Monday, September 20, 2021

The Hall of Kick-Ass Vol. 4

 by Adam Riske

A long dormant column series about celebrities I’ve met at conventions returns!

Back in 2013, I wrote a series called the “Hall of Kick Ass” where I told stories about celebrity interactions I’d had at conventions. A lot of time has obviously passed, so why not dust this one off and tell some new stories?!

Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad) – I was excited to meet Fred Dekker because The Monster Squad was pivotal in me becoming a fan of horror movies. When I met him, I told him that and a story about how when I was in Sunday school the Rabbi threatened to kick me out of class if I couldn’t stop talking about monsters. I stood up and walked out of the room because I knew I couldn’t fulfill this request. I told this to Fred Dekker, expecting a big response and maybe a hug, and he said “Ha, that’s funny” and that was it. I was a little despondent. He was supposed to dig that story the most.

Inscription: “To Adam…Fred Dekker”
William Sadler (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Shawshank Redemption) – Here’s one where I got tongue tied. William Sadler has been in so many movies I love that I didn’t know where to start, so out of my mouth came “I really like, um, your movies are great, hi I’m Adam.” Based on the rest of our interaction, I think he might have thought I had suffered brain damage because he was like “Hi Adam, I’m William…” etc., in a way you would talk to someone who fell off a ladder. We took a picture together where he said to the person taking the photo, “From the chest up, no need to see our guts” (or something like that) and I was sad because Sadler thinks we’re fat.

Inscription: “To Adam…Cool to meet you…William Sadler”

Dan Fogler (Fanboys, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) – I’m a huge fan of the movie Fanboys, especially Fogler’s performance. My big question was what he thought his character, Hutch (and the other Fanboys) would think of Star Wars Episodes VII-IX. He paused for a second and said he thinks his character would have liked them until Han Solo died. I really wanted to ask Fogler if he thought the Fanboys from his film would have grown up to become toxic Star Wars fans (my answer is yes), but I thought that would be rude. His actual signature could have been better because it starts in the upper left of the poster and ends in the bottom right. Now if I get other autographs on it the feng shui is all off but whatever.

Inscription: “Adam!...Dan Fogler “Hutch”
John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction) – This was a huge moment for me since John Travolta is my second favorite actor and stars in two of my three favorite movies of all time. I was nervous when I met him and the first thing that fell out of my mouth was “Holy shit, it’s John Travolta.” He laughed but his security team didn’t. I’ll remember that part forever because I was like “Riske, course correct, you dumb bastard.” The interaction was normal afterwards. I told him how much I loved Saturday Night Fever and how the movie and the soundtrack was something I share with my mom. John Travolta replied, “It’s part of your DNA.” I remember he looked me in the eye when we talked and never have I felt the power of celebrity more than in that moment. I completely understood why he was a movie star.

Inscription: “To Adam…John Travolta”

Billy Zane (Titanic, The Phantom) – Billy Zane is everything you could hope for in a Billy Zane. Before I went to his table to meet him, he smiled at Rob. Rob was forever changed for the better. Then we went over and talked to him. I asked if he improvised a lot on Demon Knight or if The Collector was written that funny in the screenplay. He gave me a great, long answer about how he was trying to play it like Robin Williams in Aladdin because that was popular at the time. In my experience, actors like talking about their approach to acting when you talk to them at cons. I suppose it engages them.

Inscription: “Adam…If it feels good do it...Billy Zane”

The Hall of Kick Ass will return in Vol. 5 later this year. What celebrities have you met? Leave a comment and tell me about it!


  1. This column makes me want to go to conventions! Especially your Billy Zane and John Travolta encounters, which are AWESOME. I'm jealous but also happy for you!

    I've only been to two conventions, I think? Most of my celebrity encounters come from my short tenure as a radio host, and that meant most of my encounters took place over the phone. But still fun. I miss having an excuse to talk to famous people. I've also gotten to meet a few people at the Music Box when they've done appearances.

    My favorite EVER celebrity encounter which I've probably mentioned here before was Michael Madsen and David Carradine at Hollywood Boulevard when the Kill Bill movies and a few other Tarantino films played there (back in 2006). I got to interview each of them separately for the radio via phone, and they were both great storytellers. Then, I went to the theater and met them in person and Carradine (who was quite a few drinks in at that point) hit on my roommate (she was delighted) and Madsen asked me for a copy of the interview because he really was happy with it and he signed a photo for me and he signed my roommate's cast because she had a broken foot and he also kissed my neck which is (sorry to all past and current boyfriends) the sexiest thing that has ever happened to me. LOL!

    The nicest celebrity I met at the Music Box was Jason Schwartzman, who seemed so into the conversation with each person lined up to get pictures with him, myself included. He said I looked familiar and asked if we had met before, which we had not, but he was just really friendly and down to earth.

    I also managed to get tickets to Wes Anderson's appearance at the Music Box for Grand Budapest, and he is one of my all time favorite directors. He did the Q&A onstage (during which some dumbass wasted a question by asking if he preferred the White Sox or the Cubs, and clearly he does not care about either one). Afterwards, a crowd (myself included) rushed forward to try and touch the hem of his garments and/or snag an autograph. Instead of staying and talking, the most fastidious director alive said loudly, "I have explosive diarrhea!" and rushed out the side door. I don't know whether he actually did or if he was just trying to avoid talking to the weirdos but I will never forget it!

