Ooooh, Scary: Chiller Theatre Fall 2006

Ah, the vibrant majesty of the fall, with its many glorious sights and smells. The turning of the leaves. The aroma of pumpkin that occasionally wafts through the air. And me, standing on a line outside a hotel in Secaucus, New Jersey, waiting to get my pictures taken with stars of '80s sitcoms.

Yessir, last Friday night brought me to the Chiller Theatre convention at the delightful Crowne Plaza hotel in hopes that I could obtain an autograph or two and a couple of pictures from the folks that popped up on my TV when I was a wee lad. This is the fourth Chiller in a row for me, which I think officially means that "sociopath" is now an accurate word to describe me. Awesome!

Anyway, I noted a few names on the guest list that piqued my interest, and since there was a rare gap in my social calendar, I figured it was worth the trip to Secaucus (though, really, who needs an excuse to visit Secaucus?). And my new Chiller Fall battle plan (because the fall show is the biggest of the year, with about 150 autograph guests) was to go on opening night, thus avoiding a repeat of last year's bazillion-hour wait on Saturday afternoon. And it was a success, as Friday was crowded but I never waited in a line for more than about 10 minutes. I'm so excited that I've solved the mystery of attending Chiller. There's nowhere to go but up. Or is it down? Well, now we're just arguing semantics. Let's move on to the show, OK?

Actually, one of the main reasons for going to Chiller was to see a TV "star" of a more recent vintage, Carla Gallo from the dearly missed (by me and at least two other people) "Undeclared." Alas, she was a no-show. So, say goodbye to that very special Christmas gift, Mr. and Mrs. Cagnazzi. I tried. I suppose I could have gotten you a signed Hulk poster from Lou Ferrigno (shown above), but I sense that wouldn't have been as cool. Sorry if I was wrong.

The Hulk was next to the one guy whose autograph I wound up buying, Todd "Willis Jackson" Bridges (you can see him bending down in the background of the photo above). He was actually quite an amiable chap, though he did give me the hard sell on buying the "Diff'rent Strokes" Season 2 DVDs from him. He was trying to get me to buy the set (he would sign every disc) for $50, which I would never, ever do. Plus, I can't be sure, but they looked to be bootleg DVDs, meaning that one of the stars of "Diff'rent Strokes" appeared to be selling bootlegs of a show that he starred in. I sense that things could be going better for Mr. Bridges. But he signed my Season 1, non-bootleg DVD case for $20 and did so gladly, after I barely stopped myself from asking him if Season 2 had the King Neptune two-parter in it. The question was on the verge of coming out of my mouth when I realized that asking him if the episode where the bike-shop owner molests Arnold and Dudley was on the discs might come across as a bit, um, creepy. But it's an historic show in my TV-watching life. That was probably the first "Very Special Episode" of a show I remember seeing. Freaked me out. Never even went into a bike shop after that. I don't wanna talk about it anymore.

I came to Chiller with the intention of getting a photo with Tony Burton, Apollo Creed's trainer in the "Rocky" movies and Rocky's trainer in the always timely "Rocky IV." Somehow I came to my senses before forking over the $15 to have a picture taken with my camera ($20 for a Polaroid signed to me). I couldn't even bring myself to get a photo signed because he was barely in half the photos he was selling. When I saw him sign an autograph, "Hands Up, Chin Down," I almost rethought my decision, but I stuck to my guns. Sorry, Duke.

As shown in the picture above, Burton was next to Peter Lupus, the original Nordberg in the "Police Squad!" TV show that preceded the "Naked Gun" movies (and O.J. Simpson's portrayal of Nordberg therein). That would almost have been enough to get me to buy a signed photo, except (a) no "Police Squad!" photos and (b) he looked really creepy. He's 74 and I guess he's in great shape or whatever, but it's that sort of old-person fit look that gives me the willies. He was peddling some supplements that allegedly "slow the body's aging process," so I guess that's what gives him his youthful glow. I think I'd prefer the aging process to just keep going at its normal rate.

Across from Burton and Lupus was the star of the show (or costar, I guess, since Kiss's Peter Criss, who had his own separate room inside the hotel, also drew a long line), Pee Wee Herman, whose autograph I thankfully once got for free, thus enabling me not to wait on the long line that wrapped around the back of the autograph tent most of the night. He seemed genuinely happy to be there and was awfully pleasant with everyone. And I think he was only charging $30, which may seem like a lot until you hear that Anthony Michael Hall was charging $40 (and only brought "Dead Zone" photos...where's the "Vacation" love, Rusty?). Or at least that's what I'm told happened on Saturday and Sunday. Somehow, his prices went up after Friday. Interesting.

Pee Wee was seated next to Lynne Marie Stewart, who played Miss Yvonne on "Pee Wee's Playhouse." As seen in the photo above (and, yes, I think that's Pee Wee standing up and taking a picture of something--hopefully, not me), she looks slightly different than she did in the Playhouse. Then again, I look slightly different than I did in 1990, too. That was a bad year for me. Very pudgy. So I actually look better than I did in 1990. I think. I hope.

But enough about me. What about Erin Moran, aka Joanie from "Happy Days"? Yep, she was there, and she was all over the place. When she wasn't snapping pictures with other celebrities or running out of the tent to grab a quick smoke, she was bugging her eyes out and hugging everybody that stopped at her table. I missed her a few times while she was on break, but I finally succeeded on the third try. Unfortunately, I was behind the Fab Six, six homosexual men who basically formed a half-circle around every celebrity that they wanted to meet and then took photo after photo. I had already spent a little time watching them work their magic as I tried to snap a photo of Charlene Tilton, which was amusing. But being behind them on the Erin Moran line was much more annoying, as they passed Joanie their cell phones so she could talk to their friends. Yes, that's the plural. She spoke to two people on the phone, while a third (who shared her birthday and thus had to be spoken to) missed his opportunity to chat with Joanie by not being home. I can only imagine the horror he now goes through every day, thinking of what might have been.

