I recently posted Sega Saturn Magazine’s Top 50 Saturn Games. Sega Saturn Magazine, affectionately known as SSM for short, was a UK publication that ran 37 issues from November 1995 to November 1998. Despite a short 3 year run, SSM has never left the memory of its readers. Pick up any issue and it’s easy to see why. Their undeniable passion for all things Sega Saturn bled off the pages. Their screenshots were phenomenal, always showing off the best parts of a game. Their definitive showcases, in-depth reviews and exclusive insider interviews all helped to make SSM truly legendary. Best of all, their sense of wacky humor. They always brought a smile to my face and I found myself occasionally chuckling at their silliness. In short, Sega Saturn Magazine was and forever will be, unequivocally, the best gaming magazine ever.
On October 12, 2003, I began sharing SSM’s Top 50 Saturn Games list on the Neo Geo forums. Posting two entries a day, it ran for a month and went viral in the retro gaming community. Stirring much Sega Saturn discourse, the thread eventually caught the eye of two former Sega Saturn Magazine contributors: editor Richard Leadbetter and writer Gary Cutlack. Imagine my sheer joy and shock when almost exactly one year later, them SSM boys reached out to me to applaud my efforts in recreating their Top 50 list for all to partake. This led to an interview with both Gary Cutlack and Rich Leadbetter. We reminisced about all things Sega Saturn — their favorite Saturn games as well as recounting their halcyon days writing for the famed publication. So grab a cold one and kick back for a little stroll down memory lane
From: Gary Cutlack
Sent: Sunday, October 10, 2004 3:28 AM
Subject: Sega Saturn Magazine
Just had to say how much I enjoyed reading your incredible series of posts on the Neo-Geo forums about SSM’s top 50 Saturn games.
Playing and writing about Radiant Silvergun was by far the happiest period of my entire writing career, and although I’m still writing about games for UK mags, nothing will ever come close to those Saturn glory days again — and we were doing it for fans like you!
Those glorious scans you shared of Radiant Silvergun brings a tear to my eye, they really do..
SAGE SaTRUn 4 EvaaaAAH,
Gary (Cutlack, formerly of SSM)
Then shortly following, Rich Leadbetter sent me this…
Just like Gary, I’ve just checked out your brilliant SSM Top 50 thread on the Neo Geo forums. I remember the feature very well. In the run-up to Christmas we had to get issues out of the door in an insanely short amount of time, so we’d “bank” pages in the preceding months by coming up with the likes of Tips A-Zs and retrospective pieces.
Your presentation of the Top 50 in that thread was superb, and I also greatly enjoyed the excerpts of other parts of the magazine. Brought back many memories long since buried and could well inspire me to venture into my attic and dig out a few issues.
I must salute you for truly capturing the spirit of what the magazine was all about. To be honest, I think we were fortunate in that we were writing when Sega’s AM and CS teams were at their very best, when quality gaming had a certain purity to it untouched by the seismic changes to the market (and the accepted idea of what makes a “good game”) that Sony brought about. It was a golden period and I think that the magazine worked because we knew it, and the readers knew it.
Anyway, thanks for a very welcome trip back in time…
This led to me interviewing both men. Let’s begin with Gary Cutlack.
Where the hell are Sam Hickman, Lee Nutter (Chewbacca!), and last but not least Richard Leadbetter today? (Note: This was before Rich sent me his email). Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Well Lee’s editor of PSW which is on the other side of the office from me, so I have no choice but to engage in occasional polite conversation with him in the kitchen on the odd days when we both make cups of tea at the same time. Rich still does freelance for several mags, plus I believe he’s now more of a DVD author making cover discs for US game mags. Sam was before my time, so I have no idea of her whereabouts.
What are your top 10 favorite Saturn games? Any region.
These are. I’ve even put them in reverse order to enhance the thrill. How anyone can prefer Virtua Cop 2 over the first one’s perfect score multiplier system I’ll never know.
What was it like working on SSM, and what were the last couple months like before SSM was laid to rest?
It was all right. I just sort of sat there very quietly writing enthusiastic things, getting angry at Matt for removing my jokes and adding spelling mistakes, and hoping that Ed Lomas wouldn’t come round from the CVG office and make me pull his finger. Doing the last issue was pretty miserable, especially as we were all so excited about the prospect of gradually morphing it into a Dreamcast mag and, obviously, ruling the world with it for a thousand years. But the Saturn was SO dead by that point (months after Sega had stopped releasing games for it in the UK) there was no hope of it carrying on.
How real was the rivalry with Saturn Power? (Note: Saturn Power was a rival UK publication). Any particular memories in regards to this rivalry?
It was more institutional than personal — we were EMAP they were Future, and nobody liked Future. They were moderately capable people making an acceptable magazine in typical Future style, whereas we were SUPERHARDCOREWARRIORS crafting the very best thing we could do each month. They might think otherwise, but put some of the screenshots from both mags side-by-side and you’ll be able to tell who cared most and put the effort in (it was us).
Final question: any Saturn games you think SSM might have overrated? Or, which Saturn games were very good back in the day, but haven’t aged very well?
None were overrated. The Saturn REALLY WAS THAT GOOD!
And now, my interview with Rich Leadbetter.
From: Richard Leadbetter
Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 2:17 AM
Subject: RE: Message from Rich Leadbetter
Where the hell are Sam Hickman, Lee Nutter (Chewbacca!), and the rest of the SSM gang (the ones who matter, anyway) today? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Sam Hickman is editor of several kids’ magazines produced by the BBC. Lee Nutter is the editor of the PS2 mag, PSW. Gary Cutlack is the deputy editor of the UK mag, Xbox Gamer. Matt Yeo has also moved on to editing kids’ magazines. I run my own multimedia company, Digital Foundry. Those DVDs that have been bundled with the last few issues of EGM? That’s our work.
What are your top 10 favorite Saturn games today? Any region.
To be honest, none of us are massive Saturn fans any more to the extent that we regularly play Saturn games. I haven’t touched my Sega stuff in years. But there’s no denying the POWER of the Saturn. A top ten, in no particular order would be…
There are probably others but those are the ones that I still recall most fondly.
How real was the rivalry with Saturn Power? Any particular memories in regards to this rivalry?
There was never a rivalry in any real sense from our perspective. We got all the good games first, always sold far more copies and were totally focused on what we produced as opposed to looking over our shoulders at what other people were doing. We would spend hours getting the right screenshots, making the text entertaining and really working on championing some fantastic games. I simply didn’t see that in Saturn Power.
In truth, the readers read Saturn Power more than we did and generally tended to email or write in to tell us about it. Since it struck a chord with the readers and it gave them a chuckle, we’d throw in the odd sly comment but in truth we didn’t really give a toss. Our focus was elsewhere. The only rival from a quality perspective we had at the time was from CVG magazine, produced in the office right next to ours. OK so it was a multi-format mag, but in terms of sitting down, poring over an issue, reading every word and admiring their work, they were our closest rivals. CVG was the only other games mag we wanted to read. The fact that we were friends and could go to lunch with them and talk games and have a great time was a bonus. We used to play Quake on PC a lot.
Final question: what Saturn games do you think SSM might have overrated? Or, which Saturn games were very good back in the day, but haven’t aged very well?
You probably have a far more encyclopedic memory of our review scores than I have. But you’re right in that Saturn Bomberman was underrated. In terms of stuff overrated, some of the PlayStation ports have aged badly, and some decent games at the time (e.g. Soviet Strike) are now forgotten and almost totally irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. Some reviews may seem contentious now, but our primary focus in the mag was always the showcases. Our emphasis on dedicating more pages to the big games, championing them and making them feel more special was what we liked doing the most.
Hope you enjoyed those two interviews! I was absolutely floored when they reached out to me more than 15 years ago, and reading those interviews again brings back a lot of fun nostalgic memories for me. Although Super Nintendo will always be #1 in my heart, the Sega Saturn and all its great games will always be #2 in my book.
In these crazy uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are staying at home than ever. As a teacher I’ve been off work the past two weeks, and won’t be reporting back until May at the earliest. With most of us implementing shelter-in-place, this has afforded us more time to connect with those we hold dearest, as well as enjoy our indoor hobbies. Playing video games, binge watching shows and movies or reading a good book. For me, it’s all these things and a chance to update RVGFanatic a little more frequently. Work has kept me busy, as well as moving in with my girlfriend, so I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. With all this extra down time, I can’t think of a better time than now to convert one of my most popular articles from my original site.
Sega Saturn Magazine was a UK publication that ran 37 issues back in the mid to late 1990s. It’s often considered the “Sega Saturn Bible” and is a favorite publication of many. Their passion bled through the pages, and to this day remains my favorite magazine, beating out even EGM, GameFan and Super Play.
In issue #28 (February of 1998), Sega Saturn Magazine published a list of their top 50 Saturn games. I’ve always been a fan of top lists; I enjoy comparing my opinion to those of others. Not everyone will agree on every ranking, but that’s all part of the fun. Just keep in mind that this list was compiled in late 1997, so you won’t be seeing later Saturn releases on this list, such as Burning Rangers, Panzer Dragoon Saga or Shining Force III.
I originally shared this Top 50 list on the Neo Geo forums back in October 2003. It became one of the most viewed links there. So popular, in fact, that two former Sega Saturn Magazine contributors (including the editor) reached out via private message to thank me personally for the fond trip down memory lane. Now, nearly 20 years later, I’m proud to share that list here on RVGFanatic. Enjoy!
#50: MASS DESTRUCTION (87%)
Best described as Return Fire meets Soviet Strike, the unambiguously titled Mass Destruction is a technically outstanding blaster.
“Yeah, there’s a loose mission structure to follow, but the meat and bones of Mass Destruction is just that — mass destruction. Running at a super-smooth 60 FPS and featuring some of the most incredible pyrotechnics we’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame they missed out the all-important two-player mode.” -Lee Nutter
#49: THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95 (89%)
SNK’s greatest fighters from their legendary beat ‘em ups amass in this one 2D battling mega game! Action-packed fighting action guaranteed!
“Capcom have virtually owned the 2D fighting genre on Saturn, but this one SNK release shows that when it comes to true hardcore fighting games, the underdog are in a class of their own. KoF ’95 is probably the most lastable fighting game on the system… if you’re into SNK of course.” -Editor Rich Leadbetter
#48: SHINING WISDOM (N/A)
The last 2D game in the Shining Force series. Explore a fantasy realm and undertake a quest to save your homeland from destruction.
“Sega have always produced quality RPGs and Sonic Software Planning’s epic is no exception. While the visuals may look pretty basic, Shining Wisdom’s playability and grand scale are second-to-none. There are literally hundreds of characters to meet and magical spells to master. A deserved addition to the RPG fan’s library.” -Matt Yeo
#47: ENEMY ZERO (88%)
The best attempt yet at an ‘Interactive Movie,’ programmed by legendary Japanese nutters Warp. The 11th best selling Saturn game EVER in Japan!
“The Japanese loved it. We quite liked it as well, come to think of it, as the smooth sci-fi action and top quality rendered FMV makes for an enjoyable and deep experience, with a pretty tough challenge for all you Saturn owning adventure fans.” -Gary Cutlack
#46: ACTUA GOLF (90%)
Golf — hitting a ball around a field with a stick. Sounds crap, but it actually makes for a decent video game simulation.
“To convince your dad that games aren’t just about shooting and fighting, it’s essential to own a golf game. And you might as well buy a good one while you’re at it — Actua Golf scored 90% for its attention to detail, smooth 3D graphics and great control.” -Gary Cutlack
#45: PANDEMONIUM! (90%)
Resurrecting the neglected platform genre from its 16-bit glory days, Pandemonium! is the finest example of its kind on the Saturn.
“Incorporating classic 2D gameplay into a luscious 3D environment, Pandemonium! is a speedy and visually astounding platformer.” -Lee Nutter
#44: ATHLETE KINGS (90%)
One of the first games to be produced for the Saturn-based ST-V arcade board, and probably one of the best, featuring gorgeously smooth hi-res visuals… it’s AM3 magic!
“Tasty athletic girls in high-cut Lycra gear… lovely! Of course we’re only interested in the gameplay, and the button-bashing action made for an excellent sports game. It’s not the biggest game ever made, but beating your personal (and buddies’) bests presents a decent challenge that can last ages.” -Gary Cutlack
#43: DARK SAVIOR (92%)
Years in the making, this adventure has the same class and style as the epochal LandStalker on Mega Drive. Stunning adventuring, although RPG masters may find it too easy…
“The sheer quest in Dark Savior is one that all die-hard adventurers will savor — it’s quality. I completed the Japanese import, then played it through again when it came out here. Excellent.” -Rich Leadbetter
#42: DAYTONA CCE (90%)
The Rally conversion team tried their hand at recreating the awesome Daytona USA coin-op on the Saturn with mixed results.
“The highly anticipated update of the often maligned Daytona conversion is a mixed bag really. The myriad of improvements (two-player mode, new tracks and improved graphics) is commendable, but somehow the superlative gameplay has been lost in the conversion. It’s not really Daytona anymore, but a cool arcade racer nonetheless.” -Lee Nutter
#41: SPACE HULK (90%)
A corridor shoot ‘em up that tries to include more of a strategy element, with players responsible for positioning their troops as well as shooting.
“Do we want strategy in our shoot ‘em ups? Well, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit tougher and durable than most games, Space Hulk’s very complex levels and massive alien sprites should do the trick. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of mindless blasting for you shooting fans.” -Gary Cutlack
#40: SOVIET STRIKE (90%)
The inevitable 32-bit update of EA’s established Strike series arrives to much critical acclaim.
“Soviet Strike adheres to the same basic gameplay principles of the previous Strike games, but running on Sega’s powerhouse console, everything is done far better. More weapons, FMV clips, photo-realistic landscapes and a greater variety in the missions culminate in an awesome addition to the series.” -Lee Nutter
#39: JONAH LOMU RUGBY (91%)
The only authentic rugby simulation on the Saturn. Codemasters’ sporting star recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the big lads’ game. It’s a bit difficult to find in the shops, but the effort is more than worth it.
“While the world goes soccer crazy, Codemasters take a stab at one of the world’s roughest sports. Actual team stats, spot-on gameplay and bone-crunching matches ensure Jonah’s reputation (and tackle) remain intact. A welcome alternative to all those footie games.” -Matt Yeo
#38: MANX TT SUPERBIKE (91%)
The stunning Model 2 arcade racer was converted to the Saturn by Australian coders Tantalus, and they did a pretty good job too. But can they match the power of a true AM conversion?
“The one complaint that stops Manx TT from being a bit higher in this listing is the ridiculous number of tracks — just two. The graphics were the closest a racing game got to Sega Rally standards (at the time), and the racing action played bloody well too. Shame about the number of tracks.” -Gary Cutlack
#37: SATURN BOMBERMAN (90%)
The perfect party game. Hudsonsoft’s first Sega Bomberman outing offers loads of explosive fun with up to ten players trying to blow the living daylights out of each other. As Barry Norman would say: and why not?
“Bomberman’s a hit on every system. Excellent long term playability, multiple weapons and battle arenas, multi-tap compatibility and replay value galore. Although let down by a weak one-player game variation, this is still an essential purchase and a great party game.” -Matt Yeo
#36: CROC: LEGEND OF THE GOBBOS (91%)
Take on the evil Baron Dante in this multi-level, 3D platformer. Croc is set to be a big star and his first outing is a real hoot!
“Owing a big thanks to Mario 64, Croc’s adventures are perfectly pitched at both young and old players alike. Huge stages, tricky platforming action and hilarious bosses await intrepid players. Not an amazing Saturn game, but certainly in a league of its own.” -Matt Yeo
#35: SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO (86%)
Miniaturizing their cool Street Fighter characters (and others from DarkStalkers) and sticking them in a puzzle game made Capcom sound like they’ve gone mad…
“Fortunately Capcom’s masterful coding skills ensured that another gameplay classic emerged. Super-cute versions of Ryu, Chun-Li and the gang battle it out for 2D supremacy, and the gem-dropping gameplay makes for one of the best puzzle games this side of Buckaroo and Connect 4.” -Gary Cutlack
#34: BAKU BAKU ANIMAL (93%)
Not just another Tetris clone, as Sega’s cutesy Baku Baku Animal is arguably the finest example of the puzzle game genre.
“I hate this game. Buying it was the single worst mistake I’ve ever made. Baku Baku has single-handedly ruined my sex life. My girlfriend loves it, more than she loves me if truth be known. Bitch. No, just kidding, honest.” -Lee Nutter
#33: BUST-A-MOVE 3 (91%)
Another great puzzle game. Converted from the classic Taito arcade series, this one sees cute cartoon characters shooting colored bubbles all over the place… Intriguing…
“Puzzle games are fun, aren’t they? The graphics are always colorful and nice, and most contain simple gameplay that even your mum could understand. Bust-A-Move 3 would be especially popular with your mum because it’s great fun, and contains one of the best head-to-head two-player games there is. Cool.” -Gary Cutlack
#32: FIGHTING VIPERS (94%)
Tossing aside the realism of Virtua Fighter 2, Sega’s pseudo-sequel takes a more fantastical approach to the beat ‘em up genre.
“Adding weapons, barriers and armor to the established Virtua Fighter formula, AM2’s incredible Fighting Vipers conversion is a speedier and more brutal beat ‘em up than the more graceful VF series. Add to this the fact that as a conversion it’s virtually indistinguishable from the arcade, and we’re left with yet another top Saturn beat ‘em up. Ooh and you can watch AM2 play it too!” -Lee Nutter
#31: SEGA AGES (91%)
AM2’s arcade classics of the eighties: Space Harrier, Afterburner II and OutRun are gathered in one outstanding retro compilation.
“Sega’s graphics technology, coupled with AM2’s gameplay prowess, have led the arcade field for over a decade. These games (although aged) are still great fun — and OutRun in particular still ranks as one of the greats of the racing genre.” -Rich Leadbetter
Two epoch-making Taito platform games arrive on Saturn. The graphics might be crap, but the gameplay is golden.
“Bubble Bobble’s cool, but the real star of the show is Rainbow Islands. It might not be quite arcade perfect, but the depth of this game is astounding (there’s more to it than Mario 64). Couple that with perfect gameplay and I can’t recommend this enough.” -Rich Leadbetter
#29: LAST BRONX (92%)
Big men, little girls, bulging weapons — sounds like a dodgy porn flick. But it isn’t, it’s the awesome Last Bronx.
“The highly anticipated conversion of AM3’s first fighting foray certainly doesn’t disappoint. Excellent hi-res visuals, 60 FPS update and unequivocally violent gameplay culminates in one of the best 3D beat ‘em ups to grace the Saturn to date.” -Lee Nutter
#28: WIPEOUT 2097 (92%)
A speedy racing game that was one of the few reasons to buy a PlayStation… until it was converted (rather well too) to the Saturn!
“Cool futuristic racing, with eight tracks to race around. The hover cars handle really well, and the extra colorful courses all look fantastic in this Saturn conversion. Some of the special effects from the PlayStation version are missing, but who cares? It plays brilliantly and that’s what counts.” -Gary Cutlack
#27: MADDEN NFL ’98 (92%)
It was compulsory for every Mega Drive owner to have at least one Madden game, and the legendary US football series continued on the Saturn — just about the only EA sports title to continue the quality in the move to 32-bit…
“And it continued with style. One of the best multi-player games that consenting adults can enjoy, this ’98 update is faster, smoother and tougher than ever before. This year’s players and stats, and the ability to build your own team from scratch make Madden ’98 the best yet.” -Gary Cutlack
#26: STEEP SLOPE SLIDERS (92%)
The first Saturn snowboarding game to hit the UK and it’s a blast! 17 characters, six challenging courses and hundreds of cool tricks.
