By Jared Chausow
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By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
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By Jon Campbell
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My God, Barney Miller is alive! And he looks good! crowed a man in a sweaty T-shirt as his eyeballs burrowed through Hal Linden, demurely seated behind a promotional table.
I hadnt noticed, seeing as Id been too busy trying to get Loni Andersons attention over by her table, in between wondering if the nearby sign Take a picture with Jaws for $10 meant the shark or the James Bond star.
This was at Kevin Clements Chiller Theatre autograph convention in the Parsippany Hilton lobbyyou heard mewhere possessed swarms plunked down cash for the signed headshots of sitcom curios, award winners, the siblings of nominees, and Willy Wonka child-stars-turned-psychotherapists.
I adore these events, not only because I get a lot of attention there myself, but because you find your favorite old stars in a humbler tone, all engaging in sincere interactions with rabid fans, albeit for an admission badge and a price tag.
In the main area, I asked Brady Bunch perennials Susan Olsen and Mike Lookinland if this is fun for them. No! shot back Olsen. Its really tiring because you want to talk with everybody and you cant because you have to keep the line moving, so its like giving blood.
We meet the stars and then go upstairs and make fun of them, chimed in Lookinland. No, we dont, insisted Olsen. But once, I met Malcolm McDowell and I almost cried and wet myself. And Tony Curtis was great. He said, Great bazoombas! I said, These old things?
By piling on the celebrity, these nostalgia marathons always make stars into fans and vice versa. But speaking of old bazoombas, rock divorcee Britt Ekland almost knocked me over while pushing to get back to her nook to make more money. Pulling myself back together, I managed to nab my quality time with Loni, only to spend it muttering about how jealous her onetime beau/co-star Gary Sandy was when she was Emmy-nominated. Weve gotten over that! Loni said genially, as I felt silly; this happened in 1980, LOL.
Still, I resolved, Keep it obscure, and the stars will know you care. So I asked 94-year-old Ernest Borgnine about the weirdly enjoyable 1972 comedy Bunny OHare, in which he and Bette Davis dressed like hippies and robbed banks. She was one of the greatest, Ernie gushed between signings. Bette was in her dotage, he added, carefully, but she gave it her all. Her dotage? What a scamp! No wonder Ethel Merman divorced this guy!
And speaking of Merman, on came The Munsters, like Butch Patrick, who said he didnt mind sitting for makeup every day, but the touchups were annoying. They were always in your face.
And suddenly in mine was the delectable Bai Ling, dressed in high Bai fashion and the eyelashes of doom. Did she feel typecast as a peepshow girl in Edmond and a prostie in Love Ranch? No, said Bai, plainly. In Edmond, all the women are peepshow girls. And Love Ranch is about a brothel. Uh . . . OK. Whatever. And we posed for more pictures!
Across the room, my old gal pal Rae Dawn Chong (Quest for Fire, Soul Man) was greeting admirers, and next year shell have even more thanks to the flick Jeff Who Lives at Home. I play Susan Sarandons lover, Rae Dawn revealed. She works with me and I want her. I make her gay. I tell her she should be gay. Yikes. I suggested this could be a tad controversial because conservatives would love to believe someone can actually turn gay. Im bisexual, she replied, and theres a lot of bigotry in the LGBT community about bisexuality. Well, then, I decided, lets say her character is bisexual and you bring it out in her? Yes, she agreed. Aw! No toaster oven!
But its a great new career chapter for the woman. Hollywood is about endurance, Rae Dawn observed. I turned 50. Hollywood is not nice to 50.
Waitso someone can turn 50? Fortunately, there are still multiple options. In fact, in a side room, the Go-Gos Jane Wiedlin was selling her excellent comic book Lady Robotika and pushing pictures of herself looking flirty, while assuring me, Compared to seeing Britney Spearss vagina multiple times, this is safe. Yes, her lips are sealed.
But not mine. You were the original drag king! I blurted to Joyce Hyser from the 1985 cross-dress comedy Just One of the Guys. No, Joyce said, smiling, it was Barbra Streisand in Yentl. Well, how did they do it? (I meant with Joyce, not Barbra.) A lot of tape, she recalled. We shot the movie in Arizona in 90-degree heat. They used to keep Sea Breeze and ice cubes in a big vat. Theyd spray it down my body suit to cool me off.
And shed gladly do it again. Joyce said a sequel is in the works called Just One of the Dads. Fine, as long as theres no Yentl 2: Im Papa Now, Can You Hear Me?
As the fans started heading home with their Octopussy posters, I breathed a sigh of relief that Barney Miller was alive and Bin Laden wasnt. Thats one autograph you still cant give away! But there was one more recovering luminary for me to torture: An ex-TV star currently hawking a CD of standards. Alas, she became all button-lipped after her handler whispered with alarm, Hes on E! I wanted to yell, Dont worry! Only in reruns! Im a big has-been just like you!
Hey, Im in my dotage, but I gave it my all.
Check out my blog on Wednesday afternoon for pictures of all the stars at the event.
Julie Dawn Cole, who played the angsty Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka, told me she’s now a psychotherapist who deals with families affected by illness. “That sounds like the plot of Willy Wonka,” I cracked.
Alex Winter (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) told me he's amazed at how much a lot of these fans know about what he's done!
Ellen Foley (Night Court, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light") said she's shot a Body of Proof, and she's married to a bigshot with Bloomberg's administration. ("We're an uptown power couple," she laughed.)
And Pat Priest, who was Marilyn on The Munsters, told me her part wasn't based on Marilyn Monroe. "I was blonde, but I don't know how sexy I was. I was supposed to be a contrast to the Munster family."
PS: On Wednesday afternoon, I will be posting photos of all the stars from this event on my blog, dailymusto.com.