I know it seems like I just went to an autograph show—and I did!—but even in the middle of a stressful office move, I managed to train over to Chiller Theatre in Parsippany, NJ, with my pal Tom. I can't believe I went back after what happened last time! But I could not resist the siren song of Parker Stevenson, who was "the big one" on my very short list of must-haves.
Got there around 7:10PM (it opened at 6:30PM), the first time I've ever done the short opening night as opposed to one of the weekend days. It. Was. Packed. Horror fans are not fucking around with this stuff. It was Tom's first show, and I think he was kinda amazed at the sea of humanity, and not just because some of them were sporting fake blood and dead-for-a-fortnight skin tones.
I immediately went for probably the most famous person there, gorgeous Dean Cain, 45. Man, does he ever still look good enough to eat. I think this was his first show, and rather than being vaguely mortified (I'm remember people like Vicki Lawrence), he was super (no pun intended) nice. I told him I was a fan of The Broken Hearts Club (2000), a gay romantic comedy by Greg Berlanti. He said, "Man, I loved that movie. I wanted to be in it so bad, but they wouldn't even see me! I had to agree to audition, so I said, 'Fine, whatever it takes.' I was really proud to be in that. And the people in that were all so talented."
I also small-talked with him about being from Michigan (he's from Mt. Clemens, I'm from Flushing) and he would've gone on more but his agent, a Richard Dreyfus type, was kind of staring me down. Opted for a signed Lois & Clark (shirtless) pic that he provided as well as a photo with him. I also popped for a Polaroid with him, which he signed before it was even visible. His agent was not happy when I asked for a retake of my personal photo; my new camera takes shots that look to be at a normal distance only when you're on top of the subjects.
Next, we grabbed Cathy Moriarty, 51, she of Raging Bull (1980) fame. She was buried in the corner but on the main floor and was in good spirits even if she for some reason wasn't dolled up. She was seated with her mom and had a nice helper who pointed out to her that the original still I'd brought was special. She made sure not to smear it and admired it. "I haven't changed a bit, huh?" she asked sarcastically.
When we did our pic-with, she surprised me by grabbing me and plastering her head to mine. It made a terrific shot, but still she pulled off me after and said, "I'm sorry—I should've asked if it was okay to touch you." I said, "No, it's okay. I wondered if I would have to pay extra!"
Right next door was my main man, Parker Stevenson, 59 (60 next month). I had seen him chatting with fans and had a feeling he'd be really nice. He looks fantastic, still so sexy with those piercing blue eyes. I went up to him and told him straight off that I'd had a huge crush on him as a kid, even before I knew it was a crush, and that I'd had all these pictures of him around from teen magazines that really blew my cover. He laughed and really enjoyed hearing that. He told me it was good that I knew that about myself so young and had that confidence.
I want to say my talk with him made it my best-ever meeting at one of these shows. When I told him I was always a Parker dude and didn't wanna know from Shaun Cassidy, he said, "Really?" in disbelief, and proceeded to tell me how he'd had to get used to arriving at the studio and directing the waiting fans to Cassidy with a wry, "You're probably waiting for him."
We talked a bit about his being in teen mags ("They'd come over and take pictures of me sitting in my yard or something") and about working with Angela Lansbury on Murder She Wrote (he said she was not intimidating but very gracious and easy to work with).
When I showed him the Lifeguard (1976) still I had, he told me he'd made the movie because he needed money while in college, but it had ignited in him a desire to act. He also said producers had seen it and it led, many years later, to his role on Baywatch.
I was so taken with Parker that I returned later to say good-bye, asking quickly about Battle of the Network Stars. I wanted to know if they took it as seriously as they sometimes seemed to, and he said absolutely. Apparently, Jerry Mathers had run one race barefoot only to get his feet shredded, and that some of the actors were cutthroat because they were playing for money and cars. I told him I hoped to see him at another show and he said the same. I was pretty much drawing up separation papers to serve to José but realized Parker living on the West Coast meant we couldn't really be together. (The only reason it wouldn't work, right?)
Also, when I was taking a photo of him at his table, I was telling him to stay seated and his eyes twinkled. "You're directing me???" I would love to yell cut or even uncut with him, with or without cameras around.
The fourth of the five people I had to get was Dirk Benedict, 67. Yes, he's famous for The A-Team, but he is important to me for starring in the execrably delightful horror flick Sssssss (1973).
His line was enormous and slow, filled with fans chattering on and on. I would later realize Mr. Benedict, who couldn't have been nicer but probably could have been a little less tipsy, was contributing to this by taking his time with everyone.
When I showed him my still, he launched into some juicy stories about how the film had been tipped to be a smash hit but had been such a dark turn-off that women wouldn't go. And yet it had been shot with the assumption that a sequel would happen, even though his character turned into a snake at the end of the film. The sequel would have him struggling to change back! I hate that I didn't buy the original prop snakeman from this movie when I saw it in L.A. not so long ago.
UPDATE: A lovely reader (thanks, Dean!) points me to the prop for sale on eBay:
The fifth on my hit list was Patrick Labyorteaux (as he now spells it), 56, one half of the smokin'-hot brothers who dominated TV in the '70s. He looks the same plus gray and facial hair and was only too happy to spill the beans on teen mags of 30 years ago. He said that they would make stuff up about him, but with his blessings—and that he had deals with various girls to date them and break up with them in order to get into different publications.
Also on the teen-idol tip, he says his wife was once a fan club member of his with his pinups on her wall! They met on a shoot years later and the rest is history. He attributes his good health to being happy with his wife and with being a dad.
Next door to him was Summer School (1987) co-star Dean Cameron, 49, who I impulsively nabbed based on his sexy eyebrows back in the day. (I later realized he's a Libertarian. Sigh.) He was funny, posing goofily without having to be directed. Nice dude.
And then next to him was a Christine (1983) reunion. Even though I wasn't overly familiar with him, I had to get an autograph from 52-year-old William Ostrander (Buddy Repperton from the film). Why? Because he's a hot, silver-haired daddy, and because one of the photos he was selling was a still that doubles as a BJ's-eye-view. He saw me eyeing the photo and said, "Say hi." I said hi and the rest is history.
From that muscleman to the ultimate muscleman—Lou Ferrigno, 60, was in the same room. I'd always heard he was a jerk (sorry, Lou!) but I think some of it is his deafness. At least that was my experience. He was perfectly nice and offered two shots for the price of one. The only hitch was that I then wanted to do my photos and he very firmly insisted on payment in advance, and didn't really understand that I wanted a pic of him alone and then together. Once he figured it all out and the green was in hand, he went back to being nice and winked at me after.
The final room we'd missed had 65-year-old Lynne Stewart, aka Miss Yvonne from Pee-wee's Playhouse. She didn't have anything to say at all, just a big smile. I told her I'd seen the Pee-wee reunion show on Broadway and she said, "You did?" Nice, just kind of a stilted encounter.
Tom was getting a true whirlwind of a tour, scarfing down a slice of pizza while I stood in line back in the main room again for Robert Loggia, 82, an acting giant I had not noticed on the initial guest list. His line took forever and ever, but gave Tom time to eat and digest his dinner at least. When we finally got up to him, he was pleasant, asking for a copy of the photo I'd presented for him to sign even though it was his own shot he was selling. When I squatted next to him for my photo and told him the seated photo op is more flattering to all involved, he laughed and kinda slugged me gently.
That was it—two hours in and out—and Tom drove me to the train station, detouring through Dunkin Donuts (I need to hit Weight Watchers again starting...now!). This Chiller was not the nightmare of yore, but it was so fast it feels a bit like a dream.