Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Live! In Person!

Karen: How many of us experienced the childhood thrill of meeting a super-hero, cartoon character, or other such icon live and in-person? These characters were brought in to promote some product or the opening of a new business. I can recall two such experiences: the first occurring when I was about six years old. The occasion was the opening of the first McDonald's restaurant in town. To celebrate such a momentous event, McDonald's brought in Ronald McDonald and -the Frankenstein Monster. Because obviously that makes sense, right? I didn't give two hoots about McDonald's but I loved the Frankenstein Monster, and my mom helped scoot me up to the front of the crowd so I could see him. Some kids were crying -they were scared of the Monster. Honestly I found Ronald McDonald far more frightening than Frankenstein. 

The second big live appearance was the arrival of Batman to our local JC Penney's store around 1976. I've posted some pictures below. The caped crusader was set up in the men's shoe department. I can't recall what the occasion was -I don't think it had anything to do with the Mego figures, or the original TV show. There must have been some reason, but honestly, my brain cells can't conjure it up now. But I do remember pestering my folks to take me to see him, even though it was on a school night. He might not have been Adam West, but I was still giddy.

Karen: Any childhood meetings you'd like to share?


dbutler16 said...

I have no such experience to relate, but I just have to say, Karen, that those are awesome pictures, and so clearly 70's judging from that guy standing next to Batman. Any pictures of you with Bats?

Humanbelly said...

Sheesh, even though Adam West was no great physical specimen in his Bat-Togs, I daresay he filled the suit out better than this poor fellow--! Although-- could it indeed have been Adam West, those several years later? He certainly was in the ranks of scraping-by-somehow former celebrities by that point, wasn't he?

Man, we never EVER had anything like that kind of celebrity pop up in our little town. I'm not sure if anything ever Grandly Opened, even, during my childhood (an Arby's and a McDonald's once I went to college. . . and a new library a few years later. . . ). The closest similar thing I can think of is on the creepy side. We lived in a decidedly modest part of the posh Diamond Lake community (Howell Point)-- not on the lakefront, about a block up from it, but the lakefront houses were across a small lot and the street, literally a baseball-throw away. When I was about 5, my buddy Eddie lived right there in a beautiful gothic lakeside mini-mansion, and next door to him (closer to us, in fact) was a heavily-fenced, modern-style fancy lakehouse. The older guy that lived there would often come out with a bag of Brach's Royale Toffees and give us a couple over the fence, ask us how we were doin', tell us to be good, etc. And my Mom would have a COW any time I mentioned that Mr. Taylor had given us some candy-- but never said why.

Turns out, it was a local open secret that he was Sammy Taylor, a retired Chicago hitman that had somehow evaded proper legal retribution. He eventually moved a couple of miles farther out (near the new high school), into a larger more compound-like small estate. . . with a MUCH heavier perimeter fence, even. He and his wife came into the ice-cream shop I was working in about 20 years later-- both very elderly, and he having lost his voicebox to cancer-- and the folks that recognized him were still clearly terrified that he was there. Which I didn't get at all. The most I could muster was a rather detached curiosity that he was still alive-- and couldn't fathom what his life and conscience must have been like all these years.

(Wow-- and this is just so wildly tangential--- my apologies, Karen! We. . . were without celebrity in Cassopolis. Probably more famous Pigs than people, in fact.)


Redartz said...

Ronald McDonald and Frankenstein; what a combination! I'm with you, Karen; Ronald would scare me worse than any screen monster...

Not much in the way of iconic meetings to relate. Seems like I encountered a couple of the Banana Splits at King's Island way back when (when the park was still affiliated with Hanna/Barbera; so much better then). This was more unnerving than anything else, though.

Love those photos, Karen! Note the rounded corners, another feature of 70's culture: borderless, rounded, and most likely pebble-finish photo prints. Were those shot on an Instamatic? I had an old GAF camera that made those square prints. A far cry from DSLRs, granted, but with a charm all their own.

William said...

Cool Batman pics. Too bad they don't really do stuff like anymore. In that second pic, Batman looks pretty scrawny, more like Robin in a Batman suit. lol (But kids are having too much fun to know the diff).

