Halloween Books

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This past year I got back into books big time. For years on end my new years resolution would inevitably be to read more. But that never happened. But 2019 proved to be different. I began reading again. And once more, I’ve become a book fiend. I love paperback novels. I love the way they feel. The way they smell (as long as it’s not rancid). The way they transport me to magical far away places. Being a massive Halloween fan, when I found out earlier this summer that the first 4 Halloween movies were novelized, naturally I was all over that like white on rice Michael’s mask. As I write this intro, it’s late Halloween night. I spent the past 3 weeks reading the 4 Halloween novels, having just finished Halloween IV. I had a blast with each of them, some more than others. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the first novel, Halloween.

HALLOWEEN by Curtis Richards

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Penned by Dennis Etchison using the pseudonym of Curtis Richards, this book was released in October of 1979, one year after John Carpenter’s Halloween made a killing at the box office. A rare and collectible piece of Halloween memorabilia, the book closely follows the film but adds in enough details to differentiate it from the movie. Namely, it provides a little more background information into what makes Michael Myers tick, and it really takes on a Celtic perspective. You’ll read words like SAMHAIN and “The Druid Festival of the Dead.” It’s the perfect companion piece to the film itself, moreso in my estimation than the actual Halloween II movie sequel. It’s rather well written too, and isn’t merely a throwaway movie novelization. Check out Chapter 1 below for instance…

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Not bad, eh? Really sets the mood and evokes that autumnal feeling of late October and sleepy suburbs where danger lurks in the darkness. Curtis Richards, er, Dennis Etchison, was something of a proficient horror writer in his day so it’s nice to see someone so professional handle this project.

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Unfortunately, being out of print and rare, copies of this book go for a pretty penny. It seems insane to drop triple figures on a book — a rather thin 166 page book at that — but this is a nice prize for diehard Halloween fans. From now on, every October I’ll be watching the movie and reading the book. There’s something about reading the movie in written form that is immensely satisfying. It’s one of those concepts that work equally well as a novel or as a film. I’m glad we have both — the best of both worlds, as it were.

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Following the smash success of Halloween, Halloween II hit theaters on Halloween Eve of 1981. The movie novelization, penned once again by Dennis Etchison who changed his pseudonym from Curtis Richards to Jack Martin, soon followed.

Halloween II film cover
Halloween II film cover

HALLOWEEN II by Jack Martin

The book cover was vastly different from the film
The book cover was vastly different from the film

Although certainly cheesy, I appreciate the creative deviations the novelization made in comparison to its film counterpart. Seeing a human face screaming out in agony covered by a carved jack-o-lantern is quite the gruesome sight. It’s exactly the kind of cover that would stop me dead in my tracks walking by a bookstore or newsstand.

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As it is with movie and video game boxes, in addition to the front cover I love admiring the back as well. The summary gives you a good idea of what you’re in store for, and the back cover of Halloween II is at once simple but effective and enticing. The perfect sort of book to read snuggled up by a roasting fire on a cold October evening.

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Like many movie novelizations of its time, Halloween II featured some photos plucked straight from the film. That or publicity stills, such as this eerie shot of The Shape’s evil presence looming over the desolate Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.

Who in the BLUE HELL is Launie? Oops...
Who in the BLUE HELL is Launie? Oops…

A recurring error were the photo captions which mostly spelled Laurie as Launie. How no one in editing caught that is practically inexcusable. Thankfully, they get the name right in the book and it’s a small misstep that’s mostly harmless. I get a kick out of it every time that I see it, though. Launie Strode? Get out of here with that :P

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Halloween II begins with this prologue. I love the part that goes, “You know what it is like.” YOU DAMN RIGHT I DO. And it’s practically the best time of the year for me. Dennis Etchison (or Jack Martin if you will) does a fantastic job of painting the scene for us. It’s Haddonfield. It’s Halloween time. It’s irresistible. Vivid sentences like “the broken moon drifting like a gauze-covered face” bring to mind gloriously rich pictures. Mr. Martin sets the mood right off the bat. You can’t help but want to read on.

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Chapter One opens with the haunting line, “There was a shape in the bushes.” This is followed by letting the reader know that the dead walked in Haddonfield that night. The lines about the Devil first being seen on Lampkin Lane and being a four-foot-tall version jumps off the page to me as well. Good stuff by Etchison.

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Here’s the infamous opening scene of Halloween II where the neighbor comes out asking Dr. Loomis what is going on out there. It’s always been one of my favorite scenes from the entire franchise. I just love when the neighbor goes, “Is this some kind of joke? I’ve been trick-or-treated to death tonight” followed by Loomis saying “You don’t know what death is” as he runs around the house and the Halloween theme plays. Gives me the chills every time!

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But notice in the novelization it gives a little more character insight. After the neighbor asks the question, in the film Loomis answers immediately. But here, the reader can read Loomis’ most inner thoughts… how he held to the gun, the empty gun… how he thought to himself this is it. How he should have known that Michael was a force beyond human. And how Halloween is over. The games. The roles. The cheap thrills. Now it really begins. This is what I love about novelizations. The writer can color between the lines and give you a little more depth than the film does.

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Here’s another shining example of more character insight. After Sheriff Brackett asks Loomis if he knows what Haddonfield is, we see that Loomis is at the point of exasperation with the Sheriff. How one can never expect more than a grunt from a pig, how it’s not the Sheriff’s fault that he is merely a pig in a game ruled by lions, tigers and boogeymen. And how the Sheriff’s very own term “slaughterhouse” is an appropriate metaphor for what might possibly come. God save us all. Loomis benefits greatly from the added insights that Etchison weaved in throughout, making Halloween II a wonderful companion piece to the film itself.

HALLOWEEN III by Jack Martin

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a polarizing and controversial film in the franchise. That’s mainly because it does not feature Michael Myers outside of a meta cameo. The producers had the idea of turning the Halloween franchise into an anthology series. It was universally panned when it originally came out in 1982 as moviegoers wanted more Michael but were instead given a movie about killer masks. Over the years however, namely in the last 15 years or so, Halloween III has earned something of a cult following. It is now viewed in the eyes of many as an underrated horror film that would have worked so much better if it were given any other name other than Halloween III.

Beware them creepy masks...
Beware them creepy masks…

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I have vivid memories of renting it from Hollywood Video 25 years ago in 1994. Back then there was no internet, no YouTube, no Twitter. I had no idea the movie didn’t feature Michael Myers. I just thought from the cover and title that it would be about a killer witch teaming up with Michael to slaughter the denizens of Haddonfield, and that idea captivated the shit out of me as a 10 year old kid. Alas, there was no evil witch (in the sense that I was imagining at least) and certainly no Michael. I was PISSED. However, I finally rewatched Halloween III this past October for the first time since that disappointing night and I have to say, I really enjoyed it as an adult who was now able to get pass that whole Michael thing. It truly is an underrated horror film.

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Ooh, how deliciously creepy! The back is perfectly stated and instantly makes you want to snuggle up in bed and read this book. OK, so the back is somehow inaccurate of how the real story goes but hey, I’ll give them points for creating a spooky atmosphere right away.

Their silhouettes always gave me the willies
Their silhouettes always gave me the willies

Something about those shapes… downright demonic. The witch in particular with its sharp pointed hat… it’s an image that has burned itself into my retina from when I first saw it in 1994. Say what you will of Halloween III, it has a badass cover and the tagline “The Night NO ONE Came Home” is a clever play off the original film’s tagline “The Night HE Came Home.”

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I love the scene in the movie where the homeless guy in Santa Mira — you know, the ONE guy in town who isn’t brainwashed by Silver Shamrock — tells Cochran to go fuck himself. It was a joy reading it in the novelization. Could totally visualize the actor shouting that line with rebellious fist thrown in the air and all. The paranoia is real, bleeding off the pages, and with good reason. Some shady shit is happening in the small cultish town of Santa Mira, and it’s up to Dr. Dan Challis to find out why…

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Here’s a nice added bit by Dennis Etchison. The actual film only showed a small snippet of the first Halloween film, but here Etchison dives in a little deeper. You might be wondering why, or if it’s just a bit of fan service, but the next paragraph reveals the true reason why…

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Challis’ wife in the movie, Linda, was played by Nancy Kyes. She also played Annie Brackett in the first Halloween film. So after Etchison wrote about the teenage girls walking down a street in the sleepy suburbs of Haddonfield, Dan Challis sees Annie and thinks to himself, “Hmm. I know the type well. Reminds me a bit of old Linda. I’ll bet that’s what she was like at that age. Always on hand with the right remark to shoot down anybody in sight.” That part made me laugh out loud harder than I probably should have. That is worth the price of admission alone!

