“Always Something There To Remind Me...”
On Saturday, September 28th, at the Anaheim Convention Center (future site of Starfleet HQ, according to the new “Star Trek: Picard” trailer), my wife and I attended an interesting little event that took us back in time a bit to our own ‘wonder years’… a new convention called “NostalgiaCon80s.”
The first sight to greet us was boomboxes; multiple display tables laid out with an incredible variety of boomboxes. As a former connoisseur of boomboxes, I was already longing for the days of making mix tapes and playing with graphic equalizers. I owned at least five boomboxes, from about 1985 through 1999.
Of course, my little iPhone can reproduce digital music with more clarity and at the tiniest fraction of the size & weight of these clunky machines, but I guess that’s not the point, is it? Boomboxes, for now middle-aged former ’80s teens, are more about evoking memories of simpler times, relative innocence and those many years ahead rather than actual mechanical sound fidelity. Memories of tapes jamming in playback heads, excessive audio hiss, and overall monstrous bulk quickly fell into insignificance. Sentiment is funny that way…
“Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car…”
Towards the back of the mostly empty dealer hall (the actual convention itself took up a small fraction of the convention center’s main area), there were a few retro cars and vintage vehicles. There were several DeLoreans, both stock models and with “Back to the Future”-style retrofitting, as well as Marty McFly’s ‘dream truck’ (a black 1985 Hi-Lux Toyota) from the same film. Away from the other vehicles, in one of the booths, was the 2016 version of the Ecto1 “Ghostbusters” car (an appropriately vintage 1984 Cadillac, though not the 1959 model from the original movie). The Ecto1 was parked next to a statue of the ever-ravenous “Slimer” ghost, of course.
Beyond boomboxes and vehicles, there were also a few dealer tables selling clothes, accessories and other bits of 1980s memorabilia. Being a former ‘80s teenager, I didn’t really need any swag or simulated era-appropriate trinkets to remind me of that time. For the moment, I still have my memories (until senility works its way in). At any rate, most of my money went towards autographs, because, for me, it’s all about the people…
“We Are The World..“
The Autograph Area was probably my favorite part of NostalgiaCon, featuring a few of those who populated those movies and TV shows I grew up watching in those days. Some of the celebrity attendees included cast members from “Dallas” (Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton, Patrick Duffy), “Laverne & Shirley” (Cindy Williams), “Land of the Lost” (Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Philip Paley, Sharon Baird), “WKRP In Cincinnati” (Howard Hessman, Loni Anderson), “The Fall Guy” (Heather Thomas), “CHiPs” (Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox) and “Gilligan’s Island” (Dawn Wells). There were also feature film stars such as Corey Feldman (“Stand By Me” “The Lost Boys”), Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Hot Shots!”, “Robin Hood: Men In Tights”, “Stranger Things”) and one of my favorite character actors both then and now, Christopher Lloyd (“Taxi”, “Back to the Future”, “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”, “The Addams Family” movies, “Amazing Stories”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and countless other credits).
The chameleonic Christopher Lloyd’s characters tend to be high energy, wild-eyed eccentrics. The mild-mannered, humble man I met (below) struck me as the kind of guy you’d see quietly reading on a train; a far cry from the sort of high-strung characters with which he is typically associated.
My most pleasant encounter came from “Dallas” star Linda Gray, who played “Sue Ellen”, the long-suffering, alcoholic wife of patriarch “J.R. Ewing” (the late Larry Hagman). I was seeking out her autograph for a friend of mine (an absolute “Dallas” devotee). Gray was an absolute sweetheart who was touched by my friend’s devotion to her show.
Gray also seemed to possess a near-photographic memory of the photo sessions of some of the publicity stills that were up for sale at her autograph table. For myself, I only remember “Dallas” from watching the show over my sister’s shoulder 30-odd years ago. I still remember a few specific scenes and characters here and there, but overall it was more my sister’s jam than mine. Nevertheless, my encounter with Gray was so nice that I decided to cash in an unused autograph ticket I’d misplaced earlier and get my sister an autograph as well (after all, my sister first turned me on to the show a bit, so it seemed fair).
