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Apr 29 2024
Chiller Theatre 2024: Do NOT Touch William Shatner Comments (0)

CharoCharo is full-service! (All images by or courtesy of Matthew Rettenmund, unless noted)

If you've read my site for a long while — it is officially 19 years old in November — you may recall my past penchant for attending autograph shows and dissecting all my celebrity and fan encounters.

I started these journeys 13.5 years ago, at first telling myself it was for research on a screenplay I always wanted to write (I finished it — any producers wanna read it?), but soon realizing I was of it, not above it. I made each visit a costly, no-holds-barred endeavor, during which I would meet 10-20 stars in order to take photos and document the weird, wild world for

*chillerChiller's program; glam, men's room-adjacent signage and teeming crowds

The last time I went to one was Chiller Theatre five (!) years ago. Cheryl Ladd was the main attraction, and was one of the best celeb interactions I'd ever had at one of these things. Then COVID hit and that, coupled with fatigue at having been to at least 15 shows, led to my early retirement.

It also needs to be said that I had already met many dozens of stars, and there were few truly exciting prospect left alive who would actually do a show!

Dabney ColemanSick day (Image via Chiller Theatre)

This year, having ogled Chiller's lists every time, I immediately decided I'd go when I saw that Dabney Coleman, 92, was on the list. Dabney, 92, had apparently never done a show, and he was such a link to the past (a 60-year career) and to 9 to 5, on just about every gay man's Top 10 list of all time. I couldn't resist. I bought a lobby card and began gaming out who else I would want to see ... and how I would get there. (The train from NYC sucks.)

In the meantime, Dabney canceled on doctor's orders, which is ominous, so I mailed him the lobby card and will cross my fingers for him and for me.

Still, when a very kind Facebook friend offered to chauffeur me out to Parsippany, New Jersey, I knew I had to go, in spite of not wanting to spend the money, in spite of not loving how I look (which is a real consideration when the trip is about selfies). So, bright and early on Saturday, April 27, 2024, off we went.

Donald Fullilove IMG_2416Donald Fullilove, 65, was workin' the parking lot!

The event, held at the Hilton Parsippany, was crowded. My friends informed me it had been quieter in recent years, but 2024 seems to represent a bit of a comeback. (Well, quiet isn't really the word for a show that endured a bomb threat and a groping spree, but let's just say that COVID had kept at least some percentage of the fanboys and -girls away.)

This time, it was packed.

The stars are positioned throughout the hotel, some in the main lobby, some in rooms off the main lobby, others squirreled away in halls and in hotel rooms. I can't fathom how normie guests deal with such a thing — it must be maddening! — but the pool was undisturbed, whether by conventioneers, exhausted celebs or anyone else.

Minus Dabney, I had a list of must-gets and a longer list of people about whom I was at least somewhat curious, but at the top of the list were Cybill Shepherd (who has never done a show), Charo (a living legend I knew I had to get while she was on the East Coast), Dylan McDermott (hello, hot) and Madonna-satellite stars Rosanna Arquette and Griffin Dunne, both of whom I have met, but it never hurts to double up.

Dylan McDermottLeather jacket love American Horror Story

Dylan McDermott, 62

The first person we grabbed was Dylan, and this was because he was on our way to Rosanna and because his line was reasonable. Out of everyone at the show, he was IMO the most surprising guest, in that he is youngish and still working a lot. However, as I tell all my friends who are agog that relevant stars do shows like Chiller, it amounts to traveling to a hotel free and being told for three days that you are fucking amazing, then walking away with $10,000+.  Someone like Dylan might make a lot more; he certainly had a good turnout.

Dylan was with his sweet dog, leaving occasionally to walk his baby. He was in a tight leather outfit — the concept of understanding the assignment applies here — that he has worn on American Horror Story, and among the many images he was hawking was a shirtless shot. So he was the perfect package — he was dressed for pics, game to sign shirtless stuff and faultlessly polite.

I complimented him on having been working for 40 years — a fact a recent article underscored — and still looking 30, and he seemed to enjoy that. Click.

Rosanna IMG_2350Neither a prostitute, nor a lesbian

Rosanna Arquette, 64

Next up was Rosanna, who had a fairly long line and was seated beside Griffin Dunne, her After Hours (1985) co-star. While waiting to get to her, a man kept showing me topless photos of Rosanna's mom Brenda Denaut (1939-1997) on his phone, asking me if I knew she had been an exploitation star. I did not, and I hoped he wasn't going to show Rosanna just before we got up to her, killing the mood.

