Thursday, August 27, 2015

On the Beat with Barry Bostwick at Wizard World Chicago 2015

Prior to the actual start of Wizard World Chicago 2015, I was invited to a Press Reception at Level 257 in Schaumburg, IL.  Michael Rooker, Barry Bostwick, Chris 51 and Josh Bodwell were the celebrity guests there and I was fortunate enough to interview all four of them.
Bostwick gained longtime fame from his role in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which has become a classic.  He co-starred in television's "Spin City," along with doing other episodic television and feature films.
I have met Bostwick several times, but this one was special.  We talked about which role of his blew up much bigger than he expected and which under the radar role of his he really loved.
We also fluffed our hair together.  Yes, you read that right.  We fluffed our hair together.  He started off our interview by commenting on my hair and followed that with suggesting we fluff our hair together.  I followed his lead d fluffed.  He's Barry Bostwick!  I am not going to snub Barry Bostwick.  Fluff away, I did!
When you see and talk to these celebs so much, they become comfortable around you and things like fluffing your hair might come up.  Why not?  Everything doesn't have to be too serious.
I really like Bostwick.  I have liked so many of his roles, too.  The more I meet and interact with him, the more I really like him.
We didn't talk about "Tales of Halloween" in this interview, because everyone else was going to ask him those questions.  In an upcoming interview with the Directors and Bostwick, we learn a bit about that latest movie project of his.  Until then, enjoy this video and then check out the "Tales of Halloween" Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Chicago Bandits-2015 NPF Champs!

The Chicago Bandits won the 2015 NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) championship.  The Bandits finished in second place in the regular season and eliminated the Akron Racers in the semi-finals for the Cowles Cup.
The championship series was a best of three, but the Bandits only needed two games to sweep the USSSA Pride.  Monica Abbott outdueled Cat Osterman, as the Bandits won both games 1-0.  This was an awesome series and a perfect climax to a fantastic season.
I had so much fun covering the Bandits all season.  This season was even more fun than last season (my first covering the team).  I am already looking forward to next season.
I want to thank the entire Bandits organization.  It all starts at the top with owner Bill Sokolis.  My main contact was PR Director Jacquie Boatman and everything run through her worked very smoothly.  Manager Mike Steuerwald and coach Roman Foore was helpful with information and were always up for a little softball talk.
The Bandits players were all super.  Whether it was in interviews or just ballpark chatter, they were always willing and eager to talk to us.  They really are  great bunch.
I plan on being back on the Bandits beat next season.  I am anxiously awaiting news of where the playoffs will be.  If at all possible, I will be there next year to provide on-site coverage.
Thank you also to Justin of Justin's World of Softball for bringing me on board for Bandits coverage.  He runs a great site and I am proud to be a small part of it.
Go Bandits...and thanks for everything!
Jack Keenan, me and the 2015 Chicago Bandits in Rosemont, IL-August 2015.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cards That Never Were: Alan Bannister 1975 & 1976 Topps

"Cards That Never Were" is a recurring series in which I create virtual trading cards to correct omissions from the various Topps sets over the years.  It is a concept I have borrowed from way to many others to list, but I thank them all.

Alan Bannister reached the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1974.  He played mostly outfield, but a little at shortstop and 2nd base.  It really didn't matter, because he was blocked with stars at every position.  Those Philly teams were pretty loaded.  Greg Luzinski, Garry Maddox, Jay Johnstone, Larry Bowa and Dave Cash were the players ahead of Bannister at those given positions.
Although he only appeared in 50 games over those two seasons, Bannister was still regarded as a prospect.  I am surprised he did not appear on a multi-player "Rookie" card during those years.
After the 1975 season, Bannister was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he got regular playing time.  Bannister was traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 1980 season.  The Houston Astros purchased him prior to the 1984 season and then traded him to the Texas Rangers a couple months later.  He retired after the 1985 season.
Bannister received cards in sets from 1977 through 1985.  He had no card in 1975 or 1976, until now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Friendly Encounters: PJ Soles and Cuzz Gekas

