Welcome to Part 3 of my four-part series about meeting 80s stars at the Chiller Theatre convention. This article will cover my visits to the show in 2018, starting with April of that year. This was the first time I attended Chiller Theatre in April, and I enjoyed it just as much as the October shows I'd attended the previous four years.
Johnny Caps and Michelle Johnson
The first 80s star I met was one of my earliest interview subjects for Pop Geeks, Michelle Johnson. She started out as a model, appeared in memorable 80s movies like Blame It On Rio and Waxwork, and has been active as a singer also. We were Facebook friends until she deactivated her profile, but she recognized me from our interview, and she was very friendly to meet.
I actually met Michelle twice at the April 2018 Chiller. First I got her autograph, and then I forgot it at her table. She still had the autograph when I doubled back, so I decided to purchase her CD as well. Michelle is a fantastically talented singer and songwriter, so if she appears at a convention near you, buy her album. She was actually going to return to Chiller in 2020 before COVID tabled everything, and I look forward to her eventual return to the show.
Johnny Caps and Roscoe Orman
I then met Roscoe Orman, who memorably played Gordon for several decades on Sesame Street, and still makes occasional appearances as the character for special programs like those that are part of the Sesame Street In Communities initiative. I told Mr. Orman of how I went back a long way with Sesame Street, and he appreciated that. This was a few years after he was let go from the show as a regular, so I told him I hoped he'd return for the show's 50th anniversary the following year, and he did. Mr. Orman was very friendly.
Johnny Caps and Valerie Leon
The next star in the grand parade was Valerie Leon, an actress and model with credits going back to the 1960s. She holds the distinction of being one of the few actors to appear in both an official and unofficial James Bond movie, playing a hotel receptionist in The Spy Who Loved Me and a woman in the Bahamas in Never Say Never Again. I decided to get an autograph from the latter movie, and Valerie was very sweet when signing it. I hope Ms. Leon comes back to Chiller Theatre someday so I could look at her selection of photos and get one of her modeling shots signed.
Johnny Caps and Joanna Cassidy
After Valerie, I met another great beauty in my future Facebook friend and 2020 interview subject, Joanna Cassidy. Ms. Cassidy appeared in some of my favorite 80s movies including Under Fire, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Blade Runner. Blade Runner was the movie I chose to get an autograph from, and I told Joanna of how I sympathized with the Replicants, a thought I would elaborate further on in our Pop Geeks interview. Here's a link to that article when you're done with this piece.
Johnny Caps and Randal Kleiser
2018 marked the 40th anniversary of Grease, and as such, there was a massive reunion of cast members from that movie. I met some of the cast members from that movie, but before them, I also met the movie's director, Randal Kleiser. While most of his photos were Grease-related, I told him that I loved his movie Flight Of The Navigator, and how I enjoy it to this day.
I told him that I wished the movie had gotten a better release on Blu-Ray and DVD, and he told me of a European Blu-Ray that had extras. First, I need to find if my Blu-Ray player can play Region B titles. If it can, I'll purchase that Blu-Ray, enjoy the upgrade, and hope that Randal returns to Chiller someday so I can get the cover signed. Either way, Randal was fantastic to meet.
Johnny Caps and Susan Buckner
One of the Grease cast members I met was my Facebook friend Susan Buckner. Her 80s credits include the sitcom When The Whistle Blows and the horror movie Deadly Blessing, and she also has spent time as a singer-songwriter and a model. I decided to get Susan's autograph on a Grease photo, and as with all the stars I met, Susan was very friendly. I plan on reaching out to her again soon about an interview.
I stepped out of the room with the Grease reunion, and into the room with a reunion of another school-themed movie that turned 40 in 2018. That movie was Animal House, and I met most of the cast members who were part of that reunion.
Johnny Caps and Tim Matheson
I started out by meeting Tim Matheson, whose 80s credits include movies like Up The Creek and Fletch. I greeted him with a variant on a line of his from Animal House, "I'm Johnny Caps, and I'm damn glad to meet ya!". Tim was fantastic to talk to, and he laughed at my tale of first being exposed to Animal House via TBS, where I caught an edited version of it in the early 90s.
