live from Times Square. So, I'm still clean.

(A question was posed in the Comments field asking why Garth Brooks is the Antichrist. Five reasons follow:

1. He managed to transition country music from a time when traditional country was actually making a comeback to a time when bombast, tight Wranglers, and singing like Kermit the Frog became the new standard in Nashville.

2. He was one of the first artists to release CDs with multiple covers so as to get more sales. He likely didn't create the idea, but he certainly ran with it the farthest. Or furthest. Whatever the right word is there. And he just really seems to have an aggressive desire to get every last dime out of his fans. I know they're at fault, too, but I don't have to look at them in the Country CD racks.

3. He recently signed a deal with Wal Mart to make them the exclusive seller of Garth Brooks CDs. And he's re-releasing all of his old CDs with new bonus tracks, so the fans can feel compelled to buy the CDs again. CDs you can only buy at Wal Mart. Douchebag.

4. Chris Gaines. Already covered in "Critical, But Stable."

5. It's my blog and what I proclaim is true is true.)


The Country Music Association decided that since the CMAs were in New York this year, which already upset a lot of people in Nashville, they would would further insult country music fans by inviting people like Paul Simon, Bon Jovi, and Elton John to perform (to be fair, the general consensus among the seatfillers was that Jon Bon Jovi would be the only person it would be really exciting to sit next to, so perhaps some new fans were born). Paul Simon sang Willie Nelson's "Crazy" (preceded by Willie singing Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years"...get it?), which didn't really seem to move anyone. Bon Jovi sang one of their own songs, with help from Jennifer Nettles, the lead singer of Sugarland, which went slightly better. But, by far, the winner of the worst performance of the night was Elton John and Dolly Parton's complete butchery of "Imagine." It was a performance so irredeemably awful that the standing-ovation-happy audience made absolutely no move to get out of their seats after the last note (we had made the move to fill seats during the last hour, so we got to see this one up close). Call and response doesn't really work on "Imagine," particularly when the responding involves Dolly Parton wailing, "Imagine no possessions."

The rest of the performances ranged from the pretty good--Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene" and Sara Evans's "Cheatin'," emphasis on the "pretty," and Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going"--to the distressingly bad--Alan Jackson singing "Wonderful Tonight"--to the alarmingly awful--whatever the hell Rascal Flatts sung (I've blocked it out, and I can't be bothered to do the research) and Big and Rich's "Coming to Your City" (please don't). And the slideshow running behind Gretchen Wilson as she sang "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today" was fairly confusing (JFK and Jackie? Lucy and Desi?), though it was a welcome distraction from the fact that Gretchen Wilson should stay away from the ballads. And during Julie (not Julia) Roberts's performance, I was reminded of her complete inability to finish singing a line without smiling, a trait first picked up by another Tinsel and Rot operative in the field during a trip to the Grand Ole Opry last year.


I had my brief flirtation with seatfilling fame at the very end of the show, when I was called up to the front row to fill a seat in that general area. After calling me up there, they couldn't find a seat for me. All of the sudden, I heard Brooks and Dunn talking behind me. Whoops. We're back on. My vast seatfilling training prevented me from panicking, and tragedy was averted. Perhaps you saw the top of my head on TV. Hope it looked good.

The night ended with me furiously grabbing unused programs from underneath seats, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of ( I have 4 extras--make me an offer), before heading out to the hallway again, where injured Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was involved in an impromptu photo session with every dope with a camera as he waited for his girlfriend to come out of the bathroom. That was probably the closest I came to an actual celebrity that night (other people I saw from relatively close distances--Sugarland, Dominic Chianese, Jerry Douglas, John Rich, Jeff Hanna, Matraca Berg...I'm not impressing you, am I?) But, at a savings of $250, it was a pretty good night.


The waiting is the hardest part

On most people's master list of fun activities, "waiting outside a stage door for 5+ hours on a day off from work" probably ranks somewhere between "being slapped in the face by a dwarf" and "contracting gonorrhea." But, as I'm sure you have realized by now, I am not "most people." And that is why a good portion of the day before my birthday was spent outside the Carnegie Hall stage door, hoping for a moment with Little Jimmy Dickens and some autographs from various other country luminaries (some more illuminating than others).

The Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 80th anniversary with a show at Carnegie Hall, and the show was jammed full of artists who would not normally be stuffed into one Opry show, in what I imagine was a desperate attempt to make the Opry seem much cooler and relevant than it is. And, truth be told, I'm all for that mission. A world without the Grand Ole Opry--a world I think we will see in the not too distant future--is a darker, sadder world. Really. No sarcasm there.

Anyway, going to the show was only part of the day for me. The far more exciting part was supposed to be meeting Little Jimmy Dickens, the oldest member of the Opry and, quite possibly, the reason why I really started listening to country music. If I hadn't seen him sing "Life Turned Her That Way" on a TNN "Country Legends Homecoming" show, I probably never would've delved into the classic country stuff, content to just live in the alt-country ghetto, where Jeff Tweedy was king and Johnny Cash was the only old-timer deemed cool enough to like. Of course, if I hadn't heard him sing that song, I probably wouldn't have spent a picture-perfect Monday afternoon behind a police barricade with a bunch of scraggly looking autograph collectors, but, you know, you pay your money, you take your chances.

So, when I arrived at Carnegie Hall a little past 2 p.m., I figured the chances were good that I was early enough to see Little Jimmy arrive for the 8 p.m. show. Unfortunately, I wasn't. He came in around 1. And never came back out. And then they sent him out a side entrance after the show because the street was packed with people desperate for a glimpse of Martina McBride.

Mission unaccomplished.


But the day wasn't a total loss. As the only person with a decent knowledge of what people looked like, I was the official spotter of the preshow autograph wait. And I initiated a stampede when I spotted "Whispering" Bill Anderson. No one had a clue who he was, but I didn't spend years watching him give his creepy camera stare during the televised Grand Ole Opry pre-show for nothing.

"Whispering" Bill (so nicknamed for his vocal style, which seems to be not so much a "style" these days as it is an inability to hit high notes) has been writing songs in Nashville for a long damn time (he won the "Song of the Year" at last week's CMAs for his cowrite on the Brad Paisley/Alison Krauss duet "Whiskey Lullaby"), and a lot of them are really good. Some of them. not so much, but you can't hit a home run every time. So, even though his singing's never really grabbed me (nor did it grab the guy at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop last year, when he commented, while listening to the Opry on the in-store radio, "Bill, no more singing, man"), I respect him as a songwriter with pretty impressive longevity in a town where you don't see that much of it.

So, it was cool to have him sign a few albums (while some camera crew filmed it, I can only hope y'all never see that footage and the requisite ego-fluffing I engaged in), and to start the rush of lookie-loo collectors desperately looking for an autograph from a guy they didn't know until two minutes ago. Probably made ol' Whispering Bill feel good, too. I do what I can.

And, even better, that was pretty early in the day, so I was four autographs up for the day about an hour in (3 Whispering Bills, 1 Brad Paisley, another person who I used to think was the enemy but have since softened my stance toward). So, it seemed like it would be a productive day, and at this point I thought it would be capped off by a Little Jimmy Dickens appearance. The future was bright.

In fact, meeting Whispering Bill was probably the highlight of the day, unless you count the moment when one of the collectors recounted how he once dated a "goth chick" who "bit his dick." Or the countless times the guy trying to get the stars to read his song "Lady Liberty" (which was, alternately, "a song for our troops" and "a song that will make millions" at different points during his pitch) made ridiculously inappropriate remarks to women passing by. Those were pretty exciting moments, too.

I did get Charley Pride and Ricky Skaggs to sign albums, and snagged pictures with Skaggs and Trace Adkins, the latter only because he was just standing there and I thought, "Well, why not?" And the same thought compelled me to get an autograph from Trisha Yearwood, as I realized that the only thing I actually don't like about her is that she sleeps with the Antichrist, Garth Brooks.