Friendly Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

Pamela Jayne Soles, better known as PJ Soles, first crossed my radar with her appearance in Carrie.  Shortly after, I saw her in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.  In the next few years, I saw PJ in Halloween, Rock 'N' Roll High School, Stripes and Private Benjamin.  By this point I was hooked.
I was so excited many years later when I got to meet PJ at a convention.  Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting her many times.
Some of the best times I have had with PJ have happened at Days of the Dead.  PJ is always in a good mood, even when she had laryngitis at the last Days event.  Days lends itself to a lot of interaction with the celebrities and PJ is great with her fans.  Cuzz Gekas and I have been at every Days of the Dead in Indianapolis and we agree that PJ is one of our favorite guests ever.
The next Days event is in Schaumburg (Chicago) from November 20-22.
Cuzz Gekas and me in Indianapolis, IN-June 2015.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dark History Con and Terence Muncy

Dark History Con is coming to Champaign, IL, on September 18-19.  I'll be there and so will Terence Muncy.
Muncy is a director and writer, known for Bikini Monsters and Midnight Matinee Psycho.  He is also an artist.  His artistic Creations can be found on the Terence Muncy Art Facebook Page.  Muncy will be meeting fans, signing autographs and selling his merchandise at Dark History Con.
The tag line for Dark History Con is "Looking at the darker side of history through True Crime and the tragic events that haunt us."  It will be filled with fascinating authors, artists, entertainers and more.
Brian Ward started Dark History Con in 2014 and I jumped on board earlier this year.  This promises to be bigger and better than last year.  It promises to be a fun-filled weekend.  
With the Fighting Illini playing an away game, it will be a great weekend to get to Champaign and have some fun.  I encourage everyone to check out DarkHistoryCon.com for more info and updates.
Terence Muncy and me in Indianapolis, IN-June 2015.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Celebrity Jersey Cards #234 Flea & Andy Garcia

Athletes get trading cards.  Why not celebrities?  At least celebrities wearing athletic jerseys should get cards.  I am doing my best to create cards for jersey-clad celebs.

Michael Peter Balzary was born in Melbourne, Australia.  He is better known as Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Recently, we featured his RHCP bandmates on Reds Celebrity Jersey Cards, but here it seems Flea has gone Hollywood for his.
In a bit of symmetry, Flea's Celebrity Jersey Card teammate is Andy Garcia, who was born in Havana, Cubs (for some international symmetry).  Garcia loses a few points for putting the jersey over a dress shirt (and a jacket).  I'll let all of that slide, considering the many tough guy roles Garcia has had over he years.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Monica Abbott, The Chicago Bandits and the Cowles Cup

Sports fans and media like to use words like "great" and "superstar" to describe athletes, but too often, those superlatives are just a bit too much.  I'm a little more conservative when using those words.  It's no offense to the many star athletes I have seen, but when I am talking elite players in Chicago, I think of Michael Jordan and Walter Payton.
I have to add one more name to that list.  Monica Abbott of the Chicago Bandits is truly an elite pitcher.
In 2015, she went 16-1 with 2 saves and an ERA of .31.  She struck out 175 batters and walked only 26.  Opposing batters hit a paltry .108 against her.  She also pitched a perfect game and a no-hitter.  In the championship finals, she pitched two complete game shut outs.
As great as this season was, it was not a fluke.  For her career in the NPF, Monica is 86-34 with an ERA of .99.  That's ridiculous.  In 8 years in the NPF, she has averaged giving up less than one run per game.
Monica is a bulldog.  After pitching 9 innings for a win near the end of the season, she told me she was willing to go as long as it took to win that game.  In the NPF championship, it was all Monica.  I'm willing to bet if she lost the second game, she would have started the third game (which would have been the deciding game).
Her success goes beyond the NPF, too.  She has excelled in the Olympics and in Japan.  I even saw that game face when the Bandits were playing three exhibition games in midseason.
As I wrote, Monica is an elite player.  Monica is a once in a generation player.  You can't help but appreciate the performance and effort she gives every time.
I have been fortunate enough to watch Monica up close for the last two seasons.  I know I am witnessing greatness and I appreciate it.
I had the pleasure of posing with Monica and the Cowles Cup in the locker room 2015 championship celebration.  The best player and the trophy for the best team.  That is about as cool as it gets.
Monica Abbott, the Cowles Cup and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2015.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Culture Shock with Gary Lee Vincent