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As Etchison wasn’t shy on doing, Halloween III has its quiet moments of introspection and philosophy. It added a lot of extra depth to the characters than what the movie was able to portray. Books can just describe a character’s innermost thoughts in a way the film medium simply cannot. While I enjoy the movie itself, the novelization of Halloween III is definitely a hit and one I plan to revisit in the years to come.

HALLOWEEN IV by Nicholas Grabowsky

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The first Halloween novelization not written by Dennis Etchison (AKA Curtis Richards AKA Jack Martin) was Halloween IV. While I find the cover to be simple and cool, I wish Grabowsky had gone with the classic poster version of the actual film.

One of the best covers of all time
One of the best movie posters of all time

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The back is a bit wordy one might say, but you gotta love that bright orange for the title and the font itself.

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The book starts off with this stellar prologue, immediately hooking the reader in. Once again, as with the other Halloween novelizations, there are some extra details here and there that help to better flesh out the various characters. My favorite example of this was when Brady was brawling with Michael Myers. Before he bites the dust, Brady thinks to himself for a second HEY… what if I actually put an end to this guy and become a folk hero of Haddonfield lore? It’s small stuff like that that makes it a little more interesting.

Sadly, this is where the movie novelizations stopped for Halloween. It ended at Halloween IV in 1988. There was no novelization for Halloween V in 1989, or Halloween 6 in 1995. And so forth. Who knows why? Maybe Nicholas Grabowsky’s novel didn’t sell as well as they were hoping. Or maybe the (horror) movie novelization business as a whole was starting to die out a bit. Well, the novelizations for Halloween stopped until 30 years later, anyhow…

HALLOWEEN (2018) by John Passarella

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The 40th year anniversary saw Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her beloved role as Laurie Strode. A new Halloween movie was finally coming out and it wasn’t being directed by Rob Zombie — score! Naturally, it called for a novelization, and John Passarella was the man for the job.

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Weighing in at a hefty 371 pages, Halloween (2018) is no lightweight novel. John Passarella was not shy on describing set pieces or adding extra depth to the characters. If you enjoyed the film then I think you’ll enjoy the novel too. As long as the page count does not intimidate you, I’d recommend it to all fans of the film. Best of all, it’s readily available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg, either. I recently reached out to John Passarella for an interview and he was kind enough to accept. Enjoy the Q&A!

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  • When were you first exposed to Halloween (1978), and what were your thoughts?

JP: I don’t recall the first time I watched it, but it wasn’t in the theater. My guess is that I first saw it at home, probably a video rental. My mother was a big fan of horror movies at the time, while I was more of a science fiction/fantasy fan. She always had horror movies on the TV while I spent most of my free time reading. When I first saw it, I thought it was stark and effective, with a understated supernatural quality to it, while other “slasher” movies that followed seemed more interested in violence/gore for its own sake. Even then it felt unique.

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  • Top 5 favorite Halloween films from the franchise?

JP: I am so bad at picking favorite things, let alone ranking them. The original stands alone at the top. I enjoyed H20 when it first came out. For the Halloween (2018) novelization, since I was pressed for time (less than 2 months to write it) and was told that the movie would ignore all the sequels, I didn’t take any time to re-watch any of those films. My wife watches the original movie every Halloween season, so I watched that again this year, but I definitely need to reacquaint myself with all the sequels.

Titan Books also published Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Titan Books also published Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  • How did you get involved in the process of penning Halloween? Did you have to make some sort of pitch or did Titan Books reach out to you?

JP: Titan Books approached me. Probably the best early email I’ve ever received! I had done several original Supernatural tie-in novels for them, plus an original Grimm novelization. And I had worked with several editors there. The editor for the Halloween novelization thought it would be a perfect fit for me.

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  • How long did it take for you to write the book? When did you first start drafting it? How many copies have been sold as of November 2019?

JP: I’d have to check my first contact emails, but I think it was either late March or early April of 2018. After I agreed to write the novelization and the studio approved me, I had to wait for the script to get started. I think that came in the first week of April. The novel was due by the end of May, so it was a compressed time frame. I received access to the daily film photo archive after I had already started writing the first draft. I had to backtrack and rewrite some scenes after I saw the photos of those sets/scenes. They reshot the ending and added some other scenes, mostly flashbacks and some of those still didn’t make it into the final film, but I was fortunate in that I hadn’t gotten to the ending before it was changed. I only had to write the ending once. As far as sales, I have no idea how well it did overall. It has gone into a second edition. For these work-for-hire projects, writers don’t get royalties, so we don’t get royalty statements which would show sales to-date.

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  • How did you feel watching the movie for the first time? Was it surreal to see your (novelization) words (more or less) being played out in front of your eyes in a capacity-filled theater?

JP: Surreal is a good word for it. I did not see the film until the premiere. At the time, I had three versions of the story bouncing around in my head. The script and revision, my novelization, and then what actually made it into the final film. There were things that were in the script, but didn’t make it into the film. Other things, mostly additional dialogue made it into the film, but wasn’t in the script at all. I made a point of including all the script dialogue, while adding a bunch of my own. Whole scenes were cut from the final film. Other scenes were really truncated. A few played out differently than they had in the script. They added a lot more humor via dialogue. And the editing of the movie had a thriller feel to it, rather than a horror/suspense film.

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  • There were obviously some cuts made from the movie (script) as compared to your book. Was there any one thing in particular that stuck out to you as you watched the film? Any part or scene omitted from your writing where you wish made it on the big screen? For me, I have to say the book definitely made me care more about Dana and Aaron. They were fleshed out a lot more (naturally) in your book than they were in the film. Understandable, but unfortunate nevertheless.

JP: I think the filmmakers made a choice to make the film mostly Laurie’s story, so a lot of the character development and scenes involving other characters were trimmed. Reading the script, I had this idea that Allyson was the star, so to speak, and it would be a passing of the torch from Laurie to her granddaughter. But the film leans more on Laurie vs Michael, so a lot of Allyson stuff, early on and at/after the dance, got cut to keep a reasonable running time. And, yes, Dana and Aaron had more “screen” time on the page, more scenes, more character development. That’s one thing that helps give the novelization some life and purpose outside the film. Fans can delve a bit deeper into the story and the characters.

Classic Budd...
Classic Budd…
  • In the restroom scene, Dana reads a message scrawled on the side that recites Budd’s infamous “amazing grace come sit on my face” line from 1981 Halloween II. Was that in the original movie script or did you add in that nice little touch yourself? I couldn’t but smile when I read that.

JP: I can’t take credit for that line. It was in the final script, but did not make the final cut.

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  • It’s been a year since your novel came out. How do you feel about the book overall? Is there anything about it you wish you could have written differently or is it how you wanted it to be?

JP: I don’t know if I would have written it differently if I had seen the movie (a rough cut maybe) before I finished, but maybe. What I enjoy the most in books is suspense, so I naturally tried to create as much suspense as possible. The original film relies heavily on suspense and I took that as my model (since I knew I wouldn’t see the finished movie until its release). A couple scenes (conversations) changed a good bit from script to screen and I would have liked the book version to be closer to the finished film versions but that was out of my control. I didn’t have time to stray too far from the script’s plot, to explore any side roads or backstory, so I may always wonder about that. And in a couple places, I probably described a set in too much detail. Usually the “sets” are only in my head. This was the first time I had actual photos to describe to the reader!

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  • Have you been signed on to write the movie novelization for Halloween Kills and/or Halloween Ends?

JP: I’d certainly be interested in writing those novelizations, but I haven’t heard anything about them yet. The second film has finished filming but won’t be out for an entire year. The first film came out several months after filming wrapped and everything on the novelization side moved quickly so that it could come out the same time as the movie. Right now, we still have a long window, so I’m not surprised I haven’t heard anything yet. If Titan Books is planning a novelization for the second movie, I may not know until a few months into the new year.

"You cant kill the Boogeyman"
“You can’t kill the Boogeyman…”
  • What do you think it is about Halloween and Michael Myers that has endured with so many fans 40+ years later and counting?

JP: The primal nature of the fear that Michael Myers represents, an unstoppable, merciless, and unknowable evil, represented by the unchanging, unflinching mask. He seems to be so much more than what we see on the surface. Loomis decides after years of examining him that he is simply evil, possibly evil incarnate.

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  • Advice for aspiring authors?

JP: Finish what you write. Once you finish, you have something you can use to get representation, to sell to a magazine or book publisher. And if it doesn’t sell or work for you, finish the next thing, and the next. I started writing at the age of 11, but didn’t publish my first novel until I was 37! I like to think it wouldn’t take so long if I started writing today. When I started, I relied on Writers Digest and Writer magazines, a dictionary and a set of encyclopedias (and my local library) for research, and a manual typewriter (I taught myself to type before they offered a course in school) with actual carbon copies as my only backups. These days, you have webzines, online writers groups, self-publishing tools, social media for marketing and networking, etc.