I wish I'd told him about how I saw this around the time we were studying ancient Rome in middle school and how, when we dressed up in sheets, I had us chanting, "Toga! Toga!". With 2023 marking the 45th anniversary of Animal House, perhaps Mr. Matheson might return to the show, so I could tell him that story. Of course, if I have the chance to interview him before then, I'll tell him about it sooner.
Johnny Caps and Peter Riegert
Next up, I met Peter Riegert. Although he was there as part of the Animal House reunion, the movie I got an autograph from was Crossing Delancey. I told Peter of how I discovered that movie in the mid-00s, and how I came to enjoy it. I told him of how I found it to be a story that, although set in the Jewish community, has resonance for everybody, and he appreciated hearing that. It's definitely a fantastic movie.
Johnny Caps and Karen Allen
After Peter, I met Karen Allen, who played Katy, the love interest of Riegert's Boone, in Animal House. I mentioned to hear that I had reached out to her about an interview a few years before and was declined, but she was polite about it. Again, although Karen was there as part of the Animal House reunion, I got her autograph on an 80s picture, more specifically, a picture of her as Marian in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I plan on reaching out to Karen again about an interview next year, and I'll put it out there into the universe that it will happen.
Johnny Caps and Martha Smith
The fourth Animal House cast member with 80s credentials I met at this Chiller was Martha Smith, the former Playboy Playmate who played Babs in Animal House, and would have regular roles in the 80s on TV shows like Days Of Our Lives and Scarecrow And Mrs. King. Martha was very friendly, but I only wish I'd thought to get one of her Playboy photos signed in addition to the vintage headshot I purchased. If she returns to Chiller in 2023 to mark Animal House's 45th anniversary, I'll get one of those Playboy shots signed.
Johnny Caps and Adrienne King
I then met Adrienne King, who memorably played Alice in the first two Friday The 13th movies. Adrienne is friends with my honorary big sister Lisa, so I mentioned her to Adrienne when we met, and she thought that connection was cool. I got a Friday The 13th picture signed, as one might expect, and I hope that Adrienne might return to Chiller someday so we can get a clearer picture.
Johnny Caps and Eddie Deezen
I ventured back into the Grease reunion room to get a new picture with Eddie Deezen, whom I first wrote about meeting in Part 2 of this series. Eddie was just as friendly in April of 2018 as he was in October of 2016. I told him this was my first April Chiller, and he said it was his as well. Again, I wish Eddie all the best in his recent struggles that have left him hospitalized. Mental illness can be a b*tch to deal with.
Johnny Caps and Lawrence Monoson
After Eddie, I met Lawrence Monoson, who first made an impression on me as Gary in the cult classic teen dramedy The Last American Virgin. The character of Gary was a jerk. Lawrence, on the other hand, is a genuinely kind and friendly man. I asked him to sign a picture from The Last American Virgin, "Johnny, don't be like Gary. Lawrence Monoson", and he obliged. When I posted the picture to Facebook, some said we looked like brothers. I can see that, and I think that's pretty cool. I hope to interview him someday.
Johnny Caps and Amanda Pays
Amanda Pays was at this Chiller as a surprise guest alongside her husband, Corbin Bernsen. I told Ms. Pays of how I loved her work in the 1988 Vietnam thriller Off Limits, and she liked hearing that. I then got a picture with Amanda, but in the picture, my eyes were closed and I looked like I was asleep. I was unaware of that until I uploaded the pictures to my computer when I got home. I was nervous because I didn't know if I'd have a chance to redo the photo, but when it comes to that...Well, we'll return to that matter soon.
Johnny Caps and Lee Grant
I then met Oscar-winning actress Lee Grant who, in addition to her acting in the 80s, directed a lot of powerful documentaries in the decade. One of them, Down And Out In America, would win a Best Documentary Oscar. I told Lee of how I enjoyed her episode of Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, and how I admired her great strength and courage in the face of the Hollywood Blacklist. It was an honor to meet a talent of her stature.
