On Friday night, I attended my 14th Chiller Theatre Expo (I’ve missed just one since I began attending in 2009). It’s hard to believe there are now 14 in the books and that I’m a seasoned veteran, especially since I know there are folks out there who have been to 3x, even 4x more than I have. These intrepid fans are the real inspiration for attending. To think about just how many great stars the Chiller fans have had access to since 1990.
The evening started off on a bit of a sad note as longtime Chiller mascot, John Zacherle aka Zacherley the Cool Ghoul, had passed away peacefully the night before at the age of 98. While Zacherley was in everyone’s hearts throughout the weekend, there was still that never-ending buzz of excitement throughout the halls of Sheraton Parsippany. A rare appearance from Tim Curry, the return of Meat Loaf, Tony Orlando and Dawn together again, a Jaws 2 reunion, everyone’s favorite Jeannie – Barbara Eden, and a slew of TV and movie stars to span the decades.
I walked in the door a minute or two past 5, and began in the Skylands Suite. RK Sports Promotions had brought in three of my wants – Sasha Mitchell, Sonny Shroyer, and Dawn Wells, and I successfully banged out the three of them in around 15 minutes time. By the time I had finished with them, Ted Lange had arrived, and I crossed yet another name off my list. Despite pretty much being a “B-Lister” room, I think there were more household names in here than there were in the Living Room, and far more business transactions. All of the celebrities seemed to consistently have a customer in front of them.
Sasha Mitchell ~ Another add to my Dallas collection, Sasha not only appeared as James Beaumont on the legendary primetime drama, but my generation will remember him as Cody Lambert on Step By Step.
Dawn Wells ~ There are very few stars who could come to Chiller year after year and I would line up for them and drop money on their table each time. Gilligan’s Island star Dawn is one of them, even though I was always Team Ginger. This time around, I got an 8×10 and had her sign my copy of her first book, Mary Ann’s Gilligan’s Island Cookbook.
Sonny Shroyer ~ May God bless this Dukes of Hazzard star. 81 years young and had the most energy out of all the stars I met that night. Sonny came in costume as Deputy Enos Strate, right down to his original screen-worn hat. Back when I met his costar and fellow deputy Rick Hurst, we did an arrest photo, and Sonny was happy to oblige when I asked him for the same. He exclaimed, “I caught myself one of those Duke boys!!!”
Ted Lange ~ Prior to the announcement that Love Boat star Ted would be attending the show, I had a conversation with someone about wanting to meet him and get an “Isaac” photo op, right down to the hand gesture. Well the dream came true when I finally got to meet your ship’s bartender.
I then moved onto the Livingston Room where the cast of Jaws 2 had taken up shop for the weekend. Other than Tim Curry, I wasn’t really looking forward to this Chiller. The guest lineup was lackluster, and while I always needed a good batch of name, none of them really excited me…until they added the Jaws 2 cast. One of my favorite movies, being able to see six of the cast members in one shot really made the 30 minute drive worth it for me. I was a little surprised with their pricing structure, $40 combos, but I bit the bullet and got them all.
G. Thomas Dunlop (Timmy Weldon) ~ Tom was much like his character, kind and soft-spoken. Tom and the majority of the cast is still fairly new at doing conventions, so they’re still getting used to interacting with us fans, especially those of us who start spewing dialogue at them. Yes, I am guilty as charged.
Gary Springer (Andy Nicholas) ~ One of the last guests to be added to the Chiller lineup, Gary was my favorite of the Jaws 2 ensemble. Aside from Murray Hamilton’s Mayor Vaughn, Gary’s Andy was my favorite character in the movie. And he didn’t even need me to quote dialogue before scribbling “Goddammit, listen to me!” on my photo.
Gigi Vorgan (Brooke Peters) ~ Gigi had some beautiful, rare photos from the movie on her table. It was hard to pick one, but with her help, I made a decision and am extremely happy with it.
Billy Van Zandt (Bob) ~ I’ve met this man’s lovely wife, Adrienne Barbeau, on many occasions, and I have always begged her to bring Billy to a show with her. Well he finally made it, and had a great headshot from the movie that he signed for me.
Donna Wilkes (Jackie Peters) ~ Donna is a frequent Chiller attendee and I got a combo from her a few years back. However, I couldn’t leave the reunion without getting an updated photo op, which I like much more than our previous one.
Ben Marley (Patrick) ~ Last, but certainly not least, was Ben Marley. Unfortunately, he had no photos from the movie on his table. Perhaps because he barely even had audible dialogue, but it was nice to meet him and add him to the collection.
I made a brief pit stop in the Morris Room to obtain some signatures for my buddy Wayne. He needed a slew of Bobby Rydell signatures, as well as May Pang.
