As 2015 comes to a close and I look forward to new encounters in 2016, I cannot help but think about all those we lost in 2015, several of whom I met over the years.
The year began with the passing of actor and comedian Taylor Negron, who lost a battle with cancer at the young age of 57.
With Taylor Negron at Monster-Mania Con 21 in March 2012. Taylor and I discussed a lesser known film of his, Three Days to Vegas, which starred a slew of Hollywood veterans. The film was in fact so obscure that Taylor had never even seen the final cut.
Hazzard County became in need of a new sheriff when James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard) succumbed to illness in April. He was 88.
James Best had stopped posing for photos due to failing eyesight when I met him May 2010 at AdventureCon. He was a fun gentleman to be around, and I returned to chat with him later in the day when the crowd had thinned out. I highly recommend his memoir, Best in Hollywood.
In May, Grace Lee Whitney was beamed up to join her fallen Star Trek comrades when she passed away at 85.
Grace Lee Whitney at a Star Trek Convention in 2011. For some odd reason, I regretably passed on a photo op with Grace and settled for just an autograph. However, we spent quite a bit of time chatting that day and she enlightened me on her all too brief appearances in the Star Trek film series.
A shocking death that rocked the autograph show circuit was that of WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Piper was one of the best, and I was seeing him at shows almost monthly this year.
I honestly do not think any death in 2015 rocked the autograph show circuit more than the untimely passing of Roddy Piper. Piper may have been legendary for his in-ring persona as a villain, but on the circuit, he was the fan favorite. Often with one of the longest lines at the shows where he appeared, Piper took more than enough time with the fans and everyone left with a smile on their face. After I had gotten my autograph and photo at Monster-Mania Con 28 in August 2014, I turned to leave when he grabbed my face with his hands and said, “You’re beautiful,” I tear up thinking about that moment. His fans were better people having known him.
In December, Robert Loggia passed away at 85 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. A battle he courageously fought and did not let get in the way of meeting his fans.
Robert Loggia was known to audiences of all ages for his roles in Scarface, Big, Independence Day, and countless others. While I’m not sure just how many of those timeless memories were with Loggia during those last few years, they will live on in his fans. When I saw him at the Chiller Theatre Expo in April 2012, he signed for me a still of probably his most iconic movie scene- the piano dance with Tom Hanks in Big.
Less than a week before Christmas, we said goodbye to Patricia Elliott, a Tony Award Winner for A Little Night Music and longtime star of One Life to Live.
News of Patricia Elliott’s death hit me hard in the gut. Before the days of soap stars charging astronomical prices for private one-on-one time after an event’s end, Patricia granted me that time for free. It was after the One Life to Live lunch cruise in 2009 and a free bus came along every half hour. Well there as Patricia, dressed in classic Renee Divine Buchanan fashion, sitting on a grassy knoll along the Hudson River waiting patiently for a bus in what was probably 90 degree weather. We sat and chatted for that whole half hour and she was just a lovely lady. Very honored and touched for her to have given me that moment.
And death took no holiday when All in the Family star Jason Wingreen passed away peacefully at 95 on Christmas Day. While I never met Jason personally, and therefore would not normally include him in this post, Jason provided me with one of my favorite collection pieces.
Many years ago when I was just a kid, I mailed Jason this vintage publicity photo from All in the Family. He kindly obliged sending it back to me within a week and with this witty inscription, “Smile, Arch. When he gets older, Eric could become one of our best customers.” It has always been a collection favorite.
Last, but certainly not least, Mrs. Evelyn Pagano. By no means an international star, she was a household name…in Waldwick anyway. Our longtime Business teacher was 66.
Mrs. Pagano is not worthy of a mere blog post, she is worthy of much, much more. There is not a day that goes by where I do not think of her.
2016 will certainly not be the same without these fine individuals whose dedication to their fans was a part of each of them right up until the very end. May they rest in peace.