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  • Have you, by chance, read any of the other Halloween movie novelizations by Dennis Etchison or Nicholas Grabowsky?

JP: No, though I’d like to hunt down a copy of the original movie novelization. It seems they are hard to come by these days.

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  • What’s next for John Passarella?

JP: Thanks for your interest in my writing and the Halloween novelization. I’m working on a fourth novel in my Wendy Ward (Wither) series right now, but it’s not under contract, which means I don’t have deadline pressure pushing me to the finish line. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, per se, but procrastination is a real hurdle. I work much better and faster when there is a looming deadline!

Thank you once again to John Passarella for taking time out of his busy schedule. All the best in your future projects!

HALLOWEEN: THE CHANGING SHAPE OF AN ICONIC SERIES by Ernie Magnotta

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Last but not least, we come to Ernie Magnotta’s Halloween: The Changing Shape of an Iconic Series. This is a comprehensive retrospective on the series that covers the entire franchise sans Halloween III and the 2018 version (it came out just one day after that film premiered). It’s an impressive tome of Halloween knowledge that comes highly recommended. It’s currently on sale on Amazon as of this writing. Its original price is $49.99 but it’s been slashed to $36.47. I bought a copy earlier this year and it’s definitely a must-have item for any diehard fan of the franchise.

I see you, Michael
I see you, Michael

Although not a novelization, being so damn impressive, I had to list and feature it as well. No Halloween fan is complete without it!

I never knew this before reading Ernies book
I never knew this prior to reading Ernie’s book
Its full of fun information and callbacks
It’s chock full of fun information and callbacks
A shot and scene I shall never grow tire of, ever
A shot and scene I shall never grow tire of, ever
Suitably spooky!
Suitably spooky!
Giving some love to the novelizations, did Ernie
Giving some love to the novelizations, did Ernie
I only wish I could have read em as a kid
I only wish I could have read ‘em as a kid!
Nearly 400 pages and towers over mere novels!
Nearly 400 pages and towers over mere novels!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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I enjoyed reading all five Halloween novelizations this past October. They’re worth seeking out if you love the movies and you enjoy reading. The older ones will be a bit pricey, but c’mon, it’s HALLOWEEN. Everyone’s entitled to one good scare! If I had to rank and rate each book out of 5 stars, it would go as follows:

1. Halloween ****½
2. Halloween IV ****
3. Halloween III ****
4. Halloween (2018) ***½
5. Halloween II ***

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BONUS: THE PAPERBACK HUNT

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So with these older books, it’s always fun to find a stamp inside the book telling you which paperback store it once belonged to eons ago.

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Two of the Halloween novels I bought off eBay came courtesy of Westgate Book Exchange in Las Vegas. What a trip!

There it is again...
There it is again…

A quick online search and I found the place! It was fascinating to see the store pictures and visualize where my Halloween books came from however many years ago. Sadly, they seemed to have closed some time in 2015.

The scene of the crime
The scene of the crime
Out there in hot North Las Vegas
Out there in hot North Las Vegas, but now defunct
So thats where someone bought the books from :P
So that’s where someone bought the books from :P

Field of Dreams

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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

OK maybe not so much a rise :P
OK maybe not so much a rise :P

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.

Watching and talking from the dugout. Good stuff
It promised to be a baseball season for the ages

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.

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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.

A fair play of homophones, good sir. Oh that Joshua....
A fair play of homophones, good sir. Oh that Joshua…

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.

SEASON OPENER

Some folks just don't take losing too well
Some folks just don’t take losing too well…

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

Things went south and fast
Things went south and fast

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…

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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…

CRACK!!
CRACK!!

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.

We all watched the ball sail....
We all watched the ball sail high…
Herman streaking back...
Herman streaking back…
And what a catch! Well, I wish
And what a catch! Well, I wish…
Herman reached out and...
It felt as if time had froze for all eternity

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 THUD as 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…

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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.

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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

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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.

We played loose, we laughed, we rallied
We played loose, we laughed, we rallied

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

My favorite film of all time
My favorite film of all time

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.

Soundtrack was absolutely stellar, and haunting
Off to the races!

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.

No film gives me more goosebumps than this one
No film gives me more goosebumps than this one
One of my favorite shots in cinematic history
One of my favorite shots in cinematic history

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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?

And so begins a magical yarn of adventure
And so begins a magical yarn of adventure

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…

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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.

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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??

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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.

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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.

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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 :)

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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.

Love love LOVE this book
Love love LOVE this book
So stoked when I ran across it in a book store!
So stoked when I ran across it in a book store!

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.

"GO THE DISTANCE"
“GO THE DISTANCE”

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?

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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.

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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…

"MOONLIGHT GRAHAM!" Instant goosebumps
“MOONLIGHT GRAHAM!” Instant goosebumps

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.

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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.

Mann can't believe his eyes
Mann can’t believe his eyes

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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.

"PEOPLE WILL COME, RAY. OHHH, PEOPLE WILL COME."
“PEOPLE WILL COME, RAY. OHHH, PEOPLE WILL COME.”

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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.

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“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 IS Heaven after all…

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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.

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PAYING TRIBUTE

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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.

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COMING IN 2020!

Not a hoax or prank... it's truly happening!
Not a hoax or prank… it’s happening!

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!

"Aaron Judge... COMES TO IOWA." Not the same effect as Shoeless Joe but I'll take it
“Aaron Judge… COMES TO IOWA.”
Not the same effect as Shoeless Joe but I’ll take it

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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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.

Even got a poster of the film :P
Even got a poster of the film :P
Long live baseball and dreams
Long live baseball and long live dreams

Adventures in Book Shopping

Adventures in Babysitting Book Shopping! AKA How I Finally Got Back Into Reading
Adventures in Babysitting Book Shopping!
AKA… How I FINALLY Got Back Into Reading

For the past handful of years, my New Years resolutions have always been to lose 10-20 pounds and read more again. The weight goal sees varying degrees of success, but the reading one for some reason has always managed to elude me. Until recently. For the first time in over 20 years, I’ve read 20 books already this year. It was hard to stop once I got the ball rolling. It explains the lack of updates on RVGFanatic this past summer. Usually the summer season is when I crank out material like crazy. Not so this summer. Because this was the summer I got back into books and more importantly, back into reading. How’s how it all came to be, for the morbidly curious…

It's also a book! How fitting, eh? :P
Was also made into a movie novelization. Fitting :P

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

LibraryNight

One of the many highlights of my youth was all the library trips I took with my mom, dad and my childhood best friend, Nelson. We visited the library it felt every Friday afternoon after school. Although I loved playing video games on the weekend, I loved reading as well. I always looked forward to the end of the school week so I could raid the local library and pick up a new stack of books to devour. It was a memorable and innocent time.

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Nelly and I ate up the Goosebumps series. We were absolutely in love with R.L. Stine’s monthly tomes of terror. Actually, they weren’t that big in size or scary, but as kids we couldn’t get enough.

To this day the covers remains embedded in my soul
To this day the covers remain embedded in my soul

We read some of R.L. Stine’s more grown up work as we entered junior high in the fall of 1995. Maybe some of his work hasn’t held up too well over the years but they were definitely a sign of the times. Damn good times they were.

Seeing them on a shelf always made me grin
Seeing them on a shelf always made me grin

But along the way, at some point in high school probably, I stopped reading for pleasure. Any reading I did was because I had to. Whether it was because I had to write a book report in an English Lit. class or a college professor assigned some reading for homework, suddenly reading became something of a chore more than a reward. It was a means to an end. And it would remain that way for many years… until this past year…

GOODWILL HUNTING

And no, I don't mean the movie :P
And no, I don’t mean the movie :P

The seed was planted on January 13, 2019. My girlfriend and I went out to order some Chinese food for lunch. After being told there would be a 10-15 minute wait, I suggested that we hit up the Goodwill just next door to pass the time. As we walked over I shared with her that the last time I went to a Goodwill was way back in 2012. And how I found some rare Sega Saturn games for cheap which I couldn’t resist but flip on eBay for a nice little profit. I rarely did that during my game buying career, but an extra $150 or however much I was bound to rake in was difficult to resist on that cold December evening of 2012. So it was with that little trip down memory lane that I entered Goodwill with a glimmer of hope that maybe lightning would strike twice. Little did I know, it was that innocent little visit that would spur my book fervor into motion.