Bobby Rydell ~ The former teen idol appeared alongside Wayne’s favorite actress, Ann-Margret in Bye Bye Birdie, so he naturally had many photos from the movie needing Bobby’s signature. He graciously signed them all and posed for a photo.
The only guest I needed in the Living Room was Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau. Despite being a repeat guest, Landau had a reasonably sized line. After all, he is a living legend. The majority of the guests in the Living Room had absolutely no lines, and it seemed like most vacated their tables fairly early on in the evening.
Martin Landau ~ The award winning actor has appeared in North by Northwest, Mission: Impossible, Space: 1999, and Ed Wood, just to name a few. The rarity I remember him best in however, is The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, the 1981 pilot for a revival of the 1963 sitcom. We laughed about the time I bummed a cigarette from him when I was 17 years old. He quietly said, “You must be 22 now. That was five years ago.” He has proudly since quit smoking, as have I.
At this point, I circled back through the hotel to get anyone who hadn’t been at their tables during my first spin around the block. Tonya Pinkins in the Skylands Suite, Telma Hopkins in the Randolph Room, and back to the Living Room for my main man, Caroll Spinney, who makes frequent appearances on this blog.
Tonya Pinkins ~ While I remember her for her long-running role as lawyer Livia Frye Cudahy on All My Children, Tonya is now known to TV viewers as Ethel Peabody on Gotham. A special thanks to Matt Beckoff for bringing Tonya in this weekend.
Telma Hopkins ~ A third of the pop music group Tony Orlando and Dawn, Telma spent her birthday meeting and greeting fans alongside Tony Orlando and Joyce Vincent. Growing up, Family Matters was always on in our house. Aside from Steve Urkel, my favorite character was Aunt Rachel, played naturally by Telma Hopkins, who was also a series regular on Bosom Buddies and Gimme a Break! Telma was an absolute doll, and I could have spent all night chatting with her. And for the record, she’s a great hugger.
Caroll Spinney ~ My regular readers will know that whenever I see Caroll, the icon who brings Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on Sesame Street, the least I will do is get a new photo op. That’s all I got this time around, and his lovely wife Deb joined us. As a side note, my dad would like to know who the genius was who sat Caroll next to Traci Lords…
At some point, can’t remember exactly when, I lined up for the exclusive Tim Curry photo op. Tim was taking his time interacting with everyone, but the line still moved relatively fast and I believe I was done in about 30 minutes. I think the most frustration stemmed from the extremely long wait time for prints to be made ready for pickup. I think everyone waited at least 2 hours for their photos to come out. Tim had finished and gone back up to his room an hour before my photo finally came out of the printer. I’ve been to many shows where prints are available by the time you exit the photo area. Why this operation, helmed by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory star Paris Themmen, is so far behind on the times, I have no idea, but Paris handled the crowd like a real pro. I guess it’s just hard for anyone to be mad at Mike Teevee.
The legendary Tim Curry ~ His career literally spans the decades. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, Stephen King’s It, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and The Wild Thornberries, just to name a few. As many people know, Tim had a debilitating stroke a few years back, allowing for him to only do photo ops at this show, no autographs. As I said, he was quite talkative with the fans. I sat down next to him and said, “I could smell you getting off the elevator. You was here last night too, wasn’t ya?”He grabbed my hand and we began reciting dialogue from a certain scene in Home Alone 2 (see the link to the scene below). Tim was waiting for me to continue our “scene” when they snapped the photo, hence why he is looking at me, as opposed to the camera.
At the end of the night, I had some time to kill while I waited for the print of my photo op. Cue the impulse buying. I obtained Kyle Labine and Kristy McNichol before the night was through, as well as laying down some money for a few vintage autographs in the Vendors Room.
Kyle Labine ~ As all of my regular readers know, I am a big fan of the Halloween franchise and try collecting 8x10s from everyone associated with the films. While his role in Halloween: Resurrection was extremely small (he didn’t even have a name), Kyle had a great 8×10 from the movie on his table that I just had to have. He even added a line of dialogue!
Kristy McNichol ~ And last up for this year’s Chiller was the lovely Kristy McNichol, star of the sitcom Empty Nest. Kristy attends Chiller often, but at my mother’s urging, I finally bit the bullet and added her to the collection. She signed a nice Empty Nest cast photo for me.
Before I wrap up, I want to say how great it was seeing Mr. Chiller, Kevin Clement, back at the reign this year. We’re all extremely happy to see him “home” where he belongs. I look forward to attending the Chiller show every six months, and he’s the man to thank for it. And now I impatiently await the next one and the day the guest list starts appearing online…