Today, the first 120 or so young trick-or-treaters who venture to the twenty-seven-year home of Mr. Tinsel and Rot (landmark status pending) in Staten Island, NY, will be receiving at least five of the following (in snack size):

Kit Kats
Baby Ruths
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Mini M&Ms
Nestle Crunches
Sour Patch Kids
Swedish Fish
AirHeads Lollipops
Chocolate Laffy Taffy
Chupa Chups
Milk Duds
Hershey's Chocolate Lollipops
Jolly Rancher Bars/Twists/Some Bizarre Thing with Powder in the Middle

You're welcome, children. You're welcome. Now, don't sh*t on my house.

(Compare with last year here.)


New Roommate

When I moved into my apartment, which I lovingly dubbed Disgraceland, I was given a gold lamé-clad Elvis Presley cardboard standee that stood watch for several years before finally succumbing and going to that great recycling plant in the sky. Over the years, I have thought of replacing him with another standee, perhaps military Elvis or, I seriously considered once, a spangled hot pants-wearing Liberace (which I nearly bought before remembering that I am heterosexual and, theoretically, could have a female in my apartment one day). Ultimately, though, I never found the right replacement and accepted that the part of my life where it would be acceptable to have a cardboard standee in my apartment was about to end.

Then, at Chiller this weekend, I saw him. He was standing amid a booth full of toys and various other items adults shouldn't be purchasing. He had a Post-It that read $10 on him, and since I had done so well resisting the Call of the Autograph, I figured I was due for a reward. And so, I bought him.

It's Elvis hawking the limited edition Reese's Banana and Peanut Butter Cups (which aren't bad). It's not technically a standee, so it's now on my kitchen wall, which is a nice place for the King and his candy. And, ultimately, it's a nicer spot than his intended spot above the toilet, where he would have joined Crying Velvet Elvis by the sink.


Saturday with the Goons

"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.

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."
(from one-time autograph collector Ray Bradbury's A Graveyard for Lunatics)

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

Jamie Luner
Melrose Place
Growing Pains (hastily crossed out in pen)
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)

Song o' the Month: October 2008

Charlie Louvin's "See The Big Man Cry" (written by Ed Bruce):

It would be horribly cliched to say they don't write songs like that anymore. It would also be true.

The song had already been in my head before seeing Mr. Louvin in concert twice last week, but now it is firmly lodged in my brain and will likely remain there for the rest of the month, maybe longer.

By the way, this is the best stage banter from Mr. Louvin from the two shows (this was from the Banjo Jim's show and is likely slightly paraphrased, but it captures the spirit of the thing):

[Spoken to an older woman with very blond hair] "Say, you remind me of my wife. What color are you on now? My wife asked me if I would love her when she went gray, and I told her, 'Well, I've loved you through about 40 other colors, so I reckon I'd be OK with that one.'"

Gotta love Charlie Louvin.


Levi Stubbs RIP

It's hard to think of the Four Tops without thinking of my dad. He was a Temps and Tops kind of guy. I don't think he played favorites between the two, as I recall each getting equal play among the cassettes he carried with him for car rides upstate (it's hard to believe he didn't wear out the Temptations 'N' and Four Tops set he bought through the mail). But I do know that he bought a signed 8X10 of the Four Tops one of the times he saw them (was it at the Friar Tuck Inn upstate?), the only autograph I ever knew my dad to own.

So when I heard Levi Stubbs died, I thought of my dad. And car rides with those tapes (and, in the years before we made that great leap to a car that could play tapes, WCBS FM). And my dad singing in a voice that didn't quite match Mr. Stubbs'. And I was sad. And happy. Because it's like that sometimes.

Levi Stubbs knew that.

Rest in peace, Levi.


How You Don't Want to Start a Bus Trip

Me: Hey, how's it going?

Bus Driver: Good. Heading to Cortland?

Me: Yep.

Bus Driver: Hey, just out of curiosity, do you know where the new bus stop is there?

Me: Um, no.

Guy Behind Me In Line: Yeah, I forget what street it's on, but I can call and...

Bus Driver: It's Exit 11, I think, or something like that. I'm sure I'll be able to find it.

For the record, he wasn't. At least on the first try. But after heading a good ways into the boonies, he did have the wherewithal to think he might be headed the wrong way, which led to this:

Bus Driver: Hey, who's going to Cortland?

Me: Yeah, back here.

Bus Driver: So, this new stop, where is it again?

Me: Um, I think it's near the courthouse or something.

Bus Driver: OK, and where's that?

Me: I don't know.

Bus Driver: But back the other way, right?