The only entertaining part of the waiting was watching Alana Curry, a really hot model/actress, who had the table next to Joanie, silently stewing as no one approached her while Erin Moran was being fawned over as if she were Julia Roberts. In fact, the four "hot chicks" around Erin Moran (Curry, Mia St. John, Brande Roderick, and Christy Hemme) didn't seem to do much business at all when I was in the tent, thus positioning Chiller as the Great Equalizer, where the large-breasted, heavily made up women of the world are routinely shunned in favor of aggressively aging actors and actresses. It was something to see.

Anyway, eventually I got my photo with Joanie. Tragically, I think I look much worse than she does.

Joanie sure does love Jamesi, though. Look how she's all over me. And her husband was taking the picture. I bet it could've been a wild night.

After tearing Erin Moran away from me (which happened soon after I gave her husband the $10 for the photo), I decided to take advantage of the stellar photo opportunity that awaited me a few tables away. "Three's Company" stars Joyce DeWitt and Priscilla Barnes (the latter of whom I was reminded on a recent, very boring Saturday afternoon was also in "Mallrats") were signing photos and occasionally taking photos with the peoples. I asked the guy at Priscilla Barnes' table how much it would cost for a photo with the both of them, and when he said it was $10 each, that sounded like a fine deal to me. So I headed to the back of the line and a few minutes later, voila:

I think Priscilla Barnes may have had some work done. Hard to tell.

After my turn as Jack Tripper, I was pretty much done for the night. There were a couple of almosts. Scott Schwartz, from "A Christmas Story" and "The Toy" (I think the first movie I ever saw, or at least remember seeing, in a theater) priced himself out when he wanted $25 to sign my copy of "The Toy." And after I realized who Stu Charno was, I almost succumbed. See, he played the real nerdy guy (IMDB says his name was Reptile) in the cinematic classic "Just One of the Guys." Seemed like a nice guy, too, but I just didn't see that fitting into the budget.

So after a quick last check of the vendor rooms, I made my way back to the NJ Transit bus stop, ready to head home for the night. It was a pretty successful night, not as crazy as last year, which was both good and bad (good because the lines were shorter, bad because there were fewer costumed freaks to stare at...only a fully decked out Robocop impressed me). Luckily(?), it's only a few more months until the next Chiller, with its dozens of great but oddball guests, occasionally long lines, and perhaps my favorite Chiller feature, the right-at-kids'-eye-level Storage Tub O' Porn.


The TV Is Whipping Me

The first in a series?

*You know what would make me more likely to watch "Yo Momma" on MTV? If just once someone would respond to one of the Yo Mommas with "My mother died giving birth to me, you insensitive prick." It wouldn't even have to be true. And, by the way, congratulations to Wilmer Valderrama for doing the impossible...somehow besting Ashton Kutcher for the title of "That '70s Show Cast Member with the Most Annoying Show on MTV." Topher Grace, please commence thinking of ways to top them.

*Sorry, but "1 vs. 100" is yet another bad game show. The questions are so easy in the early rounds that you're not really compelled to stick around to the end of the show. And Bob Saget seems like he's barely interested in the game. So that's another game show failure. Where have you gone, Chuck Barris, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

The best current game show is clearly "Vas o No Vas," the Spanish-language version of "Deal or No Deal." The contestants are cooler, the studio audience is more into it, and the host isn't afraid to touch the contestants. Te amo "Vas o No Vas."

*One good thing about no more baseball--no more Tim McCarver. When I was a kid, I couldn't understand why people hated him so much. I get it now. Completely.

* I accept that, as a virile gentleman of the modern age, I shouldn't be watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and getting all emotional. But I am. Sorry.

*While I'm copping to things, settle back and soak this admission in: I think I'm finally tired of the Real World/Road Rules alumni challenges. "The Duel" is leaving me cold. If they want to get my interest back, I think the next one should just be called "Let's Kill Beth from L.A." And get rid of the "Fresh Meat" kids. They haven't paid their dues.

*Hey, did you hear the funny joke Dane Cook told on his HBO special? Yeah, me neither.

*So, whaddya think of that new opening from "Degrassi: The Next Generation"? And the new girl who has a kid? What? You don't watch the show because it's geared toward 13-year-olds? Oh, right, yeah...I don't watch it either. I just heard there was a new opening on one of The N message boards and...I mean, someone I know told me...ah, forget I ever mentioned this.


Tinsel and Rot: The Week in Emotions

DISHEARTENED. At the report from the Daily News that orders for Dustin "Screech" Diamond's porn tape are "pouring in." If I heard that one person ordered this, I'd be upset. But "pouring in"? What is wrong with you people? Do you really have a burning desire to see Screech have sex? Has your life really come to this? Surely you can buy much more entertaining porn for your $49.95.

For the record, if you're thinking, "Hey, James likes 'Saved by the Bell' --I'll buy him this DVD as a goof," please stop thinking that immediately. I want no part of this. Seeing Jessie Spano in "Showgirls" was traumatic; I can't even begin to guess at the damage this would cause.

ANNOYED. At people who say things like, "Well, I'm a Yankees fan, but I love all the New York sports teams, so I hope the Mets win it all." Sorry, you'll have to pick a side here. You either like the Yankees and hate the Mets or hate the Yankees and like the Mets. There is no other way to root. Same goes for Giants/Jets and, most important, Rangers/Islanders. The Yankees or the Rangers could be playing against a team composed of Nazis, al-Qaeda operatives, and the would-be molesters on "Dateline" and I still would find it difficult to root for them. OK, maybe I'd give in. Hard to say until it happens. I smell a new reality TV show.

