Saturday, April 27, was the second day — and first full day — of the spring 2019 installment of Chiller Theatre.
While I have a long history of spending way too much money at autograph shows, I have been easing off in recent years — but this one went nuclear on me by hosting Cheryl Ladd, 67.
I've met only Tanya Roberts, 63, of the Charlie's Angels cast, and Cheryl — Kris Munroe — has always been one of my favorites. (Though, how can one choose?)
I couldn't let the opportunity slide, and once I committed to going, I found nearly 20 celebs I was interested in "meeting" or at least greeting. Here is my run-down:
It was a rough day in that my dog has a neck issue and I had to leave him alone for quite a long time while I journeyed to the Hilton Parsippany; his welfare was distracting me from fully enjoying the show, but it wound up being the best-organized one I've attended, with the biggest stars spread out so no particular area ever got too crowded.
I went with my friends Mike and Dom, doing photo chores for them and vice versa, with Mike dutifully taking pics on his tippy-toes, the best angle for, well, everybody old enough to care about the show's guest list.
Joan Van Ark, 75
Right in the lobby, the Joan Van Ark was holding court. The Knots Landing (1979-1993) leading lady was extremely nice, reacting positively when I presented her with a still from the schlocky horror flick Frogs (1972) and immediately recognizing the source.
She laughed when I said I thought it was Chiller-friendly.
When it came time to pose, Joan nuzzled her fans affectionately. She was not overly chatty, but was perfectly gracious.
Parker Stevenson, 66
Next up, my pals were keen to meet Parker Stevenson of The Hardy Boys (1977-1979) fame. I'd met him several times, so didn't get a picture or autograph, but he was unbelievably down-to-earth and sweet as always, exactly what fans hope for in these encounters.
Parker — who can absolutely still get it — told us he's such great friends with neighboring Pamela Sue Martin (who was Nancy Drew to his Frank Hardy) that he'd recently spent 10 days at her home in Mexico. We asked how much that was compared to a photo op or autograph, and he winkingly encouraged us to ask her.
Pamela Sue Martin, 66
I, of course, did ask her, and the Nancy Drew (1977-1979) star laughed, but also quickly promoted her sister's bed-and-breakfast down the street from her.
Pamela Sue Martin, in spite of her Dynasty (1981-1989) character's vibe, was as nice as Parker Stevenson, and I think she looks incredible, healthier and more vibrant even than she looked as a teen star.
Donny Most, 65; Cathy Silvers, 57; Anson Williams, 69
Three of the Happy Days (1974-1984) cast, Donny Most (Ralph Malph), Cathy Silvers (Jenny Piccolo) and Anson Williams (Potsie Weber) were seated together, and what a hoot they were.
I actually had a blast with Donny and Anson at The Hollywood Show in February of 2018 — read all about that here. This time, it was Mike and Dom who had the blast, with Anson cracking up Cathy (the daughter of TV legend Phil Silvers, 1911-1985) and ruining take after take of their photo op.
"He used to do the same thing to me on the show! We never got through a take!" she said through tears of Williams's wily whispers.
I told Cathy she looks incredible, literally the same (better, really), and she said, "Thank you! Read my book. I learned a lot."
Piper Laurie, 87
Though better-remembered for her work in the '70s (1976's Carrie, for sure) and beyond, Piper Laurie got her start in film 69 years ago, placing her firmly in the Old Hollywood era. She was very kind to Mike and Dom (I'd met her previously), and was tickled to be complimented on her hat.
I wonder if anyone's ever thrown a tampon at her on the street? An old lady came up to have a look at Piper and said to someone in front of me, "They look so different, don't they? Sad to say." (Say out loud, you mean, five feet away from the person in question!)
Cindy Pickett, 72; Lyman Ward, 77
The mom and dad from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) — Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward — gladly posed and were game for most anything. There is a movie whose whole cast I'd give anything to meet. I recently received autographs in the mail from Matthew Broderick, 57; Mia Sara, 51; and Jeffrey Jones, 72.
François Clemmons, 74
The lovely, intelligent, vibrant out actor François Clemmons, a social consciousness-raising activist who played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for 30 years, was holding court, speaking about who are the real Christians today (hint: not Evangelicals!).
He was warm with Mike and Dom and just a joy to be around.
John Davidson, 77
I thought I was going to draw John Davidson out in a big way with the photo I brought to be signed, a wild image of him from his 1974 turn as a drag queen who dressed as his favorite female performer only to become her, and a psychotic killer, from The Streets of San Francisco.
As it turns out, he couldn't have cared less, and barely reacted to the shot, though he liked it when I said the episode would not be done in the same way now, but it was quite progressive to see a drag queen, period, at that time — and that his acting was fantastic.
The voluminously silver-maned entertainer asked us to give him our emails so he could send us alerts about his concerts.
