Another trip to The Hollywood Show, one of the country’s premiere celebrity autograph events. This time, the headliners included Ed Asner, Vicki Lawrence and reunions of Dennis the Menace, The Poseidon Adventure and Dynasty/The Colbys.
What really helped me decide to attend again was the hunk factor. The show hosted Antonio Sabato Jr., Al Corley, Gordon Thomson, Casper Van Dien, John Schneider and two of my all-time Top 5 biggest crushes, impossibly pretty Maxwell Caulfield and unfathomably sexy Gregory Harrison. (Trivia: Jon-Erik Hexum is my #1.)
This time, I splurged on a VIP pass that granted me access to Friday’s preview show (no stars, just all the vendors of memorabilia), early admission on Saturday and Sunday (by an hour) and an invite to an "afterparty" on Saturday that promised a Poseidon cast Q&A, entertainment and an opportunity to "dance the night away." (Just like the hapless Poseidon New Year's Eve revelers? Hmmm.)
I arrived in Burbank with a thud—the hardest landing I’ve ever felt and with no good reason for it considering the gorgeous weather. The flight attendant, whose bizarre voice throughout the journey had driven me to distraction with its mix of Fargo and wittle-girl cutesiness, won major points with the quip, "Gotta love those Navy pilots." But I’m pretty sure half the passengers had already made boom-booms in their pants.
After checking in at the Los Angeles Burbank Marriott Airport (getting the name right is important—I’d accidentally booked one night at the similarly named Marriott down the road and had spent several harried minutes on the phone being told they had no vacancies until getting a human voice on site to tell me otherwise), I rested and then hit the preview. It was pretty uneventful in that it takes a lot for me to be moved to buy even a high-quality 8"X10" of a movie star, but it was well worth my time because I ran into a pair of fun and funny fellow starfuckers, one of whom used to sell me stuff on eBay (scandalous photos of slinky male stars like the one of Garrett Hedlund embedded here). I stuck to them like the eyelids of all the stoners in L.A. stick together. As they made their way through the room, I gleaned info on what to expect, met the show’s proprietor and had a few laughs at our own expense thanks to our shared ability to know the names of forgotten starlets.
The next day, I was up early and met my dapper sidekick Chexy (right) at the door. It’s $30 for VIP admission (not counting the price my fame-immune pal paid with his soul for following me around 9am to 5:30pm), so I was grateful he’d agreed to come along. Buying him lunch and dinner was hardly enough, but don’t worry—I got him a nice present before leaving the state and the state of mind: a 1982 "Happy New Year's" postcard sent out by the late Rudy Vallée and his wife.
There was mucho confusion regarding all the shit I’d purchased online (the pass, the party ticket, several pricy pro photo ops), but it all worked out and we arrived even before any stars. The early-bird entry was worth it because we got to see the stars as they showed up, a delightfully awkward situation. I had only a vague plan of attack—try to get the Saturday-only/presumably in-demand attendees Asner and Lawrence, then work my way from most essential get to least. As it turned out, the show was a piece of cake to conquer unlike the last one, which had fewer big stars but which had a two-hour Martin Landau line with which to contend.
Antonio Sabato Jr.’s table was right in the front, next to Ed Asner’s. He was spiffy and slick in a suit, looking as hot as ever at 39. I feel like he looked a little eyelifted a few years back. No more—he looks pretty much flawless. He also looked a bit flustered as this was his very first show and he wasn’t quite sure what the hell was happening. I pounced on him as he was trying to figure out how this kind of thing worked, what to say, do and/or charge. Like every star, he had stacks of photos to sign, but he quickly tried to direct my attention to his 1994/1995 long-out-of-datebooks (yet sexually evergreen thanks to the generous photos of Antonio throughout). But this time, I’d brought lots of my own items for the stars to sign. I presented Antonio with a copy of a magazine I edited in 1999 (Hollywood’s Hottest Hunks) with a full-page pinup of him wearing nothing but bubbles, a copy of his work-out book (with text in Chinese for all I know but oodles of slutty photos) and a spectacular nude poster from an old issue of Flaunt.
"I should charge more for this," he said, bemused, of the poster. But not only didn’t he charge more, he charged less than just about anyone at the show—just $10 per autograph. A picture with him was free. I didn’t have a lot to chat with him about, but he was nice enough. He didn’t exactly guffaw when I pointed out I was his "first…customer."
Next, we saw Maxwell Caulfield and his wife Juliet Mills arrive. They were setting up in a highly undesirable spot facing away from the room (but situated within the Dynasty/Colbys ghetto) when some other fans began engaging Maxwell. He tersely shooed them away, asking for a moment to set up. Message received!
So instead, I turned my attention to poor Al Corley, who’d been the original (gay) Steven Carrington on Dynasty. "Poor" because like Antonio, he was haplessly beginning his first-ever appearance at one of these things. I personally thought Al looked ruggedly sexy and masculine at 55. I wouldn’t call him smiley, but he’s tall and strapping and has great presence.
