One of my favorite things about attending cons is collecting autographed pics of various movie, TV and rock stars, some of whom were icons during my childhood. Many were familiar faces from daily syndicated TV reruns, some of whom I spent more time with than actual members of my own family, and that was not necessarily a bad thing. I didn't really get into collecting autographed photos until I reached my late-thirties, realizing that in many cases if I didn't get the autographs of my childhood favorites now, I would miss out on them due to the inevitable results of limited human mortality. The classic example of this was when I skipped getting Jonathan Harris — Dr. Smith from LOST IN SPACE, one of my all-time favorite over-the-top characters to this day — figuring, "Aah, I can get him next year," only to have him die some three weeks later. I learned my lesson from that instance and now seek to snag all the pertinent geeky autographed memorabilia I can before the objects of my interest join the Choir Invisible. As always, Dragon Con offered many opportunities for signatures and 8x10's — the least pricey starting at $25 and (from what I saw) topping out at $65 for Brandon Routh — and here are the fruits of my being an autograph hound this time around.
During my childhood, you were either into I DREAM OF JEANNIE or BEWITCHED, and I was very definitely in the Samantha Stephens camp. Samantha's comedic witchery still strikes me as hilarious, but I always found Jeannie's antics to be considerably more juvenile and I also objected to the whole "Yes, Master" thing (for obvious reasons). But as I got older I came to understand how Jeannie played into both male and female fantasies, a point finally driven home to my adult sensibilities a few weeks back when I watched the first episode of I DREAM OF JEANNIE on Hulu, the first time I'd seen it since probably 1974. It was a real eye-opener because the Jeannie of that first installment was extremely sexually aggressive for 1965, an aspect that was swiftly toned down, presumably to keep the show in line with Network Standards and Practices. That was a damned shame because I found that version of Jeannie very interesting, and I'm curious to see what the show would have evolved into if it had been allowed to continue un-neutered. Barbara Eden has always been undeniably hot and sexy, so it goes to show you how young I was when I was preferring Jeannie to Samantha; Elizabeth Montgomery's Samantha was certainly striking, but she didn't wear fantasy harem girl outfits and there was no sexual tension between her and Darrin because they were married in BEWITCHED's first episode, while Jeannie was very much a male fantasy brought to cartoonish life and indelibly portrayed by Eden. I totally get it now, so I had to snag Barbara Eden's autograph.
One thing I've learned over the years is that if you want to be certain of having a good picture of the star in question for autograph purposes, you'd damned well bring one you've obtained yourself because there's no guarantee that the photos available where the stars are signing will be any good. With that in mind, I obtained the photo seen above from a certain movie material store in Manhattan that I've shopped at for thirty years (but is sadly no longer up to its pre-1990's standards) and that move proved wise since what was available, while good, was not great. When Barbara Eden saw it she commented on how back in the days they sure knew how to take fun publicity shots, and I heartily agreed with her.
Billy West is one of America's preeminent voice actors and I've loved his work ever since his time as one of the daily fixtures on THE HOWARD STERN SHOW. Nowadays he's garnered a considerable cult following for his work on FUTURAMA as Fry and Dr. Zoidberg, so when I heard he was going to be at the con I put him on my short list of must-have autographs. When I met him I told him how much I enjoyed his work with Stern, particularly his hilarious Dr. Smith in "LOST IN SPACE 1990," and that commented unleashed a flood of reminiscences of his time on the show. But when I looked over the shots he had for autographs, I was somewhat taken aback by how bad the portraits of him were, as opposed to stills culled from FUTURAMA; the one's featuring West's face included a kinda creepy shot of his face with one of his FUTURAMA characters to his right (the choices included Fry, Zoidberg and Zap Brannigan), with both images superimposed onto a garish one-color background. They were laughably bad, but they were also so bad as to make me think they were intentionally awful, so after careful consideration I opted for the one of Billy and Zoidberg. When West signed it, the 8x10 underwent a magical transformation from merely ugly to a thing of hideous awesomeness:
Sporting a signature that suggests "Let's go eat some garbage," I now cherish this item and looked at it several times over the weekend, each viewing cracking me the fuck up. This one's getting framed so I can have it make me smile every day as I see it on the Vault's wall.
