I Think I’ve Crossed a Line: Chiller Theatre Spring 2013

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April 29, 2013 by billysparrow

I will try to make this briefer than usual because, quite honestly, I think if I go on too long about my experiences at the most recent Chiller Theatre convention, you may begin to sincerely worry about my well-being. Or worry more than usual that is. I suspect you have already been worrying for quite some time. I hope you have, because Lord knows I’ve been throwing out plenty of signs. You would have to be blind not to see them. And you’re reading this, so you’re clearly not blind. Unless someone is reading this to you. And if that’s the case, I’m worried about you. Why are you having someone read my blog to you? Surely there are other things to do with your free time, no? Look, it just seems like a lot of work, that’s all. And when did you become blind?

What was I saying? Oh, yes. Chiller. It seems I am now attending Chiller simply to amuse myself. And while I’m not entirely against amusing myself (seems like a noble enough idea), I feel like I may have crossed some weird line into genuine lunacy. Bolstered by my recent success in having Paul Anka write “The guys get shirts” in my copy of his autobiography, I now have fully embarked on a mission to ask celebrities to write weird things when I ask them for an autograph. I have decided that, yes, I am fully invested in a hobby in which I freely hand over money to people in exchange for 30 seconds of interaction, a signature, and, perhaps, a photo. So, I now feel entitled to ask for odd things as part of that process. Is this right? Is this wrong? That is for my biographers and the future schoolchildren of the world to decide. All I can do is detail my interactions with celebrities at Chiller. And so I shall.

Let us first start with the normal interactions. I am, as I may have mentioned once or twice, an enormous fan of “Adventures in Babysitting.” I own the movie novelization and I just bought a press kit on Ebay. I’m 36. I should probably not still be obsessed with the movie. But I am. So it was with great delight that I met Keith Coogan, who played Brad in the film and thus served as the on-screen representation of how I feel about Elisabeth Shue. We talked about FitzGerald’s, Albert Collins, and why there was never a soundtrack released. And then he put a swell inscription I didn’t even ask for, we posed for a photo together, and I was happy.

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I should note that I had to wait to get my photo signed, because there was already a gentleman at the table talking to Mr. Coogan about each of the dozen photos on the table. When the woman helping Mr. Coogan asked the guy if he wanted an autograph, the guy responded, “Oh, I don’t have any money.” Excellent. To his credit, Mr. Coogan didn’t care and carried on a genial conversation, right up to the point where the man’s phone rang. So as Mr. Coogan was in the middle of a sentence, the guy picked up the call and turned his attention away. A few seconds later, the gentleman, while trying to relay his location to his friend said (loudly), “I’m in the room with…I don’t know…it’s…I’m right near Priscilla Barnes and the kid from ‘Who Killed the Babysitter?’ and…” And at that point his eye landed on Jeremy Miller (Ben Seaver from “Growing Pains”) who was seated next to Mr. Coogan. So he started talking to him while still on the phone with his friend. People. They are something else.

After that conversation ended and the gentleman went off in search of his friend, I asked Jeremy Miller how much it would be for a photo with him and Tracey Gold (Carol Seaver). He told me $20 and that seemed like a good deal, so I went for it. They both seemed pleasant.

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My final normal interaction was with Handsome Dick Manitoba from the Dictators. I was hoping he would have his bobblehead available for purchase, and he did, so I bought one and he signed it. We talked about his bar and his plans for another bobblehead, and generally had a nice conversation. And now I have my second signed bobblehead. So I’ve got that going for me.

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OK, now is when things get a little more complicated. My big want of the day, and, in fact, my big want of the last decade, was William Zabka, aka Johnny Lawrence in “The Karate Kid,” Chas in “Back to School,” Greg in “Just One of the Guys,” and Jack in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation.” There is, quite simply, no greater ’80s douchebag portrayer, perhaps no greater douchebag portrayer in all of cinema. He is the best around. And I only know of him being at one other East Coast convention, which, ironically, I missed because I was in California, where he lives (to be clear, I was not actually where he lives, sitting on his front porch, but, rather, in the state in which he resides).

