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Artimus Pyle

Growing up in the house of a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, the name Artimus Pyle was like folklore. A man that has withstood the test of time and literally seen it all, I was pretty excited to hear he would be coming into work last week. Pyle was the band’s drummer from 1974-1977, and again from 1987-1991. He survived the ’77 plane crash, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his contribution in 2006.

The first night, I just wanted to feel him out, see how easy it would be to pull off a photo op and maybe an autograph. Artimus came in, was super cool, and we spoke for a little while. I decided I would make my move the next night. During the day, my coworker did a full-fledged photo shoot with him, so I knew it would be easy.

I pulled the first album I could find at the house, Gimme Back My Bullets, my dad’s original copy from 1976. Artimus came in, and I whipped the album and a Sharpie out before he even knew what hit him. He graciously signed, explained the liner notes that he had written for it, and suggested we take a photo together. It was an awesome success, and I was really happy with the result.

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2016 In Memoriam

As 2016 draws to a close, the world mourns the dozens of celebrities taken from us this year. While I only met a handful of those we lost, those I did have the privilege of meeting were quite the formidable group – identical cousins, a cool ghoul, a lovely lady, a masked crime-fighter, and a princess.

We lost Patty Duke on March 29 at the age of 69. At the time, I said of meeting Patty, ” It was like seeing an old friend. She loved to hug her friends, and damn, did she give great hugs.” I’ll always miss seeing her at autograph shows and lining up for her each and every time.

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On October 27, the eve of the annual Chiller Theatre Expo Halloween Spooktacular, the show’s longtime host John Zacherle, aka Zacherley the Cool Ghoul, passed away peacefully in his sleep at 98.

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Death took no holiday when Florence Henderson, America’s mom, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving, November 24. Henderson last appeared on live TV just four days before she passed away of heart failure. She was 82.

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While he may have been a masked crime-fighter on TV, “The Green Hornet” Van Williams was a real-life hero as well. He passed away on November 28, after years of ill health that culminated from his time spent as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff and volunteer Search and Rescue Captain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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And the world mourned together again when Carrie Fisher, the iconic Princess Leia in Star Wars, passed away on December 27, after going into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles several days earlier. She was only 60.

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There will be a lot less “character” in the world without these fine human beings…

 

Kenny Rogers

Well I across this major one off the bucket list. After years of wanting to see Kenny Rogers in concert, our schedules finally aligned and I was once again an NJ resident when he came to the Wellmont Theater in Montclair on May 22nd as a part of The Gambler’s Last Deal World Tour. Seeing as it is his final tour, I splurged and bought a VIP Meet & Greet ticket. Go big or go home, you know?

Kenny and his tour manager, Gene Roy, were great. The definition of southern gentlemen, they treated all of us as if we were old friends. A professional photographer took all of the photos (the ones with Kenny, a group shot, and various photos of us sitting in Kenny’s chair on the stage), and posted them promptly online and available for download just hours after the concert’s end.

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Easily one of my all-time favorite photo ops. Reaction to this photo when posted on Facebook was huge. Kenny is one of the few country singers whose recognition spans the decades.

The concert itself was great. Kenny got tripped up a few times, but between his timeless voice and lyrics, as well as his accompaniest, the stunning Linda Davis, I walked away having had a great time, and singing his tunes the whole ride home.

Guiding Light Reunion

After I returned home from The Great Philadelphia Comic Con, I worked an overnight shift at the hotel, went home and got in a few winks, before heading out to yet another signing, my third for the weekend. On this day, Sunday, April 24, I went to the Residence Inn Secaucus for The First Annual Bauer Barbeque, an event reuniting the cast of the now defunct soap opera, The Guiding Light, and paying homage to its most highly rated episode of each year.

Held in conjunction with the annual Daytime Stars and Strikes bowling event, the Bauer Barbeque was a fairly small, intimate event with 7 actors and less than 50 fans. Attending stars included the host of the day, Michael O’Leary, Beth Chamberlin, Liz Keifer, Jennifer Roszell, Jerry verDorn, and Yvonna Kopacz Wright. Anne Sayre, who actually never appeared on GL, but rather As the World Turns, came briefly and did not stay for the meet and greet.

As the luncheon and Q&A portions of the event began to wrap up, I started to mingle with the cast and collect autographs and photos, this way when the event wrapped at 4, I could hit the road and head to another signing. I seemed to be the only attendee with photos for signing, everyone else just seemed to collect photo ops.

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From L-R: Beth Chamberlin (Beth Spaulding), Yvonna Kopacz Wright (Mel Boudreau), Jennifer Roszell (Eleni Andros Cooper), Liz Keifer (Blake Marler), Jerry verDorn (Ross Marler), and Michael O’Leary (Dr. Rick Bauer). In addition to scoring individual photos with everyone, I also got this really nice cast photo op. Seeing as the event was done for charity, I donated for this photo to appear in an upcoming issue of CBS Soaps In Depth in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled.

Having never met any of these stars with the exception of Jerry, I really enjoyed attending this new event and certainly hope to see it return again next year with even more stars. A special thanks to all of the actors, as well as the lovely team from Daytime Stars and Strikes who put it all together.

As I said above, I headed out as soon as I could in order to attend yet another signing…

Patty Duke (1946-2016)

This one hit me hard in the gut. Perhaps it was because she was after all the great Patty Duke. Maybe it was because she was only 69. But I think it was mainly because I selfishly yearned to see her again.

Winning the Academy Award for The Miracle Worker at just age 16, Duke would later receive her own series, appropriately titled The Patty Duke Show. Other significant roles included The Valley of the Dolls and a slew of TV movies earning her three Emmys, and two Golden Globes.

I met Patty twice over the years, both at the Chiller Theatre Expo. First in 2010 and again in 2013. Every tweet, comment, or statement her friends and colleagues are giving is the truth. She was everything you would imagine her to be. A dedicated wife, a proud mother and grandmother, and after witnessing a moment between her and John Astin, I would say a cordial ex-wife.

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Let’s be clear on one thing, Patty was not this tall. I was crouching down quite a bit, something she often had to be done by the kids and grandkids in her family photos.

Typically, I only see a star once and that’s it, but Patty made such a positive impression in 2010, I lined up for her again when she returned in 2013. It was like seeing an old friend. She loved to hug her friends, and damn, did she give great hugs.

Duke, Patty (2)

Let’s be clear on one thing, Patty was not this tall. I was crouching down quite a bit, something she often had to be done by the kids and grandkids in her family photos.

And I guess, sadly, that’s all she wrote. Ironically, I found a copy of one of her old LPs and had it on standby for when I’d see her again. Oh well, grateful for the moments we had, and for the decades of enjoyment she provided her fans.Rest in Peace, Patty.