Now, when I was a kid (around 8 or 9), there was this late-night "Creature Feature" show on local TV that aired every Friday and Saturday nights around 11:00 PM. It featured old horror movies like Dracula and Frankenstein, and monster movies like Godzilla, etc. My parents would sometimes let me stay up and watch it (if I could keep my eyes open). It was hosted by a creepy character called "Dr. Paul Bearer" (get it?). He was like the Crypt Keeper (but not nearly as creepy). He was basically a guy with make-up on, and old clothes, who kind of looked like a vampire. He would introduce the movies, and then make funny comments during the breaks (like Elvira, but w/o the sex-appeal). The set looked like a creepy old dungeon with rusty chains on the wall, and cobwebs and such. When the show started, he would enter through this big old wooden door that would creak loudly when he opened it. I thought it was all pretty cool when I was a kid.

Anyway, my neighbor was in high-school, and he got a chance to interview Dr. Paul Bearer for his school paper, and he invited my mother, my sister, and myself along for the chance to meet this local celebrity. Sounds like a blast, right? Not really. You know how they tell you to never meet your "heroes", well that's probably good advice.

First of all, I think the good Doctor might have been a daytime drinker. He was actually kind of rude, and even as a kid I could tell that he really didn't want to be bothered with us. And that "cool" dungeon set was basically just a cardboard backdrop, and the big "heavy" old door was only about an inch thick.

Needless to say the experience was a bit disillusioning, and I never really enjoyed the show quite as much after that. I guess once I peeked behind the curtain, the magic was gone. LOL

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, no worries. *I* rather enjoyed your story.

And Karen, I definitely agree with you and Redartz, and I almost audibly guffawed at your characterization of the comparative scariness of Ronnie McD and Frankie. It's so true, because a) clowns are, more often than not, disturbingly scary, and b) when you really let yourself think about, McDonald's is also quite scary.

The possibility of such celebrity meetings were few and far between for me when I was a kid, since my family lived in a pretty rural area, and even the nearest 'metropolis' was Portland, OR, which - back in the '70s and '80s - was still a long way off from being the country's hipster capital as it is today. I generally recall it was considered a bit of a backwater, in fact.
BUT: I do have a story anyway. Back in 1977, the North American Soccer League championship was played in Portland's Civic Stadium, and two nights before the game, a banquet with all of the league's bigwigs and all of the players and coaching staffs from the two teams was held in a fancy hotel in the downtown area. The two teams were the Seattle Sounders and the New York Cosmos. The latter's star player was, of course, global superstar Pele. Somehow, my dad got tickets for the banquet (we also had tickets to the game itself). So while the players were doing a meet and greet with attendees in the hotel lobby, my older brother and I got to shake hands with Pele, and he autographed our little notebooks (neither of us have those anymore, dammit) and my brother snapped two pictures of me with him. They didn't turn out very well, though, as everyone was crowding around to meet him, so in one his head is turned the other way - anyway, those pics are in some box in my parents' garage in California now...

Anonymous said...
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The Prowler said...

Yet another story of a brush with a local celebrity. Back in the 50s, well before my time, there was a local talent show hosted by cowboy couple Don Mahoney and Jeana Claire. It ran until the early to mid 80s. I think it finally ended up on cable access. From what I've heard from local legend, Annette O'Toole and the Winters brothers, Johnny and Edgar, appeared on the show. Could be the first TV appearance of both. Well, anywhoooooo, Prowler and the Prowler Pack, mostly the kids that would fit in my 78 Mustang Mark II, were running around town when we ran into Don and Jeana Claire as they were getting ice cream at the Walgreens. It had an ice cream counter. We were so excited and gushing and being dorks and they were so nice and gracious and made US feel as though the greatest thing to ever happen to THEM was meeting us at Walgreens. I know!!! Right?

(Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can)

Ewan said...

When I was about kindergarten age my family was living in Arizona (would have been about the late 70's), and we were walking through our local mall and we turned the corner and there was Disney's Goofy standing there (can't remember what he was promoting). Of course he would be a common sight at one of the Disney theme parks, but to see him pop up at our local mall completely blew my 5-6 year old mind.

He saw me and gave me a huge handshake, and actually overdid it quite a bit (verging on slightly painful), so from then on it was a running joke for years in my family that I had it in for Goofy.

