It's Often Stormy in Philadelphia
The last two times I have attempted to make my way to Philadelphia (one successful attempt, one attempt thwarted by buses refusing to run) and the surrounding area I have been met with Nor'easters carrying copious amounts of snow. So, when I saw the weekend forecast for several inches of rain across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I wasn't terribly surprised. And, to be honest, it would have taken a storm of biblical proportions to keep me from attending Monster Mania at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, NJ. Why, you ask? Well, I'll tell you (and, really, I appreciate you still asking questions at this point in your Tinsel and Rot fandom).
One of the main guests for this edition of Monster Mania, making a rare east coast appearance, was one of our greatest human beings, Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer Gary Busey. And the rule is (surely you know of the Tinsel and Rot rulebook) if a Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer is appearing within a 200-mile radius and there is an opportunity to obtain a photo with said Hall of Famer at this appearance, Tinsel and Rot will do everything in its power to be there.
So, as the rains fell and the winds whipped, I was on a 7 a.m. Greyhound to Philly (new $10 round-trip to Philly much appreciated), where I would get on a train to Cherry Hill (after a quick run through the Reading Terminal Market), and then walk 0.9 miles (Google Maps walking directions are my best friend) to the Crowne Plaza to meet Gary Busey.
I'm not sure if you've ever walked 0.9 miles with rain whipping in your face, but it's not as much fun as you might think. Particularly when you have a vague idea of where you need to go. I got off the train with two other Monster Mania attendees who asked me how to get to Marlton Pike. I told them I was headed the same way, so we embarked on our adventure. One of my fellow travelers asked a Shop Rite employee for directions, and she pointed us in the direction of the Crowne Plaza, which you could see in the near distance through the sheets of rain. After some general chitchat about conventions and who everyone was excited about seeing, I split up with my fellow travelers because I wanted to move as quickly as possible so as to avoid being drenched upon meeting Gary Busey and they wanted to light up.
We eventually wound up together again as we approached the Crowne Plaza, and the gentleman traveler said, "We must really love horror movies to be walking through this." I didn't have the heart to tell him that my horror movie watching began and ended with the six movies I had to watch in an Academic Writing class in college (shoutout to Doug Sparent, wherever he may be). Monster Mania is more horror-centric than Chiller, so, as far as I can tell, it tends to attract more horror devotees. Two of the big events for the convention were reunions of cast members from "My Bloody Valentine" and "Night of the Creeps" (two movies I would never know existed if I didn't go to these conventions) and the appearance of Dario Argento or, as I think of him, a guy I never heard of. Whatever. That's what makes the world go round. And brings a lot of interesting people to a hotel in New Jersey during a rainstorm.
Anyway, I walked into the hotel around 11:15 and proceeded to scope out the Busey situation. My years of Chiller attendance had me prepared for a potentially long wait, but I was pleased to see that Monster Mania, because it has fewer celebrity guests, is much less of an endurance test. Whereas Chiller has a frequently ridiculously long wait to get in the main autograph pit, the only line of any considerable length was for Mr. Busey. And the only reason that line was so long was because Mr. Busey had yet to emerge from his hotel room (the convention technically started at 10, but you can't expect Mr. Busey to be up and about at that hour). Instead of hopping on the line immediately, I walked around to see the vendors and other celebrity guests. Since most of the vendors were selling horror-related stuff, it was a pretty quick run-through, stopping only to look at the Ozomba t-shirts and see if the bootleg DVD vendors had anything worth while.
There were only a few celebrity guests I was curious to see. Jason Lively, star of the aforementioned "Night of the Creeps" but more popularly known (to me) as the second Rusty Griswold (in "European Vacation"), looked roughly the same and did indeed have a photo of him as Rusty. I thought about it, but I've got two vacations of my own coming up, so spending $20 on an autograph and photo with someone I'm marginally interested in (if I am to be honest, he is my least favorite Rusty, narrowly edged out by Ethan Embry, who I'm probably giving extra points because he was Doyle in "Dutch") didn't make sense. I will say, though, that if he had brought his "Rusty" beret, I'd have been in for a photo with. But he seemed to be doing fine without any props, as he had a healthy line every time I passed by. Eric Roberts also had a solid line going, and when I noticed that he was only charging $5 for a photo with, I made a note to maybe come back for that later.
Corbin Bernsen, seated a few tables down from the busier Greatest American Hero William Katt, looked a little bored, though he seemed pleasant and earns bonus points by having baseballs to sign. I love "Major League," but the only guy whose autograph I'd like from that movie (besides Bob Uecker) is James "Lou Brown" Gammon. However, I'd get Corbin Bernsen's autograph on a photo with Gammon, so long as Gammon wrote "Don't give me this 'ole' bullshit" on it. Something to think about for those booking conventions in the future.
After another look-see at the vendors, I went back into the room where Gary Busey was signing to see if he had emerged. Indeed, he had, along with his son, Jake, who was also operating on Busey Time. So I headed back into the lobby to get in line and, about a half-hour or so later, it was my time with Mr. Busey, who had Monster Mania security on either side of his table to prevent people from snapping photos as they passed by. Normally, I would deride a celebrity for such behavior, but if you think I'm going to besmirch the name of Gary Busey, you are sorely mistaken.
