Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Riske Business: The Hall of Kick-Ass, Vol. 1

Meeting a celebrity can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes a quick encounter enhances your opinion of the person; other times, it turns you off to them completely. I am NOT going to talk about the bad encounters because in the words of the great Kirsten Dunst, “Why waste your tears on someone who makes you cry?”

Instead I want to say "thanks" to the celebrities I’ve met who provided me with a great memory or a chuckle, and welcome them into the brand new Hall of Kick-Ass!*

And here are the first inductees:
Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak) – This induction is out of guilt. I am a fan of Stuart Gordon movies, and Barbara Crampton is great in many of them. One convention, I went to get her autograph. I was leaving her table and she said “Wait, don’t you want a picture?” and I said “No, I’m good.” I felt like a big jerk afterwards because she is very pretty and nice and she looked confused/hurt. Barbara, I hope you accept my apology with an induction in the Hall of Kick-Ass.
Charles Fleischer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Demon Knight, Zodiac) - I got an autograph from Charles Fleischer at an autograph show that I was at with my best friend Jon and his then-girlfriend. My friend went to the bathroom when I was getting the autograph, so it was just me and his girlfriend. Charles Fleischer asks “Are you two a couple?” and she said “No, I’m his best friend’s girlfriend. Jon is in the bathroom right now.” Charles Fleischer said “Cool, is he coming back?” and I said “Yeah, there he is right now.” As Jon walked over, Fleischer came out from behind his table and said “Jon, this a**hole is fu**ing your woman.” It was meant to get a big laugh. It did not. Oh Fleischer!
Chris Sarandon (Fright Night, The Princess Bride, Bordello of Blood) – I went to have Chris Sarandon sign a poster for Bordello of Blood. Sarandon looks at it, and then at me, and says “I wasn’t in this.” I said “Yeah, your name is there on the poster.” Sarandon replied “Huh, so it is.” This man once was married to Susan Sarandon. Incredible.
Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Hocus Pocus) – I am a big fan of Hocus Pocus, arguably a good movie and definitely a fun one. One of my favorite characters in the movie is the zombie Billy Butcherson, played by Doug Jones. So I was very excited to meet him at Wizard World in Chicago a couple years ago. He’s very nice and also very tall and lanky. How do I put this? He’s kind of mantis-sy. After I told him that I really liked Hocus Pocus and him in the movie, he gave me a hug. A LOOOOOONNNNGG hug. He wrapped his ginormous arms around me like they were Dracula’s cape. It was awkward.
Leslie Nielsen (Creepshow, The Naked Gun series, Surf Ninjas) – Meeting Leslie Nielsen was nothing special, but his actual autograph was. I had him sign a Creepshow poster, which he signed on the bottom, over the credits (which is a dark area on the poster) in black marker. Better yet, it says on one line ‘To Adam, Luck Leslie.’ He then ran out of room on that line so he wrote ‘Nielsen’ further down (but still over the credits) with an arrow connecting his first and last name. You know, in case I get lost.
Lori Petty (Point Break, A League of Their Own, Free Willy) – Lori Petty did not seem like she wanted to be signing autographs. I originally was let down when I met her, since it was a ho-hum experience, but as the day went on I walked past her table a couple more times and noticed something: she was being musically waterboarded by pop star Taylor Dayne. Let me explain. Lori Petty’s table was right next to Taylor Dayne’s. Taylor Dayne was playing "Tell It To My Heart" on a boom box really loud and on REPEAT! I get it, Lori Petty. It’s not your fault. P.S. Taylor Dayne has a kind of great song in the movie The Shadow, making it the only great thing to come from that movie. It’s like if Meat Loaf sung a Bond theme. Don’t believe me?

