Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Celebrity Jersey Cards #510 Special Edition: Lisa Marie Varon, SoCal Val & Mickie James

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series where I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today is a Special Edition featuring Lisa Marie Varon, SoCal Val and Mickie James as the Three Faces of Foley. The homage to the Hardcore Legend Mick Foley was part of their GAW (Grown A$$ Women) TV podcast they have. The outfits are now on eBay to benefit ChristmasMagic.org.

California native Lia Marie Varon was a body builder and a fitness competitor before entering the world of pro wrestling. She held the WWE Women's championship twice, the TNA Knockouts title five times and (with Brooke Tessmacher) the TNA Knockouts Tag Team titles. For a few years, Varon owned The Squared Circle, a hugely popular restaurant in Chicago. Now retired, Varon is still active on the convention scene aqnd other public appearances. For her Mankind Celebrity Jersey Card, Varon wore the mask and even brought out Socko.
Wrestler and singer Mickie James was born in Virginia. She won the WWE Women's Championship five times, the WWE Divas title once and the Total Nonstop Action Knockouts Championship thyree times. She also has released two albums and several singles. James made the perfect Dude Love for her Celebrity Jersey Card.
SoCal Val debuted in March 2002 for the Golden State Championship Wrestling independent promotion in Anaheim, CA. She rose to fame in Total Nonstop Action as a ring girl, ring announcer and other non-wrestling roles. She donned the classic "Wanted" shirt with obligatory flannel shirt and barbed wire bat for her Mick Foley Celebrity Jersey Card.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

On the Beat With Terry Bonadonna of the Windy City ThunderBolts

 Terry Bonadonna's passion for radio started in his youth and he has been involved in radio broadcasting since he was 15. In 2010, Terry brought his passion to the Windy City ThunderBolts, an independent minor league baseball team. Terry turned  that passion into A Wonderful Waste of Time, his book which was just released and is the focus of our interview.

Actually, the full title is A Wonderful Waste Of Time: Tales From a Summer in the Press Box with the Windy City ThunderBolts and Independent Baseball. The summer in the title refers to the 2017 season. As Terry explains in our interview, the book is the result of him setting a main goal every season. For the 2017 season, it was the book and now three years later, that book is out.

In our interview Terry is very open about discussing his lengthy tenure as a broadcaster for the ThunderBolts, debating staying too long versus doing what he loves. That's where the aforementioned goal-setting started.

He is very clearly passionate about his job. Could he “move up” elsewhere and does he want to go elsewhere? Obviously, he could, but for now at least, he is happy where he is. That's a great thing for the ThunderBolts and their fans.

In independent baseball, where there could be a lot of turnover of the players, the broadcaster can become the face (as well as the voice) of the team. There's a definite comfort in turning on the broadcast and hearing that familiar voice. Terry is a vital part of the ThunderBolts organization.

I admire Terry. He is happy doing what he loves and it comes through loud and clear in our interview and on every broadcast he does.

While he loves what he does, it most certainly is still work. Terry talks about his average work day during the season. In covering the Chicago Bandits pro softball team, I have seen how hard broadcaster Mike Knezevich works. Broadcasters are often among the first people at the ball park on game day.

Also, in my limited experience in broadcasting, I know the challenges during the game. Of all sports, baseball is especially tricky. There's a rhythm to the game. The broadcaster must know when to speak and when to let the action tell the story. You don't just sit in the booth and start talking. Of course, it helps when you have a lifetime of passion invested like Terry does.

Terry covers all of this and more in A Wonderful Waste Of Time: Tales From a Summer in the Press Box with the Windy City ThunderBolts and Independent Baseball. The book follows the ThunderBolts throughout the season from Terry's perspective. Terry brings the reader into the press box, onto the field, into the front office and even on bus rides to other Frontier League cities. Readers will feel what it's like to go through a season in minor league baseball.

Near the end of the interview, I commented on how reading this book would be a wonderful waste of time. I kind of fumbled over my words, which is why I am a writer and not a broadcaster. Except for a few forays for the purpose of articles, I'll leave that to the professionals, like Terry. I didn't want my point to be lost or misconstrued. Much like spending an evening at the ballpark is a wonderful waste of time, so is reading A Wonderful Waste of Time. The truth is, neither is a waste of time, because both provide plenty of entertainment.

In making the book release announcement on social media, Terry joked, “I wrote a book. If you don't buy it, we're not friends anymore.” I don't think Terry has to worry about chopping his friends list.

Johnny Sole, Community Relations Director for the ThunderBolts, quickly shared that announcement and joked back, “I want to stay friends with Terry and also I want to read it, so I shall get it.” Later Johnny told me, “We want to congratulate Terry on getting his book published. He has seen a lot in his 10-plus years with us and has a unique perspective on all of his games, travels and preparations. It’s great to see that come out in this book, and people will certainly find it to be entertaining and worth their time.”