Johnny Caps and Corbin Bernsen
I mentioned Corbin Bernsen earlier, so I decided to get an autograph of, and picture with, him. I told him of how I could recall watching his episode of Saturday Night Live in reruns and his cameo as his L.A Law character Arnie in the Sesame Street 25th Anniversary Special. I got his autograph on an L.A Law photo, and I found Corbin to be very friendly to meet. Maybe I should go for a Major League photo the next time he comes to Chiller.
Johnny Caps and John Schuck
The April 2018 Chiller was one of John Schuck's first convention appearances. Mr. Schuck's list of credits is a mile long, and he had great stories to tell about all the movies he had pictures of available for signing. I went for an Outrageous Fortune picture, and John told me a fascinating story of how they pulled off the scene where he gets whacked in the back of the head with an oar. If I recall correctly, they took a cast of his head and filled it with gelatin, which they then put on a dummy. It was a rather lifelike scene, though, and a very cool story from John.
Johnny Caps and Didi Conn
I ventured back into the Grease reunion room to meet Didi Conn, a Facebook friend familiar to older 80s audiences from Benson and younger 80s audiences from Shining Time Station. Didi has a son on the autism spectrum, and as I'm on the autism spectrum myself, I asked her if she knew about the massive fanbase of Thomas The Tank Engine in the autism community. That led to a very kind discussion about being on the spectrum.
I got Didi's autograph for both myself and a local restaurant, and Ms. Conn was fantastic to talk to. As to that local restaurant, Emerald Point, Didi's autograph was the first I got for the restaurant. With every Chiller I've attended since then, I've helped this restaurant build up a Wall Of Fame to give it a bit of a show business shine, an idea I got from having spent years performing karaoke there. Although the karaoke evenings are long since done, these autographs I get for Emerald Point help the show business connection continue.
Johnny Caps and George Chakiris
I met another Oscar winner at the April 2018 Chiller when I got an autograph of, and picture with, George Chakiris. George won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for West Side Story, and is known to 80s fans for his work as Nicholas on Dallas and guest spots on quintessentially 80s shows like Matt Houston and Murder, She Wrote. George was rather quiet, but his quietness didn't deter his friendliness. If he ever comes back to Chiller, I'll have to ask Emerald Point's owner, my friend Erin, if she would be interested in adding his autograph to the Wall Of Fame.
Johnny Caps and Brian Thompson
The next 80s star I met was Brian Thompson, who memorably played The Night Slasher in the 1986 action favorite Cobra. The Night Slasher was a very nasty character, but Brian couldn't have been nicer. He was very friendly to talk to, and one of the things we discussed was my shirt, which I custom-made at the now-defunct Design-A-Tee at Disney Springs on my last Walt Disney World trip in 2016. He found the shirt to be fascinating, and I always like compliments like that. If only they made official Little Mermaid shirts for men...
Johnny Caps and Stepfanie Kramer
The last 80s star at this Chiller I got a camera photo with was Stepfanie Kramer, who memorably played Dee Dee McCall on the classic 80s cop drama Hunter. What I discussed with Stepfanie, though, was her singing. We talked about the disappointment of how most Stephen J. Cannell series lacked the original music on their home entertainment releases, and I told her of how I wished her rendition of, among other songs she sang on the show, REO Speedwagon's Can't Fight This Feeling was retained on the DVDs. If anybody can hip me to uncut Cannell series on the fan-to-fan DVD circuit, let me know.
Johnny Caps and Burton Gilliam
When I said last 80s star...I got a camera photo with, I meant my physical camera, which wasn't working for my picture with Burton Gilliam, the Blazing Saddles co-star who made memorable appearances in 80s movies like Fletch and The Underachievers. I told Burton of how I understood the humor of Blazing Saddles in spite of my autism spectrum disorder. Our pictures together on my camera didn't work out, so a kind individual named Brett took a picture on his phone and sent it to my number later that day, more proof of how friendly everyone can be at Chiller.
