Monday, May 2, 2016

Friendly Encounters: Ric Flair and Serenity

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

One of the first wrestlers I interviewed at Resistance Pro was Serenity.  Despite her serene ring name, this young talent was a bundle of energy as you can see in On the Beat With Serenity, one of our first interviews with her.
Serenity wrestled for several months at RPro and continued to hone her craft in downstate Illinois.  She was young and eager to learn and she was great with the young fans.  Who wouldn't like this bouncy, charismatic young lady?
I am willing to bet wrestling legend Ric Flair enjoyed meeting Serenity as much as she enjoyed meeting him.  I just love this picture.  Flair's career started about twenty years before Serenity was even born.  I love the juxtaposition of a wrestling Hall of Famer like Flair with the young, wrestling hopeful Serenity.  They are opposite ends of the spectrum, but both wrestling professionals.
Even for non-wrestlers, meeting Flair is like meeting wrestling royalty.  I am happy to say I have met Flair a few times.  I am also happy to say I have met Serenity a few times.
Ric Flair and Serenity in LaSalle, IL-January 2016.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Celebrity Jersey Cards #271 Joe Garagiola & Bobby Hurley

This is a regular series which attempts to combine my lifelong passion for trading cards with my semi-professional interest in celebrities.  We continue working our way alphabetically through Major League Baseball.

Joe Garagiola often jokes that he was not even the best major league catcher on his block, because he grew up with Yogi Berra.  While Berra developed into a Hall of Fame catcher with the New York Yankees, Garagiola had a solid nine year MLB career.  Garagiola later found more fame on the talk show circuit.  iIn 2013, he retired from broadcasting with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but not before earning one of our oldest Celebrity Jersey Cards!
 Bobby Hurley was a star point guard at Duke, before being the seventh pick in the NBA draft in 1993.  A car accident derailed his career, but he recovered enough to play ix seasons, mostly with the Sacramento Kings.  He transitioned into coaching and is currently the head coach at Arizona State, which explains his Diamondbacks jersey on his Celebrity Jersey Card.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cards That Never Were: Dave Rosello 1975 Topps

"Cards That Never Were" is a series of virtually created cards to make up for the real cards that were missed for whatever reason.  It is a concept I borrowed from too many bloggers to list, but I thank them all.
Dave Rosello made his major league debut by appearing in five games for the 1972 Chicago Cubs.  He appeared in 16 games in 1973, to earn an appearance on a "Rookie Shortstops" multi-player card in the 1974 Topps set.
He played 62 games in 1974, but Topps ignored him in the 1975 set.  He reappeared in the 1976 set.  He followed that with cards in 1977 and 1978.  He did not play in the majors in 1978 and therefore did not get a 1979 card.
He played for the Indians from 1979 through 1981.  He got a card in 1980 and 1982, but not in 1981, despite playing in a career high 71 games in 1981.
This is the type of oddity that baffles me (and other card collectors) and forces us to make cards that never were.  Unfortunately, I don't have another picture of him with the Indians.  I cannot create the 1981 Topps card without that picture, but I did create a 1975 card for Rosello.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Connie Faye at Flashback Weekend

I first met Connie Faye years ago at a comic con.  I was entranced by her artwork.  It seemed mystical or magical.  It was light and flowing.  I really loved her creations and actually bought a few.
The fact that I bought some of these creations is big.  No offense to Cnnie (or any other artist), I am not usually into this type of stuff.  I usually recognize the beauty, but leave it at that.  Connie's pieces really grabbed me and I had to have a few.
I saw Connie at a few shows after that, but then did not see her for a long while.  That streak ended at Flashback Weekend last year.  It was great seeing her again, catching up a bit and seeing all of her new creations.
Her work really is awesome.  You can check out some of her beautiful creations at ConnieFaye.com.  You can also get more info and updates there or on the Art By Connie Faye Facebook page.
Connie Faye and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2015.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mr. Anderson Loves Johngy's Beat

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Miiiiissstttteeeeerrrr Anderson...Anderson.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Mr. Anderson (formerly known as Mr. Kennedy) is one of the most entertaining wrestlers of this era.  Anderson has worked in the WWE and TNA.  Currently, he is a free agent, but he has not disappeared.  You can find him at many events, such as C2E2, where he greeted his many fans.
I had the chance to chat a bit with the wrestling star.  Anderson is a very nice guy.  He is so nice that he did a Johngy promo for me, which you can view below.  Thank you to David Herro and C2E2 for the opportunity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mean Gene Okerlund Loves Johngy's Beat

Mean Gene Okerlund is a Hall of Fame wrestling broadcaster.  His career is legendary and his resume is impressive.
He started in the AWA in 1974, but he really earned his stardom in the WWE (then WWF) from 1984-1993.  Whether he was interviewing stars like Hulk Hogan or exchanging barbs with other announcers like Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura, Mean Gene was always entertaining.
Thanks to David Herro,. I got to spend a little time with Mean Gene at C2E2 2016.  I also had the privilege of getting his thoughts on Johngy's Beat.  That video is below and also in the left column of promos.
On a side trivia note, Gene's son Todd was an excellent hockey player at the University of Minnesota.  He went on to play 4 games for the New York Islanders and also played on the 1988 United States Olympic ice hockey team before retiring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thank You To The Rockford IceHogs