RosannaWe didn't get the key to NYC together, but should've been given the key to Parsippany!

Rosanna Arquette Scan 7How does she use the birds?

When we got up to her, Rosanna was in a chic LOVE sweater and looked marvelous. Unbeknownst to us, she'd been in a car accident coming to the show this weekend, and had to Uber over, so was sore from that. She was perfectly nice, and agreed with me when I said everyone in Desperately Seeking Susan was perfect. There's a lot of good stuff in that, she allowed, and remembered when I brought up the (to me, amazing) 25th-anniversary DSS event at Lincoln Center. She made a sad face for the late Mark Blum (1950-2020), her husband in the film, who died of COVID, and said she would attend if there were a 40th-anniversary event next year.

Rosanna lineRosanna & Griffin hard at work, a peek at Rosanna's massive line

James Tolkan IMG_2387One of Breathless's homies

James Tolkan, 92

Across the way was James Tolkan. You may not know his name, but you surely recognize his face from Back to the Future (1985) and many more. I was interested in him because he was Numbers in Dick Tracy (1990).

James Tolkan IMG_2380This guy had a poster for everything Tolkan was in, seemingly.

I asked him about Madonna, but his hearing isn't great, so I had to point at a picture of her and make a questioning gesture. He smiled and said, “She took a lot of ribbing from us. But it turned out okay.” I told him the movie turned out beautiful and he grasped my hand for our photo, all of this after my friend and I were drafted to hold movie posters he was signing for a collector.

Charo mattWe don't lie about our ages, we AI them!

Charo, 325

I am joking about Charo's age because this is the age she told us she is! She said she was trying to teach guitar to as many people as possible because, “I am 325!” I knew she would be a blast, but it was still surprising considering she went to court to legally change her age, claiming her birth certificate is wrong. Legally, she is just 73 years old. I do not accept this, considering she was becoming known 60 years ago. More likely, she is 83, and this is even more impressive because she looks amazing and has the energy and mannerisms of a person half her age. Far more than I have!

Charo Mr T lookalike IMG_2396With a Mr. T look-alike, and my April-era signed photo

Charo had a bustling line, and was the star  most likely to give extra photos and poses. One guy told us he had paid only for a signature, but she insisted on a photo. Her handler pointed out the discrepancy and Charo said, “He's my cousin!”

When it was my turn, I thanked her for her quote she had provided years ago when I was researching Playgirl, a magazine for which she provided an early interview. She was absolutely bubbly, arranging herself on and around me as if she were a feather boa. Just a doll. Her handler was a woman who had been excited to see my pro camera, saying she couldn't wait to use it. When I told her my friend was taking it, she was pissed and later tried to tell my friend to hand her my camera without telling me. That was ... odd.

But April Lopez forever!

Screenshot 2024-04-29 at 8.13.46 PMMoonlighting strangers

Cybill Shepherd, 74

I never thought I'd get to meet Cybill Shepherd. Moonlighting (1985-1989) was a way my mom and I bonded in the '80s — to the point where my poor dad couldn't keep up with our banter — so I thought I'd tell her that and had myriad other possible comments I could make. After all, this was also the star of The Last Picture Show (1971), Taxi Driver (1976) and Cybill (1995-1998), among others.

We got to her table and a fan was fuming — he had been waiting two hours for her to return from what started as a 45-minute lunch break, became more like 90 minutes and was extended when she stayed away to knock out some pro photo ops fans had paid for.

Cybill Shepherd line IMG_2422
Cybill Shepherd line IMG_2422The scene at Cybill

Her line was really long, but I felt like we got into it at the exact right moment, as she was led through the door next to me just as I settled in. She looked radiant, thin and more like herself than I had seen her in years, but right away I noticed she was not walking well on her own. As I observed her interactions with fans, it seemed inarguable that she was somewhat detached from the proceedings, and not in a diva way, or I don't wanna be here; it was deeper.

I have no idea what the issue is, but I would be surprised if there were no issue. She would blink very deliberately before each photo and with few exceptions seemed unable to really smile. She didn't really look me in the eye, but when I thanked her for having done the show, she said, It was my pleasure. So she was gracious, but something just was not right.

Chris Kattan IMG_2509I owe you one, Chris!