He was relying on a helper supplied by the show and was just as clueless about how to handle things with fans (I think many of the stars fail to realize they will literally, no kidding around, be forced to ask people for cash and make change). But I popped his cherry just as I had Antonio’s, giving him an original vintage press photo to sign along with the CD booklet of his shamefully ignored ’80s album Square Rooms (the single went to #80 in the U.S. and was more popular abroad).
The CD is a crazy-rare collectible because it was one of the first-ever CDs manufactured, created by a West German firm. He said, "Oh, my gosh...," to the photo, which he inscribed to me, but seemed to contemplate his CD cover with stony silence or even shock. I asked him just to sign that one because it’s such a rarity it would feel like vandalism to put someone’s specific name on it. He nodded and signed it and said, "Thank you," unconvincingly when I told him I loved the music (produced by Harold Faltermeyer). Nice enough guy, and perhaps it’s not exactly a strike against him that he seemed a tad uncomfortable with tallying up my bill and asking me for $50.
Randomly, I went for Carol Lynley next. She is ostensibly best known for The Poseidon Adventure ("Did you like his music?...He had nice hair," her character moans about her dead brother in the wake of his demise) but was also great in Bunny Lake Is Missing and was a stunning ’70s beauty. Now, at 69, she’s almost in her seventies. Despite a cute flip and bright pink sweater, she was all business when it came to the money, informing us politely but firmly in advance exactly what kinda bread we were looking at parting with in exchange for an autographed pic and a photo op.
As Lynley signed, I told her I particularly remembered her for a guest spot on the ’80s show Hotel. "Oh? What’d I play?" "You were a lesbian," I told her. "Oh! Tsk-tsk-tsk!" she clucked, reminding me of my late mentor, a John Birch Republican with a hippy streak who used to flick her tongue mischievously whenever discussing "lesbian ladies." Lynley continued, "You know, I got an award for Best Lesbian from a lesbian group for that…which is very funny because I’m not gay." "That’s why you got the award," I told her. "It’s called acting, right?" I think she bought it. Lynley’s BFF in that ep was a lesbo-skittish Barbara Parkins (who’d canceled on The Hollywood Show at the very last second…no big loss considering I was told Parkins refuses all photo ops, even the paid ones). I liked Lynley, though, and loved her after that night’s Q&A.
Next, 62-year-old Vicki Lawrence had arrived and quickly accumulated a small but thick group of fans, so I bee-lined over there to wait my turn. One young man had something like 14 photos for her to sign. The gay working with Vicki—many of the stars had assistants, and if more than one of them was heterosexual that would be more than one I’d have guessed—was ferosh! He told the kid it was $200 and later barked at someone for taking her picture from a distance, informing him he could only take her picture for money. Most stars will allow pictures of them—if not with them—for free. And I’m going to guess that Vicki was likely one of the richest stars there.
Vicki herself was fabulous to the woman in front of me, who asked her to speak to a friend in the hospital on her phone. She did it in a heartbeat, wishing the person well at length and then suggesting they get a photo of her posing with the phone in her hand. When it was my turn, I told her, "Vicki, I’m sorry to tell you this but I have five friends in the hospital." She laughed, which was a nice thing to have, a moment making Vicki Lawrence laugh instead of vice versa. She also liked when I told her I didn’t get a little sister until The Carol Burnett Show went off the air because I would watch it in my parents’ bedroom Saturday nights. This was a bit of a stretch of the truth, very James Frey, but I do have vivid memories of hanging out at the end of their bed to watch that show in particular, and of sometimes falling asleep at the foot of the bed under the comforter after having snuck in to watch TV past my bedtime.
Finally, Maxwell and Juliet seemed to be getting situated, so I sauntered over and we waited patiently until it was our turn. I went for Juliet first, most famous for the short-lived (only in the sense of its first run) Nanny and The Professor series. She’s since acted lots on the stage, was on Passions and is of course the sister of child star Hayley and daughter of late film legend Sir John (who was in Who’s That Girl in his late eighties, a question I failed to ask her). She was a sweetheart, very smiley and warm. She liked my original press photo from her series that I had for her to sign, though our photo op was kinda rudely interrupted by an overzealous fan showing her a poster for No, My Darling Daughter (1961).
"That doesn’t look one little bit like me!" the 69-year-old laughed of the curvaceous blonde illustration. "Well, one little bit,” he replied, not intending the slight. He generously gave her the poster, but all I cared about was my picture. It wound up being one of my faves.
While moving on to Maxwell, some of the fun gay guys I’d met were buzzing about, including one who was trading him a couple of nice photos of himself for an autograph. He was just starring in Cactus Flower Off-Broadway and was now bartering with pictures of himself and to be honest didn’t seem as comfortable with the set-up as his wife. Still handsome and sexy and built for days, he is nonetheless not going to look like the slice of heaven he was 30 years ago. I think this disparity tugs at him because while looking at two photos shown him by the dealer, the one showing him in some barely-there red trunks clearly didn’t sit right with him. He contemplated it and then signed it and gave it back to the guy with the proviso that he keep it for himself and not sell it so as not to "cut into my business."
