Above, see all the stars as they appeared then...and as they appear now!
At the most recent Hollywood Show, held at the Westin Los Angeles Airport, I was discussing with one of my A-hound (that's "autograph") buddies just how long we could continue coming to these shows, considering so many of the attendees are people we've already met, and other potential guests are dropping like flies.
Don told me, "Oh, I'll be here in 20 years in my Rascal, scooting around for Lindsay Lohan's autograph." He was joking, though. He couldn't care less about LiLo or most modern stars. For him it's Jane Withers through about Dallas, Don and most of the others who attend these shows can't be bothered. When does it end? I guess, as with life, it ends when it ends, so have fun while it lasts.
This was my shortest show. I only spent part of the first day and a few minutes on the second, since I had the GLAAD event and other stuff to do. But I couldn't not come, not with Angie Dickinson, Earl Holliman and Mamie Van Doren in the mix.
Here are my interactions, in order as they occurred:
No Hollywood Show would be complete without the appearance of a former child star, and they don't get much more legit than Lester, the star of the Oscar-winning film Oliver! (1968). He's probably more famous today as a longtime friend of Michael Jackson, one of many child stars Jackson "collected," and admitted to having donated sperm to his buddy when Jackson was trying to become a father for a second time. (Lester believes he may be Paris Jackson's biodad.)
I was most interested in the grotesque Shelley Winters horror flick Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) Lester, who wasn't the warmest, gamest guest, did tell me the movie was an incredibly short, easy, confined (indoor) shoot. As for Winters, he said, "She was...interesting," and smiled. A little too much of a gent to be much fun. Looks smashing, and is apparently about to appear in a new movie for the first time in over 35 years, the historical drama 1066.
Gotta love those Petticoat Junction girls! That breathy, flirty memorable theme song played over footage of these lovely actresses bathing in a water tower...what a combo. In person, the women were quite a combo, too. I'd already met Henning at Cinecon last year, but it was nice to complete the set (if only Meredith MacRae were around to round things out, but she died at 56 in 2000 after battling cancer).
The ladies were sweet to my pal Brian, whose big personality never fails to elicit a good response. The women used to sell photos with Meredith's signature on them (extra stock from distant-past shows), but those are long gone by now. They gamely posed together over and over for every attendee who just had to have that shot.
Probably my least favorite encounter of the show was with the Tic Tac Dough host. He was looking sturdy in a brightly-colored Bill Cosby sweater but simply was not engageable. I told him I liked his sweater (ignore) and then remarked on the unique photo I had brought for him to sign (total ignore). That was it. Not one more word was spake.
Coogan was the anti-Martindale, coming alive when we approached and spontaneously generating stories about people he's worked with. In the video above, he talked a bit about his days as a teen idol, but more fondly remembered being in the first issue of Premiere thanks to Adventures in Babysitting (1987).
When it was time for our photo, he did one smiling and one frowning photo, just like the Greek masks.
One of the main reasons I came to this show was to meet Mamie Van Doren, one of the last surviving blonde bombshells of the '50s (Carroll Baker walks the earth, too, also age 81). She makes aging gracefully look like it's for suckers. She doesn't look "natural," but it's hard to gaze upon her and say that her interventions have been unsuccessful.
I mean, she's an octogenarian who still poses topless.
As we approached, a dealer whipped out dozens of reproductions of her old movie posters, which Mamie dutifully signed, complimenting him on their quality. She kept fluffing her long, blonde tresses, the picture of elegance in a suit that covered up far more than most of her snapshots do.
When I got up to her, I told her, "You have the face and the Facebook of a 20-year-old." She loved that I was a follower of hers on Facebook, excitedly pretending to remember my name. You should check her out there; she's quite progressive and topical. I wasn't wild about her disdain for Elizabeth Taylor when that icon passed away, but otherwise she's always got food for thought.
I did excitedly refer to her "tits" in a photo she was signing, but if she was offended, she didn't show it. In fact, I was so worried about the odd times she was doing the pro photo op that I begged her good friend/handler to bring her over early just for me. After some cajoling, she did it for me. She walked over in her high heels and did a fabulous side-by-side, my hand on her slightly trembling back. No retouching and she looks like she'd still drive the average trucker crazy.
It was fun speaking with Jan Smithers, the "Mary Ann" to Loni Anderson's "Ginger" on WKRP in Cincinnati. She's a very sweet, laid-back woman, and was embarrassed when she blurted out, "Get on your knees!" when I started to take a photo of her. She was trying to make sure it would work out, lighting-wise, but the diva-like outburst embarrassed her.
She told us she'd spent 16 years in India working with the poor, and has been back in the U.S. for three years. This was her first show, and she seemed to be tickled to be doing it. When a fan brought in her original Newsweek cover from the '60s, when as a model she represented the story "The Teenagers."
She could be spotted chatting amiably with all of her old co-stars.
WKRP's Tim Reid was the shyest from his cast. He seemed more bemused than anything by the entire show. We didn't exchange more than a few words.
Earl was one of the top three reasons I attended the show. He looks much the same at 84, still very fit and dapper. I think he might be gay (not outing, just speculating based on rumors), so I did my best to get a rise outta him...and he didn't budge. But it was a thrill to meet him and he was extremely nice.