Chris Kattan, 53

I would have gone up to SNL veteran (1996-2003) Chris Kattan, but he was gone from his table most of the time! He was between Charo and Helen Slater, 60, on one side, and Cybill Shepherd on the other, so when I got Cybill, I snapped a photo of Chris leaving his table. Then I never saw him again. He had A Night at the Roxbury (1998) fans for days, including one muscle-bound guy I also would have paid for a selfie.

Poor Chris broke his neck in a Golden Girls sketch on SNL, an injury that directly led to a DUI and a loss of mobility, but looks good!

Billy GrayThe earth moved for me.

Billy Gray, 86 , & Lauren Chapin, 78

I have a healthy appreciation for anyone who worked in entertainment in the distant past, so I of course could not pass up Billy and Lauren, who were celebrating 70 (!!!) years of Father Knows Best (1954-1960).

Billy had such a fascinating career, which included working with Abbott & Costello, Humphrey Bogart, Doris Day and many others, but I was most curious to ask about his memories of appearing in the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), of which he is the last surviving cast member. He didn't hear my questions, so it was no dice.

Billy, who was basically blacklisted after he was caught with pot in the '60s, also has the most interesting pair of ex-wives — Helena Kallianiotes (who acted in 1972's Kansas City Bomber and owned the L.A. hot spot Helena's), 86, and Angel (1984) babe Donna Wilkes, 64.

Lauren-chapinWith Lauryn Chapline

Lauren was beyond friendly. A big Christian who turned to that to get her life together, she was quick to ask what I thought my name means. I knew what she was fishing for: “God's gift.” “That's right!” Her son's name is Matthew, so I said, “Oh, then you won't misspell my name!”

I couldn't really ask her about appearing in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born, as she was making conversation with me about myself and treating me like a person, which was very sweet. She was the only star who resolutely wore a mask, and when I left her table, I saw she had ... misspelled my name.

Still, no complaints. Lovely person.

Rosanna Griffin Dunne IMG_2490Who's that guy?

Griffin Dunne, 68

We thought we had missed Griffin, who was spotted leaving his space with a suitcase. Turns out he had never really checked in to the hotel, so had taken off to do that. When he returned, I found him to be the most down-to-earth of everyone, no drama. He was pleased I'd been to the screening of After Hours last year, and I somehow remembered it was at the Paris Theatre, which confirmed I wasn't lying. He said this Chiller was the first time he and Rosanna had reunited at a show.

He told me his fans throughout the weekend were split evenly between An American Werewolf in London (1981), After Hours (1985) and Who's That Girl (1987), noting that Madonna fans always come out of the woodwork whenever he appears anywhere.

Really a nice guy.

Lawrence Hilton Jacobs IMG_2475Boom ... and BOOM!

Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, 70

The Sweathog who has aged the best, or the least, is LHJ, who honestly just looks so the same after all these years. I'm holding it together okay, he admitted, telling me about how he had enjoyed attending the TCM Fest recently, where he surprised his old castmate, John Travolta, also 70.

And the Rest!

At this point, I was all but broke, so some of the guests I'd been curious about, including John Kapelos, 70, and others, fell by the wayside.

William Shatner IMG_2405 copyHe likes his space. (I cropped my friend out.)

William Shatner, 93

I think the oldest person at the show was also the most in-demand, Star Trek icon William Shatner. I met him at a Comic Con forever ago, but my friend needed a photo. We had been told his line might be three hours long, but later on Saturday, it was surprisingly short! As we waited, one of his his handlers grumped about having no food, and another bluntly told my pal, “Do NOT touch William Shatner.” Okay!

I took the photo, but when I asked to take one of just Shatner alone, he waved his hand over his face and snapped, “Don't — don't do that.”

Hey, it's why I asked! I thanked him anyway and told him he looked great. He couldn't have been less interested. Glad I didn't tell him my fave thing he ever did was Tattletales! (Okay, Columbo was awesome, too. Okay, and The Twilight Zone.)

Adrian Zmed IMG_2474All that and Grease 2!

Adrian Zmed, 70

I met Adrian Zmed at a Hollywood Show 11 years ago, when he was just 59. Now 70, he looks the same, with gray hair. At that last show, we had asked him if he was prepared to do shirtless selfies, but I left him alone this time, even though I think the former Dance Fever host has the right sense of humor for such a suggestion.