The April 2018 Chiller was in the books, and I started planning ahead to the October 2018 Chiller. That show was a very exciting one for most of the right reasons, but one very wrong one as well. What was it? Keep reading for the story.
Johnny Caps and Michelle Bauer
The first star I met at the October 2018 Chiller was Michelle Bauer, one of the defining Scream Queens of the 80s. Michelle was very kind to meet, and I had her sign a sexy nude photo of her, one of many that she had available. I haven't had the chance to interview Ms. Bauer yet, but I hope to be able to someday. If she comes back to Chiller, I'll give her a card with my contact information, and hopefully we can get a better-lit picture together.
Johnny Caps and James Lorinz
James Lorinz and Patty Mullen returned to Chiller Theatre in October of 2018. I started by getting some new pictures with James. He reminded me of the questions I asked him with my recorder going in October of 2015, and I told him of how I tabled the article the answers would've been used in after my encounter with Howard Finkel at that show. I do plan on reaching out to James soon about a proper interview, though.
Johnny Caps and Amanda Pays, Take 2
Speaking of returns to Chiller, I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Pays again. This time she was announced as a guest beforehand, so I knew I had to get some better pictures with her, and I did. I showed her our previous picture, mentioning that she looks lovely, as befits a former model, while I looked sleepy. I was awake in these pictures, though, and I think they came out a lot better. Amanda was as friendly in October of 2018 as she was in April of 2018, and I look forward to the next time she comes to Chiller.
Johnny Caps and Martha Davis
I then met Martha Davis, the lead singer of The Motels. When I met her, I told her that this wasn't our first time talking as I had done an e-mail interview with her for RetroJunk in 2010, and was then Facebook friends with her until she converted her personal page into a public profile. She has some very cool pictures for autographing, and two of them I chose were, respectively, a picture of Martha with James Brown and a collage of photos from the video for The Motels' Shame. I need to reach out to Martha about doing a phone interview for Pop Geeks soon.
Johnny Caps and Rocky DeMarco
After Martha, I had the great pleasure of meeting a longtime Facebook friend of mine in Rocky DeMarco. Rocky was active in the 80s as a dancer and model, and she's still active to this day as an actress and musician, among her many other skills. She told me of the impact my 2015 interview with her for Pop Geeks had on her, and I was heartened to hear of how it inspired her. I always like hearing that my writing helps inspire the friends I interview as so many of them have inspired me in return. Never underestimate the power of a kind word.
Johnny Caps and Loretta Swit
The next star in the grand parade was Loretta Swit, who memorably played Hot Lips on the TV version of MASH. Her 80s credits include a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, starring in the Cagney and Lacey pilot, and acting in an underrated 80s comedy called Beer. I got her autograph on a Cagney and Lacey photo, and I mentioned that I was friends with her publicist Harlan. Harlan would set up an interview for me and Loretta near the end of 2018, and here's the link to that piece.
Johnny Caps and Caroline Munro
I turned in for the night, and was on the preshow line for Saturday. Once I was in, the first star I met was Caroline Munro, whom I would meet several times that weekend and get multiple autographs of as well. An accomplished actress/model/musician, Caroline's 80s credits include movies like Maniac, The Last Horror Show, and Slaughter High, and two synth-pop singles with Gary Numan.
Caroline goes above and beyond when meeting her fans. She has great stories, and she's very open to your stories as well. I enjoyed meeting Caroline so much that I knew I wanted to interview her someday. That someday came in 2021. I had to pay for the interview, and the call to England boosted up my cell phone bill for that month, but it was worth every penny. Caroline is a fantastic storyteller, and for proof of that, here's the link to our interview.
Johnny Caps and Kelly Hu
After Caroline, I met Kelly Hu. While some may associate her with 90s and 00s projects like Martial Law and The Scorpion King, Kelly actually started out in the 80s, first as a Miss Teen USA and a model, and then acting on TV shows like Growing Pains and Night Court, as well as in Friday The 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Kelly was very sweet, and very enthusiastic about meeting her fans. It's always a pleasure to meet a star who is as excited about meeting fans as fans are about meeting them. It's a positive energy circuit that keeps a good mood going.