The season is over for the Rockford IceHogs.  Thee team got swept by the Lake Erie Monsters in the first round of the AHL playoffs.
The IceHogs finished with a record of 40-22-10-4, good for 3rd place in the Central Division of the Western Conference.  Although only three wins behind the Monsters in the standings, the IceHogs just couldn't get it going in the playoffs.  While it is disappointing to be ousted so quickly, the success of the season should not be overlooked.
Being the top affiliate of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks has advantages and disadvantages.  The main job of the IceHogs is to develop players to keep they Hawks strong.  Towards that goal, 22 IceHogs alumni have won at least one Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, while seven of those have won two Stanley Cups.
Keeping the IceHogs successful under these circumstances is a challenge, but one that Coach Ted Dent embraces.  Coach Dent never uses this as an excuse, but he faces challenges that most AHL coaches don't have.
I have had the pleasure of covering the IceHogs for the past three seasons.  Rockford is an easy 90 minute ride west.  I have met a few hockey legends in the Press Box.  I have found some great food in the area, too.  The whole experience has been fantastic.
I want to publicly thank Mike Peck, Nate Haeni and the entire IceHogs organization for their hospitality.  I look forward to returning next season and I encourage everyone to check out IceHogs.com to follow the team in the offseason.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Friendly Encounters: Gene Okerlund and David Herro

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

Our #SuperFriend David Herro is everywhere and with so many superstars of wrestling.  At the recent Cauliflower Alley Club event in Las Vegas, David was at it once again.
From his wrestling promotion, television appearances, podcasts and more, the Pride of Wisconsin is as recognizable as many of the wrestlers.  As I have written many times, David does all of this with his son Kal.  It's heartwarming to see the father-son bond.
David is hosting the SuperFriends Fan Fest on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday May 8.  It will be two days filled with wrestling superstars and fans interacting with each other.
Among the legends appearing will be Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman.  Active wrestling stars, ODB, Velvet Sky, Angelina Love, Thea Trinidad, Melina Perez, Ricardo Rodriguez, Katie Forbes and more.
No, I did not forget Al Snow.  How could I ever forget Al Snow?  Aside from him "punching" me every time I see him, I always enjoy his wit and wisdom.
You can get all of the info, including prices and schedules at the SuperFriends Fan Fest website.  Tell David Johngy sent you.
David Herro and Gene Okerlund in Las Vegas, NV-April 2016.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Celebrity Jersey Cards #270 Tom Dreesen & Jeff Garlin

This is a regular series which attempts to combine my lifelong passion for trading cards with my semi-professional interest in celebrities.  We continue working our way alphabetically through Major League Baseball.

Comedian Tom Dreesen is a Chicago area native and a huge Cubs fan.  He has made many public appearances at Wrigley Field, along with presumably attending many more games.  His Celebrity Jersey Card was a challenge, but worth it.  I love the look of the bleachers and skyline behind him.
Chicago native Jeff Garlin is a is a comedian, actor, producer, voice artist, director, writer, podcast host and author.  He's also a Cubs fan.  His Celebrity Jersey Card is one of my favorites.  On the main part of the card, he is featured in a luchador mask.  I don;t know if he is a wrestling fan, but it is cool either way.  Also, the smaller inset picture features him in the old school Cubs jersey.  I do love that powder blue greatness!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rest In Peace: Chyna (Joanie Laurer)

Joani "Chyna" Laurer burst onto the wrestling scene as "The Ninth Wonder of the World."  She competed against me.  She won titles.  She was a star in the WWE.
Unfortunately, a series of problems and issues derailed her career and life.  Her battles have been well-documented and she has received more than her share of criticism.  Even more unfortunate, Laurer passed away earlier this week.
A lot will be written and said about Laurer.  I don't claim to have been great friends with her, but she did help with a literacy project I ran years back at Lerner Newspapers and I have met her several times.
For the literacy program, Laurer sent us several signed 8x10's and cd's (she released some music at the time).  She also offered to give us more if needed or help us in any other way.  We had hundreds of celebrities and athletes contribute to the cause, but Laurer gave us more than most and especially among the young girl students, Laurer was very popular.
As part of the press, I also got to meet and talk to her more than the average fan at several conventions.  She was extremely sweet and I found her delightful.  At the first convention, I reminded her of the ad series and she remembered and gave me a huge hug.  From then on, at every convention, I received the same treatment.  At the last one (Blizzard Brawl last December), she stopped the regular fan line to do some pictures with me, even suggesting a few fun poses.
Chyna will go down as a bit of a controversial figure in wrestling history.  Hopefully the WWE will induct her into their Hall of Fame, not because she died, but because she deserves it.
I will always have my memories of Laurer and they are all good.  Rest in Peace Chyna and thanks for some great memories.
Joanie Laurer, Jason Fleigel and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2015.