The most recent installment of the Chiller Theatre convention happened this past April of 2022, and I was lucky enough to attend the show for two days. I always enjoy attending Chiller, and of the three April Chillers I’ve attended so far, the 2022 show has been my best so far. All the stars I met were friendly, and as I’ve been very active as a participant and moderator on the Chiller Theatre Fans Facebook group, a lot of people recognized me. Join me now as I recap Chiller of April 2022.
The first star I met was Claudia Wells, the original Jennifer Parker in the first Back To The Future. Claudia was so incredibly friendly when I met her. Ms. Wells was actually one of the first people I made friends with on Facebook, and I had the chance to thank her for that friendship in person. I hope to be able to land an interview with her someday. I actually did reach out to her back in the late 00s, when I was writing for the website RetroJunk, but things didn’t pan out at that time. I think this might be the year, though.
Next up, I met another Facebook friend of mine, Apache Ramos. He was part of the Orphans gang in the 1979 cult classic The Warriors, and was going to attend Chiller in October of 2019 as part of a huge Warriors reunion that happened at that show. Sadly, health issues precluded an appearance at that time, but in April of 2022, we finally met. Apache is very cool and very friendly, the total opposite of his character in The Warriors. I plan on reaching out soon to him about an interview as well.
The previously mentioned Claudia Wells was at Chiller as part of a huge Back To The Future reunion, and although I didn’t meet all the BTTF alumni who were part of the reunion, I did meet two more cast members in April. One of them was Maia Brewton, who played Lorraine’s little sister in the first Back To The Future. However, I was more familiar with her role as Sara in Adventures In Babysitting. I’d gotten Keith Coogan’s autograph on a picture from that movie last October, so I added Maia’s autograph to the photo as well. Ms. Brewton was quiet, but friendly, and I hope she enjoyed attending Chiller.
Next in the grand parade of stars was Heather Thomas. We follow each other on Twitter, even though I haven’t been that active on the site in recent months as a way to keep my sanity in our current chaos. I did have the chance to tell Ms. Thomas that if there were more people like her on Twitter, I would be more active on there myself. She was one of the most popular guests at this Chiller, so we didn’t have much time to talk beyond that, but she did sign one of her famous 80s bikini pictures with the personalization I always choose for photos like that, “Johnny, let’s go for a swim. Heather Thomas”.
The third Back To The Future cast member I met at the April 2022 Chiller was Lea Thompson. This was again a case of a talent being very popular at Chiller, so I didn’t have much of a chance to talk to her. However, I did tell her she looks like she hasn’t aged since the 80s, and she said the same thing to me as well. Not bad, considering I was only seven when the decade ended. I not only got her to sign a headshot for me, but I got her signature on my fellow Pop Geeks writer Adam Pope’s Howard The Duck VHS cover as well, previously signed last year by Howard’s suit actor, Ed Gale.
Moving out of The Ballroom, the room where all the talents discussed so far were, I next met the first of several April Fool’s Day cast members who were at this show. Deborah Foreman was a Facebook friend of mine until she deactivated her profile. She remembered me from when her profile was active, and although she’ll never be back on there, and is also taking an extended break from interviews, she was very friendly to me. We got a few pictures together on both Friday and Saturday, and she looks as lovely now as she did in the 80s.
Speaking of Deborahs, the next talent I met was Deborah Goodrich, a current Facebook friend of mine and the second April Fool’s Day cast member at this show. She was very friendly to meet, and although we didn’t have much time to talk, I did tell her about how much I loved the movie April Fool’s Day. As we are Facebook friends, I do plan on reaching out to Deborah soon about an interview. There will be a lot to talk about with her as she’s not only an actress, but an author as well.
The third April Fool’s Day cast member I met at the April 2022 Chiller was Amy Steel. Many people know her as the final girl, Ginny, in Friday The 13th, Part 2, but it was April Fool’s Day that made an impression on me for her. She was the final girl, sort of, in April Fool’s Day as well, and she signed a picture from that movie for me. There was some brief awkwardness with the picture as my camera was having some issues, but I think it came out well, and I loved meeting Amy.
