My latest adventures at The Hollywood Show are fresh in my memory, so I have to be sure I memorialize them before they fade like stardom itself.
I’d flown into Burbank on Thursday and spent time with a new friend whose own connections to fame are diverse and diverting—as a business advisor, he was at the heart of the Miss USA scandal 30 years ago when Miss New York, favored to win, had been disqualified for padding her bra. I guess padding was against the rules unless it was done surgically? Back in the day, bra-gate (they got the cover of the New York Post: “BUSTED!”) competed with news of the Pope’s attempted assassination, if you can imagine.
Friday was what they call a preview night at The Hollywood Show, where VIPs are allowed access to all the non-celebrity vendors to snap up any rare memorabilia, movie-star 8”X10”s or other nostalgia droppings before the masses invade on Saturday and Sunday. To be honest, it was a bleak evening; many vendors hadn’t fully set up and I was cash-poor so had to conserve my bucks for my one-on-ones with the stars. I wondered if I was beginning to lose some of my interest in these shows. (Um, no.)
Worse, the show makes you wear your VIP wristband for three days. “That’s real gold on it, so it won’t wear off, not even in the shower!” clucked the highstrung lady at the desk, who would be an amazing character for a Mo Collins Web series.
On Saturday, I donned my Blondie T-shirt, thinking anything that makes me look reasonably un-fat and that might be a conversation-starter couldn’t be all bad. Sure enough, as soon as I entered the hotel’s gift shop to grab a power bar, the 29ish-year-old clerk looked at Debbie Harry’s face on my chest and said, “What was her biggest song…?”
I replied, “They had a few…’Call Me,’ ‘Rapture,’ ‘The Tide is High,’ ‘Heart of Glass’…?”
Blank expression. “Is she still alive?”
Yes. Wanna know who else is still alive? Carol Channing—and I walked right past her and her adorable husband Harry Kullijian on my way to the show. They were strolling arm-in-arm after breakfast, cute as could be.
I met up with my pal Chexy of Chexydecimal—he’s the tall one in the vest with a past as a silver-screen zombie—and we partook of the early-bird special, being allowed in at 9 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. I don’t actually love being so early because most of the stars have not yet arrived or are in the process of setting up, making the approach impossible or awkward at best. It’s a bit odd seeing stars situating themselves, and yet watching Carol Channing arrive (she moves around quite well for 90), sit down and promptly do her makeup in front of the world was pretty cool.
I guess the best excuse for being an early bird is picking what you think will be the craziest line and getting into it early on. Even though I am a casual Batman fan (the show had many alumni of that illustrious put-on of a ‘60s series), I’d already made up my mind that I’d get both Adam West and Burt Ward, so we got into West’s growing line and waited. And waited. And waited. West, enjoying a resurgence thanks to his Family Guy voice and a veteran of autograph shows, didn’t show up until nearly 11, after all the non-VIPs had poured in. He walked up to us and did an impossibly Hollywood kind of ironic wave/air kiss and sat down to begin his duties.
While waiting to get him, Chexy and I talked with an attendee about his various ups and downs in the world of autograph-hunting, including stalking Lauren Bacall at an event in Portland (she had loved the beautiful magazine photo he presented her with), waiting in line for two hours for an ailing Jackie Cooper and getting to meet his idol Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy, famous for Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and many others, had been about 95 and was so far gone he began writing his name and stalled on the “v” until his helper had nudged his arm, leading to the completion of an extremely shaky autograph.
As we got closer, we found out West was asking and getting $40 per signature and would not do photos at his table, neither photos of or with him, but that he would be participating in the scheduled $75 photo ops later in the day done by Craig Damon, a pro shooter whose gallery was set up in the lobby. We also heard West asked more than $40 to sign certain pricy Batman memorabilia on the reasoning that his signature made it more valuable and he deserved a cut. I don’t agree with that policy. I think it’s perfectly legit to charge people for autographs at conventions (never on the street!), but your autograph should cost a set amount and you should not be concerned with whether the receiver intends to cherish it or flip it for a profit.
When I was about to meet West, his manager, in-between scolding everyone about trying to take any pictures, mentioned there were certain things “we” won’t sign. I was worried the well-preserved 83-year-old would turn his nose up at the tastefully sexy shirtless shot I’d unearthed (from this eBay seller), but West happily signed it. Unfortunately, an actor came up to West while he was signing for me and stole all of his attention. Luckily, all of my emotional eggs were not in Adam’s bat-basket, so I wasn’t crushed. But it wasn’t a warm welcome to the show.
Shockingly, my #1 target of the show, Channing, had no line to speak of, though she had a group of fans hovering about and her buff-ish, cute gay handler. We made our way over as her handler was telling everyone “All of the money goes to charity.” I told him she was likely the only star there donating 100% and he said, “It’s the only reason she’s doing this—she doesn’t need to.” Then Carol brightly greeted me. What a thrill to interact with a living legend.
