The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: The Final Chapter

Sorry for the delay. Aside from building suspense, I had to wait a few days because I sent some cards late. But they should all be where they need to be by now. So, here is the exciting conclusion to The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures 2007.

3. Ernest Thomas, Danielle Spencer, and Haywood Nelson

I almost split this year's Holiday Greeting list in three to accommodate this photo, but I couldn't break with tradition. And so this photo loses its chance at immortality because of a strong 2007 for "celebrity" photos. And it kills me. I feel certain that if God had been willing to let Fred Berry, Shirley Hemphill, and Mabel King live long enought to be able to attend the 2007 Fall Chiller Theatre convention, and thus provided the opportunity for a full "What's Happening!!" reunion photo, things would be different. So blame God.

I do, however, like how the cartoon Rerun and Shirley rest comfortably on my left shoulder in the picture. And how Dee looks ever so slightly disgusted that I'm touching her.

1. (tie) Gary Coleman

So much exciting about the photo. First, it's Gary Coleman. Second, he was not nearly as disgusted to be at a convention as I thought he would be. Third, it completes the Jackson (Drummond) Brothers exacta started last year with the photo with Todd Bridges. Sweet.

A fun behind-the-scenes tidbit: if you look closely you can almost feel my trepidation about what to do with my left arm. It was an uncomfortable moment. As I waited for the picure to be taken, I flashed back to a scene in "The Surreal Life" (if I had a nickel for every time I did that...), where Monty Hall is standing next to Emmanuel Lewis and he pats him on the head like Emmanuel is five years old. I couldn't make that same mistake. And so I just put my arm behind my back so it didn't get any funny ideas.

1. (tie) Danica McKellar

Always a thrill to have an actual female in the Holiday Greeting; I think she's only the second (Reba being the other...a wax Ivana Trump was also in one if I remember correctly). I had to buy a book about math for middle-school girls to get the picture, but you make sacrifices in life. Plus, now it will be easier to pick up middle-school girls.

The book signing was kind of a sad affair, as the first few rows weren't exactly overcrowded with females. No, there were a lot of guys by themselves with desperate looks in their eyes, anxious to see how Winnie Cooper turned out. The guy on my left kept complaining because the event didn't start on time, and the guy on my right was talking to the people behind him about how he went to school with Danica's sister, who, as we all know, played Becky Slater on "The Wonder Years" (and it's an unpopular opinion, but I thought Becky Slater was cuter than Winnie...yeah, I said it). This came in handy later when he asked Danica about her sister and she said she was around somewhere. So, now I have a copy of a book about math for middle-school girls signed by both McKellars. Who's the man? Oh, not me? Fair enough.

I should also note that despite background appearances to the contrary, a cop wasn't assigned to the event to keep an eye on me. Though I didn't ask Crystal McKellar for a photo just in case the fuzz was waiting to pounce.

And so ends the Year in "Celebrity" Pictures 2007. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up, but if this is the last year for the "Celebrity" Holiday Greeting, at least I went out with a bang.


The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part III

7. Walter Ray Williams Jr.

I sure wish they'd stop airing those Denny's commercials with him on the Sunday PBA telecasts on ESPN (surely someone in the Denny's creative team can come up with a new idea...what's the Moons Over My Hammy guy/gal up to these days?) and he isn't the most charismatic man in the world, but he is quite possibly the greatest bowler of all time. At the very least, he's earned a spot in the conversation. But of course you know all that. And I feel your jealousy. Second-best photo with a Jr. this year.

6. Cal Ripken Jr.

The Iron Man lived up to his nice-guy reputation at the book signing he did at the downtown NYC Borders, where he personalized books, pretty much signed whatever you wanted, and posed for photos with everyone who asked. And that was great and all, but it turned into a three-hour-plus signing, which is problematic when you're at the signing during your lunch hour from your job across the river. I left work at 12:15 and got back around 3:45. But it all worked out OK. Except, despite my best efforts, you can see me in the background of an episode of the YES Network's "Yankees Ultimate Road Trip 3." There's a show I never thought I'd appear on. I still feel dirty.

5. Porter Wagoner

It bums me out that I don't look just a little better in this photo. But it bums me out even more that Porter Wagoner's gone. As I've said, though, I'm glad he had a nice final act. Rest in peace, Porter.

4. Billy Joe Shaver

If more than three of the people on my Holiday Greeting List would have known who Billy Joe Shaver was, this would've made the cut this year. It's neck and neck with the picture of me and Hunter S. Thompson for my all-time favorite celebrity photo.

