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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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Comic Book Men on AMC, Part 3: What Happened?

13 Oct

October 13, 2014

So as Allan Keyes explained yesterday, he had a bunch of comics on eBay and a producer reached out to him and asked if he’d like to be on the show. After he recorded a demo tape (in which he held the comics with their backs to the camera and I recorded him upside down) we were asked to come down to the store.

So for all you reality TV fans, including Hardcore Pawn, this is how they get those weird items. Most of them DO NOT just walk into the store, the producers seek them out. And the weirder the people, the better chance they’ll make the show. Why do think that in a  busy store like the one on Hardcore Pawn people walk in the front door and straight up to one of the owners, who is not working but looks like he’s standing there waiting? That’s because he is waiting. The producers set it up that way.

But at least the owners appear on that show. Kevin Smith is nearly never at his store. (In his defense, he is busy with other things.)

We went to the Comic Book Men production studios, located right across the street from the store. You can walk right past it and never know what it is, since it looks like an old, closed restaurant. But inside, it is a hive of activity. In addition to doing all the production and editing work on the show, the podcast is recorded there too. If you are a comic book fan dreaming of seeing the inner workings of the show, I’m about to throw some cold water on you. This is a working TV studio, not comic geek heaven. Other than the comic book posters on the walls, this could be the production studios for General Hospital or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. It was cool to us in the sense that it is something we never get to see, but it isn’t cool as in you’d like to hang out there. And trust me, we did hang out there in the microscopic green room, in which there was a basket of Sun Chips and a couple of bottles of water for us. It was not fancy- two folding chairs and nothing else but the snacks. While we were waiting for our turn to shoot, periodically the camera man would pop in (for a camera test), a producer (to get us to sign forms) or an assistant (to take the comics away for some close-up and insert shots.)

Then it was time to go to the store and film.

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Despite how they make it appear, the store is NOT open on filming days. Only pre-selected people get to enter. They pretend on TV that the store is open and people just randomly walk in with items to sell, but the truth is that the guys have already been prepped on what is coming in. They have done research online, they know what things are selling (or not selling) for, and have already researched the history of the item. The guys seem like know-it-alls on the show, but they’ve already done their homework on the items days before. And the banter while they are hanging behind the counter? Well, it isn’t scripted, but they’ve already discussed what they are going to discuss.

On way they make it seem like the store is open is by having paid extras in the background. On the day I was there, one of the extras was actually the mother of one of the guys, two were extras hired from a company, and one was me.

I was told to stand in a particular area (which was, luckily, near the counter where the filming took place so I had a good shot of getting on camera.) The only directions were 1- flip through the new comics on the wall or the old ones in the bins, whatever I felt like 2- don’t talk and 3- don’t look into the cameras. I more or less obeyed that one.

Before I go on, a note about the store. As you’ve seen on TV, it looks very cool. They have a ton of toys on display, and posters, and recent comics on spinner racks in the back. But when I was there, I got the impression that the store had been shut for filming for awhile. The new comics were in reality a couple of weeks old and bent and creased as if they had been badly handled by all the extras who had come before me.

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So I was in one area and the two company extras were across from me. One was a business suit type who couldn’t care less about comics, this was just an acting job to him. The other was an old hippie with a pony tail wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He hadn’t seen a comic since he was a kid and was in such child-like rapture that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.

“Whoa, whoa man, the Fantastic Four! “
“Hey, Batman! I didn’t know they still made him!”
“Justice League? Hey, hey, I remember that man, I remember that!”

The producers had to remind him to be quiet.

So filming got started and I flipped through the back issues because that kept my face toward the filming, otherwise all you’d see would be my back. Then Allan Keyes walked in and I had to keep myself from laughing at how stiff he was. While he filmed, as he described in yesterday’s column, I kept creeping closer and closer. The filming took maybe half an hour, with retakes and inserts, close-ups and better quips. Keyes had one funny line I cannot repeat not because it is unsuitable for television, but because his wife may not have the sense of humor we hope she has.

And then it was over. Keyes didn’t sell his items to the guys, but after filming the producer bought them from him for a pretty good number.

Then we waited for the show to air and we never saw our segment. I didn’t find out why but two funny things happened since then. Right after the third show of last season (the one we expected to be on) aired, the casting director called, said she saw our demo tape, would we like to be on the show? We told her we just filmed it over the summer and she never got back to us.

Then, just a few weeks ago, the same casting director called and said she saw our demo tape, would we like to be one the show?

Sure, love to!

 

Comic Book Men on AMC, Part 2: Allan Keyes!

12 Oct

October 12, 2014
This was originally written in August of 2013, but it is only now being published. It has never been posted, until today.

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I few weeks back, I mentioned that Mr. B and myself were in a certain town in New Jersey for a certain appointment that I couldn’t mention.