Got the book for $2 and the Ernest DVD for $1.49
Ernest Scared Stupid is perfect for Halloween :D

As we were flipping through the DVD and book section (there were no video games on hand that day), I caught glimpse of What To Expect The First Year. It was in very good condition and at only $2 I felt it would make for a tremendous resource one day. Then I spotted an Ernest Triple Feature boasting the critically acclaimed (or not) Ernest Goes To Camp, Ernest Scared Stupid and Ernest Goes To Jail. At 50 cents a movie, I couldn’t pass up on that. The clerk at the counter grinned when he rung me up, saying, “You can read up on babies while watching Ernest do his thing.” My girlfriend and I both laughed and that was that. If only I had known what a snowball effect this would have…

Bunnicula

About a month later we found ourselves back at Goodwill browsing the book shelves. On that fateful day found a copy of Bunnicula. Suddenly mauled by a tidal wave of memories, I felt like I was 8 years old again. I remember seeing Bunnicula a lot as a kid, but I can’t recall any story details. Nostalgia bit me and the $1 price tag made it an easy slam dunk. Pandora’s Box was unleashed, and there was no stopping it. I suddenly began to long for all the books I read during my childhood that I wanted to read again, or to read those I had missed out on. In many ways, it was eerily similar to my SNES resurgence from early 2006. I swooped up SNES games left and right 13 years ago in 2006, and now 13 years later I was buying books by the boatload…

My girlfriend checking out the goods. Major props to her for putting up with my book fever
My girlfriend checking out the goods at a Goodwill.
Much <3 to her for putting up with my book fervor!

As I quickly discovered, Goodwill can be a gold mine for book hunting. Quality and quantity vary of course from location to location, but man have I been lucky. The Goodwill stores that I hit up always knock it out of the park. The books are usually in great condition and go for $1.99 a pop. I’ll never forget the first time my girlfriend and I ran across an unbelievable selection of books at a Goodwill. It’s rare for me to not walk away with at least an arm full of books!

I sensed magic in the air that cloudy afternoon...
I sensed magic in the air that cloudy afternoon…

Saturday, April 13, 2019. Stepping out of my car, I could feel something funny. No, not that Taco Bell burrito I had moments earlier. It was something else. I felt it in my bones. Something big was inside that Goodwill. I double checked to make sure my car was locked. Satisfied that it indeed was, I marched to the entrance like a man possessed.

Books. LOTS of books
Books. LOTS of books

As I stood there in awe and reverence, my mind did cartwheels and fist pumps as my eyes caught sight of something very near and dear to my heart… I could see them from the corner of my eyes… this was going to be a haul for the ages…

Fuck yeah
Fuck yeah

I felt like the lucky millionth customer who just won a shopping spree. The shelves boasted a bunch of R.L. Stine’s teen thrillers. I hadn’t seen those books stacked up like that in 25 years, not since I last saw them in 1994 at B. Dalton and Walden Books*. I couldn’t believe my eyes. They were all in very good to great condition, $1.99 a pop and ripe for the taking. I was in book Heaven! It was like righting a childhood wrong; I always wanted to read more of Stine’s teen thrillers but I only read a small handful. This was a second chance!

*My favorite bookstore as a kid back in the early-mid '90s
*My favorite bookstore as a kid back in the ’90s
Even more!
Even more!

Freaking out on the inside, for a moment it felt as if time had stood still. I could see sounds, smell colors. A swirling sensation wrapped around me as I found myself instantly transported back to B. Dalton or Walden Books some 25+ years ago. Today’s find was one for the ages. I stole a glance around the store to see if time did in fact freeze. A few ladies down the aisle were shopping for clothes while a boy and girl ran down another aisle laughing and joking. Snapping out of my trance, I calmly began to place the books into the shopping cart by the handful.

Still more...
Still more…

I could tell the books were donated by the same person. And that he or she kept them in great condition. The only R.L. Stine teen thrillers already in my library were The Babysitter I-III, Silent Night 1 and 2, and I Saw You That Night! So most of Stine’s offerings sitting before me were taken off the shelf and judiciously plopped into the shopping cart.

Love the feeling of finding a book you really want
Love the feeling of finding a book you really want

Back in 1995 my dad took me to the library on a Friday night and I borrowed a book called Hit and Run. I got home that night and started reading the book. I stayed up late to finish it in one sitting. I remember being absolutely hooked and enthralled by it. There’s nothing like being wrapped up in a good book. Nearly 25 years later and here it was, live in the flesh. The thrill of book hunting!

Just a "few" books....
Just a “few” books…

I bought 52 teen thrillers that day, 51 of which penned by R.L. Stine. At $1.99 a pop, it ran me a total of $103.48. An insane amount to spend on books, I know, but to get most of Stine’s older work in one fell swoop felt like a chance encounter. One not to squander or pass on. Especially in the condition they were in. I could make 1,000 more Goodwill trips and probably would never run into something this good ever again.

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Back at my girlfriend’s place, I sprawled the books out to take a photo. I have no idea how long it’ll take me to read them all. Honestly, I’ll probably end up reading only the ones I really want, and not get around to the others. So why still buy them all? Part of it is to set up one hell of a library for any future children I may have one day. If I ever have kids, one thing’s for sure, they’re going to develop a love for literature.

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On Saturday, May 4, 2019, my girlfriend was working but had a chance to swing by a Goodwill for a minute. She snapped this photo and texted it to me. I zoomed in and gasped. I found a childhood book, The Time of the Witch by Mary Downing Hahn, that I always wanted to read but never ever ran across. I remember reading a preview of it once in a book when I was young and being intrigued ever since. You know, those blurbs you would find on the back pages of a book. A fan of Hahn’s writing, she wrote many scary books for kids over the years. So to see it at last blew my mind.

By zooming in I was somehow able to make it out
By zooming in I was somehow able to make it out

I frantically texted my girlfriend back, telling her to please pick up The Time of the Witch (and The Jellyfish Season also by Mary Downing Hahn). I showed her where on the picture and she was left stunned. “How in the HELL were you able to make that out?! Alright baby, you got it.” What a saint :D

Jellyfish Season not horror but I like Hahn's writing. Plus I'm a sucker for a good book set in the summer time
Jellyfish Season not horror but I like Hahn’s writing.
Plus I’m a sucker for a good book set in the summer

We met up at a pizza parlor on her lunch break and she handed me the books. It was the first time I ever saw The Time of the Witch. I was ecstatic. When you’re building a library, any wanted book found is worthy of a (mental) fist pump.

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I always get a kick out of reading the back of books, much like I do the back of video game boxes. There’s something cool about it that takes you back to the days of reading the back of VHS boxes at your local rental store!

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSHOPS

I love going to local book shops to find new gems
I love going to local book shops to find new gems

Beyond Goodwill, I’ve found plenty of nice finds at local bookshops. Support them! They’re good for the community and you might run into some really good stuff.

Found a bunch of the classic Wizard of Oz books!
Found a bunch of the classic Wizard of Oz books!
Off the shelf and into my bag :D
Off the shelf and into my bag :D

I read the first Wizard of Oz book as a kid, and absolutely adored it, but I never read the other 13 books in the series. That’s something I’m very much looking forward to doing.

This could easily occupy me for an hour
This could easily occupy me for an hour
Love finding a book that's been on my want list
Love finding a book that’s been on my want list

SCORE! At last I found a copy of Curtains by R.L. Stine. This was one of those books that haunted me during my childhood due to the intensity and creepiness of the art cover.

Would be so cool to have this as a blown up poster :P
Unnerving…
Field of Dreams!
Field of Dreams! Er, I mean Shoeless Joe!

My favorite film of all time is Field of Dreams. It’s just a fun, uplifting and magical movie. The soundtrack is absolutely spine-tingling. Years later I discovered it was adapted from a novel called Shoeless Joe. I remember borrowing a copy from the library in 1999 and reading it. I enjoyed it and have always wanted to reread it. 20 years later, I finally have that chance :)

DUN DUN... DUN DUN... DUN DUN DUN DUN!
DUN DUN… DUN DUN… DUN DUN DUN DUN!

Speaking of novels made into movies, Jaws by Peter Benchley was on my want list from the beginning of 2019. 7 months later I finally ran across a mint copy at a local bookstore. I loved how the white spine and crazy shark art on the spine made it stand out in the crowd. For this one I might have actually done a legit fist pump… no shame! It’s an interesting read for sure, but the movie is definitely better. Still, it’s nice to see where the movie was inspired from.

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I’m such a sucker for the old Point Horror teen books with their cool art covers. It just takes you back to an innocent time where all the rage were thrillers and horror stories. Diane Hoh and Eve Bunting had some good ones.

