Chiller Theatre April 2023: Johnny Caps Recaps
I once again paid a visit to the Chiller Theatre convention last month, and the April 2023 installment was the best April Chiller I’ve attended so far. I know I said that about the April 2022 Chiller, but I’ve come to find that every Chiller Theatre is better than the last one, and the last one is always fantastic to begin with. Join me as I recap the stars I met at the April 2023 Chiller.
I started the show on Friday night by meeting Julie McCullough again. We’d previously met at the October 2021 Chiller Theatre, and before that, several times during the period when the defunct-at-the-moment Hoboken International Film Festival was in my hometown of Greenwood Lake, NY. As she was Playboy’s Miss February 1986, I paid to get her centerfold signed, and we got a few pictures together. I also inquired about her accepting my Facebook friend request, and I paid a little extra for that. How did that turn out? Wait until I recap Saturday.
The next star in Chiller’s grand parade was another star I’d met at Chiller before, legendary scream queen Michelle Bauer. I’d previously met her in October of 2018, but although she looked splendid as always, the lighting in the room was lousy that year. I paid for a new picture with her, and the photos came out a lot better. I plan on finding Ms. Bauer’s contact information for some point in the future as I would love to interview her.
I then met Lynn Lowry, another legendary horror film actress. When I met her, I told her about how I’d recently rewatched her movie The Crazies, and I mentioned how thankful I was that COVID, as bad as it got, never resulted in something like Trixie did in The Crazies. I got Lynn’s autograph on a sexy photo of her in lingerie in Cat People, and we struck several poses, including the one you see with her pretending to choke me. I love hamming it up like that.
Next up was Michael Oliver, the actor who played the titular Problem Child in the first two movies in that series. I talked to him about working with the late, great Gilbert Gottfried, and Michael spoke very highly of him, saying how he was very soft-spoken when out of character. I then told Michael one of my favorite dirty jokes from Gilbert Gottfried, and he and his handlers laughed at the joke. I got a current headshot signed for myself, and a Problem Child VHS cover signed for my friend, and fellow Pop Geeks writer, Adam Pope.
Michael Oliver was adjacent to the next talent I met, a woman who happens to be a longtime Facebook friend of mine. Legendary scream queen Brinke Stevens was very friendly and kind to talk to. When I met her, I told her my name, and she asked me if that was my real name. I explained that it was my pen name, and the name I use on my social media, and she found that interesting. I’ve tried setting up an interview with Brinke in the past, but I haven’t been able to get it off the ground yet. I’ll try again later this year.
I then went off to a different room to get Bob Bergen’s autograph. Bob Bergen is the current voice of Porky Pig, and I told him of how it took me literal decades to stop being afraid of the Mel Blanc-voiced Porky popping out of the drum at the end of the old Looney Tunes cartoons. He found that amusing. I got a picture with him also, and I’m hoping to do an interview with him someday. However, that interview would have to be done on one of my rare weekend days off, which I’ll hopefully be able to put in for at some point in the future.
After Bob, the next star I met was Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips, who was only there for Friday and Saturday of the show. I told her of how I had a bad time in the 90s, but I do like the music of Wilson Phillips. I even told her that if most 90s music sounded more like Hold On and less like Smells Like Teen Spirit, I might’ve had a better time in the decade, and she liked hearing that.
Also, Carnie is delightfully saucy if you bring her Playboy to get signed. She looked at the nude layout and asked, “Should I sign it on the tit or on the pussy?”. The room cracked up at that, and then I cracked the room up further by saying, “Well, using your language, I’ll go for the tit”. Apparently her handlers, my friends Patty and Frank, were laughing about it all weekend long, as were the other talents in the room.
The next star I met, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, was very friendly to talk to. Our photos were taken with a bit of space between us as she understandably still has some fear of COVID. The pictures came out well, though. As to the autograph, I had her sign a photo with the personalization, “Johnny, we both have lovely eyes. DWN”. I chose that because she does have lovely eyes, and people say my eyes are my best feature.
With that, I retreated to my room to get some sleep. I would be up early the next day to meet more stars. I started the day by meeting Julie McCullough and getting some more pictures with her. I reminded her about my friend request, so she accepted it, and I’m glad she did. We took some photos together, and I think we both look happy in the photos. If you ever have the chance to meet Julie McCullough when she makes an appearance near you, don’t hesitate to do so. She’s fantastic to meet.
