My Chat With The Cat About The Bat

I’ve had many conversations with people about Batman, but last night I had a Batman conversation I will never forget: With Catwoman. At a reception for the opening of a local production of The Fantasticks, I met Lee Meriwether (she played The Mute in the show). To me, she is best known as Catwoman, aka Ms. Kitka, in the 1960s Batman movie. She is also a former Miss America. And at age 77 she is as beautiful as ever.

At first, I kept my conversation simple. I mentioned I had seen her two years ago at The San Diego Comic Con. She impressed me right of the bat (ha!) by telling me all the money she raised at signing went to charity. Wow. I told here about GEEKS and the has-been actor who was a little not quite as gracious as her. She loved the concept and asked to read it (hmmm… Melony Tyler anybody?

For me, that would have been enough. But as the night went on, I had more opportunities to speak with her. We had a nice conversation about San Francisco and how great it will be when the express train between there and LA opens.

Eventually I got the courage to ask her more about Batman. Starting with if she recalled Kitka’s full name. Not only did she rattle it off in a heartbeat, but she quoted the rest of the scene (from Commissioner Gordon’s office when she tries to get a picture of Batman). As a fan boy, I about wet myself.

She went on to say how wonderfully fun it was. That opened a conversation about how great a character like Batman was. How every generation had a Batman of their own. I told her I’d love to create a character like that. “Who wouldn’t?” she replied.

I asked her what she thought it was that made Batman so popluar and multi-generational. She believed it was because he didn’t have super powers. He used his brains and own strength to fight for what was right. And it was his beliefs that gave him his drive.

That brought us to the subject of the Chris Nolan Films. Though she liked them all, she felt the first two were too dark. She loved that that 1960s Batman movies were made for the whole family, from kids to grandparents.

But she did say she like The Dark Knight Rises more than the others. She admits that maybe by this time, she was desensitized to the darkness. And yes, she loved Anne Hathaway as Catwoman.

I told her I loved every incarnation of Batman. From the 40s serials, to the 60s show, to the Time Burton movies (we’ll just ignore Joel Schumacher here), to the animates series and all the way up to the Chris Nolan films. I joked with Lee that like it or not she was part of the Batman world. And she was happy to be a part of it.

And for a few moments last night, I felt like I was a part of it as well.

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Every Good Geek Deserves Fear

Besides being a sci-fi/comic book geek, I am also a geek for good horror. Ever since I was a kid, I was both fascinated and terrified by movies like The Exorcist and The Omen. I believed everything I read in The Amityville Horror, and was always on guard if there was a fly in my room.

As a teen, I was reading plenty of Stephen King between Star Wars and Star Trek books. I stayed up late to be terrified by It, The Stand, Christine, The Shining and Pet Sematary. And there was also Dean Koontz who combined horror and suspense with books like Watchers, Strangers, Midnight and Servants of Twilight.

These inspired me to write my own works of horror. Granted, they were filled with teenage angst and yet to be developed writing skills (I got better!). And granted, there was some good gruesomeness to be had with slashers and killer beasts, but my favorite was always the supernatural.

Yes, even if a story hinted that it was based on actual events, I was hooked.

So, you probably want to know what the scariest book I ever read was? It is actually, The Demonologist, a collection of stories from paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. This book is terrifying because it’s true. Or so they tell us. And hey, if I can suspend my disbelief for Stephen King, I certainly can for these tales.

From mysterious voices, to vicious poltergeists, to the scariest story of a possessed Raggedy Anne doll you’ll ever read… these stories will stick with you. Yes, the Warrens may have been debunked when Amityville was revealed as a hoax, and they may be a little too preachy in the religion stuff, but you have to be when you’re talking about the demonic.

The creeps I get from these stories are probably why I prefer a Paranormal Activity movie over a Saw. And why I enjoy Ghost Hunters (Ed and Lorraine’s son has investigated with them once or twice). Yeah, it could be a bunch of hersey and silliness, but maybe that voice on the recorder really is a soul trapped.

Let’s just hope it’s not coming for you…

Father’s Day

This is the first Father’s Day without my father. Not that the past few years have been celebrated with anything more than a phone call and a gift bought for him by mom. But still, it brings back the reality of his passing. So, in tribute, I’m going to post the eulogy I wrote for him, which was based on the blog I wrote the day he died. Enjoy:

I recently wrote a play called GEEKS! THE MUSICAL which played to sold out audiences in Hollywood. The story was about people like me: fans of science fiction and comic books. As I think back on it, it was my father who first exposed me to this world.

It was a long time ago in a zip code that is now far, far away (well, for me at least). My father took the family to see this little movie called Star Wars. And it was love at first sight. I couldn’t get enough of this made up universe. My father may not have understood my obsession, but he did drive my mother all around the state one Christmas time searcing for the elusive Millenium Falcon play set… and they found it!

 The magical world of the movies was the most memorable things I shared with my father. Back then, going to the movies was an event. There was no local movie theater at that time. Though when the Revere Showcase Cinema opened, my father took me down to check out the opening night festivities. We got to see Joyce Kulhawik, which at the time was like spotting Angelena Jolie.