I told Maxwell I had some things for him to sign but nothing too terribly embarrassing. "Good!" he smiled. Then I said something about wondering if he remembered what was going through his head during each photo of himself he sees. Referring to some shirtless shots he said, "I see a very unself-conscious, very young man." This made me think he’s self-conscious now, which is a shame because like I said, he’s still got game. His hair may be thinner, but that could be said of lots of us who were never as stunning as he was at 21 and still is at 51.
I had Maxwell sign his 1982 Interview cover (the shoot’s by Greg Gorman and yes, another swimsuit is involved), his 1982 After Dark cover, a classic Grease 2 pinup from the German teen mag Bravo and two shirtless images taken backstage during his run Off-Broadway in Entertaining Mr. Sloane. He remarked that the industry was totally different now from then (presumably, photogs are not able to talk their way backstage after shows and get sexy young actors to strip to the waist for impromptu photo sessions), but that the character he played in that show very much fit those kinds of photos, leather pants and all. I had lots to ask him but settled on asking him about all the incredible actors he’d worked with. He rattled off a list of some of his favorites, saying Eve Arden was incredibly nice in their one scene.
When it was time for our photo op, he referred to Chexy as "the one with all the incriminating DVD footage"—he was incredibly aware more so than any of the others that my friend had been doing some filming (unfortch, all of my earliest video didn’t turn out due to a miscommunication on how to use the cam…so you’re off the hook, Maxwell!). He was talking during our first shot so sat still for a second. When I told him there were over 80,000 people who’d “liked” Grease 2 on Facebook, he said, “Really? That’s…something.” It was dry and very funny; he has in the past said it took him 10 years to get past that movie bombing. While all this was happening, his gays were moving their stuff to a better spot, so he invited me to return to look at the photos he was selling. I knew I’d be back.
Recovering, we saw 81-year-old Ed Asner had strolled in and was pulling a line. We hopped onto it but were pleasantly surprised at how briskly it moved. He looks great and was in great spirits. I told the liberal lion I loved his acting but, "I also love your politics." He grinned at me, "Me, too!" For our picture, the first was a regular shot and the second was Ed pinching my chin affectionately. I mean, this is Mr. Grant, y’all.
John Schneider is an actor who’s worked steadily (on Smallville, for example) ever since his signature show The Dukes of Hazzard, yet he was there, too, in a prime spot by the door. No dummy, he was wearing a revealing black wifebeater. This is like wearing honey to a fly convention. While waiting to see him, a woman with him was pitching us on some kind of sketchy weight-loss/muscle-building drug; he apparently had an endorsement deal with the company. I found it off-putting to be pitched while waiting to pay him money, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
John was supernice, superflirty with all of his fans (who had blond biceps reflected in our eyes) and bragged that he’s in better shape now than he was in one of the two shirtless, teenaged or thereabouts photos I presented him with to sign. He told me what was going on when the photos were taken, saying he’d just been run off the road or something by Vikki Carr. Some kind of Battle of the Network Stars event? "You can’t trust her," I joked, which he liked. Another fan told him how great he looked and asked him how he thought Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach looked these days. "I…wish she’d use this product," he said, before saying some very kind things about her and her rough ride of late.
Finally, it was time for Gregory Harrison, who’d stirred very dirty feelings in me when I was something like 12. He looks incredible! He’s 61 but still has the hot bod that made For Ladies Only a TV sensation and that handsome Gonzo face. Even with silver hair and a matching beard, he looks way younger. I told him I thought he was the best-looking GOOD actor ever, which caused a nearby old-time actor friend to ask if he could be the best-looking BAD actor. Gregory smiled and thanked me and was game when I told him some of what I wanted him to sign was going to be a little revealing. "Uh-oh, this is the stuff I was trying to avoid, I’m sure," he said good-naturedly.
I handed him a stunning original photo from his 1981 film The Fighter, about which he said, "Do you know what this is from?" I love that he knows many of his fans are going to be people who are fans of his looks but may be clueless about his oeuvre. "Of course, The Fighter." He liked that I knew that and then blushed a bit when I had him sign a photo of him grinning sexily in a pool, and—even sluttier despite having on more clothes—working out with his legs open and shooting eye contact.
"This was my very first at-home shoot," he remembered of the latter. He said he was just doing exactly everything as directed while thinking it was a bit weird. If I’m not mistaken, he wound up in a Jacuzzi for that one, too. "It's a completely different world," he said of that sort of thing. Then went on to say, "The kind of success I had in 1979, '80, '81, which then because I was a television star in a number-one show, I couldn't do Broadway, I couldn't do feature films—I was a TV guy. And now, that would translate directly into all of those things. Even if you're just in a mediocre show, but it stays on the air, you got your own feature next year...You just need visibility. One night, one episode of our show, we'd get to 35, 38 million people. To be the number-one show on three networks was something else."