At the recent Culture Shock con, I came across Gary Lee Vincent.  Like many of the guests at Culture Shock, Vincent is interesting and multi-talented.  He is a self-described Renaissance man and, after learning more about him, I would have to agree.
Vincent is an author of several books, including "Darkened: The West Virginia Vampire Series."  "Darkened" consists of the original trilogy and a new trilogy which started in 2014.
"Darkened Hills," the first book in the original trilogy, is described on the website as "a gothic vampire novel written in the spirit of Dracula with much more sinister characters and eroticism then the old Victorian classic."  The succeeding books continue the drama and horror.  For more info on Darkened, head over to DarkenedHills.com.
As a true Renaissance man, Vincent's talents don't end there.  Last year, he debuted Burning Bulb Comics.  The first release was "The Tailsman," a full color, "bizarro-western" comic.
Vincent doesn't stop there either.  He's also a musician, having produced three albums.  One is country, one is classic rock and the third is a morph of Christian rock and country.
Too many of the guests like Vincent fly a bit under the radar at these conventions.  I am very happy to try to spread the word on this talented man...this Renaissance man!  For more info, head over to GaryLeeVincent.com.
Gary Lee Vincent and me in Indianapolis, IN-March  2015.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Knowing Rowdy Roddy Piper

It was about three weeks ago that Rowdy Roddy Piper died.  Roddy was one of my childhood sports (entertainment?) heroes, who became a friend.  I eulogized the Rowdy One in my piece for Tru School Sports at Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper.
I won't repeat what I wrote there.  Instead, I want to use this as a lesson to all of us.
I had the rare opportunity to interview Roddy for an article and for a literacy ad series.  That was the beginning of a friendship, but I could have left it there and been happy.  Instead, when I heard that he was appearing at a huge wrestling convention in Tampa, FL, I decided to go and meet my idol-turned-friend for the first time.
This was back in the day when these conventions were not common.  Roddy did not make many (any?) appearances back then.  I did not want to miss what could have been my one chance at meeting Roddy.
I have written about that magical weekend many times.  I met a lot of wrestlers, but meeting Roddy was definitely the highlight.  We had a few opportunities to talk privately.  I couldn't believe that he thanked me for including him in that literacy series.
My point is that I took the chance to meet Roddy.  Had I passed, I would never have had such great memories.  As it turns out, I probably would have met him at one of the many conventions where he has appeared since then, but I didn't know that at the time and none would have given me the one-on-one time like that one did.  Since then, I have never missed Roddy when he has appeared anywhere near me.
Conventions are pretty common these days.  Celebrities from all times and fields are appearing everywhere.  If you know one of your favorites is appearing near you, don't miss the chance to see that person.  Life is incredibly short.  Memories last forever.
Roddy gave me many great memories over the years.  He became a special friend.  I am so glad I took every chance to see him.  I will never see him again, but I will always have those memories.  Thank you Roddy.
Roddy Piper, Cuzz Gekas and me in Novi, MI-May 2015.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cards That Never Were: Jerry DaVanon 1972 & 1974 Topps

"Cards That Never Were" is a recurring series in which I create virtual trading cards in an attempt to correct omissions in various Topps sets over the years.  It is a concept I borrowed from too many to list, but I thank them all.

Most of my CTNW creations have a Chicago connection, but today's does not.  Jerry DaVanon was mostly a backup infielder and the elder half of a father-son combo (son Jeff DaVanon had no Chicago connection either).
Originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, DaVanon was selected by the San Diego Padres before he would reach the majors.  With the Padres, he debuted in 1969, but was traded midseason back to the Cardinals.
After the 1970 season, he was traded to Baltimore, where he played in 38 games.  He was in the minors for all of 1971 and part of 1972, before he was traded to the California Angels.  In September of 1973, he was traded back to the Cardinals, with whom he played 30 games in 1974.
Prior to the 1975 season, he was purchased and released by the Detroit Tigers, signed by the Cleveland Indians and finally traded to the Houston Astros.  He played all of 1975 and 1976 with the Astros.  After the 1976 season, he was traded again to the Cardinals, where he played 9 games before being released, ending his career.
That's quite a travel log.  In summary, he played in parts of six seasons.  Topps gave him cards in four of their sets.  They failed to give him one for 1978, but being that he was released in May, that is understandable.
The three missing years for DaVanon would be 1972, 1974 and 1975.  I could not find a picture of DaVanon with the Cardinals, meaning I could not create a 1975 card for him.  I did find good enough pictures of DaVanon to give him his missing 1972 and 1974 cards.  I am happy with these (although Night Owl Cards might be even happier with the 1974 creation), but I will not rest until I get that elusive picture of him with the Cardinals to complete his cards!