Others joined the praise parade on social media. It appears a lot of fans want to have a wonderful waste of time, too!

I really appreciate Terry for his time and consideration. As a baseball fan, I appreciate his work with the ThunderBolts and I cannot wait to read A Wonderful Waste Of Time: Tales From a Summer in the Press Box with the Windy City ThunderBolts and Independent Baseball. For more information on Terry and his book, go to Amazon and also TerryBonadonna.com.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Friend Encounters: Kane Hodder and Mark Ailes

Friendly Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities. Today I feature Mark Ailes, another of my convention buddies.

Mark is a con bud, but I have no idea where we first met. After all these years and all these cons, they all kind of blur.
Mark is a big fan of the cons, but he also has an impressive body of work, as an author and producer. With book titles like Werewolves, Zombies and Deadly Women and Catfurnado, Zombies and One Killer Doll and movie titles including Clownado and Mrs. Claus, it's easy to see Mark likes to work in the horror field.
Although Mark has worked with many folks in the horror industry, he also rarely misses the chance to also meet them at conventions. I have crossed paths with Mark too many times to count.
At Days of the Dead Indy 2019, it seemed he was everywhere I was. One of those places was meeting Kane Hodder, a veteran of many horror films. Most notably, Hodder played Jason five times in the Friday the 13th franchise.
Mark had the rare chance to get a picture with Hodder in full costume. For once, Hodder wasn't choking him. Mark stated, "He didn't try to kill me because I was wearing one of his shirts." Smart move by my friend.
You can check out Mark Ailes on Amazon to see his books. You can also go to Mark Ailes on IMDB to see all of his movie projects. Also, check KaneHodderKills.com for news on this horror icon.
Mark Ailes and Kane Hodder in Indianapolis, IN-July 2019.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Celebrity Jersey Cards #509 Fallon Smith & Jenn Sterger

This is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys. Today we feature two sports journalists with very different careers.

A native of San Jose, CA, Fallon Smith worked at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and as a reporter for the Oakland Raiders. Emmy-nominated, Smith has developed a large social media following as she continues to grow her career. I'm not sure if Smith 's Celebrity Jersey Card comes from her time with the Raiders, but it is definitely on the sidelines. Her #4 is probably for former quarterback Derek Carr, because I don't think Smith wore it for former kicker Fred Steinfort.
Born is Miami, FL, Jenn Sterger is a  model, television personality, and former online columnist for Sports Illustrated. While at Florida State University, Sterger was one of the FSU Cowgirls, a group of women known for wearing skimpy outfits and cowboy hats to football games. When the ABD camera focused on her, legendary broadcaster Brent Musberger commented  "1,500 red-blooded Americans just decided to apply to Florida State." Thus a career was born. Sterger later was involved in a controversy involving Brett Favre sending her improper texts when they both were with the New York Jets. On a side note, another of the FSU Cowgirls was Catherine Perry, who gained fame as Lana in the WWE. Sterger wore a #06 Jets jersey to merit her Celebrity Jersey Card. I always wondered if  "06" is the same as "6" offically in team history.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Cards That Never Were: David Posey 1979 Topps

Cards That Never Were is a recurring series in which I create virtual trading cards for players missed in various sets over the years. It is a concept I have borrowed from far too many to list, but I appreciate all of their efforts. More of my creations and thousands from others (and not just baseball, despite the name) can be found in the Custom Baseball Cards on Facebook.
Kicker David Posey played college ball at Florida. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the 9th round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He did not make the roster, but resurfaced with the New England Patriots in 1978. It seems regular kicker John Smith was injured in '78, paving the way for Posey to kick for the team. Posey played only one season in the NFL. In 11 games, he was 11 for 22 on field goals and 29 of 32 on extra point attempts.
Topps opted to give incumbent Smith a card, despite him appearing in only three games. I can't argue with that decision, but I can give Posey a card which is a "rookie" card and a "career capper" all in one.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Monique Billings Loves Johngy's Beat

After a successful collegiate career at UCLA, forward Monique Billings was selected by the Atlanta Dream in the second round (15th overall( of the 2018 WNBA Draft. In three seasons with the Dream, Monique has played 83 games (starting 18). She has averaged 5.5 points, .7 steals, .7 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Last year, Monique was kind enough to send a shout out to Johngy's Beat. Somehow, I missed posting this last year. I never want a fun shout out to go unseen and it is still timely.