I've spent hours and hundreds of dollars here...
I’ve spent hours and hundreds of dollars here…

On the hunt for more childhood books and ones I never got around to reading, I found one of my absolute favorites on this trip. Remember the author Robert Kimmel Smith? He penned such books as The War With Grandpa, Jelly Belly and Chocolate Fever.

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But it was Mostly Michael that stuck with me over the years. I had to get the original edition I read from my childhood, and there it was in very good condition. It was my first time seeing it since my youth years, and it gave me a jolt of nostalgia that tickled my toes. It’s about a boy who receives a diary journal for his birthday. At first he thinks it’s a crock, but he writes in it and through his entries you get to experience what he goes through. I remember being captivated by it as a kid and the ending was very touching I recall. Can’t wait to read it again.

I love how one cover is darker than the other
I love how one cover is darker than the other

For the most part, I’m not a fan of today’s kids books in terms of art covers and such. There was something magical about a classic Dell Yearling book cover that I absolutely can’t get enough of. Apple Paperbacks are also good as well as Avon Camelot, but Dell Yearling takes the cake for me. And no author in my opinion represented Dell Yearling better than Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

They dont make em like how they used to
They don’t make ‘em like how they used to

Zilpha Keatley Snyder penned some really interesting books. Her style is unique and charming. I never read her books as a kid but boy do I wish I had.

Give me this, a lazy summer afternoon and Im good
Give me this, a lazy summer evening and I’m good
Youre never too old to enjoy a good kids book
You’re never too old to enjoy a good kids book
Talk about a haunting cover full of intrigue and mystery
Talk about a haunting cover full of intrigue and mystery
Dat vintage Doritos bag tho!
DAT VINTAGE DORITOS BAG THO
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one of the best in the game
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was one of the best in the game
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was also a great author
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was also a great author

Naylor’s Witch series was one I missed out on as a kid. I wish I didn’t. I mean, just look at that cover! It’s creepy and unsettling. This is the stuff you don’t see anymore. Nothing beats a classic Dell Yearling novel. The Witch Herself is the 3rd book in a 6 part series.

The artwork made it even more special
The artwork made it even more special
That feeling when you find a long lost classic
That feeling when you find a long lost classic

The first in the Witch series, Witch’s Sister, eluded me for months. Sure I could have bought a more recent edition, but those lack soul and character. I waited it out, and when I spotted the original edition of Witch’s Sister sitting on the shelf, I did cartwheels internally.

You dont see shit like this today!
You just don’t see shit like this today!
My reaction spotting Witchs Sister on the shelf
My reaction spotting Witch’s Sister on the shelf
Reaching out to secure it immediately
Reaching out to secure it immediately
EVERYTHINGS AWESOME!!
EVERYTHING’S AWESOME!!
Speaking of witches, this was a spooky boxset
Speaking of witches, this was a spooky box set

I missed out on these books as a kid, but they look great for some Halloween reading :)

Gorgeous art
Gorgeous art
The stuff nightmares are made of
The stuff nightmares are made of
What a cover! Love that vintage COKE bottle
What a cover! Love that vintage COLA bottle
Is it October yet? :)
Is it October yet? :)
Speaking of boxsets...
Speaking of box sets…

The Henry Reed series by Keith Robertson is another great one I was able to hunt down and highly recommend.

Classic books featuring that classic Dell Yearling design
Classic books featuring that classic Dell Yearling design
Fun wholesome reads
Fun wholesome reads
Remember Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series?
Remember Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series?
Or how about John Bellairs' books?
Or how about John Bellairs’ crazy imaginative books?
This is the book the Jack Black movie was based on
This is the book the Jack Black movie was based on
Perfect for some October reading :)
Perfect for some October reading :)
Irresistibly atmospheric!
Irresistibly atmospheric!
So many good books and not enough time
So many good books and not enough time
Coming across my favorite book of all time :D
Ran across one of my favorite books of all time :D
So much sentimental value on top of a great story
So much sentimental value on top of a great story

Before moving towns in the 7th grade, my best friend Nelson gave me a book called The Bullies and Me by Harriet Savitz. It was about a boy who moved towns, got bullied and had to figure out a way of making sense in his own world. It felt like art imitating life, although I didn’t get bullied in my new town thank goodness. Still, the message of the story resonated deeply with me. I even wrote a review for it on Amazon way back in the year 2000.

Damn right
Damn right

GOING TO READING THE MOVIES

I'm a sucker for movie novelizations...
I’m a sucker for movie novelizations…

The best part of a book hunting trip is going into the store with a mental list of some books you want but knowing the odds aren’t great that you’ll find it since they’re of the older variety… and then finding it! On this particular jaunt, I walked in thinking how nice it would be if I could find the movie novelization for Gremlins 2: The New Batch by David Bischoff. I remember seeing it on the shelf all the time as a kid in the early ’90s, but never getting a chance to read it as I was too young at the time. After making my rounds in the young adult section, I almost went to pay for the books when a funny feeling said to check the Sci-Fi section. Imagine my surprise when I unearthed a mint copy of Gremlins 2! What can I say, there’s nothing like the thrill of finding a book you’ve long wanted in the wild.

One of my favorite art covers of all time
Yet another cool art cover. Green title really pops!
Can't wait to read the Back to the Future trilogy
Can’t wait to read the Back to the Future trilogy
Alan Dean Foster you madman you
Alan Dean Foster you madman you

Fun story: the night my girlfriend came home following my purchase of Clash of the Titans (the original 1981 version not the 2010 remake), we watched the movie. It turned out that her grandfather used to love watching it and she would watch it along with him. I hadn’t seen the movie in over 25 years and I thought it held up surprisingly well. Now I gotta read the book :P

Some say it's even better than the movie...
Some say it’s even better than the movie…

Alan Dean Foster has been a busy man. He’s penned many books and many movie novelizations. His finest work, according to many, is the original Alien. Some go as far as to claim it’s the best movie novelization ever crafted. Read it for yourself and decide!

The feeling when your mailbox is stuffed with books
That feel when your mailbox is stuffed with books

This was the big one. There are only 6 books in the history of mankind I can think of that are bursting with enough machismo to be able to fill my mailbox like that. Let’s rip ‘er open to see which 6 they are…

That's a whole lot of testosterone
That’s a whole lot of testosterone
A thing of beauty if I ever did see one. My oh my
Arnold and Sly… does it get any better?!?
Badass
Badass to the nth degree
The coolest back cover in the history, period
The coolest back cover to a book ever created
A missed opportunity to show the T-1000 :(
A missed opportunity to show the T-1000 :(
RoboCop Returns is currently in the making
RoboCop Returns is currently in the making
Can't wait for Rambo Last Blood in theaters soon!
Can’t wait for Rambo: Last Blood in theaters 9.20.19
September 20, 2019 to be precise. Should be good
Before John Wick we had John Rambo

Check out the trailer here if you've missed it
[Damn right we did -Ed.]
I truly am a sucker for movie novelizations. Some are bad but the good ones add details in a way a movie can never quite hit. Similar to video game adaptations of blockbuster movies, it’s fun to suss out the diamonds in the rough.

FUN NOTES AND MORE

Stories can entertain, or enlighten, or both. Powerful!
Stories can entertain, or enlighten, or both!

BooksEx18

One fun perk of buying old used books is you never know what you might find inside. Sometimes you might find the author’s signature, other times a friendly letter left tucked inside or even alternative endings. It’s all part of the fun!

BooksEx17

An alternative ending to Judy Blume's Forever...
An alternative ending to Judy Blume’s Forever…
The most wholesome cutest note you'll ever read
Insanely wholesome and adorable

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I almost lost it when I saw this in Stranger Things 3!
I almost lost it when I saw this in Stranger Things 3

This past summer has seen a resurrection for my love of books and reading. For years my goal would always be to read more but inevitably I would never carve out the time.  This year alone I’ve already read 20 books. Admittedly, I’ve gone a little book crazy. My girlfriend will surely attest to that. My book resurgence is very similar to how I got back into the SNES in 2006. There are many parallels. I remember getting back into the fandom and the feeling of excitement that would course through my veins knowing that any swap meet (or book store) would assuredly mean coming home with several goods. Part of me is honoring the past by rereading old childhood favorites, but another part of me is honoring the future and what might come. I’m building a massive library for my future kids. They’ll never run out of literature to read and if public libraries do ever go the way of the dinosaur, at least my kids will have a safe haven. And certainly, libraries these days don’t carry the old classics. There will be plenty of Apple Paperbacks, Avon Camelot and Dell Yearling books for my kids to enjoy! I know it’s impossible to read every single book in my library but that’s just it. A library is meant to present one with many different choices at any given time depending on your current mood.

