The Weirdest Convention I Ever Did With Dave Dorman

Dave and I have been together for 15 years now, so as you can imagine, we’ve shared many bizarre convention adventures, given the sheer number of shows we’ve done. However, there’s one small, local convention that still wins for the most bizarre. Being there, I felt like I was floating through this weird, drug-induced pop culture dream, filled with disparate TV and film characters from my youth and early adulthood.

It was a small collectors’ show at a suburban Chicago Holiday Inn, held in this cramped, low-ceilinged, poorly lit conference room. The moment I walked in, I was met by actor Richard Kiel (Jaws from James BondSQUEE!–and hilarious in Happy Gilmore) joined by his lovely wife.

Actor Richard Kiel, JAWS in James Bond films "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker."

Actor Richard Kiel, JAWS in James Bond films “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.”

At this point, Richard was already having health issues, confined to getting around in a Rascal, which broke my heart a little. He was a gentle giant and a sweet soul, very kind to the fans.

Further down the line of tables on the same side as Richard Kiel was the elegant Goldfinger actress Shirley Eaton, who was with one of her sons hawking books of her own poetry and autographing pictures of her gold-painted Bond Girl character, Jill Masterson. That was one tzotchke I had to have, although I gifted it to a kindred James Bond fan later that evening for his birthday. (Side note: Those exotic James Bond films were a VERY. BIG. DEAL. at my house growing up. About once every February a James Bond flick was ABC’s Movie of the Week, my TV viewing highlight of the year).

Actress Shirley Eaton was still beautiful in her 70s when I met her.

Actress Shirley Eaton was still beautiful in her 70s when I met her.

Shortly past Shirley, and directly across from Dave Dorman was actress Erin Moran of Happy Days fame. You might be surprised to know that petite little Erin has this husky, whiskey-and-cigarettes tone of voice that really carries…the sort of voice that literally exhausts Dave and vexes his spirit. The gregarious sort, Erin’s voice was a loud, constant drone throughout the show. Dave couldn’t escape it, penned to his table, enduring 8 hours of it on Saturday. He actually shortened his exhibit hours on Sunday, as he could no longer bear the sound of her. Erin was great to her fans, but Dave was not one of them.

Happy Days actress Erin Moran

Happy Days actress Erin Moran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Erin Moran was the very sweet and kind Carroll Spinney, the voice of Sesame Street’s Big Bird

Carroll Spinney, The Voice of SESAME STREET's BIG BIRD

Carroll Spinney, The Voice of SESAME STREET’s BIG BIRD

and actor Larry ThomasThe Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.

Actor Larry Thomas, the beloved Soup Nazi from Seinfeld

Actor Larry Thomas, the beloved Soup Nazi from Seinfeld

When my cousin Becky and I watched “Dazed and Confused,” we both felt as if we’d been partying all night just from watching it…it left us with this strange, hung-over feeling. And that’s how I felt after 8 hours at this collectors’ show with the most eclectic mash-up of TV and film figures from my lifetime. I still have the occasional dream–I’m the weirdo who remembers my dreams every morning–where I’m floating through that Holiday Inn pop culture blur…Dazed and Confused.

 

Watching ALIEN with Jonesy the Cat

Last night I made Jack and Jonesy the Hairless Cat watch her namesake on the original ALIEN movie with me. Needless to say, Jonesy was non-plussed. She just played with the strings on my hoodie when she wasn’t outright sleeping through it, having her little kitty dreams, muscle memory movements included. When the ALIEN version of Jonesy meowed on screen, it grabbed her attention for a brief moment and her giant ears perked up.

Jonesy the Cat, My Little Chest Burster...

Jonesy the Cat, My Little Chest Burster…

The greatest “special f/x” moment in my life occurred during ALIEN. It was 1979, during a camping trip with my parents in Estes Park, CO. The movie theater back then was this metal pole barn-style building–a bad 1970s mustard yellow, as I recall. ALIEN was playing, and I begged my parents to take me to see it. My parents paid very little attention to pop culture, so they had no idea what they were in for.

On that particular night, a bad storm was headed for Estes Park. Dark, ominous clouds were gathering and speeding toward us as we raced to the theater. We barely got in before the downpour.