Well, now the legalities have been observed, I am free to spill the beans: the town was Red Bank, NJ and Mr. B and myself were in town to film an episode of the AMC show, “Comic Book Men”

Yup, THIS Comic Book Men:

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My episode may or may not have aired, and I may or may not have sold the item to the fine gents of the Secret Stash. I’m going to be vague on some specifics because: A) I want to keep my identity on the down low, but mainly B) I look god-awful hideous on camera and if I had my way, Mr. B and I would drive all over Bedrock Brooklyn roping down the TV antennas to keep everyone from seeing the shame that is my appearance. It didn’t help that I’ve never seen an episode of the show or that I didn’t really like Kevin Smith movies much either (though he is good when on Opie and Anthony). Or maybe it did help. I dunno.

In the meantime, Mr. B was happy as a pig in slop. He got to play an extra in the background while I made my transaction. While the guys on the show were cutting me and my item down with barb after barb, Mr. B just kept rifling through the used comics in the background. That was always the sort of thing I wanted to do. Remember in Empire Strikes Back, the commander in the AT-AT who radios Vader that the rebel’s generators are in sight and he can start his landing? And there was a snow trooper just standing there silently next to him? THAT’S THE ROLE I ALWAYS SAID I WANTED TO HAVE! And Mr. B got to do it!

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Anyway, how I came to be on the show was pretty interesting. I’ve been selling lots of my old junk on eBay lately and a casting producer trawling for potentials shot me an email asking if I wanted to apply. Mr B. was all over this – he was hot for me to do the show. Me, I just wanted to sell my item. But Mr. B was a trooper. The whole casting process took maybe a week. I emailed a form, submitted an unintentionally hilarious casting video (pro tip: if you want to describe the items you’re selling, it helps to show the covers instead of the back boards like I did) and a few phone conversations later, I was booked to come down to Red Bank to shoot. Money line from the producer: “Come dressed decently but not too well – it is a comic shop after all”

I have to say, it may be a show about a comic store, but every single person I dealt with was the height of professionalism as well as being extremely helpful. Thanks to all of them for making our experience even cooler!!!!  Dear AMC:  GIVE THE COMIC BOOK MEN CREW RAISES. SIGNED, ALLAN KEYES.

I don’t have a lot of behind the scenes scuttlebutt to describe. The production HQ was across the street from the store (and I will let Mr. B describe the store in detail. I really didn’t have time to see it in detail, more’s the pity) Mr. B and I waited for about an hour in the “green room” (really a small curtained off room with some duct taped Superman posters on the wall) while the crew did their thing in another part of the building. I was given some papers to sign, I was mic’ed, my items were taken for “glamour shots”, and my clothing was camera checked. When it was time, we were escorted across the street to the store, Mr. B was given his spot, and I was sent in and given my instructions. Stand here, on my cue, walk up to the counter, give the guy my books and start talking. Unfortunately, there was no little dude with a beret and that old school clapper yelling “action!”

The three guys I dealt with were extremely cool. Kevin Smith wasn’t there to waste his time with a peon such as myself. The guy in the Superman outfit above was incredibly knowledgeable, and the bearded barbarian guy was HILARIOUS and cool as hell to deal with – he got off some of the best lines of the segment.  The guy with the Godzilla body struck me as a bit of a prickly guy, but that’s based on extremely limited and interaction and for all I know he was playing a part, so I don’t really have an opinion of him, except he knows his stuff.

Are those segments real? I can say that it’s like wrestling: yes, it’s real-ish.

The guys knew beforehand what I was coming in with, and they knew what they wanted to speak about (and the director was helpful in steering the conversation between takes) but in all honesty, the conversation and haggling was basically ad libbed for the most part, and it went in some weird directions that I’m sure will be edited out (too bad)

Once the initial transaction was done, they shot it again, with the director telling what angles needed to be given more play, but once again, the conversation was organic and just flowed, this time in a different direction.

Once it was done, that was it. Thanks for coming, hope you had fun, we’ll let you know when the episode airs, and on to the next guy. And for Mr. B and myself, it was onto that classic arcade and then lunch, where we went to a pizzeria and I had something called an “Italian hot dog” that really was not satisfying lunch material.

From what I can tell, the cast and crew really love doing that show.

I’m extremely happy I did this – it was one of the cooler things I’ve done. And I’m going to recommend people watch the show now (not my episode though which might or might now have already aired) since the guys are EXTREMELY funny and worth watching.

So that’s my star turn. I’ll try not to let it get to my head!

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Mr. B here. See how old this is? Opie and Anthony were still together. In the next blog, I’ll fill in the blanks, tell you about the extras you see in the background, explain why Kevin Smith bold-face lies when he says on the podcast “tell me what came into the store this week,” my disappointment with the Stash, and how we were invited back, one year later, to do the exact same thing all over again.

 

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