I asked him, due to my day job, if he had done much stuff with the teen press early in his career. He said the interesting thing was he was 27 when he got into the business, but he looked younger. Nonetheless, he was like "Why?" when he was told publications like Tiger Beat wanted to interview him and take photos of him.
I had two more items for him to sign, both rolled vintage posters. "Before I give them to you, can you guess what they are?” He stood up and looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. "One is the Z-string," he said, referring to his infamous poster from For Ladies Only in a Zorro-marked black g-string. Bingo! We pointed out the awkward, pre-PhotoShop retouching done to the pouch and he said, "It’s because there was so much there." Tell me he doesn’t know his audience. He told me he was proud of that movie partly because he’d produced it. He said it was a huge hit and was daring and topical as Chippendale’s was only a year or so old. He also said he had no idea of the Z-string survived and that he hadn’t kept any wardrobe from that. (I figured bidding on the underwear he had on would have been slightly tacky so refrained.) "This Z-string, actually, in the movie, got ripped off of me three times by women in those dance scenes. Literally, entirely ripped off. Those were real women—that was not a paid audience. We shot twelve hours a day for like five days in a row...we would just saw, 'Come watch Gonzo strip,' and, you know, like a thousand women showed up every morning at seven a.m. to fill this place and we'd shoot for twelve hours and every single take they would scream and yell. And oh, there was lunch, and a show. There was me and all those other dancers. Yeah, it was, uh, pretty weird. It was scary more than fun."
He went on to say he'd gone to Chippendale's and danced incognito to make sure he had the right moves. Where is that footage, I ask you? Who cares about lost Chaplin films when there could be half-naked Gonzo somewhere?
"They say that was the number-one poster ever, aside from the Farrah Fawcett hard nipples one," he noted. I told him I'd owned that one, too.
The other poster was from The Fighter (he'd guessed Trapper John, M.D.), which he happily signed in silver. He didn’t mind only signing his name to those; I just feel like they’re kind of rare and having my name on it would effectively remove them from being valuable to others forever.
He could not have been nicer. His only mistake was not asking me to stuff the $100 or so I spent with him in his g-string.
Then it was time for my special photo op with Antonio, which was shot by the handsome Craig Damon for a reasonable fee on a backdrop with pro lighting. Antonio was pretty game. And I was an eager hunter. No, but seriously, he was nice again even if the photo op was shockingly brief. (Craig got most of my shots that day in one or at most two clicks.)
Next, we hit up Gordon Thomson, who’d been too distracted to service us earlier while greeting his old Dynasty buddies. Gordon, who was dashing, evil Adam on the show, looks great and is, surprisingly, 66 years old.
"Oh, God!" he exclaimed at the photo I had for him. "I was so nice-looking. Jeepers, creepers. Not fair!" I told him he's still very nice-looking, and he said, "That's very nice to hear."
He was 37 playing 24 at the time he started on Dynasty. He shared with us that Joan Collins had been "cunty" with him the day he showed up to read for the part with her. He said she was the very first person he’d seen when reporting to the set (she was gussied up as a madame for The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch) and when he introduced himself she said, "I know who you are and it's ridiculous darling, you're much too old." He said he became quite fond of her ("I like her very much!") and remarked on her incredible wigs, raising his eyebrow when I said she claims to have never undergone plastic surgery, conceding perhaps "not much." Some of the gays I met seem to think famous women can avoid the knife by sleeping on their backs and avoiding the sun. (We all know my thoughts on this.)
He also confessed he thought the last few seasons of Dynasty (and especially the Moldavian Massacre) were not as good as what had come before, but he struck me as grateful for his most famous role and genuinely excited to see his old castmates. Dashing man.
Seated next to him was 85-year-old Richard Anderson, who I remember fondly as "Oscar" from The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. He looks older but the same and was quite funny. I chose his sexiest photo—he looked like a sort of ‘70s Hugh Hefner figure in front of a hot car—but demurred when I realized it was a flimsy color Xerox, going for a slicker black-and-white photo. His inscription was the wry, "Good thoughts…"
Loved meeting 84-year-old Julie Adams! I became aware of her during a brief period in the ’80s when I watched soaps and she was in the middle of a truly inspired performance as an agoraphobe on Capitol. "I had a great time doing that! I had such fun with that part. She was far out," she exclaimed. "The director told me she was a crazy—well, I won’t say what he called her, but he said she’s crazy, but she’s funny." Definitely one of the best performances I’ve seen on daytime TV. She is far more famous for her unforgettable appearance in the iconic horror film The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I had for her to sign a great ’50s still from Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. She marveled at the unique photo and said the title of the project aloud. "A melodrama!" she said with relish. She was a total sweetheart and looks pretty and happy. Our photo op was bizarrely interrupted by a strange man barking at his GF, who was failing to take a picture of him with muscleman Richard Lupus, but it came out great anyway.