In the famous scene where Kane is attempting to eat his first meal after recovering from the xenomorph facial attachment, the storm outside the theater began picking up its pace. Winds were howling. The sound of the pounding rain on the tin roof was deafening.

Then, at the precise moment when the chest burster popped through Kane’s chest, lightning struck the pole barn theater, accompanied by the loudest thunderclap I’ve ever heard! It was AWESOME! I literally jumped out of my seat. We all did. It will remain the best special f/x movie-watching moment of my lifetime.

Last night I gently reminded my mom of that moment as we were watching ALIEN together. She couldn’t remember it at all. It’s always interesting to me when those moments in your life that have the greatest impact on you are so trivial to those you were with at the time. Since that was a treasured time in my life, spending quality time with my dad on a family vacation, I wish my mom could share in that memory.

Perhaps a “Spock Mind Meld” is in order…

Ranger Jack

Today Jack delivers his “Death Valley” report for school in front of a green screen. One of the things I love about his school is their heavy emphasis on public speaking, which they start teaching at an early age. I believe public speaking to be one of the greatest weapons in your arsenal, in the business world and beyond.

Ranger Jack, Reporting on Death Valley

Ranger Jack, Reporting on Death Valley

Today’s Ranger Jack costume is designed by “House of Denise”: my Ron Jon Surf Hat, which Marovich calls my “Inspector Gadget Hat” and tries to hide from me for months on end because she hates it so much, and my Orvis fly fishing vest, which I used to wear for video shoots pre-9/11–those millions of pockets were GREAT!–and then post-9/11, my beloved vest made the TSA scrutinize me a little too closely every time I flew (as in “I lost my virginity to a latex-gloved TSA agent”) so that vest is now retired to my luggage for video shoot travel. I guess I’ll just have to start wearing burquas to prevent future scrutiny.

The Comedy Genius That Is Bob Odenkirk

Sure, I’m loving “Better Call Saul,” but there’s a YouTube video I watch over and over again, which I’m sharing with you now. You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen Bob Odenkirk play Charles Manson on The Ben Stiller Show:

Bob Odenkirk as Charles Manson

Bob Odenkirk in his most hilarious role EVER – as Charles Manson

Click here to laugh really hard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5IrRe2F7qY

So Marovich, my bff since 7th grade, knows how to sucker punch me with Manson-isms when she wants me to giggle at inappropriate moments – she does the hand gestures, the spins and crouches, and pretty much everything exactly like Bob Odenkirk. There is zero chance of me maintaining any poker face. If I have dinner at Marovich’s house, I’m likely to hear the line “I’ll fix brain stew for dinner when I’m the cook, Jack!” The evening will end with this thoughtful, raspy little comment, “You can’t hear nothin’ when your head’s in a bag, Jack!” or… “I got the eye of the tiger and I dunno who to kill first! You can lock me up but you can’t block me up!”

If you’ve never seen Bob Odenkirk as Manson, just remember, it can’t be unseen.

That Time I Got Kicked Out of the HOUSE of BLUES in CHICAGO

I just received this direct message from Pat Benatar’s marketing team (clear the decks for 4/22 my friends…)…

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at The Arcada Theater in St. Charles, IL 4/22/15

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at The Arcada Theater in St. Charles, IL 4/22/15

…and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the last Pat Benatar concert I attended. That was the fateful 1990s night that I and my crew got kicked out of the HOUSE of BLUES in Chicago.

My partner in crime and BFF since 7th grade, Marovich, (see this link for reference) came to the concert with her daughter Shorty C-Spice’s 3rd Grade teacher, joining me and my friend Marlot Cheetah. (I should add, “Marlot Cheetah: The-‘t’-is-silent” is her bad 1960s Elvis Jungle Room name – mine is “Silkie Pantera.”) We four were in high spirits, ready to get our ’80s on.

Marovich had some Club Level membership, which was really lame, because there was zero stage visibility from there. We decided to head down to the floor and party with the rest of the unwashed masses. I should add, Marovich’s little brother (who, by default, is my little brother, whether he likes it or not) had recently become employed as the lighting designer there. He was working that night, and his electronics boards were on the main floor level, out in the open, and rather exposed. This data comes into play a little later.