When I showed her the vintage '50s How to Marry a Millionaire program I’d secured for her to sign, she said it had been from the National Theater, the greatest theatre in the world. “You don’t even need microphones the acoustics are so wonderful there!”
I complimented her on the documentary she participated in—Carol Channing: Larger Than Life—telling her I’d been to see it at TriBeCa. “We’re glad we did it,” she told me. Because of the documentary, I asked to have her hubby Harry Kullijian in my photo, which he liked. The first shot was the better pose, but had no flash. They patiently allowed a second shot. Pure class and so warm to me as I stooped next to her, which really is the position anyone should take in the presence of such a singular sensation.
Next, I decided I’d get the 66-year-old Boy Wonder out of the way. Ward’s line was smaller than West’s had been, but filing up with recent West veterans. As we waited for him, Julie Newmar was escorted in. She is already a towering presence with a wasp waist and cheekbones above the clouds. Add to that a black outfit and big Catwoman ears and the debilitating effects of the neuro-muscular disease CMT and Newmar definitely cut the most imposing figure of the day. I was reminded of Lisa Marie’s character in Mars Attacks! while watching Newmar haltingly make her way toward us. She said hello right to me as her goofy handler all but knocked me over, so I missed getting that moment recorded. Like many actresses of a certain age, Newmar has indulged in more than a few knife tricks, some of which haven’t worked out so hot. But for 78, she’s very recognizable as the statuesque woman who was, hands-down, the best Catwoman.
As it came time to nab Ward, he was talking with his handler about photos; I’d asked and been told no photos. Ward openly said right in front of everyone, “We’re here to make fucking money, so I don’t care what the agreement was, if we can make money with pictures we’re going to make money with pictures.” Then he excused himself to go pee. When he returned, I was told he was doing pic-withs for $20, so I got mine. I make a habit of seeking out interesting photos or items for people to sign at these things, and Ward paused to marvel at my sexy shot of him in leather. His handler pointed out that that episode had just run. “Will you look at that?” Ward said, admiring himself. It’s hard not to—as much of a Holy Terror, Batman! as he’s said to have been on the set back in the day, he was nothing if not fuckable. I wonder what the round old guy was thinking about as he gazed upon his once-fine form.
I was able to hear two hilariously bitchy stories about Ward at the convention, but I won’t reveal who told them to me. One was that he allegedly wound up with one of the women characters’ costumes from the series and had his girlfriend wear it to supermarket openings. Confronted at the time, he’d claimed to have bought it from Paramount. Wherever that suit is today, it would be worth about $20,000.
The other story was that Ward was such a dick on the show that some of his many injuries were the result of people behind-the-scenes willfully putting him into dangerous situations out of revenge. Maybe being young, dumb and full of cum (did you read his book?) and having lucked into a major role without paying his dues gave Ward a license to act out; he was just a kid, after all.
As I left, I asked him if he’d left anything out of his scandalous memoirs. “Oh, yeah, there was lots I wanted to put in, but people said, ‘You can’t say that!’” He agreed with me when I said a tell-all sequel was in order. Despite his bad karma, he was more interesting than Adam West, who had come off like a signing robot.
We’d been eyeing Terry Moore from a distance, absolutely shocked at how diminutive she is in person. She can’t be close to five feet tall! My memories of her are from the 1953 film Man on a Tightrope (I had found the most AMAZING press shot from that movie, showing her suggestively biting her finger), as Howard Hughes’s ex and from posing naked in Playboy in her fifties. A fellow attendee claimed her handler had said to him, “Playboy wants her again at 83!” This seemed a stretch, but she looks good for her age even if I don’t think she needs as much makeup as she thinks she does. Somehow, she apparently considers herself a devout Mormon.
When I got up to Moore (who reminds me a lot of Dyan Cannon), she smiled and told me the photo I was giving her was from her personal favorite of all her films. She wanted to know where I’d gotten it, as did so many others at the convention when I would hand them something unique. The unsexy answer: eBay. But I like that they appreciate my eye.
I had to hike behind Julie Newmar to get to Moore, going the long way around their long table. I love our picture, though. I should send it to Playboy as a test shot.
We got in line for Julie Newmar, who I would say was my second biggest target. When we got up to the front, Newmar took note of her line, glancing around the corner with surprise. A dealer before us was asking her to sign a bunch of items, ludicrously claiming he wanted some signed without personalizations because he wasn’t sure if he’d give them to her wife or his wife’s sister. Why lie? But she wouldn’t sign anything without personalizing it, having been coached by her handler, in order to discourage profiting from it. She did eventually, I think, cave to his demands, because he left happy. Anther fan asked for her to sign it to him, "thanks for everything, Julie Newmar." She processed this with a subtle eye roll, then nodded and acquiesced.