Thank you to Monique for the support. I encourage all to go to WNBA.com for more info on her, the Dream and the WNBA. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Meeting The Zebra Kid

Kevin Clark made his wrestling debut in 1975. Eventually, Kevin adopted the "Zebra Kid" gimmick. He explained the character as being from South Africa and was hiding his identity because of his anti-apartheid stand which would cause trouble back home. The black and white stripes represented his views on racial harmony. Also, he wanted to carry on the legacy of the Original Zebra Kid, George Bollas.
Kevin was a midwest legend. Everyone knew the Zebra Kid. Unfortunately, being relatively new to the independent wrestling scene, I never got to see the Zebra Kid wrestle. I actually never even met him. I had only heard the stories.
Kevin died in April after a lengthy and courageous battle with esophageal cancer. The outpouring of love and sadness was tremendous. Everyone had stories about the Zebra Kid.
Fortunately for me, late last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin. At POWW's WrestleRage, Kevin received an award and was greeted with thunderous applause by all. I made sure to graba selfie with Kevin and to talk to him a bit. He was humble and appreciative.
I always say you should never pass the chance to meet your favorites. You never know when it might be your last chance. I am grateful to POWW and Jimmy Blaze for giving me the chance to finally meet Kevin.
The Zebra Kid and me in Addison, IL-November 2019.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Johngy's Beat Reviews: The Giant

The Giant is a mystery/thriller centered on Charlotte (Odessa Young), a graduating high schooler in a small Georgia town. Charlotte's mother committed suicide the year before and her bad boy boyfriend Joe (Ben Schnetzer) mysteriously disappeared the same night. On the last school day of her senior year, Joe reappears just as mysteriously. Adding to the mix is the mysterious murders of young women being investigated by Charlotte's sheriff father.

In the opening sequence, Charlotte ponders, "I wonder if our dreams go on after we wake up, like parallel lives while we sleep." I think that is a very big clue about the entire movie.

The Giant marks the feature film debut of David Raboy, who wrote, directed and edited it. Having those three titles, clearly Raboy has his hands all over the movie. The Giant is dark, dreary and occasionally plodding. The characters utter (sometimes seemingly mumble) their thoughts in short phrases. The aforementioned characteristics might seem negative, but I think Raboy wisely made those choices to set the perfect mood.

The relationship between Charlotte and Joe is intriguing. Through a flashback, we learn they shared their first kiss in the eighth grade. We also learn Joe hurt Charlotte in some unknown way, for which he ambiguously apologizes upon his return. We don't know why Joe is a bad boy, how he hurt Charlotte, why he left, where he went or why he came back, but we can tell there is a strong connection between Joe and Charlotte.

The relationship between Charlotte and Joe is intriguing. Through a flashback, we learn they shared their first kiss in the eighth grade. We also learn Joe hurt Charlotte in some unknown way, for which he ambiguously apologizes upon his return. We don't know why Joe is a bad boy, how he hurt Charlotte, why he left, where he went or why he came back, but we can tell there is a strong connection between Joe and Charlotte.

I quickly was drawn into Charlotte's world, although I wasn't sure what was reality and what was dreams. The lines blurred. Then another thought occurred. Could we be taking a trip entirely in Charlotte's mind?

Charlotte is clearly disturbed. How disturbed is she though? Could her mother's death have totally unraveled her? Maybe I was reading too much into things. Then it hit me, how hooked into this movie I was. For me, it became less about the mysteries in the town and more about the mysteries of Charlotte's mind.

Another key scene for me starts in the abandoned house where Charlotte's family once lived. Cold, dark and desolate now, Raboy brilliantly juxtaposes it with the bright sun shining through one window. Outside we see a woman hanging from a tree in the woods. In a voiceover, Charlotte mournfully questions, "Why can't I wake up?"

I rewatched that scene several times, looking for more clues. Scenes like this aren't randomly inserted. Whether Raboy used this scene as a clue, a statement or other, it was an impactful scene. Could that scene represent Charlotte's mind?

Much later in the movie, the graduates are seen partying, despite the tragedies occurring in the town. Charlotte remains detached and distant. It's as if life is going on without her.

The Giant ends with many unanswered questions. Obviously, this is intentional. While my curiosity would have liked clear cut explanations, Charlotte deserved better than to have all neatly tied up. Young, who I believe appeared in every scene, deserved better than that, too.

Young, a 22 year old Australian, has been acting since her pre-teen years. She perfectly captures and creates Charlotte's frame of mind, sometimes in the most subtle ways. You can feel her sadness at the situation happening around her.

I researched Raboy after watching The Giant. In several interviews, he spoke of Young's performance, even admitting to catching deliberate movements and nuances he hadn't noticed previously. Young conveys a lot with subtle movement and speech.

He also spoke of his filming choices. "The movie is so concerned with darkness and imperceptibility and I found that there's no medium like film that conveys that. When you're looking at shadows and you're on the precipice of exposure, but you're not quite there, there's something about the fact that is organic that could suggest images in a way that's real."

