It wasn't a particularly strong year for celebrity photos, but there were a few winners in the bunch. Here's the entire output for 2009--15 photos, ranked for your pleasure. Or my pleasure. Somebody's pleasure.
15. Paul D'Amato (taken at the Arena at the Harbor Yard, Bridgeport, CT)
D'Amato, best known (well, only known, at least to those outside of his family and circle of friends) as Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, did an appearance on the concourse at the arena before and during the Bridgeport Sound Tigers game. He was a particularly amiable chap, especially in light of the fact that my friend Bill had him sign about a dozen photos for the members of the legendary Ithaca College intramural floor hockey champions, the Charlestown Chiefs.
14. Benmont Tench (taken in the Public Theater lobby, NYC)
After my second Benmont Tench concert sighting in about a month's time (this time as a member of W.P.A.), I figured I oughta get a picture with the man with one of the greatest names in rock and roll. We talked a little bit about the Big Surprise Tour, and after he signed an autograph for a woman in the lobby (that's her pen), the Heartbreaker and I posed for this shot.
13. Cousin Brucie Morrow (taken at the Columbus Circle Borders, NYC)
The first of two photos in this year's "Celebrity Photos That My Dad Would Have Enjoyed" series. I had to make my way through a very long question-and-answer/trivia session (which involved a few questions and a lot of answers, along with a suggestion from Cousin Brucie that if someone wanted to ask him a question about the Beatles at Shea, he'd be happy to answer it) and was situated in line behind some rabid Brucie-heads (one of whom pooh-poohed the idea of Michael Jackson as "King of Pop" and added that Ben Vereen was a much better dancer...twice in about five minutes). But it all worked out in the end, and I like to think my CBS-FM-loving dad would have approved. Plus, I have a book signed to "Cousin James."
12. DMC (taken at J&R Music World, NYC)
Almost missed out on this one, because I got there late and DMC was making his way to the door as I arrived. Fortunately, he is a kind man willing to stop for a picture with just about anyone, so I had time to get the picture with him, buy a "Tougher Than Leather" LP (Merry Christmas, Josh) and a Run DMC greatest hits CD at the store, and get both items signed. So it was a good day.
11. Guy Fieri (taken at the Columbus Circle Borders, NYC)
Yes, he's kind of annoying, and, yes, that is a ridiculous shirt he's wearing, but he does host one of my favorite shows and alerts me to places like the Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, NY. So, Guy Fieri is A-OK with me (though the TGIFriday's commercials still bug me). He also had his own photographer taking pictures that would be uploaded to his website, so that took away my usual Moment of Celebrity Photo Fear, where I hand my camera to a complete stranger and hope for the best.
10. Howard Hesseman (taken at Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ)
He is Dr. Johnny Fever to most, but, to me, he is a little bit Charlie Moore from "Head of the Class" and mostly Captain Pete Lassard from "Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment" (some days my favorite in the series; sometimes it's "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol"). When I told him after the picture was taken that I enjoyed him most in "Police Academy 2" and that I would probably be the only person that brought that movie up over the course of the weekend, he smiled and agreed. And then, after I was out of earshot, he likely mumbled something about the weird "Police Academy" nut he just took a picture with and how he better get another acting job soon.
9. Mickey Rooney (taken at Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ)
I cropped his wife out of the photo because, though I'm sure she's a swell lady, I don't want a picture with Jan Rooney. I want a picture with Mickey Rooney, the guy who recorded those increasingly tense promo spots included on the "Celebrities at Their Worst" CD that culminated with the angriest "Hello, all you nice people" you'll ever hear. And I believe he's done other things. I was on line behind a woman who just wanted to talk to Mr. Rooney. Mr. Rooney's handler said she was welcome to do so, but she should speak up and under no circumstances was she to attempt to shake hands with Mr. Rooney (a swine flu precaution, I'm guessing, and a pretty sane policy at Chiller, quite frankly). So what followed was an awkward, no-contact interaction that involved a lot of shouting. I don't think it went well. But our photo came out swell.
8. Mitch Fritz (taken at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY)
Unless you are a diehard Palm Isle reader (and, considering we haven't posted anything in three months, your hard death is probably imminent), you probably don't know the sheer glee that overcame me as I was walking the concourse at the Nassau Coliseum between periods of a Sound Tigers playoff game and spotted Islanders enforcer/frequent healthy scratch Mitch Fritz (kinda hard to miss, as you may have noticed). It was a glorious culmination of yet another difficult season as an Islanders fan. Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!) Mitch Fritz! (Clap! Clap!)