“Board stupid? You won’t be with Steep Slope Sliders, an amazing game that faithfully recreates the world’s most popular winter sport with incredible detail and much playability. Play the game as a straight forward racer and beat the clock or pull off blazing stunts to rack up massive scores. If you’ve never been snowboarding before, Steep Slope Sliders is the perfect downhill trainer.” -Matt Yeo
#25: WARCRAFT II: THE DARK SAGA (91%)
Electronic Arts attempt to grab a slice of the lucrative Command & Conquer action more than makes up for the absence of Red Alert.
“Taking a medieval slant on the strategy based Command & Conquer formula, EA’s Warcraft II plays virtually identical to Westwood Studio’s classic. With over 52 huge missions to complete and the Beyond the Portal expansion pack toss in for good measure, this is awesome stuff and well up there with Command & Conquer.” -Lee Nutter
#24: SONIC JAM (92%)
Dubbed as the “ultimate retro pack” in issue #22 of Sega Saturn Magazine, Sonic Jam shows off the Sonic Team at their very best.
“The Mega Drive Sonic series was the main reason that many people (myself included) first got into games. Putting all four games on one disc was a masterstroke for the Sonic Team, and with the mind-blowing Sonic World — this is an essential slice of the retro cake.” -Lee Nutter
#23: X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (92%)
Cyclops, Wolverine, Juggernaut and pals battle it out in one of the most outrageous 2D fighting games ever conceived.
“Before X-Men: Children of the Atom, no one knew the potential of Saturn’s 2D capabilities. X-Men showed the world that no machine can match the Saturn (sans Neo Geo of course). When COTA appeared, work at EMAP stopped completely and many happy hours were spent pummeling CVG’s Tom Guise (and others) into pulp as he squealed like a stinking pig… but I digress…” -Rich Leadbetter
#22: DAYTONA USA (92%)
The first conversion of AM2’s classic coin-op and arguably one of the finest racers on the Saturn.
“Yeah, the graphics are looking a bit crap now and the PAL conversion is quite poor. But the fact remains that AM2’s Daytona conversion sounds, feels and plays just like the coin-op, not something we could say about the more recent conversion.” -Lee Nutter
#21: GUARDIAN HEROES (93%)
Platform kings Treasure combine classic RPG elements with some hard-hitting, side-scrolling beat ‘em up action. Explore mystical lands inhabited by fair maidens and bizarre monsters.
“Only rivaling Capcom in terms of 2D mastery, Treasure’s epic adventure is an innovative and challenging game. The fact that Guardian Heroes manages to breathe new life into the stale scrolling beat ‘em up genre can’t be a bad thing either. A truly ace game.” -Matt Yeo
#20: NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS’ REVENGE (93%)
A classic 2D beat ‘em up featuring a gaggle of truly gruesome creatures. Capcom’s creature feature is also the first sequel to the demonic DarkStalkers.
“What other game lets you beat the crap out of vampires, a werewolf and even Frankenstein’s monster? Amazing cartoon animation, completely over-the-top moves and Capcom’s trademark quality gameplay make this a must-have title. Unique amongst beat ‘em ups.” -Lee Nutter
#19: QUAKE (93%)
The impossible has been made real with Lobotomy’s translation of id software’s graphically amazing PC shooting game.
“Quake on PC is my all-time favorite video game. There may be no Death Match (so Tom Guise AKA TipDrinker gets off lightly this time) but Lobotomy’s tweaks to the single-player game have made it a highly entertaining, challenging experience. And graphically speaking, this translation is untouchable.” -Rich Leadbetter
#18: SHINING THE HOLY ARK (93%)
It’s a new Shining game on the Saturn from Team Sonic. It’s 3D and it’s quality. Enough said.
“I didn’t want to review this because it started out so dull. Regardless I battled through the early stages and discovered what ranks as one of the single most compelling RPGs I’ve ever played. I’ve happy memories of this title — I love it loads and can’t wait for Shining Force III.” -Rich Leadbetter
#17: SONIC R (93%)
Designed by the legendary Sonic Team and programmed by British developer Travellers Tales, the first Sonic title to be programmed specifically for the Saturn is a joy to behold.
“Clearly the focal point of Sonic R is the mind-blowing graphics, with some jaw-dropping visuals and special effects rivaling those of Mario Kart 64. But rather than just being a graphical showcase for the Saturn, Sonic R is an awesome game to play. There’s a massive exploration element to it, secret routes to discover, hidden items to find and … well, let’s just say that this is fine Saturn gaming.” -Lee Nutter
#16: PANZER DRAGOON II ZWEI (93%)
A brilliant blasting game, this game features astounding 3D effects that no Saturn game or indeed PlayStation title has managed to match. And despite being easy to complete, there’s tons of lastability in it too.
“We all knew that this one was going to be awesome, but when we first sat down and played the finished article, Panzer Zwei was like a gift from the gods. The graphics redefined our expectations of what the Saturn was capable of — suddenly anything was possible. The different routes, morphing dragon and vast amounts of hidden stuff add immensely to the appeal.” -Rich Leadbetter
#15: COMMAND & CONQUER (94%)
PC games don’t convert well to consoles — most are way too complicated to appeal to us. So how did Command & Conquer score 94% in issue #15? Well, it’s a great game, that’s why.
“Beneath the bland exterior beats the heart of a warrior. A warrior of gameplay, because maneuvering your troops around the battlefield, building bases and attacking the enemy is simple to pick up, and the controls work perfectly. It even comes on two CD’s, each with different areas and scenarios for the two sides in the conflict. A very big game.” -Gary Cutlack
#14: SEGA WORLDWIDE SOCCER ’98 (91%)
Raising a swift index finger to the established FIFA and Actua brands, Sega Worldwide Soccer ’98 out-quaffs them in every conceivable way, being the best footy sim around.
“The arrival of Sega Worldwide Soccer ’97 heralded a new standard in the footy sim genre, but the crap keeper AI and lack of Premiership sides was a real drawback. SWWS ’98 redresses these criticisms whilst retaining the graphical finesse and rampant playability of the prequel. If you don’t own the prequel, this is the only soccer game worth bothering with.” -Lee Nutter
Genuinely frightening action adventure in which the sole purpose is to survive. Roam freely throughout the secluded mansion, mercilessly slaughtering the undead and solving the diverse range of puzzles. Awesome!
“For Capcom’s first foray into the realms of 3D, Resident Evil is an exceptional achievement. This shit-scary scenario, non-linear gameplay and tense atmosphere offers players an experience they’ll never dare to forget. Blasting the head clean off a zombie as a fountain of blood erupts from between its shoulders is quite simply the most satisfying moment in gaming history. Hugely ace stuff!” -Lee Nutter
#12: VIRTUAL ON (93%)
Eight different robots battle it out over different stages in AM3’s robot battler. A game of strategy as well as reflexes, this is one of the best two-player games on Saturn.
“Virtual On is a game of strategy — of brains over brawn. It’s also one of the best one-on-one titles you can get for the Saturn. The amount of strategies and tactics found in this game is frankly amazing. Not many people bought this — a shame because it’s in a class of its own.” -Rich Leadbetter
#11: VIRTUA COP (94%)
The first of the much vaunted “Big Three” for Christmas ’95, Virtua Cop is a staggeringly accurate conversion of the AM2 masterpiece which simply must be owned.
“After the appalling Lethal Enforcer games, Virtua Cop breathed fresh air into the dying genre. Using polygon-sensitive graphics as opposed to the dreadful FMV, players could reenact their favorite Tarantino shootouts in a socially acceptable way. It’s an absolute classic, though has been largely superseded by its mightily impressive sequel.” -Lee Nutter
#10: STREET FIGHTER COLLECTION (92%)
The ultimate 2D beat ‘em up collection! Capcom’s finest titles meet head-on in a two disc extravaganza. Play the original arcade perfect Super Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo and an updated version of Street Fighter Alpha 2.
“If you’re a hardcore Street Fighter fan then Virgin’s retro beat ‘em up compilation is a must-have item. The game that made Capcom the giant it is today is still the classic it always was and its inclusion here shows just how far the series has come over the years. This collection is still worth buying if you already own Street Fighter Alpha 2, although both Super Street Fighter II and Super Turbo are really starting to look dated.” -Matt Yeo
SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #1
Excluding the Tekken series, I’m not the biggest fan of fighting games. Now, it hasn’t always been like this. I really enjoyed Street Fighter II Turbo back in the day, and I considered myself halfway decent. I used to play it late into the night with my then friends. It was the standard “loser passes the controller” setup that we had going, and the level of competition — as fierce as it was — was pretty even. Few people managed to hold on to the controller for more than three matches. Those were the times, but they are gone now. After that initial Street Fighter rush, I never played a 2D fighter again. Ever. But I’ll always have the memories.
SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #2
I have a confession to make… I can no longer be called a TRANSFORMERS collector. ::GASP:: Wait!! Come back!! It’s not what you think. Actually, as of yesterday, I’ve become a *Action Figure* collector. Why? Let me spin the tale…
You see, I love collecting Transformers. They were a huge part of my childhood. I can remember going to Toys R Us and buying the latest Transformers toy, going home and spending the whole day totally focused on the joy of that new toy. They were a defining part of my youth and I’ll collect them and enjoy them for the rest of my life. Now, after I had “shed” the toy thing, I had become like any other teen… on the hunt for exciting adventures. Sounds like a porno but this ain’t Emanuel, so let’s keep it clean… and as for that new, exciting challenge… I found it. It was Street Fighter II.
I had always loved video games, but this one was different… it totally consumed me. I can remember going to the arcade, after school, with my friends and playing for hours. I remember drawing all the characters during my spare time… and history class. I loved the game, the stories, and thus… Street Fighter is one of my fondest memories.
#9: TOMB RAIDER (94%)
Arguably the best game of 1996, Core’s multi-format platform adventure became a massive success, thanks in no small part to the gravity-defying chest of a certain Miss Croft.
“From virtually every perspective, it’s damn near impossible to find fault with Core’s first real hit. This game is big — like really big. Split into 15 differently themed levels, each feature enormous 3D environments, comparable in sheer scale to those of Mario 64. The gameplay is no slouch either, with a vast array of puzzles to solve, tasks to perform and endangered wildlife to kill. But the real star of the show is of course, Lara Croft. With a versatile array of superbly animated acrobatic maneuvers at her disposal, Lara certainly has great things in front of her (sigh). Unfortunately not on any Sega machine.” -Lee Nutter
#8: EXHUMED (94%)
Lobotomy’s initial adventure was unfairly dubbed “Doom in Egypt.” In truth it’s one of the deepest action-packed adventures money can buy. One of the most criminally underrated games of all time. Known as PowerSlave in America.
“It took the whining and moaning of our own “Manual” Daniel Jevons to convince me to take this game seriously. When I started playing — and playing it properly — I realized that this adventure is a work of genius. Sega Saturn Magazine got behind Lobotomy in a big way and our prayers for them to convert Duke Nukem and Quake were answered. It’s also extremely cheap at £20 in most shops, so there’s no excuse not to own this classic.” -Rich Leadbetter
Rich Leadbetter and the rest of the SSM staff really did a lot for not only Exhumed, but for Lobotomy, the Saturn, and Saturn owners. They pushed Exhumed to the moon. Even after a massively impressive 94% review in issue #11, Exhumed sales were quite low in the weeks following. So, Rich, being the high quality gaming crusader that he was, sought to seek justice. And in issue #13, this was his editorial…
Rich’s editorial went a long way. The UK masses went out and bought the damn game en masse. Exhumed became a hit as rentals and sales went through the roof following Rich’s passionate plea. Exhumed often appeared in the top 10 rental list. Nice job, Rich. Way to champion the little guys!
And due to its smash success in the UK, GT Interactive saw fit to allow Lobotomy to program Saturn Quake. If it weren’t for Rich’s never-say-die attitude and Sega Saturn Magazine…
#7: MARVEL SUPER HEROES (95%)
The game they said couldn’t be done. Capcom’s most ambitious 2D fighting game arrives on the Saturn replete all the awesome visuals and playability that you could hope for. Senses-shattering!
“We got arcade Marvel Super Heroes in the office at about the same time that the finished Saturn X-Men appeared. I remember comparing the two and thinking, ‘no way will this ever come to the Sega machine.’ Whilst the conversion isn’t perfect, it’s incredible in every way that matters. The rich visuals are beyond compare, but it’s the combo system that really makes this game. And Doctor Doom is ace.” -Rich Leadbetter
#6: VIRTUA COP 2 (95%)
Following the unprecedented success of the seminal Virtua Cop conversion, AM2 reaffirmed their position as the greatest coders of Sega’s machine with this stunning sequel. Time Crisis? HA!
“The most important thing to mention about Virtua Cop 2 is that it is huge — approximately twice the size of its predecessor in fact. Each of the three levels feature multiple routes about halfway through, making the sequel a less linear affair than the first game. Each of these levels are densely packed with destructible scenery and of course, hod-loads of bad guys. There’s also some stunning set pieces in there — the car chase sequence in particular stands out in my mind. Yeah, it might not be as close a conversion as the less ambitious Virtua Cop, but AM2 have pulled off a miracle in getting the Saturn to emulate the Model 2 coin-op so well. Everyone must own this game.” -Lee Nutter
#5: FIGHTERS MEGAMIX (95%)
AM2’s greatest creations clash in a 3D beat ‘em up of unparalleled proportions! Virtua Fighters meet Fighting Vipers for some hard-hitting 3D beat ‘em up shenanigans. If you want speed and action, get this!
“The Saturn is blessed with a number of awesome 3D beat ‘em ups but Fighters Megamix is something else. A staggering 32 characters, Vipers’ armor-breakers, Virtua Fighter 3 moves, enclosed arenas and secrets galore make this a premier Saturn title. Even if you own both Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, there are still plenty of new features and playable faces to get to grips with. Loads of depth and playability makes Fighters Megamix one game you can’t live without!” -Matt Yeo
#4: DUKE NUKEM 3D (97%)
One of the most action-packed politically incorrect 3D blasting games imaginable. Lobotomy promised us an excellent translation but the final product defies belief. The best game released this year.
“The speed and action contained in Saturn Duke Nukem just blew me away. Couple the playability with Lobotomy’s incredible 3D engine and you have a game that’s just as cool as the PC game — and sometimes superior. And it hoses down the PlayStation game. Completely. I honestly don’t think I’ve played a game quite as satisfying as Saturn Duke for ages. On the higher difficulty levels the sense of carnage you get is almost intoxicating. Awesome!” -Rich Leadbetter
97freakin’ percent. That’s the massive rating Sega Saturn Magazine awarded Duke Nukem 3D. SSM were big fans of Lobotomy since the days of Exhumed. SSM was there every step of the way as Lobotomy converted Quake and Duke Nukem, with previews, showcases and interviews with the Lobotomy staff. Hell, Quake and Duke graced back-to-back covers! Fun fact #1: Lobotomy credited Rich Leadbetter under “Special Thanks” in Saturn Duke.
Fun Fact #2: Rich Leadbetter and Gary Cutlack contacted me back in October of 2004 to thank me for posting their Top 50 list. I had the extreme honor of interviewing both of them about their Sega Saturn memories — from working for the best magazine ever to their favorite Saturn games. Check it out here!
#3: NiGHTS: INTO DREAMS (96%)
Quite simply the most unique, innovative and beautifully crafted video game of all time, from the crack development team that brought you Sonic the Hedgehog and the explosive Burning Rangers (coming soon!)
“Whilst many were quick to criticize the Sonic Team’s creation for being a tad short and easy, what they consummately failed to appreciate was the true nature of the game. Whilst the sumptuous 3D visuals are enough to draw most gamers in, it’s the superlative retro style of gameplay which keeps them engrossed. Pulling off massive links, racking up huge scores, performing a diverse range of aerial stunts and watching the artificial life system evolve as you play is only a minuscule part of what NiGHTS has to offer. Admittedly, the game concept may appear bizarre at first and ‘immature’ even, but NiGHTS is a unique and lasting experience which simply must be owned by everyone who is serious about games.” -Lee Nutter
Sometime in mid-late ’96
I just got home from Toys R Us and have sampled both Mario 64 and NiGHTS. I came away impressed with both. Mario 64 is destined to become a classic for generations to come, and NiGHTS possesses a unique charm… the kind that might make it a cult classic for the ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if these two still have a large fan base decades later…
I remember the whole Mario 64 vs. Crash Bandicoot vs. NiGHTS thing. Good times those were. The battle of ’96. Each heavyweight representing its system. I’ll never forget that Saturday when I was at Toys R Us waiting in line to test play each game. It was an exciting time and rivalry — one I still have yet to feel in today’s generation of games. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. NiGHTS was something else to witness in 1996. It was poetry in motion. The music was off the charts. They sure as hell don’t make games like this anymore.
I love NiGHTS! If they ever make another one, here’s an idea. Imagine finding a secret underground passage underneath a tree, filled with gems and power-ups, or even better, a clan of Nightopians living in seclusion.
I loved NiGHTS so much that I bought the import. One of the most inspirational games I played in ’96. Only 2 games have EVER kept me up the entire night fueled from adrenaline… NiGHTS and the original Sonic. Yuji Naka and Sonic Team, thank you.
I just picked up my copy of the latest Next Generation magazine and along with it my copy of Christmas NiGHTS. What a great gift! I had forgotten how fun NiGHTS was to play. I couldn’t put it down last night until I had 23 of the 24 gifts. I was confused as to why I couldn’t get the 24th gift until I changed the date to earlier in the year and saw that the 24th gift was Christmas NiGHTS itself. I thought the Sonic into NiGHTS gimmick was a nice touch! I just want to thank Sega for giving me (and others) this very cool Christmas treat!
Being single and living alone, I usually don’t get into the Christmas spirit until I go to visit my folks a few days before Christmas. I just got Christmas NiGHTS and it actually gave me the Christmas spirit earlier than normal. Thank you Sega. Now I don’t have to buy a tree…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
If you got this little gift of joy, whip it out. If not, go find it. Don’t look at me though. Mine ain’t going no where but inside my Saturn.
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
Still copyless you say? Fool!
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
You BETTER have a copy by now.
So, don’t forget…
Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!
So, don’t forget… but I don’t think I have to repeat myself any more. It’s tradition by now
This might sound sad but I owe Sega some major thanks. In 2000 I found myself alone on Christmas Eve, with only Christmas NiGHTS to keep me company. And you know what, it was a pretty good Christmas, all things considered. So thanks, Sega.
Wow, almost Christmas NiGHTS time already. I’ve played every year since its release on Christmas. Not only has it become tradition for me and many others, it’s become a staple for the holidays. When I was a kid growing up, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas unless you watched A Christmas Story, went to the parade, sang carols and sat on Santa’s lap at the mall. Well, for me anyhow, these days and, yes, still to this day — Christmas NiGHTS is the equivalent to all those, if not a little sweeter.
I agree! Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless you watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, eat some gingerbread men and play some Christmas NiGHTS! It’s a legend all in itself. One in which I shall pass down to my kids and their kids. Sega made a lot of mistakes over the years but every time I play this, I say thank you for the great memories.
#2: SEGA RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (97%)
Since its release in early 1996, Sega Rally has gone on to become the best selling Saturn game ever and the benchmark by which all other racers are judged. And rightly so, in our opinion.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Sega Rally is such an incredible game. Maybe it’s the flawless conversion of the twenty times as expensive coin-op. Maybe it’s the feeling of gritty realism the programmers manage to convey, making you think you’re actually driving a Rally car, but there’s never so much realism that you’d have to know how to drive one yourself to play the game properly. Or could it be the decent smattering of Saturn specific modes, from the awesome split-screen two-player mode, to the ghost mode and custom car option. Who knows? The point is, two years on from its release and Sega Rally is still the best racer on any console bar none. Whilst other racers may boast superior graphics (and only just), none have surpassed Rally in terms of sheer playability. It’s a classic video game of our time.” -Lee Nutter
At one point in my life I poured so many hours into Sega Rally that, honest to gosh, I went out driving and heard a voice in my head say “Long medium left baby!” That’s when I knew I had crossed that line… no game but Rally has ever made me feel that way. Not even the almighty Tetris…
Sega Rally was one of the few video games my father actually played. He couldn’t understand how a man in his late 20’s could be interested in playing video games (NOTE: He was addicted to computer golf, but did not think of it as a video game).