Face to face, Newmar has a fairly hypnotic spacy quality. When I told her which color I’d like her to use to sign my bitchin’ photo of her in a bath towel, she fanned her long fingers in the most mesmerizing way as she made her selection before carefully signing her name. I took a great shot of her seated at her table, and then came around to sit beside her for our photo op. I turned to her and told her she was lovely, has a great attitude and is glamour personified. She nodded in agreement and thanked me.
It was a bit sad if not exactly crushing (good gossip makes up for itself when it contains disillusioning news) when I was later told she had not been highly regarded as an actress on the Batman set. Apparently, one director had been “trying to get something, anything, out of Julie, some kind of reaction” and had then confided in a co-worker, “The lights are on but no one is home.”
One of my very favorite people I interacted with at the show was next, the radiant Lee Meriwether. It’s probably silly to say it’s unfair that Meriwether looks as good as she does at age 76 since it was also unfair she looked good enough to win Miss America at age 19. Her silver hair was cut and styled beautifully and she had strolled in wearing a camel skirt and jacket that covered her neck to toe in spite of 80-degree heat outside. Later, at a Batman Q&A, a man had told her that despite other actresses getting surgically altered, she had remained untouched (well, I doubt she hasn’t had stuff done, she’s just had it done well and conservatively) and “with the exception of my wife and my mother, are still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I didn’t watch eight years of Barnaby Jones for Barnaby.”
As my friend Jeff (who I saw for the second time at the show) says, it’s not only about physical beauty— she was unbelievably warm and gracious. She loved my Catwoman pic (she played the role in the ’66 movie, never on the series), asking her daughter, “Do we have this one?” Affirmative! She signed and also signed a second shot I had of her winning Miss America and bursting into tears. While signing, she launched into an impressive story about how when she won Miss America, the audience in the theatre had not been able to see her receive the crown, causing a huge backlash. She leaned over the table for our head-to-headshot.
Deciding to complete my “the women of Batman” collection, I went for 74-year-old Yvonne Craig, Batgirl herself. At first, I thought she’d changed quite a bit and gone blonde, but it turned out that lady was her sister. They do look a lot alike, both still pretty and with nearly the same features. Yvonne was gamely signing someone’s Batman guitar as we arrived, squatting on the ground and suggesting what would make the best picture for the fan.
She loved my picture of her with a dog, naming it and saying how sweet it had been. When we posed together, I asked her how she felt about her Batgirl outfit being auctioned off recently and she said, “It was? Unh-unh. There were only ever three, and one was destroyed and one was only a partial.” So anytime someone has an outfit for her to authenticate, she already knows it’s very unlikely to be hers. There was apparently a unique structure to it inside, so she can always tell if whatever that is is absent. Having a Western label on it means nothing. “They made Halloween costumes, too!”
The best story she told I promised not to repeat. Also, she and her sister (who talk alike and have the same mannerisms—such a dynamic duo—excitedly pointed out that their brother had used to live by Debbie Harry (thanks, shirt!), who had some kind of a boat dwelling. I asked, “Any good stories?” Both widened their eyes and said, “Yeah!” but her sister said, “But none that we’re telling!” A highlight.
At this point, we were coming up on my first photo op, so I decided I’d go to my room and get this incredible Electra Woman & Dyna Girl board game I’d bought expressly for Deidre Hall, Judy Strangis and Sid & Marty Krofft to sign. That way, I could get that signed, get my first photo op over with, and possibly go eat after returning the bulky game to my room. It would’ve worked, but Hall was out to lunch. So I started with Strangis, who was just as vivacious as could be at 61, obviously never got the memo that a girl has to choose either her face or her ass after a certain age because boy did she ever still have both.
She signed the game and a cute headshot, telling me they’d never dreamed the show would be remembered 35 years later. “I mean, we did 13 episodes!” she laughed. She said she doesn't have or wear her Dyna Girl costume or even do the pigtails anymore even though her hubby, who was nearby, has asked many times.
Sid (82) and Marty (74) were actually among the most sought after signers at the whole damn show, believe it or not (I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe it). Like Carol Channing, they were signing for charity. The guy in front of me had literally 20 or so things to sign, including all manner of toys and even had my same board game! There goes my element of surprise. The men were nice, though Marty, who looks a lot like Frank Langella now, was cursing at someone on his cell phone just before we met and I think that irritation hadn’t fully worn off so I didn’t get to chat him up too much. But he and Sid said they were shocked by the turn-out and by the longevity of all their shows.
Their shows are unwatchable by adults—I tried recently with H.R. Pufnstuf—but there is something perfectly whimsical and mysterious about them that is pure kidnip.