So, aside from not achieving the main purpose of the day (the autograph of and photo with Little Jimmy), it was pretty successful, "success," of course, being a relative term. I finally gave up waiting at about 7:15, grabbed some pizza, and then headed into Carnegie Hall for the show, which was pretty good, though it dragged in a few spots, much like your standard Opry show. Unfortunately, the Carnegie Hall Opry didn't feature live commercials for sponsors, nor was the Opry band or Carol Ann Cooper in the house, thus depriving the NYC crowd of any oversexualized Goo Goo Clusters spots. But Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs doing "Go Rest High on That Mountain" sure was pretty. And at least I finally got to see Little Jimmy perform, albeit only one song. And I'm pretty confident that the people sitting next to me were baffled as to why I was standing when he came out and singing "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" right along with him, but sitting mute when "stars" like Vince Gill and Brad Paisley performed, but what can you do? I'm a 29-year-old man who worships Little Jimmy Dickens. What of it?

NEXT: The Country, My Ass Awards

Back in the saddle again

Sorry for the long delay in posts. I was on vacation last week. I didn't go anywhere; it was more one of those Dr. Leo Marvin "Vacation from My Problems" sort of vacations. Congratulations if you got the "What About Bob?" reference.

Anyway, much of the first half of the week off was spent "enjoying" Country Music Week in New York City. I saw almost every country musician I despise, and even a few I like. Quite a time. I was gonna wait until the pictures developed, but why make you, the thirsty Tinsel and Rot devotee, suffer any longer? So, let 'er go, boys, let 'er go...

Sunday, November 13--The Rodeo Bar--Live Radio Broadcast of The Front Porch Show, hosted by Justin Frazell, with guests Lee Ann Womack, Waylon Payne, Jack Ingram, Billy Currington, Joe Nichols, and Scotty Emerick (followed by a full show from Trent Summar and the New Row Mob, which is why I was there)

When "I Hope You Dance" came out a few years ago, I was a pretty healthy Lee Ann Womack hater. I just don't really like inspirational, warm and fuzzy country songs. I don't care if you dance, and I especially don't care that you hope I dance. I'll live my life, you live yours. Now sing me a song about heartbreak or cheating or something.

But now, I must admit that I really don't have much of a problem with Lee Ann Womack. I like the two songs I've heard off her current CD ("Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago" and "I May Hate Myself in the Morning"), which are both pretty good country songs with a classic kind of feel to them, and they wisely focus on both heartbreak and cheating. Hooray for Lee Ann.

Now, if she could just ease up a trifle bit on the hair, the makeup, and the tanning, she might really be on to something.

Anyway, I though the radio show was going to be a full show from Lee Ann, interrupted intermittently by commercials. But it turned out to be "The Front Porch Show," a weekly radio show out of Texas that seems to play decent songs some of the time, but is hosted by a guy who screams most of the time in a thick Texas drawl. He was sort of like Larry the Cable Guy, but without the keen wit. And I stood through three hours of that while I waited to pounce on a seat for the Trent Summar and the New Row Mob show that was set to follow the radio program. Good times.

It was hard to find a place to stand, but I wound up with an OK spot between the two main rooms at the Rodeo Bar. And I was right at the bottom of the stairs that led to the VIP area, so I got to see the folks who were waiting to go on the radio show. Jack Ingram, who I actually like and respect, was the first guy I recognized. He's got a bunch of really good songs, seems to be making some inroads into the country music "establishment," and he's in one of Lee Ann Womack's recent videos, yet another reason why she might just be all right.

Then, a few minutes after I saw Ingram, I spotted a guy who I initially thought was Dierks Bentley, another Nashville hitmaker I don't really mind. But then I got a closer look and realized I was mere steps away from the man who set Manhood back at least 1,000 years--Billy Currington.

With any luck, you don't know who Billy Currington is. But you may know him from the most embarrassing video of all time, his duet with Shania Twain on "Party for Two." The song is, even by Shania standards, exceptionally and annoyingly awful. But it's the video that breaks new ground in hideous entertainment. It features the two of them prancing (and, really, "prancing" is the only possible word that can be used) around with the least amount of sexual chemistry I've ever seen between two human beings (and, believe me, I know plenty about a lack of sexual chemistry). It's like a really short episode of "Barney and Friends," but not nearly as entertaining. Every other song the man does could be jaw-droppingly brilliant, but I'll never be able to shake the image of him in that video long enough to appreciate them.

