"The goons, myself among them, with big photo albums, stained hands, and little scribbled cards. The nuts who stood happily rain-drenched at the premiere of Dames or Flirtation Walk, while the Depression went on and on even though Roosevelt said it couldn't last forever and Happy Days would come again.(from one-time autograph collector Ray Bradbury's A Graveyard for Lunatics)
The gorgons, the jackals, the demons, the fiends, the sad ones, the lost ones.
Once, I had been one of them.
Now, there they were. My family."
I am not sure if I should be happy that I had the foresight to show up before doors officially opened at last weekend's Chiller Theatre. On the one hand, by doing so, I assured that I did not wind up among the rained-upon masses lined up to get in midafternoon, who were halted from entering by order of the fire marshal. On the other hand, the fact that I knew I had to get there early and, indeed, actually wanted to be there on the always insanely crowded Saturday meant that I was now fully immersed in the world of Chiller and the aforementioned goons who attend it. This day was bound to come. I must accept it, along with the realization that I consider waiting in line for two hours to be a victory.
I can find some comfort in the knowledge that I was able to restrain myself from overspending and actually left the convention with no autographs and having paid only $20 to have my picture taken with two celebrities. (Again, I feel compelled to note that "celebrity" is a bit broad, for one person, whom I cannot reveal due to said person's pending appearance on this year's Holiday Greeting [yes, there will be one...happy?], is barely clinging to fame and the other, to be revealed later in this post, is almost certainly not a celebrity by any real definition.)
Of course, there were temptations. I was actually about to break down and get an autograph and picture with Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer Leslie Nielsen, but, lucky for my own eating plans for the week, Mr. Nielsen bowed out for a lunch break and I decided I didn't feel like waiting it out. I'd gotten his autograph before (free!), but I was almost persuaded by the fact that he had Enrico Pallazzo photos. Alas, it was not meant to be.
I intended to get an autograph (in my Islanders yearbook, from the year when he was their celebrity captain) from and/or a photo with Ralph Macchio, but I quickly abandoned that notion when I got a look at his price list: $30 for an autograph AND an additional $30 to have your picture taken with him. Seriously? The Ralph Macchio Experience costs $60? Suck it, Daniel-san.
I was so intently focused on staring at his price list and thinking that I must be reading it wrong that I momentarily blocked Linda Hamilton's photo lane, which she very kindly pointed out and then insisted I had no need to be sorry, because life is too short for that. By all accounts, she was the MVP of the weekend, staying, I heard from others, past closing time on Friday night to sign for everybody and owning what looked to be the longest line on Saturday, which moved slowly because she was taking time with every fan. I had no interest in meeting her, but it's always good to see someone going out of their way to be nice and genuinely happy at one of these things.
Also exceedingly nice was John Schneider, who brought along an entire store of "Dukes of Hazzard" merchandise, including four different kinds of t-shirts, hats, DVDs, photos, and license plates that read "Bo Duke." I was almost tempted by the 2 for $25 t-shirt deal, but I ultimately could not justify, even after seeing that he signs "Yee Haw!" on every autograph.
In the autograph tent out in the parking lot (no lines! no waiting!), I almost gave yet more money to Barry "Greg Brady" Williams when I saw that he was selling autographed tabu tikis (oooweeoooweeooo) for $30. But then I realized that I have already bought two different versions of his book and his not-so-good CD. I love "The Brady Bunch," but the line must be drawn somewhere. Sorry. I have paid my debt to Barry Williams. Adios, Johnny Bravo.
I was particularly bummed, however, that Barry Williams was going to sing at the big Saturday night party, because I couldn't stick around for that and thus missed what I have to assume will be my only opportunity to ever see Barry Williams and Kip Winger perform at the same show. Sigh.
Epstein, Horshack, and Washington were next to the Brady table. Sixty bucks for a photo with all three of them. I don't think so. Robert Hegyes looks like Superfly Snuka now. And by "Superfly Snuka now," I mean "Superfly Snuka now," not "Superfly Snuka back when he was popular."
Across from the Sweathogs, I was forbidden from taking a photo of Jamie Luner. I actually just wanted to take a photo of the sign above her that read
Just The Ten of Us,
because I thought it was funny. But as I prepared to do so, the woman taking the money at her table started waving her arms wildly and then yelled, "No pictures! You have to pay!" That was fun.
Luner was flanked on one side by Ron Lester, the previously egregiously obese actor from "Varsity Blues" and "Not Another Teen Movie" (and I was dismayed to realize on my way home, three episodes of "Freaks and Geeks..." yearbook signing opportunity missed), who not only has an entire line of products based upon his "Billy Bob" character in "Varsity Blues" but will also sign a pair of his old fat pants for $200 (Only 1 Pair!).
On the other side of Luner was Jeffrey Weissman, whom of course you remember as George McFly in the last two "Back to the Future" movies after Crispin Glover bailed. And in case you didn't remember, he brought props...props that had nothing to do with his character, but props nonetheless.
There were a few other temptations here and there, but I held fast to my goal of not buying autographs I didn't really want. And that was bad news for Zabka-esque villain extraordinaire Richard Tyson (from "Three O'Clock High" and "Kindergarten Cop"), whom I probably would have at least gotten a photo with in stronger economic times. Sorry, buddy.
George Kennedy was another tough one to pass up, particularly with Leslie Nielsen five tables away. I had considered buying a Naked Gun poster on eBay prior to the convention, but I'm a completist and since the chances of me getting (or wanting) OJ's autograph in the near future don't look good, I decided against it. Of course, it's horrible to reduce Kennedy's career to the Naked Gun series, but, in case you forgot, I'm a fairly horrible person a good deal of the time. In any case, here's a picture of him getting ready to sign a "Cool Hand Luke" poster.
I also could have easily spent some cash on a photo with Lita Ford, a pair of Kiss Me Deadly panties, or a tasteful poster for the apartment. Instead, I just took this photo.
So, you ask, who did you spend your hard-earned $10 on? Well, there were two gentlemen who looked awfully bored sitting behind a table in the tent. I didn't even know one of them, Randall Deal, was gonna be there, so I think he might've been a last-minute addition (and I assumed he was gonna be in the photo, too, but he just stood there, so it appears I assumed wrong...no big, ahem, deal, I suppose). And I saw a banjo on the table. And I thought, "C'mon, it's only $10. You gotta." And that's how I got my picture taken with Billy Redden, the man who played Lonnie, the (kind of) banjo-picking inbred in "Deliverance."
It took three tries (camera flash was acting up), but I'm quite happy with the finished product.
I'm also pleased that I was able to leave Chiller tired but satisfied, with mission accomplished and under $50 spent (one other purchase will be showcased in the next post). Victory is mine!
And, for the record, The Goons, Myself Among Them has replaced Good for You as the title of my next book (anticipated publication date: 2023)