I’ve already met, had my photo taken with and gotten an autograph from 76-year-old Barbara Eden, but seeing as how her line had thinned I decided it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to grab a $40 signed copy of her memoir. Like last time, she wasn’t overly chatty, taking on a beneficent aura and smiling in place of lots of talk. But when I asked her if she put in lots of juicy details, she smiled and said, "I’m afraid I kept some to myself." As we posed for our picture and Chexy mentioned doing one closer up, she muttered to me, "Yuck!" She looks fine closer up, though.
I wasn't the only one into a "dumb Stella Stevens hooker movie" (quote from here)
Another important figure for me at the show was 74-year-old Stella Stevens. She gives The Poseidon Adventure its sex (that silky white gown under which she has, "Just panties…what else do I need?") and its humor and was so good at playing loose women I mentioned her in my hustler-themed novel Boy Culture (Blind Items: A (Love) Story focused on Jon-Erik Hexum). She was lovely, very kind in her dealings with everyone and seemed to drink up the affection. I had a great shot of her to sign—she has the best, old-time movie star showy signature and had a fabulously nice gay on hand.
Unfortunately, he was preoccupied when I suggested Stella bring her cute son (actor, director, ’70s/’80s piece) Andrew (pictured, right) to the next show. She looked cheerful but said, "It’s been years since I’ve seen him. I don’t know where he is." I immediately apologized for my faux pas, saying I hadn’t known she and the now 56-year-old were estranged. "It’s okay—I’m having a wonderful time. I’m not sure if he is." Yikes, so sorry, Stella…I felt like Linda Rogo falling into the flames.
Knowing that Mission: Impossible stud Peter Lupus was going to be on hand, I’d especially gone out and bought a 1974 copy of Playgirl with a giant fold-out poster of his nude bod. I was a little worried he wouldn’t sign it or would be uncomfortable with a dude chasing his tail via autograph-request (actually, his best feature is the other side), but his assistant said it was no problem, it just cost $40 instead of $20. "Someone else had the same poster just now, the smaller version. I mean, the poster was smaller…" Lupus is one big dude all over. Standing next to him, I felt dwarfed, which is a feeling I like and rarely experience. Sweet guy.
I always preferred Dynasty to Dallas and Falcon Crest to Knots Landing, but I would never put myself in the category of Dynasty superfan. Still, I was there and figured I should get every member of that Reagan-era porno, so we next approached 49-year-old quasi-royal Catherine Oxenberg. I think she looks great, even without the big hair. She was assisted by her teenage daughter while hubby Casper Van Dien—across the room—was assisted by their teenage son. Both stars are tiny and lithe and look fresh as daisies. I tried to put out of my mind that they starred in The Omega Code in 1999.
She wound up being one of the nicest people of the day, bubbly but not fake. I had an original press photo for her to sign and was able to remind her that my pal Chexy once worked with her on a show called K-9000. She cringed and laughed at it and herself.
"Barry Diller was the head of the studio then and he was a friend but he said to my face, ‘That’s the worst pilot I’ve ever seen.’ But it was true. It was a shame." While this little reunion was going on, I snagged her neighbor, glamazon Tracy Scoggins, after she posed with a fan for my own photo op so she wouldn’t have to come back out from the table. She’s striking and statuesque and told me she has been assured from a reliable source that there will be a fourth season of Dante’s Cove but with a slew of new young male cast members including one playing her son aged to 18 suddenly. Fresh meat!
Catherine mentioned she was "so bad" about keeping pictures and presskits and things. When Chexy asked how she liked doing the autograph shows and if she found them odd, she demurred at first until I said, "It's okay, I'm normal—you can talk!" and she laughed and said, "Yes! It's odd! We were discussing which animal in the zoo I was feeling like. It's an anthropological exercise." (Don't forget this broad is Ivy League-educated.)
I circled back for more Maxwell and was able to get a picture with both him and Juliet. I jokingly asked if he remembered my name and when he guessed Rick and was mortified (how sweet!) I said, "It's okay, Dave." They laughed and he said, "I've never played a Dave." Then he gave me the autograph (pictured) for free because he felt bad for not remembering my name! He tried to direct Chexy's photography to be sure he wasn't too far away, "Let's be sure we're not little pinheads." We weren't.
"All right, Matt, take it easy, guy," he said by way of a romantic farewell. If I didn't know any better, I'd almost think he wasn't dying inside to part with me as I was to part with him.
My special photo op with Vicki Lawrence was not so exciting. She was stand-offish, not so glad we'd had this time together.
It was Casper time. It’s shocking how compact the 42-year-old is, considering all those Tarzan beefcake shots available all over the ‘Net, but he’s beautiful and looks like a kid. I had him sign a pinup torn out of an old Popstar! Magazine showing him shirtless and lifting weights. He signed it, "Work out!" and scribbled, "I was 19!" next to the image.
