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Sunday, December 14, 2008


About two years ago I briefly dated a woman who was bewildered by my fannish enjoyment in having books and 8 x 10 photos autographed by various authors, musicians, actors and such whose work I appreciated, and I was equally bewildered by the fact that she could in no way comprehend why myself or anyone would care about such things. I made a token effort at explaining it with some sort of armchair psychobabble about having a signature as a marker of a moment in time when you met someone whose work in whatever field had brought you some small measure of happiness, but she remained unmoved and I gave up trying to make her understand. Sometimes, if you don't get it it's just as simple as that. You don't get it and probably never will, so why waste time with pointless proselytizing? But you, dearest Vault reader, more than likely do get it when it comes to the fannish urge, so you'll no doubt understand the joy I feel when I look upon these personally autographed photos from number of celebs who each in some way have made me very happy. Well, to be perfectly honest, there is one exception to the happiness rule, and that would be this one: Yes, I actually have an autographed pic of Mason Reese, remembered nowadays by those of us who were about seven or eight at the height of his popularity as the shill for Underwood Deviled Ham in a series of television commercials during the early-1970's. I have nothing against Reese, but commercials have seldom made me happy or nostalgic and I obtained his autograph solely as a palpable marker of a time in my early years when cute little kids in TV ads were briefly the lords of the earth. Now all I need is Rodney Allen Rippy's autograph to have the two kings of this particular pop culture niche (although there are those would would also make a case for Mikey from the famous Life cereal ad). Perhaps my earliest pop culture hero/obsession was Adam West as Batman on the classic 1960's TV series, so when my old friend and fellow autograph hound Tom told me he'd be able to snag his autograph I jumped at the chance. I didn't get to meet him myself, but how could I not love this? The shot perfectly sums up the sheer camp silliness that made the Sixties Batman indelible to those of my generation who absorbed it during syndication, and I'll take Adam West over any of the character-void live-action cowl-wearers who followed him any day, humorous interpretation or not. And from the same convention signing op came this shot of the Boy Wonder himself: Seriously, how could I have Batman and not Robin as well? All I need now to complete my 1960's Batman autograph collection are Yvonne Craig as Batgirl (I'm working on getting that one) and Julie "Catwoman" Newmar, the first woman who caused the very young Bunche to ask the burning question "Why is my pee-pee standing up?" Another Sixties favorite was Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, by far my favorite of the TV Beatles-knockoff quartet. He was genuinely funny and has my favorite moment in the entirety of the lysergic Monkees movie HEAD (1968), namely where he's in the middle of the desert and gets into a heated argument with the voice inside his head, demanding that it shut up. When it petulantly obliges, Mickey suddenly goes deaf and kind of loses his mind, all while the camera slowly pans away from him and an unknown voice on the soundtrack intones "Quiet, isn't it, George. Michael. Dolenz?...I said, quiet, isn't it? George. Michael. Dolenz?" An excellent scene to witness while zonked out of one's mind on psilicibin fungus goodies! (Or so I've read about in THE LADIES' HOME JOURNAL.) People look at me like I've just sprouted an extra head when they find out LOST IN SPACE, the show CBS rejected STAR TREK for, is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and those humorless assmunches can go fuck themselves. A cheesy (as of the second season) planet-hopping adventure show that featured tons of bizarro aliens, ludicrous plots and dialogue, a hot blonde and a cute brunette — I don't care what anyone says, Penny during season three was drool-inducing — , a simple and awesome flying saucer for the central location, and the unbeatable animosity shared by Dr. Smith and the Robot, LOST IN SPACE holds a very dear place in my heart and still makes me laugh my ass off. Next to Dr. Smith and the Robot, my favorite character on the show was Major Don West (played by Mark Goddard who later went on to do the soaps), the poor son of a bitch who served as the Jupiter 2's pilot, a thankless job if ever there was one thanks to the ship being hopelessly off-course and probably in another galaxy altogether, thereby rendering any real skills at mapped Point A to Point B navigation completely pointless. Don was awesome to me because he seemed much more human than the majority of his fellow crewmembers (Dr. Smith was a stowaway