It was time for a photo op, so we headed to where we mistakenly thought they’d be happening and bumped into ‘70s teen heartthrob and current musical-theater star Rex Smith (56), who was also lost. We found the right place and had our picture in a flash. Nice guy, but we didn’t interact much; I think it’s best to have already been to someone’s table before the photo op even though you might think that would be even more awkward.
Wanting to complete my Electra Woman quartet, we headed back in but I snagged One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest’s Louise Fletcher on the way. She was very nice and said she appreciated my compliments about her acting. She was (trapped?) by her co-star from that movie, the ever-voluptuous Louisa Moritz, who I’d be willing to bet she hadn’t seen since the shoot. I bypassed Moritz at that moment to get to Hall, who’d just returned.
Hall’s maintenance regimen is working well for her—she looks fantastic (she turns 64 this month) and still has that great hair. She had a line that included the show’s longstanding resident lunatic, a truly bizarre man who dresses in Raiders gear (including face painting) and literally jumps up and down for joy while zeroing in on his subjects. This brought some local cops over to hover, though he seems to be harmless and the one cop line-jumped to get a free photo op with the Kroffts. “You don’t understand, you guys are my heroes!” The line and all the requests for photos with Hall and Strangis both led to some chaos and I could tell Hall had noticed Chexy snatching some video. Then, when I went to take a long shot of the women together in case I missed a chance at capturing them in the same frame she testily halted everything and gestured to me, saying, “Now, all the other cameras shouldn’t be going because we’re not looking at them, we’re looking at [the person in front of us].” Yikes! Smacked down hard.
But when I did get up to them, she and Strangis had just posed for the lunatic and I asked them if they’d please stay together for a shot, which they did. Deidre was totally fine after the previous knuckle-rapping, signing my board game and concurring with Strangis that she had never expected Electra Woman to have legs. I had also brought a really cute headshot of her (original) with ‘80s hair that took her by surprise. “Where’d you get THAT? My agent?” I told her eBay and Strangis told her it was beautiful as did her helper. She signed and radiantly smiled while doing so for me. So I guess we made up.
My photo op with the Grease cast was supposed to be our cue for a quick lunch, but it was so hard roping in so many people that I wound up having to wait through a lot of my free time. Chexy went and ordered for us at the hotel’s restaurant so that when I got there, we’d have no lag. The assembled Grease cast (many of them were there, and yet many of them were not—no leads, no Didi Conn, no Stockard Channing and of course if Jeff Conaway had attended he’d have been able to charge about $100 per autograph) included director Randal Kleiser (65), Susan Buckner (58), Barry Pearl (61), Jamie Donnelly (64), Eddie Deezen (53), Edd Byrnes (78), Frankie Avalon (72) and Dinah Manoff (53).
The photographer, a handsome devil, is so easy to work with—I told him I wasn’t getting a Frankie Avalon shot, so would he be so kind as to set up a shot that would have me next to Frankie? He complied, getting Frankie and Dinah Manoff on a bench with a (tiny) spot for me to squeeze into. When I did so, Frankie grumped, “You’re sitting on my jacket!” then tried to play it off as a Three Stooges-esque stage temper. “I’m creating a line for you!” I joked, apologizing. It wound up being a great shot, and I had just enough time to scarf down a salad before arriving back at Craig’s station to get a pro shot with Carol Channing.
Carol was led in but then led back because they said she was going to help celebrate Carla Laemmle’s 102nd birthday. Laemmle was never a big star, but thanks to her uncle Carl she did appear in the silent classic The Phantom of the Opera (1925), making her one of only approximately four people alive today who appeared as adults in a silent movie, and also in Dracula (1931). I abandoned my spot in line to film the staff wheeling a birthday cake up to Carla with Carol in tow. It was sweet but terribly orchestrated. An absolute loudmouthed ass was heading up the cake committee, and he was yelling at people to please take pictures because, “This is a 102-year-old, it may be your last chance!” and barking at Carol and Carla to react more. It was so obnoxious. Carol helped sing “Happy Birthday” to Carla, but the sound was non-existent up close (drowned out by people who’d gathered around) even if it was apparently crystal clear via mic outside.
“You’re turning 102, and I’m right behind you!” Carol said. “But I don’t understand why you look so much better than I do.” Ever the optimist, she turned the observation on its head and ended with, “That’s encouraging!”
Then, the barker arranged for Carol to go behind the table for a photo op, but he wasn’t satisfied with that so he asked nearby stars to crowd in, too. Morgan Fairchild had looked happy to be there but was not thrilled to be pulled into a shot with a couple of people over 90. Frances Fisher was more game, Terry Moore was having a blast and then Louisa Moritz pushed in, areolas-first. It was a suitably loony image to see such a diverse mix of Hollywood royalty…and residents.
