Above, in order: Peter Barton, Robert Hays, Zach Galligan, Weird Al Yankovic, Catherine Bach, C. Thomas Howell, Corey Feldman, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Fonda, Steve Guttenberg, William Ragsdale, Joe Zaso & Duncan Regehr.
This year, I almost forgot Chiller Theatre, even though I've been to all of them for three years running. I can't explain why, but I think I'm beginning to lose my passion for autograph shows. They're still fun, but I don't have the same drive, because that drive came from a desire to thrust myself into the experience of going to them...and I've been to plenty by now! (Here, here, here, here, here.)
But nonetheless, my fascination is not totally gone yet, because the night before the last day of Chiller, when I suddenly remembered it was happening, I decided I would wake up the next day, hop on a train to Parsippany and fork over hundreds of dollars to another random collection of celebrities (celebrated collection of randos?)—which is exactly what I did.
Unlike my many other trips to these things, I didn't board the train with a passel of perfectly chosen old teen-magazine pinups, original stills and board games for the attendees to sign. I actually hadn't even thoroughly studied the list of stars; I just knew teen heartthrobs Peter Barton and Zach Galligan were going, and that was enough to lure me across state lines.
Waiting for the shuttle to pick us up at the station and take us to the hotel, I met a fun couple of guys from London who were visiting the U.S. for Chiller and other things. Big horror fans, they were also garden-variety starfuckers like me, the kinds of guys who enjoy showing up at stage doors and other places where you might find a bold-face name. I got to hear of their encounter with John Barrowman (within minutes of meeting, he asked one of them to show his cock!) and of various solo encounters with stars over the years, from Ginger Rogers (her handler was not nice) to Madonna (she was not nice).
I also met a charming Hungarian guy who asked us, as among the first things out of his mouth, if we had ever heard of a 1950s comedienne named...Lucy. I realize not every American phenomeon travels, but I would've thought Lucille Ball, of anything, would have invaded all territories. Especially since his knowledge of American pop culture was quite thorough in other areas. His main reason for going to the show was to get the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar...the movie. His favorite film of all time, along with Hair. His idea of the best actor ever was Woody Harrelson, with Sylvester Stallone right up there And he feels that today's music pales in comparison to the soulful feeling in the first album by...Britney Spears. Okay, so he knows a lot but has bad taste. Still, he was a real sweetheart and unabashedly in heat for Chiller guest Traci Lords, so I liked him a lot.
The goddamn shuttle never came (fist shaken at Chiller), so we snagged a passing limo service and hightailed it over to the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel, which looks like a haunted castle, so is really the ideal location for this celebration of the famous folks who've haunted horror films over hte years.
My first priority, as always at these shows, is with bygone hunks. This year, I'd say all of the bygone hunks are still looking very hunky, no mean feat 25 and 30 years after their chiseled faces launched their first male and female orgasms all over the world.
The first star I snagged was Robert Hays, 66, that luscious straight man (in both senses, unfortch) from Angie (1979-1980) and Airplane! (1980). He looks much the same and was very game. His handler warned me that he would not pose for a photo unless I was in it, but he obliged (and it didn't turn out—the first posed photo I've ever taken with my normally reliable camera that came out entirely blurred), albeit somewhat awkwardly. I had him sign an original lobby card he'd brought, and he took the time to explain that even though it was a beach scene at the ocean, it was littered with freshwater catfish. This made him laugh all these years later, which is exactly how I feel about that movie—it's so stupid but so funny at the same time, even now.
(And wildly un-PC. Just the other day, I was asked to interview more black people, to which I immediately said, "It's okay—I speak jive." No one laughed.)
Next up was a memorable twofer—Peter Barton, 57, and Zach Galligan, 49, were seated side by side.
I spoke with Peter first. He looks fantastic! He was a bit too thin for a few years, but has filled out and is as handsome as ever. If you have to be 57, and anyone who's being honest would have to admit we all hope to see 57 and beyond, you want to look like Peter Barton at 57. Though in order to do so, it probably helps to look like him at 26, which was how old he was when he was the superluscious lead of The Powers of Matthew Star.
Twenty-six...it was a different time, 30 years ago, when teen heartthrobs were pushing 30. (I suppose Robert Pattinson was no spring chicken at the height of Twilight's fame.) Now, most teen stars are teens or just past it. But back in the day, we were openly lusting over full-fledged adults in teen magazines. I remember a time when hairy chests and even facial hair could be found on pinups in little girls' (and boys') rooms.