saboteur, so he doesn't count as crew) and lost his temper at the drop of a hat. His wrath was most often deservedly leveled at Dr. Smith's irritating and flamboyant assholism, and in that respect Don served as a stand-in for the audience in our desire to kick Smith's ass, and when not barely restraining himself from acts of interplanetary gay-bashing, Don was constantly putting the move on Judy (Marta Kristen), the Robinson family's nubile Nordic goddess of an elder daughter. Hey, the guy may have been lost in space with a bunch of preachy and uber-wholesome whitebread types, but how could he not be hypnotized by that face and those tits? In many ways both Don and Professor Robinson (Guy Williams) reminded me of a couple of neighborhood Goombahs who traded in their IROC-Z's for a spaceship and cool rayguns, which, considering my fondness for the Italian people, only endeared them to me all the more. Yeah, Don West was the shit and could have kicked Captain Kirk's ass Bensonhurst-style. As stated in a post from a few months back, Malcolm McDowell is my favorite living actor, and I have his siggie on 8 x 10's of his two most famous roles: the heinous Alex from Stanley Kubrick's classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), and the insane and incredibly debauched Emperor Caligula from the 1979 film of the same name. Two great villains, played by the same brilliant actor, and if I ever run into McDowell again I'll have to get a shot of him as H.G. Wells in TIME AFTER TIME (1979) to in some small way balance out the sheer evil. And he's such a nice guy! While we're on the subject of sheer evil, here's Linda Blair in full-on possession mode from her immortal role in THE EXORCIST (1973). I wish I could have gotten a signed shot of her holding the bloody crucifix during the "Let Jesus fuck you!" sequence, but this is a fine second choice. And if I ever get the chance, I would love to get her to sign my high school yearbook because she's a hometown girl (although I don't think she attended public school; her fame would have most likely precluded regular education among the rest of the cattle). I suppose it may be a tad gauche to speak ill of the deceased, but I knew for a fact that Isaac Hayes was douche years before his utterly hypocritical quitting of his role as Chef on SOUTH PARK over the show doing an episode that made fun of his "religion," Scientology, after he had willingly participated in the mockery of damned near everything under the sun during his years on the series. When I got this autograph, it was obtained by a friend whose girlfriend worked at the radio station where Hayes had a show, and when asked to sign it to Bunche, Hayes refused to do so and asked "What's the name his momma gave him?" I suppose the girlfriend was unaware my name actually is Bunche — albeit my surname — , so she told him "Steven," hence the obnoxious quotation marks around my name. But fuck all that shit. The man wrote the theme from SHAFT, so he automatically gets a pass. Here's one of Robert Llewellyn, the guy who plays the android Kryten on the British sci-fi comedy RED DWARF. Or maybe I should say "played" since it's unlikely that the show will ever be continued thanks to far too many reasons to go into here. Kryten's pretty much a comedy version of a Data-type character and Llewellyn was a pisser in the part, especially when wielding his obscenely penis-like vacuum cleaner hose that attaches to his crotch or when he was gender-re-classified as a woman because of lack of any dangly bits in the aforementioned region (which I realize contradicts the whole hose thing, but just go with me on this). In my opinion there is no one, and I do mean no one, who epitomizes 1990's television beefcake like Kevin Sorbo of HERCULES" THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. Not only was Sorbo a rare blend of likable lunk and heroic demi-god as the Herc, he also went on to somehow keep a straight face in the irredeemably awful MEET THE SPARTANS (2008). After that one I have to give the guy kudos for having the balls to appear in public not wearing a paper bag over his head. Here's a shot that has the distinction of combining two of my favorite elements in cinema, namely hot Bond Girls and Blaxploitation: This planetoid-Afroed vision in a bikini is chocolate goddess Gloria Hendry, who was featured alongside Roger Moore in his first outing as 007 in 1973's LIVE AND LET DIE, and then opposite ENTER THE DRAGON'S Jim Kelly the following year in BLACK BELT JONES, wherein she uttered the deathless line "I'm gonna make you look like a sick faggot!" NOTE: in that film Gloria did not rock a huge 'Fro and instead opted for a shorter 'do, presumably because if her hair had to share the same plane of existence as the awe-inspiring cranial topiary of Jim Kelly it's likely that the time/space continuum would have folded in upon itself, and frankly who needs that kind of shit? And, man! Just look at that