Thursday, August 16, 2018

Roman Reigns at Wizard World Chicago 2017

Wizard World Chicago 2018 runs from Thursday, August 23 through Sunday, August 26. With Wizard World fast approaching, I am featuring some of the celebrities I have met over the years.
Roman Reigns has had an interesting start to his career.  Much like his cousin Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Reigns has been greeted with a large amount of backlash as the WWE pushes him.  Maybe it is a bit of fans trying to be cool or maybe they are booing the WWE as much for the situation, but Reigns has been a lightning rod for WWE fans.
Leati Joseph AnoaŹ»i is part o the famous Anoa'i family.  He originally started a career in pro football, but switched into wrestling in 2010.  He started in the WWE as part of The Shield, a very popular heel stable.  In 2014, the WWE split the faction and started pushes for all as singles.
That's pretty much where the fans turned on Reigns.  Of course, in today's wrestling, good is bad, bad is good and everything is stale within months.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to become popular and to stay popular.  The audiences are so tough on these stars.
For his part, Reigns has stayed above the fray.  From all accounts he is working hard at improving his work in the ring and on the mic.
I never had an issue with Reigns.  I figure that he is young and needs time to find himself.  My real gripe is with the WWE over-managing every aspect of the talent.  I'd rather see the wrestlers succeed (or fail) on their own.  True talent will rise.
I got to talk to Reigns at last year's Wizard World.  No surprise, he was a really nice guy.  He thanked everyone individually as they met him.  He happily posed and talked to everyone, as much as time permitted.  When I asked him about his character's popularity (or lack of), he just said he was going to continue to be himself and it would all work out.  I think he's right.  I think eventually the fans will get behind him (and boo the next guy).  It's all part of the modern day world of wrestling.
Go to WizardWorld.com for all of the info on every show. They have many shows across the country and one has to be near you (or it's worth the drive).
Roman Reigns and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2017.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Art Baltazar at Wizard World 2015

As we start approaching Wizard World Chicago, we continue to feature some great memories we have had at there. From Thursday, August 23 through Sunday, August 26, we will be making new memories!
I have seen comic artist and writer Art Baltazar at many comic cons, but I finally interviewed him earlier this year. That interview can be found at On the Beat With Art Baltazar.
It's interesting that Art was originally rejected in his attempts to be a comic creator. Fortunately, Art did not give up on his dream or his ability. He eventually self-published The Cray-Baby Adventures. Other comics of his soon followed, including Gyro-Man, Captain Camel & the Space Chicken, Jimmy Dydo, Lunar Lizard, Meteor Mite and Patrick the Wolf Boy. As impressive as that resume is, I really think he has only scratched the surface of his creativity. Art is amazing.
Art is also a super nice guy. He holds no ill will to those who rejected his work, but he does take a gleeful pleasure that they have since come to him for projects. How gratifying that must be.
Art's booth is easily one of the most colorful booths at any comic con. Decorated with many of his characters, his booth often has a line of fans wanted to buy his work and to talk a little comics. Art is happy to comply with both needs.
Check out ArtBaltazar.com for more info. You can also follow Art Baltazar on twitter for daily thoughts, pictures and other fun.
Also, go to WizardWorld.com to get all of the updates and schedules for Chicago and all other Wizard World shows. See you there!
Art Baltazar and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2015.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On the Beat With Natalie Hernandez of the Chicago Bandits 2018 (With Kenzie Parker)