Barton recalled his teen heartthrob days fondly, saying the magazines took good care of him. He says Tiger Beat gave him use of a company car for his auditions, he was such an MVP for the publication. Those were the days when teen magazines mattered, when they could make or break a star. Back then, it was a big deal to get into them. Now, it's only a big deal for total newcomers, and once they taste a little success, doing teen magazines—for most of them—is considered a drudgery.
Anyway, Barton was a doll, and seems to be enjoying his time now that he's away from Hollywood.
I'll never forgive myself for taking a photo of Gremlins star Zach's behind when he was bent over another table, but the crotch shot I got was unintentional; it was just a part of a regular photo I took. So I already have enough shame over this—no need to chastise me further. I couldn't really help myself...he's still so gorgeous. And it wasn't even the first time I shot a photo of him without him knowing.
Zach was less talkative than Peter, but perfectly friendly. He was surprised at the photo I chose because "Gizmo" wasn't very visible in it. "It's not all about 'Gizmo,'" I told him. "Gizmo isn't the one whose autograph I'm getting."
I was able to get Barton and Galligan to pose together as well, "Unless you guys detest each other?" They laughed and Peter said they'd met at an acting class of some kind around 1990. As I took two shots of them, it was all I could do to keep from urging them to kiss. I guess in that moment I realized I think Terry Richardson is merely misunderstood.
In the main room, I grabbed C. Thomas Howell, 46, who has a permanent place in the pantheon thanks to The Outsiders (1983). He was very nice, chipper in fulfilling his sign-and-pose duties. I didn't get anything extra out of him, though.
Steve Guttenberg, 55, looks solid still—he was always one of those guys in movies who looked like he'd be superhot in bed even though he had a very guy-next-door look to him. I didn't dare ask him about Can't Stop the Music (1980)—he had no photos of it on offer—but I was happy he was selling that famous, shaggy-chested shirtless photo of himself that everyone thinks of when, and if, they think of Steve Guttenberg as a sex symbol.
Steve didn't act thrilled to be there. I asked if I could do my standard pic-of and pic-with and he seemed confused, then said, "Oh, I'm not a poser. I'll do one with you, though." Fine. I know how to crop. He was detached, signing a bunch of prepaid items when I could have been asking him about Diner (1982) or even his uncredited roll as a messenger boy in Rollercoaster (1977)—remember the scene where the car rolls over and everyone gets flattened?
At one point, much was made of how bad Catherine Bach, 59, looked post-"Daisy Duke." I think it was because she was said to have gained weight or something. At any rate, I'm here to tell you she is a smokin'-hot 59-year-old babe. She looks lovely and fit, and was one of my most interesting encounters once I peeled her away from some well-intentioned charity folks.
I approached her by saying that even as a gay kid, she almost got me, pointing to the delicious cheesecake pose I was having her sign. She hooted and ate that up, telling me the photo was one of the "tries" for a cover for Los Angeles Magazine's cover story 30 years ago about the stock market or somesuch, which explains the playful bag o' money she was posing with.
She posed for me once, looked at the photo, then did a re-try after tousling her hair and coming up with a more "Daisy"-like pose. What a pleaser! Then she gave me a conspiratorial hooked-finger invite to chat with her a moment, turning her back to the line. I had no idea what she might say, but it was my earlier sexual-orientation reference she was still thinking about.
"Don't you think that whatever we are, gay or straight, it happens before we're born?"
"Yes," I said. "I know for a fact I came out gay. I remember realizing I was gay when I was really little."
"And I still almost got you?" she asked, grinning.
"Almost!" I replied, and we shared a laugh.
Lovely lady! And hotter than Jessica Simpson will be at 59, I betcha.
Peter Bogdanovich, 74, directed some true cinema classics, among them the flawless The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973), but I don't exactly think of him when I think of the horror genre. I'm glad he came anyway, as it was a treat to meet a true auteur.
He was surprisingly feeble already, so it was hard to interact with him. He looked natty in his ascot and was happy to pose with fans, plus as a director, he of course had some lovely photos to choose from, real tableau shots as opposed to standard headshots. I had to have a rando take our picture, so it was kinda far away for my taste, but it did include his assistant counting the money, so there is that.
Duncan Regehr, 61, so memorably evil in V (1985), is as dashing as ever and shockingly tall. I'm usually surprised by how short famous people are, not the opposite.
