In 2005, I attended New Jersey's Chiller Theatre convention for one day during some time I took off from work. The decision was made at the last minute, so I was totally unprepared for anything having to do with the show. I didn't meet any stars, and the entire experience overwhelmed me. Almost a decade later, I decided to try attending Chiller Theatre again, and in October of 2014, I was more prepared than I was in October of 2005.
I imagine you're probably asking yourself at this point, "What does this have to do with the 1980s?". Well, the Chiller Theatre convention features stars of all sorts, and many of these talents were active in the 1980s. Actors, actresses, musicians, models, talents who combine those various fields...I started attending Chiller Theatre at the perfect time as many stars who were active in the 1980s are now making this show a major stop as they go on the convention circuit.
As such, I would like to start a series of articles recapping the Chiller Theatre visits I've made from October of 2014 onwards, and the 80s stars I've met at the show over the years. October of 2014 is where we'll start, and the first star I ever met at Chiller Theatre when I started attending regularly helped define the pop-rock sound of the 80s that became MY alternative rock in the 90s.
Johnny Caps and Lita Ford
Lita Ford was the first star of any kind, let alone 80s star, I ever met at Chiller Theatre. I'd interviewed her for Pop Geeks earlier in 2014, and I knew I wanted to meet her in person. She recognized my voice when I told her I'd interviewed her earlier that year, and she was very friendly. I had the chance to once more tell her about how I loved the song Kiss Me Deadly, a quintessential piece of 80s pop rock. She threw the horns, and I tried to do so as well, but it looked a little awkward. Still, she was very friendly.
Johnny Caps and Cherie Currie
Next to Lita was her former Runaways bandmate Cherie Currie. Although The Runaways were a 70s group, Cherie had some solid 80s connections through her acting work in movies like Foxes and guest spots on TV shows like Murder, She Wrote. She was very kind to meet as well. The Lucy sweater I wore had a tear in it (I call them Lucy sweaters in honor of my friend Kimmy Robertson. who wore sweaters like that on the cult classic 90s show Twin Peaks), so Cherie was kind enough to cover the tear in the sweater with her hand. I would meet Cherie at Chiller again in October of 2019, but that's a tale for another day and another article.
This Chiller Theatre convention saw a big reunion of cast members from the Terminator movies. I met Linda Hamilton, the actress behind Sarah Connor. She was friendly but wasn't able to do table photos at the time. I did get her autograph on a Terminator photo, and I hope that Linda might return to Chiller Theatre someday so I can hopefully get a picture with her.
Johnny Caps and Bess Motta
I also met Bess Motta, who played Sarah's roommate Ginger in the first Terminator. I'd talked to Bess a few times on her Facebook fan page, and she recognized me when I met her. She was very friendly to me, and I enjoyed meeting her. There were so many great 80s pictures she had available for signing, including from her work on the 20 Minute Workout, but I went with a Terminator picture. I've been hoping to interview Ms. Motta since then, and I'll be reaching out to her again soon.
Johnny Caps and Sally Kellerman
After her, I met the late, great Sally Kellerman. I was first exposed to Sally's talents via her voice work as Miss Finch in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird, and I had the chance to tell her what a tremendous impact that movie had on me. She was touched by my story, and although she didn't have any pictures from the movie available for signing, she did enjoy hearing my story. Unfortunately, the health issues that would claim her life earlier this year precluded her from appearing at Chiller again, but I'll always remember her kindness.
Johnny Caps and Kelly LeBrock
Next to Sally Kellerman was the sultry knockout Kelly LeBrock, whom I was Facebook friends with for several years until she deactivated her profile. She was so incredibly friendly to meet, and she still looks gorgeous. I had her sign a Weird Science picture with the classic personalization "What would you little maniacs like to do first?". I hope that Kelly might also come back to Chiller someday so I could get one of her 80s modeling pictures signed, but if she appears at a convention near you, be sure to say hello to her.
Johnny Caps and Louise Fletcher
In the same room as Sally and Kelly was Oscar-winning actress Louise Fletcher. Granted, she won her Oscar for a seminal 70s film in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which I got a picture from signed, but she had quite a few 80s credits to her name as well. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest was the primary focus of our brief conversation, but if we ever have the chance to do an interview, I'll definitely have questions for her about projects like Brainstorm and Flowers In The Attic.
