Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the Beat With Steve Michaels at Chicago Pop Culture Con 2018

At the recent Chicago Pop Culture Con, I had the pleasure of finally meeting Steve Michaels. While he has wrestled all around the area, I have not seen him in person due to scheduling conflicts. It was great to finally connect with Steve.
The interview started off a bit ominously as Steve implied a threat of his trademark "Chicago Bear Hug" if the interview didn't go well. Fortunately, I kept the interview positive and I remained uninjuured.
In reality, Steve is a super nice guy. When I contacted him weeks before the event, he graciously accepted my interview request. Upon meeting him at Chicago Pop Culture Con, Steve told me I could stop by anytime and we could get it done. He was as accommodating as could be.
A lot of people call themselves wrestlers, but Steve is the definition of a wrestler. This isn't a weekend thing for him. Wrestling is his full-time gig and he is busting his butt and having fun with it.
In the interview below, we talk about his start in wrestling, his career, his dream opponent and more. His dream opponent is especially interesting to me. He selected a big man, which makes sense because it would be a bruiser of a match. On the other hand, as I asked him, could he get his "Chicago Bear Hug" around that opponent?
Steve certainly embraced Chicago in his career. Naming his signature move "Chicago Bear Hug" also makes total sense. Plus, I love the concept of a bear hug being used. It's old school in the new era. It's pure Chicago.
Talking to Steve was a lot of fun. I look forward to actually seeing him wrestle soon. I will report back on that right here when it happens. Either way, I will continue following Steve's career and I encourage all to do so, too.
Follow Steve at @ChicagoBearHug on Facebook to get news and updates. You can also follow Steve at @ChicagoBearHug on twitter and @ChicagoBearHug on Instagram. You can also get Steve's merchandise at Pro Wrestling Tees. For some real entertainment, be sure to catch Steve wrestling somewhere.
Thank you to Steve for his time and consideration (and for not putting me in the Chicago Bear Hug). Thanks to Tim Zurko of Zurko Promotions for facilitating this and the other interviews at Chicago Pop Culture Con.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On the Beat With John Borowski at Chicago Pop Culture Con 2018

I met filmmaker John Borowski several years ago at a convention in Chicago. I found his focus fascinating and figured it would make for an interesting interview. That interview led to several more, while I followed his projects and formed a friendship with him.
John is an independent filmmaker, producer, author, historian and more. He has made films about HH Holmes, Albert Fish, Carl Panzram, Vincent Castiglia and more. He is also the creative force behind Serial Killer Culture TV, an episodic show featuring interviews with people involved in the serial killer culture community.
At first glance, this might seem macabre or even sensationalistic, but I always stress the point that John's work, while entertaining, is about history and education. John's approach is to learn and share that knowledge. I might belabor this point, but I think it is a major point that needs to be made.
I get asked about John and I am sure he gets some of the same questions, but all you have to do is see his work or talk to him and you will see how informative his productions are. In no way does he glorify his subject matter. He digs in deep and personal and unearths information crucial to the cases, as well as helpful in future situations. John is brave enough to tackle and present this subject matter and I will always support him.
Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia is one of his most recent projects. Castiglia paints in human blood, stirring emotions and thoughts rrom the viewer. What is behind Castiglia's art? What path did Castiglia take to get to this point? Why use human blood? These questions and so many more are answered in John's documentary. It's beautiful, sad, emotional and a roller coaster ride of other emotions. John's presentation is amazing.
I am proud to be a friend and supporter of John. I continue to look forward to more fantastic work from John, as well as years of friendship.
Go to JohnBorowski.com for more info and news on John and his projects. You can also follow John Boroski on Facebook.
Thank you to John for his time and consideration, but especially for lots of entertainment and his friendship. Thanks, too, to Tim Zurko of Zurko Promotions for the hospitality at Chicago Pop Culture Con and for facilitating this and the other interviews there.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Friendly Encounters: Jonathan Frakes and Josh Watko