Johnny Caps and P.J. Soles
I then got a new picture with P.J. Soles, my Facebook friend whom I first met at Chiller in October of 2015. It was great to see her again, and I think I looked better in this picture than in our 2015 photos. Ms. Soles, on the other hand, always looks lovely, and I look forward to the possibility of her coming back to Chiller in the future. Maybe one of the 2023 shows? After all, next year marks the 45th anniversary of the original Halloween.
Johnny Caps and Jill Whelan
The October 2018 Chiller saw a Love Boat reunion, and one of the attendees was Jill Whelan. I knew I had to get a picture with, and autograph of, her because of her work in Airplane. She played Lisa Davis, the sick young girl who has her I.V knocked out during a rousing rendition of the song River Of Jordan. As Jill is a singer herself, I asked her if she performs the song in her concerts, and she told me she does. I wonder if there's video of that on YouTube.
Johnny Caps and Stephen Tobolowsky
Up next was Stephen Tobolowsky, the famed character actor whom I first came to know from his work in Spaceballs as the guard who thought his men had captured Lone Starr and friends, but instead ended up capturing their stunt doubles. I did my impression of his lines from that movie, and we also talked about his screenwriting collaboration with David Byrne on the movie True Stories. That reminds me that I need to get the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of that movie soon.
Johnny Caps and Michael Cole
I next met Michael Cole, the Mod Squad actor whose 80s work included guest spots on CHiPS and Murder, She Wrote, as well as the 1984 drama Nickel Mountain. He noticed my custom-made Ariel shirt, and we spent some time talking about Disney before I purchased a signed copy of his autobiography, I Played The White Guy. I need to revisit that book soon as it's been a while since I read it.
Johnny Caps and Barbara Eden
After him, I met Barbara Eden, the I Dream Of Jeannie star who made quite a few TV movies in the 80s and also appeared on several of Bob Hope's 80s specials. She had previously appeared at the October 2016 Chiller, but having purchased her autograph from her website, I initially didn't think to meet her then. After the death of another talent from the October 2016 Chiller, Martin Landau, it struck me that you never know what will happen to these talents in the future.
In speaking to Barbara, I got a new autograph of her for myself, and I also got her autograph for Emerald Point's Wall Of Fame. She initially got the restaurant's name wrong because of how loud it was in the room, but she got it right the second time and didn't charge me again for the correct personalization. Ms. Eden still looks amazing, and I hope she might still have a few more convention appearances left in her.
Johnny Caps and T.K. Carter
The next 80s star I met was T.K. Carter, whom Chiller audiences would associate with the 1982 version of The Thing, but I associate with the underrated 1983 comedy Doctor Detroit. I told him of how I rented that movie as a teenager and loved the energy of it, especially the scene where the cast dances to James Brown's Get Up Offa That Thing. T.K. had a Doctor Detroit picture available for signing, so I went for that. T.K. was very cool and very kind, as were all the stars at this show.
Johnny Caps and Lee Purcell
If I recall correctly, Lee Purcell was next to T.K., so I got an autograph of, and picture with, her next. I got a picture from the movie Valley Girl signed, and she told me she had fun working on that movie. I've been lucky enough to meet several cast members from Valley Girl at Chiller Theatre over the years, and with next year marking the movie's 40th anniversary, perhaps there might be a cast reunion for it at Chiller. That would be cool.
Johnny Caps and Ken Foree
After Lee, I met Ken Foree, whose 80s credits include movies like Knightriders, From Beyond and Death Spa. What I discussed with him, though, was his work in 2005's The Devil's Rejects, which featured a slew of actors well-known for their work in 80s movies. I told him I liked his work in the movie, and he gladly signed a photo from it for me. I'll need to get a new picture with Ken, who would become a Facebook friend of mine a few years after this appearance, as he's coming to Chiller again later this year.
