Eric Ackerman's Celebrity Encounters

Chiller Theatre Expo 25th Anniversary


Well another Chiller is in the books, this time the highly anticipated 25th Anniversary Show. The Chiller staffed pulled out all of the stops on this one bringing back old favorites, as well as long sought after newcomers. The biggest draw for many seemed to be the 50th anniversary celebrations of Batman (Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar) and Lost In Space (Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy). The series’ respective vehicles were also on display out in the parking lot. Having seen these convention circuit regulars in the past, I focused my attention on scoring some new names for the collection, and began my night in the Living Room.

The biggest jackpot for me was having the Bradley sisters from Petticoat Junction (Linda Henning, Gunilla Hutton) right alongside the girls from Hee Haw (Hutton again, LuLu Roman, Barbi Benton, Misty Rowe). I’ve been on a Hee Haw kick lately, damn what a fun series that looked to be a part of. Sadly, as Misty and I went over a cast photo, most of those great performers are gone. Keeping up with the rural theme, I also got Richard Thomas of The Waltons fame.

Linda Kaye Henning ~ Petticoat Junction‘s Betty Jo Bradley, Linda Kaye was just as sweet as my buddy Wayne assured me. She graciously had signed photos of Lori Saunders, who had canceled due to ill health, so I was able to get that iconic water tower photo signed by all three girls with no worries.

Gunilla Hutton ~ Petticoat Junction‘s Billie Jo Bradley, I really liked a Hee Haw photo she had of herself with Archie Campbell, but I naturally had her finish up the water tower photo I got from Linda. On Gunilla’s table, she had the same photo of the Bradley sisters, albeit 50 years later. I remarked that I couldn’t see a difference. I think that made Gunilla’s night. Later on, I escorted her through the crowded hotel when she approached me in the hall and said she didn’t know how to get back to her table.

Barbi Benton ~ Ironically, I was only the 12th person in line for this iconic Playboy playmate and Hee Haw cast member when she arrived, yet it took me an hour to get to her. She just took so long with all of her fans. Her signature on all the items she was signing is just as beautiful as she is. And there were no complaints from me when she got cozy for photo ops. I also noticed that she carefully wrote down every transaction in a journal. For example, “12. Eric ~ Sand!”

Misty Rowe ~ Misty was definitely the most talkative of the female guests I met that night. She told me the backstories and anecdotes behind all of the photos she had on her table. It took some debating, but I chose a great shot of her in the cornfield on Hee Haw, as opposed to a shot of her as Wendy, the Arnold’s waitress on Happy Days.

LuLu Roman ~ This Hee Haw honey was definitely the funniest of the four. With LuLu, the zingers kept on flying, and they were mostly derogatory of herself. When we went to pose, I was more than happy to let her stay seated, but she said, “No, I’ll stand so people know I still can.” This was LuLu’s first convention appearance.

Richard Thomas ~ “Goodnight, John-Boy,” quite possibly one of the greatest television show quotes of all-time, and here he was, Richard “John-Boy” Thomas himself. Only his second convention appearance, The Waltons star had a steady line all evening, but kept it moving nice and fast.

I then moved into the next room, the Skyland Suite, often the home to television stars to span the generations and much more reasonable prices might I add. If I had an unlimited income, I would have spent the entire evening in here, there were virtually stars from every aspect of film and television in here, several of whom I had met in the past.

John James ~ John was the star of four iconic series’, Dynasty, The Colbys, As the World Turns, and All My Children. I was going to have him sign a generic headshot from his Jeff Colby days, but when he saw a Colbys cast photo that I had, he remarked at its rarity and told me I might regret not having him sign it, so he carefully added his signature to the photo, already signed by Tracy Scoggins and Emma Samms. He also distributed free DVDs of a couple movies he produced, Illegal Aliens, and the making of it, Addicted to Fame.

Brenda Strong ~ Another great add to my Dallas collection, Brenda was just as dear and fan friendly as all of her Dallas costars have been. Like onscreen ex-husband Mitch Pileggi’s back in August, Brenda’s line moved slow, mainly because she engaged fans in real conversations. I believe Brenda may be the first Desperate Housewives star I’ve scored a photo with. And she was also a part of the infamous cult series returning to TV next year, Twin Peaks.

Sybil Danning ~ While I typically would have gotten an 8×10 of Sybil as Nurse Wynn in Halloween (2007) for my Halloween franchise collection, I came across an original press photo at home in the archives of Sybil with Eddie Albert in The Concorde…Airport ’79. Sybil’s husband was in awe when he saw what he called, “a very rare and valuable piece of memorabilia.”

I then ended the night, or so I thought, in the Denville Room with the final name on my list, the great Richard Herd, whose screen credits span 45 years. I’m not sure why Richard was stuck in this obscure room, in my opinion, he was certainly worthy of a more notable spot in the bigger rooms. However, as I got to chat with Richard, I realized perhaps it was at his own urging. He was a storyteller, and his tales would not have been as audible or enjoyable out in the main rooms.

Richard Herd ~ When I told my mother we still needed to see Richard, she said, “Who’s that?” And I said, “Don’t worry, you’ll know him when you see him.” Sure enough, I was right, because honestly, what hasn’t he been in? TJ Hooker, Star Trek: Voyager, Summer Rental, and one of my favorites, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. This man was a saint. He had a story for everything, and he was just so relatable. As he told the guy ahead of me, “You’re not just paying for an autograph, you’re getting stories too!”

At the last minute, I decided to go back into the Skyland Suite to get a photo with Under the Dome star Mackenzie Lintz. Let’s be real here, I’m a sucker for photos with beautiful girls.

Mackenzie Lintz ~ It appears that the Under the Dome star escaped for the weekend. *Insert laugh here* Anyways, Mackenzie was nice, and I wish her the best of luck in her new home, Los Angeles.

I wait six months for Chiller to come and in a little over three hours, it’s over. Regardless of the lineup, you’ll find me at every one, and each time, I’ll conclude with saying I had a great time. It’s true, and I thank Mr. Chiller himself, Kevin Clement, and the rest of his staff. Not many shows can say they have an international fan base, but Chiller does. If you don’t believe me, walk out into the parking lot and look at the license plates. I saw several from Canada. And what beats having so many friends all under one roof? Rich, Bob, Dale, Tim, Penny, Nancy, Paige, Ron, Kathy, Al, Scotty, and I even bumped into a couple of my customers from work! Now for the next six months, you will find me patiently waiting for the next great Chiller show.