Anyway, If you're going to adopt some ridiculous "I'm cool with all New York sports teams" ethos that ensures that you will never feel actual pain because of the outcome of a sporting event, why not just stop watching sports altogether and enjoy the "Project Runway" marathon instead? You're an embarassment to sports fans everywhere.

HAPPY, DISTURBED, THEN HAPPY AGAIN, BUT STILL KINDA DISTURBED, OK, IT'S TOO FUNNY TO ACT ALL DISTURBED. The crackerjack news team at MTV presented "True Life: I'm A Staten Island Girl" (rejected title: "True Life: I'm Orange and I Tawk Funny") on Tuesday. This episode of the "True Life" series came on the heels of episodes about young people coping with Tourette's and OCD, thus establishing being from Staten Island as being much like having a debilitating illness. And the producers did a fine job of choosing three completely different young ladies to represent the borough: a tan, looks-obsessed girl who dyes her hair quite a bit and wants to be an actress, a tan, looks-obsessed girl with an unfortunate propensity to use hideous eyeshadow who wants to work in PR, and a really, really tan, looks-obsessed girl who only likes orange guys with spiky hair and bemoans the fact that she can't find a good one. I think my birthplace came off as really cool in the special. Thanks, MTV. First, the "True Life" wedding of Charlie and Sabrina, and now this. There are plenty of imbeciles in Brooklyn, too. Go film them.

On the bright side, this episode will make people a little more understanding of my decision to attend an all-boys' high school. I'm even starting to think it wasn't such a bad idea. And the show did feature my grammar school best friend's brother and clothing store. So, big ups for the Daszkowskis. Devoted fans of my work will no doubt recognize the "Dasz" part of that name from the seminal publication "Sig-Dasz Sports," which dazzled the sports-hungry preteens of Blessed Sacrament School in 1986-1987 (and all for just 25 cents...50 if it was a double issue).

VIOLENTLY ANGRY. At Albert Pujols, for engaging a guy who can barely walk in a footrace to first base instead of just tossing to the pitcher who was covering. I will never select you in a Fantasy Baseball draft again. Take your sneer and shove it up your ass.


Day Five: Lions and Tigers and Falcons, Oh My!

Yessir, the mercury slipped to a brisk 196 degrees below zero when I awoke in Huntington or Barboursville or wherever exactly we were in West Virginia. OK, you got me. It wasn't really that cold.

I was actually getting used to the little-sleep routine, and by this point I was getting up earlier than everybody else so I could see what the daylight looked like. I spent the morning crossing the highway to check out the Grandview Weekend Outlet, which had a ton of crap and a handful of good deals, a bare-bones CVS, and a creaky, near-abandoned mall that housed the prestigious Huntington Beauty School. It was a little past 11 when I wandered over, so there was a fair number of people strolling around. After about 10 minutes, I got bored and walked back to the hotel to read the local paper.

Soon the rest of the troops were stirring about and it was time for breakfast, just after the crack of 1 p.m. But it was the Breakfast of the Week at Tudor's Biscuit World. The mere fact that West Virginia is home to a chain of restaurants built around the biscuit makes me think that all those backhanded slaps to the state are completely unwarranted. I had some fried apples on a biscuit and pancakes, and followed that up with some taters and a buttered biscuit to go. The taters and extra biscuit only made it as far as Ashland, Kentucky, where we stopped for some cheap Camels for the smokers in the rock and roll convoy. They walked out of the convenience store with cartons under their arms and joy radiating from their faces.

It was about a six-hour drive to Detroit, so I settled in with some Su Doku (returning to the game after a long absence) and took the occasional catnap, which I was also getting very good at. We stopped for a bathroom break in Ohio, where I happened upon the first cologne dispenser of the tour. I briefly considered plunking down a couple of quarters for a Drakkar/Obsession mix until I realized that the other four people in the van might not find it as funny as I would, particularly with about three more hours of driving ahead. So I settled for a picture.

Though the -196-degree sky at the top of this post might indicate that we had glorious weather for the ride, it's not true. By the time we hit Ohio, the sky was turning an ominous shade of gray and the clouds were ready to burst. They finally did in an impressive thunderstorm (lightning looks cool on a flat Interstate highway) that ended with a perfectly arched rainbow sometime after we passed the outlet for the unfortunately named Coons Candy.

As Mark was flipping around the radio for the Ohio State football game, I heard the familiar tones of Hairl Hensley. Then I remembered that the home of the Grand Ole Opry, WSM 650 Nashville, had a real strong signal, which, as it turns out, spreads to Detroit. So after stopping for dinner at Wendy's, I asked Mark if the Ohio State signal kept fading out if it would be possible to listen to the Opry for a bit. He was gracious enough to do so, and we got to hear Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and my main man John Conlee (doing the quintessential '80s country song, "I'm Only In It For The Love") before Jim Ed Brown came on and I gave full permission to Mark to abandon the Opry. It was pretty sweet to hear the Opry, particularly since Sirius recently stopped carrying WSM. I would be mad at Sirius, but they recently aired Todd Snider's Tipsy Gypsy Hour and next week, Artie Lange's making out with Blue Iris, so I can't stay mad long.

When we got to the 2500 Club in Detroit, Doyle got out to ask where we should park the van. Soon there was a guy in a hoodie with "Parking" written on it telling us where to go. We pulled right in front of the club, and he told us to just stay there, even though we'd be parking right in front of a fire hydrant. Then, after a few minutes of thinking and a lot of gibberish, he took a highway traffic cone and just put it right over the fire hydrant. Voila! It fit perfectly. Up until that point, the guy was annoying me, but that move upped my opinion of him considerably. I'm still not convinced, however, that he didn't just buy a shirt with "Parking" on it and appoint himself as parking attendant.