Anyway, my niece and nephew were visiting and he asked me to bring over some games for them to play. I debated for about 5 seconds before I packed up the Saturn, steering wheel, and several games — including Sega Rally.
Sega Rally hardly left the machine for the other titles. Everyone was trying to get the best score. The game is just pure fun. I played it last night just to see if my memory was holding it in too high a place. Nope. I played it for a good two hours, loving every minute of it again.
As for my father… I overjoyed him last Christmas by giving him a Golden Tee arcade cabinet for his den.
After playing out my current batch of Saturn titles, I decided to start playing some of the older ones I hadn’t played in ages. I popped in Sega Rally, a game I had beaten many times before and much to my surprise it was just as if not more fun than it used to be. The excitement of Rally racing is still there after 6 months! I beat all my records and had a blast doing so. If anything this is a testament to its replay value and AM3’s care and love for the games they make.
9-8-99 (1 day before SEGA Dreamcast’s launch)
Nothing’s sweeter than practicing hard all night til you just manage to shave a half second off your career best. Man that is so satisfying. Words cannot do it justice. Even better is having a buddy watch you do it, trying to psych you out so you don’t beat his best time — and then handing the controller off to him with a smug smile saying “Your turn, champ.”
Rock on, SEGA Saturn.
Bring it on, SEGA Dreamcast!
True story. One Saturday night I stood up my girlfriend. I had an hour to go before the date began. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? An hour quickly became two. My girlfriend called my phone but I left it upstairs. Eventually she came over to my place. She was about to blow her top when I told her to sit down and play. She looked like she was gonna kill me but I continued quickly.
“Look, I’ll give you a BIG lead. If you can beat me, I’ll promise to go to that … opera with you.”
I caught up with her on the last lap and was in position to win. But, purposely, I bumped into one of the railings and let her speed ahead for the win.
But really… I won. The opera? It wasn’t so bad.
OK — it was really bad. I hated it.
But, I didn’t get kicked in the balls. Or have my Saturn and Sega Rally copy chucked out the window. It balances out…
A month later we got engaged and 8 months later we got married. I had an hour before the wedding started. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? …
#1: VIRTUA FIGHTER 2 (98%)
Virtua Fighter 2 remains the Saturn’s finest hour, bearing all the hallmarks of greatness that the Saturn stands for. For starters, it’s an AM2 arcade conversion — quite possibly their best one to date. The Saturn’s high resolution mode is used to create the most lifelike fighters yet seen on the system, and the super smooth 60 frames per second movement is uncannily realistic. But for all its technical accomplishments, the real joy with this game is its playability. Each of the characters battles away with REAL fighting techniques, they move and react just like real fighters would. And the possibilities with the 2,000 moves in the game make it virtually limitless in terms of lastability. When this arrived in coin-op form, it was such a step forward that arcade-goers across the globe took notice. And the Saturn version, bar small graphical compromises, is identical. A mammoth achievement — still.
“I remember seeing the first demo of Virtua Fighter 2 in motion on the Saturn. You couldn’t play it — you could only watch as two computer controlled opponents slugged it out. But I was spellbound. Months earlier we’d seen the Saturn seemingly having difficulties replicating the first Virtua Fighter, which had no texture mapping and half the frame rate. To see Virtua Fighter 2 on the Saturn with all the techniques, characters AND in hi-res was a revelation. Plain and simple. But technical issues aside, VF2 is more than a game, it is an art. On a trip to Japan, my old MAXIMUM colleague Gary Harrod brought back videos of expert VF2 players getting to grips with Akira and Jeffrey (my favorite fighter and his, respectively). What I saw on this video was light years ahead of my own skills. Watching these Japanese masters playing VF2 was like watching an entirely different game to the one I was playing. It was another revelation. These guys had taken the game’s precision controls and stunning physics to awesome effect, with combos and techniques I would spend the next few months attempting to emulate. It’s this huge lastability that makes VF2 superior to Fighters Megamix in my eyes. True, Megamix has more characters, but it lacks the precision gameplay and thus the aspiration for true mastery that VF2 has. And that’s why I think Virtua Fighter 2 is the best Saturn game money can buy.” -Rich Leadbetter
Just the other day I was at my friend’s house. He showed me Virtua Fighter 2 and, remembering the disaster the first Virtua Fighter port was, I prepared myself for a good chuckle or two. Then I played it. Well I’ll be. Virtua Fighter 2 is quite impressive. I feel a little jealous it’s not on the PlayStation. Perhaps there is legit competition in the Saturn just yet. It certainly has changed this diehard PlayStation user’s perceptions on what the Saturn is capable of.
-Brent ‘The Bone’ Bonds
I finally got my hands on Virtua Fighter 2 (for $49) this past Friday, and I must say… this game is truly awesome. Virtua Fighter 2 has been the first game I’ve purchased that has made feel like “OH my God, this is incredible!” I look at this game and simply can’t believe I’m playing this at home and I’ve played a LOT of games on a LOT of systems, and this game is just AWESOME!
I’ve written quite a few programs, and worked with a lot of graphics applications, and maybe this is why I am so impressed. To realize what is going on and what has to take place in order to bring you a game of this magnitude is simply mind-blowing.
I’d post more, but gotta get back to my Saturn.
Irvine Alumni, Class of 1994
University of Southern California
I just purchased a copy of Virtua Fighter 2 from Microplay and it is absolutely amazing!! At the first sight of the incredibly high-res display and fluid animation, I was blown away. What’s here folks is nothing short of a miracle. It’s the punch in the face Saturn owners have been waiting for! Here’s my quick review:
Graphics: 10 Sound: 9 Game Play: 10! Replay Value: 10!
Definitely THE best fighting game on any home system to date, and it’s just so damn fun to play, I could go on FOREVER about how great it is! BUY THIS GAME!! If you don’t, I’ll hire midgets to burn down your house.
In my gaming life, I can point to certain console moments that shall forever haunt me. Super Mario Brothers 3 on NES. Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis. Street Fighter II on SNES. Add Virtua Fighter 2 on Saturn to that list. I went with my dad and three friends to Toys R Us to buy it. Then we got home at 8 PM and played against each other for five straight hours. Imagine… four 12 year old kids huddled around a 27 inch TV for five straight hours on a Saturday night. You know whatever’s keeping their attention for THAT long has to be pretty special.
I was one of the biggest Street Fighter fans back in the early ’90s. Then came Virtua Fighter 2 and I found my new calling. I recall many hours spent at my local arcade attempting to master all 11 characters. I’d stay until they had to literally kick me out.
Then the Saturn version came out and blew away everything I expected. I swear I must have spent at least 1,000 hours on it. No game is perfect, but in my book Virtua Fighter 2 is VERY close.
-James Dat Nguyen
I don’t play games much today. In fact, the last game I really touched was Halo on XBOX when it came out. Yeah, it’s been a while. Anyway I still lurk from time to time and felt the need to chirp in.
There was once a golden age in gaming. It was the early ’90s. NES was still kicking, Genesis was coming into its own and SNES was just around the corner. Boy what great times. Then came the 32-bit war. It wasn’t quite as memorable as the previous generation of games but three words…
VIRTUA FIGHTER 2.
This game has the kind of magic where, sadly, not everyone will understand. To fully experience it, you must have a gaming group of friends — all equally skilled — and have get-togethers on occasion where you just feast on this game. It really is a marvel. The bouts can either be snap-snap-snap or long drawn-out epics. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. This is the only way to truly appreciate Virtua Fighter 2.
All the guys I used to play this game with back in the day — they all got married and became fathers. I still talk to them and we kid around sometimes about the “good old days.” We still get together to play Virtua Fighter 2 every once in a long while… but for sure those times in 1996-1997 were priceless.
We like to joke around that one day we might be as old as Shun himself
I absolutely hated fighting games until I played Virtua Fighter 2 on May 1, 1997. I thought both 2D and 3D fighting games were stupid, boring and offered no depth whatsoever.
The day I got my Sega Saturn was the day that I changed my mind about fighters. I learned that deep fighting games did exist, I just had to find the ones made by Yu Suzuki. From 1997 up until 1999 my gaming group and I played on average six hours of Virtua Fighter 2 a week. That’s a lot of hours. The only reason why we stopped were due to life (marriage, college, whatever).
I used to feel the same way about racing games. I hated the genre. Thought it too was junk until I discovered my love of Sega Rally. Thanks to both these titles (both on Saturn of course) I “evolved” as a gamer.
-Glenn A. Rudy III
It’s been called America’s National Pastime. A game that turns grown men into innocent children. I love baseball. I have since I was a kid and that love continues to this day more than 25 years later. There’s something pure and magical about the game. As it’s been often quoted, “It’s hard not to get romantic about baseball.” Being that we’re now in the dog days of August and the final days of summer, it brings to mind an unforgettable baseball season my pals and I participated in 25 years ago. This article is dedicated to baseball and its fans all around the world.
RISE OF THE BULLDOGS
In April of 1994 I found myself in the thick of 5th grade, and enjoying some of the best times of my young life. That year and that grade had it all. Best friend, check. Best teacher, check. Two cutest girls in the school in the same class, check. Life was pretty good. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it did. That spring the two 5th grade classes began a baseball tournament. Teams were evenly spread out so there would be a fair number of random boys and girls on each team. 8 teams in all. 8 games to be played. Top 4 teams advance to the playoffs.
To call it an exciting time would be an understatement. I was a pretty competitive kid, and so I couldn’t wait to get started and help lead my team into one of the top four positions. And luck be my lady, Jennifer (one of the aforementioned “two cutest girls”) was on my team. I wasn’t sure if Jennifer was any good at baseball, but at least she’d be easy on the eyes. Who knows, maybe we’ll get to bond sitting next to each other in the dugout, talking about whatever.
At the time the possibilities seemed endless. It was classic 10 year old fever… the thrill of growing up while still remaining very much so innocent. The first order of business was to decide on a team name. We agreed upon THE BULLDOGS. Unoriginal, I know, but hey it was a proven classic.
I remember lunch that very same day. My best friend, Nelson, was on another team. That was about the only thing that didn’t go my way. Well, it wouldn’t hurt if the other cute girl was on my team too, but hey, you can’t get too greedy now, can ya? Anyway, Nelson was what you would call “big boned.” His team was indecisive and still hadn’t come up with a team name. I was sitting next to him in the cafeteria that afternoon when he suggested to his teammates, “How about the Orioles?” He was a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, or their team logo anyhow. Or, at least he liked the name anyway.
His teammate, and resident class clown Joshua, said jokingly “Oreo’s? Can you please stop thinking about food for ONE second?!” Everyone at the table cracked up. Nelson took it in stride. The great thing about the 5th grade classes that year was we all shared a common bond. We had a camaraderie that was truly special; after all, most of us had known each other since Kindergarten. And anyone who came into the fold after that was immediately taken in with arms wide open. So our ball busting jokes never carried any ill intent in the least. It was a bit like CHEERS to be honest. Everyone knew everyone’s name and a little (or a LOT) about one another.
The first game was set to be played next week. I remember hanging out with Nelson that weekend, talking excitedly about how we would both start out 1-0 (1 win and 0 losses). We were probably shooting the shit, playing SNES together, or off at the mall being carefree kids. Spring was in the air, Major League Baseball was just starting, summer was right around the corner… it was a great time to be 10 years old enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
The first game of the season came and went. The Bulldogs won 8 runs to 5. Herman, my friend and teammate, was even more competitive than me. I never met anyone so crazed about winning than Herman. Little did I know then that it was a major foreshadowing of events yet to come…
In contrast, Nelson’s team lost their first game. Imagine the bragging rights I had that afternoon!
Playing sports can teach you a lot about life itself. You learn about fair play, how to win (and lose) gracefully, how to work together with different teammates, and so forth. There was a real beauty to it, but especially when you came out on the winning end.
A BULLDOGS IMPLOSION
It’s amazing how quickly the tide can turn. We went from playoff darlings to the laughingstock of the league. The Bulldogs went on to set the school record for longest losing streak. We started out hot smelling like a rose, but it all went downhill from there. And no matter how hard we tried, or what we tried, we couldn’t stop the losses from mounting like a snowball rolling downhill.
At first we dropped game 2 and fell to an even 1-1 record. Ah no worries, we thought at the time. It was a close loss, but surely we’ll get ‘er next time!
But then it happened. The ship was sinking fast and so was team morale. The results of the next handful of games were not pretty. In fact, they were downright brutal. We were…
Slaughtered in game 3.
Bludgeoned in game 4.
Annihilated in game 5.
Crushed in game 6.
And then… Game 7 happened…
That’s when things really hit the fan…
There I was guarding the 3rd base line on a hot spring afternoon. As usual, we were down, but lo and behold, we were in the game. For the first time since game 2, we had a shot to win the game. It was in the later innings. We were only down by one run. But they loaded the bases with 2 outs. If we could just escape this inning unscathed, Herman and I would be batting the next half inning down only one. We could actually pull it off!
I pounded my fist into my glove, anticipating the play. The runner on 3rd base started chirping, talking trash, but it fell on deaf ears. The pitcher went into his wind-up motion. Here we go…
It sounded like a gunshot reverberating through the hills. The ball was smacked into center field where Herman was fielding. Like everyone else, including the base runners, I stood there and watched with eyes and mouth wide open. Herman was streaking back as fast as his legs could take him… he had a chance to make the CATCH OF THE CENTURY.
As Herman made a diving attempt for the baseball, I watched in horror as it sailed JUST PAST his outstretched glove. The runners were off immediately. I heard a sickening THUDas Herman’s body pounded the grass like a car falling off the Empire State Building. It was a class-A belly flop. Amazingly, Herman got up immediately. But even more mind blowing was what took place next…
As the runners rounded past me on 3rd base I saw something I’d never forget.
Herman retrieved the baseball and stopped dead in his tracks. Jojo from left field screamed “THROW IT HOME THROW IT HOME!” The commotion caused the runners to actually stop running to see what the hell was going on.
Then, it happened.
Instead of throwing the ball toward home plate, Herman turned around and let out an animalistic cry as he threw the ball as far as he could into center field. I tracked the ball as it sailed high in the blue sky. A sky so blue that afternoon that it hurt my eyes just squinting at it. Herman stormed off the field in a fit of blind rage, leaving everyone speechless. Not to mention the ball 300 feet away from all of us. It was one of those moments that spoke for itself. A moment none of us would ever forget.
Once again, the Bulldogs lost. But this was more than a mere loss; this was a total meltdown. Made me glad there was only one game left in the season.
THE FINAL GAME
We were a pathetic 1 and 6. The worst team in the tourney by a country mile. Although the season was a wash, we all agreed we had to try and salvage what we could. Ending the season with a win would ease the pain. No one on my team had talked to Herman since game 7’s ugly incident. None of us knew where his head was at. Speculation ran rampant. Until Herman finally shattered the silence.
In the dugout prior to the final game of the season, Herman issued a heartfelt apology. Said he lost his cool in the heat of the moment. We understood. We also knew we were now playing for a little thing called PRIDE. The Bulldogs, win or lose, were going to go down swinging… together.
Jojo started the wave at some point in the dugout. It was a great time. And believe it or not, the Bulldogs won the final game of the regular season. We started and finished the season with a win. In-between? Lots of devastating losses but they only served as an invaluable lesson: how to lose gracefully and bounce back from adversity. Baseball taught us far more than what we could have learned in the classroom. For that reason alone, and ever since that fateful day, I have always loved the game of baseball.
I can’t remember which four teams advanced to the playoffs or who even won it all in the championship game. But what I do remember is that the Bulldogs finished an unimpressive 2 and 6, but underneath that horrible record, lied a team that truly felt like winners in the end.
FIELD OF DREAMS
June 2001. I’d just graduated from high school and spent that summer working at Blockbuster Video with my good friend Eddie and the “high school slut.” Interesting times they were. See Memories of Renting for more on those halcyon days.
One night I was closing up and made my usual last minute DVD run. As an employee I received 5 free rentals a week, and never failed to take advantage of such luxuries.
As I scanned the aisles for my late evening entertainment, Field of Dreams caught my eye. I had heard over the years what an awesome movie it was but I had yet to see it. Memories of the epic 5th grade baseball tournament came rushing back to me. Kevin Costner seemed to wink at me from the DVD box. Looks like a date, good sir.
With stunning cinematography and a stellar soundtrack that absolutely haunts and mesmerizes, Field of Dreams easily became my #1 favorite film of all time. More than just a baseball movie, it’s actually about life, second chances and father-son relationships. There’s also a touch of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. Everyone was perfectly cast. It’s just a damn near perfect movie.
One early evening out in the stalks of Iowa, simple farmer and family man Ray Kinsella hears “The Voice” for the first time. This spooky voice simply tells him “IF YOU BUILD IT, HE WILL COME.” Ray is understandably disturbed, and begins a wild journey to get to the bottom of things. Was this a mere hallucination, a simple prank or… something of the supernatural sort?
Ray decides to pursue the Voice’s wish, tears down a good portion of his live crops and builds a baseball field smack dab in the middle of his farm. The locals think Ray has finally gone over the deep end. Only his incredibly loving and supportive wife, Annie Kinsella, stood behind him. But even then, she had her moments of struggle. Who goes and builds a baseball field in the middle of their farm!? Nutcases, that’s who, and now her husband, Ray Kinsella. But was Ray a looney, or was he on to something here…
No doubt the field was gorgeous, and a hell of a sight with the corn swaying in the wind in the outfield. But as the seasons passed, nobody came as the Voice promised that it would. Ray and Annie grow impatient, and restless, as they saw their income from the crops dwindle due to the baseball field eating up their real estate. Times were starting to grow lean, and the looming danger of the bank foreclosing became an ever increasing burden on the Kinsellas.
And then it happened. One cold night, Ray looked out his bedroom window and spotted a haunting figure standing in the middle of his baseball field. It appeared to be an old timey ball player from 1919. But this was 70 years later, 1989. What in the world is going on here??
The ghastly visitor turned out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson, who played for the Chicago White Sox back in the early 1900s. Long dead, Ray realized there truly were supernatural forces at play here. Ray Liotta absolutely shined as Shoeless Joe, stealing every scene he was in.
The Kinsellas couldn’t believe it. The baseball field that was eating into their precious earnings, was finally serving a purpose. What that purpose was, they had no idea. But after their encounter with the night phantom, they knew they had to keep the baseball field erected to see what cosmic forces may yet occur.
It wasn’t long until Ray received a second message from the Voice: “EASE HIS PAIN.” Of course, the Voice doesn’t offer explanations or clarifications. This sets in motion the next beat of the film, as Ray researches whose pain it was he had to ease. This leads the Kinsellas to a PTA meeting discussing the merits of censorship and book banning.
As an aside, the pictures above and below were taken at a Field of Dreams screening this past June. It was the film’s 30th anniversary. I had the honor of seeing it for the very first time on the big screen
Over the course of the PTA meeting, Ray realizes whose pain he had to ease. Terence Mann, a great author of his time, who is now a recluse. Fun fact, W.P. Kinsella based this character in his book Shoeless Joe off real life author, J.D. Salinger. Another fun fact: Ray Kinsella is the name of a character from a short story J.D. Salinger wrote entitled A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All. There was also a character named Richard Kinsella that appeared in The Catcher in the Rye.
