Another trip to The Hollywood Show, one of the country’s premiere celebrity autograph events. This time, the headliners included Ed Asner, Vicki Lawrence and reunions of Dennis the Menace, The Poseidon Adventure and Dynasty/The Colbys.
What really helped me decide to attend again was the hunk factor. The show hosted Antonio Sabato Jr., Al Corley, Gordon Thomson, Casper Van Dien, John Schneider and two of my all-time Top 5 biggest crushes, impossibly pretty Maxwell Caulfield and unfathomably sexy Gregory Harrison. (Trivia: Jon-Erik Hexum is my #1.)
This time, I splurged on a VIP pass that granted me access to Friday’s preview show (no stars, just all the vendors of memorabilia), early admission on Saturday and Sunday (by an hour) and an invite to an "afterparty" on Saturday that promised a Poseidon cast Q&A, entertainment and an opportunity to "dance the night away." (Just like the hapless Poseidon New Year's Eve revelers? Hmmm.)
I arrived in Burbank with a thud—the hardest landing I’ve ever felt and with no good reason for it considering the gorgeous weather. The flight attendant, whose bizarre voice throughout the journey had driven me to distraction with its mix of Fargo and wittle-girl cutesiness, won major points with the quip, "Gotta love those Navy pilots." But I’m pretty sure half the passengers had already made boom-booms in their pants.
After checking in at the Los Angeles Burbank Marriott Airport (getting the name right is important—I’d accidentally booked one night at the similarly named Marriott down the road and had spent several harried minutes on the phone being told they had no vacancies until getting a human voice on site to tell me otherwise), I rested and then hit the preview. It was pretty uneventful in that it takes a lot for me to be moved to buy even a high-quality 8"X10" of a movie star, but it was well worth my time because I ran into a pair of fun and funny fellow starfuckers, one of whom used to sell me stuff on eBay (scandalous photos of slinky male stars like the one of Garrett Hedlund embedded here). I stuck to them like the eyelids of all the stoners in L.A. stick together. As they made their way through the room, I gleaned info on what to expect, met the show’s proprietor and had a few laughs at our own expense thanks to our shared ability to know the names of forgotten starlets.
The next day, I was up early and met my dapper sidekick Chexy (right) at the door. It’s $30 for VIP admission (not counting the price my fame-immune pal paid with his soul for following me around 9am to 5:30pm), so I was grateful he’d agreed to come along. Buying him lunch and dinner was hardly enough, but don’t worry—I got him a nice present before leaving the state and the state of mind: a 1982 "Happy New Year's" postcard sent out by the late Rudy Vallée and his wife.
There was mucho confusion regarding all the shit I’d purchased online (the pass, the party ticket, several pricy pro photo ops), but it all worked out and we arrived even before any stars. The early-bird entry was worth it because we got to see the stars as they showed up, a delightfully awkward situation. I had only a vague plan of attack—try to get the Saturday-only/presumably in-demand attendees Asner and Lawrence, then work my way from most essential get to least. As it turned out, the show was a piece of cake to conquer unlike the last one, which had fewer big stars but which had a two-hour Martin Landau line with which to contend.
Antonio Sabato Jr.’s table was right in the front, next to Ed Asner’s. He was spiffy and slick in a suit, looking as hot as ever at 39. I feel like he looked a little eyelifted a few years back. No more—he looks pretty much flawless. He also looked a bit flustered as this was his very first show and he wasn’t quite sure what the hell was happening. I pounced on him as he was trying to figure out how this kind of thing worked, what to say, do and/or charge. Like every star, he had stacks of photos to sign, but he quickly tried to direct my attention to his 1994/1995 long-out-of-datebooks (yet sexually evergreen thanks to the generous photos of Antonio throughout). But this time, I’d brought lots of my own items for the stars to sign. I presented Antonio with a copy of a magazine I edited in 1999 (Hollywood’s Hottest Hunks) with a full-page pinup of him wearing nothing but bubbles, a copy of his work-out book (with text in Chinese for all I know but oodles of slutty photos) and a spectacular nude poster from an old issue of Flaunt.
"I should charge more for this," he said, bemused, of the poster. But not only didn’t he charge more, he charged less than just about anyone at the show—just $10 per autograph. A picture with him was free. I didn’t have a lot to chat with him about, but he was nice enough. He didn’t exactly guffaw when I pointed out I was his "first…customer."
