I went out to L.A. for yet another installment of The Hollywood Show — and it turned out to be delightful.
It also helped that I have this down to surgery now, so I didn't have to spend too long to get the maximum amoung of fun out of it.
I spent the day with my buddy Michael and his temporary roommate Tim, the star of a wonderful short film I'd acently posted over at Boy Culture.
They helped me with all my photos and we bounced our impressions of the people we saw off of each other.
Here are my impressions of the stars who appeared:
Lyle Waggoner, 82
Lyle was making his first appearance at the show, and was positioned right at the door, making him a must-get right off the bat.
I'd brought him my Playgirl centerfold, but made him guess what I wanted him to sign. He took one look and said, "The centerfold." Bingo!
I thanked him for his progressive quotes back in the day regarding his posing for the magazine in its debut, June 1973 issue, in which he appears in a Speedo and also nude, but with his junk discreetly hidden by his leg. To give you an idea of what I mean, here is what Waggoner told The Chicago Tribune in 1974:
“I think there are subscribers from the gay community. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who cares?”
He didn't react to my praise, so I was a li'l squirmy.
I then asked him if The Carol Burnett Show's powers-that-be had given him any guff about posing nude, and he said that no, they were all very supportive. He wasn't that chatty, making me nervous that he was uncomfortable ... until we got ready for our photo op, when he quipped, "With my clothes on?"
Later on, I did a pro photo op with Lyle, who warmly welcomed me when it was my turn. He shook my hand and I held it for the pic, politician-style. "Hey, I like that!" he exclaimed. Alas, I was the last person, so he couldn't use the pose again.
Tom Berenger, 68
I was surprised to see Tom Berenger with light-colored hair. He seemed distantly amused by the proceedings, but was perfectly affable.
I told him I couldn't pick one thing I loved him in most, as he has a mysterious depth in everything, and always brings that quality to his parts. He loved that!
Connie Stevens, 79
I always liked Connie, but shied away from her at shows when I stupidly researched her politics and saw she'd donated to Allen West (!!!) in Florida.
We should be able to enjoy an artist and not be hung up on their politics, but is that even a thing anymore? It's just so beyond the pale to support someone that far right.
But this show, Connie seemed to be making her final appearance. She suffered a stroke and was moved about in a wheelchair. She told the person in front of us, with a tart wink, "I won't be coming back." It was now or never, so I went with now.
I mean ... Scorchy (1976)!
Aided by her daughter Joely Fisher, 50, Connie was gamely signing and chatting with admirers. I told her I'd enjoyed her Q&A with Robert Conrad, 82, a few years ago (I know, I know — I went for him but not her? These things are never fair.) and she responded that Conrad had recently disappeared. She said she wasn't sure where he was or what he was doing, and that he wasn't answering messages, which sounds ominous.
I showed her the trippy pic I'd brought for her to sign, an image from 1965's Two on a Guillotine, and she remarked, "I was definitely flying that day." She looked at it longer and said, "You know, I have no memory of how they did that." This didn't seem to be a sign of failing faculties so much as a long career.
A little video of Connie and others:
Looks great for her age and health, no?
Monte Markham, 82
One special thing about the show this time around was the number of high-profile Golden Girls guest stars, one of them being Monte Markham, who played the gay brother of Blanche (Rue McClanahan, 1934-2010) on two episodes.
Markham was as nice as could be. When I brought up Golden Girls, he beamed and said, "That was probably one of the best weeks of my career — both times, I did two."
He went on to say that he was very fond of Betty White, 96, with whom he'd worked for years, beginning many years earlier (he mentioned for Screen Gems, I think). He said all of the women were wonderful and that he was proud of the shows' forward-thinking plots. (In the second episode, his character is set to get "married" — 30 years before the Supreme Court made that a legal possibility in the U.S.)
I had him sign an Irene program and he warmly embraced me for our photos. Class act.
Russ Tamblyn, 83
I started in on the West Side Story (1961) boys with Russ Tamblyn, who, looks handsome and was slightly detached from the goings-on; not exactly aloof, but not sitting there soaking up all the fandom.
