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October 2014: Chiller Theater!

27 Oct

October 27, 2014

I LOVE the Chiller Theater convention. Twice each year in Parsippany New Jersey, hundreds of actors, artists, wrestlers, former child stars, musicians, and yes, even people involved in horror movies, come together and, when you factor in the huge dealer area, you get a convention that is always fun. I’ve been going for five conventions in a row, and despite Parsippany being a little inconvenient (would it be that hard to hold it in NYC?) it is worth the trip.

Before I go on, let’s check in on Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. In past years, though I am sure, absolutely positive, (I say that from a CYA legal perspective) that he was stone cold sober, he gave every appearance of being drunk. Was he? I have no evidence but, if he or his lawyer is reading this, I’m sure he hasn’t had a drink since dyed his hair black and tagged with the Honky Tonk Man as Rhythm and Blues. Though he looks perpetually drunk.

Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day at Toyota Park - July 10, 2009

So how does he look this year? Pretty much the same.

Hulk Hogan Fan Appreciation Day at Toyota Park - July 10, 2009

The only difference is that I got up close to him, walked right by him, and his face, while looking exactly the same, looks ridiculously heavy, as if his flesh and skin weigh far more than normal flesh and skin and is about to slough off his face. Years of hard living will do that.

Brutus Beefcake was there and he just looked sticky.

But there were high points aplenty this year.

100_0602 blogI met Joel “MST3K” Hodgeson and took a picture with him and Tom Servo, one of the show’s wisecracking robots. Joel Hodgeson may be the nicest guy I ever met at this convention. When I spoke, he listened and made eye contact. He didn’t try to rush anyone despite the long line. He said nice, positive things, smiled all the time, and was so sweet and earnest that I am sure he was out in the parking lot handing out tracts after the show.

True story: As I was entering the room where he was signing, we bumped into each other as he came out of the bathroom. This is now my second celebrity bathroom story.

Saarah and I also had a professional photo taken with Henry THE FONZ! Winkler. For a fee, you can have a professional photo taken with a celeb, with pro lighting and a pro taking the picture. I know from personal experience that Henry Winkler is a very nice man, very generous with his time, and he has a reputation for being good to his fans, so this experience struck me as odd and out of character.

There were about 20 people in line to take a picture with Winkler. The line moved ridiculously fast. When we got near the front, the assistant told us that, as soon as the guy ahead of us was finished, we should jump in and get ready for the picture. I was told that’s how he liked to work. I barely had time to put down the bag I was holding and get next to him. He stuck his hand out, I shook it, and I got five words into “this is a pleasure to-“ when Henry said “HIYAGLADGREATAKATAKA” and the director said “hold it!” and the picture was taken and we were shooed out. Seriously, maybe he had dental work, but though he was smiling a big, sincere smile,  his teeth never parted and he spoke so fast I really have no idea what he said. And it is too bad, since I have a “seven degrees of separation” sort of legit connection to but never got a chance to tell him.

After that, there was the usual assortment of Godzilla actors, Debbie Gibson, and the cast of Good Times and although I couldn’t get close to him, Jimmy Walker seemed to be having a ball. (And yes, he was wearing that silly J.J. Evans hat.)

We were here on Sunday, only the second time I didn’t make it on a Saturday. My only disappointment was that they ran out of Chiller glasses the day before. Every year, the convention sells a commemorative glass with a horror personality on it. In the past they had the likes of Lon Chaney Sr. from London After Midnight and Bela Lugosi from White Zombie. This year’s glass had Edgar Allan Poe, which I feel isn’t that big a deal. It isn’t hard to find Poe stuff. But if anyone would like to like to sell me one so I can keep my collection intact, drop me a note in the comments below. But being here on Sunday had one advantage- much less crowded.

The guest list changes for every convention so, with the exception of some wrestlers, Zacherly (the Cool Ghoul) and some indy guys from some Sherriff Joe film (WHY? Not impressive.), the lineup for the April 2015 show will be nearly 100% different. It is a different convention every year. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

You can read columns about past shows 1, here, 2, here, 3, here and 4, here.

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Arise, Pumpkins, Arise!: Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns 2014

19 Oct

October 19, 2014

For the third year in a row, I went to the dark and spooky Old Westbury Gardens for the annual Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns! This is where you walk through a dark country park with spooky music playing, all the while gawking at amazing pumpkins. It is always a lot of fun and this year, they made sure that the carvings were all new. In fact, all three years I’ve been there, they’ve changed it up every year. You can see pics from previous years here (Jack-o-Lantern Avengers) and here (Big Bang Theory pumpkins). Be on the lookout for some Modern Family pumpkins in this assortment.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Thanks to Allan Keyes for allowing me to use some of his pictures.

 

I Predicted This: How Hollywood Russell Predated The New Stonehenge Discovery

29 Sep

September 29, 2014

Did you see this headline last week? This story made news around the world.

henge

Turns out the Stonehenge is really huge, much bigger than we thought. Basically, researchers had been walking around, over, on top of, all kinds of crazy structures and objects, and not all of them were buried. A lot of the hills and mounds turned out to be hiding structures right in plain sight. Scientists were basically having picnics on top of those pretty hills and never realized what was going on right below.

This is why I should have been a Stonehenge researcher, because I would have discovered those mounds and buried objects ages ago. You see, I already had that theory 30 years back.

It was the late 80’s/early 90’s, somewhere in that area, and my friend and I were hanging out at Kings Plaza, Brooklyn’s version of a shopping center, working on various ideas for stories that we’d never write. Both of us were interested in Old Time Radio and most of our ideas tended to fit in the horror or detective genre. Sometimes both.

We had an idea for a show called The Corpse. It would be about a crime-solving corpse. (We put the emphasis on solving to differentiate it from all the other crime-committing corpses.) Basically, a bunch of Scooby Gang types would ride around with a dead man in the back of their car and they’d communicate with it by Ouija board.

JOE: Quick corpse, tell me, who’s behind the big bank robbery?
PETE: I’m getting something now. “B-I-G-B-R-U-C-E-F-R-E-E-D-K-I-N.” It’s Big Bruce Freedkin!
JOE: There’s something else coming through!
PETE: “D-U-C-K.” Duck? What’s that mean?
(SOUND OF A SHOTGUN BLAST)
JOE: They’re shooting at us! That’s what it means! Duck!

We also had an idea for a show called The Adventures of Seamus O’Reilly. Seamus was a sheep and his owner, Mother O’Reilly, was knitting him a sweater because he looked cold. She was knitting him a sweater out of his own wool. See why it never got made?

There was also someone called Stoop Nagle, but for the life of me I can’t remember if he did anything more than sit on a stoop.

All this brings me back to Stonehenge and the unlikely first adventure of Hollywood Russell.

In Hollywood’s first adventure, the plan was that he’d been tracking either smugglers or Nazi spies (or both) who were using a small plane to fly in and out of Coney Island unseen. Eventually the bad guys, fearing that Hollywood was getting too close, buried the plane under the Coney Island beach sand. From ground level you couldn’t see anything but some large dunes. Families would climb on them, kids would play on them, and no one could tell there was a plane below. Only when Hollywood went to the top of the parachute jump and got an aerial view could he see the outline of the plane buried below, kind of like the famous Nazca lines down in South America.

For some reason we found that idea farfetched (wonder what those Stonehenge guys would think?) and changed the story so that the plane was buried under the parachute jump during its construction. But that was even more ridiculous, especially considering that the boardwalk was between the beach and the attraction. Then things got worse from there.

And there you have seven degrees separation between Stonehenge and Hollywood Russell.

 

 

 

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