Johnny Caps and Lesley Ann Warren
Next, I had the chance to meet Lesley Ann Warren, who appeared in such 80s favorites as Victor/Victoria, Clue, and the music video for Aerosmith's Janie's Got A Gun. I got Lesley's autograph on a Victor/Victoria picture, and she was very friendly to meet. We would have a more in-depth interview for Pop Geeks a few months later, and although I lost the audio for that interview when my computer got a virus, I can still recall Lesley's warmth in answering my questions, both at Chiller and in our interview a while later.
Johnny Caps and Debbie Gibson
I went up to my hotel room for the evening, and resumed meeting the stars the next day by getting an autograph of, and picture with, Debbie Gibson. She wasn't able to be there the evening before, so those who were on line for her were given front-of-the-line tickets for her the next day. Debbie was very kind to meet, and she was fantastic with all her fans. When I did an e-mail interview with Debbie for Pop Geeks in 2016, she actually remembered me from that Chiller, and talked about the fun she had there. That's what I associate Chiller with...Fun.
Johnny Caps and Joel Hodgson
I next met Joel Hodgson, the creator and first host of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Although most people associate MST3K with the 90s, it started airing in 1988, and before that, Joel made multiple appearances on Saturday Night Live in the early 80s. Just like his character of Joel Robinson, Joel Hodgson is soft-spoken, but very funny. We posed for a photo, me with a big smile on my face and Joel holding a model of Tom Servo. I look forward to the day Joel might come back to Chiller so we can get another picture together.
Johnny Caps and Yaphet Kotto
The next star I met was another much-missed talent, Yaphet Kotto. His career stretched back to the 1960s, but I loved his work in the 1988 action-comedy Midnight Run. I had him sign a picture from that movie, and I told him I loved his performance. Yaphet was rather quiet, but I think that might have been annoyance with the fan ahead of me who brought him something like 20 posters or so to sign that were most likely headed to eBay. Me? I always go for personalization on my photos as I think a personalization can be a little more special than a regular autograph.
Johnny Caps and Trini Alvarado
Next in the grand parade of stars was Trini Alvarado, who starred as Pamela Pearl in one of my favorite 80s movies, Times Square. I told Trini of the impact the movie had on me as a troubled twentysomething, and I'm glad I was able to. I had her sign an 8X10 from Times Square with the personalization "Sleaze Sisters Forever!", Sleaze Sisters being the name of the band formed by Pamela and Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson). Speaking of which, I hope Robin Johnson might come back to the public eye as I would love to meet her in person as well.
Johnny Caps and Tami Erin
After Trini, I met Tami Erin, the actress who played the title character in 1988's The New Adventures Of Pippi Longstocking but, at the time, was being noted for a sex tape she released a year or two prior. I got some sexy pictures of Tami signed for myself, and a Pippi Longstocking picture signed for my brother. With next year marking the 35th anniversary of Tami's screen debut, perhaps that might lead her to come back to Chiller. One can only hope.
Johnny Caps and Annabella Sciorra
Next up was Annabella Sciorra. Although I'd gotten Annabella's autograph on a picture from the 1998 movie What Dreams May Come, which was the movie I discussed with her when meeting her, I should also have mentioned that I thought she did a great job in the 1989 comedy-drama True Love. If Annabella ever comes back to Chiller, I'll have to find a picture from True Love to get signed. Annabella was very friendly to meet. I know I've been saying that a lot in this article, but the stars you meet at Chiller are all very friendly, with the exception of one or two if you have a recorder, but that's for later in the article.
Johnny Caps and Jenette Goldstein
Jenette Goldstein was up next. You would recognize her from 80s favorites like Aliens, Near Dark and Lethal Weapon 2. Aliens was the movie I got an autographed picture of Jenette from, and I told her about how I loved her character, Vasquez. The conversation was short, but sweet, and if I ever have the chance to do an interview with Jenette, I'll be going more in-depth about how I admire her versatility.
Johnny Caps and Traci Lords
I then met Traci Lords, whom I loved in the 1988 remake of Not Of This Earth. She had pictures from that movie available for signing, so I knew I had to get an autograph on one of them. She was very friendly to meet, and her outfit that day was very cool. To me, it was sort of a Jackie O look. The conversation was also quick, but pleasant. If you haven't seen the 1988 version of Not Of This Earth, check it out when you have a chance.
Johnny Caps and Patty Mullen
I then met 80s Penthouse Pet, and future Facebook friend of mine, Patty Mullen. The first of what would be quite a few meetings with Patty at Chiller, Ms. Mullen is wonderful to meet. She was dressed as the title character from her 1990 movie Frankenhooker, so I wasn't really able to talk about her 80s work at the time, but Patty was very kind. In meeting her, she taught me a very important lesson...Have the money you'll be paying for the autograph and photo out beforehand. I almost forgot to give them to her, but she reminded me in a playful way, and I remembered to do so. Keep that in mind for the next convention you go to.
