Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Justin Alcala at Days of the Dead Chicago 2014

Days of the Dead returns to Indianapolis, IN July 5-7. I will be "On the Beat" as always, but for now, I am recalling some fun moments over my many years there.
One of the cool parts of DotD is the newcomers who are there. I have met many authors and other creators who were just starting their careers. Justin Alcala is one such author.
While I would have come across Justin in my coverage of DotD, I was first alerted to him by my cousin Ernie, who is a cousin of Justin. Ernie mentioned that Justin would be at DotD and asked if I would be interested in interviewing him I absolutely wanted to interview him! I am always looking to discover and promote fresh creators. We talked about his writing, his influences, his start and much more in our interview at On the Beat With Justin Alcala at Days of the Dead
Justin describes himself as a novelist and nerdologist. He is the author of the novels Consumed, The Devil in the Wide City and Dim Fairytales. He also has written several short stories, appearing in magazines and elsewhere. Justin created The Plenty Dreadful universe, a deranged supernatural version of the modern world.
Justin is a talented young author. I appreciate Ernie thinking of me in pointing me towards Justin. I am sure Justin will have a long and successful career in creating fascinating stories and characters.
There are so many talented folks I have met at DotD. Justin joins the ranks of author Michael West, artist Kurt Dinse and so many more. I look forward to meeting new creators this year.
Go to DaysoftheDead.com for more info and scheduling. Also, check out Justin at JustinAlcala.com.
Justin Alcala and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2014.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tiny Lister at Days of the Dead 2018

Days of the Dead Indianapolis is returning July 5-7. I have had many great times at DotD events and I am recalling some of my favorites.
Thomas "Tiny" Lister was an actor who made his way into the wrestling world. Usually, it works the other way. In either case, Lister found success in both arenas.
A national shot put champion in college, Lister turned to acting after an injury ended his football tryout in the United States Football League. Many years into his acting career, Lister landed a part in No Holds Barred starring Hulk Hogan. That led to two stints in wrestling (as Zeus, his movie role, and Z-Gangsta), both of which featured him batting Hogan.
Lister made a rare appearance last year at DotD Chicago, much to the delight of attendees. He fits in the horror and wrestling category and his line showed his popularity.
On a side note about Lister, he was born blind in his right eye due to a detached and deformed retina. Lister overcame the odds to have a successful sports and acting career.
Check DaysoftheDead.com for the celebrity guest list at the upcoming Indianapolis show. There will be plenty of horror-related guests and a few wrestlers thrown into the mix.
Tiny Lister and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2018.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Friend Encounters: Roddy Piper and Tony Feddeler

Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities. With Days of the Dead coming to Indianapolis, IN July 5-7, I present a special Days of the Dead edition Friend Encounters.

My bud Tony Feddeler has made several appearances here. Neither one of us can remember where we met. We know it was either a comic con, a Chicago Bandits game or a wrestling show. In any case, we did meet and have become friends, often haging out at any one of the above mentioned places.
At a Days of the Dead event several years back, Tony met "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, my favorite wrestler of all time. A wrestling fan, Tony has met many of the greats, but Piper has to be near the top of that list. I am sure Piper appreciated Tony's They Live shirt, because I heard him talking about it. They Live was Piper's first big movie outside of wrestling and it has become a cult classic.
That was pure Piper. He connected with the fans. People weren't just dollars to him. He did not believe in giving a quick signature and pushing the line at a high speed. Piper gave each person his special moment.
Piper passed away way too soon. He is missed by all. Tony had the chance to meet Piper and he took it. This is the lesson. Never pass the chance to meet your favorites, because you never know if you'll get a chance again.
Days of the Dead continues to bring in legendary wrestling guests. The next DotD is July 5-67 in Indianapolis, IN. So far, Kurt Angle and Sgt. Slaughter have been announced. Check DaysoftheDead.com for more info and updates.
Tony Feddeler and Roddy Piper in Schaumburg, IL-November 2012.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Celebrity Jersey Cards #433 Jerry Cantrell and Will DuVall

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series featuring celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, we continue our season-long trek alphabetically through Major League Baseball.

