Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chiller Theatre and Susan Boyle

I'll tie the two together. Just give me a second.

My wife is obsessed with the Susan Boyle phenomenon. Sorry, I don't get it. But let's play along. Unknown underdog suddenly becomes overnight household name. Okay. Interesting in some way. I'm more impressed with the captain taken by the pirates, and the pilot who landed on the Hudson, but okay - although, please note, I've already forgotten their names, and they were just household names two days and a couple weeks ago, respectively.

Which brings me to Chiller Theatre. I wanted to go to see a more purely media con (as opposed to film or book con). There must've been a hundred "stars" - a term that now seems to mean anyone who was a tiny bit recognizable for anything at some point in the last 40 years, no matter what that thing was or how long it lasted or how long ago it was. There was no rhyme or reason to the guest list, beyond the half dozen people who'd been in Night of the Living Dead. (I can only suspect the common denominator for the guests was that they lived within easy driving distance of Parsippany, NJ.) The lads of Demolition were next to Larry Storch, who was next to the voice actor who does the voice of Charlie Brown. Michael Dorn was next to some gal who played a Viper pilot in a couple episodes of Battlestar Galactica, who was next to some gal who was Miss November in 1998. And although there were several thousand people gawking, except for the long lines to pay Peter ("I thought he was dead?") Criss and George Romero for their autographs, I didn't see much money changing hands, or much interest in any one specific "celebrity," as opposed to general tittering over being in the presence of so much "fame." Indeed, Walter Koenig and Edward James Olmos were all alone each time I looked over at them. And most sadly (to me), Tony Curtis was off in a corner, with a line of about six older women waiting to meet him, while I'm sure no one under the age of 40 knew who he was. Tony Curtis? WTF? Why does he need to sit at a folding table in a dingey Hilton (and sorry, all hotels in Northern New Jersey are dingey, even the luxury ones) and get 25 bucks for his autograph? (I actually didn't check his price, but that seemed to be the going rate.) Unlike the other people I've mentioned, the dude was an actual "star," albeit FIFTY YEARS AGO (!). Isn't it time to rest on one's laurels?

So, my thought? Although I've found my tiny bit of zombie fame intoxicating this past year, this was a sobering look at the future. But, I can honestly say that what I've found most fun is not the momentary adulation of fans - for it is momentary, and, in my case, confined to a couple dozen people - but making new friends and gaining the respect of peers - people like RJ and Julia and Doug and Kyle and Christine and Jonathan. And I hope last night and tonight, when Joe Pilato goes off to the bar with John Amplas, or the Iron Sheik joins Nikolai Volkoff for dinner at the steak house in the hotel lobby, I hope they have some of that camaraderie - that they sit and talk about the old days, when they were on top of their game and together they created something -- whatever it was - a movie, a TV series, a wrestling match -- that people enjoyed and that a few people still remember, all these years later. That would be, to me, a little less sad than when I saw them hawking their autographs during the day.

UPDATE on Tony Curtis: I have been told he donates the proceeds of his autographing to charity, so that explains a little better why he'd put up with going to such an affair. Good for him and I hope he had fun!!


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