Johnny Caps and James Remar
After Patty, I met James Remar. Although the picture I got autographed by him was of his role as Ajax in the 1979 movie The Warriors, James also had some major 80s credentials with movies like 48 HRS and The Cotton Club. James was fantastic to meet, and I was nervous about asking him for a certain personalization on the Warriors photo, a picture of The Warriors squaring off against The Baseball Furies, but he had no qualms about it. Very cool stuff.
Johnny Caps and Caroll Spinney
I then went up to my room that Saturday night to rest up for the last day of Chiller. Appearing only for Sunday of the show was Caroll Spinney, the man behind Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch for almost half-a-century. I also had the chance to tell Caroll of the great impact Follow That Bird had on me, and he even sang a few bars of Easy Goin' Day for me. When I told him of the grief I got from my teachers for watching Sesame Street in high school, and how I went against them for telling me how to live my life at home, he was touched. Caroll gave me a free autograph because of the impact Follow That Bird, and the show Sesame Street itself, had on me. He was wonderful to meet.
Johnny Caps and Teri Garr
I wrapped up the October 2014 Chiller by getting a picture with Teri Garr after the camera didn't work for the picture I took with her on Friday. I know I look upset in the picture, but that's because I was talking when the picture was taken. I wanted to have some time to tell Teri of how I admired her courage in her health battles, but I was rushed out of the room she was in by her handlers, so I didn't have the chance to. I can understand the rush, though. After all, it was the last day of the show, and they wanted to make sure as many people as possible had the chance to meet Teri.
That was the October 2014 Chiller, and I figured I would take a break of a few years before attending the show again, but after having not attended the April 2015 Chiller (the show is held twice a year in April and October), I saw the guest list for the October 2015 Chiller, and I knew I had to return to the show. This one went a little less well, but not because of the stars. It was because of me.
Whether it was having to stay at a different hotel because it was too late to book a room at the hotel the convention was at, not having my cards with me, or a more serious matter I'll detail later, it was very much amateur hour on my end, but I wanted to recap the 80s stars I met at this Chiller anyway.
Johnny Caps and Tim Cappello
The first 80s star I met at this Chiller was Tim Cappello, whom you'll all recognize from his performance in the 1987 horror-comedy classic The Lost Boys. He still looked the same in 2015 as he did in 1987, and he was very friendly and kind to meet. I got an autograph of him performing with Tina Turner, and we posed for some photos together, one of which had him with his saxophone to his lips. He's fantastic with fans, and you'll read about another time I met him at Chiller in the next article I'll be writing in this series.
Among the stars I met at the October 2015 Chiller were Karla DeVito and Robby Benson. Robby was there as part of a reunion for 1991's Beauty And The Beast, and when he was first announced, I suggested that his wife, my Facebook friend Karla DeVito, should be invited as well.
Johnny Caps and Karla DeVito
Karla is an accomplished singer and actress, well-known to devotees of 80s music for her album and song Is This A Cool World Or What?, as well as her Breakfast Club soundtrack contribution We Are Not Alone. Karla was fantastic to meet and talk to. She recognized me from Facebook, and she told me she was having fun at Chiller. I hope she might come back there someday.
Johnny Caps and Robby Benson
When it comes to Robby Benson, although the 1991 movie Beauty And The Beast was what I discussed with him and got an autographed picture from, he also did a lot of work in the 1980s, both as an actor and a director. I wish I had thought to ask him about some of that, but Robby was a very popular guest that weekend. I did enjoy meeting him, though, and I wish him continued good health and good cheer.
Johnny Caps and Linda Blair
After Karla and Robby, I met another popular guest that weekend in Linda Blair. At Chiller Theatre, Linda always has a massive line whenever she appears, which means there's not much time to talk to her, and there wasn't for me and her. However, I did have the chance to tell her that I loved her work in the movie Savage Streets, a seminal piece of 80s exploitation cinema, and she signed a picture from that movie for me. Although in an understandable rush, Linda was friendly, and that's always something to admire.
Johnny Caps, James Lorinz and Patty Mullen
Patty Mullen was back from the previous October's Chiller, so I got a new picture with her alongside her Frankenhooker costar James Lorinz, another Facebook friend of mine. Although James had only a few 80s screen credits, one of them was in an all-time favorite of sleazy 80s horror, Street Trash. Frankenhooker was the movie I got an autograph of James from, but if he comes back to another Chiller in the future (He was also there in October of 2018, but that's a tale for another article), I'll get his autograph on a Street Trash photo.