My fondest memory of Regehr is hazy, but I loved him in the short-lived TV series Wizards and Warriors (1983), in which he played the comically twisted "Prince Dirk Blackpool." He told me the enormous suit of armor he sported in that was incredible to wear and had "a codpiece I could never hope to have filled."
"Do you remember what he used to say every time he entered a room?" he asked me. I was ashamed to have forgotten, so he did it for me (which I managed to catch on video):
One of the stars I didn't even realize was there until I walked past him was baby-faced William Ragsdale, 52. He was the scared-shitless lead of one of my favorite movies (for not being a horror buff, a lot of my favorite films do fall into that genre), Fright Night (1985). I immediately asked him about Roddy McDowall, who was so fuckin' good in that movie that there had been talk of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination at the time, which would've been incredible for a funny horror flick.
I've heard lots of negative things about how McDowall could be, but Ragsdale's experience was that of an older man who was happy to regale him with stories about Hollywood history. He remembered that McDowall would screen old movies in his home (he was in trouble with the law for owning prints of movies that were actually the property of the studios).
Probably the most currently succesful guest at the show was Weird Al Yankovic, 54. (Hey, he's still big business, y'all—his 2011 Alpocalypse had a higher rank on Billboard than any of his previous albums.) He had a long line in his own private room, and had Corey Feldman standing around waiting for a private meet-and-greet. Plus, Al had countless stills and books and other memorabilia for sale at top prices.
When I got to him, he was really nice. I brought up how I'd been fascinated to hear how cool Madonna was with his "Like a Surgeon" parody (I have the 45, but unfortunately had not brought it). He nodded, thought a bit while signing an "Eat It" still for me, then said, "She didn't actually write that song...but she was cool with it." Point goes to Weird Al there.
No one seems to remember "Like a Surgeon," but it was pretty close to hitting the Top 40 (#47) and is his fourth most popular single of all time.
I'd never heard of Joe Zaso, 42, who is apparently known to genre fans as a "horror himbo," often playing hunky villains. I don't know if he's gay, but if he were, he'd be great at it—what a hot piece. I couldn't resist getting his autograph and posing with him just for the inevitable side-hug.
My next-to-last star of the day was Corey Feldman, 42 (OMG...how is Corey Feldman 42?). I take issue with his assertions that his pal Michael Jackson is "so not that guy" when it comes to abuse allegations, because while I believe him when he says nothing happened between them, I would think that as an abuse survivor himself he'd allow a little more wiggle room for doubt considering the multiple sources who've said Jackson did, indeed, beat it with them.
But nobody's perfect, and Feldman has been in some true '80s classics, including my beloved The Lost Boys (1987), so I was never not gonna get him. Unfortunately, he wasn't at his table. I was told he was flakey the day before, taking many breaks, and that his Sunday appearance was a surprise as it was. So we had to form a line outside his room and wait.
Probably 45 minutes later, Feldman returned, said hello to us and murmured, "I didn't know there was a line..." Then he disappeared into his bathroom for 20 more minutes before sitting at his table with an unlighted cigarette, finally ready to make the magic happen for us.
I was first, so picked out a photo (there weren't any great ones, so I grabbed one of him with the late Corey Haim, of whom it's been said that he sold snippets of hair, a gall stone he'd had removed and sexual favors when he would appear at the similar Hollywood Show before his untimely death). I told Feldman I'd been a teen-magazine editor, and said, "But that was later, when things were a little more in control," being mindful that his experience as a teen star had been less than stellar.
"I don't think it ever did get totally better," he replied, to which I reiterated, "Right, it just got more in control," which I'd made a point of saying in the first place.
I took a quick pic with him and took off. The whole thing lasted 20 seconds and he seemed pretty put out, to be honest.
My final star was Peter Fonda, 73. He was pretty movie-starrish, with the big sunglasses and mega-watt grin. He kinda ignored me as he signed because Steve Guttenberg had come over to chat about getting together when they returned to civilization, but Fonda then asked me all about my camera and spoke knowledgably of photography for a few moments before we said good-bye.
That was the end for me—a fast-and-dirty visit to a lucky 13 stars.
I'm becoming a bit disenchanted with these shows, but I never fail to find a few morsels of fun. It's always more about the people-watching (and famous-people-watching) than the autographs, so I'd say this installment was worth it if only for meeting a couple of new friends and interacting with Barton and Bach. Will I go again in April? Stranger things have happened.