Update: "Original Sin" has become the official song of the Hall of Kick-Ass.
Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Free Willy, Kill Bill) – Michael Madsen was super nice! What a pleasant surprise! When I met him at a Tarantino-themed movie event, I mentioned to him how much I liked Free Willy. My sister was with me and said “Ugh, I can’t believe you mentioned Free Willy.” Madsen looks up and says “What’s wrong with Free Willy?” in Michael Madsen voice. He and I then had a nice minute or so chat about how Free Willy is wonderful to which he finished by saying “The first one is, the second one isn’t, they didn’t even have a real whale. Politics.”
Mickey Rooney (National Velvet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Fox and the Hound) – I did not get Mickey Rooney’s autograph because I have not seen many of his movies. I remember him most as the old man who locked Uncle Jesse and Michelle in his toy store on an episode of Full House and for being racist in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He was at an autograph show (the same one as Leslie Nielsen) sitting by himself in the lobby, and for some reason on an ottoman. I walked past him and he said "Hi," so I said hello back. He asked if I was having a good time, and I said I was. The conversation was nothing special, but the closing is what made it so memorable. I reached out and offered him a handshake and he said "NO!” For a second I was like, um okay what the hell. Rooney then says “I don’t shake hands, I give fist bumps!” and gives me an EXPLODING fist bump. Station!
Reggie Bannister (Phantasm, Phantasm II, Bubba Ho-Tep) – Reggie Bannister is very nice and very much a California hippie. He kept me at his table for 20 minutes telling me about Napa Valley music festivals and how he and his wife do competitive chili cook-offs while I mostly stood there and nodded, adding nothing to the conversation. He seemed lonely, and now he will never be again because he’s in the Hall of Kick-Ass.
Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, Bucket of Blood, The Raven) – I became a big Roger Corman fan after I saw Bucket of Blood at the Music Box Massacre a few years ago. When I had the opportunity to meet him and get his autograph, I jumped at the opportunity. I handed him a poster to sign and mentioned that I loved Bucket of Blood, hoping to get an anecdote in return. Corman signed my poster briskly and said “VERY GOOD SIR!” I laughed very hard and he seemed confused. It was so random. I just loved it. It’s hard to explain.
Tommy Wiseau (The Room) – Tommy Wiseau is a weird man. This is not a surprise to anyone who has seen The Room (a movie I have a soft spot for because of its sheer silliness). In The Room, there is a drug dealer curiously called Chris R. Why not just call him Chris? At a screening he attended, I asked Tommy if the R stood for anything. He said “Of course it stands for something, just like your name is Adam and my name is TAHMEEE.” He then asked me and five other people if we wanted to go outside in the snow and throw around a football. I went, and he directed us to run in a circle with him while we randomly tossed a football to each other as we stood 4 feet apart. Every time someone threw the ball to Tommy, he dropped it. Every time.
Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Willow, Tombstone) – I was a little intimidated to meet Val Kilmer since I heard he can be grumpy. These are lies. He was awesome and very funny! I bought an 8x10 photo from Willow for him to sign. The photo is of his character, Madmartigan, carrying Warwick’s Davis’ Willow on his shoulders. When he saw I picked that photo, he said “Can I put a work joke on here?” So he wrote Actual Size and drew an arrow pointing at Warwick Davis. It’s my favorite autograph.

*Also I would like to immediately induct Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer), William Sadler (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey), Alex Winter (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) and Vanessa Williams (New Jack City) into the Hall of Kick-Ass for their support of F This Movie Fest 2. We love you all. Thanks for being kick ass!

Your turn!  Who have you met that is awesome and worthy of joining the Hall of Kick-Ass? Please, pretty please do not leave ‘so and so was a jerk’ comments. If you do, you missed the Dunst’s point.


  1. I met Robert Englund in 1992 after waiting in line for almost two hours. My friend and I were among the last to get to meet him because he had to catch a flight back to LA. He had an assistant go down the remaining line to gather names and addresses of literally hundreds of fans who would miss their chance. Another friend who was much further back in line than we were didn't get to meet him, but about a month later received a personalized autographed 8x10 along with an apologetic letter for missing him. I thought that was a very classy way for Englund to handle the situation, and he was very gracious to everyone.

  2. I was flying to Boston from Houston, and had a connection in Newark. NEVER a good start. Basically, any time you end up in New Jersey, something has not gone the way you would have wanted.

    Sure enough, there was a 2 hour delay in Newark, my 9 PM flight was pushed to 11. So I head over to the food court where they don't serve alcohol (perfect) and get in line at the terrible sandwich shop (it may actually have been called The Terrible Sandwich Shop, now that I think about it). I'm waiting to pay and who sidles up in line behind me but John Lithgow? I was astonished, so didn't say anything right away. I take my disappointing meal, and shame-walk to a nearby table with a view of the TV, showing the Red Sox playing the Orioles in the last game of the season. Moments later, Mr. Lithgow pulls up a seat at the table next to mine. We're both watching the Red Sox and eating disappointing dinners in silence. Pretty much what I imagine my future marriage will be after 6 months.

    At 10 PM, the TVs all shut off automatically, the game is in the late innings and it's a real nail biter. Mr. Lithgow immediately gets flustered, and worriedly says, "No. No. What happened? Why aren't the Red Sox on anymore?" (in Lithgow voice of course; brilliant). I turn to him and say, "I guess they're shutting down for the night. Looks like they're kicking everyone out. By the way, I loved you in Third Rock From the Sun and Orange County." I didn't want to lie to him and tell him I enjoyed him in The Tuskeegee Airmen as well, because he played "standard 1940s racist empowered white guy" which I don't like, so I thought it best to stick to the truth re: his body of work with which I was familiar. He smiles and says, "Oh, thank you so much. Well, I guess I'm going to go. Go Red Sox!" (still in Lithgow voice, still brilliant) and like a courtly gentleman, he stood up, disposed of his trash, and walked away into the Newark smog.