Next, we saw Maxwell Caulfield and his wife Juliet Mills arrive. They were setting up in a highly undesirable spot facing away from the room (but situated within the Dynasty/Colbys ghetto) when some other fans began engaging Maxwell. He tersely shooed them away, asking for a moment to set up. Message received!
So instead, I turned my attention to poor Al Corley, who’d been the original (gay) Steven Carrington on Dynasty. "Poor" because like Antonio, he was haplessly beginning his first-ever appearance at one of these things. I personally thought Al looked ruggedly sexy and masculine at 55. I wouldn’t call him smiley, but he’s tall and strapping and has great presence.
He was relying on a helper supplied by the show and was just as clueless about how to handle things with fans (I think many of the stars fail to realize they will literally, no kidding around, be forced to ask people for cash and make change). But I popped his cherry just as I had Antonio’s, giving him an original vintage press photo to sign along with the CD booklet of his shamefully ignored ’80s album Square Rooms (the single went to #80 in the U.S. and was more popular abroad).
The CD is a crazy-rare collectible because it was one of the first-ever CDs manufactured, created by a West German firm. He said, "Oh, my gosh...," to the photo, which he inscribed to me, but seemed to contemplate his CD cover with stony silence or even shock. I asked him just to sign that one because it’s such a rarity it would feel like vandalism to put someone’s specific name on it. He nodded and signed it and said, "Thank you," unconvincingly when I told him I loved the music (produced by Harold Faltermeyer). Nice enough guy, and perhaps it’s not exactly a strike against him that he seemed a tad uncomfortable with tallying up my bill and asking me for $50.
Randomly, I went for Carol Lynley next. She is ostensibly best known for The Poseidon Adventure ("Did you like his music?...He had nice hair," her character moans about her dead brother in the wake of his demise) but was also great in Bunny Lake Is Missing and was a stunning ’70s beauty. Now, at 69, she’s almost in her seventies. Despite a cute flip and bright pink sweater, she was all business when it came to the money, informing us politely but firmly in advance exactly what kinda bread we were looking at parting with in exchange for an autographed pic and a photo op.
As Lynley signed, I told her I particularly remembered her for a guest spot on the ’80s show Hotel. "Oh? What’d I play?" "You were a lesbian," I told her. "Oh! Tsk-tsk-tsk!" she clucked, reminding me of my late mentor, a John Birch Republican with a hippy streak who used to flick her tongue mischievously whenever discussing "lesbian ladies." Lynley continued, "You know, I got an award for Best Lesbian from a lesbian group for that…which is very funny because I’m not gay." "That’s why you got the award," I told her. "It’s called acting, right?" I think she bought it. Lynley’s BFF in that ep was a lesbo-skittish Barbara Parkins (who’d canceled on The Hollywood Show at the very last second…no big loss considering I was told Parkins refuses all photo ops, even the paid ones). I liked Lynley, though, and loved her after that night’s Q&A.
Next, 62-year-old Vicki Lawrence had arrived and quickly accumulated a small but thick group of fans, so I bee-lined over there to wait my turn. One young man had something like 14 photos for her to sign. The gay working with Vicki—many of the stars had assistants, and if more than one of them was heterosexual that would be more than one I’d have guessed—was ferosh! He told the kid it was $200 and later barked at someone for taking her picture from a distance, informing him he could only take her picture for money. Most stars will allow pictures of them—if not with them—for free. And I’m going to guess that Vicki was likely one of the richest stars there.
Vicki herself was fabulous to the woman in front of me, who asked her to speak to a friend in the hospital on her phone. She did it in a heartbeat, wishing the person well at length and then suggesting they get a photo of her posing with the phone in her hand. When it was my turn, I told her, "Vicki, I’m sorry to tell you this but I have five friends in the hospital." She laughed, which was a nice thing to have, a moment making Vicki Lawrence laugh instead of vice versa. She also liked when I told her I didn’t get a little sister until The Carol Burnett Show went off the air because I would watch it in my parents’ bedroom Saturday nights. This was a bit of a stretch of the truth, very James Frey, but I do have vivid memories of hanging out at the end of their bed to watch that show in particular, and of sometimes falling asleep at the foot of the bed under the comforter after having snuck in to watch TV past my bedtime.