It turned out that I could see Comerica Park from outside the club, and because of a rain delay, the Tigers-Royals game was only in the 4th inning. After loading in, I decided that I couldn't be that close to a ballpark (and to a potential division-clinching game) and not go in. So I ditched the 2500 Club (sorry, opening bands) and walked over to Comerica Park, where I bought a $15 SRO ticket and took in about five innings of the game.

I spent most of my time at Comerica trying to find a decent hat, but with no hats commemorating the actual stadium, I came up empty. I contemplated buying a Justin Verlander shirt (a key fantasy baseball pick-up this year), but ultimately decided against it. It was a pretty cool park, though, especially the statues in right-center and the dancing fountains in center field. Would've been cooler if the Tigers had won and clinched the division, of course, but it's all good, because without that loss and the one that followed, they wouldn't have been matched up with the Yankees. And we all know how incredibly awesome that turned out. Let's go Mets!

I also snapped a picture of the Fox Theater marquee on the way out, because I love the old school neon marquees. Even when they're advertising a Vince Gill show (I keed, I keed; he's touring with NRBQ's Al Anderson in his band, so he aint all bad).

The third band of the night was midway through their set when I got back to the 2500 Club, meaning Maybe Pete was on next. It was also their last night of the tour, so I was looking forward to a big finish from both bands. After the opening hardcore and punk bands, it was once again a rough crowd that faced Maybe Pete (from about ten feet back) at the beginning of their set. And it took them a little while to get their stage legs under them before achieving total domination. They even had their very first crazy mosher, who was slam dancing with one other willing participant and trying to entice others (including me...no thanks) to join him.

He was well behaved for the most part, until Kelly came down from the stage to play, and he started dancing near her. I was keeping an eye on him for awhile and then all of the sudden, he kind of swooped in and, I think, tried to kiss Kelly. I had a brief vision of the night going horribly, tragically wrong, but Kelly held her own and worked out of the situtation. She also wriggled out of a headlock the guy started to wrap her in a few minutes later. First lunatic mosher successfully handled. Congratulations, Kelly.

There's a point during the Hudson Falcons' "Revolution" that someone from the crowd usually comes up and yells some hearty "Revolution"s into Doyle's mike. No one was stepping forward, so I figured this was my shot. Yep, I made my stage debut in Detroit. I kinda lost my place for a bit, but it went OK. Some other guy came up to the stage, so any pitchiness was all his fault. I take no responsibility.

Then, a few seconds after I got off the stage, the show got shut down. Coincidence...or something more?

Turns out the 2500 Club has been having its own troubles of late and can't afford to get any more violations and lose its liquor license. So the show had to end at 2:30, with the Falcons only about two-thirds into their set. So there would be no big finale with the folks from Maybe Pete, no big sendoff as we headed back to New Jersey. What a drag. And an anticlimactic ending to some of the most fun I've ever had.


I took a plane home early the next morning and headed back to civilian life somehow exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. It's definitely not easy being out on the road (and even harder when you're in a band trying to make a living doing it), but if you're with the right bunch of people, it can be the most exhilarating thing in the world.

Thanks to Mark, Kerri, Doyle, Drew, Frankie, Kelly, Bino, and Johnny for a quontagious time on tour. And please go see the Hudson Falcons if they come anywhere near you on the rest of their tour (see their website for dates). They'll be glad to see you.

'Til the next time.


Day Four: A Thundering Herd of Rock and Roll

It takes only a few days on the road to make you a little loopy. Or at least that's the excuse I'm using for why I paid $10 at Kroger's for an animatronic chicken ghost that shakes it on down to "The Chicken Dance." Ah, screw it. Who needs excuses? The dancing chicken ghost is awesome.

The spooky bird was purchased on my second trip to the Columbus Kroger's, taken after a damn fine Chinese food lunch at the Linksey-approved Little Dragons. I was pleased to return to Kroger's because I love going to supermarkets in new towns. I'm just that cool. And my supermarket trips resulted in three winners: the aforementioned dancing fowl, a pack of Kroger's dinner rolls that made for good van and hotel food for a few days, and a sweet piece of red velvet cake from the Dave's in Akron. The Food Network oughta give me a show where I go to supermarkets across America. Someone make that happen. And make sure Rachel Ray isn't involved, because she creeps me out.

Alas, there was no time to hit a supermarket in Huntington, West Virginia. We only were able to duck into Arby's (the most efficient Arby's ever...seriously) and a convenience store, where I discovered that Huntington was the home of your Marshall University Thundering Herd. In fact, the club for the night, Marley's Doghouse, was located directly across the street from the Marshall football stadium. Both are situated along Third Avenue, cleverly nicknamed "Herd Avenue." Get it?

Marley's was an interesting place. After a brief period where Kerri and I were not allowed in, followed by a session deciding how long and in what order the five bands would play, we loaded in and discovered that the night the Falcons and Maybe Pete rolled into town was Art/25-Cent Mug Night. Yes, in addition to 25-cent beer for those who brought their own mugs, hammered college students were also given the opportunity to create artistic masterpieces with the Play-Doh, watercolor paints, markers, crayons, and pipe cleaners at each table in the front room. Art Night, according to the bar's owner, was "just something to get people talking." I guess it worked, because I've been talking about it ever since.

Unfortunately, the front room's deafeningly loud jukebox made talking that night a little more challenging. At one point, it played a hideously awful mix of "What A Wonderful World" that sent me outside to rethink the song's general sentiment. Unfortunately, once outside, there wasn't much to see. I found Bino and Johnny from Maybe Pete at the about-to-close Italian restaurant down the street, so I hung out with them for awhile before heading back to the painful jukebox, pipe cleaners, and unique bathroom at Marley's.