FIrst, I approached and told him I had a huge crush on him, not so much from Police Woman, but from $25,000 Pyramid. He lit up (not on "crush," but on "Pyramid") and told me a story of how a waiter he was partnered with on the show, with whom he lost the big money, later approached him at a function to say, "You lost me $10,000!" Earl also recalled receiving a movie cast-signed copy of the book Giant (he was in it), pointing out that "Jimmy Dean" had misspelled the word "discoveries" in his inscription. No telling what that's worth now, but don't tell Jane Withers or she'll wanna collect it.
When I posed with Earl, he put his arm around me and started to say, "I should've written—" but then edited himself, probably deciding it wouldn't be smart to offer, "I should've written, 'Thanks for the crush.'" or something similar. He loved the photo I brought to have signed and wondered where I got it, saying he wished he had it on his table. I offered to send him a copy but he thought better of it.
Still later, when I was posing with him and Angie together, I said, "Earl helped make me gay, but you, Angie, almost made me straight." She loooved it and laughed, saying, "Well, then that's the way it should be!" and Earl just kept smiling for the camera.
He wasn't overly excited by our photo together, which I told him I loved. "I look like an old man," he complained. "Which I am." You're as young as you feel, and he still feels pretty sturdy, based on that arm slung over my shoulder. Truly classy and nice guy.
She still looks great, very natural. She wears hats a lot, which some fans don't like in pictures. I couldn't have cared less...I was just excited to bask in her presence.
When we got up to her, someone had been talking about Dressed to Kill (1980), one of my favorite movies, so I continued the conversation. She told me she knew it would be erotic, but wasn't sure she could do it. "Brian [De Palma], I can't do this. I'm Police Woman." He asked her if using a body double would help, to which she replied, "Absolutely!" She agreed with me that it's a fantastic movie, but she drew the line when I fawned over that semi-recent Vanity Fair piece about her. "I didn't like what they wrote."
"But you have such great stories...you should do an autobiography. You have the best stories.," I recovered.
She said, with a glint of pride in her eye, "Some of them are pretty good," and smiled. This woman has JFK stories, Frank Sinatra stories, the works. I hope she'll commit everything to the page at some point.
First, she just adored the photo I brought to have signed, inspecting it a long while and declaring that whomever had taken it had captured the real her thinking, not her in character. "I can see my soul," she decided. She made a kissy-face to the photo, marveling at how "cute I was" and asking, "Who is that girl?"
Perhaps still happy to have seen the unusual shot, she made me an offer I couldn't refuse, offering me a package deal on her autograph and her new book of short stories, A Bad Afternoon for a Piece of Cake, which Rex Reed has praised as much as he's attacked Melissa McCarthy's body. I'll tell you what I think when I finish reading.
Ladd was the only star to refuse to pose solo, but she was happy to pose with me.
I grew up on cheesy Saturday morning shows, but one of the few that was not only good, clean fun but also the equivalent of porn for gay children was Shazam! (1974—1975). I loved that show, which featured meaty Bostwick in a skin-tight superhero outfit that even then I wanted to inspect more closely than he would legally have been able to allow.
When I went up to his table, I'm embarrassed to admit I was chatting with him without recognizing him, thinking he was the helper and that the other man must be Bostwick. (He looks great, just much less body mass, which threw me.) Thankfully, I didn't get too far into it before I realized who I was dealing with, but I had already openly drooled over two photos of Bostwick, shirtless and in skimpy trunks, doing mid-air sidekicks from the '70s.
He explained that one always needed a swimsuit shot for one's portfolio back then, so instead of the standard, he'd had those done up. I wanted to buy one of each just to have, not even to sign (since I had my own shot for autographing), but he wanted the same price, $25 each, for them, and I just couldn't. But I regret it now.
I heard from another attendee that Bostwick still loathes his Shazam! co-star, the insouciant "Billy Batson," aka Michael Gray, so much that when they were at the same show in the not-so-distant past, Gray received The Hand from Bostwick, who would not speak to nor even look at him. Bostwick was infamously fired from his most famous gig after being late to work one day. The producers claimed it was a money issue, he claimed he'd been injured, and Bostwick prevailed in court. Gray apparently had not been supportive back in the day. Don't mess with superheros. They have supernatural memories, boy.
"Dr. Johnny Fever" was pretty nice. My friend Michael reminded him they'd been at an actor's strike together once decades ago and he replied, "We were on the same side?" Michael said, "Well, yeah, but I was there collecting autographs!"
Howard remembered the day the picture I had him sign was taken, saying it was a long day because his WKRP in Cincinnati co-star Richard Sanders had refused to come out of his car until receiving a second-season bump in pay. (Sanders is now in Oregon and "not interested" in nostalgia shows.)
My special connection to Howard is that he was good buddies with a sexy straight guy I once roomed with named Greg. I remember being impressed when a postcard from France arrived for Greg from Howard. But now I have a great autograph of my own, so we're even. Plus I still have a pair of Greg's underwear somewhere.
What a doll Barry Bostwick is. I approached him with the true story that I insisted my friends see his movie Megaforce (1982) with me for my fourteenth birthday, and while handing him the sleazy-hot still from the film said, "I guess that should have been an early clue." He laughed hard and appreciated the compliment, signing my photo appropriately in response.
Interestingly, he needed advice on how to properly spell "dammit" for all the fan requests based on his Rocky Horror past. After all these years, he's just now confirming that?
Producer Arthur Gardner was my last score, and he came the following day, Sunday, only. For 102, he looked rock-solid. Hard of hearing, he was nonetheless all there and able to recall his bit in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), a movie he filmed in 1929. He was not a major player, but nonetheless is its last surviving cast member, and as such is a fitting final nugget in this post about stars of the past and how much longer we'll have them around.