He also signed one Tarzan shot "E-MC2" which I took to be a prominent line from the movie…I’ve never seen it, only the skin pix. I also had Casper pose for a picture just of him, which is something I should have done with every star but hadn’t.
He was pretty cute about being hit on by a steady stream of male fans, his eyes gleaming with bemusement. Having his teenage son watch it all must have been a strange feeling for both or either of them.
What a family business! He even handed me a card with all his fan-club and Twitter info (pictured above).
Bernard Fox is a frailer 84 now—he was in Titanic (along with no-show Frances Fisher and neighbor Billy Zane) but is best known as Dr. Bombay from Bewitched—but was in good spirits if a little hard of hearing. His gay was supersweet and so was Bernard, who warmly posed for a picture after signing a great shot of him with Agnes Moorehead. Sure with she were still around to sign autographs, but she’d be well over 100. It’s amazing to think that of the many people in that '60s cast the only survivors are him and the two actors who played kiddies Tabitha and Adam.
Forty-five-year-old Billy Zane surprised me in that he’s certainly always been good-looking but in person he’s a superhandsome devil. He’s lost his hair so wears a cueball look that is very hot on him, yet for the show was in a jaunty hat. He’s thicker than he was on the Titanic but it suits him—very sexy body and amazing butt that would definitely float, even amid ice floes.
He signed a shirtless shot and gave me a great photo op. When I asked for a shot of him alone, he said, "Sure…you want me to give you a smile for something different? I just gave you the half-smirk." I was like, "By all means give me something different," which sounded kinda forward accidentally but he laughed.
I remember Constance Forslund’s face more than most of her performances, but definitely was fascinated by her turn as Marilyn Monroe in the mini-series event This Year's Blonde. I told her so and she was flattered.
I could have mentioned her gig as Fake Ginger in one or two of the Gilligan’s Island reunion movies but I thought I’d stick with the more challenging role. She was lovely, cutely demanding that we redo our photo because she wanted her hair down in her face more. She has a great body and looks marvelous for 61, don’t you think?
One, two, three...Smile!
Circled back to the front to get 75-year-old Bruce Dern, dad of Laura and an at one time creepily sexy '70s type. I had prepped myself with a really unique hand-out photo of him walking with a rather prominent dick bulge, but it was also just an interesting action shot complete with marks from the newspaper in which it undoubtedly originally ran.
"Never seen this picture before," he told me, studying it and showing it off to his companion—and that’s exactly what he wrote on it! I loved him in Smile.
My John Schneider photo op was a blast. I joked that I wanted it shirtless and he teasingly flashed his abs then did a strongman pose, but both too fast for the photog. (Chexy videoed it...whee!)
One-time Disney kid Michael McGreevey is no kid anymore (he's 63), but he still has that impish look and, come to find out, sense of humor that characterized his appearances in brain candy like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. He talked about studying under Gower Champion as a kid and with ballerina Cynthia Gregory, then getting an agent. "I couldn't act for shit, but I became a good actor by working with all these great people."
Did a movie with Alan Ladd directed by Michael Curtiz..." (The Man in the Net from 1959.) He remembered that for the movie they'd dug a ditch for Charles McGraw to walk in alongside the famously tiny Ladd. Now a successful writer, he told us tons of great stories, including saying Burt Reynolds got fired from a show he was doing called Riverboat for brawling with the star, Darren McGavin (both pictured, left)—they hated each other. Reynolds went to collect his stuff and ran into Clint Eastwood who’d just been fired on the same day, allegedly for having too big an Adam’s apple. "Imagine, they fired Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood on the same day!"
He gestured to Kurt Russell in the still I had him sign and said, "Don’t know what ever became of that kid!" with a wink.
A Match Game addict, I’ll always regret not meeting Charles Nelson Reilly (why didn’t I go see his one-man show?) or Bret Somers (why didn’t I go see her one-woman show?) or Debralee Scott (why did she have to die so young?), so I made up for it the best I could with a hello to 65-year-old Bart Braverman, wild-eyed panelist and later Robert Urich’s sidekick from Vega$. I think he enjoyed Chexy more than me, soaking up some excellent advice on where to get snappy frames for his glasses. He was engaged in some back-and-forthing with neighbor Ronnie Schell over how good the free lunch was in the green room.
Had to go in for my Poseidon Adventure cast shot and it wound up being terrific in spite of talking to a man who jokingly offered to let us take his son for the weekend as long as we kept him occupied with video games, an offer that came with an awkward story about how the kid had stripped naked his first day of school. Took forever to get Borgnine over there, but was worth the wait. I took the place of Gene Hackman, who wouldn't do one of these shows if his life and the life of all his fellow passengers depended on it.
Kelly LeBrock, 51, was the most expensive person there, a fact I didn’t know until after I’d partook of her wares. She looks much better now after that bout with letting herself go, slim and pouty. She knows how to pose with a guy, draping herself on me just enough that if I were straight I’d never wash that side of my body again. Loved her in Weird Science and should have asked her if she’d chatted with co-star Maxwell Caulfield but didn’t. The next day, she was cozying up to John Schneider when Ed Asner called over, "Hey, John, I want the pick of the litter!" Hm. There’s a lot to unpack in deciding if that statement is a compliment or an insult (litter = dog but having babies = pre-menopausal).