I shook his hand and told him he must be proud of Amber, 34. He said he was.
Then, I brought up the proposed West Side Story remake. He said he'd only just heard of it that day but he thought it was a good idea, said Steven Spielberg, 71, is a great talent and that he would be very interested to see what they came up with. This is not the usual response from stars of iconic films about to be remade.
We did our pic together and he politely refused to sit there and pose for me, but he did chuckle at the very early-years pic I brought for him to sign. I asked if he remembered posing for it and he kinda riffed (so to speak) on the cues in the pic to pretend he did.
Mason Reese, 52; Ron Jeremy, 64; Devon Graye, 30; Jon Provost, 67; Corbin Bernsen, 63
No, they didn't arrive together, but I'm lumping Mason Reese, Corbin Bernsen, Devon Graye, Jon Provost and Ron Jeremy together because I only took pics of them — and Mason and Ron were just there in the crowd.
Mason couldn't have been nicer. The '70s child star happily posed. Ron was a pro, too, taking time out to pose for me (and a good many others, including one young blonde babe who I think might've gotten the fuzzy end of his lollipop had she asked for that instead).
Devon, known for Dexter (2006-2007), sweetly allowed me a pic.
I took a snap of Jon Provost of Lassie (1957-1964) fame with my pal Michael, who politely asked if it was okay to place his hand on him. Yes!
Corbin was leery about posing, but loosened up when I joked that I planned to sell his image to posters in Malaysia.
George Chakiris, 83
George Chakiris, the Oscar winner for West Side Story, looked dapper and was flattered when I said I followed him on Instagram.
"I'm not good at it!" he protested, but he is good at making jewelry, his main pursuit for years.
He's gay but not on-the-record out, but probably appreciated my fixation on his involvement in the camp classic The Big Cube (1969), a Lana Turner (1921-1995) thriller that hinges on the use of LSD. You must see it.
Chakiris raved about Turner, insisting she was great and professional and very engaged in the project. He seemed to enjoy the rare stills I brought, which he signed stylishly. He is a bit hard of hearing, the only sign that he's north of 80. Whatever he's doing or whatever he did looks good now, and he was hearty as well as handsome.
By the way, he, too, was very open to a new West Side Story, though he cautioned against having people in the movie speaking Spanish, saying that when Arthur Laurents (1917-2011) tried that on Broadway (2009), it didn't work. I actually really liked that revival, but what do I know? I have no Oscars.
Bruce Davison, 71
This Oscar nominee — for Longtime Companion (1990) — was very outgoing, and entertained me as I told him I'd ordered some outrageous pics for him to sign ... but couldn't find them! He was trying to guess the project, but I couldn't remember. They never did arrive, but these were they:
He would've flipped! (That's my goal, is to bring an item to sign that will make the star have a genuine reaction, hopefully positive.)
Anyway, he was a really warm person and was seated next to the star of Ben (1972) — see below! — since he was the original rat-movie hero from Willard (1971).
Lovely man, very gracious.
Lee Montgomery, 56
Lee Montgomery was one of those '80s boys (who had been an actual boy in the '70s) who was just my type — impossibly pretty jockboy-next-door.
You may recall him as a kid in Ben (1972) and Burnt Offerings (1976), but he was hot AF in Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985).
After being off the map for decades, he has in recent years been doing shows, and has emerged as a boy who has morphed into a hairy daddy!
Lee was charming as hell, opening up about working with Bette Davis (1908-1989), Karen Black (1939-2013) and Oliver Reed (1938-1999), saying Bette would invite him to her room and regale him with Old Hollywood taales. He said Reed was a total prankster who once gave Bette a new lipstick to try. When she twisted it, a penis shape popped out. Montgomery recalled everyone holding their breath, fearing Davis would explode, but instead she exploded in laughter.
He expressed great sadness at Black's death in 2013, shortly after they had been set to appear together at a Hollywood Show. "I thought it was gonna be a nice reunion," he told me.
Of Ben, he told me that horrifying scene with all the rats in the tunnel was set up with the rodents behind a wooden plank. Then, just before action, the plank was removed and Montgomery was faced with the nightmarish scene — so he wasn't having to act too terribly hard.