face. What a fox! What self-admitted geek's collection of autographed stills would be complete without at least a few specimens from the original geek franchise, namely STAR TREK? Here we have Worf himself, the awesome Michael Dorn. Up next is Wor'fs ill-fated mate, K'Ehleyr, memorably played by Suzie Plackson. K'Ehleyr was one of my favorite TREK characters, despite appearing only twice, and I know I'm not alone in bemoaning the writers killing off such a fun and interesting character in favor of leaving Worf to raise their incredibly annoying son, Alexander (feh), in order to show what a washout Worf was as a dad. But whatever the case, Plackson was a refreshing antidote to the usual conflicted STAR TREK mixed-race characters, in this case K'Ehleyr being the result of the union between her Klingon father and her human mother. Sure, she displayed that famous Klingon propensity for violence when pushed or frustrated, but her sly and snarky sense of humor was endearing in a way that subsequent Klingon/human hybrid B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) didn't even begin to approach (not even after seven seasons of the appalling STAR TREK: VOYAGER). And Plackson out of costume and makeup gives off a palpable "earth mother" vibe, and with that in mind I advise any who approach her for autographs at convention at least try to keep your eyes focused on her face and not on her mouthwatering cleavage. From the 1960's STAR TREK, now colloquially known as STAR TREK TOS ("The Original Series"), comes Walter "Pavel Chekov" Koenig, albeit in a uniform from one of the theatrical movies. Next go-round, I'd like to see if I can get his siggie on a shot from when he played comedic villain General Suckitoff on Howard Stern's marvelously sophomoric BAYWATCH lampoon, SON OF THE BEACH. One of my favorite character actors is James Hong, a guy who's been around in all manner of flicks since the mid-1950's. He's the guy who made the Replicants' eyes in BLADE RUNNER (1982) and voiced Po's noodle chef dad in this year's excellent KUNG FU PANDA, but he'll forever live in the hearts and minds of genre geeks as the evil sorcerer Lo Pan in John Carpenter's delirious BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986). I can hear Lo Pan's smug voice right now: "Goodbye, Mister Burton," just before throwing a knife at the hero's head, only to have the supernaturally-revved-up hero (my man Kurt Russell) catch the knife and return it at inhuman speed right through Lo Pan's forehead, killing the bastard stone dead. And now we get to the four solid gold treasures of this collection! My lifelong fascination with all things 007 is well known by all who read my Internet blatherings, so it was inevitable that sooner or later I would track down one of the actors to play James Bond. Getting an autographed photo of Sean Connery as Bond would be the coup to end all coups but that has about as much likelihood of happening as me giving live birth to a full-grown tap dancing Jesus Christ while presenting Traci Lords with a Lifetime Achievement award during the next Oscars telecast, so my immediate second choice would be George Lazenby, the guy who took over as 007 when an utterly fed-up Connery fucked off out of the Bond series after the fifth film, 1967's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Lazenby starred in 1969's ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, considered by most to be the best James Bond film ever made — or as others, including myself, say, it would have been the best if Connery had starred in it (I still favor FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) — and I liked him just fine in the part. Lazenby offered a more human Bond than had been seen previously (which was wholly appropos for the story this film tells), and he was easily the best fighter of the lot. But, contrary to popular myth, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE was not a flop and Lazenby voluntarily left the series after taking what may have been the worst agent's advise in history (specifically that the Bond pictures' time was over thanks to "youth" movies like EASY RIDER, and it would be good to bail before he got stuck on a sinking ship of a franchise), and Connery came back for one more film before Roger Moore took the role. Anyway, Lazenby was one hell of a gracious and nice guy and I wish he'd done more than just one Bond film. As an old school STAR TREK fan I get a real kick out of getting my hands on personally autographed 8 x 10's from TOS castmembers, so when my friend Jill (a petite and very sexy young thing who's perhaps the quintessential geek-girl) gave me this next shot I nearly plotzed. Not only is it a completely excellent shot of George Takei looking totally out of his mind as Sulu in his signature moment from "The Naked Time," the shot of a shirtless and greased-up Takei takes on a new and hilarious meaning now that he's offically — and blazingly — out