There is probably no single performer I enjoy watching in concert more than Billy Joe Shaver. He is the type of person for whom the word "captivating" was invented (that sounds very James Liptonesque, but it also happens to be true). After this photo was snapped (or maybe it was just before), I took a picture of a woman who was so captivated by Billy Joe's presence that she was literally shaking after the photo was taken. I was able to keep it in check.

NEXT: The first runner-up and the two winners. Exciting!

The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part II

11. Joe West

I always hoped that my first photo with a Major League Baseball umpire would be taken with Dutch Rennert. But Dutch Rennert isn't emceeing country music legends shows. So I had to make do with Joe West, who should have fixed his tie.

10. Stonewall Jackson

The country music singer, not the Civil War general. A picture (or a daguerreotype) with the Civil War general probably would've made the Holiday Greeting, but he was shot by his own men 124 years ago, making that an impossibility. The singer's cool, though. I'm not a big fan of the leaning across the table photo, which accounts for the odd position my right hand is curled up in.

9. Edie McClurg

She'd be cool even if all she ever did was that one scene (not suitable for work in case you're not suitable for the human race and haven't seen the movie) with Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." But then there's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," too. Plus, she was on "Valerie/The Hogans/The Hogan Family," but I'm not sure that's a point in her favor, since my memories of that show are sketchy at best. Anyway, she's cool. The kneeldown is almost as annoying as the lean across the table, but it came out just fine. Plus, the lamp's positioning makes it look like I had a really bright idea as the picture was snapped.

8. Chuck Barris

My second picture with the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer and, amazingly, the better of the two. At least when it comes to my appearance; Chuck is looking a little more haggard. Maybe because the guy in front of me on line kept shoving things in front of him to sign. Or maybe he's just getting old. But he's still one of my all-time favorite celebrities, the Game Show King. Enjoy my left hand, awkwardly going for his shoulder as I try to control my glee.

NEXT: 7 to 4, featuring what might be my favorite celebrity photo ever


The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part I

The battle to become one of the lucky celebrities to appear on my Holiday Greeting this year was fierce. And it ultimately became the toughest decision in the seven (eight?) years of the Holiday Greeting. Most of the cards were mailed out today, so I do believe it's time to reveal those who didn't make the cut. I don't love them any less, except, well, yeah, I kinda do.

15. Marcia Wallace

Now that said "Jon" has received his signed Edna Krabappel photo, I can post the full shot. I didn't ask her to hold the photo up, but I guess she thought I was Jon and would want a picture of her and the photo to show off. Fair enough. It's a decent enough picture of me. I look kinda human. That's not gonna hold for the rest of these.

14. Chris Barnes

Yes, that Chris Barnes, Professional Bowlers Association star, co-star of the swell documentary "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen," and master of the Flying Eagle. I coulda used a haircut. But at least I got the Split Lip Rayfield name out to the people at the Pro-Am.

13. Ken Daneyko

While wandering around the Prudential Center in Newark after a thoroughly dull 1-0 Islanders victory over the Devils, the other members of the post-birthday party party and I came across former Devil and current Devil broadcaster Ken Daneyko. So, a picture had to be taken. And it was taken while two drunken Devils fans yelled, "Take the hat off! Show some respect, man!" Sweet guys.

12. Norm Duke

Back to the lanes for a dashing shot of me and future PBA Hall of Famer (provided he never took HGH) Norm Duke, who also knows his way around a trick shot. This was about attempt #4 at this picture. And yes, there is something in the pouch of my hoodie and I'm excited to see Norm Duke.

Tomorrow: 11 to 8, as we march toward #1.


Tinsel and Rot looks for guidance

I don't pay much attention to the mudslinging that takes up much of the primary season, mainly because I'm not registered as a Republican or a Democrat. So I don't really care who wins the primaries. Once they're over and we're down to one on each side (and Ralph Nader), I'll start paying more attention...assuming there isn't a really good Celebreality show on VH-1 that takes up a lot of my time next year.