Lee said he had always been the cute boy, and when he aged out of the youth roles, he went behind the scenes (I interpreted this to mean behind the camera in some way, but he may have meant out of the biz). "The plan was always to come back," he told me."Then I didn't. But now I could, since I'm a totally different type."
I'm sold! Hire him!
When he signed a photo showing him shirtless, he said, "Oh, I suddenly need to go work out!" He also signed it, "All the beef ... best, Lee Montgomery."
Lesley-Anne Down, 63
I know her from The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and from always thinking of her (and vice versa) when hearing the name Lesley Ann Warren, 71, but Lesley-Anne Down was at the show mainly due to her starring, Golden Globe-nominated role in North and South (1985-1986); the reunion for that one encompassed many of the people at the show.
When I approached, her helper was forcing an oversized topless pic at me (great shot, but oversized = hell to store), and Ms. Down was feverishly trying to shut her up out of embarrassment.
"I'm gay," I said. "Oh, then you're all right," she replied, relaxing. (It really was odd on the part of the helper.)
She did a great pic for me and a great one with me, and was extremely sweet to all her fans. My young companion Tim was highly into her — in praise of older women.
James Read,64, and Wendy Kilbourne, 54
Not being a huge North and South buff, I didn't spend a lot of time on the cast, but I did grab this nice pic of James Read and Wendy Kilbourne, who married thanks to the project and seem to be madly in love still.
Rhonda Shear, 63
Buxom comic and hostess Rhonda Shear looked like a million bucks (Anson Williams, keep reading) welcomed her by saying, "Rhonda, get your ASS over here!") so I couldn't resist a pic.
She was trying to remember a woman's name, so I volunteered to go over and strike up a conversation to find out. It worked, and Rhonda was tickled pink.
Lauri Hendler, 52, and Kari Michaelsen, 56
I had a blast chatting with Lauri Hendler and Kari Michaelsen of Gimme a Break. I think they both look sensational (Lauri is cuter in her fifties than she was as a teen — that's a gift!) and they were very engaged.
I brought up the list of gay TV moments I recently posted and talked with Lauri about the famous gay ep of Gimme a Break. I told her it didn't top the child-porn ep of Diff'rent Strokes, to which she replied, "Baby steps," which we both then realized could be a terrible pun.
They told me their TV sis Lara Jill Miller, 50, wasn't there due to being on "vocal rest," but also said it was going to take some persuading to get her to show up. Still, they were confident it would happen someday.
Kari reminsiced about her old co-star Nell Carter (1948-2003) when talking about how all the adults from the show are now gone. She said Nell had found love and family happiness when she died, saying that her up-and-down weight played a role.
They gave me a terrific pic-with and just overall seemed like fun women to get to know.
Morgan Fairchild, 68
I already met Morgan Fairchild before, but I couldn't resist a repeat, approaching to tell her how much I appreciate her progressive Twitter.
"The people who just left said it's too political," she noted wryly.
"No such thing," I suggested."
"Not anymore anyway," she agreed. "Trump changed that."
It's always nice to find a star at one of these things who is a liberal, because while Hollywood is disproportionately left-wing, I would say the nostalgia circuit is the opposite. Maybe it's a strange longing for the way things were ("make America great again") that attracts the right-wingers?
Anyway, Morgan was polite and reacted favorably when I mentioned The Seduction (1982).
Lynda Day George, 73
It's silly, but I've always been obsessed with Lynda Day George! Instead of telling you, I'll just just reveal what I told her when I approached her and clasped her hand:
"When I was a kid in the '70s, I have to say that my concept of the female beauty ideal was two women — Farrah Fawcett [1947-2009] and you. I just was transfixed by everything you were in and have just enjoyed your work so much."
She was completely humbled by my comments and struck me as someone who truly doesn't get why anyone would care about or remember her!
She had just patiently signed a fan's stack of movie posters, one of which was from Day of the Animals (1977), a movie I will never, ever forget. In fact, I was standing before her with a set of stills from the flick, which she found fun to glance at. [I didn't shove the one of her late husband Christopher George (1931-1983) in her face.]
