My 15th Chiller Theatre Expo came and went fairly fast on Friday, April 21. Despite having purchased a pre-show ticket for Friday night, work held me up and I didn’t arrive at the Hilton until 7 PM, two hours after doors opened. With a somewhat lackluster lineup of guests, and a growing cancellation list, I would find myself finished by 9:30 PM, and quite a bit of time was spent socializing, touring the newly updated Hilton, and grabbing a couple of traditional convention hot dogs.
Upon arrival, I was frustrated with the layout, and hastily began getting to work in what was formerly the pit area at this property. The pit has since been filled in, and the stars were really out in the open. I heard other attendees remark about the lack of security, and several even bragged that they didn’t purchase admission, as wristbands were not being checked anywhere.
Both Max Gail and Bowzer charged $50 for combos, the norm for Chiller’s main room stars for the past few years. At this point, out of my other “pit area” wants, George Hamilton had taken a break and Tom Berenger’s line was long – much longer than I ever expected it would be. So, I decided to seek out some of the more budget friendly stars, and low and behold, there were actually plenty of them. I didn’t keep great track of the pricing this year, but I can tell you that none of the following names were more than $30 for a combo.
And then it was back out to price gauging heaven where I would score the remainder of my combos for the night. Hamilton’s line looked longer than it was, as it weaved in between Barbara Hershey’s and Dolores Hart’s. Berenger’s showed no signs of slowing down at all – but he moved quickly, making it a short wait.
By the time I was ready to leave, Barbara Hershey’s line had dissipated and there was only one or two people at her table. Having spotted a Hoosiers photo earlier in the night, I was quick to hand over the cash and score the headlining star prior to leaving.
Probably my fastest Chiller, and possibly my smallest – just 13 stars – Number 15 was in the books. I even came in under budget and brought money home with me!!! As always, a huge thank you to Mr. Chiller – Kevin Clement – for putting together the largest show on the eastern seaboard. I look forward to this all year, and am impatiently awaiting the guests for the October incarnation.
Leaving the Great Philadelphia Comic Con, I headed straight for Bensalem and the inagural Nostalgia Fest Philly – featuring favorite stars from the 80s and 90s. The lineup was small featuring just a dozen stars – Gary Busey was the headliner and appeared behind a curtained off section of the room.
When I arrived I found what resembled a carnival type atmosphere outside, however once inside the venue, I found a quiet, almost abandoned banquet hall. All 12 of the talent sat along a wall in the front room of the venue. Not one of them had a line, and I quickly moved down the line obtaining my wants.
David Faustino, Dustin Diamond, and Dennis Haskins also appeared, but I’ve seen them in the past. Overall, I think I may have spent a half hour at this show. During the brief time I was there, I was one of less than a dozen fans collecting combos. The actors and their handlers outnumbered the collectors. It’s a shame that this show did not garner the attendance that it rightfully should have. Combo prices were extremely low – half of what they were over in Oaks, and a fraction of what they would be a few weeks later at Chiller.
When I heard that Great Philadelphia Comic Con and Nostalgia Fest Philly would be running simultaneously just a half hour apart from one another during the weekend of April 8 down in the Philly area, it was without a doubt a trip I would be making.
First stop was Great Philadelphia Comic Con in Oaks, PA. I did this show in 2016, and while combo prices are higher than most area shows, it’s an extremely stress-free environment and they bring in a wide, variety of celebrities.
I also collected Alan Tudyk (Firefly; Dodgeball; and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Alan wasn’t posing for table photos, which kept his line moving at a quick and steady pace. I got him on a Dodgeball photo as Steve the Pirate.
If I wasn’t in such a hurry to get to Nostalgia Fest and then back home to work, I probably would have hung around this show a bit longer and maybe gotten some additional autographs and/or photo ops. Hopefully it is in the cards for 2018!!!
On Saturday, April 1, I was very excited to take the short trip to Edison for the New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival. I believe this was a first-time show, and for a first-time show to bring in as many names as they did, it was a nice surprise and put it on my watch list from the day it was announced. While it was far from the other NJ horror themed shows, NJ Horror Con provided a much more intimate atmosphere, and far friendlier pricing structures. Admission was $25, and table combos did not seem to exceed $30.
I had already met a number of these stars – Michael Berryman, Rick Hearst, Matthew Lillard, Tony Moran, and Sharon Smyth-Lentz. It was the contingency of Back to the Future cast members that caught my eye. I had all four of the BTTF stars sign my copy of Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, and I also got 8x10s from each of them for the collection.
Overall, this was a nice, fresh show bringing several new names to NJ’s convention scene. NJ Horror Con has another show slated for September, and I hope to attend once again.
When the Strand Book Store announced the March 2nd event featuring Emmy-winning actor William Daniels, the East Coast autograph collectors went gaga. Daniels, star of Boy Meets World, 1776, St. Elsewhere, and Knight Rider, would be signing copies of his new book, There I Go Again, as well as posing for photos and signing extra items. Daniels is an extremely tough meet on the east coast, so this was a huge deal for many of his fans. 200 of them to be exact.
While in line, I spotted Danny McNulty a little further up. He played Harley Keiner, the school bully on Boy Meets World and school janitor on Girl Meets World. He had tweeted earlier in the week he would be attending, so I went ahead a printed up an 8×10 for signing just in case I was able to spot him in the crowd. He graciously signed and posed for a photo, as well as taking a selfie of us on his own phone.
Mr. Daniels seemed to be genuinely excited to be doing a meet & greet. His social media posts, whether actually written by him or dictated by him, indicated so. However, either he, his management, the book store, or a combination of the three greatly underestimated his popularity. Originally, the store limited the signing to 100 books sold. However, once that sold out, they released another 100 tickets. This concerned me, but I thought maybe a number of these 200 people wouldn’t show, or that several people would come touting multiple copies. All 200 showed and it proved to be too much for the 89-year old Daniels.
I’m not even sure the line had begun to move when the rules changed dramatically. First, the staff came out to announce he had seized doing posed photos, just candids while he was signing. Then prior to entering, they quietly added he would not be signing extras either.
When I got up to Daniels, the rules didn’t seem to be strictly enforced. His handler, actor Loren Lester, was soothing his qualms with each and every signature he begrudgingly signed. If you were lucky, he glanced up for the camera. He didn’t for my photos, but I’m happy with the one I got. Very similar to my Robert Wagner photo op from November.
Once finished with Daniels, I noticed Bonnie Bartlett, who was off to the side, just wrapping up a conversation with McNulty. Bartlett has had her own storied career appearing alongside Daniels in both St. Elsewhere as Ellen Craig, and Boy Meets World as Dean Lila Bolander-Feeny. As McNulty stepped away, I swiftly stepped in with an 8×10 head shot and Sharpie in hand. I don’t think she said anything as she too begrudgingly signed, and she didn’t say anything when posing either, she just quickly flashed a smile for the camera. She is 87, and the evening was clearly taking a lot out of her as well. For attendees who couldn’t get Daniels, they were aiming to get the next best thing – his Emmy-winning wife.
Daniels later said on social media, “Was truly overwhelmed with the amount of people who came to see me last night. Thank you for reading my stories. Thank you for coming.” The general consensus online seems to be blaming the Strand for what ended up being a poorly run signing. Daniels and Bartlett were clearly run down, unprepared, and misinformed about the number of tickets sold. Poor move on the Strand’s part to be taking advantage of an 89 and 87 year old. If they were my grandparents, I would have been appalled with their mistreatment. It was great meeting Daniels, Bartlett, and McNulty, but I cannot say I will be returning to or trusting the Strand in the future.