I had one of my infamous big purses on my arm and a beer in my hand, carefully swaying to Pat Benatar’s impressive, operatic voice range. Out of nowhere, this couple in front of me turned around and threw a beer in my face. It was the strangest thing. I had no altercation with them, I wasn’t standing too close to them, and I had said and done nothing to provoke such aggressive behavior.

I didn’t know Shorty C-Spice’s 3rd Grade teacher very well, but that night I learned one important detail: She has a hair-trigger temper. My plan was to ignore the whole thing and continue on with the concert. 3rd Grade Teacher’s plan was to start a brawl.

3rd Grade Teacher retaliated. She screamed some salty language while throwing her sticky cocktail at them. As I stood there swaying to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” ironically, the couple in front of me was chasing Shorty C-Spice’s 3rd Grade teacher into the front lobby. By the time I got there, the muscular, Italian boyfriend had 3rd Grade Teacher’s arms pinned above her head to the wall as his girlfriend was hitting 3rd Grade Teacher with her best shots, right in the stomach. It had escalated from zero to crazy town in a matter of seconds. Marlot Cheetah jumped right into the fray, and the muscular boyfriend threw her down. She hit her head, hard, on the metal railing. I can still hear the clanging sound. It was so horrible, frightening, and out of control. By the time the can’t-be-reasoned-with meathead security team arrived, we were all asked to leave. The beatings were clearly one-sided, and despite Marovich’s elite Club Level membership, nothing could be done. We were OUT.

The next day our baby brother called, cursing us. He spent his morning  cleaning his lighting electronics boards with Q-tips and rubbing alcohol. A sticky, mixed drink targeted for 3rd Grade Teacher somehow landed directly on his boards. He has since retaliated, and this triggered a never-ending practical joke war with “our” baby brother. There’s no end in sight.

To this day, I still wonder what prompted this couple to throw their beer at me? It’s one of those unresolved conflicts to which I’ll never know the answer. I hate that it still rents space in my brain.

Come to think of it, Pat Benatar should pay us to attend her next concert…

And our baby brother Johnny Rock Star weighs in.

…And our baby brother Johnny Rock Star weighs in.

 

 

New Hashtag: #FirstSundaeBarAtAFuneral

 

Sundae assembled by my cousin Tami (Follman) Borman to commemorate my dad today at his funeral. Photography by Tami, also.

Sundae assembled by my cousin Tami (Follman) Borman to commemorate my dad today at his funeral.                               New Hashtag and Photography by Tami, also.

Jack’s Eulogy Today for His Grandfather/My Dad:

Grandpa is cool and awesome and he is funny and he likes eating fudge sticks a lot.

Grandpa was funny and we would always eat our fudge sticks together while watching “Gunsmoke.”

We used to play bowling on Wii sports and Grandpa would always beat me.

My favorite thing about Grandpa was that he made funny jokes. He was always happy and he would always be smiling.

Grandpa liked taking naps with Jonesy the Cat, and he liked playing with Jonesy.

I love Grandpa and I will miss Grandpa very much, and every time I find a penny, I will know he’s thinking of me.

A Post Today About My Dad from Darlene Nauman, My BFF since Kindergarten:

#WordsThatMakeMyEyesLeakWater

#WordsThatMakeMyEyesLeakWater

My Dad, the Cover Model

Well, at least the backside of him was…Dad was always up for anything I threw at him, and on this particular occasion, I was doing the creative for three Business-to-Business direct mail pieces for my client GROHE, a high-end German faucet company. This piece was called “Plumbers’ Helpers,” targeted towards plumbers. Dad had no objections to posing with his favorite grandson, Jack. Of the three direct mailers I did, this one–with Dad as the hand model–got the most responses. The photographer was my BFF since Kindegarten, Darlene Nauman.

Jack and Dad in a GROHE ad.

Jack and Dad in a GROHE ad.

The test photo - stunt butts in action!

Stunt butts in action: Photography by Darlene Nauman

Losing That First Parent

One day I will hug you again for real, Dad.

One day I will hug you again for real, Dad.

Today is a day I would dare myself to imagine from time to time, in the darkest recesses of my mind, but never quite opening that door. The pain was too great. I would well up with tears even toying with the idea. But today, it really happened. I officially became a grown-up. I lost my first parent. I held his cold hand as he took his final breaths and his heart beat for the very last time. It was far worse than I dared imagine.