Dashed back for Carol’s photo op and got to go first (thanks, Chexy, for place-holding!). I love my seated photo ops! She was lovely again and thanked me for coming.
It was Morgan Fairchild time! Seated directly facing the doors, she (and Carol Channing and Frankie Avalon and Frances Fisher) had the best positioning. To be honest, I found her a little aloof. Not un-nice, just not gregarious. My pal Rich observed she is smart and serious, which seems right. Looks identical to how she looked in her thirties even at 61, and I mean identical. I complimented her and asked her secret, which she somewhat tersely said was “hard work, eating right and some maintenance here and there.” I asked her to sign a photo she was selling of her surrounded by beefcake. “I’ll try not to sign over somebody,” she promised, but I told her to sign over somebody just not some body. Nice photo op, but a short interaction.
Carla Laemmle was having her birthday cake and eating it, too (she’d earlier been chowing down on a gigantic Mexican meal, it looked like), when I approached. She had one of the nicest gay helpers and really does look amazing for being past 100. She was all smiles and signed a lovely old picture of herself. Her handwriting is pretty good and somehow looks like silent-movie lettering. She was an absolute steal at $10 total for pictures and her signature. Her handler said she hoped others would follow because she thought some of the stars were charging too much.
Finally, I sidled up to 73-year-old Ron Ely, a Tarzan so sexy he could give Johnny Weismuller a swing for his money. He’s still handsome with his shock of white hair. Pictures of him as a young man remind me of Josh Lucas in the face and Matthew McConaughey elsewhere, so it took restraint for me not to buy any. Instead, I presented him with a fab shot of him on the South American set of Tarzan, walking in his loin cloth and eating a very American popsicle. Surprisingly, even though it was definitely a rare shot, he totally remembered it.
“What I loved about this was the crazy mix of things. I wish the background were more in focus because you could’ve seen parts of the set and there was some kind of a native person standing over here.”
I asked him, as I like to do due to my day job, about any run-ins he had with the teen machine back in the day, but he said that due to his filming schedule and later his move to doing movies in Europe, he wasn’t really available for any of that. With him and with other former shirtless hotties, I always wonder if they’re secretly homophobic, but he seemed to know what I admired about him and not care. His handler was wearing an explicitly gay-themed T-shirt on Day Two, so yeah.
Next I hit a couple of real highlights, starting with the delightful Morgan Brittany. She’s still gorgeous at 59, even if she was telling someone before me that she hates seeing pictures of herself because they remind her she’s not as young as she thinks. Apparently a recent event outdoors in the heat resulted in some melted Morgan photos that would have made Margaret Hamilton green with envy, but I find it hard to believe. She’s just stunning, and was totally accessible.
Morgan loved the shot I had for her, a casual pic of her in costume as Vivien Leigh in Gable and Lombard (1976). She told me she liked that kind of photo because it was a genuine moment. “You know who made this dress? Edith Head!” She signed my photo in spite of kinda wanting it—“There’ll be another!”—and gamely answered my question about working with Farley Granger (who played her dad) on an episode of Murder She Wrote. Her recollection was that he was very nice but that the older actors she worked with around that time kept to themselves a bit and seemed out of place in that medium, an interesting observation. What a sunny person with a great attitude.
En route to snag Abby Dalton, we spotted 46-year-old commercial icon Mason Reese (pictured) walking around as an attendee. He happily posed for a pic with me (free) and shook my hand. I also saw Seinfeld’s “soup Nazi” Larry Thomas milling around, but missed grabbing him. He’s…sexy.
Seventy-six-year-old Abby Dalton was a bundle of energy and unexpectedly wound up being the most fun encounter I had! When I showed her the photo I had for her, she totally lost it—she was dressed head to toe as a cowgirl (this was a very early shot) with a gun and a smile. She could not believe I had it and her entourage immediately took pictures of it so they could have a copy (I plan to send her a scan, too). She said, “This is a perfect Hollywood picture—nothing about it is real.” She really howled and at one point inspected it and muttered, “What the fuck…?” and “I don’t know if I can do this!” She definitely did, though, and then did a really cute picture with me. Ana Alicia, Jamie Rose (51) and Dalton, a Falcon Crest fulcrum, were then posing with some aggressive femme fans so I jumped in for a shot with Ana and Abby before going to Ana’s table.
Ana, 54, is stunning. She’s not old, but she’s old enough that she should be showing her age more and simply isn’t. She reminds me of Demi Lovato (both are Mexican), but much more classically beautiful. She told us she’s been a mom for 20 years and out of the biz but was really enjoying connecting with fans.
I told her her co-star Lorenzo Lamas had been my romantic awakening (“Mine, too!” volunteered her female helper) and Ana confirmed I had good taste, saying he was a good guy who’d been a good friend to her. “Great kisser, too!” she teased.