of the closet and allowing his unfiltered sense of humor to run rampant. Jill was kind enough to mule for several of the photos seen here, but this one is by far my favorite of the lot. Jill, for this one you are now in my will. And goddammit, I love me some George Takei! Oh, my! There are a handful of people in the history of moviemaking whose contributions simply cannot be overestimated, people whose bolstering of the human imagination and the filmic expereince elevates them to virtual godhood in the eyes of moviegoers. Ray Harryhausen is such a living legend, and I consider it a profound honor to have met and spoken with him at length on two serparate occasions. I actually shook when I met him and was delighted to discover that his graciousness toward his legion of fans is as awesome as the mythic visions he brought to life on the screen. Harryhausen rates about as high in my book as any human being can, and if you don't know who he is I suggest you look him up online. There's waaaaaaaaay too much to be said about his awesomeness here. And lastly we come to the Holy Grail of my autograph collection. I was unfortunately unable to be there for the signing in question, but I gave this rare original press kit still to my fellow Marvel Comics Bullpenner Erica Moran to have the too-badassed-for-words karate movie icon Sonny Chiba grace it with his signature. Yep, that's THE STREET FIGHTER himself! At the time of that signing he was almost never in the States, so this is a treat that I seriously doubt will ever be repeated. Yes, Bruce Lee is the guy nearly every martial arts movie fiend worships, and justly so, but Chiba's explosive ferocity and graceless decimation of his onscreen opponents resonated with me far more than Bruce's surgically-precise movements. If Bruce Lee was the chopsocky Fred Astaire, Sonny Chiba was its Gene Kelly, and to this day I will still sit through any film starring him, no matter how badly it may suck. THE STREET FIGHTER is my favorite martial arts movie, one of the few film's that every bit as gory and mean-spiritedly violent as the genre was alleged to be in the 1970's, and actually earned the first film ever granted the X-rating for violence rather than pronographic sex, and I strongly urge you to add it to your NetFlix queue if you've never seen it. You will emerge from the experience a changed person. So there you have it, one geek's autograph gallery, and I hope you enjoyed it. The one thing that gets me down about it is that five of the photos I once had have vanished into the ether:
  • A gorgeous framed full-color head shot of Luciana Paluzzi, SPECTRE agent Fiona from THUNDERBALL, stolen from my dorm room during a college break-in over twenty years ago. She was married to a close friend of a summer camp co-worker's dad's best friend, and she had even perosnalized it with a lengthy response to a letter I wrote to her about how her character was the best of the Bond Girls because she threw Bond's allegedly infallible masculine charms in his face as she betrayed him. And now it's lost forever.
  • A full-cast shot of the gang from SESAME STREET signed by Sonia Monzano, aka Maria. It's somewhere within the deep confines of the Vault, but I'll be damned if I can tell you exactly where.
  • A 1990's cheesecake shot of one of my all-time favorite pron stars, namely Traci Lords. Also vanished into Vault limbo.
  • Two shots of Shane Rimmer, the voice of Gordon Tracy on THUNDERBIRDS and bit-player in a couple of the James Bond movies; one was a black & white head shot and the other was a color still of the Gordon Tracy marionette.
As I slowly excavate more and more layers of the Vault's wonders I'm certain most of them will eventually turn up, but until then I'll just keep on collecting and geekin'-out.


Scott Koblish said...

I have a signed 8 x 10 from Cheeta -who is still alive, retired and painting for money. I even got one of his paintings....

eggs mayonnaise said...

So much to comment on...the Mason Reese pic is epic win. I have a vivid childhood memory of him co-hosting the Mike Douglas Show for a week, and at the end of the Friday show he cried because it was ending. Try as I might, I can't scrub that away.

The Adam West "bomb" pic truly makes my tits perky. As for Burt Ward, I hope that arrived in plastic, so you didn't catch his clap.

My Trek signage is minimal; I have Nana Visitor's X on a playbill from when she was in Chicago on Broadway (she was a kickass Roxie, but Newsradio's Vicki Lewis was a craptactular Velma). Playbills seem to be my biggest venue for celebrity graphs.

I was at the Star Trek Experience in Vegas and picked up a "Kira Nerys Nose Ridge" on Tchotchke Nor. If I ever stalk her again, I'll get her name on that for sure.

In the Geek Rock world, I've followed Elvis Costello around so much over the years that I have his name scrawled on everything but my lease.

Hmm...I may get a blog post of my own out of the storage space!