While I ever really watched the shows of iconic ‘80s sex symbol Heather Thomas (“The Fall Guy”, “Zapped”), we nevertheless struck up a funny, brief little conversation about nostalgia. I’d mentioned how my wife threw together a neat little ‘80s ensemble to wear at the convention, and Thomas joked that the only thing she still had from the ‘80s was herself. Thomas is still in terrific shape, with a firm handshake; in fact, she made me feel a bit like the Pillsbury dough boy (hehe...).
My wife also caught a nice pic of former “CHiPs” star Erik Estrada, posing with a few genuine Anaheim police officers. I used to adore the TV show “CHiPs” as a kid; though I loved the show more for those great Kawasaki KZ-1000 police bikes than for any scintillating storylines or Emmy-worthy performances. Motorcycles were a huge love of mine from childhood through the end of my 20s. Enduring a life-altering motorcycle crash (hit by a drunk driver) a quarter century ago helped accelerate the end of that particular phase of my life. In hindsight, I wish I took a moment to talk to Erik’s costar Larry Wilcox about his time spent producing “Ray Bradbury Theatre” (Bradbury was/is my favorite author of all time). Oh well. Goodbye, Mr. CHiPs…
Below is a pic I took of Corey Feldman (in different specs now) as he chatted with both fans and his former “Goonies” (1985) costar Sean Astin (son of late TV stars John Astin and Patty Duke). Feldman was fully dressed in ‘80s wear (once again, looking very Michael Jackson-ish). My wife and I met Sean Astin a few years ago at San Diego Comic Con. In addition to costarring in the Oscar-winning “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Astin recently costarred with fellow ‘80s icon Winona Ryder (“Beetlejuice”) in the 2nd season of the ‘80s nostalgic Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Feldman and Astin later reunited for a “Goonies” reunion panel at the convention. Not being avid “Goonies” fans, my wife and I skipped it.
Another attendee at NostalgiaCon was actor Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Hot Shots!” “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” and Season 3 of “Strange Things”). Elwes, like Christopher Lloyd, has a list of credits longer than my arm. I also remember him costarring as real-life Apollo 11 astronaut Mike Collins in 1998’s Tom Hanks-produced miniseries “From The Earth To The Moon.” Below is my own pic of Elwes as he posed near the main stage with fellow NostalgiaCon goers. Didn’t get a chance to chat with him, though I wished that I had. Given his patience in posing with fans and other attendees, he seemed very gracious.
“Land of the Lost” (1974) cast members Wesley Eure (“Will Marshall”), Kathy Coleman (“Holly Marshall”), Philip Paley (“Chaka”) and Sharon Baird (“Ki”) attended Nostalgia con, and recreated the famous blue-screened raft intro of the show for fans, along with a “Sleestak”, one of the creepy reptilian people who populated the “land of the lost.” As a dinosaur freak, I used to love this show when I was a kid. While not technically 1980s nostalgia, I didn’t care. “Land of the Lost” was one of my favorite childhood guilty pleasures, though I haven’t watched it in decades.
That about sums up my NostalgiaCon80s experience. NostalgiaCon was a small convention, covering just a fraction of one side of the main dealer hall at the Anaheim Convention Center (a place my wife and I know very well, thanks to WonderCon), but it still achieved a modest goal of jogging a few good memories for each of us. It’s interesting when one lives long enough to see their own wonder years fondly recreated in sentimental period pieces such as “Stranger Things” or “The Goldmans” (or at conventions such as NostalgiaCon). I realize how aging baby boomers must’ve felt watching the plethora of fun (but wildly inaccurate) television shows and movies about the 1950s and early 1960s that aired when I was a kid (looking at you, “Happy Days”…). While NostalgiaCon didn’t offer a lot of bang for the buck, I’m allowing for a learning curve. Here’s hoping that if it continues to grow, perhaps with more dealer tables and programming options, my wife and I might be compelled to return someday.
That’d be totally rad.