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

Josh Watko is the master behind JW's Wrestling Memorabilia, but he is not a one trick pony. Wrestling might be his strength, but it isn't his only passion.
Josh has gone several times to Steel City Con, a big comic con in Pennsylvania. At the 2017 Steel City Con, Josh met Jonathan Frakes. With a career spanning more than 30 years, Frakes has had a lot of great roles in successful projects, but he might be best remembered as Commander William Riker in the Star Trek franchise. Some folks might recognize him as the husband of longtime daytime actress Genie Francis. Either way, Josh made sure to meet Frakes.
You might not find Frakes on Josh's website, but you will find lots of fun stuff. He discusses wrestling memorabilia old and new, as well as all sorts of other wrestling-related topics. At the end of every year, he also presents his Joshie Awards. It has long been a goal of mine to win a Joshie. I don't even know if there would be a suitable category, but he is in charge and could create one. I don't want it to be a pity Joshie (although I would take that anyway). I do think I do enough wrestling coverage to merit some consideration. Certainly my occasional praise of Josh and his site must help my cause. Maybe I could be in a promotional category? Just a thought.
Anyway, check out Josh's site, especially if you are a wrestling fan. You can see his other pictures (like the one with Frakes) on his social media account or possibly here, as I occasionally feature him (even if I never win the long-desired Joshie!).
Josh Watko and Jonathan Frakes in Monroeville, PA-December 2017.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Happy Birthday Chuck!

Today, I celebrate the birthday of my dear friend Chuck. I usually exchange good-natured barbs with him, but today, I will be (mostly) kind to him.
I've known Chuck for 23+ years. Over the years, Chuck has become one of my best friends. He's been a mentor, therapist, supporter, friend and more. He's like the older brother I never had.
Chuck's positive outlook has made me try to look at things more positively, too. Knowing and learning from Chuck has made me a better worker and person.
It always warms my heart to see Chuck and his family. It's obvious that his (long-suffering) wife, three daughters, three son-in-laws and five grandchildren all love him dearly. I have had the pleasure of being around them many times, including at their recent Northwestern tailgate. They always make me feel like part of the family.
I am sure his family is honoring him with a birthday celebration, but I always like to take this day to express my appreciation. Happy birthday, my friend!
Borrowing a line of Chuck's, he looks good for a 70 year old. That's a backhand long-running joke, but the reality is that he will still look good for a 70 year old when he does reach that milestone many years from now.
Chuck Gekas and me in Evanston, IL-October 2018.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Celebrity Jersey Cards #404 Joe Hennig & Celeste Bonin

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebs wearing sports jerseys. Today, we combine wrestling with football.

Joe Hennig is a third generation pro wrestler. His grandfather was Larry "the Axe" Hennig and his father was the last "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. Joe has not achieved the level of success as they did, but he is a one time Intercontinental champ and a 2 time tag team champ in the WWE. He donned his home town Minnesota Vikings jersey for his Celebrity Jersey Card. He was also joined by felow wrestlers Cesaro and Sheamus. Although not visible in this shot, Cesaro wears #80, while Hennig and Sheamus wear #17.
Starting her career as a fitness model, Celeste Bonin gained fame in the WWE as Kaitlyn. She was the winner of NXT for the third season and she also won the Divas title once. A native of Houston, TX and now a resident of California, Bonin wore the #52 Ray Lewis jersey of the Baltimore Ravens for her Celebrity Jersey Card.