A young woman was in front of me in line, and Mr. Busey seemed to take a shine to her and/or her prominently displayed cleavage. After signing her photo, she sat down next to him for the photo with, at which point Gary turned on the Busey charm and asked her if she wanted him to make out the autograph to her. After she carefully spelled out her name for him. Mr. Busey added a silver heart (colored in with red Sharpie). Then, after the photo was taken, he kissed her on the cheek. Very suave.
I was prepared to fork over $80 (yeah, yeah, I know) for two signatures ($30 each) and a photo with ($20), despite the fact that I generally think that the photo with should be included in the autograph price (but, again, I'm not questioning the Ways of Busey). But Mr. Busey's handler told me I only owed him $60. I guess I got in on the Buy Two Autographs, Get One Photo With Free special.
My first item was the LP soundtrack to "The Buddy Holly Story," which Mr. Busey was excited to see. But he seemed even more taken aback by my second item, a screen capture from what might be my all-time favorite musical moment on television, the performance of "Stay A Little Longer" by Mr. Busey, Rick Danko, and Paul Butterfield on "Saturday Night Live." Last Sunday, while preparing for My Busey Experience, I was excited to find that one can buy the episode of SNL with this song on Amazon On Demand (you should buy it; it's worth the $1.99). And then I thought, "Hey, 33-Year-Old Guy With Too Much Free Time and Antisocial Tendencies, why don't you take a screen shot of a frame of this performance and have Gary Busey sign it?" And, so, over the course of several hours, I came up with a reasonably strong selection of screen caps, with the best one being the one with the least amount of movement: a close-up of a wide-eyed Mr. Busey singing the second verse.
And that was the photo I plopped in front of Mr. Busey as I explained where it was from and why I wanted it signed. His handler asked if it was a screen cap and what year of SNL it was from, and Jake Busey shouted over from his table, "Hey, Dad, tell him about the band," which brought a stare from Dad and a thought from me of "Cool, I'm gonna hear a story about The Band." But then Jake clarified that he was talking about his band, Sons of the Lawless, which also features Lee Butterfield, Paul's son (I watched a YouTube clip when I got home; it's not like the SNL performance). Mr. Busey then asked where I got the record from. When I cleverly told him, "a record store," he informed his handler, "See, I should have things like that." I'm not sure if he was talking about the photo or the album (his handler seemed to think it was the photo, because he told Gary he could get him one off the DVD), but I'm hoping that if it's the album, that someone can fetch him a copy of the soundtrack for the movie for which he received an Academy Award nomination. Seems like he should have one.
Anyway, the photo was soon taken, and after Mr. Busey told me the SNL photo really brought him back, I was on my way, pleased with my interaction with a Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer (I didn't tell him he was in the Hall, but I'm sure it's gotten back to him).
Yeah, you were expecting the photo here, right? Sorry. It's under embargo for potential inclusion in the Sigman Holiday Greeting. I can't guarantee it will make it (I've got eight months or so ahead of me), but you'll at least see it here on the blog in December. You can wait.
OK, OK, I know you feel cheated, so I'll give you something to sate your celebrity photo jones. And I think it's an even better photo, though it won't make it onto a Sigman Holiday Greeting. It's just too good not to share.
After my time with Mr. Busey came to an end, I headed back into the room where Eric Roberts was. I should point out that I'm pretty sure I've seen exactly one Eric Roberts movie, and I don't have much of a recollection of that one ("Rude Awakening"). I know I probably should've seen at least one or two more (I suspect I'd like "The Pope of Greenwich Village," and if Mickey Rourke ever does a convention, I'll be on that line for a photo with), but, hey, I'm not a big movie guy. Still, he's been funny on Howard Stern's show and he's Julia Roberts' brother. And after watching several people take photos with Roberts, I knew this would be a good use of $5.
So, I handed over my $5 to one of the Eric Roberts handlers (there were three, which I think was a new record for handlers at a convention), and as I put down my bags for the photo, I heard Eric Roberts say, "OK, step on the line and look at the camera." I assumed he was talking to himself, but as I moved closer, he repeated, "Step on the line, and look at the camera." So I looked down and saw that there was a line in the carpet pattern, and I quickly surmised that that was where I should stand. And then, as the handler held my camera what seemed to be a little too close for my liking, Eric Roberts draped his arm over my shoulder, and we got what might be the funniest (and is certainly the least heterosexual) celebrity picture I've ever taken.
I find it impossible to look at it and not laugh.
And as I walked my 0.9 miles back to the train and got slammed so hard by the wind and rain that I had to buy a new pair of jeans at the Burlington Coat Factory in Philly for the ride home (if you've never changed clothes in the Greyhound Bus Terminal men's room in Philadelphia, you've never really lived), I was comforted by the fact that not only do I have this picture that will produce laughter for years to come but, also, for a few shining moments, I was with Busey.