Born in Tacoma, WA, Jerry Cantrell worked odd jobs and played music after quitting college. He eventually would become founder, lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and main songwriter of Alice in Chains. Cantrell is widely considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of his era. He stayed true to his Washington roots when he made an appearance at a Seattle Mariners game, thus earning his Celebrity Jersey Card. He gets extra points for wearing an official cap, too
William DuVall was born in Washington, D.C. and played in many bands before joining Alice in Chains as co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. In December 2018, DuVall and Cantrell were tied at # 10 on Total Guitar/MusicRadar's "15 Best Rock Guitarists in the World Right Wow" poll. DuVall also joined Cantrell in an appearance at a Mariners game to earn his Celebrity Jersey Card. DuVall gets extra points for being the first person to appear holding his cd.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Snakey at Days of the Dead 2018

Days of the Dead Indianapolis runs Friday, July 5 through Sunday, July 7. As DotD approaches, I am looking back on fun times over the years covering it.
When I saw Snakey at Days last year, I was a bit apprehensive about holding him. I am not particularly afraid of snakes and (in all seriousness) I am reasonably sure the handlers would have the situation under control at all times. In other words, the odds were pretty good that Snakey wouldn't bite me or constrict around my neck. I felt pretty sure that I would not be in danger.
What I feared was a repeat of the last time I held an animal at DotD. Several years ago, Cuzz Gekas and I were at DotD Indy and saw a vendor with an alligator. For the same reasons I felt safe around Snakey, I felt completely okay with holding Otis the Alligator.
Cuzz and I held Otis as the photographer took our picture. Then it happened. Otis started relieving his bladder. Cuzz wisely extricated himself of the situation. I wasn't as smart or as quick. Otis proceeded to soak my shorts with a lot of his liquid body waste.
To their credit, th handlers acted as quickly as they could. They also refunded the small fee for the picture, but that didn't make me feel much better as I stood in urine-soaked shorts.
Fortunately, our hotel was close and I opted to return there for a quick shower and change of clothes. As a side note, I threw out those shorts, rather than attempt to wash them there or (worse) take them home for washing.
With the Otis memory looming large, I boldly approached Snakey under the supervision of his handlers. They handed Snakey to me and took the picture. Snakey started moving fairly quickly and I did request the handlers take over quickly. Honestly, I wasn't afraid he would hurt me. I was more afraid that he would fall and hurt himself or others. He was quite a big snake. All ended well though/
Although one good animal experience won't eliminate the bad memory of an alligator urinating on me, it did help. I also felt good that several youngsters saw me hold the snake and felt good enough about it to take a turn with Snakey.
I want to thank JGsReptileRoadShow.com for taking steps to restore my faith in animal attractions. The folks at JG's were actually very professionala nd fun. They took extra time with youngsters and also with those who were interested but scared.
I don't know if Days will have any animal vendors this year. If they do, I am sure I will try again and hopefully it will go well. Either way, I will report right back here.
Snakey and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2018.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Gene Okerlund at Days of the Dead 2018

Days of the Dead is coming to Indianapolis, IN July 5-7. While I look forward to another great DotD event, I am recalling some of my favorite moments from the previous years there.
Last year, at DotD Chicago, Jayson Maples of HeroesandLegendsWrestling brought in "Mean" Gene Okerlund. The promoter of Heroes and Legends of Wrestling Fan Fest has been a staple at DotD, bringing in many of the greats of wrestling. I was super excited when he brought in "Mean" Gene.
I have met Gene previously, but he is always so much fun. He cut one of the funniest promos I have ever gotten (see video in the left column). At one previous event, he jabbed my friend and assistant Scotty Steiner about his shirt all weekend. It was hilarious.
This last Days with Gene was especially poignant. About a month later, right after the new year, Gene passed away at the age of 76.
I am glad I got to spend one last time with Gene. He is such a character. It was his idea to choke me in this picture. That's just the kind of fun you could expect from Gene. He was a true professional, but he was also capable of silly antics.
I talked to Gene about his son Todd, a former Olympic and New York Islanders hockey player. Gene lit up a bit as he talked about Todd and his other son Tor. He was very proud and happy for them.
Gene was the first announcer inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association HOF for his singing success in his younger days.
It was a pleasure and and honor to know Gene and to consider him a friend. He is missed greatly.
Thank you to Jayson for bringing in Gene and the other great legends of wrestling. I look forward to your special guests every show.
Go to DaysoftheDead.com for info on the upcoming show and all other events throughout the year. Also check out HeroesandLegendsWrestling to see the cool events Jayson runs.

Gene Okerland and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2018.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On the Beat With Rachel Garcia of Team USA