I debated taking a picture with him for a laugh, but I don't think I would've been able to deal with being that close to him. But I did wrangle him when it came time for his appearance on the radio show. During breaks, the host would call people to the stage, but no one could hear anything outside of the room. So, since I was between the two rooms, I took it upon myself to tell Billy he was being paged. Something to tell the grandkids about. I did the same, or tried, later on when Jack Ingram was being paged. I saw him by the bar and let him know that the host wanted him. He looked at me and said, "Really? Oh well," then grabbed my arm in a gesture of thanks and walked away to get a drink. And that's why I like Jack Ingram even more.

In the completely odd celebrity sighting of the night, former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly showed up a few hours into the show, apparently just to hang out. I guess he knew some people from the Front Porch Show, so he tried to get the attention of one of the guys working. And he did, because the guy yelled out, "Hey, Jim Kelly!" to which Jim Kelly responded, "Don't yell my name out, you dumb shit." Then, later on, right before he headed up to the VIP room, he looked at me and, for some reason, said what sounded like the following: "I know it's illegal, but that shit's killing me." I honestly have no idea what he was talking about. It could've been the scantily clad young lady standing near us. But, in any case, some sort of shit was killing Jim Kelly. Maybe it was Billy Currington.


The Front Porch Show finally wrapped up a little after 11, and a little later Trent Summar and the New Row Mob took the stage. I had only seen them once before, and that wasn't with the new lineup that features Yayhoo/Georgia Satellite/All-Around Cool Guy Dan Baird. It was a really fun show, seen by a fraction of the people who sat through the radio show, most of whom followed the orange-tanned glow of Lee Ann Womack out of the room. The band doesn't really got up this way very much, but they're definitely worth checking out. With Baird and Ken McMahan on board, it's a real monster of a band. And Trent Summar doesn't hold back much, jumping on chairs, doing the Robot, flailing all around. Sometimes it almost seems like too much energy, until you realize that there's no such thing when it comes to good live music. And the thrashing cover of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" can't be beat.

NEXT: There'll be guitars and fiddles and banjo-pickin', too


Long Live the King (Again)

Devoted Aimless readers will no doubt recall the brilliant prose from Larry King, Jr. (as told to Ryan Lillis). Well, Junior has a grown-up, writer-type son now, so Tinsel and Rot now proudly presents:

The King Rides Again
by Larry King III (as told to James Sigman)

M&M Minis--what's the point?...All this tumult in France cannot be good news...That "Christian warrior" mom on "Trading Spouses" sure was a peach...It's very windy outside today...Terrell Owens's agent makes me angry...I'm no Nostradamus, but this whole war in Iraq thing doesn't look like it's going to turn out well...Sometimes, I'll walk the streets of Manhattan and think about nothing else but those chocolate cookies filled with coconut that they used to serve at the Terrace Dining Hall...Seemed to be a lot of hurricanes this year...I've been reading a biography of Robert Frost for almost a month now and I can't decide if I want to finish it..."But Can They Sing?" has been a huge disappointment so far. Bring back "Celebrity Fit Club"..."Walk the Line" better not suck...Should I buy a Sirius radio? I can't decide...Good episode of "Family Guy" this week...Lot of people dying lately...Big shock that they think the guy responsible for drugging and raping that woman after he posed as a fireman is a journalist...I don't care what John Davidson tells me--I don't like the shootout...David Lee Roth is very tough on the ears...Pot roast doesn't get nearly enough respect...It's Country Music Week in New York City...That Chuck Scarborough is an ageless dynamo...What's Corey Haim up to these days?...If I were a grown man, I probably would insist that people stop calling me "Scooter."

'Til next time, kids....


Hey hey hey

We are on the cusp of an historic weekend in television history--the TV Land "What's Happening" marathon weekend.

Starting Saturday morning and running through Sunday, the marathon heralds the addition of "What's Happening" to TV Land's schedule. This is exciting news. Very exciting news.