Ana was another star who flipped for my photo I brought, an exceptionally interestingly posed shot that harkened to Old Hollywood. She didn’t charge me for her autograph in exchange for letting her take the photo to be scanned on the spot. What a doll! She must be the best actress ever considering how nasty her character was.
Now it was time for another photo op, actually two—I had the Kroffts and then Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis. I missed the Kroffts somehow, so the staff wrangled them back for me. Marty was in a livelier mood and joking around this time and both thanked me.
The Hall/Strangis photo op was lively, too; they were talking when I stepped up, hesitant to interrupt. Hall welcomed me with open arms and we did a shot. I told her Craig is a one-shot wonder, but she looked concerned and said, “Sometimes Judy and I like more than just one…” and from then on she was directing the shoot, which was hilarious. She didn’t like the first shot at all and so put on her jacket and we all did a retake. This was more to her liking. She then suggested Craig zoom in on the image and wasn’t satisfied until it looked just right. Chexy found this diva-ish, and it probably was, but as a vain person myself I understood. And I also appreciated that she cared what the image I was paying for was going to look like.
Went for Frankie Avalon next. Great timing—he’d had a long line all day but there was no line by now, just one fan asking him about Annette Funicello (69 this month). “She’s a complete vegetable now,” Frankie said, although his tone was more caring than his word choice. “Thanks for asking about her.” I reminded him I was the dude who sat on his jacket, which he laughed at. I had an amazing old teen mag for him to sign, some beefcake (he weirdly signed right across his body!) and then this totally bizarre image of him being photographed by a young boy that honestly could double as art. He had no recollection of the boy image but seemed to enjoy looking at it. I asked him what his memories were of the whole teen-magazine scene and he said, “We started that whole thing.” He remembered people coming to his apartment to take pictures but seemed kind of indifferent. Nice enough guy considering I’d been told by another attendee that a year ago, when the guy caught him at an event and asked him to sign, Avalon refused, saying he was just going to sell it. The fan said, “But I want it personalized,” but Frankie said, “You’ll just erase that part.” Finally, he relented and the fan told him, “If you don’t like signing for free, you should do The Hollywood Show—you get paid.”
Continuing on my Grease tour, I grabbed Randal Kleiser. I had met him briefly at Outfest but he couldn’t remember me or our mutual friend and was kinda not too into the exchange, so I just got my sig and departed. He was cordial, though, and wished me luck in my career. (I’ll be retired by the time it takes off!) Someone I know thinks Randal blew him in the past. No offense intended and it might be a faulty memory, but it made me switch up Kleiser’s infamous teen softcore film’s title to The Blew Lagoon.
Dinah Manoff was a sweetheart. She had a beneficent smile on her face for everyone and seemed genuinely touched to be getting the attention. I chose an I Ought To Be in Pictures (1982) headshot for her to sign, which she did happily. A dead ringer for Kristy McNichol in that. She was really warm and down to earth.
I then quicky grabbed a sig from William Smith (78). I was not all that familiar with his career, but I’d found this incredibly hot underarm picture of him to sign. He’s rather weak now and wasn’t able to be too involved, but his wife was a big help and did all the talking for him, pointing out that the woman in the still I brought is actually Shelley Morrison (74) who played Rosario on Will & Grace!
I only had two more names to get, and one was 65-year-old Louisa Moritz, an instantly recognizable (to me) fixture of ‘70s films who was sort of like an older, sluttier (on film! On film!) Landers sister in her performances. She was barely dressed. By that I mean her tits were hanging out and she was wearing a colorful outfit that seemed sheer on the bottom. She was way suspicious of me when I approached, not opening up to even speak much until I had committed to buy. Once I said I wanted her to sign something and get a picture of her and a picture with her, she informed me it was $80. Which is just ridiculous, though I’ve noticed the stars with nudie pictures and cheesecake do charge more. But I’m a gentleman so I went through with it.
After our photo op, she improbably turned to me and said, “Look me up if you ever need a lawyer.” So she is a smart cookie, but definitely a cookie…maybe one with nuts and sprinkles.
My last star of the day was 59-year-old Miss Frances Fisher of Titanic fame. This was her first show (she’d been announced for the last one and had bagged out). She was really charming, especially when Chexy raved about her unaffected, period-perfect performance in that film. She told us a long story about how she had used the film’s restrictive wardrobe (a vicious corset) to help physically inform her entire performance, and that she’d needed it even when looping dialogue.
After all of this, we headed over for the day’s final photo op, which was the Batman cast. Since there was a lull before getting them, I was able to rustle up Ron Ely for a pro shot, too. He amiably followed me over and did the pose, shaking my hand and thanking me and the photographer. Good grief that guy is as tall as Julie Newmar!