I had to circle back to Antonio one final time in order to get him to sign our photo together and to insist on a new photo since he'd removed his suit jacket. He was playful now, broken in to the whole thing. Love our shot with him flexing a bicep for me.
I bought 54-year-old Facts of Life star (and recently out lesbian) Geri Jewell’s book and had her sign it. Great penmanship, an impressive feat with cerebral palsy. I told her I loved seeing the cast together and congratulated her on coming out, asking if they’d been supportive (remember the Lisa Whelchel gossip?). She smiled and said, "Oh, very."
I’d just seen 58-year-old Pamela Sue Martin during the Poseidon photo op so with the ice broken I told her I had loved her mostly from her performance as Nancy Drew ("Wow!" she said upon spying my ancient Nancy headshot) because Nancy was supposed to be so plucky and perky and she’d played it more like, "Whatever, man, we’ll figure this shit out." She laughed and said she’d had fun on the show but was coming to TV (big step down then) from having done three movies.
I asked her about doing teen press and she said she really couldn’t remember doing much ("It was 30 years ago…"), but did remember that her attitude was to not want to do anything. "I would finish for the day and be like, ‘I’m outta here, I’m going home.'"
She said mostly the teen magazines would put things in without asking her, like stuff about her and Parker Stevenson, but she didn’t care. "I never did any press so now that I’ve got a son in college I can come and do these and meet people and they’re excited because I haven’t done anything until now."
She was really energetic, a stark contrast to her intoxicatingly sedate performances in The Poseidon Adventure and on Dynasty and Nancy Drew. She’d been the first Chloe Sevigny.
Adrian Paul had escaped my notice for far too long, so I went over to him. But it was just as Ed Asner had sidled up to Paul’s table neighbor Ernest Borgnine and Paul was angling to take pictures of them like every other starstruck fan.
As Erin Moran would say (even though she wasn't there), "Adrian is quite a hunk!" He’s a big, built guy with the exact features I love on a guy—dark ones. Nice and to the point. Had no idea he was 52. The next day, I snagged video of him chatting with Antonio Sabato Jr. and I wondered if they were both sucking it in and flexing subtly while exchanging notes on the show.
Had a wonderful talk with 69-year-old Tommy Kirk, the beatific boy from Old Yeller who didn’t work much past his late teens when the fact that he had a boyfriend instead of a girlfriend didn’t sit well with Disney. Kirk’s been out for many years. I asked him about that and congratulated him, to which he said, "Ben Franklin said honesty is always the best policy, right? Honesty is not always the most popular policy, but it's the best policy." We asked him for some stories and boy did he have some good ones, noting that directors had hit on him back then plenty in a really dirty way.
"All I had going for me was my youth. Everyone is beautiful when they’re 14. Aside from being 14, I was just ordinary as I am today." He worked with quite a few interesting people but said Basil Rathbone was his favorite, because he was attentive and polite and nurturing and the "sweetest, friendliest...raconteur." He also loved Dorothy Maguire, Ray Bolger and Fred MacMurray. But "Jane Wyman was a bitch," he observed, which pained him since he'd been a fan. "I loved her before I met her." I feel like we should have invited him and his partner to dinner or something, but maybe gay stars don’t need their gays.
Every Dynasty fan remembers Michael Nader as fuckable Dex Dexter. He still looks good at age 66, I thought, so asked him his secret. "Lotsa drugs!" he laughed, admitting he’s had his share of issues with them. He told me he’d been fired from All My Children for a relapse and felt that was unfair because everybody has problems and he’d just wanted to take a short leave for rehab.
He’s got a positive attitude and was quite gregarious with his old co-stars in-between signing stuff. For me, he signed a teen-mag pinup and then gave me free a current autographed headshot.
I was never a huge Lassie fan, though I do of course remember it. But I had to snag 60-year-old Jon Provost if only to ask him more about the incident he alleges happened when he was having sex with Sal Mineo’s girlfriend and Sal tried to cornhole him. He told me it was true and that yes, it had definitely ended their friendship. Normally I wouldn’t bring up controversial topics in confined quarters, but it’s a story from a book he was selling at the table so it seemed fair. He answered Chexy’s query about June Lockhart, saying he’s still in touch with her but she doesn’t do these shows anymore. He kind of reminds me of Martin Mull now.
This bled into a longish wait for the much-ballyhooed Dynasty/The Colbys photo op. It was like herding cats herding that cast—a dozen actors and me! They were in good spirits and Pamela joked that whoever came into the shot had to remove their clothes. One of the guys ahead of me sat Indian-style and Tracy Scoggins draped one of her gams across his chest.
