Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

The Hollywood Collector’s Show

By - May 14th, 2009 06:19 pm
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Mark Metcalf continues his three-part series on conventions. Read part one here, and check back next week for Mark’s recap of his weekend at the Motor City Comic Con, May 15-17, in Michigan.

There’s an old joke about the guy whose job it is to follow the elephants in the circus around with a shovel and clean up their poop. He complains all the time, but when one of his friends says, “If you hate it so much why don’t you just quit?” The man replies, “What, and give up show business!”

I had a friend who made a good portion of his living as an actor by wearing a bunch of grapes made out of foam in Fruit of the Loom underwear commercials. He would have rather been doing Shakespeare, but there were mouths to feed.

About a month ago I went to Chicago to appear at the Hollywood Collector’s Show. They have this show twice a year in Chicago and twice in Burbank, California. Ray Courts and his wife Sharon have hosted the show for years. Ray just sold the Burbank show to someone. Undoubtedly, it won’t be the same with out Ray and Sharon. They really make you feel comfortable, like you are part of a family.  Many of the celebrities have been doing Ray’s shows for years. They come back because they are taken care of and protected, and it’s a chance to get together with old friends.

To backtrack a little, a “show” in the context that I am using it here means a bunch of people known as celebrities, for various reasons, coming together in one place, where other people — known as fans, for obvious reasons — pay to get in, look at the celebrities, and purchase autographed pictures, DVDs, books and posters.

Some people burn out on these shows. Others mine them for everything they have to offer. I’ve seen Caroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird and Oscar on Sesame Street since the beginning, sit at his table right by the door and talk to people,  sign autographs and sell books from an hour before the doors officially open until well after they close. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him take a bathroom break, although I suppose he must. And he’s always in a good mood.

At the Hollywood Collector’s Show, Peter, Bobby and Cindy Brady from The Brady Bunch traveled together, sat together, ate together at the end of the day and had a manager to take in money and get water and snacks, so they didn’t have to miss a minute. Working the convention circuit is work for most of the celebrities. In some cases, it is all they have left of a once-busy career.


Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman from 1952-1958, was also there.  She has a book, Beyond Lois Lane, which she is promoting. I think when I get to be 89 years old I will be very cranky, if I’m not already, but she is gracious and kind, and very understanding of the strange relationship that people who work in show business have with people who depend on it for their entertainment. She has been doing it since she appeared in Henry Aldrich For President in 1940.  She is what we refer to in the trade as a trouper.

I sat next to Charlotte Kemp (Miss December 1982) and across from Cathy St. George (Miss August 1982), both of whom travel the country representing themselves and the world of Playboy. I guess it is obvious that it has been 27 years since they were airbrushed into our consciousness in the centerfold of Playboy, but they are both still pretty stunning and can boast of some magnificent body parts that seem to defy time and gravity.

On my other side was Hank Garrett, who played the Mailman with a machine gun in Three Days of the Condor. He also played Officer Ed Nicholson in Car 54, Where Are You? Remember Car 54,…? With Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne as Officers Toody and Muldoon?  It dates back to 1961, before cops became “pigs”, when they could still be taken light-heartedly and before everything was in color.  Hank Garrett started out as a professional wrestler and now does stand up comedy. I think he may have done every job there is to do in show business. It was a slow convention, so we did a lot of talking. He has a lot of stories.

It is not a career choice you make if security is something you are interested in, so the people who are still in it after their career’s peak and beyond have a bit of the madness of the poet in them. For every Bruce Willis making $30 million for a couple of months’ work, several thousand actors put on the bunny suit to advertise the Easter sales at the local department store for minimum wage. And it’s all show business.

Guys like Hank Garrett are heroes to me. Their compulsion to entertain, the depth and breadth of the story-telling gene in them is so great that they’ll do it in a phone booth to an audience of one. I have a great admiration for the working actor and a constant fear that I won’t be one. By working actor I mean one that really works at his trade, and that work is 90% finding the job and 10% doing the job. My fear is mostly that I won’t, or don’t have the stamina, the desire, or the chutzpah to do it. In 38 years of making my living as an actor I have quit the business almost as many times as I’ve quit smoking. In a business where rejection is the air you breathe, you need to have thick skin. On the other hand, you need to stay as vulnerable and exposed to your own feelings as you can because, as Meryl Streep says, we get paid to care.

Categories: Movies, VITAL

0 thoughts on “Moving Pictures: The Hollywood Collector’s Show”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Below is a copy of the email that has been submitted to as many celebrity reps as I have contacts for. I ask that you please pass this on to anyone you feel may be effected by what I have written. This is not a joke and is not any kind of rubbish. This is the complete truth.

    I am sending this email to everyone in the area who may have dealt with or may be or has been contacted by Mr. Ed Richards….aka Ed Prokopowich.

    Mr. Richards is currently the subject of an ongoing investigation by Law Enforcement Authorities for selling forged Celebrity Memorabilia. He uses the EBAY USER ID: westcoastcardsandphotossince1976

    Mr. Richards has done several legitimate signings in the past three years with celebrities such as Burt Reynolds, Catherine Bach, Ron Howard, Larry Hagman, Penny Marshall as well as all cast members from Happy Days, Dukes of Hazzard, the Movie American Graffiti, and several other individual signings.

    Mr. Richards is a fixture at Ray & Sharon Courts Burbank show. His specialty there is to have someone else go and purchase one or two signed photos from several of the celebrities in attendance while he mingles and attempts to make new contacts or visits with persons he previously had sign for him. His mannerisms at these shows are designed to give the appearance that he is connected and a part of “the in” as far as dealing with Hollywood celebrities goes.

    What Mr. Richards does is to display a scan of an Authentic signed photo on his auction listings and sell as many forged copies as he can. The latest and most easily visible example of this is JOAN COLLINS signed photos. Ms. Collins appeared this winter at the Burbank show. Mr. Richards had approximately 20 different photos signed by her. If you take a look at his Ebay account you will easily see that he has sold many many more already than that.

    Mr. Richards is very very good at what he does and it cost me thousands of dollars before I was able to figure out that I was being scammed by him.

    I strongly urge you to protect the interest of any clients that you currently represent and also that you pass this information on to anyone that you feel may benefit from it.

    I freely admit that I hold inside alot of negativity with regards to Mr. Richards based on what I have recently learned and some of you may view this email as “Sour Grapes” however if you choose to take the time to investigate the auctions he lists you will easily come to the conclusion that everything I have shared is the truth. I would also believe that in a business as sensitive as yours that you would not want to possibly allow one of your clients to be the victim of such foul play.

    Thank you very much for your time.

    Take Care

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