The Chicago Bandits ended their regular season with a loss to the 1st place USSSA Pride. The outcome didn't really matter since these teams will be back facing each other in the National Pro Fastpitch championship series starting this Thursday (August 16).
We had just interviewed infielder Natalie Hernandez earlier in the weekend, but we landed her again. Actually, superfan (and future Bandit) Kenzie Parker scored this interview.
After contributing questions for many interviews over he last couple seasons, we finally were able to coordinate things to officially get Kenzie "On the Beat" with the Bandits. Of course, we had to get her favorite player!
Kenzie's family traveled from Michigan to attend this game and to do a few of the game day experiences. After they joined the Bandits on the field for as post-game team photo, they jumped in the autograph line to meet the players individually. When that was done, it was time for the interview.
Kenzie handled it like a champ. I can honestly say she did better than I did in my early interviews. She had solid questions and a good rapport with Natalie. Ever the pro, she didn't even let the roar of planes or the rowdy crowd behind her derail her interview.
The Bandits (and other teams) always preach growing the game. It's ben a lot of fun having Kenzie contribute and I am very happy to do my small part in helping to grow the game. It is a great sport and the women athletes are incredible players and people.
Kenzie is you, but I truly believe she will be a Bandit one day. She is dedicated, determined and certainly more mature than I was at her age.
Kenzie has an open offer to do more interviews anytime she is back in town. All I ask is that when she makes the Bandits, I get her first interview!
As always, I thank Director of Media Relations Jason Lowenthal for his help in facilitating this interview and the rest all season. Thanks to the Bandits for their hospitality. Thanks to Natalie for her time again. Thanks to the Parker family for making the effort and for their friendship. A big thanks to Kenzie for all of her contributions over the last two seasons.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Friendly Encounters: Tom Cook and Tommy Else

Friendly Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities. With Wizard World Chicago 2018 starting Thursday, August 23 and running through Sunday, August 26, today I present a special Wizard World edition of Friendly Encounters.

Several years back, Resistance Pro had a booth at Wizard World. Of course, my pal Tommy Else was at the booth promoting RPro. (Actually, Eric St. Vaughn, as he was known in wrestling, was there.)
I knew that Tommy was a big fan of He-Man. When I saw that Tom Cook, one of the animators of He-Man, was also there, I figured it would be cool to have Tommy interview him. Obviously, Tommy would know more about He-Man and I thought he'd enjoy it, too. It all went very smoothly and I appreciated Tommy's part.
In addition to He-Man, Cook worked on a lot of other cartoons, such as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and the Masters of the Universe. If you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, chances are you have seen and enjoyed his work!
You can watch Tommy's interview with Cook at On the Beat With Tom Cook at Wizard World 2013. Also, check out WizardWorld.com for all of info on all of their shows.
Tom Cook and Tommy Else in Rosemont, IL-August 2013.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

On the Beat With the Chicago Bandits (Interviews Part 7)

We were back "On the Beat" with the Chicago Bandits for the final homestand of the season. This time, we interviewed infielder Courtney Gano, pitcher Paige Lowary and infielder Natalie Hernandez.
Every set of interviews brings something new. This time, we had Paige and Courtney sitting in on each other's interview. That was a first and it certainly added to the fun. Natalie's was special, too, because she is the last remaining Bandit from my first year with the team (2014).
These ladies, like all of the Bandits, are just so much fun. They have the youthful exuberance you'd expect, but they also have a real maturity level. Their passion and deciation is clearly evident. It's all about getting better, growing the game and playing for the fans. It's not just cliches. These elite athletes live it and show it daily.
I want to thank Director of Media Relations Jason Lowenthal for facilitating these interviews. Thanks to the Bandits organization for their hospitality. Thanks to Mark Pandocchi for his video work and Kenzie Parker for her questions. Thanks to Bandit Nation for the continued support. Finally, of course, thanks to Paige, Courtney and Natalie for their time and consideration. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Celebrity Jersey Cards #386 Kylie Bunbury & Dan Lauria

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebs wearing sports jerseys. Today, we continue our alphabetical romp through Major League Baseball.

Born in Canada, Kylie Bunbury originally worked as a model, before transitioning into acting. She played lead character Ginny on tv's Pitch, a drama about a female pitcher with the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately, the series lasted only season. Bunbury earned her Celebrity Jersey Card from the show, but I would have thought Topps would have made actual cards.
Actor Dan Lauria was born in Brooklyn, NY and rose to fame on tv's The Wonder Years. He also has earned a lot of praise for his work on the stage, including as Vince Lombardi in Lombardi. Lauria starred as Al Luongo, the Manager of the Padres on Pitch, thus earning his Celebrity Jersey Card.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Lilian Garcia at Wizard World 2010