    Beth Grant was definitely the nicest and most generous with her time when it comes to radio phone interviews. She has been in SO many of my favorite movies, including Speed and Donnie Darko. She told lots of stories and stayed on for like 40 minutes even though we were only scheduled for 10. A lot of celebrities have a publicist that will jump on the line about 7 minutes in to tell you to wrap up, but she called in herself and just seemed to be having a blast reminiscing about her past experiences. She referred to Keanu Reeves as "a philosopher" which I thought was very cute and she spent a lot of her time just praising her various co-stars and being self-deprecating. I wish I could find a recording of that interview but sadly I think it's lost to the vicissitudes of time and crappy CD-Rs.

    I also got hung up on by Billy Bush during his Access Hollywood days because my co-host made a wise crack about him being George W. Bush's cousin; looking back, no great loss there. And my weirdest interview was with Nancy Kerrigan, who was promoting some kind of frozen food brand at the time and refused to talk about anything else. Short interview as you can imagine.

    1. This makes me want to meet Jason Schwartzman. Also, I love his voice.

    2. And all your stories (Rosie and Adam) are fun to read!

    3. AMAZING stories @Rosiejoy!! Thanks for sharing! Lots of fav folks within and im glad to hear they were cool in person. not sure id feel safe with Michael Madsen being so close to my ear!...hahahhahaha...#MrBlonde

    4. When Nancy told you all she would talk about is her Frozen Food you should have just started yelling WHY?! WHY?!

  2. Rowdy Roddy Piper was a genuinely loving and appreciate person ( he actually said "oh, I love you man" when he saw my They Live t-shirt based on the Carpenters album cover) he shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and asked me what my name was in a way where I felt he genuinely wanted to know. Absolutely fantastic human being.

  3. YES! thats great to hear. as one who enjoyed the birth of professional wrestlings early 80s boom and a massive fan of They Live, its great to hear that Rowdy Roddy was a good guy in real life! Asking someones name legitimately means something.

    1. (whoops...meant to link above to Jeff K's story)

  4. THANKS ADAM! As a lifelong con goer this article idea hits home! You also do a great job describing what each of us experiences: that combination of nerves and excitement that when we actually DO get a few seconds with someone we dig, we step all over our tongues!!

    I had this happen with Bruce Campbell at a book signing for his first book. As i got closer to him in line i was trying to snap some photos on the sly and he looked down the line at me and said with that perfect sarcastic wit "its'll be able to take a photo once your up here" and then when i got there i was absolutely "Ralphie meeting Santa". Come to think of it, rather than tell him how important of a gateway movie Evil Dead 2 was to me in college, i probably just asked him for a football. weird. (Seriously..i was too star struck to say anything. I still laugh about it now as Bruce will regularly talk about how odd it is for people to wait hours to see him and then not be able to talk).

    I met John Stamos in the streets of Memphis in 94 after attending an Elvis Tribute concert that i won tickets to from The Loop. I wasnt particularly a fan but i asked if i could take a photo with him. Mind you this was in the film camera days. He said sure but we'd have to have someone take the photo and i said "no need" and held out my arm and snapped the photo of us. He chuckled and said "pretty good trick" and walked away. It was on that day that I singlehandedly created the concept and execution of...The Selfie. You're welcome America.

    Fellow chicago burbs folks may remember Flip Side Records. I went there for two album (well, cassette) signings in the 80s. Ozzy was first and he was so blitzed/exhasted that they changed it from a signing to a "walk by quickly and shake his hand as he's nodding off". As it was Ozzy, i wasnt even disapointed. Weird Al...on the other hand...was amazing. I had my same old film camera with me..not many people did at this signing....when i finally got up to him, as he was signing my cassette of Even Worse, I asked if i could snap a pic of him. He looked up and said "SURE!!!" and proceeded to daftly push his chair back and whip his leg behind his neck in one quick motion. fuking perfect.

    One more...not from me but from a buddy...years ago he was working in Chicago while Jimmy Buffett was in town...on lunch he saw some folks playing softwball and knew that Buffet would regularly hold games between the band and crew...he walked over and sure enough it was them. Jimmy yelled to him " the suit..wanna help referee this game?" He did, said it was a blast, and even had a photo taken with Jimmy by his photographer (again..olden days..they actually mailed it to him!).

    1. These stories are fantastic! I especially love the Weird Al one, he's a legend! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I've had a few random fun incounters. I worked at a coffee shop/bakery back in the day on Bleecker street in NYC, and one night right before closing Mike Myers came in with who I assume was his Mom and asked if we had bagels. It was almost midnight. I always try to play it relaxed with famous people (caveat, I've never met Kurt Russell or Rachel McAdams) so I told him that we were the one bakery in NYC that didn't have bagels. coworker Osage, who was absolutely hilarious, and a first generation immigrant from Africa (I don't remember where exactly, to my chagrin) decided to say...

    "Thank you for everything you've done for my people, Mr. Myers"

    I've never seen anyone so confused in my life as Mike Myers in that moment. He politely excused himself, to continue his quest for bagels for him and his Mom. It was simply wonderful.

    There's like five more good ones, but my thumb is tired.

    1. That's really really funny. What were Kurt Russell and Rachel McAdams like?

    2. I haven't met them, but I'd probably start crying if I did

  6. Replies
    1. Q: What did the producer say when he was told he'd have to settle for Billy Z to star in a remake of a famous Olivia Newton John fantasy movie?

      A: Zane'll do

      Q: Did you hear Billy Z was edited into the Dark Knight Rises opening scene as one of the henchmen?

      A: A Zane of Bain Falls mainly from the Plane

      Q: Have you seen the new stoner comedy where they shrink and inject Billy Z into band members from cypress hills heads?

      A: (yea, you saw it coming) In Zane in the Mens Brain

      thank you! thank you! tip your waitstaff!

    2. These Zane-y puns are making my day!!!

    3. Hazaaa! I like the one you added as well!