Barely 22 years old, Rachel Garcia is already building an impressive softball resume. With the Olympics and her senior season at UCLA coming in 2020, she only looks to build that resume a bit more. You can see all of Rachel's accomplishments on her UCLA biography or her Team USA page.
When I get my media credential for Team USA's training camp in Rosemont last week, I had to make decisions on my interview requests. Obviously, I would have liked to interview the entire team, but time constraints made that impossible. As you saw over the last few days, I got interviews with Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman. I wanted two of the best pitchers ever an I got them. When looking at the rest of the roster, I saw some great names. I picked Rachel, based on her youth and her recent accomplishments.
Rachel's UCLA Bruins beat Oklahoma to win the 2019 Women's College World Series. She earned many awards and accolades last season and certainly was lanuched into the national spotlight. On Team USA, she is gaining world wide notoriety.
In the dugout, I encountered a soft-spoken, articulate young lady. As we talked, I kept thinking about how much talent she had and how much work she has done. She has earned everything. I wonder how it felt at that age? Did she even realize what she has done and is in the process of doing? If not now, she certainly will someday.
It was a real pleasure meeting and talking to Rachel. It was even better watching her practice, warm up and play over the weekend. I thanked her again when I saw her after the weekend's games. She was gracious and appreciative.
This concludes my round of interviews with Team USA. While the rest of the team would have been great choices, too, I feel very good about the three I got. Cat, Monica and Rachel are three o the best and are three wonderful people. I feel honored to have been a part of this weekend.
Thank you to the Cat, Monica and Rachel, Team USA Managing Director of Communications Codi Warren, the entire Team USA organization, NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf, Chicago Bandits GM Toni Calmeyn and Assistant GM Jourdan Skihra for facilitating these interviews and all of my coverage.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

On the Beat With Cat Osterman of Team USA

When I featured softball legend Cat Osterman last Friday, I wrote that I hoped to get some interviews with Team USA. As you saw Saturday, I interviewed Monica Abbott. Today, I have my interview with Cat.
After a Hall of Fame career in the NPF and two Olympics, Cat retired from playing. She continued coaching however. After softball was announced for the 2020 Olympics, Cat made the decision to come out of retirement.
The interview reveals a little about Cat's decision and mindset about coming back. You can see the determination in her face and hear it in er words. Cat revealed how long she has been working at the comeback.
There are so many layers to the comeback. While Cat has stayed close to the game through coaching, returning to the field, especially at this level, is a totally different story. Would she be able to regain enough of her old form to compete for a roster spot on Team USA? Would she regret the comeback? She was putting herself out for everyone to see.
I am quite sure Cat had a certain level of confidence before she made her announcement, but I also know training and competing are different. She would never really know until she was pitching in real games.
Last weekend, Cat appeared in games against the Chicago Bandits and the USSSA Pride. In all honesty, she was not in her prime form, but she is close and she has a year to further sharpen her skills. Considering her path to get here, she is probably on schedule. Don't misunderstand me though. She is still pitching at an elite level, just not yet at her previous peak Cat level.
Of course, she is a bit older and spent time without truly competing. None of that matters when the Olympics come around. It's not about effort or relative success. It is about performance.
I write all of this to be objective about where Cat is now. I do believe she will be fine by July 202 for the Olympics. This is all part of the journey. You can't expect her to simply step back on the mound and be the best.
Cat and Monica are an elite one-two punch. They are arguably the two best pitchers ever. In short series, dominant pitching is hugely important. Monica and Cat have the ability and durability to log in a lot of innings.
You can follow the progress and get all of the news about Cat and her teammates at Team USA. Check back here for recurring coverage, including my interview with Rachel Garcia tomorrow.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Friend Encounters: Heather Furr and Alli Alberts

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

Today's feature is special for a couple reasons. First, this is about two friends, who are two celebrities (or vice versa). Heather Furr and Alli Alberts Hall of Fame Legends Football League players. We became friends during my many years of covering them on the Bliss.
This specific picture is special, too. Where are their uniforms? The ladies traded in their uniforms for more appropriate dresses considering this was taken at Alli's wedding. The ladies look even more beautiful than when in uniform.
Heather was one of the toughest and smartest players I ever saw and that includes men. Too often criticized for a lack of arm strength, Heather was a true leader at QB  A multi-time league MVP and champion, "The Rockstar" was a pleasure to watch, cover and know. She currently is a real estate agent in Chicago. Follow her at @HeatherFurr on twitter for real estate info and other fun stuff.
Alli is also a multi-time LFL champ. A threat on offense or defense, Alli has been a game-changer either way. Despite playing the rough game of football, Alli is a very skilled dentist. Go to @AlliAlberts on twitter for your dental needs and other stuff, too.
I have a lot of respect for these ladies. They gave me a lot of great memories on the field and some fun interviews and chatter off the field.
Heather Furr and Alli Alberts in St. Louis, MO-November 2017.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Celebrity Jersey Cards #432 Jim Brown & Austin Carr

This is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys. Once again, we are working our way alphabetically through all of the Major League Baseball teams.

Born in Georgia and a star at Syracuse, Jim Brown went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. He earned the HOF nod with just 9 seasons. That's how special he was. He then went on to a solid acting career. Brown's Celebrity Jersey Card comes from a special Cleveland Legends Night the Indians held.
Joining Brown on the Cleveland Legends Night was former Cavaliers star Austin Carr. Carr was on the Notre Dame team that gave UCLA their last loss before they went on their legendary winning streak. Carr was so popular in Cleveland, he was known as "Mr. Cavalier." On his Celebrity Jersey Card, Austin is joined by his fellow Cleveland legends Jim Thome and Jim Brown.