Saturday, March 8, 2014

some that you recognize, some that you hardly even heard of

I started collecting autographed photos over twenty years ago. It began as a cool little hobby and offered the opportunity to actually meet some of the "celebrities," (and I use that term extremely free and loose) whose work I enjoyed both on television and the silver screen. Come to think of it, it is not unlike my other hobby of visiting cemeteries where famous people are buried.

The majority of my photos have been obtained at various collector shows. Twice a year, a promoter organizes a horror film-themed gathering at a local hotel's conference facility, consisting of screenings of classic and recent films and a room full of vendors offering overpriced DVDs, t-shirts, toys and various blood-and-gore covered trinkets for sale. The main draw of this convention is the line-up of celebrity guests offering personally autographed pictures, a possible photo opportunity and even a little chit-chat.

The first autographed picture in my collection was from Butch Patrick, the irrepressible werewolf son "Eddie" on the 60s sitcom The Munsters. For a mere five bucks, Eddie — I mean Butch — inscribed a glossy black & white shot of himself in full TV makeup. He also signed a stack of Munsters color postcards for us (that my wife later sold on eBay) and he engaged my wife and me in lengthy, yet benign, conversation. Unfortunately for Butch, the only other guest at this particular show was Davy Jones, fresh from the first (and wildly popular) Monkees reunion tour. The line of screaming girls waiting to meet Davy was ridiculously long. The line to meet Butch Patrick consisted of my wife, my son in a stroller and myself. He didn't want to let us leave.

Since then, my collection has expanded exponentially. I have met hundreds of "celebrities," (there's that word again). Some have been really nice and friendly (Lost in Space's Bill Mumy comes to mind, as well as comedian/actor Taylor Negron). Some have been total, fan-hating assholes (the late Ron Palillo, without naming names). Others I have fucked with (like poor Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson). Still, others have fucked with me (like poor Greatest American Hero William Kaat). Overall, it has always made for a fun time. And, I have added to my collection so often that I've had to continually reconfigure (unsuccessfully, I might add) the display to accommodate additional photos. But, I fear my collecting days may be over soon. The experience is sort of losing its "fun."

Last night, I attended the first night of the twice-yearly Monster Mania convention (or "CON," to the in-crowd). I didn't really want to go after last year's Christopher Lloyd debacle, as I have come to reference the incident. Anxious to meet the two-time Oscar nominated, three-time Emmy winning co-star of the greatest movie of all time, Back to the Future (Don't even fucking argue with me! Don't!), I queued up and perused the array of photos he had available for signing. I chose a classic shot of Mr. Lloyd as "Doc Brown" in his mind-reading headgear. His "handlers" (the guys who handle the cash, as "celebrities" don't deal with — ecchhhh! — dirty money) informed me of the $60 cost. SIXTY BUCKS! I was outraged when the ten dollar price of a photo escalated to and settled at twenty. Reluctantly, I paid and when I finally reached Mr. Lloyd, offering a bit of praise, he didn't crack a smile or utter a word. He even smeared the wet ink of his signature as he handed the photo to me. He also cringed at my attempted handshake. 

I approached the big autograph room, where "celebrities" line the perimeter as the center is packed with a web of delineated queues (marked on the floor by parallel strips of masking tape), each leading to a particular "star's" table. Oh, and it seems that horror fans shun deodorant. So, there's that  

The entrance already had a fairly long line that was pushed off to one side. I asked a staff member if that was a line for the whole room. She answered, "No, that line is for Emily." 

"Well," I said, "since I don't know who 'Emily' is, can I go right in?" (It turns out that "Emily" is Emily Kinney from the popular AMC zombiefest, The Walking Dead.... and I still don't know who she is.)

The staff member smiled and pointed the way.

"Hello Danny."
My first stop was the show's main draw, identical twins Lisa and Louise Burns. Thirty-four years ago, in Stanley Kubrick's production of The Shining, the petite sisters donned pale blue party dresses and invited young Danny Torrence (played by former child actor, now high school science teacher Danny Lloyd), to "come play forever and ever and ever". Then, seconds later, they appeared in a mind-jarring jump-cut — lifeless, slashed and bloodied — thereby cementing their place in motion picture history. All for about four minutes of screen time.

"Lord help the mister who comes
between me and my sister."
I printed out a pair of illustrations I had done in 2012, depicting their famous film career beginning and end. They were delighted and even asked me to sign the prints for them. I joked briefly with the ladies (now in their mid-40s and totally removed from show business). They were sweet and funny. Hmmm, maybe this wasn't gonna be such a bad experience after all. They signed a picture for me and I was on my way to my next "celebrity" encounter.

Several years ago, I visited the Los Angeles Farmers Market with my family. After grabbing some doughnuts and coffee from Bob's, Mrs. P wandered into a cool little antique store while my son and I strolled through the narrow, vendor-lined aisles. We passed a pretty woman quietly enjoying a salad at a sun-drenched picnic table. I pointed to the woman, directing my son's attention, and said, "That's Dee Wallace."

My son returned a blank stare.

"The mom from E.T.," I explained.

"Oh.," he said, still expressing no interest.

Me and Dee.
Well, now, Ms. Wallace was a mere five feet from me, sitting at a table, signing autographs for twenty bucks a pop. I got into line and when my turn came, I related the LA Farmers Market story. She smiled, although she couldn't seem to recall eating there in some time. She told me she rarely goes there, as it is quite a drive from her home. I maintained that it was definitely her, but... now that I think about it, it could have been Melinda Dillion. I always get them confused. Dee was very nice, if not confused a bit by my story.

"Who wants a hot dog?"
As I made my way out of the room, I passed a small table, on which were displayed a few unusual rings, several small stacks of reproductions of vintage photos and a few books. Seated behind the table was the author of said books, Victoria Price. Ms. Price is an artist, interior designer and daughter of legendary actor Vincent Price. She sat quietly, demurely, and surveyed her wares as way-too-young patrons passed by, more enamored by the likes of the several Freddy Krueger impersonators mingling through the crowd. One of the photos — a beautifully composed shot of Vincent Price distributing hot dogs to an eager and joyous crowd in an early 1960s Dodger Stadium — caught my eye. Between my love of Hollywood and my love of baseball, I had to have a copy of the print. Ms. Price was even kind enough to sign it with the playful inscription "Bon Appetit!"  I told her that on my one and only visit to Dodger Stadium, my family and I were the only ones in our section who were not employed by the Trader Joe's in Santa Monica. She laughed. She was delightful. I told her I was an artist and we exchanged business cards. A little networking never hurt anyone. My original grumbly mood was slowly disappearing.

I was finished. The crowds were getting bigger. The vendor room offered nothing I had an interest in and I was tired after a full day of work. I headed out to the parking lot. Actually, I parked on an access road behind the hotel, as the lot was filled to capacity when I arrived. I maneuvered my way through he cars and remnant piles of dirty snow. Suddenly, a car sidled up to me and the driver lowered his window.

"Are you leaving, sir?." he asked. Sir. I shivered.

"Yes I am."

"Are you coming back tomorrow?," the driver continued to pry.

"No, I am not."

"Can I buy your wristband for ten bucks?," he asked, referring to the Tyvek band encircling my right wrist, allowing full access to everything that Monster Mania had to offer. Considering I was not one bit pleased by the newly-inflated admission price of thirty dollars, I quickly agreed.

"I don't know if I can remove it without tearing it." I lamented.

"No problem., " the driver smiled, and he jammed two fives into my hand. Within a second, the band was off. "Everybody wins!," he said.

"Have a good time!," I called, as he drove off.

Well.... maybe I'll go to another one of these shows.


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