The third Deborah I met at this Chiller Theatre was my dear friend, and an interview subject of mine from 2020, Deborah Dutch, who was there with Balz Magazine, a magazine about rock music and pop culture. She appears on the cover of an upcoming issue she did a photo shoot for, and even though the owner of the magazine, also present at the table, was a bit of a tough cookie, Deborah was a total sweetheart.
Although all the stars I met at the April 2022 Chiller were friendly, Deborah went above and beyond because of the friendship we developed as a result of our interview. She was kind and gentle, and she’s still as much of a beauty now as she was in the 80s. I’ll be getting an autographed copy of her issue of the magazine soon, and I look forward to adding it to my autograph collection.
In my interview with Deborah Dutch, she mentioned her frequent collaborator Debbie D, and Ms. D was also present at the Balz Magazine table that Friday evening. Ms. Dutch spoke highly about me to Ms. D, so I knew I had to meet Ms. D as well. She didn’t have any pictures available for signing, but she had a few DVDs, so I purchased one of them. Ms. D is a tremendous beauty as well, and I’ll be reaching out to her about an interview soon.
The next star in the grand parade was Patty Mullen, the star of Frankenhooker who has been a longtime Facebook friend of mine. This was my fourth time seeing Patty at the Chiller Theatre convention, and the first time doing so at the April Chiller. She’s always a sweetheart, and she was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the Penthouse magazine I brought for her to sign. She came up with sexy personalizations for both the cover and the centerfold, and I loved what she came up with. We also hammed it up in our photo together, which is always fun to do.
In the same room as Patty were the next two guests I met. Zandor Vorkov, the stage name of Roger Engel, starred in the cult classic 70s horror film Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, playing the former. He was scheduled to appear at the October 2021 Chiller, but had to reschedule to this one. He was very friendly as I got his autograph for both myself and my Facebook friend Michael. He was a little concerned about the lighting in our photo, but I felt the lighting was reminiscent of Zandor’s death scene in the movie, so it worked out rather well.
Next to Zandor was Tim Blaney, the actor and puppeteer behind Johnny 5 in the Short Circuit movies. The April 2022 Chiller was his first American convention, and I had a lot of fun meeting him. He’s still able to do Johnny 5’s voice perfectly, and as my own name is Johnny, I had him sign a Short Circuit photo with, “All the best from one Johnny to another. Tim Blaney, Johnny 5”. Tim was fantastic to meet, and it was a great way to wrap up that Friday night at Chiller.
I retired to my hotel room and got up early for preshow the next day. The first talent I met that Saturday was Kelly Packard, one of three guests brought in by my friend Tom Unger of Big Event NY. The California Dreams star looks like she hasn’t aged since the 90s, and she was very friendly. I had her sign a sexy photo with the words, “Johnny, rock on! Kelly Packard”. I chose that because of her musical background with the show California Dreams. Granted, they didn’t really play rock music on that show, but I wanted to have some fun with the personalization.
Also at the Big Event NY tables was Lisa Whelchel, who memorably played Blair Warner on The Facts Of Life. If I ever have the chance to interview her, I need to ask her what the secret of her youthful appearance is. She complimented me on my Mickey Mouse hoodie, which I appreciated as she was a Mouseketeer on the 70s version of the Mickey Mouse Club, and when I told her of how my autism spectrum disorder informs my 80s fandom, Lisa mentioned that she has an autistic friend she talks to once a week. A few weeks after Chiller, I was turned down for an interview by Lisa’s press representatives, but they were polite about it, and they told me they’d reach out if she had something to promote.
After meeting Lisa Whelchel, who is a sweetheart, I met another talent who’s a sweetheart as well. Diane Salinger played Simone the waitress in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and she was wearing a similar outfit at Chiller. I told her about how Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was a favorite movie of mine growing up and remains so to this day. I also mentioned how sometimes I’ll listen to the movie’s audio on my evening walks. There was the briefest bit of awkwardness as I extended my hand for a handshake, but had to switch it to a fist bump instead. Almost two-and-a-half years into COVID, and I’m still trying to get used to the new normal. Diane was very friendly about it, though, and just as kind as the character of Simone was.