Which brings me to my point (it's so rare that I have a point here that I will understand if you choose to stop here). With Oprah lending her support to Barack Obama and word of the "Chuck Norris factor" in Iowa, it is clear that celebrities--as should rightfully be the case--will be playing a big part in deciding the next President of the United States. And I want to make sure that I'm aware of the latest in celebrity presidential endorsements. So, I have decided to compile a list of 15 (lucky number) celebrities whose political opinions will need to be declared before I decide who I want in the White House in January 2009. And here is that list:

Steve Wilkos
Michael Winslow
Steve Guttenberg
Bubba Smith
Bronson Pinchot
Randy Quaid
Jon Brennan from the second season of "The Real World"
Dennis Haskins
Lark Voorhies
Corey Feldman
Corey Haim (Canadian, but I will still need to know)
Hank Williams Jr.
Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon
Gary Busey
Dick Contino

If anybody knows which candidate any of the above have decided to back, please let me know. There's still plenty of time, but I want to get a good head start on this and really give this important endeavor the attention it deserves.

The future of our country may depend on it.


Another Great Moment in Overheard Conversations

Whilst killing time before the Marahliday extravaganza in the City of Brotherly Love last Friday, I happened upon a group of four white people in front of the Independence Hall Visitors Center. One woman was disengaging herself from what seemed to be a friendly gathering as I passed by. Or so I thought. What she yelled out as she walked away made me think she wasn't a close personal friend of the other members of the group:

"If you commit a felony, spread your vagina and pay for it, ni--er."

Except she filled in the dashes.

After hearing her say this, two things crossed my mind:

(1) I should write this down so I don't forget her exact words. But what if I do write it down and I'm killed while the piece of paper containing the above phrase was still in my wallet? It would surely color the lede in the next day's news coverage:

"A man from New Jersey was found dead last night, and the contents of his wallet indicate that the world is a much better place without that jerkoff in it."

They probably wouldn't use "jerkoff" (not AP Style-approved), but it would certainly be implied.

(2) That phrase is probably the best conversation ender ever, and thus could really come in handy if you're stuck in one of those mindless party discussions you desperately want to end. I mean, what chitchat could continue after that bomb is dropped? Sure, the other person(s) involved in the conversation will likely never speak to you again and encourage others to do the same, but is that really such a bad thing? Don't you kind of want that anyway?

I'm just saying. It's yours to use if you want it.


No Sleep 'Til Ithaca

Remember last week, when Tinsel and Rot was exhausted? Guess what, we're maybe more exhausted this week. But a few more days and we should be OK.

This week's exhaustion was a result of last Friday and Saturday, which involved a really tiny amount of sleep. Like an hour. And that hour was in a series of 10-minute increments on a bus ride from New York to Ithaca that took about eight hours. Good times.

It began in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Friday night when the mighty Hudson Falcons celebrated their 1,000th show by headlining at the Stone Pony. Mr. Tinsel and Rot and Sister of Mr. Tinsel and Rot commissioned a cake from Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken for the occasion (see previous post), and as I carried it from the train station, I got to watch the rare late November fireworks celebration, which I would've taken a picture of if I wasn't carrying a cake. But you've seen fireworks displays, right? Yeah, well, it looked like that. Anyway, it made the walk a little quicker.

The rest of the night was spent anticipating the Falcons' set, along with sets from the Skels and the First Wave, and watching the occasional moshing, which I wish I could do every day of my life. There are precious few things I find more enjoyable than watching people mosh (from a safe distance). I think I'm finally comfortable enough to declare that "picking up change" is my favorite dance move in the pit. I find it impossible to watch that and not laugh. I don't think that's the intention of the mosher, but who cares? As long as he doesn't see me laughing, everybody wins.

Anyway, eventually the Falcons took the stage, in every sense of the phrase. The show was recorded for a live CD, so maybe I'll get to shame you into buying it someday. Suffice it to say (an expression I don't use near as often as I should), it kicked ass. They did a bunch of favorites, some songs I haven't seen played that often (including the personal favorite "Who's Talkin' Shit?"), and a straight-up cover of "The Thrill Is Gone" that confused the moshers and blew away anyone that had the good sense to pay attention.

By the time the show ended, I had come to the decision that I probably wasn't going to sleep that night. And a few hours later, after a diner run, my sister dropped me off in Jersey City about two hours before I was to catch a bus to Ithaca for the second 30th birthday surprise party for a friend in two weeks. I figured I would get a window seat and sleep on the bus. I figured wrong (a possible title for the next book).