I’ve held it together to comfort my son and my mom. I’ve arranged everything, with the help of my Aunt Karen and my cousins and my sister-in-law Danine. I’ve even arranged the stuff one doesn’t usually think of, like having someone protecting the house while we’re off at the funeral. I was always “Daddy’s Girl,” and today I stubbornly refused to let him down.

And tonight, when the house is quiet and I am sure everyone’s needs have been attended to, I will totally lose my shit and have that good cry. I’ve earned it.

Luckily for me, the softer moments of my crazy family just being my crazy family always seep in to alleviate some of the stress. Take this email exchange between my cousins just now. To honor my dad, we decided to host a sundae bar at the post-funeral luncheon. Dad was a fanatic for ice cream. (It feels so weird to be speaking of him in the past tense.) Dad could never remember the punchline to a joke (which fell to me), but he could recite the location of every Dairy Queen and Tastee Freeze in Northern Illinois…and parts of Southern Wisconsin. He also adored my Aunt Karen’s homemade hot fudge sauce–a family favorite at every get-together–which my hyper-competitive cousins are happily replicating for the funeral:

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.
 Original Message  
From: Greg 
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 7:58 PM
To: Karen
Cc: Denise Dorman; Jeff & Janell; Becky
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements

Are we going to have a ‘Mom’s hot fudge sauce cook off’? See if the 4 of us can take 3 cups of sugar, a can of evaporated milk, a stick of butter, 8 squares of Baker’s chocolate and a teaspoon or so of vanilla and taste a difference between the 4 sauces?

*********************************************************************************************
From: Jeff & Janell 
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:20 PM
To: Greg 
Cc: Karen, Denise Dorman, Becky
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements
Game on!
Sent from my iPad
********************************************************************************************
From: Becky
Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 8:20 PM
To: Karen
Cc: Denise Dorman; Jeff & Janell; Greg
Subject: Re: Funeral arrangements
I’m sure we can find plenty of willing judges for this!
Send from my iPhone
*********************************************************************************************

The Happy Things I Focus On During Sad Times

I’ve done a fairly good job of keeping my game face on during the impending sad days ahead (and let’s face it, watching one’s beloved father decline daily in hospice is incredibly sad as well). So here’s my Top 10 List of Happy Things I’m focusing on today to keep a smile on my face.

1. Groundskeeper Willie. Those of you who know me know WHY.

My animated love, Groundskeeper Willie.

My animated love, Groundskeeper Willie.

2. The birthday cake my “Sister Wives” had made for me last year. 

Peter Dinklage....

Peter Dinklage….

3. THE STAND by Stephen King. My favorite book of all time by my all-time favorite author.

THE STAND by Stephen King...the greatest book ever written, IMHO.

THE STAND by Stephen King…the greatest book ever written, IMHO.

4. The news that Harper Lee is releasing a 2nd novel. 

The book I cannot wait to read...

The book I cannot wait to read…

5. WGN Morning News – I can always count on them to make me laugh hard at least once every morning:

WGN Morning News Crew - The Funniest in the Biz.

WGN Morning News Crew – The Funniest in the Biz.

6. Bob’s Burgers Valentines, posted today: http://www.buzzfeed.com/annas31/21-hilarious-valentines-only-bobs-burgers-fans-942y?bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgy#.hhePP6LM3

Bob's Burgers Valentines - a Big Bowl of WIN.

Bob’s Burgers Valentines – a Big Bowl of WIN.

7. Rediscovering this photo from my Jamaica trip with my hilarious BFF, who is always making me double over in giggles.

Marovich, Sporty C Spice & Me in Jamaica.

Marovich, Sporty C Spice & Me in Jamaica.

8. This book tattoo, which makes me tempted to get one for the first time in my life (and has several tattooed friends volunteering to go with the world’s biggest chicken shit–me): 

Amazing book tattoo that has me tempted...

Amazing book tattoo that has me tempted…

9. Kim Stover, a terrific teacher, who helps me burn off my stress:

Kim Stover, Founder of Dance It off

Kim Stover, Founder of Dance It off

10. This Jack Kirby meme, which reminds me to never, ever, ever give up:

Jack Kirby Meme

Jack Kirby Meme