Friday, December 7, 2018

On the Beat With Deadgar Winter and Celeste at Chicago Pop Culture Con 2018

I am a fan of horror hosts. With so many of them all over the country, it is hard to stand out. Deadgar Winter has established himself as an excellent horror host.
 Deadgar’s Dark Coffin Classics is a horror/comedy show airing in Wisconsin and other parts f the country. Hosted by Deadgar with Celeste Parker and Maleva Ravic, it has been entertaining fans for about 6 years. As Deadgar and Celeste explain in the interview below, they feature horror films, while welcoming rock bands, authors, artists and other interesting folks to their show. It's a unique approach and one that separates them from the average horror film show.
At the recent Chicago Pop Culture Con, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deadgar and Celeste. We talked about their show, their favorite horror movies, their new hot sauce and more. It was a lit of fun talking to these two.
How does a line of hot sauces fit in with a horror show? Who really cares, because the sauce is very good. You might say it is horrifically awesome. There are a few different sauce options and I think I tasted and enjoyed all of them at the Chicago Pop Culture Con.
Check out our interview, then check out the show and the hot sauce. The show will entertain you and the hot sauces will delight you.
Go to Deadgar's Dark Coffin Classics on Facebook to learn more about this horror show and Deadgar, Celeste and Maleva. Also, check out ZurkoPromotions.com for info and updates on future events.
Thank you to Deadgar and Celeste for their time and consideration, as well as years of entertainment. Thanks to Tim Zurko of Zurko Promotions for the hospitality and for facilitating this and other interviews.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Celebrity Jersey Cards #403 LeAnn Rimes & Carrie Underwood

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebs wearing sports jerseys.

Born in Jackson, MS, LeAnn Rimes rose to fame on the country charts, before going more mainstream. Rimes never abandoned her country roots though. She showed her loyalty to Nashville by donning the Tennessee Titans jersey for her National Anthem performance, earning her a Celebrity Jersey Card in the process. Kicker Ryan Succop is the latest (and current) Titan to wear that number.
Carrie Underwood was born in Oklahoma. She rose to fame on American Idol, winning the 4th season in 2005. She has gone on to a very successful career. She sang the National Anthem at a Jacksonville Jaguars game and earned her Celebrity Jersey Card. Surprisingly, #12 has only been worn by 5 Jaguars during 13 seasons. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook is the latest (and current) Jaguar to wear #12.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On the Beat With Jim Morrissey at Chicago Pop Culture Con 2018

When I signed on to cover the recent Chicago Pop Culture Con, former Chicago Bears linebacker Jim Morrissey was one of my main interview targets. Thanks to the hospitality of Tim Zurko of Zurko Promotions and Mark Childers, Morrissey's appearance agent, I was able to accomplish that goal.
After an excellent career at Michigan State, Morrissey was selected by the Bears in the 11th round of the 1985 NFL draft. He went on to play 9 seasons in the NFL, all with the Bears except for a handful of games with the Green Bay Packers in his last season.
Unfortunately for Morrissey, in his rookie season, the Bears were loaded with linebackers. Otis Wilson, Wilbur Marshall and Mike Singletary were 3 of the best at the time. The positive is that the Bears won the Super Bowl in his rookie season. Morrissey did see plenty of playing time and responded with excellent play, like his interception in the Super Bowl. He became a starter in his 4th season. and remained a starter for most of the games through his 8th season. 
His tenure with the Bears ended midway through the 1993 season. He signed with the rival Packers and actually returned to Soldier Field for a game against the Bears. He retired after the '93 season.
Morrissey looked to be in great shape at the Chicago Pop Culture Con. He was in great spirits as he mingled with all of the fans. He enjoyed seeing and signing all of the cool memorabilia brought by the many fans there to see him.
After his appearance stint, Morrissey gave me a few minutes of his time. We talked about hsi career highlight (other than the Super Bowl), his role in "The Super Bowl Shuffle," returning to Chicago with the Packers and more.
I really appreciate Morrissey for giving his time and consideration. I appreciate Mark and Tim for facilitating this interview. It's not every day I interview a Super Bowl champ, especially one from my '85 Bears!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Alicia's House and Glen Rylko