Prior to this tour, I thought that there would be nothing more distressing than to walk into a bathroom with a pissing trough. But things have changed. Yes, a pissing trough is a disturbing sight, but not as disturbing as Marley's pissing trough with rubber duckies swimming in it. Cutesy touches don't belong in a public restroom. Use that creativity to find away to keep me from getting hepatitis from the toilet seat.

Perhaps inspired by the stellar lavatories at Marley's (I can only assume the ladies' room was equally as classy), Maybe Pete put on their best set of the tour. They came out swinging with "Hideaway" and didn't let up, ripping through another quontagious cover of "Can't Hardly Wait" amid their own equally quontagious originals ("Between the City and the Stratosphere--go buy it, wouldya?). In between they even covered another Bruce song, "Two Hearts," for which Mark joined them on stage. By the time Bino popped his bass strings off, most of the skeptical, arms-folded-across-the-chest folks were converts. People even wandered in from Art Night to check them out. Success!

The Falcons went on around 2 a.m., which, unfortunately, meant that a lot of people packed up the Play-Doh and went home by the time they hit the stage. If I had any physical strength at all, perhaps I could've beaten them into staying. Alas, I am only capable of physically besting the infirmed and small animals, neither of which were in Huntington that night.

But the devoted few who did stick around got to witness one of the oddest things I've ever seen at a concert. I guess the folks at Marley's like to show off their moronic stage effects, which include a choking smoke machine and a just plain annoying bubble machine. Throughout the night, the smoke machine would start up in the middle of a song and soon leave my eyes watering as I looked for the way back to the relative safety of Art Night. But it was no match for the bubble machine.

Now, I suppose that there are some bands that play Marley's whose music is entirely bubble-appropriate. The Hudson Falcons are not one of those bands. Their music is many things, but it is decidedly not bubble-friendly. Apparently, this went right past the soundman. And at a ridiculously inappropriate moment. See, there's this part of the Falcons song "Scab" that breaks down into sort of a reggae beat. I'm guessing that the reggae beat was what signaled "Bubble Time" to the soundman. He probably should've listened to the words being sung at that point:

"Tire irons and baseball bats
You try to break the union, we'll break your head"

Does pounding on a scab conjure up visions of bubbles in your head? Yeah, me neither. I was so dumbfounded (and so aware at how pissed Mark was) that I didn't even take a picture. So you'll just have to imagine it. Or buy "For Those Whose Hearts and Souls Are True" and have a friend blow bubbles while you listen to Track 6. Let me know how that goes for you.

After some kind suggestions from Doyle and Mark, the rest of the set (and night) was bubble-free, though a friend of the band did remove his glass eye a few times, which was much more entertaining than the bubble show. Once the Falcons had wrapped things up and everybody's eyes were back in place, it was time to pack up the trailer again (ooh, my head) and pull out of Marley's a few hours ahead of the sun's arrival. But not before Drew and Frankie engaged in a little Dueling Silvio Dantes.

I miss being on tour.


Day Three: Look Out, Cleveland (and Hello, Columbus)

Mark Linskey, aside from fronting the Hudson Falcons, driving the van, and scoping out cheap deals for hotels, also spends a lot of time being an all-around swell guy. So, when we had a little bit of time on Day 3, he decided to drive in the opposite direction so that I could have the chance to see Cleveland and, in particular, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Really, you should buy all the Falcons CDs just because of that. Lucky for you, the CDs are also good enough to stand on their own. C'mon, what are you waiting for? Do it now. Buy "La Famiglia" first.

So ends the commercial interruption for this post. I can't promise there won't be more in future posts.

Anyway, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, situated just off Lake Erie (my first Great Lake), doesn't quite measure up to either the Baseball or the Country Music Hall of Fame, but it aint that bad. I was glad to be there during the Roy Orbison exhibition, although it was a little too heavy on the late-'80s comeback for my taste. Still, it was a room full of Roy Orbison memorabilia, so I was happy. The Rick Nelson exhibit? A little less enjoyable.

I'm also of the opinion that a Hall of Fame needs plaques, and the Rock and Roll Hall doesn't deliver. Instead, there are signatures etched into a wall, which is far less impressive (although, as an autograph collector, it was fun to count the ones I had...yes, I'm a nerd). Aside from the wall of signatures, the actual inductee hall was largely taken up by a theater that showed clips of the inductees. Multimedia presentations in halls of fame are only allowed in Cooperstown's Grandstand Theatre. Everybody else should stop trying.

The Ramones display had some pretty cool stuff, including a setlist in which all the stage movements ("Take off jackets") and even the "1234"s were written out. Also, it appears that Marky Ramone is willing to give and sign just about everything he has, as his stuff was all over tha place. Good for him.

So, yeah, it was cool to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (especially since it didn't cost a thing...bands get in free with a CD or tour laminate...shhhhh), and it was nice to actually do something during daylight hours other than sit in a van. Thanks, Mark.

The guys in the Falcons and I also had to make one more stop in Medina, on the way to Columbus. Some people were waiting to hear us speak.

Yessir, chick masters, every last one of us.

Even with the trip to Cleveland, we still pulled into Columbus early enough to make a guitar string run at Sam Ash and check into the Hotel of the Week, the Quality Inn and Suites. The guys and gal from Maybe Pete met us there, after spending the earlier part of the day bowling. Luckily, I didn't know they were doing that, otherwise I would have been faced with the Sophie's Choice of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or bowling. I'm not sure I could have handled that. The fact that I hadn't packed my ball and shoes would have made it only slightly easier.

Anyway, the Quality Inn had a courtyard and everything, with couches in the hallways. Pretty swank (and cheap). And there was enough time between check-in and the show at Bernie's Distillery to call a Tinsel and Rot reader with birthday wishes. At Tinsel and Rot, we care about the fanbase.