 Before then, Dad took the family to see “Superman: The Movie” and we all believed a man could fly. We were even daring enough to see “Jaws 2” without seeing the original “Jaws” (this was long before the days of cable TV and videos). And after “Close Encounters of The Third Kind” we were building Devil’s Towers out of mom’s mashed potatoes.

 Eventually, movie going became a father and son thing. It seemed like a lifetime before “Superman II” came out, but man were those fight scenes worth it. And I felt so guilty for making him sit through “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” I didn’t ask him to take me to see “Wrath of Khan” (even though I remember hinting about it, asking if he could believe a sequel got better reviews than the original). And I try to forget dragging him to see the long forgotten dud called “Meteor” starring Karl Malden… I should have left home without him.

My most memorable movie moment with my father was while we were watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s at the end of the battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and Vader announces (sorry to ruin the surprise): “No, I am your father!” To which my father exclaimed: “Some father! He just cut his son’s hand off!”

My father did surprise me at one point when he took me and my cousins to see a movie called “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because some friends at work said it was like the old movie serials. For one afternoon, my father was cool in a geeky sort of way.

If my father had flown out to see GEEKS! THE MUSICAL, most of the sci-fi and comic book references would be lost on him. But he’d still have a ball. I’m sure he’d tell the cast and crew that he was my father, and that he created the guy who created the play. And of course, he’d point out (over everything else) that I had put his name in the program and dedicated the show to him and my mom.

I’m very happy that my best work (to date) was dedicated to my father. And it always will be.

May the force be with you.

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We’re Back…

If you haven’t heard the news by now, GEEKS! THE MUSICAL is coming back to Write Act Repertory this month for another run. Not only is it an honor to be asked to return so soon after our first run (they liked us, they really liked us!), but it is an opportunity to bring more to the show. And more has been brought!

Our new musical director, Rocco Vitacco (no relation to Taco or Falco) has brought his unique, peppy style to his musical arrangements. He’s made the fun songs even funner. And this further inspired our choreographer, Liz Heathcoat, to expand her dance numbers. They are bigger and better. Rocco and Liz know how to entertain an audience!

The cast will have some familiar faces, and some new ones. Redetha Deason is still our girl at Comic-Con (and what a girl!), Tyler Koster our lovable sidekick, Juliette Angeli is our angelic voice goth girl, Brandon Murphy Barnes our lanky artist and Wil Bowers is the hater we love to hate.

Our new male lead, Aaron Nicholson, will sweep you off your feet. And our has been actor is now played by Dan Woren, who voice Roy Fokker on Robotech (and played a Borg is Star Trek First Contact). He’s got geek street cred!

And if you need another reason to see the show twice, then come out the weekend of Jun 29-Jul 1, when Stefan Rich fills in for Wil Bowers. Don’t worry, nobody can take Wil’s place, but Stefan carves out an Emerson of his own!

Plus we’ve got three new Chorus members to make the background come more alive. Can’t wait for you to meet Te Jay, Jason and Matthew. And many of your favorite Geek Chorus members will be back as well.

I’m so excited about the return of GEEKS! THE MUSICAL and can’t wait for you all to see it again… and again… and again. Be square, be there!

The Geek Bucket List

As we get ready to remount GEEKS! THE MUSICAL at Write Act Rep in Hollywood, I’ve been talking to more and more people about their geeky interests. There are so many pockets of interest out there, one can’t possibly know them all. There are a few things missing from my geek portfolio that I need to catch up on before I, or my career, dies.

So here is my Geek Bucket List:

1. Watch the New Battlestar Galactica. I know, I know. Bad geek! I did watch the first few episodes, but I was one of the few who was not enthralled by it right away, so never continued. Turns out that was a huge mistake. I was going to start watching it when they played it on BBC America, but just plain forgot. Someday.

2. Watch more early Doctor Who episodes. Hartnell may be a little slow, but I should see some more of his. Troughton does annoy me (there I’ve said it), but maybe I need to give him more of a chance. And Pertwee is just so cool, but back in the day, his never made it to my local PBS station. I’ve seen lots of Baker and Davidson, but there may be some gaps there I have to fill. I’m pretty caught up after that.

3. Watch all of Dark Shadows. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve never seen the entire run of the show. Granted, that may take the rest of my life, but if I learn how to fast forward through the boring parts…

4. Read the sci-fi classics I’ve missed. Someday I’ll get to Ender’s Game, though I’m not sure about the Wheel of Time series. And I do need to read more Asimov, Clarke, Dick and Gibson. Someday I’ll actually read The Silmarillion that’s collecting dust on my shelf. Dare I attempt Terry Brooks or Terry Pratchet? And should I bother with the 4th and 5th Dune books?

5. Watch the sci-fi classics I’ve missed. I’ve done well in this department, but there are a few classics and cult classics I still need to catch. For instance: Escape From New York, Forbidden Planet, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Soylent Green, Westworld

6. Catch up on Fables. It’s probably the best comic series since Sandman, so of course, I missed it at the beginning. But now I’m on the 9th graphic novel. So many more to go, but I am committed.