Me: Um, I guess so?

Between this experience and having water spill on me for an hour on the Megabus from DC last weekend, I'm once again starting to think that bus travel may not be something I'm cut out for in my adulthood, assuming that is the stage of life I'm in now. Debatable.

Luckily the rest of the weekend--hanging with the family of Puck Daddy scourge Rev. Zamboni, going to the greatest book sale in the world, eating (and old-school arcade bowling) at the Glenwood Pines, seeing Billy Bragg in concert at one of my favorite theatres (with one of my favorite marquees), making another late-night visit to the alma mater, buying spiedie marinade at Wegmans--went a lot better.


Lards of the Ring

I don't think it speaks well of me, but I am fascinated with wrestlers' attempts to keep it together after their time in the spotlight is over. As has been well documented, many succumb at a tragically young age after years of relentless traveling and often more than occasional drug use. But those who survive wind up touring the country doing independent shows in high school gyms and the occasional wrestling convention. I have been to a few of the former and a few too many of the latter, and at each I generally leave depressed at the state of the television heroes of my childhood. I would be lying, however, if I said I didn't find some glee in seeing an old wrestler who's gone to seed. I aint proud.

I do feel bad for the guys, but that doesn't prevent me from being highly entertained when they lose it and someone is there to document it. The best example would be Jake "The Snake" Roberts, whose WWE documentary (yes, I watched the whole thing) detailed a childhood that sounded so unbelievably miserable that I thought I could never again be entertained watching him in a drunken stupor (though I once was). Then, TMZ featured footage of him in an apparent stupor rambling like a lunatic, stumbling through a match, and then exposing himself (Jake maintains someone slipped him a mickey). And I was once again ashamed to be so entertained.

Then, this past Friday in New Jersey, another wrestler who has been alleged to have his fair share of demons, Scott Hall, disrupted a roast of the Iron Sheik because he took offense at an admittedly tasteless joke about the deceased Owen Hart. He threatened the offending comedian and generally rambled in what appeared to be a slightly inebriated state (part 1 here and subsequent parts on YouTube as well...all of which make me so sad that I wasn't there). Then for an encore on Saturday night, he allegedly behaved like a drunken ass at the hotel restaurant/bar. From a post on the convention board (you need to join to log in...I'd almost say it's worth it to read all the craziness that goes on there):

Without getting too graphic, he basically stated to my wife that I must have a lot of money because a “hot woman” like her would never marry an “ugly guy like him” and that she should come to his room later and that I would never know. Keep in mind as well this was in front of my 6 year old and 2 year old daughters and well before 6 pm. He then went on to state that he would like to perform oral sex (I’m apologize if I am being too graphic) on my wife “every day.”

There should be a channel devoted just to old wrestlers and their daily lives. I would want to be appalled by it...but then never leave my living room again.


Peace Queer

You like free music, right? Good. So why not go to Todd Snider's website before October 31 and download his new EP "Peace Queer." It's free. There aint no strings. You might like it. You might not. But when you're done listening, you'll be just as rich as you were when you started (depending, I suppose, on your stock portfolio, but Todd has no control over that).

If you're the type of person whose appetite needs to be whetted before consuming something that costs nothing, here's a video of the first song on the EP that combines two of my favorite things in the world: Todd Snider and Hatch Show Print.


Dressing for success

Tinsel and Rot doesn't condone endangering the lives of innocent children, but if you're gonna have 15 beers and let a 10-year-old boy drive you, a couple of other kids, and your drug-collecting lady friend home, you should at least show the sense that Randy Lewis displayed in wearing a swell t-shirt for the inevitable mug shot.

(photo from NET News Service)

You did it, Randy!


The Tinsel and Rot Sirius Stiletto Top 20: DISCONTINUED

Because my Stiletto is continuing its slow descent into a worthless piece of crap and Sirius customer service has done its best not to help me, Tinsel and Rot must call an end to the Top 20. In its place, we present the Song o' the Month for September 2008, Luke Doucet's "Broken One."


What I Liked About September

*The Wright/Killinger nuptials, Livermore Valley, CA
*Earl Anthony's Dublin Bowl, Dublin, CA
*Hangin' with the Finches, Oakland, CA
*Chocolate buttermilk doughnut, Donut-Wheel, Livermore, CA

*Maybe Pete CD Release Party, The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ
*Birthday fun, Tully, NY
*That 24-hour period where it looked like I might have Mets playoff tickets
*Pinetop Perkins, State Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ

*Tony Clifton, BB King Blues Club, NYC
*The Duhks/Luke Doucet, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ
*Time's Up
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places