But soon it was off to Bernie's, where Mark was hoping for a good Thursday night crowd after a couple of rough turnouts for the first three gigs. When we pulled up, Bocephus's "Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound" was blasting out in the street. That should have been a good sign. But it wasn't.

Bernie's Distillery is in a part of Columbus with a decent flow of people. Unfortunately, more of them seemed interested in frequenting the bright, generic college bar down the street than the dank basement at Bernie's. Kids today. Oh well, screw them. And screw you if you'd rather get drunk with a bunch of preppy douchebags in a loud, obnoxious bar than go see live music. You're a waste. But thanks for reading!

After loading in everything (and extending my streak of days hitting my head on the trailer to three), I took a little walk around Columbus, stopping for a blueberry cake and a buttermilk doughnut at Buckeye Donuts. You don't realize how much you miss an honest-to-goodness independent doughnut shop until you step inside one. Dunkin' Donuts is fine, but there's something about a real doughnut shop that totally kicks ass. Or maybe I'm just weird.

When I got back to Bernie's, the opening band was wrapping up, and the crowd was just about as thin as when I'd left. But there were two interesting people added to the mix. One was a guy I dubbed The Ghost of George Clinton Future. I should have snapped a picture. But I was afraid he might kill me. So you'll just have to imagine.

The other newcomer was a guy I had seen during my doughnut run, and I wouldn't have expected him to be at a rock show. Then I remembered Mark and Doyle talking about "Batman," a guy who's been to all of their shows and always requests the theme to the "Batman" TV show. This, I realized, was the guy. "Viva La Bam" devotees might say he was a slimmer, slightly more understandable version of Don Vito.

As the veteran on the tour, Mark had told Frankie and Kelly that they would be playing "Batman" tonight. So they played it at the beginning of their set, but by the time they wrapped it up, Batman hadn't come up to the stage. So they had to start it again. This time, he joined in or, more accurately, he just stepped up to the mike and sang "Nananananananananananananananana" and "Batman" a lot.

Not satisfied with that, he asked for "Batman" again during the Falcons' set. And so it was Round 2 (technically, 3) of the theme from "Batman." You figure he'd be satisfied. You'd be wrong. Now he wanted to sing "Hang On Sloopy." Mark promised he'd play it later, and from a lot of bands that would just be a vow meant to silence a guy. But not the Falcons. And so those few and righteous music lovers who came to Bernie's got to hear Mark sing the verses while Batman would come in and howl, "Slooooooooooooopy" during the chorus. Words can't properly explain it. A picture can't either, but why don't we try?

Amazingly, the Falcons were able to use "Sloooooooooooopy" to propel the show forward, with the night again ending on a high note as Frankie came up on stage to play. And with so much room in front of the stage, I was able to get up close for some pictures. Mark was even kind enough to pose for one in the middle of a guitar solo.

Good times.

Yesterday's Youth closed the show, and they won the prize as Hardcore Band of the Week. I respect anybody who gets up on stage and performs, but hardcore generally wears on me pretty quick. Yesterday's Youth actually held my attention and sounded pretty good. I didn't think of going back to Buckeye Donuts once during their set. Nice work, boys.

After the show, the rock and roll caravan moved on to the Waffle House, located just down the road from the jello wrestling and right next door to the elegant Danny's Gold Fox strip club, both of which were closed up by the time we got back. A real shame.

Our Waffle House waitress apparently was involved in a freak accident that left her incapable of delivering any facial expression, but the chocolate chip waffles tasted damn good. If it's not obvious by now, I will forgive anything so long as pancakes, waffles, and french toast are nearby. That's just how I roll.

After the Waffle House, Drew and I entertained ourselves by reciting lines from "Adventures in Babysitting" (if "nobody leaves this stage without singing the blues" and "I don't have a weiner" mean nothing to you, your life has been poorly lived). So, in one day (or one twenty-four-hour span, to be precise), you had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, actual rock and roll, good doughnuts, a visit to the Waffle House, and talk of "Adventures in Babysitting."

Helluva day.


Day Two: Pulling Out of Pittsburgh

I think Pittsburgh may have provided my soundest sleep of the tour, which is odd because I dozed in a sleeping bag on a hardwood floor. But a strong seven hours of sleep when you're out on tour is not to be questioned.

Pittsburgh was also the only stop where a dog barked and spun around in circles for our entertainment. Bonecrusher was a vocal little bastard, but an all-around good pooch. Except for that moment in the early afternoon when he pounced on my chest upon Bill's return from the store. Could've done without that. But I exacted my revenge by routinely besting him in a series of tugs-of-war, embarrassing him in front of a roomful of strangers and his doggy parents. He never even came close. I totally wrecked him.

Humiliating a 17-pound pug helped pass the time as Bill attempted to get the tire cover back on the trailer, which wound up being a little more difficult than he thought it would be. Or else he just loved our company and couldn't bear to see us go. Either explanation is possible. In any event, Doyle, Drew (the Falcons' drummer), and I kept watch over the gear (which had to be loaded out of the trailer so Bill could do what he had to do), and I made a ball out of plastic and gaffer's tape, much like MacGyver might do if he was traveling around with a band. Actually, I suppose MacGyver probably would've focused more on reattaching the tire cover to the trailer so we could get to Akron. But I do the best I can with what I'm given.

As the day dragged on and Bill emptied out his supply of tools in an effort to get the tire cover into a position where it wouldn't fly off three hours later, it became harder and harder to stay on our feet. Some moved inside to watch TV. Others walked around while reading a newspaper. Doyle settled in among the tools and took a nap.

That reminds me--Pittsburgh also brought the realization of our second minor calamity of the tour. We forgot to take Doyle's bag. With all his clothes in it. For 11 weeks on the road. Oopsie. Plans were made to have the bag express mailed to the club in Columbus, where the tour would hit the next day.