Finally, Maxwell and Juliet seemed to be getting situated, so I sauntered over and we waited patiently until it was our turn. I went for Juliet first, most famous for the short-lived (only in the sense of its first run) Nanny and The Professor series. She’s since acted lots on the stage, was on Passions and is of course the sister of child star Hayley and daughter of late film legend Sir John (who was in Who’s That Girl in his late eighties, a question I failed to ask her). She was a sweetheart, very smiley and warm. She liked my original press photo from her series that I had for her to sign, though our photo op was kinda rudely interrupted by an overzealous fan showing her a poster for No, My Darling Daughter (1961).
"That doesn’t look one little bit like me!" the 69-year-old laughed of the curvaceous blonde illustration. "Well, one little bit,” he replied, not intending the slight. He generously gave her the poster, but all I cared about was my picture. It wound up being one of my faves.
While moving on to Maxwell, some of the fun gay guys I’d met were buzzing about, including one who was trading him a couple of nice photos of himself for an autograph. He was just starring in Cactus Flower Off-Broadway and was now bartering with pictures of himself and to be honest didn’t seem as comfortable with the set-up as his wife. Still handsome and sexy and built for days, he is nonetheless not going to look like the slice of heaven he was 30 years ago. I think this disparity tugs at him because while looking at two photos shown him by the dealer, the one showing him in some barely-there red trunks clearly didn’t sit right with him. He contemplated it and then signed it and gave it back to the guy with the proviso that he keep it for himself and not sell it so as not to "cut into my business."
I told Maxwell I had some things for him to sign but nothing too terribly embarrassing. "Good!" he smiled. Then I said something about wondering if he remembered what was going through his head during each photo of himself he sees. Referring to some shirtless shots he said, "I see a very unself-conscious, very young man." This made me think he’s self-conscious now, which is a shame because like I said, he’s still got game. His hair may be thinner, but that could be said of lots of us who were never as stunning as he was at 21 and still is at 51.
I had Maxwell sign his 1982 Interview cover (the shoot’s by Greg Gorman and yes, another swimsuit is involved), his 1982 After Dark cover, a classic Grease 2 pinup from the German teen mag Bravo and two shirtless images taken backstage during his run Off-Broadway in Entertaining Mr. Sloane. He remarked that the industry was totally different now from then (presumably, photogs are not able to talk their way backstage after shows and get sexy young actors to strip to the waist for impromptu photo sessions), but that the character he played in that show very much fit those kinds of photos, leather pants and all. I had lots to ask him but settled on asking him about all the incredible actors he’d worked with. He rattled off a list of some of his favorites, saying Eve Arden was incredibly nice in their one scene.
When it was time for our photo op, he referred to Chexy as "the one with all the incriminating DVD footage"—he was incredibly aware more so than any of the others that my friend had been doing some filming (unfortch, all of my earliest video didn’t turn out due to a miscommunication on how to use the cam…so you’re off the hook, Maxwell!). He was talking during our first shot so sat still for a second. When I told him there were over 80,000 people who’d “liked” Grease 2 on Facebook, he said, “Really? That’s…something.” It was dry and very funny; he has in the past said it took him 10 years to get past that movie bombing. While all this was happening, his gays were moving their stuff to a better spot, so he invited me to return to look at the photos he was selling. I knew I’d be back.
Recovering, we saw 81-year-old Ed Asner had strolled in and was pulling a line. We hopped onto it but were pleasantly surprised at how briskly it moved. He looks great and was in great spirits. I told the liberal lion I loved his acting but, "I also love your politics." He grinned at me, "Me, too!" For our picture, the first was a regular shot and the second was Ed pinching my chin affectionately. I mean, this is Mr. Grant, y’all.
John Schneider is an actor who’s worked steadily (on Smallville, for example) ever since his signature show The Dukes of Hazzard, yet he was there, too, in a prime spot by the door. No dummy, he was wearing a revealing black wifebeater. This is like wearing honey to a fly convention. While waiting to see him, a woman with him was pitching us on some kind of sketchy weight-loss/muscle-building drug; he apparently had an endorsement deal with the company. I found it off-putting to be pitched while waiting to pay him money, but it wasn’t the end of the world.