Preserving a library for future generations
Preserving a library for future generations

As much as I love the hunt and thrill of finding books to add to my library, nothing beats getting wrapped up in a really good novel. The words start to jump off the pages, worlds and characters form almost tangible images in your mind and it’s imagination intertwining with literacy and art at its finest. Not every book is worthwhile or memorable, but it’s awesome when you read one that sweeps you away. It’s a great feeling. You find it hard to put the book down and you hate when it ends. Some stories definitely stay with us for the long haul. I hope this article inspires you, if you haven’t read much lately, to look for a book that strikes your fancy. Who knows, maybe you’ll start reading regularly again just as I have. And on a final note… look for a certain series of book reviews coming in October right here on RVGFanatic!

The boogeyman's coming to get cha... [Yeah, get cha wallet! The prices, my goodness... -Ed.]
The boogeyman’s coming to get cha…
[Yeah, get cha wallet! The prices, oh my goodness… -Ed.]

Buon Compleanno

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

DavidTeeth

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.

DavidTeeth2

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.

FEARLESS

FoDBaseballEx

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.

DavidTeeth4

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!

I'll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!
I’ll never forget the sight of his pricked arm. Insanity!

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

DavidTribute1

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.

DavidTribute

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

DavidTribute2

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.

Michael Myers almost attacked me that night!
Michael Myers almost got me that night!

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.]

If only David saw those steps in the darkness...
If only David saw those steps in the darkness…

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.

DavidTribute6b

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.

Oh snap, remember Gyro's?
Oh snap, remember Gyro’s?
Good times
Good times

A SHOCKING BOMBSHELL

Say whaaaaa...
Say whaaaaa…

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.

DavidTribute8b

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

NightHouse

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.

DavidTribute9

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.

Staring out at a sea of humanity...
Staring out at a sea of humanity…

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 :D

Driving David home on the freeway that night, music blaring, I think I did Vince proud.

It was a great night for all
It was a great night for all

AMERICA’S NATIONAL PASTIME

FoDBaseball

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 :)

CELEBRATING AMERICA

DavidTribute11

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:

O_o
O_o
:P
:P

THE RISE OF DAVID

Rise of the Silver Surfer. Hey, it's a guilty pleasure OK?
Rise of the Silver Surfer is a guilty pleasure

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.

Remember Marvel '91 trading card series? Classic!
Remember Marvel ’91 trading card series? Classic!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!
What a bad ass time to be a kid!

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.

But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer
But imagine the seats looking MUCH nicer

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.

“Nope.”

“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.

I felt so happy for David. Dude was GOOD!
Good times

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.

What David probably dreamed of doing :P
What David probably dreamed of doing :P
dd
:D

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!”

Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble
Zoom in on mobile and you can see my messy scribble

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.

“Tiff?!”

“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.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

MemoirsCave

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.

DavidNote

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.

PS- Your ass still owes me a roller coaster ride ;)

Fast Times At Bayside High: The Reunion

CampfireS

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.

Be sure to read my Q&A with Cylk Cozart at the end
Be sure to read my Q&A with Cylk Cozart at the end

THE FINAL STORY

BaseballSavedUs

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.

HG3RVG

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.

They don't make 'em like they used to
They don’t make ‘em like they used to
Raymond Wong had supernatural powers
Raymond Wong had supernatural powers
Happy Ghost III featured the mega adorable Maggie Cheung
Happy Ghost III starred the too adorable Maggie Cheung
1986 at its cheesiest and finest
1986 at its cheesiest and finest
My title went from one end of the board to the other!
My title went from one end of the board to the other!

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.

HG3RVG7

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.

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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.

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Guitar in one hand and comb in the other, I got out and waved to all the honeys drooling at me.

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The goofy teacher made some lame remark but I paid it no mind.

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Whatever! The chances I’ll get him are like 1 in 200 anyway.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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?”

"Not there! Sit in the corner!" "Sir, where's my dignity?" "Sit in the corner... or GET THE HELL OUT!"
“Not there! Sit in the corner!”
“Where’s my dignity?”
“Sit in the corner… or GET THE HELL OUT!
I glanced at Katy and gave her a knowing look
I glanced at Katy and gave her a knowing look

“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?”

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“How old is that?”

“Makes me 19.”

"Why change schools? Musta been expelled! Why expelled? Musta been bad behaviors!"
“Why change schools? Must have been expelled!
Why expelled? Must have been bad behavior!”
"Must have been terrible conduct!"
“Must have been terrible conduct!”
"Sir, you obviously studied logic in college."
“Wow, you obviously studied logic in college.”
"Why don't you tell me. After all, you seem to know it all."
“Why don’t you tell me. After all, you seem to know it all.”
"You're too dumb to do anything for yourself, I can see!"
“You’re too dumb to do anything for yourself, I can see!”

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"Class, LISTEN TO ME!"
“Class, LISTEN TO ME!”

“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!”

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“You said my IQ is low but can you spend the shortest amount of time to answer me three simple questions?”

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"You see, these two questions..."
“You see, these two questions…”

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"Are you finished?"
“Are you finished?”

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Note: you should have seen the look on the girls faces!
Note: you should have seen the look on the girls’ faces!
Yeah, it was exactly like that :P
Yeah, it was exactly like that :P

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"When stimulated, the pupil dilates 7 times. Now sir, you refused to answer me..."
“When stimulated, the pupil dilates 7 times.
Now sir, you refused to answer me…”

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Note: Instant crowd pleaser!
Note: Their reaction was priceless!
It made the entire room burst in laughter
It made all my Storytelling classmates burst in laughter

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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.

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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?”

“Out.”

“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.

Albaaaaa

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!”

Albaaaaaa

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.

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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.

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

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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

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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.

PS- Read Fast Times At Bayside High for context if you haven’t yet.

  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Blue Chips
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 ;)

AndyofMay

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Cozart went on to act with the likes of Mel Gibson
Cozart went on to act with the likes of Mel Gibson
Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts
And most notably, Jim Varney AKA Ernest
And most notably, Jim Varney AKA Ernest :P
Rest in Peace Jim Varney
Rest in Peace Jim Varney
Cinematic masterpiece at its finest
Cinematic masterpiece at its finest
  • 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.

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  • 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?

MLKRVG

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.

BlackPan60s2Check 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.

OnceUponHW

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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

Respectfully,
Cylk Cozart

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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.

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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 :)

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Fast Times At Bayside High

CampfireS

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!

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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

The scene of the crime. The place the magic happened
The scene of the crime. The place the magic happened

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.

Wheres Professor?
Where’s Professor?

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.

She called this the Peanut Gallery.. AKA the Stragglers
She called this the Peanut Gallery, AKA the Stragglers

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.

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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.

Classic Sean... a mishmash of Bill Murray and Seth Rogen
Sean was a mishmash of Bill Murray and Seth Rogen

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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.

Hey, Storytelling has its perks ;)
Hey, Storytelling has its perks ;)

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…

Thanks Three's Company. Rest In Peace John Ritter
Thanks Three’s Company. Rest In Peace John Ritter

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…”

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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 :P

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Uncle Jimmy circa December 1986

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.

TorRap

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!”

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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.

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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?”

“No.”

“Is it because I’m 6’6″? You don’t like tall guys?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“Then what?”

“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

StoryTellingClass2

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.

TCMREmake

memhall111

memhall115

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!

On the hot seat...
On the hot seat…

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!

StorytellingRVG15

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 6, 2003

StoryTellingRVG11

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.

ZACK’S WAR

StoryTellingClass2

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.”

"Alright everyone, listen up, because I have GREAT news"
“Alright everyone, listen up because I have GREAT news.”
"Madonna's the new school nurse?"
“Madonna’s the new school nurse?”

SBTBZW3

“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.”

SBTBZW4

“In the Cadet Corps we initiate students into the Army way of life. Naturally, there’s discipline and hard work involved.”

"NOOO THANK YOU!"
“NOOO THANK YOU!”
"Every school has one, he's ours"
“Every school has one… he’s ours.”

SBTBZW7

“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.”

"Thank you Lieutenant. Have a good day. So, any volunteers?"
“Thank you Lieutenant. Have a good day.
So, any volunteers?”
"Count me in, Mr. Belding"
“Count me in, Mr. Belding.”
"Count me... OUT, Mr. Belding"
“Count me… OUT, Mr. Belding.”
"Oh you're out all right. MY OFFICE, FIVE MINUTES"
“Oh you’re out all right. MY OFFICE. FIVE MINUTES.”

SBTBZW12

"This is it, Morris"
“This is it, Morris.”
"The end. EL FINITO. I am fed up with your wisecracks"
“The end. EL FINITO. I am fed up with your wisecracks.”