Larry Hankin, 78
Larry Hankin has been on tons of TV shows and in films, but I wanted a picture of him mainly because he was the psycho version of Kramer on Seinfeld's "The Pilot" (1993) episode. He's got levels, baby.
Peter Scolari, 63
One of the people I was happiest to meet was Peter Scolari. As I told him, I was utterly obsessed with Bosom Buddies (1980-1982), and still think it had one of TV's most talented casts — ever.
Of course, he's also known for Newhart (1984-1990) and Girls (2012-2017), and I saw him on Broadway in Lucky Guy (2013), but I was extremely interested in the show about cute, often shirtless young guys dressed up as women.
Peter strikes me as shy, but appreciated my compliments and claimed his inscription was novel-length. It's not, but it's kind that he did more than sign his name.
John O'Hurley, 64
Looking very much like J. Peterman looked 25 years ago on Seinfeld, John O'Hurley was dashing and friendly and joking around with us, and he was delighted that Dom was so enthusiastic about his stint on To Tell the Truth (2000-2002).
Apparently, O'Hurley had a masseuse and daycare and every perk in the world on that show and still misses it. I do, too, now — and I wasn't even on it.
Billy Zane, 53
Billy Zane, of Titanic (1997), was businesslike and didn't want to do a posed photo, which is why cropping was invented.
Donna Pescow, 65
Like Bosom Buddies, Angie (1979-1980) was another of those more grown-up sitcoms I gravitated to aspirationally, and I adored the whole cast, especially Debralee Scott (1953-2005) and, of course, Angie herself: Donna Pescow.
She was also amazing in Saturday Night Fever (1977); there was a mini cast reunion of that film, but she was the only actor who interested me.
Donna was a huge bonus among stars at the show. She was lovely, immediately remembering a photo I'd sent her on Facebook that she'd never seen before.
Karen Allen, 67
Seated just down the way from Donna was Karen Allen, star of two movies I love — the recently problematic Animal House (1978) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Considering she was a bona fide movie star in two blockbusters, she was one of the most game when it came to being at an autograph show, jumping up for photos and quick to point out that the photo I had signed — showing her with some of the Raiders creatives — is one of her favorite career pics.
James Daughton, 68
Speaking of Animal House, Gregg Marmalard himsel — James Daughton — was next door to Karen Allen.
Unlike his character in the movie, he was anything but stuck-up, and liked the sexy photo I had him sign, an up-the-shorts shot from 1978's Malibu Beach. You hadda be there, millennials, but this kinda stuff turned us on.
Dorothy Lyman, 72
Dorothy Lyman was a delight! She was pleased I brought her a Playbill from A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking (1980), saying of co-star Dixie Carter (1939-2010), "This dear lady has left us." (Though when I mentioned how sad it was that her Mama's Family co-star Ken Berry just died, she pointed out, "Well, he was 83," before saying he had just joined social media before he died and was having a ball.)
She told her companion the play had been the start of her directorial career and was generally very happy to talk about her work. (Don't forget her as Opal on All My Children (1981-1983).
Samantha Fox, 53
My buddies needed to meet-and-greet S-s-s-s-samantha Fox, so we had to wait in line just to get into her room, which also held other music luminaries.
I'd already had my experience with Sam years ago at Chiller (see video below), but I would say she is the best at these things, extremely on and pro and chatty.
She was off to lunch and told us we were her last victims before recharging.
Annabella Lwin, 52
I was shocked to realize Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow is only 52, considering the band's debut album came out in 1980. Who knew she was just 14 when she posed topless for that cover?
Annabella was great fun, and told me at her last Chiller in 2006, Ken Kercheval (1935-2019) made a sort of a grab for her, though she seemed more tickled than ticked off, and said it was a said coincidence that as she prepared to come for this installment, Kercheval passed away.
She also said she hopes fans will follow her for her new music, saying she has tons of never-heard tunes in the pipeline.
Felipe Rose, 65; Randy Jones, 66
Rounding out the music-nostalgia room were two original Village People (and be honest — the best), Felipe Rose and Randy Jones. They were in hot demand, and Randy told me he had of course been presented with his Playgirl pics to sign; naked photos are always big hits at these things.
Chris Kirkpatrick, 47
I glimpsed Chris Kirkpatrick of *NSYNC — who British teen mags called Pineapple for his piled braids — but we did not interact. As a former teen mag editor in the '90s and '00s, this is not my era!
Tony Danza, 68
I only wanted pro photos with two stars — and the first was Tony Danza.
Before I headed up to the pro area, I had a slew of photos of him of my own for him to consider signing. I brought more than one because I have heard he is embarrassed of anything too beefcakey, and I had a lot of beefcake!