And they were right, I did.

J.A. Morris said...

I "met" Darth Vader at a mall or state fair, when I was around 9 or 10. It wasn't David Prowse, just some guy in the suit. But in the pre-cosplay era, it was exciting. Around the same time, Toys R Us had a "meet the superheroes" night. We got to see Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Hulk, among others.

Doug said...

Alas, no superhero sightings come to mind. However, our local Sears store would from time to time have Winnie the Pooh in for photos. I wish I had them here, but my mom is still in possession. Talk about some groovy 70s clothes worn by young Doug! And this wasn't some lame Pooh Bear -- he was the real deal.

And speaking of, I can vouch for the excitement of kids of all ages when seeing costumed characters. We did not go as a family to Disney World until our sons were 19 and 17. They could not wait to get their photos taken with Pooh and Tigger, Mickey, Piglet, etc. Great times.


Redartz said...

Doug- you're quite correct about kids of all ages getting a kick out of costumed characters. When our youngest son was in middle school, we took him to Disney World. One might think a boy of such age would be disinclined to such entertainment, but he was absolutely thrilled to be photographed with Mickey. And this still holds true for a 55-year old kid; my wife and I recently visited our son and daughter-in-law in Las Vegas. I was quite tickled to be pose with the M&M guys (ok, technically it was Ms. Brown M&M...). Then there was the shot with the Coca Cola Bear...

Anonymous said...

Batman really needs to hit the weights......

Anyway, Karen, maybe you have coulrophobia (fear of clowns)! :) I wonder who's the marketing genius who decided it was a good idea to bring Frankenstein to a McDonald's opening ceremony. Nothing says food and good times quite like the Frankenstein monster!

This Batman doesn't look like Adam West (both in face and figure) at least from the limited angle in this picture. I wonder how many children bought shoes there and asked him to sign them!

- Mike 'I want Godzilla at my Domino's' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Oh, I definitely have a clown phobia. No doubt about that! Something about a grown man, his face hidden by make-up, wearing baggy clothes and hanging around kids just makes my skin crawl. But on to more pleasant things - it is funny how even at a later age, we can feel excited over meeting a costumed character. The Disney world example is a great one. Perhaps the most universal experience is sitting on Santa's lap as a kid. Some kids love it, some are in tears. I think that is also dependent on the quality of the Santa! Some of them can be pretty scary!

Rip Jagger said...

Oh you have struck a chord. I remember when I was a wee tot going with my Mom to meet "Mr. Cartoon" (George Lewis --there have been a few -- this was the first one out of Huntington, West Virginia)), the host of the local kiddie show, a man in a loud sports jacket, a wacky pork-pie hat and sunglasses who brought the children their daily doses of Three Stooges, Flash Gordon, Popeye, and most importantly Marvel Super-Heroes. I don't actually remember meeting him, but I well remember the helium balloon he gave slipping through my fingers as we walked out of the G.C. Murphy's store and slithering up and up and up into the sky. I was a sad little fellow.

I got over it.

Rip Off :)

Ward Hill Terry said...

I have the perspective from the other side. I've been that guy in the costume at greeting kids and giving out autographs! The awe and delight one the faces of the kids was wonderful to see. The fear on others was kind of disheartening, though. Many grown-ups were also delighted to meet a super-hero. I was Wolverine in a parade in Rhode Island one Independence Day, as an official representative of Marvel productions. The costume was the real one, i.e., the yellow-and-blue one, but it was a full-bodied padded suit. (In just spandex alone, I'm a Spider-Man body type, certainly not built like Logan.) I had a specific spot in the parade, between a float and a band or some such. However, I kept losing my spot! There was such a demand form people who wanted to meet Wolverine and get a photo with him, that I had to keep stopping to pose, then jog to catch up, and cross from one side of the street to the other, and stop for a photo or a hand shake, the jog to catch up... That padding absorbed a lot of sweat along that two mile route!
One more, that you'll all appreciate. As Spider-Man at a Wal-Mart, my cousin brought her kids, then all under 7, and her mother to see me. Consequently, I've got a picture of me , dressed as Spidey with...my Aunt Mae!

Karen said...

Ward Hill Terry -that's fascinating, however did you get the job? From comic fan to super-hero!

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