This leads Ray to make a cross country trek to track down the reclusive Terence Mann. Shenanigans and hi-jinx ensues, including a classic scene where Ray uses his finger to poke his jacket pocket to stand in as a gun in an attempt to persuade Mann to leave the fine comforts of his sanctuary.
After “kidnapping” Terence Mann, played by the impeccable James Earl Jones, Ray Kinsella takes him to a ball game. The setup for this is classic, classic stuff. Costner and Jones shine in their roles, and their back-and-forth banter is both charming and wildly entertaining. Once situated at Fenway Park, Ray hears his next message from the Voice: “GO THE DISTANCE.”But what in the hell does that mean, go where and how far?
Thankfully, the Voice offered a little more insight this time as a special message is displayed over the giant screen that only Ray Kinsella can see. Apparently, the Voice was talking about an old ball player by the name of Archibald Graham, or Moonlight Graham as he was known in his day. Moonlight Graham was a real life ball player who played only one game in the Majors, but had 0 at-bats. It is certainly a unique and fascinating story of almost achieving one’s dreams but not quite. After jotting down the information on his scorecard, Ray asks Mann if he heard or saw anything. Mann says no, and Ray apologizes. “I’m sorry, I guess you didn’t have to be here.” Confused and relieved yet disappointed, the two leave the game early.
As they sit in Ray’s Volkswagen van, Terence Man asks Ray Kinsella, “What’s it you’re not telling me?” Ray replies, “I’ve already taken up too much of your time.” Mann stares quizzically at Ray for a moment before exiting the vehicle. Closing the door behind him and draping his jacket and arms over the side, Mann spits out some reflective prose. “I wish I had your passion, Ray. Misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion. I used to feel that way about things but…” His voice trails off as he ponders his current life state and how he got to be the way he got to be. Then it hits him.
“You got another message, didn’t you?”
“You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“I already think you’re crazy. What did it say?”
Mulling over whether to tell him the truth or not, Ray decides to tell a white lie. “It said the man’s done enough. Leave him alone.”
And thus, the two fellows shake hands and Ray pulls his Volkswagen van away from the curb and into that cold Boston night…
Ray is stunned when he finds Terence Mann blocking his path. Even more stunned to hear Mann utter the name “MOONLIGHT GRAHAM.” Looking at Mann bewildered, Ray shouts “YOU SAW IT!!!”This turns Field of Dreams into a road trip movie. They’re heading to Minnesota to find Moonlight Graham. Good stuff.
Mann heads to Iowa alongside Ray Kinsella, and there he encounters the field of dreams for himself. He is instantly transformed from a social recluse to a grinning 10 year old boy as he watches his heroes of yesteryear play an evening game of baseball.
Who could ever forget the classic climax where James Earl Jones launches into a soliloquy like only he can. Pontificating on the importance of baseball and how it’s been a marker for American history throughout the ages, you can’t help but feel drawn to his passion and convictions. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, in that very moment you suddenly are. And that’s the true mark of a magical movie.
The ending, where Ray is reunited with his father (who’s long passed), never fails to tug at the strings of my heart. “Hey dad… want to have a catch?” has got to be cinema’s most emotional 7 words ever spoken. Truly the stuff that reduces grown men to crocodile tears.
“Is this Heaven?”
“No, it’s Iowa.”
But then Ray glances back to his house, spotting his wife and daughter hanging out on the porch having a grand old time. He ponders the question again. Maybe this ISHeaven after all…
Ray and his dad have a game of catch late into the night as the camera pans overhead and we see thousands of cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic coming to the ballpark.
In college I minored in Theatre Arts and for my Final, I had to perform a monologue. Naturally, I selected James Earl Jones’ baseball speech from Field of Dreams. Had a blast reenacting it and putting my own spin on it. Fun times.
COMING IN 2020!
Announced earlier today (August 8, 2019), Major League Baseball announced that the Yankees and White Sox will play an actual regular season game at the famous Field of Dreams ballpark in Iowa. This monumental event will take place on August 13, 2020. I wish I could go but tickets will be limited and through the roof. I’ll definitely have a front row seat in my living room, though, and will be plenty satisfied with that!
Looking back on my times spent with the sport of baseball, I cherish all the great memories it has given me along with all the great lessons it’s taught me. Summer is quickly coming to an end as Major League Baseball hurtles its way to the Fall Classic. The game may not be as popular today as it was when I was a kid growing up, but I hope the kids playing baseball today take away from the game as much as I did 25 years ago.
Today is June 15, 2019. To me that means two things. 1. It’s about summer time (kiss my ass, school!) and 2. It’s my little cousin’s birthday. Well, he’s not so little anymore — he stands 6 feet tall and just turned 31. David, in a nutshell, has always sort of been the little brother I never had. Thus, this article is a tribute to my cousin, the little bro I never had. Cheers to you, David. And happy birthday, bro.
IN THE BEGINNING…
David and I grew up together. In the late ’80s, my uncle lived with me and the family. He married, his wife moved in and they had a baby in ’88. I remember June 15, 1988 pretty well, considering I was only four (and three quarters) at the time. It was a damp and blustery morning as I stood outside the garage door, watching my mom sweep the dry brown leaves off the driveway. And then my uncle’s car gently roared into the just swept driveway. My aunt clambered out and it was then that David and I first met. We bonded immediately, as though we were best friends in a past lifetime.
ADVENTURES IN TEETH BRUSHING
I’m so glad my uncle loved recording us as we grew up together in the late ’80s to early ’90s. It was thanks to my uncle’s penchant for documenting everything that I fondly recall all the wacky adventures David and I shared. One of my favorite memories was David’s love for sneaking out of his crib (with my aid of course) to brush his teeth for the hundredth time that same night. At two years old, he would reach out of the crib and beg for me to transport him to his very own version of Disney World. And with that patented jovial grin of his, how could I resist? He was such a delightful and cute little rascal.
No one loved brushing teeth more than David, and I loved to watch him do it. Never before had I seen such showmanship! After he brushed, 5 minutes later in his crib he’d tug on my shirt to take him back. So under the cover of darkness, I’d smuggle him off to the bathroom for another show. There’s a home video floating out there somewhere where you can see me shoving David — with all of my seven-year-old strength — up on to the sink. He bumped his head against the mirror really hard as he fought to stand up on his wobbly legs. Instead of crying, he amusingly stared back at his two-year-old reflection and, with a gleeful laughter, jubilantly pounded the mirror with his palm. He was a bundle of joy.
One of my favorite pastimes was playing backyard baseball against my brother. This moment was not captured on film by my uncle but damn do I remember it as though it happened yesterday. It was the summer of 1991. I was about 8, my brother was 10 and David was 3. Kevin was on the mound and he stared me down as I stood firmly in the batter’s box (AKA a patch of grass at one end of my backyard). Kevin went into his windup, lifted his leg and flung the tennis ball down broadway as hard as he could. I took a mighty cut and fouled the ball off into the thorn bushes. David was in the background fiddling around on his brand new Power Wheels. Like most brothers growing up, Kevin and I fought a shit ton as youngsters, physically and verbally. Instead of grabbing a stick and poking the tennis ball out of the thorn bush he screamed at me for hitting it there. Of course, as little brothers often do, I had to respond in kind. And my response was not kind! We were busy shoving and jostling. And in the middle of this commotion I felt a tap. Kevin and I turned around. We could not believe our eyes.
David, with a grin oddly plastered across his angelic little face, held out the tennis ball to us. As if it were an offering. We gasped in horror when we saw the sickening multitude of thorns that had pricked his tiny arm. But judging by his ear-to-ear grin, you’d never think the pain that had to be surging through his little arm bugged him at all. I remember kissing him on the forehead and patting him on the back. What a great kid. My brother and I immediately dropped our quarrel and we spent the rest of that afternoon playing with David in complete and blissful harmony. David does it again!
Then in the spring of ’92 my aunt became pregnant, and my uncle decided the time was perfect to move out and buy a place of their own. My childhood dream of growing up in a big household — blame it on Full House I suppose — was suddenly dashed. And life, well, life would never be the same.
ROLLER COASTER OF EMOTIONS
My cousin Vince, about 10 years my senior, was one of my idols growing up. I always looked up to Vince, and in many ways felt I should pass that down to David. I hoped to provide him with wonderful memories and experiences as he grew up — just like how Vince did for me all those years ago. So when David was around 10 in 1998, I suddenly had this knack for taking him on his first roller coaster ride. He told me he had never been on one due to his fear of heights and whatnot. But I assured him it was worth it… that it was sort of a childhood rite of passage. In the summer of ’98 it became my obsession to have him ride one. And finally, one scorching hot summer day, he finally said YES.
I couldn’t believe my ears, as though David was speaking to me in tongues. David was confronting his fear! He was about to embark on his first ever roller coaster adventure. Looking back on it, it may sound kind of silly but at the time it truly felt like a landmark moment in his life. I had this weird fantasy where riding a roller coaster would expand David’s world and help him to fully realize his potential. For as exuberant and daring a toddler he was, as a child he grew to be rather reserved. Deep down I always believed he still had that expressive and jubilant side in him, and I was determined to bring it out at any cost.
Finally, the moment of reckoning descended upon us. Proudly marching up to that towering steel structure that loomed before us, David was rearing to shock the system and give the man the proverbial old middle finger. But just as quickly, from out of nowhere, his grandmother (God rest her soul) swooped in, grabbed him by the wrist and yelled “ARE YOU CRAZY?! NO YOU’RE NOT GETTING ON THAT!”
Although it happened only a foot away from me, I remember feeling like it took place a chasm apart. I was completely helpless to stop it, and I saw the gleam of courage in David’s eyes instantly give way to fear. Physically, he seemed to shrink before me. And despite my urging him to still carry on, he sadly shook his head at me and could only say, “Sorry Steve, I can’t do it…”
I was crushed. So close, yet so far. It’s one of those memories and vivid scenes that stay with you for a lifetime. But as terrible as I felt, I could only imagine how defeated David must have felt. And for that, my heart absolutely sank.
DAVID’S HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE
Relinquishing the dream of the cold steel wonder that is the roller coaster, I looked to another form of cheap American thrill… the haunted house. Yet another childhood rite of passage, one of my fondest childhood memories was Halloween night of 1995. That was the night my cousins took me to my first real haunted house and I never looked back. The sights, the sounds, the smells, ahhh. I wanted David to have that experience for himself.
Similar to the roller coaster, David rejected my various invites. 1998 was a no go. But in 1999 he accepted. But first he wanted to trick or treat around the block. Fair enough, I thought to myself. So I took him and his sister trick or treating. David and his sister ran from house to house like thieves in the night. In a way they were! Free candy! Wearing masks! Why, in my day they didn’t hand out candy; oh heck no, rather, it was rationed paper clips! [Oh stop it -Ed.]
Near the end of that fateful evening, on one of the final houses on our tour, David didn’t make out the steps in the darkness and fell. I heard the sickening sound of bare knees scraping concrete. And that is a match concrete will always win. I took David and his sister home, and sadly he never left the house again that night. I was so disappointed. It was just like the roller coaster from the year prior. So close, yet so far. But there’s always next year, right?
But time was quickly running out. I was 12 when I went to the haunted house in ’95. There’s something to be said about going to a haunted house when you’re THAT young. When you’re easily impressed by halfway decent setups that replicated the horrors of a house. When you think about it, 12 is really the last year of childhood, is it not? Well, in 2000, David was 12. This was the year. The last year. It was now or never. Do or die.
October 31, 2000. David and I finally went to that haunted house. I was glad David was able to experience it just in the nick of time before hitting his teenage years. And I know it’s über dorky but for many years following Halloween 2000 I proudly carried the ticket around in my wallet wherever I went. It was a symbol, to me, for breaking through.
A SHOCKING BOMBSHELL
Summer 2004. My cousins on Vince’s side from time to time held family get togethers on Saturdays, and this was one of those jam-packed occasions. Their huge two story house was the perfect place for family reunions and gatherings. As previously stated, I admired Vince growing up. And I’ve always strove to be a great cousin and example for David, like how Vince was to me. So I guess you could say it was pretty fitting anytime that Vince, David and I found ourselves under the same roof. It actually didn’t happen as often as one might think since David’s family wasn’t super close with Vince’s family, and David was a homebody who deeply valued his peace and privacy. But in a stroke of luck, David decided to come out to the party on this fateful day, and that was where he dropped a bombshell on little ol’ me.
Everyone was hanging out downstairs or playing pool in the backyard. David and I were chilling upstairs in the den. We were playing foosball and just kind of hanging out when he looked at me and said something I would never forget.
“… I got a D in math this past semester.”
All my life I’ve looked at David as the little brother I never had. And his bold gesture, despite the negative context, made me feel SO proud. He rarely opened up like that to anybody. At that moment I knew, without a shadow of a doubt and for the first time ever, that he saw me as the older brother HE never had. My family has never been the strongest in terms of keeping an open line of communication as I think many of us don’t feel comfortable sharing details. So for David to share that with me on that day… it blew me away. I, of course, reassured him that it was OK and that life is about learning from our mistakes. We had a really good and deep conversation before joining the rest of the fam downstairs. It was one of those bonding conversations you never forget.
A SLICE OF COLLEGE LIFE
It was the spring of 2005. There was a big event going on at my University one night. Everyone was welcomed to join the fray in the Student Union. It was a rally night to discuss various topics in the Asian community such as issues related to drugs, sex, sexual identity, you know, that kind of gig. I asked David to join me. Surprisingly, he was game. So 30 minutes before the event began at 7 PM, I drove to his place to pick him up.
The event was packed with roughly 60 to 75 college students from every imaginable walk of life. I glanced over at David as we found our seats. I was ecstatic that he decided to come along and step out of his comfort zone. I wanted to expose him to a slice of college life. He was probably the only high school kid there that night.
Following a brief introduction by the MC and a speech by the presenter, the floor was opened up to the people for thoughts and questions. The MC asked if anyone would like to respond to the speech. Glancing around the room, and then looking over at David who sat there with an odd grin on his face, I decided to stand up. As I stood up from my seat I could see David looking up at me in a state of semi shock. I’d never really told him about my public speaking background before. No doubt the #1 reason I decided to speak that evening was to show David you can do anything when you believe in yourself.
The walk from my seat to the front of the lecture hall felt long as hell. I think a few students coughed as I made my way up there. I shook the MC’s hand and then turned to face the audience. Man was it packed. Tugging on my blue Michael Jordan skullcap, I began my spiel.
“You know, in our Asian culture it’s not easy being homosexual. *pause* Not that I am… and not that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual.”
The room filled with laughter. I saw David cracking up. I think in some way he understood I was doing this for him. His expression was one that read, “That’s my cousin up there.”[Or maybe “I don’t know him, I swear, I don’t!” -Ed.]
On a side note, I had a point to my speech. The usage of comic relief in the intro was to lighten up the mood for a second. I certainly wouldn’t do it in a room full of college professors. It’s all about reading your audience!
However, the thrill of the night came later on. We broke into small groups to talk about our experiences and thoughts on these various issues in the Asian community. We sat in a circle and went around. When it got to be David’s turn, he shared his two cents. This high school kid was talking with a group of college students like he belonged. I was so proud of the guy. I remember just beaming at him like a proud older brother.
When the meeting concluded, David and I talked and joked all the way back to the parking garage. It was a cold and starry night. Just absolutely serene. I was thrilled that I was able to provide David with a small taste of what was to come in his future, being that he was now almost 17. Any sort of preparation, no matter how small, is big. Plus he got to see his crazy ol’ cousin in action as a bonus
Driving David home on the freeway that night, music blaring, I think I did Vince proud.
AMERICA’S NATIONAL PASTIME
Later that summer in July of 2005 I took David to his first baseball game. It went to extra innings and ended with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th. We had a blast at the park rooting on the home team. It was another item checked off David’s list. It was simple, it was fun and he couldn’t have watched a better more exciting game. We went home on a high
4th of July, 2006. I took David to one of my favorite spots to watch fireworks. It’s on a hill in the eastern side of town. At sunset the view is pretty damn gorgeous. We had a blast just talking, catching up, admiring the fireworks and celebrating America’s 230th birthday.
Check out these crazy weird photos I took that night:
THE RISE OF DAVID
June 15, 2007 (the date this article was originally written) marked David’s 19th birthday. It was also the opening day for Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. We caught the first film on opening weekend back in 2005. It was me, David and our cousin Mike out to celebrate David’s last year before hitting his 20’s.
When we arrived at the theater it was completely jam packed! I couldn’t help but notice cute girls around David’s age were all over the place. Given the film, no shocker there. David was sitting on the edge of a row, Mike in the mid — oh look, here’s a pic to make your life (and mine!) easier.
The girl sitting in the row in front of us, about 5 minutes before the trailers, turned around to look back at me.
“Hey, are you saving that seat there for a friend?” she pointed to the empty seat that separated me and the cute girl.
“Is it cool if you move over? My two friends are coming soon and we’re out of seats in this row here.”
No problem, I told her. OH NO PROBLEM AT ALL! David, Mike and I moved over one seat. So now the cute girl and I were sitting next to each other. I can’t say that it hurt my feelings.
And then… as I sunk into my chair and chatted with Mike and David, the two friends the girl had mentioned walked into the theater and made their way to our row.
These two ladies, as fate would have it, were the type to turn heads. I looked over at David as one of them sat down beside him and I could sense him doing mental cartwheels. Ah indeed, what a stroke of luck for my fine feathered friend.
Right before the house lights dimmed for the trailers, I caught a glimpse of a sly little grin crossing David’s face. As the first preview roared over the screen and speakers, I laughed to myself, poking Mike. I gave him the look. He, too, knew what was going on with David. He discreetly glanced over at David in the darkness and then back to me, returning the “I gotcha” gesture.
After the movie I took David and Mike to a nearby Italian restaurant. David insisted on going to Taco Bell or Wendy’s. I told David that I love those places as much as anyone but those are no places to eat on a birthday. This Italian restaurant was far from hoity-toity upper class, but at least it had some class.
Once seated, I noticed a waitress who looked vaguely familiar. She was serving an old couple the table over. Hmmm, where have I seen her before?
This restaurant, being family oriented, had each table adorned by white drawing paper you could write and color on. A set of crayons were sprawled between the salt ‘n pepper. I took a green crayon and wrote on the sheet “Happy 30th Birthday David!”
It was an in-joke between the three of us. We often joked that David, although turning 19 at the time, always acted like someone much older than his age. David and Mike laughed when they saw my message on the dining table paper.
When our waitress came over to field our orders, she pointed to the crayon scribbling and asked “Whose birthday is it?” I pointed to David, who made meek eye contact with this attractive Filipino lass probably in her mid 20’s.
“Well, happy birthday, David,” she said warmly. He said a quick thank you. “I’ll be back with your drinks in a minute. If you need anything else, let me know.”
And then the waitress from the other table walked by. I saw her face and it hit me. She looked at me funny, too.
“Oh my God, Steve??”
Tiffany was an old family friend I’d spent more than a few Saturday nights with, back in ’99 and 2000 along with another family friend, Tim. Back then, our parents met at Tim’s house once or twice a month for dancing and drinking. The parents partied downstairs while we did our thing upstairs. Tim and I both openly shared a crush on Tiff. Some nights she was closer to him, other nights closer to me (not physically close but emotionally). It was a friendly rivalry between he and I (we were really good friends). All in all it was good harmless 16 year old fun.
In fact, that hill I took David to on 4th of July, 2006, was the same hill in which Tim, Tiff and I spent our 4th of July back in 2000, just months before I took David to his first ever haunted house. Crazy how things connect…
Anyhow, Mike and David looked on in a mixture of confusion and wonder as Tiff and I quickly played catch-up. What a freaking small world! We hadn’t seen each other since the summer of 2000 when the parents quietly disbanded their Saturday night dance and drink-athons. Our impromptu reunion ended when she had to go back to waiting tables. We hugged and wished each other well. And that was that.