When I told him I was about to challenge him with what I brought to sign, he said, "Nah, I'll sign anything." I whipped out that famous pic of him squatting in boxing shorts, though, and he said, "Jeez, this one. What was I thinking when I did that?" I said, "I'm just glad you weren't."
He then muttered, "You've got me having second thoughts ..." but he did sign the photo, taken by my pal Bob Deutsch (who once tried to get Tony to sign the pic, telling him he was the shooter, and Tony declined!). I could really only afford one pic, but he loved another of Bob's shots, and recalled it was taken at a real gym on 30th and 8th. When I showed him one in white sweats with his tongue out, he said, "You're killing me."
Funnier still, when I showed up for the pro photo op, along with 100 others, as I approached he said, "Matt's back." Yeah, so I made an impression.
Cheryl Ladd, 67
Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor aka Cheryl Ladd aka Kris Munroe was the highlight of the show, both as a big get and for her demeanor!
First, in line, we met a woman who is a lifelong Charlie's Angels fan — and is not crazy! She and her brother had been lured out to the show only for Cheryl, and so were taking everything in and soaking up our tips and observations.
They were so amazingly nice and easy to talk to I made sure to get some video of Rosanne's encounter with Cheryl, which wasn't easy! There was a Snuffy Smith-like Chiller security guy who for whatever reason was heavily policing my shots of the entire scene, even when I wasn't doing any. Then, as Rosanne went up to talk to Cheryl, he was waving me off and demanding I not video other people. I told him, "I'm with her! She wants the video!" and he skulked away, but not before ruining some takes.
The thing is, Rosanne told Cheryl she was sorry about the recent loss of her mom, and went on to rave about the feminist angle of Charlie's Angels — which made Cheryl cry.
Tough act to follow!
I had brought my original, grade-school Charlie's Angels notebook cover for her to sign, and also a Charlie's Angels trading card with a story. See my older cousin, Cathy, had always been the bad-ass chick of my famous, and she really did get me into celebrity worship. We used to read teen mags and create our own trivia quizzes ("What religion are the Osmonds?") and we were avid Angels buffs.
Speaking of buffs, there was a racy trading card of Cheryl Ladd topless, with only a palm front to hide her (nothin'-to-be-a)shame(d-of-there), and while my cousin got the card, I never found it. Well, one Easter, she surprised me by giving me the card! "Happy Easter, Matt" she wrote on it (yeah, she wrote on it, but let's face it — it's not an Antiques Roadshow-level mistake). It was a lesson in generosity I never forgot, and Cheryl loved hearing about it, happily signing the back of the card for me. (The backs of the cards were puzzle pieces, so this one was a nice, empty, blue space.)
Cheryl said it was her first show, but that she loved meeting everyone and hearing their stories, and hinted she'd be back. We also heard from one of her people that she had been the one who came up with the idea of doing the show, while some of the stars are arm-twisted by managers and agents.
Cheryl also posed for me after our shot together — take THAT, Snuffy!
Morgan Fairchild, 69
We talked with Morgan Fairchild, who hasn't changed much since the '80s, except for the fact that she's now a liberal Twitter destination! She said she's followed terrorist groups since the '70s and has friends in counterterrorism, and so likes to pass along news to keep people informed. It's great to find a liberal celeb at these events — not that they're all Republicans, but there seems to be a greater number of Republican celebs who are okay with doing autograph shows, for some reason, leaving a guy like me to decide, "Is this a Chick-fil-A situation, or not?" Usually, it's not, though I would obviously never patronize someone odious.
Larry Storch, 96
I believe the show's oldest guest was Larry Storch, the 96-year-old star of F Troop (1965-1967). I'd met him before, but such a sweet man. He looks pretty sturdy for his age, though his voice is quite diminished. He was still displaying his sense of comic timing, making hilarious faces in a photo op with a buxom, younger (who isn't?!) female fan.
Jennifer O'Neill, 71
The last star I met up with was Jennifer O'Neill, the cover girl who became the star of Cover Up (1984-1985) with my all-time crush, Jon-Erik Hexum (1957-1984).
The Summer of '42 (1971) star still cuts a glamorous figure — we were searching for her table and I recognized her, even with white hair, making her way through the crowd.
When I presented her with a terrific still, she said, "You're the first Cover Up person!" I was shocked to hear that; how straight was this place? She also immediately said, "That was such a waste," gazing upon Hexum in the photo. She said his replacement, Antony Hamilton (1952-1995), was "a nice guy" but conceded that the show really died with Jon-Erik.
So our last star encounter was bittersweet, but she was very, very kind.
The show was over for me ... except for one order of business — I needed to get my Cheryl Ladd pro photo. She had a couple of hundred people in line, but she coached every one of us who wanted to on how to do the Angels pose, saying, "Hard angle with gun up, put your cut booty out ..." and the results were a riot.
Check out the next Chiller Theatre!