SBTBZW15

“I’m giving you a month’s worth of Saturday detention.”

FOUR Saturdays?”

“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.”

“Carpool, sir.”

“Hold on…”

"Holding, sir..."
“Holding, sir…”

SBTBZW17

“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.”

"Alright, you got a deal Mr. Belding"
“Alright, you got a deal Mr. Belding.”
"Either he's getting real old, or I'm getting really good"
“Either he’s getting real old, or I’m getting really good!”

SBTBZW20

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.”

“ME?!”

“That’s right. Wait til Molly sees you… in a uniform.”

“Count me in, Zack! I’ll be ALL that I can be!”

SBTBZW21

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…

SBTBZW22

“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.”

"See, what did I tell you? Piece of cake!"
“See, what did I tell you? Piece of cake!”

*Turns around, back facing audience*

*Bell rings*

*Turns to face audience*

"TEN-HUT! Maybe I wasn't clear... ON YOUR FEET!! The Cadet Core is now in session. There will BE!"
TEN-HUT! Maybe I wasn’t clear… ON YOUR FEET!!
The Cadet Corps is now in session. There will BE!
"No talking. No SMILING. AND NO BLINKING!!"
“No talking. No SMILING. AND NO BLINKING!!
"Hey lighten up Lieutenant. There's no war. Haven't you heard, peace broke out all over the world"
“Hey lighten up Lieutenant. There’s no war.
Haven’t you heard, peace broke out all over the world.”
"I remember you. Big mouth. DOWN AND GIMME 20"
“I remember you. Big mouth. DOWN AND GIMME 20.”
"How 'bout two fives and a ten?"
“How ’bout two fives and a ten?”
"How about FIFTY?" "C'mon Lieutenant, where's the fun and games?"
“How about FIFTY?”
“C’mon Lieutenant, where’s the fun and games?”

SBTBZW30

“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…

"Why aren't you in uniform, Cadet Morris?"
“Why aren’t you in uniform, Cadet Morris?”
"Well let's face it sir, I'm just not Core material. I think it's best for both of us if I resign"
“Well let’s face it, sir. I’m just not Corps material.
I think it’s best for both of us if I resign.”
"Oh that's too bad, because I had big plans for you"
“Oh that’s too bad, because I had big plans for you.”

SBTBZW34

“Well, I’m afraid my ARMS can’t take any more of your BIG plans, sir.”

"You're a born leader; I'd hate to lose you. How 'bout I make you a deal?"
“You’re a born leader. I’d hate to lose you.
How ’bout I make you a deal?”
"Oh yeah, what kind of deal?" "We're gonna have an athletic competition soon." "Well that's great sir, but where's the deal?"
“Oh yeah, what kind of deal?”
“We’re gonna have an athletic competition soon.”
“Well that’s great sir, but where’s the deal?”
"If your team wins, I'll let you out of the Core. And even better, you can pick the teams. Do we have a deal?" "Ha... pick the teams? YES SIR."
“If your team wins, I’ll let you out of the Corps.
And even better, YOU can pick the teams.
Do we have a deal?”
“Ha… pick the teams? YES SIR.”
"Who does this guy think he's dealing with?"
“Who does this guy think he’s dealing with?”

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.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, the persons from the persons. Better now, Ms. Spano?”

“Thank you.”

“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.”

“What?!”

“Jessie, Kelly, Butch and Rocco, you guys are with me on the blue team… LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

"Wait a second, that's not fair. He's got all the jocks!"
“Wait a second, that’s not fair. He’s got all the jocks!”
"Are these teams evenly matched, Cadet Morris?"
“Are these teams evenly matched, Cadet Morris?”
"They certainly are, sir. If anything, Slater has the advantage..."
“They certainly are, sir.
If anything, Slater has the advantage…”

“Yeah for WHAT — THE NERD BOWL?!

"Are you sure this is fair?" "Sir, you have my word."
“Are you sure this is fair?”
“Sir, you have my word.”
" Zack, you'll lead the red team. Slater the blue team"
“Zack, you’ll lead the red team. Slater, the blue team.”
"But sir! You said I could pick the teams!"
“But sir! You said I could pick the teams!”
"I know. And you did a fine job. But I pick the leaders. That's MY job."
“I know. And you did a fine job.
But I pick the leaders. That’s MY job.”
"Pretty good at this job huh, Zack?" "Shut up Screech."
“Pretty good at this job huh, Zack?”
“Shut up Screech.”

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…

SBTBZW47

“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!”

"Alan, I'm not a cake so PLEASE get outta my face! Man you guys are hopeless. Turn around!"
“Alan, I’m not a cake so PLEASE get out of my face!
Man, you guys are hopeless. Turn around!”
*shakes head*
*shakes head*

SBTBZW50

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.

SBTBZW51

“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.

"Zack you gotta come back. We don't stand a chance without you." "Forget it Screech. I don't wanna waste my time"
“Zack you gotta come back.
We don’t stand a chance without you!”
“Forget it, Screech. I don’t wanna waste my time.”

“Oh but we’re getting better. Alan even got his uniform off without ripping it.”

“Big deal.”

SBTBZW53

“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.”

SBTBZW54

“But you said the Corps would make me the kind of man Molly would want.”

"SO I LIED. Sue me."
SO I LIED. Sue me.”

SBTBZW56

“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.”

SBTBZW57

Screech left the room and left Zack to ruminate. The next day…

*clears throat* "What are you doing here, Morris?" "Rejoining my team with your permission, sir."
*clears throat*
“What are you doing here, Morris?”
“Rejoining my team with your permission, sir.”
"That's impossible, Morris. You're a quitter. The Core doesn't want quitters."
“That’s impossible, Morris. You’re a quitter.
The Corps doesn’t want quitters.”

“I want another chance. Please let me back in, sir.”

“That’s not for me to decide. Maybe they don’t want you back.”

SBTBZW60

“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.”

"Screech, I'm sorry. Guys, please take me back."
“Screech, I’m sorry. Guys, please take me back.”

“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…

SBTBZW62

“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.”

"Now Butch, this is YOUR event." "Yeah!" "Bring it home baby!" "GRRRRRRRR!!"
“Now Butch, this is YOUR event. Bring it home, baby!”
GRRRRRRRR!!
"Well Morris here's your chance. Your team wins and you're out of the Core. A free man"
“Well Morris… here’s your chance. Your team wins…
And you’re out of the Corps. A free man.”
"Zack, Butch is running again. You're the only one who can beat him!"
“Zack, Butch is running again.
You’re the only one who can beat him!”

NOPEThere’s someone else here who can beat him...”

“WHO?!?”

"... Screech."
“… Screech.

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!? You saw what happened last time!”

“Yeah, I can’t beat Butch. We’ll lose!

"NOT IF YOU WIN. Come on Screech. It's time you started believing in yourself."
NOT IF YOU WIN. Come on Screech.
It’s time you started believing in yourself.”

“Runners, take your position.”

“Alright Screech you can do it!”

“Ready… GO!”

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.

"Nice work, Morris. Personally, I didn't think you stood a chance."
“Nice work, Morris.
Personally, I didn’t think you stood a chance.”
"Well thank you, sir. You didn't give me much of a choice."
“Well thank you, sir.
You didn’t give me much of a choice.”
"Ahhh you got what you wanted Morris. I guess this is good-bye."
“Ah, you got what you wanted Morris.
I guess this is good-bye.”
"Why sir? Are you quitting?"
“Why sir? Are you quitting?”
"Not me."
“Not me.”
"Well, not me either. Someone told me... the Core doesn't like a quitter."
“Well, not me either. Someone once told me…
THE CORPS DOESN’T LIKE A QUITTER.”
*SALUTE* (I held the pose as the class cheered)
*SALUTE*

StoryTellingClass

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.”

SethMurray2

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!”

StorytellingRVG16

CLOSING THOUGHTS

CampfireS2

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! ;)

WMCJ2

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.

Cozart6

Mr. USA Tony Atlas

"Thank God almighty, we are free at last!"
“Free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

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 :P Anyway, without further ado, please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, TONY ATLAS!

TonyAtlas

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.

TonyAtlas2

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.

TonyAtlas3

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.

TonyAtlas4

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.

MeanGeneHOF148

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!

The capacity crowd rises to greet Special Delivery Jones
The capacity crowd rises to greet SD Jones
SD Jones looking sharp!
SD Jones looking sharp!

Tonight I’m here to induct my best friend, Tony Atlas.

TonyAtlas7

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.

TonyAtlas8

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.

TonyAtlas9

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.

TonyAtlas10

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.”

TonyAtlas11

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.

*crowd claps*

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.”

TonyAtlas12

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!”

*crowd claps*

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.