But first, there was Akron. And after Bill was finally able to secure the front of the cover with an L-bracket (thanks again, Bill!), we were on our way to Chuck's Steakhouse in Akron. You hit all the glamorous stops when you travel with a band.

Aside from being in a less-than-appealing area of Akron (with a drive-thru liquor store next to it and a shady-looking gentlemen's club a few doors down), Chuck's was actually a pretty cool place. And, to be fair, I didn't really see any gorgeous areas of Akron while we were there, so for all I know, we were in the nice part of town. Anyway, Chuck's wins the prize for Best Jukebox of the Week (my selections included the Georgia Satellites, Bocephus, Sam Cooke, James Gang, and Thin Lizzy), and my brave decision to once again try pizza outside of the NYC area was rewarded this time with a pretty damn good homemade personal pie. I am told that the bathrooms were less than stellar, but I made a point to avoid bar bathrooms as best I could throughout the week. So, if you're ever in Akron, try to get out. But if you can't, go to Chuck's.

Maybe Pete, whose vehicle was holding up much better, got into Akron well before we did, enabling them to sample the fine cuisine (and beverages) provided by the Akron branch of TGIFriday's. Frankie was well lubricated throughout the evening, holding up the start of his set until Kerri got out of the bathroom (and then chastising her for being too quick, suggesting that she couldn't have washed her hands) and ending the evening by replicating the "Clerks" parking lot dance in a gas station. In between, Maybe Pete delivered a really strong set, highlighted by a killer rendition of "Can't Hardly Wait," the end of which featured Kelly playing the song's riff while on her back, as captured above.

The night in Akron also introduced two firsts into the world. The first emerged from Kelly's insistence that Frankie says the word "badass" too much. So he made a new word that would serve as a synonym: quontagious. I'm guessing on the spelling, so I'll try and get confirmation, thus enabling you to use the word freely in your everyday life. It's gonna catch on; I can feel it.

The other first occurred midway through Maybe Pete's set. Generally, when people don't know your music, they're obviously gonna want to hear something familiar to grab their interest. It's a natural thing. So when Frankie announces that the band is from Jersey, there is almost immediately a request for a Bruce song. A little obvious, but it could be worse. For instance, it's much better than being asked to do a Joe Piscopo impression. So the Bruce requests, while a little annoying, aren't really that bad.

But sometimes you get the less than obvious, off-the-wall requests. Or at least that's what I discovered at Chuck's, where I saw something that I may very well never see again. Yes, dear friends, I have been many places in my life, seen many things. But none of them shook me to the core quite as much as when a black guy shooting pool moved closer to the back of the stage and put in a request for a Phil Collins song. And he was serious.

Akron. It's a weird place.

The Falcons' set was nearly derailed by a discussion among the kids in front of the stage about various scatological acts. And then there was a kid who just stood stock-still in front of the stage with his arms folded across his chest as if he'd been brought to the show as a form of punishment. I noticed several people doing this throughout the tour. Stop it, imbeciles. You're not earning any cool points. And, yes, I'm dispensing the cool points now. So get on my good side.

But aggressive displays of apathy and talk of Cleveland steamers can't stop a Falcons show. It was probably one of their stronger sets of the tour, with the usual steady assault of originals capped off with an end-of-show jam with Frankie and opener (and friend of the Falcons) Doug McKean (from the GC5 and Rosavelt, among others). They ripped through "Sympathy for the Devil" before bidding farewell to Akron with a quontagious cover of "No Surrender" (with Doug on bass and Maybe Pete's Johnny Macko on drums). Yes, a Bruce song, by special request. This is a tour for the people. As long as those people don't ask for Skynyrd or Phil Collins.

And it was probably the best on-stage moment of the tour.

After settling on a Best Western for the night, most of the rock and roll caravan called it a night, seeing as it was 4:15 in the morning. But, never one to turn down a late-night eating experience, I made my first foray to a Steak 'n Shake with Mark and Kerri for some Strawberry French Toast that tasted a helluva lot better than it looked from Kerri's view.

And, by 5:30, it was time for sleep again.


Sleep, Drive, Rock and Roll, Repeat: On the Road with the Hudson Falcons and Maybe Pete

My body is currently in a state of rebellion.

I have spent the last two days in and out of exhaustion, fighting a valiant battle to maintain consciousness. I have fallen asleep in front of the television four times, though I have so far successfully avoided falling asleep in front of my computer screen at work. And I'm currently nursing a cold and fever I probably picked up in Detroit (sure wasn't division championship fever, you saps).

But I'm not complaining. The exhaustion, the narcoleptic episodes, and the sniffles are all just a few extra souvenirs from life on the road with the Hudson Falcons and Maybe Pete for a week. And they'll be gone soon enough. But when the fever breaks and the exhaustion disappears, there will still be the memories of highway gas stations, a hyper pug in Pittsburgh, late-night breakfasts in Ohio, biscuits in West Virginia, and a perfect rainbow on the way to Detroit.

Oh yeah, and kick-ass rock and roll, too.

After the successful tour kickoff at Manitoba's in NYC, and some late-night pizza and a pit stop in Brooklyn, it was off to the Hudson Falcons compound in northern New Jersey (exact location withheld to prevent fans from staking out the place) for a brief sleep. The morning--or, more accurately, five hours later--would mean loading up the trailer and heading out to Pittsburgh for an opening-day doubleheader: an early show at the Mr. Roboto Project (domo), which is technically in Wilkinsburg, followed by another show at the Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh proper. It would be my first time back in Pittsburgh since visiting Duquesne University when I was an eager high-schooler looking for a college. Duquesne finished second, because they wouldn't give me much scholarship money. Fools.