The Batman photo op was a bit of a clusterfuck—it was all very BAM! WOW! POW! Lots of people showed up for it, and they had a myriad of configurations, including Adam solo, Burt solo, Adam and Burt, Adam and Julie, Julie solo, etc. Inexplicably, Yvonne Craig, Lee Meriwether and the other Batman peripherals were not invited to participate in the photo ops. “Am I needed for this?” Lee Meriwether politely asked. Nope. Not sure why. The Q&A afterward was similarly pared down, just Adam, Burt and Lee.
The shots I needed were Adam and Burt together and Julie solo, so I did Julie first. “Why do your lights go out when you’re shooting?” she asked Craig, suspicious the photos would look bad. “If you shoot when they’re out, we’ll look horrible.” He reassured her and we did our pose, which is not her best shot ever, but it’s pretty great anyway. I was the first Adam and Burt poser, and they were perfectly nice. Adam West is actually quite funny even if his demeanor could easily rub some people as glib. Burt was kinda hiding behind people in his shots.
Before the Q&A, I dashed back to get Rex Smith’s autograph. He was all packed up with his pretty wife and was chatting up Carla Laemmle, dorkily (in a nice way) talking about her representing another era and how honored he was to be there with her. Rex’s wife brought out some photos for me and I said, “It’s gotta be sexy and shirtless.” She glanced at her friend and they smiled, why I didn’t know at the time, but then Rex told me, “You gonna be here tomorrow? You should wait because we’re getting a picture of me in red shorts that you’ll like.” I liked that a straight guy was pitching me his own beefcake shot, so I agreed to do that. He’s taller and more solid than you might guess, and still a good-looking guy.
So it was then time for the Q&A, much of which I videoed. Adam West was asked about his military service, the crazy fan with the painted face asked if they ever used a pro wrestler to orchestrate their fight scenes and I got in a question about why the series has such long legs—they answered me at length and even came back to the question later.
The most memorable part of the Q&A was when, while discussing the evils of typecasting, Ward said he had been set to do an indie film after Batman had just started and was prevented from doing so due to the producers being concerned about keeping their brand clean from any outside stuff. “That movie was The Graduate, and when they didn’t get me, they went with Dustin Hoffman,” he said to groans.
A celeb attendee who shall remain nameless groaned when I told him that story. “He said that??? Can you imagine Mike Nichols wanting Burt Ward over Dustin Hoffman? What would he have done, ‘BAM! BANG! POW!’ Mrs. Robinson???” Needless to say, that story did not play outside the Q&A audience.
It had been a long, crazy day, but we immediately left to meet up with a Madonna merchant (don’t even ask me what I’m paying for some never-before seen and never-will-be-seen-as-long-as-I-own-them images) in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot before proceeding to our evening engagement, helping TMZ’s Johnny Lopez blow out 40 candles in Hollywood at Jane’s House. What a great spot for a bash. The TMZ crew seems to be pretty tight and yet were all nice to Mr. Boy Culture. I understand that Nina Parker who’s been on the show, will be making a big career announcement soon, something on TV. She’s really pretty and has a big personality, so I can see her going far.
As we left—I was CRASHING—Harvey Levin was arriving. I met him and insisted on a photo. “…okay,” he said, as if I’d just announced I enjoyed farting on cakes (did you see that episode?). He got pulled away and did some other photos first, but did return for a quick snap with me. I told him I liked what he does, and that is partly true. He’s about as tall as Terry Moore (no offense intended, short can be beautiful) and looks like one tough nut to crack. He was there with his babe of a boyfriend, but I have zero gossip on what went on later because we left—sorry, Alec Baldwin, I have no ammo for you!
The following day, after a torturous early-a.m. trip to the flea market that I would have enjoyed were I not exhausted and bordering on sick, I was on my own for the last day of the autograph show. I just had a few more stars I’d wanted to get, but I’m so, so glad I bothered to go back.
First, it was interesting seeing the different outifits. Julie Newmar looked much snazzier and Carol Channing was decked out in killer red. Speaking of red, I returned to Rex Smith for the promised red-shorts photo and bam—he was right, it was the best one and more unusual as it was a beach candid. Turns out his wife’s smile the previous day had been because her friend had told them shirtless was the way to go and they hadn’t been so sure, so I confirmed to them, “Oh, everyone wants either the most iconic photo or they want skin. Some stars charge more for skin.”
Rex was happy to sign and flirtatiously wrote “Surf is Up!” on the photo, too. He told me he didn’t understand why any star would object to signing just about anything—“That’s why we’re here and photos like that, hey, they’re fun.”
I asked Rex about the teen industry and he really didn’t bite. He said, “That was a girl coming to my apartment and asking me my favorite color. I was never that guy. But when I was interviewed by Andy Warhol for Interview, that was amazing.” He recommended I re-read Andy Warhol’s Diaries because he’s in there more than once and he finds it fascinating that things he was saying and doing on specific days 30 years ago were recorded by the legendary artist.