So now Mike, David and I were eating and talking. Just enjoying life. And then our waitress came over, along with another attractive female co-worker, holding a surprise small fudge cake. David’s expression said it all.
“We’re going to sing you happy birthday but in… Italian!” they ceremoniously declared.
Buon compleanno a te Buon compleanno a te Buon compleanno a David Buon compleanno a teeeeeeeeeeee
As they sang, I noted the way they starred merrily into David’s eyes as though he were the most handsome young man they had ever laid eyes on. I NEVER saw David look any prouder in the 19 years that I had known him than at that very moment in time. He sat up, chin held up high and he was beaming from ear to ear. I sat there and admired the moment. It’s an image that’s been embedded in my soul.
The rest of the day David was like a new man. I ribbed him about his two new girlfriends. He laughed and had this spark in his eyes as he went along with the joke — it made me so happy seeing him be so happy
And, to this day, it’s a joke we still occasionally joke about.
In early 2015 I gave David a copy of Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, written by my buddy, Rob Strangman. I contributed 5 guest stories to Rob’s epic book of video game memories from yesteryear, and I felt the time was right to finally share with David about the existence of RVGFanatic, and the article I had written about him way back in 2007. He was touched.
To my cousin, David, AKA the little bro I never had, thanks for being my cousin brother. May you always reach for the stars and be who you’re meant to be. Love ya, bro.
In my previous article, Fast Times At Bayside High, I looked back on one of the best college courses I ever took: Storytelling. I shared some of the great stories from that class, including a few of my own. It went so long though that I had to break it up. So now I’ll share my third and final story from that semester. Also, stay tuned to the very end — I conducted an interview with Cylk Cozart back in 2009 regarding his Saved By The Bell cameo and much more.
THE FINAL STORY
No rest for the wicked! Right after Zack’s War I started thinking about what my third and final story might be. It had to be better than my first two. One day I was perusing the children section of my library looking for inspiration. It hit me in the form of BASEBALL SAVED US. It’s an awe-inspiring story about a young spirited Japanese boy’s experience in camp in 1942 — the year when all people of Japanese descent living in America were put into camps due to the government’s increasing paranoia. Many decades later, 1988 to be precise, the US government admitted their wrongdoing. I love baseball and found much breadth in this tale of survival and hope. I decided to adapt BASEBALL SAVED US for my final story until fate stepped in. One day in December of 2003 I came across a hilarious story I read online. I loved it so much that it bumped Baseball Saved Us.
The story was a little short though, so I fleshed it out by incorporating a fun rapid fire scene from an old childhood favorite of mine, Happy Ghost III. For those unfamiliar to the Happy Ghost series, it was a comedy franchise consisting of five films from 1984-1991. It’s totally a product of its time and it’s super cheesy but I find a lot of charm in that.
So, adapting one scene from Happy Ghost III and jamming it with the online story I read, I had a full and proper story to end things with a bang. I called it AFTER FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH… BUT BEFORE AMERICAN PIE… THERE WAS A GUY… NAMED ALAN Y. The title was so long that it stretched all the way across the white board. I remember my classmates clamoring about it when they saw the ridiculously long title on the board. They knew they were in for quite a treat.
Do you believe in true love? Do you believe that there’s someone out there for everyone? Well, this is a story about me and my dear sweetheart, Katy. As you can probably infer from the title of this story however, this isn’t exactly your run of the mill sappy love story. But first, let me tell you how Katy and I met.
It was my first day of my senior year in high school… but for most others it was the 5th week of school. Yeah, I changed schools. But let’s not talk about why. So I’m cruising the parking lot for a spot and there’s one left. That’s when I saw this goofy looking teacher heading for it too. All’s fair in love and war… and parking spots I always say.
Guitar in one hand and comb in the other, I got out and waved to all the honeys drooling at me.
The goofy teacher made some lame remark but I paid it no mind.
Whatever! The chances I’ll get him are like 1 in 200 anyway.
My first class was music. It was 8:10 and as usual, I made a dramatic and fashionably late entrance. Sliding into the room on my knees, I cranked up my guitar and sang.
Still like that old time rock ‘n roll! That kind of music just soothes the soul! I reminisce about the DAYS OF OLD… With that old time ROCK ‘N ROLL!
“Hey hey hey! You?!?”
I’ll be damned! It was the goofy looking teacher from earlier in the parking lot.
“What are you doing here?” he bellowed.
“What is your name?” he demanded.
I turned to face my classmates and saw a handful of beautiful lasses. Suddenly I remembered why I never dropped out, despite being 19 and flunking a grade prior.
“My name is Alan… Alan Y. I’m a good guy. I only drink and smoke occasionally. I make lots of money betting on horse racing and I love taking cute young girls out to dinner, such as you, you AND YOU — on the house!”
“Stop right there! Sit down.”
I took the empty seat next to a precious little thing. Katy, as I’d come to know.
“Hey good looking. I’m here now, so what are your two other wishes?”
“Better do as he says, or the poor son of a bitch will have a heart attack.”
I went over to the corner as requested but the teacher kept coming at me.
“How old are you?”
“How old is that?”
“Makes me 19.”
“He’s a prime example of how you DON’T want to be in life… so take a good close look at him and consider yourselves WARNED!”
“You said my IQ is low but can you spend the shortest amount of time to answer me three simple questions?”
After class Katy came up to me. “That was awesome! A little mean, but I never laughed so hard in my life before!”
“Just another day at the office. He had it coming.”
“I suppose he did!”
“Hey, wanna grab a bite to eat?”
Katy and I hit it off. We became a couple later that week. We were madly in love and we were so happy. Katy and I had been dating for over a year. We decided the time was right to get married. My parents helped us in every way and my friends encouraged me. And Katy? She was a dream come true.
There was only one thing bothering me, very much indeed. That one thing was her older sister, Tammy. My prospective sister-in-law was 22 years old, wore tight mini skirts and low cut blouses. She would regularly bend over whenever I was around. It had to be deliberate. There are worse things in the world that could happen to a guy, of course, but I was never good at fighting temptation and I didn’t want to do Katy like that. Simply put, Tammy was like a box jellyfish. Absolutely mesmerizing, but equally and potentially fatal.
One day Tammy called and asked me to come over to check the wedding invitations. I thought nothing of it and drove over. When I arrived, it turned out that she was alone…
“Uh, where’s Katy?”
“Of course… when will she uh, um, be back?”
“A couple hours.”
“What about uh, your um… parents?”
“They won’t be back til dinner.”
I cracked a nervous smile. Tammy’s tone was too suggestive. Too seductive. The next thing I knew, she walked over to me and whispered in my ear that soon I was to be married, and she had feelings and desires for me that she couldn’t overcome. Didn’t want to overcome. She told me she wanted to make love to me just once before I commit the rest of my life to her sister.
I was absolutely stunned and at a loss for words. She continued lustfully, “I’m going upstairs to my bedroom now… feel free to join me…”
Frozen like a statue, I watched her go up the stairs. When she reached the top she pulled off her pink panties and threw them down at me.
“TAKE ME, TARZAN!”
I watched as Tammy disappeared into her room. I couldn’t help but imagine what she was doing in bed. I knew EXACTLY what I had to do. Without wasting another second, I turned around and headed straight for the front door. I made a beeline for my car, but I didn’t make it very far.
My future father-in-law was standing right outside. With tears in his eyes he hugged me and said, “We’re very happy that you’ve passed our little test. We couldn’t have asked for a better man for our Katy. Welcome to the family!”
The moral of this story is…
Always keep your condoms in the car.
A thunderous silence fell over the Storytelling class for about two seconds. Then came the “ohhhhs” and riotous laughter when people started registering what happened. Priceless! I sat down and they went on with their feedback. They loved the humor in the story, the rapid fire exchange between Alan and his teacher, and the “moral” of the story was a big winner as well. I aced the class. This third and last story was probably my strongest story of the three I told. I’m glad to have gone out with a bang.
Looking back on my college years, I had my fair share of fond memories. Inevitably, I always think back to the friends and unforgettable experiences. That includes the great Storytelling class I took during the fall of 2003. From the camaraderie and stories my classmates and I shared to the crazy professor we had, it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken in my life. It was a makeshift campfire every Tuesday and Thursday where we celebrated the human spirit and shared moving stories… emotional ones and entertaining ones alike. We all have interesting stories waiting to be told. A great story lives on and is passed from generation to generation. It stands the test of time. Maybe the next great story the world will hear… will be your very own.
CYLK COZART INTERVIEW
I emailed Mr. Cozart June 2009 in hopes of scoring an interview with him. He reached back and the following Q&A was conducted on July 3, 2009. Enjoy.
1). Any stories or memories you can share about working on the episode Zack’s War? What was it like working with the cast and crew, specifically Mark-Paul Gosselaar (whom you shared the majority of your onscreen time with)?
Mark was one of the most gracious actors that I’ve worked with. Very kind and funny. Great guy. Everyone loved him.
2). How aware of the show Saved By The Bell were you prior to signing on for this one episode?
I had never seen the show until I got the offer. A lot of my friends had seen it and told me about every one of the characters. I knew all of them when I walked on the stage for the first time.
Any time that I have ran into any of the cast, we always hug and talk about that episode. And laugh for about 10 minutes. LOL!!!
3). When was the last time you saw Zack’s War and what are your thoughts on how that episode came out? Personally speaking, it’s one of my all time favorites for ANY sitcom.
I see that show all the time. So many people of all ages see that particular episode and I have gotten as much attention from Saved By The Bell as a lot of movies that I have made. I have several friends and family members who will never let me forget it. I loved every minute of it!
4). You have been in over 30 movies and 20 television shows, what is your proudest moment as an actor? (i.e. was there a specific film you’re most proud of?)
That would have to be WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP. Ron Shelton (Writer/Director) is and always will be in my life.
Wesley Snipes and I keep in touch on a regular basis. But one of my best friends in LIFE is Woody Harrelson. We have become very close friends since we met on the first day he came in to audition.
I was set to play Sidney Dean. Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves both came in to audition while I sat and read with them. At the end of all the auditions, Ron asked me who I felt the most comfortable with and I said hands down, Woody.
The next thing I know, 20th Century Fox called Ron and said to put Wesley in the lead because New Jack City, Wesley’s film that just came out at the time, was a hit movie and Wesley was hot! They loved me but gave me a co-starring role.
That was the “worst” day of my acting life I thought. But once Ron took me to dinner and explained how the studio system worked, I felt a little better. Still it hurt so bad.
Ron told me that he and I would make many many more films together. We have already made three: White Men Can’t Jump, Play it to the Bone and Blue Chips.
5). How old were you when you first got into acting and what originally intrigued you about acting?
I used to watch Andy of Mayberry and The Beverly Hillbillies everyday. That made me aware of HOLLYWOOD. But growing up in Tennessee, there was no way to even know how to get there. But I figured it out
6). Which do you prefer: acting in films or acting in plays? (I have done both and I myself much prefer theater; nothing beats that raw LIVE “one take, no net” element).
There is nothing like that direct response from a live audience. Like live theater. Playing basketball in front of thousands of people while in college, was just like doing a play to me… in a way. So I loved the stage from the start.
Film is the most rewarding as far as exposure to so many people is concerned.
7). You were about six years old when Martin Luther King Jr. made his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. Where were you that day and what were your memories of that time frame in the ’60s when racial tension was running incredibly high?
I’m a product of the ‘Baby Boomers.’ I was right in the middle of the SOUTH, Tennessee. Where the KKK “originated.” It was Hell for my family and friends. I remember most of that time at that young age.
Check this out, within a 6-month time frame, King was killed. 2 months later, Kennedy. After that, students from Kent State had their heads bashed in race riots. Charles Manson Sharon Tate Murders, Vietnam. Most of our parents were either pot smoking hippies or trying to join the Black Panther party. Those were the times that we lived in.
Note: ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, directed by Quentin Tarantino, is set to be released on July 26, 2019. Starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, critics predict it will be one of the most successful films of the year. In 1969 Los Angeles, a former Western star and his longtime stunt double struggle to find success in a Hollywood that they don’t recognize anymore. Sharon Tate is their next door neighbor, and the infamous Manson Tate murders will be featured in the film. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is sure to be the hit of the summer.
8). Ever look back and wonder what would have happened if you never suffered that foot injury in that one NBA Summer League game? Was that your greatest regret in life? Or do you believe everything happens for a reason?
Every day, I think about “What If”???? Then right after that thought leaves… I think that nothing ever stays the same in life. It can’t and expect to survive. So I don’t hold on or regret anything. I am living my dream. I played pro basketball AND I am working with the most wonderful people in the entertainment world!!!! I have so much to be thankful for when you break it down.
9). As someone who has seen and done a whole lot, what advice in general would you give young people as they march through the trials and tribulations of life?
I would say to them first… “How well do you take the word “NO”? I would tell them, not to worry about what other people think of their work or performance. But work on your craft so you can always be your best critic.
This is an ART. You have natural ability but you must train as a pro athlete trains before the season. They work out so hard before the games, that the actual game is FUN. Same as an actor. Train your mind, body and soul for whatever you want to make a living.
Thank you for the interview!
In late 2016, actress Nikki Estridge submitted a DNA test because she couldn’t shake the feeling that she didn’t look like her siblings. Sure enough, she discovered that she was 32% African American, and she also found out that her dad is Cylk Cozart.
Nikki called her dad on Father’s Day to break the news. The two quickly met up and began making up for lost father-daughter time. It’s a touching story that’s worth a read! Cylk didn’t know that he had a daughter, or that she was married with kids! So he also realized he was a grandfather. What a crazy story! Congratulations to the Cozarts for their incredible reunion and new life
I’ve loved storytelling ever since I was a little kid. I can pretty much trace it back to growing up with a vibrant and charismatic uncle who always had a story to tell. Many nights back in the glorious late ’80s to early ’90s were spent with my brother either curled up on the couch listening to Uncle Jimmy’s tales of wonder, or camping out in the backyard under the stars on a hot summer night listening to Uncle Jimmy regale us with ghastly tales of the macabre. As I grew older, I came to appreciate the ART of storytelling. In college I took one of the best classes ever: Storytelling. I still remember the course objective to this day: “To be DAMN GOOD at storytelling.” Even to this day, randomly I find myself fondly reminiscing about that class and all the crazy stories it produced. So gather around for a storytelling extravaganza!
Storytelling is one of the oldest and purest forms of entertainment, dating back to ancient times when drawings were etched on cave walls. I feel it’s sort of become a lost art in this day and age in an era proliferated by technology. Between checking emails, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, texting and so forth, our level of actual face to face communication has dwindled and thus, storytelling has taken a back seat over the past number of years. When done right, storytelling is perhaps the purest and greatest form of entertainment at its basic core. All you need is a talented speaker with a vision and an engaged audience looking for some message to click or resonate.
STORYTELLING CLASS: FALL 2003
In August of 2003, I had just turned 20 and was entering my junior year at University. One of the classes I took that semester was Storytelling as it fell under my Minor of Theatre Arts. The room itself was like none other. Not a single desk in sight. Instead, you had one big ass rectangular table. Right away I knew this was going to be one of those rare special classes that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Chairs rested on the sides for the ‘peanut gallery’ folks. You told your story standing front and center with the professor sitting at the back table jotting down notes and rating your performance. Each class began with a 15 minute vocalization and body warm-up. We had a new leader each day. The leader would drape this thick green curtain (long replaced in this photo which was taken in 2007) to cover the windows. The leader then lights a match. To this day I don’t know why we did our exercises in the dark, but it sure made it memorable.
We met Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1:15. Our professor was an eccentric woman in her 60s. Her taste for fashion was rather remarkable. She never wore the same outfit twice and always had matching shoes to go with whatever handbag or purse she decided to bring with her that day. Outside of class I often saw her randomly smoking somewhere on campus in one of her loud outfits. It was the closest thing to playing Where’s Waldo in real life. She was certainly one of a kind. Like one of those old Hollywood stars that just stepped off the set of a movie filmed in the 1940s.
If you came to class tardy, you snuck into one of these side chairs. This was actually where you wanted to be back in the fall of 2003 as the class’ two hottest girls always sat there. For some odd reason, I often found myself a part of the infamous Peanut Gallery. Odd, that.
The class had so many classic characters. We had someone from every walk of life imaginable. From ripe 18 year old freshmen to 45 year old mothers looking to finish up their degrees. Hell, we even had a former NBA player! But more on him later.
I’ll never forget Sean. Sean was 25 years old, Caucasian, married and possessed a dry and dark sense of humor. He was also quite the artist. The big guy took a liking to me as we often chatted before class began. He was a hell of a character whose “unique” speeches always made everyone bust a rib laughing. Imagine Bill Murray’s sense of humor and Seth Rogen’s physical features, and that’s pretty much Sean. His speeches had the most awkward pauses; we could never figure out if that was by design or if it was just Sean being Sean. Whatever the reason behind the madness, I’ll never forget his crazy stories. He blurred lines and was a master storyteller. During the first couple weeks of Storytelling, we all had to share an icebreaker in front of the class. I still remember Sean’s icebreaker. Now listen to this and tell me if it ain’t messed up.
When I was 5 years old, I saw the Devil. I was at the local playground… sitting in the sandbox. The Devil… looked at me… and he said… “Son, you more messed up than me.” I said… “COOOOL.”
I loved the format of the class. Each of us told 4 stories that semester (a quick icebreaker and 3 full proper stories). Each day we had 3-5 storytellers. If it wasn’t your day, you just sat back and got to chill. But if it was your day to share, it was first come first serve. You would march up to the white board to write down the title of your story. Do warm-ups. Then showtime! It was the easiest and coolest format of any college course I ever took. Sean’s first story — I’ll just share a small bit of it — was insane. He was doing his spiel and suddenly, WITHOUT warning, he collapsed! SPLAT!Did I mention by the way that he was about 6’1″ and 230 pounds? And I remember most of us being like “WHAT THE HELL…” And most of us kinda got up, you know, in that sort of weird half position where you’re caught between sitting down and standing up… just so we could get a better view to see if he was OK or not on the floor. WITHOUT WARNING HE POPS UP LIKE A SPRING and yells “AND THEEEEEN!!!!” That made many flinch. We were like “DAMN DUDE DON’T DO THAT YA FREAK!!!” Good times. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s go back quickly to DAY ONE…
THURSDAY AUGUST 28, 2003
Today we got in groups of 4 and had 5 minutes to come up with a fairy tale to reenact in front of the class. The catch? It had to be a silent presentation. So we were forced to rely on everything except our voices. The lesson here was learning how to communicate effectively through using hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. My group had a guy my age, a middle-aged father of two and a middle-aged mother of four (Marlene was one of my favorite storytellers… an absolute natural that Marlene). We decided on The 3 Little Pigs. The 3 guys would play the pigs and Marlene the wolf. I played the first pig, and had an idea on how to make the scene work.
I started out by building my lovely straw house. Marlene the wolf came. Blew down my poor house. I panicked and frantically pointed behind her. I made my getaway as she glanced back. I pretended to run smack dab into an imaginary door and flew back, holding my nose and acting it all out in a very slapstick fashion. Lots of laughter from the audience. It felt good to be the first one up and making people laugh. After the wolf blew down the second house we ran off to the brick house. Once safely in, we began taunting the wolf. She tried to blow us (as in the brick house!) down but she couldn’t. I flexed my muscles, every now and then showing my tentativeness by hiding behind my brothers while continually taunting. I had the entire class roaring and eating out of my hands!
The best part of all came at the end of class. I was walking out when one of the cute girls from the class looked back at me in the hallway. She flashed me an ear-to-ear grin. That was the precise moment where I thought to myself, “GOD I love Storytelling.” It was a great feeling. Being up there and controlling the audience’s emotions without even talking was downright EMPOWERING.