One of the highlights of the April 2023 Chiller was a reunion of members of The Blues Brothers Band, both on TV and in film. The first band member I met was Murphy Dunne. As I would say to all four of the Blues Brothers alumni I met that weekend, The Blues Brothers was one of the first R-rated movies, if not THE first, that I saw, and they liked hearing that.
In particular for Mr. Dunne, I told him I loved his delivery in The Blues Brothers of the response to the question, “Do you know Minnie The Moocher?”. His response? “I knew a hooker once named Minnie Mazola”. He told me that he flubbed multiple takes of that scene by saying the name Minnie Minoso, a famous baseball player, instead. That was a funny story to hear.
Next to Murphy Dunne was Tom Scott, an essential part of the live Blues Brothers line-up. I told him of how I purchased a CD of Briefcase Full Of Blues at a local flea market and then recorded it to a tape, a tape that would later be the first thing I listened to in 1996 when I got out of the mental hospital where I was diagnosed with my autism spectrum disorder. I told Mr. Scott that, to me, The Blues Brothers was the sound of freedom, and he was touched by that. It’s more proof of how retro pop culture got me through some dark times.
The third Blues Brothers Band member I met was Tom “Bones” Malone, whom I also told about The Blues Brothers being one of the very first R-rated movies I ever saw. He told me a story of doing the TV edit for The Blues Brothers after John Belushi had passed away. John’s brother Jim was working with “Bones” at Saturday Night Live, and with Malone’s equipment, they helped change the dialogue for the TV version. I thought that was fascinating.
The fourth and final member of the Blues Brothers Band at this Chiller was “Blue” Lou Marini. I complimented him on his work in The Blues Brothers, telling him that his work on the Blues Brothers’ version of Aretha Franklin’s Think smoked the original. He agreed with that, and that’s nice to hear. I also complimented him on his work with Stevie Wonder on Wonder’s Sesame Street appearance in the 70s, and Marini told me he’s worked for Sesame Street for decades. If you ever heard the character of Hoots The Owl playing the saxophone, that was actually “Blue” Lou doing the playing. Very cool, huh?
From there, i proceeded to the Ballroom to meet some more talents, starting with Lisa Fuller. I told her, as I’ve told many talents at Chiller Theatre over the years, of how her 80s work in movies like Teen Witch and Earth Girls Are Easy got me through some very dark times. There was a lightness and a hopefulness to those movies that spoke to what I sought for my own life, and although I wouldn’t get that in my own life until I turned 30, it was worth the wait. I also gave Ms. Fuller and her handler my contact information as I hope to interview her someday.
After Ms. Fuller, I met Barbara Hershey. I told her of how I could relate to the message of the movie Beaches, as well as how it took a long time for me to find a friendship like the one in that movie, which I eventually did many times over. Although Beaches was what I complimented Ms. Hershey on, the picture I got signed had her showing some leg. I chose that because, as I said to her, “If I may be so bold, you have some great legs”. She laughed at that, although I don’t know what kind of laughter it was. I hope it wasn’t the kind that would dissuade her from a potential interview in the future.
Barbara Hershey was a return guest to Chiller in April of 2023, and so was the next star I met, Bebe Buell. This was my second time meeting The Mother Of Rock N’ Roll at Chiller Theatre, the first time being in October of 2018. Ms. Buell was selling her book Rebel Soul, a follow-up to her early-00s book Rebel Heart, and I told her I’ve purchased both books for research purposes. When I say that, I mean that I hope to interview Ms. Buell someday, and I don’t want to ask anything that could be answered by her books. It’s all part of the research I get complimented on by so many of the talents I interview.
I then met the first of two Pee-wee’s Big Adventure cast members at this Chiller when I got an autograph of, and a picture with, Mark Holton. Mr. Holton played Frances Buxton in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, but he’s the total opposite of the character in real life. He’s soft-spoken and friendly, but when we took our pictures together with a replica of Pee-wee’s bike, we both hammed it up. I like doing that in photos with stars. It’s all in the spirit of fun that makes Chiller what it is.
