In L.A. at an autograph and collectors’ convention, I smiled at Playboy Playmate Candy Clark as I walked by her table. She was charging $25 for her autograph.
I glanced at her price list and she smiled. I read her bio. I didn’t want to seem rude by abruptly walking away. She didn’t try a sales pitch but made small talk. Because I’ve never seen the movie Decapitated II or Devil’s Blood, I had nothing to say and moved on.
As I was leaving, Lou Ferrigno sat down and began talking to her.
I waited in a long line of people to see Ami Dolenz, who’s been in many horror movies and mainstream films. In between fans, she hugged her boyfriend. We talked about her dad (who’s a Monkee), and then Epstein from Welcome Back, Kotter walked over. He interrupted, giving her his card and talking about his MySpace page.
I went back to the Autograph Magazine booth. An older guy came over and said he picks up the magazine once in a while. I said it could be conveniently delivered to his home. He replied, “You know what? I’ll get a subscription. I’d rather give my $29.95 to you than Horshack.”
Lou Ferrigno was back at his booth with a long price list: $25 for an autograph, $30 for a photo. Someone said it cost more if you asked him to flex his muscles. I said, “You sign autographs, but do you arm wrestle?” I slapped my elbow on the table. He looked at me like I was nuts. A few people laughed. I left before he hurt me.
Many of the cast members of Grease were there. I talked to actor Eddie Deezen (WarGames, Zapped). I asked why he wasn’t in Revenge of the Nerds. He said, “I made a movie with those guys and asked them. They said the joke was getting actors that weren’t nerds to look nerdy. People always think I’m from that movie.” I told him I like 1941, despite the fact that it got bad reviews. He said, “It was a little uneven. Someone told me earlier it was their favorite film of all time.”
I asked how often he gets recognized. He replied, “Once in a while, every few weeks. Sometimes people think I’m Pee-Wee Herman. One time near a halfway house, they were so sure I was Pee-Wee. It was almost getting violent, so I finally just signed his name for them so I could get out of there.”
I overheard a few fans talking. One lamented the expense of the autographs and then said, “Where else am I going to see them? And look at Jeff Conaway on that Rehab show? He might not be around much longer.”
I talked to Jamie Donnelly, who played Jan in Grease. I pointed to one of the cast members who had his T-birds jacket, and she said, “I asked for my Pink Ladies jacket. They said that stuff had to go back to wardrobe in case they needed to do a reshoot or for other promotional things.”
I walked by Annette Cardona, who played Cha-Cha. I asked her if at that time her friends were jealous because she danced with Travolta. She said, “At that time? My friends now are, too!”
I ended up talking the longest with Barry Pearl, who played the role of Doody. He kept his leather jacket from the movie and jokingly said he’d sell it to the highest bidder. About them being hand-painted, he explained, “It looks more authentic for gangs to do that. I mean, the Jets and the Sharks? They had matching jackets. That would never happen.”
Pearl told me he was initially reluctant to do shows like this but that a friend said something that made him look at it differently. He told me, “I went to one, and it looked like a bunch of has-beens. She said I was a ‘has-is.’”
I went back to the Autograph Magazine booth and met some interesting people. One guy drove to the show from La Mesa, and we talked about his collection of sports autographs.
I talked to another guy who bought a Wizard of Oz poster signed by the entire cast, including the paw print of Toto. It cost him over $50,000.
I talked to Leatherface — actor R.A. Mihailoff, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. I asked him what was the weirdest thing he’s ever signed. He said, “Nothing you can print in your paper.” We laughed about the body parts and things he’s signed, and he said, “My big pet peeve is napkins or something that doesn’t have value. Why would someone want me to sign those?”
I glanced over at the Grease booth and saw Jeff Conaway walking with a cane, hunched over as if he were about to die.
I walked over, and he was involved in a conversation with Pearl. I don’t normally interrupt, but Pearl wouldn’t shut up. I told Conaway, “Taxi is the best sitcom ever. A few of my friends think Seinfeld is.” He replied, “You know why Taxi was better? Because Seinfeld was a show about nothing.”
I walked over to take a picture of Tori Spelling. I figured she was the most famous person there. It would’ve been Paula Abdul, but she canceled at the last minute.
As I focused my camera, a tattooed arm blocked her face. I laughed, thinking the guy was just horsing around, but he wouldn’t move his hand. I put my camera down, and he said, “No pictures, dude.” I asked why and he said I had to pay for them. I said, “Isn’t that only if I want my photo with Tori?” She looked uncomfortable. He explained, “You have to pay either way.” I told him I was press. He said he didn’t care.
Someone who witnessed the incident said I had the right to take a picture of anyone I want out in public.
Back at the Autograph booth, one guy was purchasing a few back-issues. He was excited by one with James Dean on the cover. His friend had been talking about how expensive some of the autographs were. I said, “Well, I would be glad to sign that magazine for free.” The guy said, “Why? Are you in here?” I told him I wrote the story about David Crosby flipping me “the byrd” when I met him. He said, “Okay, cool.” As I wrote an inscription, I asked his name. He said Bob, and I asked him how to spell it.
Another person saw me signing and asked for my autograph. I signed for him, realizing there was a good chance he had no clue who I was...but I wasn’t charging $25.
I left before the show ended because I had to go to a fund-raising event the Grammys were having that included George Martin. It would be my last chance at meeting him.
I called my girlfriend from the road. She asked if anyone asked me for my autograph, and I said, “I signed a few.” She seemed excited.
I basked in that for a few minutes before explaining, “I’m embarrassed to say, I had to solicit the signatures.” She never stopped laughing long enough for me to tell the story.
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