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 2003
On the 2 year anniversary of 9/11, it was my day to share my icebreaker. I decided to share a story about believing in yourself, even against all critics and odds.
Hi. My name’s Steven, but most call me Steve. Like some of you, this is my junior year. Summer of 2002 I did a really dumb thing. I parked in our school’s parking lot without a valid parking permit. I just had to drop off my registration bill and thought I could sneak in, sneak out. I have no idea why I didn’t park elsewhere or in one of the 20 minute zones. I guess I just wasn’t thinking that morning.
Anyway, I came back to my car and surprise surprise, there was a ticket slapped to my windshield. 31 dollars. I went to get a petition form. My brother snapped at me when he found out. Then he saw the petition form I was holding and told me to not even bother. Said he tried it before and got rejected. And that all his friends suffered the same fate in years past as well. So I would be no different, according to him.
ACCORDING TO HIM. Me on the other hand… I knew I could buck the system if I could just come up with something creative, memorable and never-before-seen…
One night I was channel surfing and came upon Nick At Nite. And there I found my inspiration…
“Come on and knock on our doooor. We’ve been waiting for yoooou. … there’s a thing and a thing and the guy falls off his bike…
Three’s Company too!”
The wheels in my mind began turning. Hmmm. “Come on and knock on my door. I’ve been waiting for you… to lift the fee.” No that doesn’t flow. I need to express my story somehow… my STORY… hey! That’s it! My story…
“Here’s a story…”
Of course. The Brady Bunch! I went to work and the words began flowing out of my pen like it was meant to be. And this is how it went:
Here’s a story… about a man named Steven… that’s me (I quickly added, causing my classmates to chuckle).
Who was caught in the parking lot without a permit.
Now he’s pleading for some justice.
He was only there to pay his registration bill.
It cost him nine hundred and fifty-seven dollars, plus the line was long.
The line was long, the line was long.
And when he came back, he found out he was 5 minutes too late… well actually 12 but 5 sounded a whole lot better (I quickly added, much to the laughter of my peers once again).
He said to himself, “If there’s any good left in this world, they’ll lift the fee.”
And that’s how it came to be!
10 days passed. Finally it was mailed back home with a verdict. It would either be stamped REJECTED or FILE AS A WARNING.
I flipped the petition form over for all my classmates to see.
It was stamped “FILE AS A WARNING.”
They cheered and applauded while I stood there humbly motioning with my hands ALRIGHT ALRIGHT CALM DOWN Y’ALL… I ain’t quite done yet!
This here, in my hands, is proof positive that sometimes if you go with your gut feeling, really put in the work and believe with conviction, it just may pay off. More specifically, it just may pay off 31 dollars.
And so, my icebreaker was complete and I received a second ovation less than half a minute after the first one. It was humbling and empowering all at once. But the craziest thing was, later that same day when I got home from class, I read the terrible news that John Ritter passed away that very same day. What were the odds of that?! I loved him in Three’s Company and the Problem Child movies, plus he always reminded me of Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy was like an Asian version of John Ritter
Before I share the main stories I told that semester, I gotta share this one from my classmate. It was probably the best story I heard that entire semester, and I still remember it 15+ years later. The following story comes courtesy of the guy who, during his icebreaker, shared with us that he once played for the Toronto Raptors (!) during an NBA preseason before being cut.
I’m walking to class one day and I spot this hot chick. She had sunglasses on, a mini skirt, and a bomb pink top. She was the kind of girl guys dream about. So I’m like, I gotta get with her, right, but what do I see? A guy holding her hand. Damn! So I walked to class but all I could think about was her.
Next thing I knew, she walked through the door! I was like “HELL YEAH! This was a sign.” But once again, that guy was holding her hand. I looked at him and I was like, “What?! This hot girl is with some average Joe Shmoe like him?” She sat down with her boyfriend. Screw it, I still went up to her. I asked for her name and how’s she doing and all that stuff. Her boyfriend asked me rudely what I wanted.
“I just wanna talk with her. Is that illegal?”
Then he got up and hugged her right in my face. I’m feeling bad at this point, but then he said, “See you later, sis.”
And inside I’m going “OH YEEEEAHHH!”
Later that day I was at the cafeteria when I saw her sitting by herself. Yes, this was my chance. So I came over and we talked. I definitely could see us getting together. I was cracking jokes and she was laughing a lot. But soon I had to get to class. All day I was thinking about her. I mean, I think about girls a LOT, but this girl was driving me nuts!
Once I finished class I was walking to my car when I saw her standing around, and she was crying. I rushed over and asked her what’s going on. She told me her brother got in a fight with her and left her, so she had no ride home.
“What?! Your bro’s a real asshole. You don’t know how to use public transportation or something? Hey, don’t worry. I can give you a ride home.”
She didn’t hesitate at all and gave me a nod. Wow, I couldn’t believe how this situation was unfolding. She gave me her address and luckily I was familiar with the area. As we began walking, suddenly she grabbed my hand. I was like HELL YEAH! So we were walking down the street and I was nodding my head like “Yeah this my girl” to everyone walking by who was checking her out.
After driving her home, I asked if she’d like me to walk her to her door. She said yes. I opened the passenger door for her and again she held my hand in hers. We walked over to her front door and I could see she was still distraught over the fight with her brother. She fidgeted with the keys as she opened the front door. She got in, said bye quickly and closed the door in my face without giving me a chance to say anything.
I was like… WHAT THE FUCK?!?
So I pound on the door.
“Who is it?”
Who is it? What kind of messed up mind games is this chick playing?!?
“It’s me. Who else?”
She opened the door. “What do you want?”
“You’re welcome. Hey listen, if you want I can straighten out your brother for you. Well alright then, I’ll see you Thursday.”
“… I need to see you Thursday too,” she said quietly.
Then she closed the door and I stood there thinking, DAMN! Girls. Can’t live with ‘em… sure as hell can’t live without ‘em.
So Thursday came and after class we walked to the cafeteria. She asked me if she could hold my hand. At this point I was just so confused by her split personality, so I decided to let her know what was on my mind.
“What are we gonna do? Play patty cake? Why you acting all weird on me huh? I need to know right now. Why all the games? One minute you’re holding my hand, the next minute you’re slamming doors in my face! What is it, huh?! Is it because I’m black?”
“Is it because I’m 6’6″? You don’t like tall guys?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“I only see your personality.”
“Say what? My personality? You mean, you think I’m all jokes? You wanna see the deeper me or something? Wassup?”
“I don’t see you as a tall black guy. I only see your personality.”
At this point I was thinking this chick has me all mixed up! Then she held my hand, took off her sunglasses and told me, “I can’t see. I’m blind.”
The room fell in thunderous silence as he stood there, staring at us for a second letting everything sink in. Then he slowly sat down as the room erupted in applause and cheers. Maybe the NBA didn’t work out for him, but he’s definitely got a future in any field that requires dynamic public speaking!
THURSDAY OCTOBER 2, 2003
I remember standing right there, glancing at my 20+ classmates for a second before I began. I was a bit nervous, but once I got going I channeled that nervous energy into positive energy. Sharing about one of the greatest nights of my life in front of friends and colleagues turned out to be one of my greatest collegiate memories. And since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was only 2 weeks away, I used part of that title as a tribute.
I had a blast recounting my epic Halloween 1994 adventure in front of my peers. At that time it was only 9 years removed. Crazy to think this upcoming Halloween will be the 25th anniversary!
After finishing your story, you took a seat right there for feedback time. This is where the professor as well as your classmates chime in. They gave me a nice ovation as I sat down. One girl said she loved how I made sound effects and how I painted pictures for her with my word choice, such as “green and red lights flashing wildly into the night.” Another classmate said I had great projection and energy. Professor told me, “Steven you possess great stage presence; you’re a natural storyteller with an irresistible style.” Wow. Talk about pumping a guy up!
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 6, 2003
In the weeks leading up to my second story, I was watching Saved By The Bell episodes on the season one DVD set my brother bought when it first came out in September of 2003. We both watched the show religiously when we were kids in the late ’80s to mid ’90s. Hell, growing up I even looked up to Zack Morris. I thought he was just the coolest dude around. In the words of Mean Gene Okerlund, “I mean HE HAD IT ALL.” A hot girlfriend in Kelly Kapowski, great friends and Zack was the toast of Bayside High. While high school for me in real life never quite played out like how Bayside High was depicted, for one day at least I had a chance to be Zack Morris.
Before I officially start my story, I’d like you all to know in advance that you may be familiar with the characters to come. Also, I will be switching voices on the fly. Having said that, let us begin…
The year was 1990. I remember that year fondly. It was my senior year at Bayside High and the best year of my life. A lot of things happened in 1990 that I’ll never forget. Sure I got in trouble a lot, but I usually charmed my way out of it. Many called me a slacker as well as a class clown. Now truth be told, there’s a reason for those labels. However, one day… that all changed…
Note to reader: Remember that “Corps” is pronounced “core.”
“No. Bayside has been chosen to host the pilot program for the California Cadet Corps. Now I’d like to introduce you… Lieutenant Chet Adams.”
“In the Cadet Corps we initiate students into the Army way of life. Naturally, there’s discipline and hard work involved.”
“As I was saying… there’s also career training and a chance for college scholarships. I hope you sign up and see what you can be in today’s Army. Hope I’ll be seeing some of you soon.”
“I’m giving you a month’s worth of Saturday detention.”
“Nah uh. THIRTY Saturdays.”
“Thirty Saturdays?! Sir, can we negotiate? Hey I’ll wash your car!”
“The last time you washed my car you flooded the inside.”
“Hmmm, maybe there IS something you can do. I wanna see this Cadet Corps succeed here SO… you sign up, no detention.”
“You mean all I hafta do is join that Mickey Mouse Army?”
“That’s right. Oh, that and one other little request. We need a full class for the program so it’s your job to get ‘em.”
The next day Zack went to the Max, the local Bayside High hangout, to recruit and assemble a full class. Employing his natural charisma and used car salesman tactics, Zack recruited enough students save for one. He needed one last sucker… and that’s when his best friend entered the Max.
“Hey Screech! You wanna know how to get Molly? By being a REAL MAN.”
“That’s right. Wait til Molly sees you… in a uniform.”
“Count me in, Zack! I’ll be ALL that I can be!”
The next week Zack and his friends waited for the first official Cadet Corps class to begin. As they waited for Lieutenant Chet Adams to arrive, they began discussing among themselves what the experience might be like.
“I hope I can handle this and have a chance at that college scholarship.”
“Ah stop worrying, Kelly. Would I be in this class if it weren’t a snap?”
And that’s when the Lieutenant walked in…
“Weeeell, it’s nice to see such a good turn out. Now I want you guys to relax, enjoy yourselves, and I’m sure we’re going to have a good time.”
*Turns around, back facing audience*
*Turns to face audience*
“Oh it’s gonna be plenty of fun… FOR ME. MAKE THAT ONE HUNDRED.”
“But sir, I can’t do that many push ups.”
“Oh that’s OK. I have all day to watch you try.”
The next day Zack showed up to class but something was missing…
“Well, I’m afraid my ARMS can’t take any more of your BIG plans, sir.”
The Lieutenant made the big announcement later that day in class.
“The highlight of every Cadet Corps program is an athletic competition. It helps develop physical skills, teamwork, and it’s the Army’s way of separating the men from the boys.”
“I mean, the persons from the persons. Better now, Ms. Spano?”
“Now, there will be a red team and a blue team. I’ve already picked the leaders for the two teams: AC Slater and Zack Morris. I’ve given Cadet Morris the responsibility of choosing the teams.”
“Alright, we’ll start first with the red team. When I call your name, step forward. Alan, Screech, hmmm, Lisa, Louise. OK, you guys are with Slater.”
“Jessie, Kelly, Butch and Rocco, you guys are with me on the blue team… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!“
“Yeah for WHAT — THE NERD BOWL?!“
Later that day Zack and Slater began practicing with their own teams. Zack, the red team. Slater, the blue team. The blue team was a well-oiled machine. The red team on the other hand…
“Left… left, left, right, left… company HALT. Alan, I said halt!”
“I thought you said MALT! And I’m thirsty from all this moving about.”
“Alright team, get it together. Come on. About-FACE!”
Maybe Zack’s red team could salvage the obstacle course. Then again…
“OK guys, let’s do something right this time alright. Let’s go guys!”
“Red team ready, GO.”
Zack flew through the tires. His teammates however fell flat on their faces.
“Great, JUST great. I am NEVER gonna win with a bunch of losers like you. You guys are the worst clumsiest bunch of goofs I’ve ever seen! I QUIT!“
Zack tore off his red armband and stormed off. After school that day his best friend Screech dropped by.
“Oh but we’re getting better. Alan even got his uniform off without ripping it.”
“I don’t get it, Zack. You’re the one who talked us into joining the Corps. And now you’re quitting it all just because you’re not on the best team?”
“Yeah that’s about it. Because the Corps is stupid.”
“But you said the Corps would make me the kind of man Molly would want.”
“You know Zack… ever since we were little… I looked up to you. You had everything. And I always wanted to be like you. Now I’m glad I’m not.”
Screech left the room and left Zack to ruminate. The next day…
“I want another chance. Please let me back in, sir.”
“That’s not for me to decide. Maybe they don’t want you back.”
“Alright, I let all you guys down and I called you losers. You know what, I was wrong. The only real loser on this team… was me.”
“We’ll have to talk this over…”
“Look guys, I think we need him DESPERATELY.”
“Welcome back, buddy.”
Not only was Zack back, but so too the athletic competition. Tied two wins a piece, the big Tug-O-War finale would determine the winner. Alas…
“Since the rope broke, this is the tie breaking event… the super obstacle course. Each team will choose one man… I mean, ONE PERSON… to compete.”
“Very good, Lieutenant.”
“I’m trying, Ms. Spano.”
“NOPE. There’s someone else here who can beat him...”
“ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!? You saw what happened last time!”
“Yeah, I can’t beat Butch. We’ll lose!“
“Runners, take your position.”
“Alright Screech you can do it!”
Both Butch and Screech shot off like two cannons being fired into the dark cold night. In the end, it was Screech who crossed the finish line first. No one could believe it. No one except Zack Morris. Molly came over to greet Screech with a kiss in the winner’s circle, and everyone filed out of the hallway except for Zack and the Lieutenant.
As I stood there saluting the class as if I were looking into the eyes of the Lieutenant himself, the class gave me a roaring ovation that sent chilling goosebumps up and down my spine. I sat down and right away one girl said, “That was so unexpected and awesome. I loved that show when I was a kid and I felt like those characters were right in front of me!” I saw many of my classmates nodding and smiling in agreement, and I can’t tell you how great that felt. The professor had this to add. “Steven, that was an INCREDIBLE one man show you just put on for us. Thank you, I enjoyed it very much.”
Remember Sean? Bill Murray meets Seth Rogen? The next week he told me, “You know Steve, I’ve never cared to watch Saved By The Bell before. But the other day it came on TBS and I just had to watch it because of your story. I couldn’t believe how accurately you replicated the characters, especially Zack. It was your voice, facial expressions and mannerisms… I thought I was watching YOU on the show!”
So what was my third and last story of the semester? I’d love to share that here but this is already at 5,000+ words! I’ll save my third and final story for next time. See you soon at the Bayside High reunion!
In addition, check out the link above for an exclusive interview I conducted with Cylk Cozart back in the summer of 2009. He had some interesting stories to share… from what life in the ’60s was like to his one episode cameo in Saved By The Bell to White Men Can’t Jump and much more.
Today (January 15, 2019) would have marked Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday. A prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, Martin lived a rich and fulfilling life. He helped to stir about change in our country and his dream lives on today in the hearts and minds of many. I’m a fan of great speeches. When certain words are strung together in a way that flow majestically, it can really resonate deeply with me and touch me to my very core. With that said, one of my favorite speeches that has flown under the radar came from Mr. USA Tony Atlas. I’m proud to replicate his 2006 WWE Hall of Fame speech. Damn was 2006 a great year for speeches (see Bret Hart and Mean Gene Okerlund). I loved Tony’s speech so much that I used parts of it in a graduate course I took in 2007 when I had to play out a patriotic role. The class gave me a standing ovation and thought I was crazy for coming up with something so extravagant on the fly, but truth be told I had seen Tony’s speech probably a dozen times on my Wrestlemania 22 DVD by that point. They even nominated me for an Oscar Anyway, without further ado, please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, TONY ATLAS!
Known for his incredible strength and astonishing agility, Tony Atlas is one of the most impressive physical specimens in the world of professional wrestling. A former Mr. USA, Atlas is one of the first body builders to ever enter the wrestling industry.
In the mid 1970s, Atlas made a name for himself in the NWA. After Atlas muscled his way through the NWA, it was on to the World Wide Wrestling Federation. It was there that Mr. USA became a nationally known superstar, competing against legends such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Mr. Wonderful, Big John Studd and Sgt. Slaughter. Atlas also had memorable matches against Hulk Hogan, even press slamming the “Immortal One.” Tony takes pride in the fact that he was never pinned by the Hulkster.
The highlight of his career came in 1983. Tony Atlas and his partner, Rocky Johnson, made history. By defeating the Wild Samoans, Mr. USA and Rocky Johnson became the first superstars of African American descent to win a tag team championship in the World Wrestling Federation.
Tony Atlas is a leader in the world of power lifting, an icon in the world of body building, and a legend in the world of professional wrestling. Tonight we are proud to welcome in the WWE Hall of Fame, Mr. USA Tony Atlas.
King: In this business, you’re lucky if you find that special tag team partner. Here to induct Tony Atlas tonight is his former tag partner and best friend, Special Delivery Jones!
Tonight I’m here to induct my best friend, Tony Atlas.
Tony Atlas and I met 1980, in Allentown, Pennsylvania… long time ago. We talked, we became very close friends, and we decided to talk to office, maybe we could become tag team partners. Finally, they turned us wide open. Tony Atlas and I became one of the best tag teams, that time, around Pennsylvania, New York, Baltimore, Maryland — all the way around Maryland. Anyway, let me get there… I’m getting excited, excuse me.
Tony said to me, “SD, we need the straps.” I said, “OK, we have to wrestle Saito and Mr. Fuji.” We tried and we tried and we tried. I could not do it. I was the one that killed the tag.
So, I had to step aside. When I stepped aside, Rocky Johnson came to town. They became the first African Americans to ever win the WWE tag team championship. I think I did the right thing, because I couldn’t carry the load and Rocky Johnson was a better partner… BUT… I made a mistake. It didn’t last 3 weeks. They fought, they fought, they had mistakes, they had problems. And I had to push Rocky away and I went back to Atlas. We became partners again.
We traveled the world. Tony and I were in Spain at one time. I saw some body builders doing some stuff in a gym. I asked them where is the gym where all the power lifters are? They told us it was in another town, I can’t remember the name right now but anyway… we flew all the way to Barcelona… listen to me, Barcelona — JUST to meet those guys.
Tony Atlas and I flew there, six hours it took. When we got there they brought the Olympic lifters to meet us. They say they wrestlers they suppose to be strong. Tony Atlas says to me “Bossman” — he calls me Bossman a lot — “I’m hungry.” I said, “We not gonna eat, we have to do this, we have to represent WWE.” He said, “OK Bossman.”
We got in there and I did my little 510 pounds. Think I was a big shot, that’s what I thought. They pushed me aside. Tony says, “Bossman, stand behind me.” When Tony got on the bench ladies and gentlemen, he lifted SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY pounds and all the guys — they took off.
I didn’t stop there. We went on to Vienna, Austria. I found out where they were lifting also. I went in, I said to them, “I have a man here who can OUTLIFT EVERYBODY.”
They said, “No wrestlers can outlift us. We are Olympic.”
I said, “OK my brother.”