I started by writing the film is dark, dreary and plodding at times. If it was bright, happy and fast-moving, it wouldn't be The Giant. It would be an entirely different, and completely less enjoyable, film. I felt tense and uncomfortable at times, but I always felt engrossed.

Honestly, my feelings for The Giant grew more positive over the hours and days after I first watched it. It sort of took space in my mind and made me reflect on Charlotte's situation. I replayed many scenes in my head.

Some questions were left without answers, but the most important question has a definite answer. Did I enjoy The Giant? Yes, I did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On the Beat With Kitsie Duncan

I have been a fan and admirer of Kitsie Duncan for many years. I have seen her at Flashback Weekend and elsewhere, but she's always so busy. I'm lucky if I can get a quick chat and a photo with Kitsie. Over the weekend though, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kitsie about her career and her recently released book.

As host and lead investigator for the Oddity Files, Kitsie has sought the paranormal in some of the most interesting haunted locations. In her book, I'd Rather Talk to Dead People: My Journey as a Paranormal Researcher, Kitsie shares her experiences.

The title of the book is no joke. Kitsie enjoys talking to dead people. Fortunately for me, Duncan was happy to talk to me last weekend. Ever a straight-shooter, Kitsie immediately explains the title. The rest of the interview is a 20 minute journey through her life.

As a fan and admirer of Kitsie's work for years, I was really excited about this interview. She's a fascinating person, who has done a lot of cool stuff, including delving into an area which intrigues me greatly. I have met Kitsie many times at various conventions and it is always fun around her.

Growing up afraid of the paranormal, Duncan started learning more about life after death after her father's passing. That thirst for knowledge led her to a career of paranormal research. That big turnaround surprised me, but that's Kitsie. She didn't start dabbling in the paranormal; she dove full force into it and we are all better for that. She has brought years of entertainment and knowledge to her audience.

That entertainment includes Oddity Files, an investigative paranormal reality TV show. Oddity Files is available on Amazon Prime, and the award-winning podcast can be heard on all major podcast apps. Kitsie doesn't just think there are spirits, she knows they exist and are at some famous locations. The Oddity Files gang visits those locations and delivers evidence, but ultimately lets the viewer decide. In our interview, Kitsie gives her usual straight take on non-believers.

Being an online writer for Global Traveler magazine, I had to ask Kitsie about her favorite and scariest locations. Of course, they are the same. She listed the Culbertson Mansion in New Albany, Indiana, Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, Kentucky and the Old Lake County Jail in Crown Point Indiana. It was as interesting hearing the stories as it was watching her eyes really come even more alive as she told them. In our interview, Kitsie discussed her experiences at these places, but she goes into much more detail in her book. She shares her stories and the stories of the spirits. I wrote more about those locations for Global Traveler at Kitsie Duncan and Haunted Locations.

I did get a bit of a kick out of sharing my tale of haunting at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee with Kitsie, who hadn't previously heard the rumors. I don't know if she will investigate the Pfister, although I hope she does. Either way it was cool to have a haunting story of my own.

I ended the interview asking what is next for Kitsie. With the health pandemic, the immediate future is uncertain, but book signing appearances are possible in the future. The situation also limits on-site paranormal investigating. Despite the current restrictions, I am certain Kitsie is working on more projects.

I already ordered my copy of I'd Rather Talk to Dead People and I look forward to reading about these historic haunted places and everything else Kitsie shares. There's no fluff with Kitsie. This book promises to be an intriguing journey with someone who has firsthand experience. I can't wait to read I'd Rather Talk to Dead People and I promise to write my review right here as soon as I do.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Friend Encounters: Traci Lords and John J. Jackson

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

I met John J. Jackson at Days of the Dead where he was part of the DotD crew. John is one of the many great folks I have met at Days of the Dead over the years.
In addition to working with and meeting celebrities, John is active on the entertainment scene. He has worked as a producer, an associate producer and even as an actor, including an appearance in Candie's Harem, starring our friend Portia Chellelynn,
More importantly, John is a good guy. I always like seeing John at Days. People like John are part of the big convention family. I love meeting celebrities, but seeing my con friends is also a major part of my convention experience.
Another part of my con experience over the years has been actress Traci Lords. I have met Traci many times and she is one of my con favorites. You know you've seen a celebrity a lot, when they recognize you and even know you by name.
Days is scheduled for later this month (November 20-22) and I hope to see John, many of my other con friends and maybe even Traci there. It's been too long since I have seen my con family.
Go to DaysoftheDead.com for info on their conventions all year around the country.  Also, follow Days of the Dead on Facebook for more frequent updates and other fun.
John J. Jackson and Traci Lords in Indianapolis, IN-March 2015.