Now we will once again have the opportunity to visit with Raj, Rerun, Dwayne, Mama, Dee, Shirley, and everybody else, just like I used to do every weekday at 5:30, when Channel 5 aired the show in NYC. For many years of my childhood, "The Brady Bunch" and "What's Happening" were the main reasons for existence. That might be hyperbole, or it might just be true.

Anyway, if you can't devote your whole weekend to TV Land, may I suggest that you need to at least see the Doobie Brothers two-parter. It's a TV classic, right up there with the creepy bike shop owner molestation two-parter on "Diff'rent Strokes" and the episode of "The Jeffersons" where George gives CPR to the very ungrateful white supremacist guy.

The TV Land website says the Doobie episodes air at midnight and 12:30 Sat. night/Sunday morning and again at 7 and 7:30 Sunday night. Dig it.


We're gonna make our dreams come true

When it's 40 degrees out and you're standing in an interminably long line whose big payoff will be buying a T-shirt and meeting someone from the "Police Academy" movies, it's not a bad idea to start talking to the people around you, if only to see if they have a crazier purpose than you do. So, having already established that I was the crazier one between Josh and myself, it made sense to move on to the husband and wife standing in front of us.

Luckily, they had driven about five hours for some face time with Eddie Deezen, perhaps best known as Eugene Felnic, the nerdy guy in "Grease." Or perhaps not known at all, though he's one of those if-you-saw-him-you'd-know-who-he-was kind of celebrities. In fact, there was a whole tent full of just that sort of people awaiting us at the end of the line—the actual line I was waiting on, not the metaphorical one. As much as I like the "Police Academy" movies, I'd be pretty bummed if at the end of the metaphorical line, I was greeted by the guy who played Tackleberry (RIP). Or maybe I wouldn't be.

Anyway, they were big Eddie Deezen fans, so they decided to make the trip, not knowing—in what was rapidly becoming a theme—just how big a convention Chiller Theatre was. They were real pleasant, seemingly normal people, and good folks to spend three hours with while you're losing feeling in your toes. They never mentioned their names, and I never offered mine, which is as it should be. But they were good eggs.

A Chiller staffer was patrolling the line, so the female Deezenatic figured it'd be a good idea to ask her if Eddie Deezen was indeed in the tent. Sometimes cancellations happen, and though it would suck to drive five hours for no reason, at least you could get out of the line and do something more productive with your Saturday, like, well, just about anything else.

So, after being told his name about three times and finishing her cigarette, the staffer went up toward the tent (or, at this point in the day, where we assumed the tent was, not being able to actually see it). As she left, I told the Deezenatics the cold, hard truth.

"(A) She's not coming back and (b) if she does come back, she's not going to have any information."

Fifteen minutes later, and after a few minutes of trying to find us in line, the staffer returned with the following news:

"I don't think he's in the tent."

There was a brief moment of panic, but then Josh and I assured the Deezenatics that she probably didn't even ask anyone. And I think we were right, because somewhere in Hour 2, Josh asked the same staffer to see if Hurricane Carter was in the tent. After he wondered out loud if he should just follow the staffer and beg and plead his case at the front of the tent, we urged him to do just that. So he went up, and I guess he must not have crossed paths with the staffer, because she returned in about ten minutes and told us, "Ruben Carter? Yeah, I don't think he's in there." Then when we pressed her on that info, she said, "But I don't even really know what he looks like, so..."

This became even funnier when we finally got in the tent (Josh, by the way, got his wish and saved himself the last hour of waiting), and Ruben Carter was literally two tables in from the entrance.

Did I mention the excellent staff?


Finally, at a little past 3 p.m., after more than three hours of freezing, watching costumed freaks look at us and say, "You'd have to be crazy to be in that line," and actually getting excited when Kevin "Hercules" Sorbo came out in the cold and signed autographs for people on line (no, I didn't get one), we were at the entrance, me and the Deezenatics. We were just about to go in when Captain Lou Albano came out of the tent, leaving for the day. I quickly grabbed the "Body Slam" soundtrack out of my bag, got out of line, and snagged the latest of far too many Captain Lou autographs (far too many for most people, of course, being 1).