One of them that caught her eye was a two-shot of herself with Ruth Roman (1922-1999). "Oh, there's Ruth!" she exclaimed. "She was a wild woman." I asked her to sign that one since Ruth no longer could. "No, you're right — she can't sign it," she said mournfully.
I asked Ms. George what she recalled of making the crazy movie — about animals going haywire and attacking people, a common theme in the '70s, along with the theme of machines doing the same — and she said it was a "crazy adventure" and very physically demanding.
When it was time for our photo, she surprised me by doing one of her about to kiss my cheek. xoxo to you, too, Lynda Day George.
John Schuck, 78
Maybe my favorite encounter was with John Schuck, who you will recall from McMillan & Wife (1971-1977)!
He had a "VOTE FOR GIL KESSLER" flyer on his table in reference to his classic 1987 Golden Girls episode in which he played a trans man, so I led with that. He said the women were all wonderful to work with and "weren't fighting that week," which I found interesting because that episode represented one of their characters' tensest stretches because Blanche is disbelieved and her character maligned throughout.
Then, I surprised him with a huge lobby card from Hammersmith Is Out (1972), showing himself in bed with Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011). The surprising part? He's in a shortie robe that nearly reveals his butt!
"Oh, my!" he laughed heartily. "You can see my Khyber Pass."
He joked about having to sign his ass but noted he was wearing underwear at least. He said it was filmed in Mexico and that Richard Burton (1925-1984) would watch his scenes with Taylor with great interest.
He was later strolling around and kept saying hello. A real prince.
George Wendt, 69
Don't have much to say about George Wendt, other than: He was there, and was nice enough. No real exchange occurred, as much my fault as his.
I mean, he's from one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, but what's there to say or ask?
Daniel Truhitte, 74
You'll recall Daniel Truhitte from The Sound of Music (1965), that backstabbing Rolfe. He weas in very good spirits (and goodnaturedly dressed the part), all smiles and eager to reminisce.
He told me they all knew their movie would be fantastic since Julie Andrews (b. 1935) was in it, but that they had no idea that it would "go on and on and on."
He reacted to the pic of himself in a wardrobe fitting ("I only wound up wearing the shirt — the brown shirt.") saying aloud, "Was I ever this young? Where is that body?"
Barbara Bain, 86
If you gotta be 86, you wanna look like Barbara Bain! What a dazzler! I didn't do a pic-with or get a signed item since I'd done that before, but I helped Ms. Bain translate a few words for a French fan who flew overseas just to meet her (his first time on a plane!).
Ed Begley Jr., 68
Ed Begley was wonderful! We walked up and complimented him on his politics and his activism and he handed myself and Tim his book, free.
I also snapped a pic of Ed with BarBara Luna, 78, a star in her own right who was moonlighting as a worker at the show.
Begley thanked us for our compliments and was later seen, during his downtime, doing a crossword puzzle at his table.
Don Most, 64, and Anson Williams, 68
My final burst at the show was when Don Most (Ralph Malph) and Anson Williams (Potsi) of Happy Days (1974-1984) fame showed up. They were big attractions, but didn't arrive until mid-day on Saturday because they'd been at the memorial service for Ron Howard's (63) dad Rance Howard (1928-2017).
I was able to get a pic of them together when I mentioned I shoot for Splash News. They looked at each other and shrugged and did it, no problemo.
Once I made it through the line, I told Don he was the original ginger hottie, so I wanted him to sign a shirtless swimsuit pic. He laughed heartily and thanked me, and could not have been more gracious about hurrying everything up so people could get to them without standing around forever.
I was more prepped for Anson, having brought a fab wire pic. When I showed it to him, he lost it. "I've never seen this!" he exclaimed, recalling the apartment where it was taken, and surmising it had to be for some teen magazine. "Young guy, nothing on the walls!" he laughed.
He was so taken with it, he left his spot and went over to Don to share it. They laughed and talked about it for a minute. Their affection for each other was absolutely endearing and genuine.
Anson thanked me profusely for showing him the pic (I'm sending him a scan) and both thanked me for coming.
And I thank YOU for reading — and sharing!