Later on, Rex was engaging nearby vendors and asking how these shows are usually run, complaining about how dead Day Two was and how a group Q&A or something else exclusive to liven things up would be a good idea.
I couldn’t leave without grabbing Kristine DeBell (56), who was so memorable as a face of ‘70s hotness. She looks good with the prettiest, palest blue eyes and a girlishly high voice that’s out of sync with her age. She was all over me with stories about doing Playboy and being the first or one of the only models to reveal an entire breast on the cover. In 1976, she did a racy R-rated softcore movie adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (“An X-Rated Musical Fantasy) that has kept her far more in demand than even her smash-hit Meatballs (1979), and she told me—with a sense of humor about it—that they later tacked on hardcore sex (without her) and marketed the XXX-version. “The ex-ex-ex version?” she said, repeating what a fan had said. “I only did two things in that movie, and it wasn’t ex-ex-ex!”
She plans to hit up a glamour convention so I encouraged her to contact her Playboy photographer (a woman) and ask for unique outtakes, an idea she liked. She said that while filming Meatballs, it was Ivan Reitman’s first movie and Bill Murray’s first movie and that what you get from them on screen is exactly what they’re like off screen. She was happy to report that sort of slapsticky scene peering around the corner of the cabin was her suggestion. “Ivan was such a new director he was totally open to ideas.” Nice chick.
But my absolute favorite meeting was with 73-year-old Christopher Riordan. I’d earlier run into my friend Jeff, who’d shown me a sexy Riordan rear shot he’d had signed, and now I bumped into Jeff again, who was telling me about his special connection to Montgomery Clift and that Riordan had known him and told him some good stories. So he offered to introduce me, which isn’t necessary at these things but which definitely was a plus.
I chose the same rump pic from The Gay Deceivers (1969), telling Riordan it was the cheapest piece of ass I'd ever bought—an ice-breaker. Riordan said it had been fun to make even though he more fondly remembers working on My Fair Lady (1965) because it was six months of his life. Riordan, openly gossipy (in a good way), has the best stories and is not afraid to voice an opinion. He’s good pals with fellow attendees Yvonne Craig, Sherry Jackson (69) and Barrie Chase (78 on October 20) and remembered William Smith teaching him about fitness 50 years ago. When Smith was brought over to say hello, he asked him, “Do you remember teaching me how to work out?” and Smith told him simply, “I remember everything about you,” as they hugged.
I think I’m going to stay In touch with Riordan, or at least I hope to. Fascinating guy and a no-nonsense working actor (most recently on Outsourced). When we talked about Jeff’s Web series, Riordan chimed in that he’d been asked about doing one but, “I don’t work for free. I don’t walk across the street for free.”
I referenced Linda Evangelista’s quote about not getting out of bed for less than $10,000 and Riordan shot back, “I’d do a lot more for a lot less!” But he also clarified and said that while he’d had his share of offers, he never had to sleep with anyone for a part. Interesting because he definitely looks like he must have had that opportunity. Has a very young face under his signature hat.
My final encounters of the show were with two dealers, one turning out to be the famous Roy of Baby Jane, from whom I’ve bought tons of stuff on eBay. Roy has it all (including a storefront I had to skip due to my leaving so soon), but specializes in hunks. But it’s not just that he has a lot of beefcake, he really and truly has a good, perverted eye. His stills are just incredible, and he told me he buys things he likes personally even if he intends to sell them because, “You might have to live with it for six or seven years before it sells.”
Roy mentioned having been a fan of Hedy Lamarr (I bought an unusual autograph of hers at the last show) and said he’d met her and become a good friend of hers for the last 10 years of her life. “She made it to the year 2000, which she had wanted to do,” he recalled. Apparently she’d had quite a bit of plastic surgery starting with the archaic stuff in the late ‘50s, but he said she was a really interesting person and friend.
His neighbor at the show was a much older man who flirted with me (admiration is always welcome here!) and asked me to get him a full nude picture of myself. I assured him I look way better clothed, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “I have a partner of 16 years…” I teased. “Then it’s about time you cheated.” He was selling lots of autographs, all from his own collection.
“Do you keep anything for yourself still?” I asked. “At my age? Are you kidding?” he laughed.
That was it for my experience this time. I’m not sure I’ll make the Vegas edition—though Joan Collins will be there!—but I’m sure I’ll make my way back for the February or April editions in Burbank. Or, you know, both.
P.S. Fame travels in packs—on my shuttle at 5:30 a.m. en route to the Bob Hope Airport, I ran into Brandon Rogers, Blake Lewis and Tim Urban (shirtless here) of American Idol fame (who I kinda know from my day job). They're not charging for pictures with them...YET!