Anyway, we got a bit of a late start, which at least enabled us to watch the latest in an unending series of "Who's My Baby's Daddy" episodes of "Maury." Always a delight. One of the potential fathers was a heinous-looking chap who went by the name of Fuzzy. Doyle, the Falcons' bass player, briefly toyed with the idea of changing his name to Fuzzy for the length of the tour. But that never came to be.

We hit the road a little after "Maury" wrapped up, with a six-hour ride to Pittsburgh ahead of us. I suppose I should include something complaining about how riding in a van for long stretches of time is an unbelievable drag. But it wasn't. I really do think that my marathon bus ride to Charlotte may have prepared me for any vehicular travel that comes my way. Then again, I was only in the van for a week. Maybe it would have started to wear on me by Week 9 of the tour.

But the ride to Pittsburgh (interrupted only by a stop at Sheetz, the rest area of choice for Falcon-in-Charge Mark Linksey and his wife Kerri, at least until we found out in Pittsburgh of some potential union troubles) was pretty smooth, and soon we were pulling in behind the Maybe Pete Mobile in front of the Mr. Roboto Project (domo), only a little off from our estimated time of arrival.

I imagine it's a little hard to play after six hours on the road, but both bands (aided by locals The War Is On and Unarmed) soldiered on. It was a pretty small crowd, but it didn't matter. As I would discover (or, really, confirm) throughout the week, both Maybe Pete and the Hudson Falcons put it all out there regardless of crowd size. That's what makes a band in the long run. It's easy to get all revved up when there's hundreds of people screaming for you, but when there's a little under a dozen, and you're playing in a room where anybody who has to go to the bathroom has to go through you to get to it, it's a touch more difficult. But Maybe Pete and the Falcons did it every night. And twice in Pittsburgh. It's like the song goes:

"10 people or 200 it don't matter
Gonna leave our hearts right on the stage
For the guy who broke his ass working all week
We're gonna play some rock 'n' roll
Like a Mother Fucker"
("LAMF," copyright 1999 Mark Linskey)

The Roboto Project show was also the first test of the Kerri Linskey Soap in the Merch Tub Experiment. Some of the older shirts were carrying an odor picked up in the basement of the Hudson Falcons Compound. A bar of soap was chosen to go into battle against the odor. And it was starting to make a difference on Day One.

After wrapping up the early show and loading all the gear into the trailer, it was off to the second gig at the Smiling Moose, which is reached by crossing my new favorite bridge, the Hot Metal Bridge. Go ahead, say it like a monster truck commercial announcer would. See, it's your favorite bridge now, too. You're welcome.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hot Metal Bridge. While traveling on the highway, we heard a muffled clattering, and it seemed like we might have run over a hubcap or something. There was a very brief panic, but when the van kept moving, it was decided that everything was OK. Cool, right?

Except that, as we pulled in front of the Smiling Moose, the guys from Maybe Pete, who were riding a little ways behind us, mentioned that we lost one of the tire covers on the trailer. Not being well versed in trailers, that didn't seem like a big deal to me. Until Mark pointed out that without the tire cover, you could see the axle. Probably not good.

So Mark and our host for the evening, Bill, went to go try to find the cover. Amazingly, they did find it, and it was still sort of usable. Look.

Good as new, right? Bill said he could get it back on the trailer the next day. And he did, God bless him.

With the first literal bump in the road behind us, it was once again showtime. I was in charge of watching the illegally parked van outside until Mark and Bill got back, so I didn't get to see much of Foxy Deathbox, who opened the show. By the time they were done, we had to load in. Maybe Pete started kicking ass a little while later, but not before the overly serious bouncer in the Thai Submission Fighting t-shirt checked my ID twice in 5 minutes, which was fun. Unfortunately, I later missed the same gentleman doing chinups while people were trying to exit the bar. But fortunately, I did witness an early highlight of the tour, him dropping a chair on his foot while demonstrating his effortless, one-armed chair-stacking technique.

But enough about him. Let's talk about the guy (apparently not an avid reader of Tinsel and Rot), who kept yelling out requests for "Freebird" during both Maybe Pete and the Hudson Falcons' sets. The weird thing is he seemed to be enjoying himself and the non-"Freebird" songs being played. But he was really on the "Freebird" kick. Luckily, the Moose has a strict no-covers policy, rigidly adhered to by Maybe Pete but righteously violated by the Hudson Falcons several times (though not for "Freebird"). After driving six hours and losing a tire cover, you can play what you want.

The night ended at Tom's Diner, where we were greeted by the least helpful waiter in all of Pittsburgh. Separate checks were not possible, medium-well was not a viable option for burgers, and, as it turned out, swiss cheese on a burger was also going to take two tries. Then again, it was about 2 a.m., so maybe some slack should be cut. And my food wasn't bad.

The Hudson Falcons contingent and I stayed with Bill (and Christine and Bonecrusher) for the night, while the Maybe Pete folks bedded down in a downtown hotel. It was probably around 3:30 when I fell asleep.

And I think that was the earliest night of the tour.


What I Liked About September

*The Hudson Falcons/Maybe Pete tour (more details to follow)
*The birth of Miles Stuart Lynch
*A Night of Phidelity, Northsix, Brooklyn, NY
*Vintage Base Ball in Roxbury, NY

*The Mike Cagnazzi 30th Birthday Throwdown
*Securing the 2006 Sigman Holiday Greeting
*Drive By Truckers and Bobby Bare Jr., Webster Hall, NYC
*The New York Mets clinching the NL East

*Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
*The French Dip at Shortstop Deli, Ithaca, NY
*Finding the Carol Channing/Webb Pierce LP "C&W" at Volume Records in Ithaca, NY, and the Phil Ochs LP "Gunfight at Carnegie Hall" at the Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn, NY
*The willingness of people with cars (and vans) to drive me places