Another Facts Of Life cast member was at the April 2022 Chiller, and she would be Mindy Cohn, who played Natalie on the show. As with Lisa, I told her about how the early years of my 80s fandom coincided with the time that Facts Of Life reruns were airing on Nick At Nite, and how a lot of facts of my own life were learned from the pop culture of the 80s. She enjoyed hearing that, and we got a few pictures together, as well as her autograph on a Facts Of Life photo. I hope that Kim Fields will return to Chiller and Nancy McKeon might make her convention debut there someday.
After Mindy, I met Russ Tamblyn, the Oscar-nominated actor who was at Chiller as part of a West Side Story reunion. I told him that I knew he was there to represent West Side Story, but I liked his work in Dracula Vs. Frankenstein. He was polite in telling me he was there representing the whole of his career, but he didn’t hold my words against me. I got his autograph on a picture of him holding a knife, and I had him sign it, “Johnny, let’s dance. Russ Tamblyn”. I chose that personlization because the phrase “Let’s dance” can be said before both a dance sequence and a fight sequence, and the dance sequences in West Side Story represented fight scenes.
My memory weaves a little on the last few talents I met as I didn’t upload all the pictures chronologically, but if I recall correctly, the next talent I met was Michael Nouri, who played Nick in Flashdance. His line from that movie, “When you give up your dream, you die”, made a big impression on me when I first heard it. In my younger years, I dreamed of being in the entertainment industry, and when I dropped out of college, I thought that was the end of the road for those dreams. However, I have achieved a place in the entertainment industry with the interviews I do, so my dream didn’t die. It just took a different form to come true. Michael was touched when I told him that, and the picture we took came out very well.
After Michael Nouri, I met Scott Schwartz again, a former interview subject and current Facebook friend of mine who was a last-minute addition to the guest lineup. He had the facial hair he’ll be seen wearing in the upcoming sequel to A Christmas Story, and he had a cool photo for autographing of him in A Christmas Story photoshopped to be surrounded by Muppets. I was going to tell him my own story about meeting Jim Henson, but that was a mistake on my part as it was a busy weekend for Scott, both as a guest and as an assistant to the Chiller staff. He was friendly about it, though, so I got the autograph and a picture with him. If I ever have the chance to do a more in-depth one-on-one interview with him, I’ll try telling the Jim Henson story then.
I then got another picture each with Deborah Foreman and my dear friend Deborah Dutch, respectively, and after those pictures, I got a new photo with another Chiller Theatre regular. Geri Reischl is an actress and singer who is well-known for subsituting for Eve Plumb on the ill-fated Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Geri is a regular at Chiller. She’s always at every show, and she’s kind to meet every time. We just got a picture together this time out, but I always enjoy saying hello to her. Just like Scott Schwartz, it wouldn’t be Chiller if Geri Reischl weren’t there.
I then had the pleasure of meeting Melissa Gilbert of Little House On The Prairie fame. She first appeared at Chiller Theatre in October of 2019, but I didn’t meet her at the time. I wanted to change that on this trip, so I got an autograph and picture with her this time. I had her sign a Batman: The Animated Series photo as she voiced Batgirl on that series, and I told her how I liked her work on that show. She made a mistake in writing the year on the autograph, so she gave me another one with the proper year on it at no extra charge. Side note: Melissa Gilbert is the second former SAG president I’ve met at Chiller, the first being Gabrielle Carteris, whom I met at Chiller in October of 2017.
Signing alongside Melissa was her husband, Timothy Busfield of thirtysomething and Field Of Dreams fame. I didn’t meet him at his first Chiller appearance alongside Melissa in October of 2019, either, so I knew I had to meet him on this trip. I got his autograph on a Field Of Dreams photo as that movie made an impact on me since I, too, lost my father at a young age and would love to see him one more time. He mentioned that a lot of people were impacted by Field Of Dreams. Even though I’m not a sports person at all, I loved Field Of Dreams the first time I saw it, and I still do.
With that, I wandered around for a bit more until my friend Jamie picked me up to take me home, and with that, Chiller of April 2022 was in the books. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of great people, even making some new friends from fellow Chiller attendees I met on the preshow line. I’m already saving up for October, when I’ll be there for all three days, and I’ll definitely be recapping that as well. Until then, keep rocking on and flying high, everybody!