Wizard World Chicago 2018 starts next Thursday, August 23 and runs through Sunday, August 26. With Wizard World fast approaching, I am featuring some of the many great moments I have had there.
Lilian Garcia is one of the classiest women to ever grace a WWE ring.  Despite working in the wild, over-the-top industry, Garcia did not get drawn into the sometimes raunchy bits.
She worked for the WWE from 1999 through 2016, when she retired to take care of her ailing father.  She has made a few random appearances since then.  As a ring announcer, she sometimes got drawn into various storylines or segments and was involved in a few matches, she stayed above the fray for the vast majority of her career.
Being an attractive, young woman in the wrestling business, especially during the "Attitude Era," could not have been easy.  Staying away from the more adult-oriented parts would make it even harder.
While others pretty much bared all, Garcia never did.  She wore revealing or sexy outfits at times, but always remained classy.  I can't think of another young woman who can claim the same over such a long period of time.
Along with being the Ring Announcer, Garcia also sang the National Anthem for big WWE events.  She has a fantastic voice and has several recordings in English and Spanish.
Jason and I had the pleasure of meeting her at Wizard World.  Wizard World is a great place to meet wrestlers.  Mixed in with so many celebrities from other professions, wrestlers often have lines shorter than what they would have in a separate appearance.
Go to LilianGarcia.com or the Lilian Garcia Official Fan Page on Facebook to learn more abouther and to get updates.  You should also check out WizardWorld.com to see their show schedules and their celebrity guest lineups.
Jason Fleigel, Lilian Garcia and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2010.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dave Acosta at C2E2 2017

Dave Acosta is a sequential artist, whose clients have included Disney, Dynamite Comics and more. Based out of Michigan, he also is a self-described "master of puppies." I'm not certain what "master of puppies" is or means, but I do know he is an excellent artist.
Acosta's projects have included Elvira, Twilight Zone and Blood and Gourd. These are all magnificent black and white creations. It always amazes me that an artist can make such an interesting story without color. I would think it would get boring quickly, but Acosta's art is amazing.
You can go to DaveDrawsGood.com for more information on Acosta. You can also follow him on twitter @DaveDrawsGood. You can also check out C2E2.com for info and updates on their next convention.
Dave Acosta and me in Chicago, IL-April 2017.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"Gene Simmons" at Wizard World St. Louis 2017

Wizard World is coming to Rosemont from August 23-26. I am featurinbg some of the fun I have had at Wizard World events over the years.
Cosplaying is a popular activity at Wizard World Comic Cons. There are many types of cosplaying, from simple to the extreme. Some people try to be as authentic as possible, while others only put a little effort into it. They all have fun though and it is entertaining to see them (although I am usually disappointed with the lack of people cosplaying as Aquaman).
At Wizard World in St. Louis last year, I saw a fan cosplaying as Gene Simmons. It was especially appropriate because Gene Simmons was the headlining celebrity guest. This "Gene" put a lot of effort and duplicated the real Gene quite well. He was a bit too short though to totally pass for the real Gene.
I was not able to get a picture of the real Gene with the cosplayer Gene. I am sure cosplayer Gene got a photo with real Gene at some point, but not when I was around. I did manage to get a picture with cosplayer Gene, although I would have preferred to have him standing for the full visual effect.
Cosplayer Gene must have been pretty tried by the end of the event, because other fans were constantly stopping him for pictures. I guess if you put that much effort into a costume, you should expect that and actually you probably want it.
This is the type of fun you can see or have at Wizard World. I continue to seek out Aquaman or even other unique costumes. Oh how cool would it be if someone cosplayed as Johngy!
There are still several Wizard World events happening this year across the country. Those cities include Sacramento, Madison, Springfield (MA), Austin and Montgomery. Check out WizardWorld.com for all for the info.
"Gene Simmons" and me in St. Louis, MO-April 2017.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

On the Beat With John Everson at Flashback Weekend 2018

I first met author John Everson several years ago and have followed him since. John is a local horror author who has written many novels and more than 100 short stories. He is also an editor and a musician.
At Flashback Weekend 2018, I saw John and got a little update on his current project. The House By The Cemetery is set to be released on October 6. I'll let John tell you about it in the interview below, but I will add that it sounds intriguing.
John is a talented author and his books are always entertaining. I love a good horror story and John always delivers. He steers from the cliche to build realistic and likable characters in gripping, twisting stories.
Check out JohnEverson.com for more info on John, all of his books and especially his latest. Also, stay tuned here for an update when The House By The Cemetery is released.