The woman letting people into the tent almost didn't let me in because I got out of line. That would've been interesting.

But after telling me, "You shouldn't have done that," she let me in. And it was F-list celebrities as far as the eye could see.

Hey, look, it's Tonya Harding. And there's Dwight "Howlin' Mad" Murdock from "The A-Team." And over there—it's tiny little David "Bud Bundy" Faustino. And Lydia Cornell from "Too Close for Comfort" is right there, next to Jerri Manthey from "Survivor," who's selling signed copies of Playboy for $50. Or she would be selling them if anyone wanted one. And there's all the wrestlers—Ken Patera, Rick Martel, Tito Santana, the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Jimmy Snuka, and—sweet—Abdullah the Butcher, selling T-shirts.

I moved in for the Abdullah shirt first, and he and a guy I assume was his manager seemed quite happy that someone was showing an interest. The sales pitch started immediately. I could buy signed forks, an autographed cane, a shirt, or a plain old 8 X 10. I got the shirt.

"You have your own camera?" Abdullah asked.


"He'll take the picture," Abdullah said, pointing at the other guy.

So I moved in next to Abdullah. And then came a phrase I assume I'll never hear again.

"Now stick the fork in my head."

"Do what?"

"The fork . . . in my head."

"Um, OK."

Now, I guess I grabbed the fork wrong, because Abdullah took it from me and showed me the proper way to stick a fork in a man's forehead. And so I did, which is when this was taken.

I can feel your jealousy.


Leslie Easterbrook was next on the list, and after walking around the tent twice trying to find her (there was no map that told you where everyone was, which was really helpful), I sidled up behind a couple of guys. And after a lengthy conversation with the first guy about the "Police Academy" movies and the second guy about "Laverne and Shirley" (she was on in the later years, when the gals moved out west), it was my turn at bat. She was excited to see the poster (or, more accurately, successfully feigned excitement in order to make me feel slightly better for waiting three hours in the cold) and talked about the movie and how it was "the one with no plot" (which, I know, you think would describe all of them). Then, after a slight faux pas on my part (I told her the second one was also one of my favorites; she wasn't in that one, which I realized after I said it) and the exchange of $10, this was taken:

Eat your heart out.


After checking out the prices for most of the guests, I decided I probably wouldn't be spending much more time or money in the tent. Courtney Gains—best known to me as the red-haired kid in "Can't Buy Me Love" who throttles Patrick "Ronald Miller" Dempsey in the arcade and screams, "You shit my house!"—wanted $20 for a signed photo of that scene. He was getting no business, but I couldn't justify the purchase. Then there were the people doing decent business, like Larry Hagman, Adam "Batman" West, and Burt "Robin" Ward, whom I had absolutely no interest in. And then there were those bordering on insane. As you can see above, Eddie "The Big Ragu" Mekka from "Laverne and Shirley" wanted $25 to sign a jar of spaghetti sauce he bought at the supermarket. Even I have my limits. Or I did on Saturday.

I did get my book signed by Missy Hyatt, who, when I was about 12, I thought was the hottest woman ever. Plastic surgery has taken care of that, though:

I wanted to be nowhere near her in a picture.

I also tried to find Dirk Benedict, but it turns out he cancelled, which inevitably means I will find myself compelled to go to one of these godforsaken things again. Hooray.


I briefly checked out the vendors inside the hotel (after waiting on yet another line just to get into the exhibition area) and picked up a Japanese movie program of "The Blues Brothers" for John Landis to sign. When I went to get his signature on the program, he was busy trying to find a good place to eat in the Secaucus area, which I imagine he might still be doing.

Then it was time to get home, so I hopped in a van going from the hotel to the bus stop and spent the bus ride back to Port Authority listening to a guy behind me tell his far-too-good-looking-to-be-going-to-conventions girlfriend that he was really pleased by his time at Chiller, because he was "able to fill in some gaps."

Maybe he did, but I'm pretty sure I widened a few more gaps than I filled in.