7. Read the classic comics I’ve yet to read. There are surprisingly many. Though I’ve sworn to never buy another Frank Miller book, I should someday catch up on what he did with Daredevil as well as his Sin City. But that’s it! Regardless of what Emerson sings, Alan Moore has written well since the Watchmen. I’ve read most, but From Hell slipped through the cracks. And there are so many independent comics I just wasn’t hip enough to catch the first time around: The Authority, Bone, Flight, Ghost World, Maus, Mouse Guard, Powers, Y The Last Man. And I’d really like to read more Hellblazer.

That’s a lot of stuff to do. But I’m sure I’ll get to it someday. I’ve often discussed with my friends the idea of a geekation – just taking a week or a long weekend, going somewhere with a stack of graphic novels and DVDs and just spending that time indulging. Hmmm… maybe after the next run of GEEKS! THE MUSICAL. If I’m not too busy writing the sequel…

Jonathan Frid is Dead (Undead, Undead, Undead)

I know. This blog is beginning to look like the obituary section. I wasn’t going to write about the death of Jonathan Frid, but since it didn’t get much press, especially after the death of Dick Clark, I felt I had to write something.

For those who do not know who Jonathan Frid was, he played Barnabas Collins in the original Dark Shadows serial. In this day of an over-saturated vampire market, very few credit Jonathan’s Barnabas for being the godfather of the modern day vampire. He turned from evil creature to a sympathetic, yet tortured soul. Anne Rice was said to have him in mind when she created Lestat.

I can’t claim to be a Dark Shadows expert. I’ve watched a bunch of the box set DVDs, listened to a few of the Big Finish audios (sadly, not so good), and read Lara Parker’s The Salem Branch, which has some wonderful description of Salem, MA (I highly recommend it… except for the ending). But I am aware of the impact Frid’s Barnabas had on the genre.

Barnabas tried to regain his soul long before Angel and Spike were born (well, their actor’s births, not their characters). He knew how to seduce women rather than the Twilight vampire seducing little girls. And no offence to True Blood, but I like my vampires to have class and style. Barbanas was a true gentleman, thanks to Frid.

Ben Cross played Barnabas in the 80s revival. He was pretty good, but still did not capture the torment that Frid injected to the role. And as for Johnny Depp… no, I will not use this space to bash how terrible he looks as Barnabas. But I will say, to play it as a comedy is a disservice to Frid. Yes, Dark Shadows was a melodrama, but the elements of a great vampire story are there, yet Tim Burton seemed to ignore them. Don’t get me started!

Like Barnabas Collins, Frid is immortal. Dark Shadows will never die. What other soaps were released on DVD? People keep coming back to them for both their cheese and for their groundbreaking moments. It’s even more fun when they travel to the distant future: 1995.

RIP, Jonathan Frid. Long live Barnabas Collins.

Remembering My Father

My father passed away yesterday. It still feels strange typing or saying those words. Not that I had a particular great relationship with him. My teen years were not pretty. But I won’t dwell on those here (I’m sure you’ll see them on stage or screen some day). I’d rather focus on some of the fun, geeky childhood memories.

When I was a kid, going to the movies was a big deal. There was not a local movie theater for the longest of time (though when the Revere Showcase Cinema opened, he took me down to check out the opening night festivities, we even saw local entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik, which was my biggest celebrity spotting at the time), so going to a movie was a big event. I don’t know if it were he or my mom who chose family movies, but we all went to see “Superman” as well as “Star Wars.” And we even saw “Jaws 2” without even seeing the original “Jaws” (remember the days before cable TV and video).

Eventually, movie going became a father and son thing. Though it felt like I was the one who was dragging him to them. Though he liked “Superman” I remember having to ask him to see “Supeman II”. And I felt so guilty for making him sit through “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” I did not ask him to take me to see “Wrath of Khan” (even though I remember hinting to him about it, asking if he could believe a sequel actually got better reviews than the original).

For an Italian guy, he never had any passion about movies. Though, my most memorable movie moment with my father was while we were watching “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s at the end of the battle between Luke and Darth Vader and Vader announces (SPOILER ALERT!): “I am your father!” To which my father exclaimed: “Some father! He just cut his son’s hand off!”

My father did surprise me at one point when he took me and my cousins to see a movie called “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because some friends at work said it was like the 50s adventure serials. For one afternoon, my father was cool in a geeky sort of way.

Did the man ever encourage my writing? No. But once I accepted that this was a generational thing, I no longer sought his approval. Though, fast forward to the present, and my trip home two summers ago. Though my dad was already in a nursing home at that time, he was still a little more coherent. He was aware that they were doing one of my plays in New York City, and was obviously proud, because he told the entire nursing home staff about it.

Would dad have enjoyed GEEKS! THE MUSICAL? No. But he would had sat through it and wondered which character was based on him (this time, none of them were). He would have told all the cast and crew that he was my father, or rather that he created the guy who created the play. And of course, he’d point out (over everything else) that I had put his name in the program and dedicated the show to him and my mom.

And I’m very happy that my best work (to date) was dedicated to my father. And it always will be.