The bus to Ithaca left the Port Authority at 8:30, I got a window seat, and all seemed to be going according to plan. I dozed off and woke up as we pulled into the next stop in Newark. I was vaguely aware of someone taking the seat next to me and a couple of others filling in the seats around me. Then we left Newark Penn Station around 9:15 and I drifted back to sleep. That didn't last long. As best I can recall, these were my thoughts as I drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours:

"Hmmmph...it doesn't seem like we're moving."

"Whose damn cellphone is that? Oh, the guy next to me. I wonder how he hears it at all with the CD player on so loud."

"Damn, I guess we're in a little traffic on the way to the highway."

"Hey, who brought that crying four-month-old on the bus? And why is he sitting behind me?"

"We're taking a detour into Harrison? Why? OK, minor setback. We'll just follow that detour, get back on the highway, I'll sleep for five hours, and life will be good."

"Did the bus just jump a curb?"

"That cellphone shit has to stop."

"Where are we?"

"Why are we not moving again?"

"I think I might shove that guy's cellphone up his ass. If only he didn't look like he could kill me."

"Is that the IDT building in Newark? Didn't we pass that an hour ago? Oh my god, it's 10:30."

"Are you kidding me? This guy next to me fell asleep? Oh God, his cellphone is playing that song again."

"I wonder if I could just run off the bus."

"Well, at least we're finally out of Newark and on the highway."

"Why are we pulling over on the shoulder?"

"I sure wish the driver would tell us why we're on the shoulder. Oh wait, we're moving..."

"We're pulling over again? Seriously?"

"Why would you bring a four-month-old on a bus?"

And then came the announcement.

"Well, folks, there's an engine light that keeps coming on and I don't know why. They're sending out another bus from the Port Authority to come and get us."

It was now about 11:30. Three hours into the trip, still roughly five hours away from my final destination. Or mere seconds away from my final destination if I ran out onto the highway and called it a life. I decided to stick with the former. But I kept the latter in mind as I tried to get back to sleep while people were freaking out and complaining to loved ones on their cellphones. In situations such as these, it is only the complete inability of others to cope that keeps me sane. I thank them for their idiocy, particularly the gentleman next to me with the love of text messaging and ringtones who declared, "Man, this is bullshit. I got places to go," as if the rest of us just like to take long bus rides on a Saturday morning in December to gaze at asphalt and bare trees.

The replacement bus arrived about an hour or so later, and we all headed over to reboard. Now, kind, smart-thinking, rational people would simply take the same seat on the new bus that they had before. Unfortunately, such people generally eschew buses, so by the time I got on the new bus, after waiting for Johnny Annoying Cellphone to move his disgruntled ass, every window seat was gone. And there went my chance to sleep for most of the rest of the trip. Can't sleep on the aisle seat. Don't know how anyone could.

By the time a window seat opened up in Scranton, I was afraid that if I went to sleep, I would wake up somewhere in Buffalo, staring at Vincent Gallo's long-lost, creepier brother and having a Beef on Weck crammed down my throat. So I fought off sleep, with a fair degree of success. And it was lucky I was awake, because it enabled me to hear the creep next to me complain on his cellphone that he was going to write a real nasty letter to Greyhound demanding a refund, because they wouldn't let him leave during the bus switch and this sort of mechanical breakdown was unacceptable, especially when he was taking a day trip to Binghamton. Again, I found comfort in my time of sleep deprivation in knowing that I wasn't that guy.

I finally arrived in Ithaca around 4:30, played some Mr. Do in the bus station (used to be way better at that), walked to the motel, did a quick runthrough at Wegmans, and settled down for the final 15 minutes of sleep of the day before it was time to start getting ready for the party and pre-party festivities.

And then things happened. I think it was fun. People were laughing. I remember most of it. Actually, as the party went on, my eighth wind kicked in and I was able to speak and act coherently. I think.

Eventually, sometime after midnight, I settled down for a solid eight hours of sleep. I woke up feeling like a human again. It was a nice feeling.

No more buses in 2007. It's my Christmas gift to myself.


What I Liked About November

*The traditional waffle with ice cream and berries at the Eger Holiday Fair, Staten Island, NY
*The Bill Quinn 30th Birthday Extravaganza, Parts I and II
*Superdrag/Mic Harrison and the High Score, Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, NYC
*Carolina Chocolate Drops, Symphony Space, NYC

*The Hudson Falcons' 1,000th show, Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
*Seeing the Avett Brothers three times in four days
*Pumpkin bread pudding from the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA
*Seeing two Islanders victories live and in person

*John Fogerty, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
*The WFMU Record Fair
*Bowling a 194
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places