Also from FUTURAMA was John DiMaggio, who voices Bender Rodriguez, one of my all-time favorite robot characters and a walking violation of every one of Asimov's sacred laws of robotics.
Without a doubt the most genuine of the celebs I met this time around was Marc Singer, best known as The Beastmaster from the 1982 film of the same name (followed by sequels in 1991 and 1996).
At first I was not planning on buying one of his stills — though I'm a fan of barbarian/fantasy stuff, I was never totally crazy over THE BEASTMASTER — but then I watched as Singer came out from behind his signing table to speak with two very young kids, dropping to his knees so he would be at an almost comparable eye level with them and asking them about themselves, what their interests were and what they wanted to be when they grew up. The rapt kids told him everything and Singer warmly listened and encouraged them in their ambitions before sending them off with free autographed pics. When the kids left I told Singer that I'd worked with kids back in the days and he would have been a natural. I also told him how he clearly respected the kids as human beings, taking the opposite tack of many adults who talk down to children, and how much I appreciated such kindness. Singer then looked at me and recounted the story of a location shoot he was on where a local little girl showed up and drew a picture of one of his co-stars. The actors and crew were charmed by the kid's drawing and they all praised her for her efforts, which she was clearly thrilled by. But then her mom showed up, saw what was going on and scornfully said, "Whadda we have here? An artist?" Singer said all of the kid's enthusiasm was crushed and he saw all the joy drain from her, so ever since he has done all he can to encourage kids in their artistic pursuits. That is what I call completely excellent, and as a result I will always have a kind word for Marc Singer.
Next is Marta Kristen, aka Judy Robinson from LOST IN SPACE.
When it came to the girls on that show, I was more of a Penny man — Penny (Angela Cartwright) during Season Three was a study in post-adolescent brunette hotness — but Judy definitely caused "stirrings" in many of her young fans back in the days. Nowadays Kristen is sixty-five, but she has had not a trace of plastic surgery and is smokin' hot. A total Norwegian-born GMILF.
If you've seen BLUE VELVET, you'll never forget Dean Stockwell as Ben, that creepy motherfucker who lip-synchs Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" into a floor lamp, one of my favorite moments of '80's cinema.
Stockwell was there to sign for QUANTUM LEAP and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and had no shots from BLUE VELVET, so I'm glad I brought my own. When he saw it he let out a laugh and showed it to Scott Bakula, who said "You're scaring me..."
Here's Josh Elvis Weinstein, the original voice and puppeteer of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000's Tom Servo. All of the merch that he and his fellow MST3K alums brought sold out out the previous night, so it was a good thing that A.C. gave me this magazine article for him to sign at the big MST3K panel.
Here's Kelly Lebrock as Lisa, perhaps the ultimate male fantasy made flesh in the '80's classic WEIRD SCIENCE.
Lebrock was notorious in recent years for having put on a lot of weight, but I'm here to tell you that she's shed the excess poundage and looks terrific.
Unfortunately best known as Chakotay on the horrendous STAR TREK: VOYAGER, Robert Beltran is a criminally-underrated actor who starred in two of my all-time favorite comedies, EATING RAOUL and SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN BEVERLY HILLS (this shot is from the latter film).
For reasons unknown, SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN BEVERLY HILLS is not available on DVD and even Beltran had no idea why it's nowhere to be found. That's a damned shame because it's an unsung gem that's waiting to be rediscovered.
And of course Brent Spiner as the one and only Data.
Spiner continued the trend of the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION actors whom I've met being very engaging and great to their fans, and he seemed like a pretty cool dude.