Johnny Caps and P.J. Soles
I walked back to my off-property hotel to unwind and get ready for day 2 of the October 2015 Chiller. The first star I met that day was another Facebook friend of mine, P.J. Soles. Although many associate P.J. with 70s favorites like Halloween and Rock N' Roll High School, the latter of which I bought an autographed picture from, P.J. also had memorable 80s movies like Private Benjamin and Stripes to her credit. P.J. is terrifically fan-friendly, so if she comes to a convention near you, be sure to say hello to her. This wouldn't be the last time I said hello to her at Chiller myself, but we'll save that for another day.
A lot of my entertainment industry Facebook friends were at this show, as you might be able to tell, and one of those friends is an all-time badass beauty who made so many 80s films the cult classics they are.
Johnny Caps and Sybil Danning
Sybil Danning is a knockout beauty to this day, and I loved having the chance to meet her in person. She had so many great pictures available for signing, but I went for a very sexy swimsuit photo that she gave a wonderfully suggestive personalization to. Unfortunately, although she looks beautiful as always, I felt I looked like a doofus in the pictures I took with Sybil in 2015. When I met her at Chiller again in October of 2021, she looked lovely as always, but I think I looked a lot better than before.
Johnny Caps and Toni Hudson
After Sybil, I met Toni Hudson, who appeared in 80s favorites like Places In The Heart and Just One Of The Guys, the latter of which was the movie I got an autographed picture from. As with so many other guests I met that weekend, Toni told me she was having a lot of fun at the show. I would interview her a year later for Pop Geeks, and the interview would be published about a year after that, so here's a link to that interview. If Toni ever comes to a show near you, be sure to stop by and say hello to her.
The next two stars I met tend to be associated with the 70s, but they also did some excellent work in the 80s.
Johnny Caps and Kim Richards
Kim Richards was a sweetheart to meet. I told her of how I admired her for her courage in her battles against substance abuse, and I got her autograph on a very 80s picture of her in dancers' clothes. We got a whole bunch of pictures together, and she was very friendly, but I wish she might come back to Chiller someday so I could take some better photos. She looks lovely...I'm referring to myself as I wasn't really smiling in a lot of my photos that weekend. I don't know why I wasn't smiling in a lot of the October 2015 photos. I was happy to be at the show, but you couldn't tell in a lot of these pictures.
Johnny Caps and Ike Eisenmann
Next to Kim was her co-star in the Witch Mountain movies, Ike Eisenmann. He made a memorable appearance as Preston in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, and that was the movie I had him sign an autograph from. Again, a very friendly person to meet, but I wish I was more properly prepared to meet him. Ike, too, was enjoying the show, and as with Kim, I hope he comes back to Chiller Theatre someday.
Johnny Caps and Robert MacNaughton
Robert MacNaughton, a future Facebook friend of mine, memorably played Michael in E.T The Extra-Terrestrial, so I knew I had to meet him and get his autograph on an E.T picture. He was very friendly to meet, and he was smiling in our picture, but I looked uncertain again. However, I'll have a chance for a redo of that picture when I attend the October 2022 Chiller since Robert will be coming back as part of a 40th anniversary reunion for E.T.. That's something I like about Chiller...If you want to meet a guest again, it may take a while for them to return, but they eventually will, and you can give the picture another shot.
Johnny Caps and Rutanya Alda
Speaking of Facebook friends of mine, Rutanya Alda was the next star I met at this Chiller. 80s fans will always remember her for her role as Carol Ann, one of Joan Crawford's put-upon staff members in Mommie Dearest, and she wrote a fascinating autobiography that, among its' many topics, went in-depth about her time working on Mommie Dearest. I told Rutanya that I loved that movie, and I could relate to the subject as I, too, was raised by a mother who presented a different public image to the world than who she was behind closed doors. Seriously, Mommie Dearest is a better movie than people give it credit for, and Rutanya gave an amazing performance in it.
Johnny Caps and Brenda Strong
After Rutanya, I met Brenda Strong, the veteran actress who had some of her earliest credits in the 80s. Among other roles, she played the nurse who assisted Dr. Philip Schlotkin (Sandy Helberg) in Spaceballs, and a real estate agent in the underrated 1989 Blake Edwards comedy Skin Deep. I got Brenda's autograph on a Spaceballs picture, and I found her to be very friendly to meet. I haven't interviewed her yet, mainly because I had set up an interview with her press rep initially, but had difficulty winnowing down the questions I had to an e-mail, but I plan on reaching out to her reps again in the future, hopefully for a phone interview.