Adrian Zmed with Matt DSC03996Our first meeting, 11 years ago

By the by, to my knowledge, Shatner would not pose with Zmed, so T.J. Hooker (1982-1986) fans basically had to go straight to hell! I know Heather Thomas, 66, would have posed with Adrian! Who wouldn't wanna pose with Adrian Zmed?! We also need him, Lorna Patterson, 68, and Annie Potts, 71, to do a Goodtime Girls (1980) reunion.

Geri-reischl-susan-olsenGeri & Susan — the only Brady Bunch veterans on site

Susan Olsen, 62

My friend needed to get a signature from Susan Olsen, 62, to complete a cast-signed Brady Bunch photo, but since she's such a right-wing nut and homophobe, we kept interaction to a bare minimum. I refuse to get catty about people's looks, but Buddy Hinton would have multiple entry points to bully her these days.

Geri Reischl, 64

Next to Susan was Fake Jan herself, the fun-loving Geri Reischl, 64. I've met her many times, so couldn't spring for another, but she is a sweetheart, as far as I know.

Robert Brian Wilson IMG_2510The Claus came out.

Robert Brian Wilson, 62

My cash crunch led to my skipping RBW, who had starred in Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) and worked until the early '90s, only recently returning to do a couple of roles. I would have been getting him strictly based on his hunk factor — there were few actors of his era more perfect-looking.

I then asked some people if they'd pose for a photo, and most were willing to do that free (as long as it wasn't a selfie). 

Munsters carsIMG_2411Out damned, Spot! The last two Munsters monsters — Butch & Pat

Pat Priest, 87 & Butch Patrick, 70

So many '60s series have no cast members left to tell the tale, but The Munsters has Cousin Marilyn, Pat Priest, and Eddie himself, Butch Patrick. I had met both before, but could not resist updated photos.

Angela Mao YingOnce the female Bruce Lee, Angela now owns and runs Chinese restaurants in Queens, where I've heard she will give you an autograph if you order dumplings.

Angela Mao Ying, 73

The so-called female Bruce Lee, Mao Ying was a rockstar! She never had a lull, and when she left, she autographed all her signage and sold that, too! I wasn't really familiar with her work, but I was impressed by her pull.

Danielle Brisebois IMG_2486She was holding Archie Bunker's place.

Danielle Brisebois, 54

Crazy to me that Danielle Brisebois is my age, yet was working with Carroll O'Connor 40 years ago. She told us O'Connor was everything anyone would ever hope he was.

Fred Dryer Stepfanie KramerThe heart is a not-so-lonely Hunter.

Fred Dryer, 77 & Stepfanie Kramer, 67

I wasn't a huge Hunter (1984-1991) fan, but it was a kick to see its stars side by side. Stepfanie was especially nice, saying she does the shows mostly because she loves meeting fans. I think when stars do it for that reason, they're a lot more game. Some are doing it for survival, because they need the money — no shame there — and that makes things a little more tense.

Lee Ving IMG_2389Lee's fans definitely had a Clue.

Lee Ving, 74

This punk rocker is most known to me as Mr. Boddy in Clue (1985), a film I like — but not as much as you like it. I decided to skip him because I'd read things about his bandmates calling him a far-right loon. I have no intel on this, but I did grab a shot.

Warriors Michael Beck IMG_2512The guy with the wig sent me — and Michael Beck seemed to love him, too.

The Warriors

The 1979 action flick The Warriors is the definition of a cult classic, but I think on the East Coast, it's more like the Star Wars of gang movies. I had met Deborah Van Valkenburgh, 71, and Michael Beck, 75, over 10 years prior, and I didn't need to meet any of the others, but we were in the room while my friends socialized.

DEBORAH VAN VALKENBURGH MICHAEL BECK IMG_8447Ah, yes, 2010 was a very good year!

That was a very, very moist room, with no windows, and let me tell you — the Warriors fans are not kidding. They had Warriors jackets and even wigs, props and all the enthusiasm in the world. It was a full cast reunion (sadly, James Remar had to cancel), so there were eight people, meaning true fans would need to drop over a thousand bucks to get all the autographs and selfies! They even had the film's costumer on hand, selling jackets. Just crazy how this movie continues to enthrall.

438088502_955493936585133_301266133761759192_nThe Warriors 2024!

I do love Deborah, and I think she is an exquisite-looking, silver-maned, stone-cold fox.

Warriors Deborah Van Valkenburgh IMG_2513JPGWithout a mask, things would have been Too Close for Comfort ...

You can check out some of my other write-ups about celebrity autograph shows here!