    TL;DR: I met John Lithgow at an airport. He was nice.

    1. This is a great story -- thanks for sharing!

      My favorite Lithgow moment (aside from EVERYTHING in Memphis Belle [I'm kidding?]), is this little bit of business from 3rd Rock from the Sun.

      Feerrrrn ... buttocks.

    2. I completely forgot he was in "Memphis Belle". Could this be because it was a movie in which Matthew Modine was the lead? Possibly. Could it be that his performance was overshadowed by Sean Astin's? Can't rule it out. Could it be that I spent most of the movie waiting for Harry Connick Jr. to croon at me and/or do a Jesse Jackson impression (I saw this in high school, well after Independence Day)? Probably.

  3. Ran into Michael Moore outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza back when his "TV Nation" show was still on NBC (before moving to Fox and eventually dying) coming out of a parked limo. I told him "Roger & Me" was the first movie I saw in theaters when I moved to the States in '89 and he gave me and an old girlfriend that was with me a bear hug (he hadn't showered :-P)!

    One early Sunday morning I was carrying two ridiculously heavy bags of dirty laundry on 86th and Central Park West when two voices behind me asked me if I needed any help crossing the street. I look around and its Alec and Billy Baldwin standing next to me. I told them no thanks and kept on moving without giving them a second glance, but it was nice of them to ask.

    I once stood in line at a local NYC video store to buy a couple of Roger Corman-produced movies for a fellow DVDVerdict friend that the man himself would sign. As I approached the table I realized I had nothing to say to Corman (not a huge fan and I was only there to get the DVD's signed for my friend) so, when I got to him, I told him I was a huge fan of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and that I loved some of his movies that had been made fun of on the show. The proceeded to re-enact for him THE LINE from "The Undead" (STAY!!!). Corman looked at me for a moment like he wished I were dead, then grabbed the ready-to-sign DVD's from my hands and asked me in an angry voice 'To whom do I make this out to?' He then signed them, I thanked him, he growled and we move on. Now that's a Hall of Famer that can put up with "mua" and still have the decency to sign the DVD's; then again, the client's always right, right? :-)

    I met Larisa Oleynik (Alex Mack her own self!) at an NYC Museum for Radio and TV's tribute/panel to Nickelodeon's girl-centered live action shows. After a line of fans (mostly very young girls and their parents) kept her signing autographs for 20 minutes after the presentation ended I came last and, without looking up at me, Oleynik extended her hand expecting me to hand her something to sign. I didn't have anything (not an autograph person). We talked for 5+ minutes about "Alex Mack" stuff (her favorite director from the regulars, what writer/producer Matthew Dearborne and show co-creator Ken Lipman were like, inspiration for some episodes' plotlines, etc.) and then I thanked her for her time. Oleynik told me it's the first time somebody had talked to her only about her TV work and not asked her for an autograph or about her personal life. I smiled, turned around and walked out without looking back. I'm proud that I'm not a starstruck-type of person (you can't really be living/working in Gotham) but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was high (literally feeling light on my feet as if walking on air) for an entire week just from meeting/talking to the woman. No celebrity I've met has made me feel like that, before or since.

  4. @ Marc - Yes! I love that Lithgow story :-) I've heard parts of it before but now I feel like I have the full version.

    @JP - I met Robert Englund and had a good experience with him too. I'll have to remember to add him to the list next time. Thanks for sharing!

    @JM - Thanks for sharing too.

  5. I met Lloyd Kaufmann at Montréal Commicon. He was very approachable and fun to talk to. He had lots of time for me and didn't seem bothered by any question I had. He looked kind of tired though.

  6. It's funny that you mention Mick Rooney's role in Full House. My girlfriend is obsessed with that show, and I just watched that episode for the first time last night.

    Great column. Unfortunately, i haven't met any celebrities.

  7. Thanks Luke! Full House is a pretty great show. Sounds like you have a keeper :-)

  8. I got to spend a few days on the set of "Numb3rs" and everyone I met was incredibly awesome, funny, and willing to let a (then) 18 year old kid ask questions and watch things unfold on set. Alimi Ballard, Rob Morrow, and David Krumholtz were the standout Kick Ass members of the cast, and having lunch with them one day on set continues to be one of my best memories.

    1. How did this come about? Did you win a contest, have a friend in the crew that let you 'crash' the set? Were you an extra and/or background player behind the leads? Gossip about "Numb3rs," please. :-)