Johnny Caps and Barbara Crampton
Next, I met another Facebook friend of mine, Barbara Crampton, who appeared in some of the most memorable cult classics of the 80s including Body Double, Re-Animator and Chopping Mall. There were so many fantastic pictures of Barbara to choose from, and if I recall correctly, I went for a Chopping Mall photo. Barbara is another talent I hope returns to Chiller someday so I can properly greet her and say hello. You're probably wondering what the recurring use of proper and its' variants means, and I'll be getting to that shortly.
Johnny Caps and Veronica Cartwright
The next star in the grand parade was Veronica Cartwright. Although the 1978 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is the movie I got an autograph from, Veronica has some solid 80s credits as well, including Nightmares, Flight Of The Navigator, and The Witches Of Eastwick. Ms. Cartwright was very charming to meet, and I told her of how I admired her work in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. I hope she'll come back someday so I can get an autograph from one of her 80s movies.
Johnny Caps and Barbi Benton
After Veronica, I met Barbi Benton for the first time at Chiller Theatre as she was there for a Hee Haw Honeys reunion. The Playboy model/singer/actress may be usually associated with the 70s, but she had some intriguing 80s credits as well, including the Cannon Films horror favorite X-Ray, the sword-and-sorcery cult film Deathstalker, and appearances on shows like The New Mike Hammer and Murder, She Wrote. She was doing photo ops where she would sit on your lap for the photo, and if a Playboy model is okay with sitting on your lap for a photo, you don't turn that opportunity down. She looked lovely in the picture, but again, I looked dumb. Thankfully, I would have a chance to redeem myself, but again, that's a tale for another article.
Johnny Caps and Paul Sorvino
Next up, I met the late Paul Sorvino, a talent whom I'd liked ever since I saw the 1990 movie Dick Tracy. His 80s credits included movies like Cruising, Reds, I, The Jury, and A Fine Mess. i complimented Mr. Sorvino on his work, but he was rather quiet. Don't get me wrong. He was very friendly, but he was a quiet fellow. He probably wanted to conserve his voice for the singing that he would do as he was very good at that.
Johnny Caps and John Amos
I met John Amos after that, and he was another very friendly person to meet. I got his autograph on a Coming To America photo, and I told him of how I loved his timing in the scene where Akeem (Eddie Murphy) describes his first time watching an American football game to Amos' Mr. McDowell. He was complimented by it, but as with so many stars at this convention, I find myself in hindsight thinking all sorts of would've/could've/should've thoughts.
Johnny Caps and Antonio Fargas
Speaking of 70s TV icons with cool 80s credits, I met Antonio Fargas, the actor who, among his many 80s credits, played Flyguy in the blaxploitation spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. I got an autograph from that movie, and I told him about how much I enjoyed it. I was giving out a lot of compliments that weekend, but that's because the talents I met made entertainment that got me through some very dark times.
Johnny Caps and Howard Finkel
Speaking of dark times, the weekend took a briefly rough turn when I met my final 80s-related guest that weekend, the late WWF/WWE announcer Howard Finkel. I was asking him about how he was enjoying the convention, as I was asking all the stars that weekend, and he started to answer, but when he noticed my recorder, he got annoyed. He then told me that he wasn't allowed to give unauthorized interviews. I asked if that included interviews that didn't involve questions about wrestling, and he said yes. I turned the recorder off, and he was all smiles after that, but I felt very awkward anyway.
His comments led me to realize that all the recordings I made that weekend were technically unauthorized interviews, and I really felt like a jerk. I went back to my off-site hotel with a very awkward feeling about how the weekend had gone, and then I wrote out my information on a sheet of hotel stationary and made a bunch of copies before heading back to the convention on Sunday. I didn't have my cards on me, so this had to suffice. Needless to say, I really looked like an amateur that Sunday, and sadly, I wouldn't be able to set up a proper interview with Howard Finkel before his passing in 2020,
In spite of all that, the weekend was a learning experience for me, and when I would return to Chiller in October of 2016, as I'll detail in the next article in this mini-series, I was more prepared, alert and attentive to what was going on, and what to do and not do at a convention.
This concludes the first part in this mini-series of articles. In the next one, I'll recap my Chiller Theatre visits with 80s stars in October of 2016 and October of 2017. Until then, keep the spirit of the 80s alive.