But now the moment had arrived. And I had my plan of what I wanted him to write. So when I got up to the table, I shook his hand, told him what a pleasure it was to meet him, and, conjuring up a classic moment in “Back to School,” said, “Would you mind signing it ‘Screw you, Sigman’?” He asked if that was me, readily agreed, and signed as such.

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Then he came out from behind the table to take the picture with me, posed, and said, “Screw you, Sigman,” at which point I had to restrain myself from giggling like a schoolgirl and quickly regain my composure so I didn’t look like a goon in the picture. I did OK.

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High on my “Back to School”-related buzz (and after taking a photo for another autograph collector who doesn’t trust handlers to take photos), I decided to follow through on a plan I had a few years ago, when Burt Young (Lou in “Back to School” and, of course, Paulie in the “Rocky” films) made his first appearance at Chiller. Cinema buffs no doubt recall this scene.

Well, guess what photo I wanted?

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I felt like a little bit of a boob asking for it, and I was concerned about somehow offending Mr. Young with my moronic request. But he was all for it. So we did it. He seems like a very sweet guy. And before you “Rocky” buffs bust my balls, (a) I had him sign a “Rocky” photo last time and (b) if I could have gotten my hands on a bloody meatpacker robe, I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have asked for a photo wearing that.

OK, you’re thinking, that last one was a little weird but not so crazy. And the Zabka thing probably isn’t something he hasn’t been asked to write before. These aren’t anything so out of the ordinary as to lead to questions of your sanity. Well, friends, we have reached that point.

Perhaps you have heard of a program called “The Joe Schmo Show” on Spike. It is more likely that you haven’t, or if you have, you vaguely remember the first season that was on a decade ago. You might not be aware that there were two more seasons, the most recent of which concluded a few months ago and was one of the more enjoyable things I have seen on TV this year. The concept is that they take one guy and build a fake reality show around him, filled with actors playing various reality-show stereotypes or just bizarre roles (this most recent season featured a deaf woman–the actress who played her was not deaf, which caused some problems–who was also a ventriloquist). They try to keep him from figuring out that the show is fake while performing increasingly outrageous tasks that should clearly make one question whether the show is for real.

One of the shining lights of this season was actor Lorenzo Lamas, who played actor Lorenzo Lamas, or at least a heightened version of Lorenzo Lamas. In his role, Mr. Lamas pretended to be the spokesperson for an item called the European Casual Pouch. Enjoy:

When I first entered the room where Mr. Lamas was located, he was on his cell phone and just didn’t look pleased. The guy in front of me yelled something about liking his show to him and got no response. And a quick look at the photos he had available revealed no photos from “The Joe Schmo Show” but plenty of exposed chest. I didn’t think this was going to work. So I went over to see Handsome Dick Manitoba.

After that, I decided to give one more look-see. Now he had his lunch in front of him and I didn’t want to interrupt. But there was a couple in front of me who asked, “Can we come back and get something after you finish your lunch?” Mr. Lamas said they could get it now and that he was just going to pick at his food here and there. OK, there was an opening.

After the woman in the couple had her photo taken with Mr. Lamas, he sat back down and I cautiously made my way to the table. I looked over the photos, decided “What the hell?” and said the following to another human being:

“Excuse me, if I asked you to write ‘I’ve got the sack of a 25-year-old’ on a photo, would you be OK with that?”

I have a problem. I get it. Let’s choose to embrace it.

He paused briefly and said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” He did not seem thrilled about it, which made me feel a tiny bit awful, but I couldn’t walk away now. Well, I could, but it’d be even weirder than if I went through with it. So I gave my $20 to his handler, picked the photo that seemed to suit the inscription best, and he signed the photo.

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After he was done, he stopped, looked at it, and chuckled. “That’s pretty funny,” he said. And I thanked him and quickly made my way out of Chiller before I became thoroughly disgusted with myself.

Someday, I will die. It is inevitable. I do not know what will happen to my belongings when I go, if there will be anyone surviving me who will take my stuff in. But I fear that somehow, someway, someone who knows very little about me will come across a photo of a man displaying a great deal of body hair. A photo with my name on it. A photo inscribed “I have the sack of a 25-year-old.” And there will be questions asked, and judgments made.

What I’m saying is: Please burn my things when I die. It would mean a lot to me.

But put the photo of me and Zabka in my coffin, if it’s not too much trouble.

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