Johnny Caps and Bebe Buell
I then met Bebe Buell, The Mother Of Rock N' Roll. Bebe started out as a singer and model in the 70s, and she would continue to do both in the 80s as well. Bebe is really a knockout beauty, and she looks like she could still be modeling to this day. I purchased an autographed photo of her in bunny ears, a reference to her work for Playboy, and if Ms. Buell ever comes back to Chiller, I'll need to get her Playboy signed. Hopefully she'll be okay with a flirty personalization.
Johnny Caps and Martine Beswicke
Near to Caroline Munro was Martine Beswicke, another accomplished actress/model. She still looks as lovely today as she did starting out in the 60s. Her 80s credits include The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, From A Whisper To A Scream, Cyclone, and appearances on TV shows like The Fall Guy and Days Of Our Lives. I mentioned The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood to her, and I could tell she wasn't a fan of Golan and Globus, but it was hilarious to hear her go after them. For more on that, check out her appearance in the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films.
Johnny Caps and Felix Silla
I was a little tired when I met my next 80s star, the late Felix Silla, an actor and stuntman who was Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, and whose 80s credits included Return Of The Jedi, House, and Spaceballs. Although I didn't necessarily look it in the photo, I was happy to meet Felix. It was rough for him at that show, though, as he had travel difficulties and didn't have access to most of his photos. I wish he was still around so he could've come to Chiller again and maybe had a better experience.
We were all in for a rough time, though, as we had to deal with a gas leak. That wasn't the worst of it, though. During the chaos of the gas leak, someone called in a bomb threat to the Parsippany Hilton, where Chiller was being held, and we all had to get outside and as far away from the hotel as possible while they got it sorted out. It was a cold and rainy day, and it took several hours for things to get back in order.
However, something good did come out of the chaos for me. I met a woman named Tracey Tungate Saunders. I sat next to her on one of the buses that was shuttling Chiller attendees around while the chaos was being sorted out, and we bonded over the fact that I have an autism spectrum disorder, and so does one of her grandchildren. We became, as TV Tropes would put it, fire-forged friends, and we're still friends on Facebook to this day. She served as a comforting presence for me during a very chaotic time.
Once everything was settled and we were all allowed back in the hotel, I checked in on several of the stars I met that weekend to see how they were feeling. They were as taken aback by the day's events as I was, but we were all safe, and that was all that mattered. I turned in for the night and was up again early on Sunday for the last day of the October 2018 Chiller.
Johnny Caps and Ruggero Deodato
Ruggero Deodato, the director of 80s movies like Cut And Run, The Barbarians and, most infamously, Cannibal Holocaust, recognized me from earlier in the weekend as he was in the same room with my dear friend, Rocky DeMarco. As with Barbara Eden, I didn't know when or if he would come to Chiller ever again, so I decided to get a picture with, and autograph of, him.
Something cool he was doing was something of an act of atonement. Several animals were genuinely killed on camera in Cannibal Holocaust, most notable some turtles, so he and several other Italian horror veterans at this Chiller were signing toy turtles with all the proceeds going to a local turtle sanctuary. I didn't think to purchase one in addition to the autograph, but if Ruggero ever comes back to the show and is signing turtles again, I'll buy one for sure.
Johnny Caps and Patty Mullen
I then met Patty Mullen again. This was the third Chiller I met her at, and I'd actually met her first on Friday. The picture I took with her didn't come out that clear, though, so we got a new one together, and Patty was just as lovely and charming as she always is. I always like seeing Patty when she comes to Chiller. She's fantastic with the fans, and she always has fun with the photos she takes with them. She's a very cool person.
4:00 PM came, and so did my friend to pick me up and bring me home. The October 2018 Chiller was in the books, and in spite of the gas leak and bomb threat the day before, I had fun. I was already looking ahead to the April 2019 Chiller, which I thought would be the last Chiller I would attend for a while. It wasn't, though, and you'll find out the stories behind the 2019 Chillers in Part 4, which will be the final chapter of this mini-series.
Until then, keep the spirit of the 80s alive, everybody!