There was a Wonder Years reunion at the April 2023 Chiller, and I met two of the stars of the show, although I acknowledged different aspects of their work. The first cast member I met was Olivia d’Abo. The line was long for her, but that’s because she took her time with every fan, listening to their stories.
When it was my turn, I told Olivia of how, although the 90s was a bad decade for me, there were things I liked about it, and one of those things was the Wayne’s World movies, the second of which saw Ms. d’Abo play Garth’s (Dana Carvey) lookalike girlfriend Betty Jo. When we took the pictures, I thanked her for helping make my 90s a little more bearable with her work in that movie.
I milled around the floor for a bit more, and then I ordered dinner to take to my room. Day two of the April 2023 Chiller Theatre convention was in the books, and I would be up early again for Day 3, the last day of the show.
I started off by getting a new picture with Chiller Theatre regular Scott Schwartz. I mentioned in Facebook’s Official Chiller Theatre Fans Group that it wouldn’t be Chiller without him, and I told Scott that again in person. We also talked a little about upcoming private signings our mutual friend Patrick is arranging with several adult film stars, and Scott mentioned how he helped connect Patrick to several previous talents who did signings. Very cool stuff.
After Mr. Schwartz, I met Jason Hervey. Although he was there as part of the Wonder Years reunion, he was the second cast member from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure that I met at this Chiller. He played Kevin Morton, the snotty child actor who ended up with Pee-wee’s bike before Pee-wee stole it back. We talked about him recreating that scene on thee 1985 installment of VH1’s first I Love The 80s, and we also discussed how little love there was for the 80s on that show. I told Jason I genuinely loved the 80s, though, and he liked hearing that.
I then got a few more pictures with Dana Wheeler-Nicholson to follow up on the Friday photos. In one of the Friday pictures, Dana’s eyes were closed, but in the Sunday pictures, her eyes were open in every photo. I elaborated on why I chose the autograph personalization from her, “Johnny, we both have lovely eyes. Dana Wheeler-Nicholson”. I told her of how I’ve gotten that same personalization from previous Chiller guests like Missi Pyle, Terry Farrell, Lee Grant, and Catherine Mary Stewart, and she found that fascinating.
On Saturday of the show, I only got pictures with Olivia d’Abo, initially deciding against the autograph as I already had it from a different source, but on Sunday, I decided to go for the picture/autograph combo. I naturally went with a photo from the aforementioned Wayne’s World 2 of Garth and Betty Jo. If Dana Carvey ever comes to Chiller Theatre, I’ll definitely have him sign that photo as well.
I met one more time with Julie McCullough, and she was impressed with the picture I brought for her to sign, the picture she’s holding in this photo. She told me she’d only signed that image one or two times before, so I’m glad I was able to show the picture to her again. We also talked about the possibility of a more in-depth interview, and I’ll be touching base with her later in the year about such a thing as that’s when several projects she’s currently working on will be released.
Just as it wouldn’t be Chiller Theatre without Scott Schwartz, it wouldn’t be Chiller Theatre without Geri Reischl, either. “Fake Jan” Brady has been a real friend to me for several years now, and I got some pictures with her, no charge. She’s friendly as always, and it’s always nice to see her at the show. One of those photos was taken by the last talent I met at Chiller that weekend.
Frank Verderosa was attending the show not as a celebrity guest, but a regular attendee who had come to say hi to Bob Bergen, yet he’s as talented in the field of audio design as the artists and on-screen performers who attend Chiller are in their fields. I befriended Mr. Verderosa on Facebook several years ago because of his work on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, where he deftly weaved movies, TV and music clips into Gilbert and Frank Santopadre’s interviews. I complimented him on that work, and I even did my Gilbert Gottfried impression for me, an impression I was honored to hear him compliment.
I milled around again for the rest of the show until my friend Mary picked me up at around 4:00 PM. As I traveled home, I told Mary of how I thought this was the best April Chiller I’ve attended yet, and how I’m already looking ahead to what’s in store for the October 2023 Chiller Theatre. I know it will be a blast since every Chiller is better than the one before, and the one before is always amazing to begin with.
Thank you all as always for your time and support in reading my work. It truly means the world to me.
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