I have known Glen Rylko for several years. We became friends over our interest in old time wrestling, comic cons and other fun stuff. Many times, Johngy's Beat has featured Glen with his many celebrity encounters.
Taking nothing away from meeting celebrities, today I am featuring Glen doing something far more important. Glen has done a lot of volunteer work with Alicia's House, a food pantry named to honor Alicia, a young girl who passed away in 2001.
Grandma Stella and Poppy Juan started the non-for profit food pantry. Alicia's House continues to feed hungry families. In another homage to Alicia, a little treat is put in each food bag, just as Alicia had done years ago while working next to her grandmother at the church pantry.
Glen and his wife Alicia have volunteered at Alicia's House for more than 15 years, having been touched by Alicia's tragic story and inspired by the dedication of the volunteers all year.
On why it is so special to Glen and Alicia, Glen stated, "Seeing the pantry first hand and the people they serve made me aware of those who have things way worse than me and my family. They are lacking in basic day-to-day needs and otherwise would not have anything for Christmas." This is a great thought especially at this time of year.
Glen and Alicia are deeply involved. Glen explained, "My wife, Alicia Rylko, and I, volunteer for all of their fundraisers, food distributions, and parties and giveaways. In 2017 we helped prepare and distribute over 1200 Holiday baskets. Christmas gifts, stockings, coats, hats, gloves and scarves to over 1900 children were given away. An annual party for special needs children and their family was held for over 275 in attendance for which I am the emcee for the event. I am also the emcee in the evening dinner for the Alicia's House Golf Outing, Dinner, and Auctions which is our biggest fundraiser of the year. I also did the ring announcing for a couple of pro-wrestling fundraiser events."
Naturally Glen did ring announcing for their wrestling events. Fondly recalling the days of Dick the Bruiser and other greats, Glen has a fine appreciation for wrestling.
Ironically, it was wrestling that first brought Glen to Alicia's House. Glen told me, "I heard about them first from a good friend Dan Roeglin from Minnesota. Another fan George Gunderson (RIP) further made me aware of them. I met Juan and Stella shortly thereafter at a Cauliflower Alley Reunion all the way in Las Vegas in 2004,and we are only 20 miles away from each other." 
Just like wrestling connected Glen to Alicia's House, it connected me to Glen. I am very grateful for that connection. If a cause is important to Glen, I will always support him.
It is important to remember those less fortunate than us, especially during the holiday season. I know Glen and Alicia will be giving their time and energy to Alicia's House as they always do. I hope this has inspired at least a few others to check out thie great cause and honor precious, little Alicia. Give or volunteer if you can. You might just see Glen and Alicia Rylko there. Tell them Johngy sent you. 
Check out AliciasHouse.org for more info on this great organization. You can also get news and updates on the Alicia's House Facebook page.
Glen Rylko and me in Chicago, IL-March 2016.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Friend Encounters: Dominique Collins and Jim Strong

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

The Chicago Bliss won the 2018 Legends Football League championship. that is their 4th championship in the last 6 years. Coincidentally I started covering the Bliss in 2013, during their first run at a title.
One of the constants on all four championship teams was Dominique "DC" Collins. DC is the first Bliss player I ever interviewed at a game.
I have written about DC many times. She came to the Bliss with an impressive high school and college resume as a star athlete. Still, full contact football was a different story and a new challenge.
Over the several years I have covered the Bliss, I have seen DC work extremely hard at bettering her game. She showed continual and increasing levels of focus, determination and passion. She was an excellent player as a rookie, but she grew into a Hall of Fame quality player. It really was a pleasure watching her development.
Even more important, was knowing her for all these years. She is such a class act off the field, too. She has appeared at most Bliss promo appearances and is always pushing the team and the league. In short, she is the perfect player. The fans, the team and the league all love and respect her. DC is not only one of my favorite athletes, she is one of my favorite people.
My buddy Jim Strong would agree with everything I have written. Jim and I have crossed paths many times at wrestling events and Bliss games. He has become one of the biggest Bliss fans out there. I know Jim has a huge collection of Bliss memorabilia and autographs and DC is one of his favorite players, too.
It's no mystery why so many people love DC. She is just the best. She's a beast on the field and a real sweetheart off of it.
Unfortunately for all, DC has announced her retirement. It will be interesting to see how she handles life away from the Bliss. I have no doubt that she will remain busy with her job, fitness and coaching others. I just wonder how much she will miss the contact on the field. Walking away from something you love, especially after 4 titles, can't be easy.
Good luck to DC and thanks for the memories! I'm sure I will see you around, but I will miss #12 on the field.
Dominique Collins and Jim Strong in Rosemont, IL-June 2018.