7. Jon "Bowser" Bauman (taken at Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ)
I forget how much I paid for the autograph/photo with combo from Bowser, but I'm certain it was more than I can afford. But, I did grow up watching "Sha Na Na," courtesy of my dad, and, well, this is a pretty swell photo (and he signed "Grease for Peace" on my album). I was informed by another member of my party at Chiller that Bowser was totally checking her out during my interaction with him. I guess I'm not pretty enough.
6. Duff Goldman (taken at Ace of Clubs, NYC)
Even though I think Carlo's Bake Shop (from TLC's "Cake Boss") is a better, truer bakery than "Ace of Cakes"' Charm City Cakes, "Ace of Cakes" was first out of the box and probably a better, more entertaining show. And Duff is a cool guy. I saw his band (...soihadto, hence the sticker on my shirt) play at Ace of Clubs, and by the end of the set, there were more people on stage than in the audience. But the band didn't seem to mind that much and, in fact, laughed right after they played their last note to the sound of about four sets of hands clapping. Duff and I talked a little about the Avett Brothers (soon to appear in an episode of "Ace of Cakes") after the show, and later on he posed for this (the first and better of the two shots).
5. Hank Williams Jr. (taken outside of NBC Studios, NYC)
It's the second picture I have with Bocephus and, though, it's a bit blurry, I like it better than the first. For a solid reason why, look no further than that thing around his neck. I wasn't going to go for the picture with him, but his car wasn't there to meet him, so I grabbed this photo and got a bunch of records signed. A rare case in my collecting career where things went better than expected.
4. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (taken at Bookends, Ridgewood, NJ)
This was a front runner for the Holiday Greeting, and I suppose if I had chosen purely based on the person with the most hero-like qualities, it would have been Sully by a landslide. But the Holiday Greeting formula is way more complicated than that (plus I wasn't confident that enough people knew what Sully looked like), so Sully didn't make the cut. If only he had appeared on a sitcom at some point in his life rather than successfully landing a plane in the Hudson River...
3. Billy Mays (taken at the Big Apple BBQ, NYC)
A little too morbid for the Holiday Greeting, but probably would've been a good choice. He now holds the distinction of being the celebrity (assuming you want to give him that title) who died the soonest after having his/her picture taken with me (previous record holder: I have absolutely no idea). I wasn't totally aiming to get a picture with him that day, but, well, he was there and I was there, so I thought, "Why not?" Before the photo was taken, Mr. Mays insisted, "You gotta do the thumbs up." So I did. Good call, sir. Rest in peace.
1. (tie) Danny Bonaduce (taken at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, PA)
He was an hour late for his appearance at the record fair, and I was starting to wonder if my train-to-train-to-train-to-train-to-bus-to-expo-center journey was going to end with only a few cool records to show for my efforts. But he eventually showed up, and this photo was taken. Unfortunately, it is an entirely-too-intimate (albeit cut-off) portrait of my head, because I was taking photos of Mr. Bonaduce before I stepped to the front of the line and forgot to set the zoom back for the radio station intern (who seemed jacked up on speed) I handed my camera to. A normal person would've set the zoom back on his own once seeing this frightening sight on a screen, but it turns out this guy wasn't normal. Instead I think he may have actually increased the zoom. Enjoy my nose hairs. On the bright side, it is also an intimate look at Danny Bonaduce's face, which is always entertaining. Also, he did not shake my foundation while I was there, which was cool (if I have to explain the reference, you should be ashamed).
1. (tie) Mark-Paul Gosselaar (taken outside the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre, NYC)
I had hoped that opening night for "The Understudy," in which Mr. Gosselaar is currently appearing, would attract some support from "Saved by the Bell" cast members, but none materialized, not even Mr. Tuttle or Rod Belding (Clive Davis was there, but I'm pretty sure he never appeared on "Saved by the Bell"). But, as I was getting ready to call it a night, someone offered me a free ticket to the show, which I'd planned on seeing anyway. So I quickly took the ticket, enjoyed the show, and then stuck around afterward to get this picture. It is my second picture with Mr. Gosselaar, and clearly the better of the two. I recently headed back to get two copies of the picture signed for both me and my friend Sarah, who has the world's only collection of photos signed by me and "Saved by the Bell" cast members. Someday, she will be ridiculously rich because of this.
As always, I don't know if this tradition will continue, but if it does, I hope to get the Holiday Greeting pictures taken a little earlier this year. Both Holiday Greeting photos were taken in November, and the whole enterprise was nearly torpedoed when a Mohegan Sun security guard informed me and a few other people that we were not to bother Alan Thicke. Very disappointing.
So, anyway, here's hoping that 2010 brings a smoother Holiday Greeting Photo process. I've already got some leads. Stay tuned...