I brought in Tony.
I said, “Tony sit down, rest yourself.”
Tony went up again. He started off with 400 pounds, went all the way up to SIX HUNDRED and TWENTY POUNDS. And one of the guys said, “He IS an Olympic lifter!”
I didn’t stop. We went on to Egypt for WWE — those are the places that we went FOR THIS OFFICE.
When we got to Egypt one guy told me that we have to go to Cairo, on the other side of the river, which they say is the Nile. I said we are going to do it. I got a bus, I pay the guy, we went over.
I said “No, I want to show the world that Tony Atlas is one of the best we ever had in this business.”
When I got there there were lifters, lifters from the Olympics. One of the guys looked at us and said, “I saw this guy in a book some place, they call him Mr. USA right?”
Tony went on the bench and Tony did SIX HUNDRED and THIRTY-FIVE pounds, walked away. He said “Bossman, I’m hungry.”
I didn’t stop there. He said, “SD, when are you going to stop? Bossman stop it.” I said I’ll stop, but I didn’t.
We went to Norway for this office — this WWE office — those are the places that we went together, doing what we love.
We were pioneers. “Tony, just call yourself a pioneer for WWE” — that’s what I told him.
In Norway I met some guys. They said they weren’t too good, we got a gym and all. One guy went up to 600 pounds and stopped. I told Tony, “Please don’t do it, please don’t. He has all his family here…”
Tony did SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY pounds and we walked away.
He looked at me, “You gonna stop. If you don’t stop, Bossman, I’m gonna pop you one of these.”
We were very very close friends, we are still very close. We call each other like 3, 4 times a month just talking about LIFE. Tony is one of the greatest in our business. He won the Atlantic championship, he won tag team championship. He won the championship in Puerto Rico, he is one of the best we ever had in our business.
And he did not stop there. He went on to do bodybuilding and won the Mr. USA contest. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I’m honored. Tony, tonight your name will be with the best of the best in our business and the Hall of Fame. Congratulations my brother, and God Bless you.
Tony Atlas makes his way out to the sold out capacity crowd at the huge Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois.
The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, gives Tony Atlas a nudge nudge wink wink.
WEEELL… first of all, I like to uh… I like to thank… the wrestling fans.
Because, without you fans, there be no Hulk Hogan…. *crowd cheers*
There be no Ric Flair…. *crowd cheers twice as loud*
There be no Tony Atlas… there be nothing. You guys — I have been to arenas where the snow is up to my hip — wrestling fans come out to see it. I been down in Florida with one of the greatest wrestlers and a very good friend of mine by the name of Dusty Rhodes the American Dream *crowd cheers*
I been in Mid Atlantic with another great wrestler by the name of Ric Flair — the Nature Boy *crowd cheers*
I had the honor of wrestling Olympic champion Ken Patera *minor applause*
I had the honor of matching STRENGTH with the man that HAD the 23 inch guns — SUPERSTARBilly Graham!
You KNOW… what I gonna say right now is from the heart, because it’s probably my last time for saying anything to such wonderful people.
But my mother, Beatrice James White, gave birth to NINE kids. Worked TWO jobs. They called it a SPLIT SHIFT. She got up in the morning went to work at 7 O’Clock, work until 2 went back at 4 worked until 11. I’m from Virginia, raised up in the SLAVE SHACK where we didn’t have wooden floors — we had dirt on the floors. I got up and scrubbed dirt floors. We didn’t have dishes in the house; my mother brought home newspaper, dumped food on the newspaper, we sat there and ate… with no dishes in the house.
I graduated from high school with the same pair of pants I started school with. We were DIRT POOR. But I was BLESSED. Because, regardless of if you born in a mansion on the HILL, or you born in the SLAVE SHACK in Virginia… I was born in the greatest country in the history — the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
And EVEN THOUGH… even though they say that Mr. USA represent body building… when the people WAVED THEM AMERICAN FLAGS… when the people hollered U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A… I feel PRRROOOOUD to be an American!
And if you APPLY yourself, if you work hard, keep your nose clean and do as you’re told, and really really put forth a good effort, in the United States of America I don’t care where you was born, or how you came up, or what color you are, or what race you are, or what GENDERyou are, you can make it because YOU ARE… in the UNITED States of AMERICA!
*crowd goes absolutely nuts*
And IN THE UNITED States of America I met a very good friend by the name of SD Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, and the list go on and on and on but right now I want to give a special thank — y’all folk don’t know this but I don’t mind telling you because I AM in America and I AIN’T ASHAMED OF NUTTHIN’!
I want this lady right here to stand up. Stand up, Monica, please darling.
Now, in 1989 I found myself homeless… I made a lot of money but as the old timers say, “It ain’t what you made it’s what you saved.” I shoulda listen.
Because my mother always told me, “A hard head makes a soft behind.” I shoulda listen to mom… ‘coz she always say “Don’t lemme tell you again BOY!”
This lady took in a homeless man… fed him, didn’t know who I were.
She took in a homeless man, fed him, built him back up, and educated him. Now I’m a certified personal trainer because of this lady here.
And I’m gonna say something else I DON’T CARE who don’t like it. 3 months later Vince McMahon called me… and made me some money, get me back on my feet. Thank you Mr. McMahon I don’t care WHO DON’T LIKE IT!
Being a professional wrestler was the greatest thing that ever happened to a poor ol’ Virginia boy, raised up in the sticks of Virginia, with nothing to eat. But I’m not complaining now, because I love my ham hock and beans. More so than them steaks and them lobsters — what them little snails y’all guys eat — that Escargot stuff? Now if y’all be eating that then don’t be making fun of MAH BEANS.
And one day somebody asked my wife, “Why you marry Tony Atlas?” She said, “He makes good pork chops!” *blinks while crowd laughs*
Anyway, I don’t want to take much more time. From the bottom of my heart, I love all the people in the wrestling business. I love all the great fans that made the wrestling business, because without you fans there would be none of us.
And all I got to say is God bless each and every one of you. And always remember, you live in the greatest country in the history of the world — U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A! Thank you!
Another wildly entertaining and inspiring speech, one can learn a lot from Tony’s life experiences. There is a lot of crap that goes on in this world but at the end of the day, I like to believe in the goodness of the human race. Of course there’s a select handful that tries to ruin it for everybody else, but stories like Tony’s warms my heart. How Monica, a completely random stranger, took in a homeless man, fed him, gave him shelter and rebuilt him from the ground up. Amazing tales like this remind me that genuine kindness and compassion — even in the smallest way — goes a long way.
Earlier this week, the wrestling world was saddened by the loss of Eugene Arthur Okerlund (1942-2019). Better known to wrestling fans worldwide as Mean Gene Okerlund, Mean Gene was one of a kind. He was one of my favorite personalities in the wacky world of professional wrestling. I have so many fond memories of him conducting interviews with guys like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and the list goes on and on. Hearing of his passing at age 76 was like losing a small part of my childhood. He meant a lot to me and millions of other fans who grew up on late ’80s and early ’90s WWF. To honor his legacy, I’ve transcribed his WWE Hall of Fame induction speech from 2006. Enjoy.
MEAN GENE OKERLUND HALL OF FAME SPEECH APRIL 1, 2006
Please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, Hulk Hogan!
When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside… You gotta take a stand; it don’t help to hide!
Um, it was really great to be in the back and come up to Gene Okerlund…
Alright you guys. Um, it, it was really great to be in the back and shake Mean Gene’s hand and say hello to him…
Aw, aw stop it! I knew I’d get you guys to shut up. No, thank you very much.
*Crowd massively pops*
You think uh, Austin could handle the power of HULKAMANIA?
*Crowd boos a bit*
ANYWAY, tonight guys, it’s a great night because I finally got a chance to shake Mean Gene’s hand and give him a hug in the back. Because usually, we’re on the run. And for 20 years, whenever I see Mean Gene, it was always last minute running.
Trying to put the headband on my bald head, slide in front of the microphone…
*Crowd goes bonkers*
That’s how we usually hooked up. But tonight I’m here to uh, induct Mean Gene into the Hall of Fame.
And I’d love to tell you a bunch of stories, but I don’t think uh, it would be really appropriate for today’s day and age.
But anyway, Mean Gene started in this business when he was 16 years old. He started uh, in radio. And soon after he started in radio in the Twin Cities he moved right on to TV. And uh, at that time I was just getting ready to get started in the business. Just thinking about being a wrestler and had no idea that Mean Gene and myself would become very, very close friends.
Anyway, in 1980 I had a little run here in the WWE. I worked for Vince Senior, Vince’s dad, and had a great time here.
And after my little run here, I went to the AWA. Mr. Verne Gagne promoted and ran that company.
And that’s where Verne and Greg started dialing me in to what Hulkamania was all about. Teaching me how to work like Hulk Hogan and get it together in the ring.
During that time I became very good friends with Mean Gene. I had no idea back then how close we would be today.
We started running around the Twin Cities. I was single at the time. Mean Gene would show me where all the parties were. We would go to all the rock and roll clubs. Stay out til the wee hours in the mornings til the sun came up. And as the days went by, we became closer and closer friends.
Then I got a call from Vince McMahon, and I had a chance to come back to the WWE, and I begged Mean Gene Okerlund to come with me. And thank God he came. Because at that time, the WWE was going through a huge transition. It was basically going from a very small territorial wrestling company…
… around New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts… to this huge conglomerate that covered the globe.
And Mean Gene — a lot of you fans don’t understand — was like the FOUNDATION of this company.
He was there for the interviews, he was there for the wrestlers like myself that at certain times wouldn’t know what to say or what direction to go in. And Gene Okerlund basically worked harder than the wrestlers, traveling and sometimes you know, spent a lot more time on the road and in different hotel rooms doing interviews, because we used to do interviews on a daily basis.
I had an opportunity when I was in the Twin Cities actually to get Mean Gene in the ring with me. And I had no idea that as I was trying to get Mean Gene in the ring as my tag team partner, he was more popular than the wrestlers at that time because he had been in the Twin Cities and he basically was the face of professional wrestling.
We had a chance when we came to the WWE to get things up and rolling, and Mean Gene became the VOICE of professional wrestling. Everywhere you turned, there was another wrestler standing there.
And if Mean Gene wasn’t there conducting the interview, it kinda wasn’t the same.
So not only was Gene like a life support for Hulkamaniaand myself — LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!! — everybody else such as Bret the Hitman Hart*crowd pops massively* and a lot of the guys in this room, they depended on Mean Gene to help them a lot in the interviews.
He was a HUGE part of this transition… from the small wrestling era to the huge arena of sports entertainment. You guys take a look here and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
It’s my honor to have Mean Gene as a friend, and now it’s a greater honor to induct Mean Gene to the Hall of Fame… Mean Gene!
All you’re gonna be is a prop in the corner, and you’re not even gonna have to get in the ring with George the Animal Steele or Mr. Fuji.
Well he got in there, cleaned house, came over, gave me a hi-five.
Each and every one of these guys, and gals, can stand out there and cut one hell of a promo. I can be there as a prop with a microphone and throw in a question now and then, but they know how to get the job done. And I’ve had some very unique experiences through the years… which I’d like to share with you.
I think, uh, Bobby the Brain Heenan, we’ve gone through it all.
Taking a look at that hair… on that package we just saw, I’m glad I went bald!*Crowd laughs*
Verne Gagne… Verne Gagne started me out in April of 1971.
Verne, I learned a whole lot from you. Greg Gagne and the class of ’72, with Jim Brunzell and Brockwinkel and all of the great stars of the AWA.
You deserve recognition — finally getting it — welcome to the Hall of Fame.
The Iron Sheik… who uh… you go to work and you’re entertained *crowd laughs*
There was a promotion — I don’t know who came up with it — it’s called The Great Turkey Tournament. And it happened around Thanksgiving time, as usual. And all of a sudden, Howard Finkel got this turkey up in Groton, Connecticut. We were doing interviews in New Haven. He brought the turkey back in a cage. I did interviews with Paul Orndorff, Dusty Rhodes and everybody else.
Howard had to send uh, one of the boys back up to Groton, Connecticut to the turkey farm to get another bird.
AND SPEAKING OF BIRDS… what about that COCKAMAMIE… Gobbledy Gooker?!
No that uh, that was quite an evening. All of a sudden we touted this big, huge EGGup to Hartford, Connecticut for the Survivor Series.
And when it finally cracked open, here comes a knockoff of the San Diego Chicken… the Gobbledy Gooker.
Couple of guys by the name of Hillbilly Jim, Cousin Junior… OH, Uncle Elmer!
Great, great interview here. I start the interview out with Hillbilly Jim. He gives us a little bit of his own music. And finally he turns it over to Uncle Elmer.
Now I’m down on my knees. And he’s got a handkerchief on the back of his overalls which he’s had for two months.
*Crowd goes WOOOO!*
Ric… everybody’s talked about Ric Flair.
Ric Flair I saw as a BOUNCER in a bar… not that I went to many bars…
But he was there with Kenny Patera… in the Twin Cities. Then of course uh, he went to Verne Gagne’s camp, and cranking it up. And that was the beginning of the Nature Boy.
Finally ended up with a career in dancing… the robe, the bar.
I’ve seen it coast to coast, and border to border and EVEN INTERNATIONALLY!
We were doing a market specific, which was an interview that would only air in Cleveland, Ohio.
I can’t think of a better town. The great fans here. The Browns, the Cavaliers, at that time the Cleveland Barons. I mean THEY HAD IT ALL. And I said the people in Cleveland are fantastic.
Those teams are all losers. The people here don’t have any personality. They’re all ugly. And uh, he says quite candidly, I CAN’T STAND THEM.
I take a look back at the years that we’ve been active with this Hall of Fame.
And I gotta tell ya, I’ve played golf with a guy by the name of Carlton Fisk of the baseball Hall of Fame, and this…*crowd pops*… and this… this honor here tonight ABSOLUTELY THRILLS ME.
This month I’ll be 35 years… in announcing professional wrestling… in one fashion or another.
… wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Jeanne… *crowd pops* down there somewhere.
The behind-the-scenes people. They are the LIFEBLOOD of this great entertainment mecca.
And I will say this… I’ve been PROUD to be a part of the WWE and professional wrestling for 35 years. And I’m gonna do it for another 35 — if at all possible.
Superstar Billy Graham, I encourage signing up for ORGAN DONATION.
*Crowd cheers* Thank you. I got a couple of them here. That whiskey’s a little tough on them but…
… you gotta get the right one from a trainer. You know what I’m saying?
Mean Gene Okerlund will be missed but never forgotten. He left a lasting imprint on not just my childhood but countless others who grew up watching WWF in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A true legend in every sense of the word, they broke the mold when they made Gene Okerlund. There’ll never be another one, that’s for damn sure. A tip of the cap to you, Gene. Rest in Power and thanks for all the fun memories.
Friday. August 5, 2016. One of the most memorable days of my life. It was the last week of my summer break and I had to end it with a bang. And that I did. I drove hundreds of miles to Alhambra, California, to visit my childhood best friend. Nelson and I go way back. We met in Kindergarten and were best friends through 7th grade, but then my family moved in 1996 and things were never quite the same. Yet despite it all, we remained in touch throughout the years. Nelly and I share a special bond. We may go weeks, months and sometimes even years without talking, but as soon as we get back in touch it’s like we never left. Those are the best! Little did I know when I left my house to go visit Nelson in LA that he only lived 3 miles away from many of the filming locations of the 1978 classic, Halloween.
The initial plan was just to reconnect with my childhood best friend and go to Disneyland to hang out with Mickey Mouse. How serendipitous it was, then, to find Michael Myers unexpectedly lurking in Nelly’s backyard! Nelson and I were literally running down the streets of “Haddonfield” (AKA South Pasadena) hunting the Boogeyman — we were not only chasing a piece of our past but we were living it up in the present while looking forward to the future. When all the cosmic forces in the universe magically collide like that, it makes for the absolute best memories.
Hunting the Boogeyman indeed! There Nelson and I sat admiring the sights and sounds of Haddonfield. We fondly reminisced about our childhood memories growing up watching the Halloween movies together and a more innocent time of our lives. It was just what the doctor ordered to end summer with a bang and look forward to what the next chapter of our lives would bring. It’s funny how that works, eh?
Jump to October 2018. Fall break was fast approaching as was the release of the new Halloween movie, which was rapidly racking up rave reviews. Since I had the week off from teaching, I decided to capitalize on a once in a lifetime opportunity. Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark was doing a 40th Anniversary bus tour of Halloween. Sure, I had seen many of the locations just two years prior, but this was the 40th Anniversary! No way was I gonna miss that, especially with it perfectly landing during my 10 day fall break. This was all in addition to attending the 40th Anniversary Halloween Convention. Without further ado, here are some pictures and memories from that awesome weekend.
Going with Nelson would have been perfect but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. He left to Thailand for the month to visit some family and since I left on a Thursday (October 11, 2018), everyone else was working. So it was the first solo trip of my life. They say everyone should experience a solo vacation at least once in their lives. I don’t know if this qualifies per se, but I’ll take it. It was a blast and a weekend getaway that I will always cherish and remember. I slept at America’s Best Value Inn. It wasn’t the most lavish of places but it sufficed for a 2 night stay.
I left Thursday morning and hit Pasadena around 5:30 PM. After unwinding for 10 minutes in my room, I went out to grab an early dinner. The long drive had me feeling hungry as a mofo.
There were lots of cool Halloween decorations lighting up the darkening streets of South Pasadena.
Back in 2016 when I visited Nelson, he took me to Shakey’s Pizza Palor and I have been craving it ever since. It’s just pizza, fried chicken and potato wedges but damn did it hit the spot 2 years ago. So I had to come back.
Mmm, so good. I wish there was a Shakey’s where I live. I ate a few slices and took the rest to go.
I then spent the better part of 3 hours texting a new lady friend before crashing for the evening…
Here we are getting ready to pass by the now defunct All American Burger from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Good times.
Here’s the infamous spot from Halloween II where Michael Myers bumped into the boombox guy. After hearing the news that Laurie Strode has been admitted to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, Michael Myers is once more on the move.
I took a seat at the bar and chatted with Craig. He asked what all the commotion was for. I told him it was a bus tour celebrating 40 years of Halloween. “Shit, it’s been 40 years already?” He took the rest of the work day off to start his weekend early to drink It was nice chatting with the locals.
America… a precious land where dozens and dozens of horror movie fans can gather to take pictures standing half obscured by a 7 foot tall hedge. God bless America indeed.
I’ve heard the hype for Shake Shack for years now, and finally I had a chance to try it out for myself.
There’s something about driving around LA at night playing all the old hits. I blasted Jackson Browne’s Somebody’s Baby as I drove up and down West LA. It was so damn peaceful and beautiful. The cool night air smacking my face as I left all my worries behind. Really transported me back to the ’80s. I felt like I was going to see Damone at the next light!
I eventually made my way back to the hotel and ended up texting a new lady friend for 4 hours before finally crashing…
After parking and taking the elevator down, I ran into Crystal. She flew in from St. Louis and we became Convention buddies for the day Shout out to Crystal. It was fun walking around the Convention and hanging out!
I had a blast roaming around in LA hunting the Boogeyman once more. Although Nelson was out of the country and unable to make it, I still made the most of it. Met a bunch of cool Halloween fans and we just got to live out our fandom and toast to 40 friggin’ years. Not many movies carry with it such a legacy and fanbase as John Carpenter’s Halloween. Best of all, I’ll also remember this trip as the weekend I really hit it off with my new lady friend, who is now currently my girlfriend. We spent 7 hours texting Thursday and Friday night while I was in LA laying in my hotel bed. We had our first date on Sunday (the day I drove back from LA). The next week we went to see the new Halloween (fittingly so) and it just went from there. So yeah, I’ll always look back on that weekend fondly. It was well worth the long drive and expenses I paid to make it happen. What else can I say but thanks for all the memories and long live Halloween!