The best thing ever happened while waiting for that photo op. My companion Chexy, a blogger but also a former actor, once starred as a zombie in Night of the Comet (1984). I'd been trying to convince him to do Chiller or another convention, a thought he found ludicrous. As we were talking, one of my new friends at the convention flipped out because he loves that movie and wanted Chexy's autograph and picture and everything. I think I have him half-convinced to see how life is on the other side of the table!
My last new star of the day was 50-year-old Eric Shea, the precocious kid from Poseidon. I really just needed him to sign my group shot along with the other cast members (and even the stuntman who'd done that electrified dive into the glass—you remember the scene), which he did. He was nice but quiet, opening up a lot more at the Q&A later on.
I grabbed Linda Blair in the hall to ask her about her teen-magazine memories. She'd been about to answer that for me at Chiller when she was pulled away, so I felt I was owed a free answer! She said she didn't do all that much and that it wasn't negative for her, referencing her acquaintance Bobby Sherman—who is now a cop somewhere.
The last photo op was with Gregory Harrison. I was a little embarrassed to be hounding him again, but he was nice enough about it. A little punchy from a day’s worth of silliness, when the photographer asked me my best side Gregory turned with his butt to the camera and said, "This is my best side." (Pictured, his best side, as seen in For Ladies Only). I can’t disagree, but that would slight the front so let’s just say he has no worst side. There was one other man waiting for his photo with Gregory, a guy from Utah. Gregory was saying how it’s nature’s blessing that as we deteriorate physically our eyes go, too, making it harder to see the damage. He thanked Chexy when Chexy told him he had nothing to worry about, but the other fan then told a story about a 100-year-old woman telling her husband she looked terrible and the husband saying, "The good news is your eyesight is 20/20."
The gorgeous photographer (several of the gays, including me, talked him into posing for pictures with us—he enjoyed that but urged us all to take cold showers) printed out my Gregory shot on the spot and I was able to get that signed without having to hunt him down. I joked that he was writing out the text of a restraining order and Gregory read aloud, "…100 yards at all times." Great guy, probably was done with me, though.
Finally, it was time for some grub. The most interesting thing about din-din was when the emcee for that night's Poseidon event fell—spectacularly!—and Tracy Scoggins, who'd been eating near us (as was James Stacy, who's been a multiple amputee for nearly 40 years), cracked up so hard she had to excuse herself and cry it out in the commode for several minutes!
Stevens & Lynley banter about memories of scenes together
After some R&R, I returned alone for the after-party. It was really just a Q&A with Stella Stevens, Carol Lynley and Eric Shea followed by world's worst comedian Jay London (pictured, right) and then an excruciating magic act. This sort of had to be experience to be believed. But the Q&A was well worth my time if only to hear Lynley trash the 2006 remake Poseidon with relish.
The second day, I showed up later in the morning and wandered aimlessly. Borgnine had jumped ship, making it impossible for me to get him to sign my freshly printed cast photo (the only one I missed) and I didn't need anyone else, but I decided to get a book from Jane Kean, or Trixie #2 from The Honeymooners. She was a riot! Dressed immaculately, she found out I was from New York and raved that there's no place like it. She still visits regularly. While she says being older she appreciates the lack of slush and ice in L.A., she admits it has its downside. "You wake up every day and think, 'Well, it's gonna be another goddamn beautiful day.' It's boring."
Second days are awkward because you've seen everyone at least once and feel like a major lurker. I caught some footage of Sabato and Paul chatting it up and handed my e-mail to my new pals, but the best part of the second day was meeting two more interesting fans. One was actually sitting with a guy I'd met the day before. It came up in conversation that he's besties with Jane Withers (who's 85 and still kickin'—hard, I bet) and helps her with her storage space. I don't think I'm telling too much of her business to report that she has amazing-sounding memorabilia that needs tending to, including a cast photo from Gone With the Wind signed by everyone and inscribed, "Nice having you on the set today!" I hope I'll get to meet her someday.
I also was buying some vintage Christmas cards (and funeral announcements) when the old guy doing the selling challenged me on my knowledge of who any of the stars were. I told him I was old beyond my years when it comes to stars, but he stumped me by asking if I knew Helen Broderick. Nope. Apparently, an Andy Hardy series regular. But then he said, "Do you know who Ann Rutherford is?" "Sure," I said, "and she's still living." Turns out she's his best friend! He accompanies the 90-year-old star to the annual Gone With the Wind events in Atlanta (she played Carreen O'Hara) and had just spoken to her that morning. He told me she did an autograph show once but had to be arm-twisted because she does not believe in selling her autograph. He got her to do it by setting her up to donate it to a charity. He was a really nice guy and I hope the wind will blow him in my direction again.
Meeting them both and seeing all the fanboys who had infiltrated their stars' private space by volunteering their help made me realize I'm way, way behind on this and need to adopt an elderly icon stat! (I wish I'd thought of this while Farley Granger still breathed air.)
Finally I left, realizing that if credits would roll over my exit the only thing the audience could say would be, "What a cast!"