October is quite possibly my favorite month of the year. Fall is one of my favorite seasons thanks to its darkening late afternoons, the soothing sound of leaves crunching beneath your sneakers and bundling up with horror movies galore. And my favorite horror movie of all time also happens to be one of my favorite holidays: HALLOWEEN. I have many fond memories of the holiday, but I’ve always wanted to write an article exclusively featuring the Halloween film franchise. What better night than tonight, Halloween 2018, to get that started once and for all? So light up your pumpkins, turn off the lights, grab a cold drink and kick back with me as we stroll down memory lane. But beware — the Boogeyman may be lurking right around that dark corner…
MY HALLOWEEN ORIGINS
It all began innocently enough in 1989 when my uncle took me to a local mom and pop rental store. We frequented the small humble establishment of Video Mart on many nights, but this night proved to be one for the ages. The cover of Halloween immediately resonated with me. Despite the knife posing in a very volatile way, my 6 year old self imagined an epic movie about trick or treating. I was sold like a cheap hooker on a sordid Saturday night. Uncle Jimmy, being a super rad uncle and all, obliged and I spent the whole movie behind the couch watching bits and pieces of it with my hands covering my eyes. That very night I had a nightmare of Michael Myers stalking me. The door creaked open ever so slowly, revealing the ghastly sight of the Shape standing there in the doorway. That cold and blank mask burned a hole through my soul as I laid there in bed paralyzed. I became a fan for life from that point on. Go figure, right?
A little over 40 years ago, John Carpenter and friends changed the entire horror genre when Halloween landed and became a smash success. Initially, it flopped as critics were harsh. But soon word of mouth spread and critics started giving it more favorable reviews. It took off like a speeding bullet and never looked back. So what made the original Halloween so damn captivating?
The plot was simple and perfect. A masked maniac escapes a sanitarium the night before Halloween. He was admitted 15 years prior for brutally stabbing his sister to death when he was 6 years old in 1963 on a cold Halloween night. Now, exactly 15 years later in 1978, evil roams the streets once again. The Boogeyman began stalking and murdering babysitters on Halloween night in the sleepy suburbs of Haddonfield. It struck a chord with viewers because Haddonfield was essentially “Anytown, USA.” It felt like Halloween could happen on any street in America, including your very own. And there’s something very harrowing about that.
In Jaws, you’re not safe only when you’re in the water. In Friday the 13th, you’re not safe only when you visit Camp Crystal Lake. But in Halloween, you’re not safe anywhere… not even in your own backyard. It’s the idea that the Boogeyman could be hiding in the shadows as you take out the trash or that he may be lurking in that dark corner of your garage…
Michael Myers was a brilliant antagonist, and continues to stand the test of time 40 years later. A silent and swift killer, “The Shape” is a relentless force of nature. That William Shatner mask painted white is iconic and forever part of horror movie lore. For my money, Michael Myers is still the quintessential Boogeyman and the best villain the horror genre has ever produced. No one else comes close.
Who could ever forget that classic opening shot with young Michael’s point of view? There was an eerie and uneasy feeling to this continuous tracking shot as viewers were put in the deranged shoes of Michael, stalking his sister and watching from the shadows, before ultimately stabbing her to a gruesome death.
The shot ends with Michael’s parents coming back to the house, lifting Michael’s clown mask off in the driveway and staring at him in utter disbelief. Young Michael’s blank and emotionless face added to the creepiness. It was as if a silent alarm went off in his head, triggering him to commit a most heinous act. The camera cranes back as the chilling piano theme playing in the background picks up its cadence, perfectly punctuating the moment. It was movie magic at its best. Halloween didn’t miss a single beat.
From that point on, the Myers house became the spook house. Growing up, it always felt like it was an urban legend that every little town has that one house where unspeakable horrors happen and kids are warned to stay far away from. Halloween hit on all these notes and did it better than any other horror movie.
The infamous theme was a huge key to its effectiveness. It resonates with audiences still to this day 40 years later.
Halloween was full of classic scenes and masterfully crafted shots that represented John Carpenter’s finest work.
And who could forget that iconic “chase scene” between Michael and Laurie Strode? Many horror movies have imitated it since in the past 4 decades, but there’s only one!
The great thing about Michael was that he didn’t just appear at night. He shows up plenty in the middle of the day. It really gave off the feeling that danger was lurking behind every corner.
Poor Laurie. For some unexplained reason, Michael set his sights on her and went on a relentless pursuit. Later sequels bogged things down by explaining how they were brother and sister, but the original did it best because the ambiguity made it effectively scary. After all, why do psychos go after the victims that they do? Nobody knows, sometimes not even the psychopaths themselves. And that’s what makes it so unsettling: it could happen to anyone. You could be going about your day innocently and innocuously enough when someone suddenly decides to make you their next target.
Halloween really is as close to being a perfect horror movie as one can get. It was really scary watching it as a kid and it has left an imprint on my soul, as it has to countless others. It’s somewhat of a slow burn — one that modern audiences watching it for the first time today may not quite get or appreciate — but that doesn’t take away from its greatness still. Michael Myers is the perfect villain and Jamie Lee Curtis played the perfect victim, bringing Laurie Strode to life. Donald Pleasence added further legitimacy to the film with his veteran acting chops in the fan favorite role of mad raving Dr. Loomis. John Carpenter’s classic Halloween theme was the icing on the cake. It’s one of the most iconic movie themes ever created. Back to the Future, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws… you can’t include such a list without Halloween firmly near if not at the very top. I give Halloween a perfect 10out of 10.
I caught Halloween II not terribly long after first watching the original in 1989. It was maybe around 1990 or 1991 that once again my uncle rented me the sequel. It picks up right after the events of the first film.
I love how Halloween II is a direct continuation of Halloween. We see a bewildered Dr. Loomis running out of the house. He stares at the bloody space where Michael’s body once laid. The blood dripping off his fingers indicates pure evil is on the loose. Then the next door neighbor pops out of his house and we get this memorable interaction:
Neighbor: What’s going on out here?
Loomis: Call the police! Tell the sheriff I shot him!
Loomis: Tell him, he’s still on the loose!
Neighbor: Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight.
Loomis: [looks at the blood on his hand] You don’t know what death is!
It was such a banging intro! I get chills whenever I see it. The music continues to play as the wicked looking pumpkin cracks open slowly to reveal a skull. I always thought this movie had more of a Halloween seasonal feel than the first one.
Indeed, Halloween II was an unsettling watch. In some ways, as a kid at least, I found the sequel even scarier than the classic original. Michael creeps around in the shadows a lot here, and now knowing that he’s some kind of unstoppable Boogeyman made him more dangerous than ever before.
One of my favorite scenes from the entire franchise. That’s a money shot right there. The reporter’s haunting last line lingers in the air right as Michael picks up the kitchen knife. Great stuff.
Following on the heels of 1980’s Friday the 13th and a host of other slashers that proliferated the early ’80s, Halloween II ups the violence, body count and chaos. Not to mention the budget, which jumped from 325,000 in the original to 2.5 million in the sequel. As a result, more costly scenes were staged. Poor Ben Tramer. He just wanted to get home from the Halloween party. And what the hell was a police officer thinking going 40, 45 MPH in a residential neighborhood on Halloween of all nights?! The ’80s… what a time to be alive (or not).
Most of the movie takes place at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, which hands down ranks as the creepiest hospital in the history of movies. After hearing the news on the radio that Laurie Strode has been transferred to Haddonfield Memorial, Michael Myers makes a beeline for the hospital.
There’s something naturally creepy about a dimly lit hospital with very few staff workers. Sure it’s not realistic in the least, but it made for one hell of a spooky setting.
Dark long hospital hallways, a lurking Boogeyman and a dreadful sense of isolation and despair made Halloween II a wonderfully atmospheric film.
The remixed chase theme makes my hair stand up on end…
There was something frightening about the way he simply walked through the glass window without so much as flinching a single muscle. He was robotic and relentless — the perfect killing machine. I could barely watch it as a kid.
Far from a perfect sequel, Halloween II nevertheless is more than serviceable. It pairs well with the original Halloween since it picks up directly following the events of the first film, which means both movies make for a nice little Halloween marathon. Laurie Strode’s character has understandably been nerfed but I found myself sometimes wishing she was written a little better and had more to do. Halloween II fails to recapture the success and magic of the original, but it’s a solid sequel especially when you compare it to the other sequels to come. I give it a very respectable 7.5 out of 10.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
I remember my dad renting this from Hollywood Video circa 1994. The cover intrigued me, as I thought a wicked witch would be the film’s main villain. And the idea of a killer witch on the prowl on Halloween night really captured my imagination. The cover had three spooky looking trick or treaters and I loved the tagline: The Night No One Comes Home. Very clever play off the first film’s tagline: The Night He Came Home. The witch looming over the kids was super sinister looking as well, and I loved the way they used the red shade to give it a really ominous aura. But when I actually saw the movie, I got something completely different. Not bad different, just it wasn’t what I expected. And at the time, being around 10 or so, I didn’t like different. I wanted Michael Myers or at the very least, a killer witch. I know it would be cliché but it would have fit Halloween so perfectly.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch marked a drastic change in the series. Michael Myers was nowhere to be found, other than a TV cameo, and the hope of the producers was to turn Halloween into an anthology series. It made sense on many levels but the critics killed it. No Michael, no mas.
However, taken on its own, this isn’t a bad horror movie. In fact, it’s garnered a bit of a cult following in the past 15 years or so. I haven’t watched it in nearly 25 years though, so I can’t accurately give it a rating.
HALLOWEEN 4: RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS
He’s baaaaaack. After a long grueling 7 year hiatus, and coming home in time for the 10 year anniversary, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was a nice return to basics. Haddonfield, Illinois. Sleepy suburbs. Halloween decorations. Dr. Loomis rambling and raving about evil. And of course, a certain deranged masked maniac.
Laurie Strode was written to have died in a car crash, and the new star of the show was her daughter, Jamie. Played by Danielle Harris, the movie revolves around her and Michael’s obsession to kill his niece.
The mask was a little weird looking to me but it’s a pretty solid sequel. The best thing it’s got going for it is atmosphere.
Sayer: You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it all right. Just like me.
Loomis: What are you hunting, Mr. Sayer?
Sayer: Apocalypse, end of the world, Armageddon. It’s always got a face and a name. *pause for a swig* I’ve been huntin’ the bastard for 30 years, give or take. Come close a time or two… too damn close. *pause for self-reflection, with slight head shake* You can’t kill damnation, mister. It don’t die like a man dies.
Michael was back to his lurking ways. The film is a little slow in spots, but there’s no denying it’s packed with atmosphere.
Rachel Carruthers was such a great character. She’s no Laurie Strode, but she made the absence of Jamie Lee Curtis a bit more bearable. Total girl next door vibe to Rachel and she was just cool as shit.
Halloween 4 ends ominously with Jamie pulling a 1963 Michael Myers. Dr. Loomis trying to shoot her at the bottom of the staircase as he screams “NOOO! NOOOO!!”was very unsettling to say the least. Halloween 4 has its share of blemishes but is a solid return to form, and many fans regard it as one of the better sequels in the franchise. I give Halloween 4 a 7 out of 10.
HALLOWEEN 5: REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS
It’s fitting that Halloween 5 was released on a Friday the 13th. Less than a year removed from Halloween 4, Halloween 5 was rushed into production and theatres. Critics were very harsh on it and Michael would disappear for 6 years following this “debacle.” Of course, your mileage may vary.
The dynamic duo of Jamie and Rachel return. Unfortunately, similar to her “mom” in Halloween II, Jamie is subdued and doesn’t talk for much in the film due to the trauma of last year’s events. I wish she wasn’t so limited. In another dumb decision, they killed off Rachel in the first act and the film heads downhill after that. Hey Rachel, Bryan Cranston from Godzilla says hi.
The good doc also returned. Loomis is perhaps crazier than ever, even threatening to offer up Jamie as bait. He’s pretty much a caricature at this point, but a beloved caricature nonetheless.
The film opens up with a hermit taking care of Michael… supposedly for the past year?! It’s a bit ridiculous, but I have to admit there’s a certain cheesy charm to it that I can appreciate. Of course, Halloween nears and the alarm in Michael’s deranged mind goes off. He grabs the mask…
Speaking of the mask, there’s been a lot of hate on the mask here. But I actually kind of like it. I like it more than the Halloween 4 mask, that’s for sure. Sometimes referred to as the “long neck” mask, it’s got a certain creepiness to it.
Speaking of masks, at one point Michael dons the “Brute” mask in a very chilling and effective scene. Though heavily flawed, Halloween 5 isn’t without some nice moments.
I remember the advertising for Halloween 5 being that audiences can now see Michael’s face. I always thought that funny since we sort of see his face back in the very first movie. Michael even cries in part 5. That’s just wrong.
Truth be told, it’s a guilty pleasure for me. I know it isn’t good, and it certainly represents a down point in the series. In fact, Michael would go dormant for 6 years following this critical and commercial flop (it was the lowest grossing Halloween film at just 11.6 million dollars). But for me at least, there’s a certain charm to it that I sort of dig (and embrace). It’s got this European Gothic vibe to it and it’s pretty creepy in a few spots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely one of the weaker entries in the franchise but I don’t find it nearly as unwatchable as many do. I give Halloween 5 a 5 out of 10.
HALLOWEEN 6: CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
Halloween 6 has a messy backstory. It went through many script revisions and studio issues. The theatrical version is a plodding mess, but I quite liked the Producer’s Cut. Originally titled Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers, one day someone jokingly pitched The Curse of Michael Myers because the film felt cursed and was one big headache. The joke stuck and that became the subtitle of the film. Fun fact: Pink Panther and Halloween are the only franchises to have the subtitles of Return, Revenge and Curse. And why oh why the release date of September 29? Could they not have waited at least one more week if not two? I guess it’s fitting; it’s a sign that this movie was full of questionable choices.
I do like certain parts of Halloween 6, though. Especially the Producer’s Cut. It’s full of Halloween atmosphere and it was just nice to see Michael again after a 6 year hiatus.
The remix theme is badass! I like how it has sort of this violent techno vibe to it. Really differentiates it from the other versions.
A young Paul Rudd played Tommy Doyle, the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the original film. This was before his breakout performance in Clueless, which came out before Halloween 6 despite Halloween 6 being filmed first. Michael Myers vs. Ant-Man… an interesting thought indeed.
This was Donald Pleasance’s final appearance in the Halloween franchise, as the 75 year old veteran actor died in February of 1995. There were a ton of reshoots that took place following his death. It’s sad that he had to go out in this way, but part of me feels perhaps he wouldn’t have it any other way: fighting Michael to the bitter end.
Halloween 6 was universally panned at the box office. Made on a budget of 6 million, it only grossed 15 million and we wouldn’t see Michael for another 3 years. I dislike the theatrical version but I am a fan of the Producer’s Cut, even if it is still somewhat of a jumbled mess. I was never keen on the whole Thorn mythology that parts 4, 5 and 6 adopted but I do like the Halloween atmosphere of part 6. I rate the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 a 7.5 out of 10.
Other than its nonsensical release date, I’m a fan of Halloween: H20. This was the big 20th anniversary bash for Halloween and its original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, was back in the fold. Sure, it’s a bit teeny boppy and it has some of that Scream spirit to it, but it was a fun sequel and a satisfying end to the series (until it wasn’t, of course).
Featuring then teen heart throb Josh Harnett and Michelle Williams from the hit TV show Dawson’s Creek, it was clear which audience H20 was catering to.
It also featured LL Cool J, who was the first African American in the series since Gloria Glifford portrayed Mrs. Alves, a no-nonsense charge nurse at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in Halloween II (way back in 1981). LL Cool J was a huge hip hop star and he did a great job as Ronnie, stealing each scene he was in.
Nancy played Nurse Chambers in the first two Halloween films.
A really nice scene occurs when Janet Leigh shows up. She was Jamie Lee Curtis’ real life mom, and the star actress of Psycho (the original horror film many like to call it). She even throws in the clever line “If I may be maternal for a moment…” this was a nice wink and nod to the diehard fans out there.
I love how Laurie Strode fights back and confronts her monster. She was a real badass in this one.
I remember catching H20 in theatres with my uncle and friend. I really liked it. Upon repeated viewings though, there are a few areas that could have used improvement. But overall, it’s a fun ride that’s well paced and gives us a mostly satisfying finale. It’s perhaps a bit too teeny boppy but it was nice to see Michael back in the limelight making a killing at the box office. H20 raked in a cool 55 million dollars. I rate Halloween: H20 a 7.5 out of 10.
Halloween Resurrection is often considered as the worst entry of the franchise (when not counting the Rob Zombie versions). Jamie Lee Curtis returns for an awkward cameo where she apparently dies like nothing within the first 10 minutes or so. It was so jarring and somewhat negated the effectiveness of H20.
A product of its time, Halloween Resurrection played around with found footage and reality TV. It’s not without a few fleeting moments of mediocrity and it even grossed a very respectable 30 million dollars. But the critics and fans hated it alike, and Michael was buried for 5 more years until Rob Zombie came along…
The mask was just weird. And as any Halloween diehard fan will tell ya… Busta Rhymes going Bruce Lee on Michael Myers’ ass was just plain goofy and wrong.
It’s not unwatchable but it’s definitely my least watched Halloween movie of the first 8 films. It just strays too far away from what made the Halloween movies so effective and fun to watch. I give Halloween Resurrection a 4 out of 10.
Rob Zombie’s reimagining of Halloween was a very polarizing film. There are parts I liked a lot and other parts I could have done without.
Danielle Harris, who played Jamie Strode in Halloween 4 and 5, returns to the series but as a different character. How’s that for bizarre and confusing?
The 1978 original is a million times better but I kind of like this one. Rob Zombie had some good ideas and it came together fairly well minus a few missteps. I give Halloween (2007) a 6 out of 10.
HALLOWEEN II (2009)
I hated this movie. The less said, the better. I give Halloween II (2009) a 1 out of 10.
After being dormant for nearly a damn decade, Michael Myers exploded back on the scene with a bang. The highest grossing film of the franchise to date, Halloween was met with mostly positive reviews. I caught it with my girlfriend and we both liked it, but we also both agreed that it was missing that wow factor. It’s a well made film but there were a few uneven instances where the film never quite hit that next gear for me.
It was nice to see Jamie Lee Curtis return for the 40 year reunion. She does a bang up job as usual. Unfortunately, the writing and direction was a little wonky. Laurie Strode made some questionable decisions that took me out of the moment. For example, for someone who was preparing for Michael for the last 40 years, why would she stand against the front door with glass knowing that Michael could easily break the glass and grab her? Little details like this disappointed and frustrated me. Jamie Lee Curtis did the most she could but a film is hampered when a script is written poorly.
I’m happy to see the success for this latest Halloween, knowing that Michael will stalk the streets of Haddonfield again. However, I was slightly underwhelmed by this movie, especially given all the hype and rave reviews. I still like it, but I didn’t love it. I give Halloween (2018) a 6.5 out of 10.
11 movies (10 of which he appeared in), multiple timelines and directors… yet through it all, Halloween continues to endure. It’s one of the most beloved horror franchises of all time. Despite a handful of questionable sequels of varying quality, the series continues to power through. It’s easily my favorite horror franchise of all time and that will never change.
Michael Myers is timeless. An icon then, and an icon now. He is the quintessential Boogeyman. That stalker in the night that roams the dark streets and backyards, waiting patiently for his next victim. The mask, the mannerisms, the music… it all works like a perfect symphony to give Michael the life that has carried him through the different generations. He’ll always live, because pure evil can never die. More importantly, the fan support deems it so. Halloween will rage on, and Michael’s warpath will never truly end. We wouldn’t have it any other way.