Rocky Johnson was with me, he said "You're crazy"
Rocky Johnson was with me. He said “You’re crazy!”

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.”

*crowd laughs*

He's always hungry I don't understand, he's always *crowd laughs*
He’s always hungry I don’t understand, he’s always
*crowd laughs*

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.

TonyAtlas15

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 said, "I don't have my family here..." *crowd laughs*
Tony said, “I don’t have my family here…”
*crowd laughs*

Tony did SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY pounds and we walked away.

TonyAtlas17

He looked at me, “You gonna stop. If you don’t stop, Bossman, I’m gonna pop you one of these.”

*crowd laughs*

TonyAtlas18

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.

TonyAtlas19

Tony Atlas makes his way out to the sold out capacity crowd at the huge Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois.

A show of respect from Tony's peers
A show of respect from Tony’s peers
The two best friends embrace
The two best friends embrace

TonyAtlas22

The World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, gives Tony Atlas a nudge nudge wink wink.

... and Atlas plays along
… and Atlas plays along
Henry shows his appreciation
Henry shows his appreciation
Atlas soaks it all in before the crowd hushes down
Atlas soaks it all in before the crowd hushes down

TonyAtlas26

WEEELL… first of all, I like to uh… I like to thank… the wrestling fans.

*crowd cheers*

Because, without you fans, there be no Hulk Hogan…. *crowd cheers*

There be no Ric Flair…. *crowd cheers twice as loud*

TonyAtlas27

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*

TonyAtlas28

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*

TonyAtlas29

I had the honor of matching STRENGTH with the man that HAD the 23 inch guns — SUPERSTAR Billy Graham!

*crowd erupts*

TonyAtlas30

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!

*Crowd goes crazy*
*Crowd goes crazy*

TonyAtlas32

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!

*crowd cheers*

TonyAtlas33

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 GENDER you are, you can make it because YOU ARE… in the UNITED States of AMERICA!

*crowd goes absolutely nuts*

TonyAtlas34

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’!

*crowd cheers*

TonyAtlas35

I want this lady right here to stand up. Stand up, Monica, please darling.

TonyAtlas36

TonyAtlas37

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.

*crowd chuckles*

TonyAtlas38

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!”

*crowd laughs*

TonyAtlas39

This lady took in a homeless man… fed him, didn’t know who I were.

*crowd claps*

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.

*The crowd gives Monica a roaring ovation*
*Crowd gives Monica a roaring ovation*

TonyAtlas41

TonyAtlas42

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!

Tony had a short stint in late 1990 as Saba Simba
Tony had a short stint in late 1990 as Saba Simba
The McMahons clap approvingly
The McMahons clap approvingly

TonyAtlas44

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.

*crowd laughs*

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.

TonyAtlas45

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!

*Crowd cheers*

CLOSING THOUGHTS

TonyAtlas46

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.

Mean Gene Okerlund

MeanGeneHOF51

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!

Crowd goes crazy as I'm A Real American blares
Crowd goes crazy as Real American blares

When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside…
You gotta take a stand; it don’t help to hide!

IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE. I GOTTA BE A MAN, I CAN'T LET IT SLIDE!
IF YOU HURT MY FRIENDS THEN YOU HURT MY PRIDE.
I GOTTA BE A MAN — I CAN’T LET IT SLIDE!
I'M A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF EVERY MAN!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN. FIGHT FOR WHAT'S RIGHT... FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
I AM A REAL AMERICAN.
FIGHT FOR WHAT’S RIGHT — FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE!
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
*Fans chanting HOGAN HOGAN HOGAN!*
Alright! It's good to see you guys again
Alright! It’s good to see you guys again

MeanGeneHOF7

Um, it was really great to be in the back and come up to Gene Okerlund…

*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*pauses to look at rowdy fans*  You guys OK?
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”
*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
“ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!”

*ONE MORE MATCH! ONE MORE MATCH!*
[I think they want Hogan to have one more match -Ed.]
MeanGeneHOF12

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…

*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
*HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!*
“HOGAN AUSTIN! *CLAP CLAP* HOGAN AUSTIN!”
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
[I think they want Hogan and Austin to have a match -Ed.]
The Hulkster takes it all in
The Hulkster takes it all in
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
He strokes his beard as the ravenous fans continue on
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!
Crowd starts to jeer in good fun. Classic Hogan!

MeanGeneHOF20

Aw, aw stop it! I knew I’d get you guys to shut up. No, thank you very much.

You know what, that would be a good match someday
You know what, that would be a good match someday

*Crowd massively pops*

MeanGeneHOF22

You think uh, Austin could handle the power of HULKAMANIA?

*Crowd boos a bit*

I like that. Maybe I'll grow the black beard back in
I like that. Maybe I’ll grow the black beard back in

*Crowd pops*

MeanGeneHOF24

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.

MeanGeneHOF25

Trying to put the headband on my bald head, slide in front of the microphone…

LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!
LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING MEAN GENE!!

*Crowd goes bonkers*

MeanGeneHOF27

That’s how we usually hooked up. But tonight I’m here to uh, induct Mean Gene into the Hall of Fame.

And we go way back. Way back
And we go way back. Way back
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on
Ric Flair, the McMahons and Triple H look on

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.

MeanGeneHOF30

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.

Fan screams "I LOVE YOU HOGAN!"
Fan screams “I LOVE YOU HOGAN!”
Thank you brother. You're not my type but I love you too
Thank you brother. You’re not my type but I love you too
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel
Crowd bursts into laughter, if you wheel ;)

MeanGeneHOF34

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.

MeanGeneHOF35

And after my little run here, I went to the AWA. Mr. Verne Gagne promoted and ran that company.

The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on
The great Mr. Verne Gagne (R.I.P.) looks on

MeanGeneHOF37

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.

MeanGeneHOF38

During that time I became very good friends with Mean Gene. I had no idea back then how close we would be today.

MeanGeneHOF39

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.

The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster's old stories
The Big Show enjoying the Hulkster’s old stories

MeanGeneHOF41

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…

MeanGeneHOF42

… around New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts… to this huge conglomerate that covered the globe.

MeanGeneHOF43

And Mean Gene — a lot of you fans don’t understand — was like the FOUNDATION of this company.

MeanGeneHOF44

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.

MeanGeneHOF45

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.

MeanGeneHOF46

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.

MeanGeneHOF47

And if Mean Gene wasn’t there conducting the interview, it kinda wasn’t the same.

MeanGeneHOF48

So not only was Gene like a life support for Hulkamania and 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.

MeanGeneHOF49

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.

MeanGeneHOF57

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!

Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Jim Ross and friends stand up to applaud Mean Gene
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
Classic Okerlund. Always the showman
The two longtime friends embrace
The two longtime friends embrace
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
And I do mean LONGTIME friends
IT'S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT
IT’S STILL REAL TO HIM, DAMNIT :P
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
Thank you very much. Wow. I like that a lot
This guy did tell me one fib...
This guy did tell me one fib…
In that tag team match that we had he said...
In that tag team match that we had, he said…

MeanGeneHOF65

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.

MeanGeneHOF66

MeanGeneHOF67

Well he got in there, cleaned house, came over, gave me a hi-five.

The ref called it a TAG
The ref called it a TAG
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!
And I ended up in the ring with those two clowns!

MeanGeneClowns

MeanGeneHOF56

*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun
*Crowd laughs* But it was a lot of fun

MeanGeneHOF71

And yes we did... we did make the circuit BIG TIME
And yes we did… we did make the circuit BIG TIME
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker "Mean Gene"
Jesse Ventura gave me the moniker “Mean Gene”
BUT HERE'S THE GUY
BUT HERE’S THE GUY
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE
THAT ETCHED IT IN GRANITE, HULK HOGAN!

MeanGeneHOF76

*Crowd cheers and claps*
*Crowd cheers and claps*
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling
I want to tell you about the talent in professional wrestling

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.

MeanGeneHOF79

I think, uh, Bobby the Brain Heenan, we’ve gone through it all.

MeanGeneHOF80

AWA... yes... WWE, WCW...
AWA… yes… WWE, WCW…
*What's the Weasel up to?*
The Weasel’s up to something as Sherri cracks up
The two old friends shake hands
The two old friends shake hands
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
Heenan grabs Okerlund by the dome
... and plants a big wet one. Awww
… and plants a big wet one as the crowd laughs

MeanGeneHOF86

Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace
Classic Bobby the Brain Heenan. Rest in Peace

MeanGeneHOF88

Taking a look at that hair… on that package we just saw, I’m glad I went bald! *Crowd laughs*

MeanGeneHOF89

Verne Gagne… Verne Gagne started me out in April of 1971.

MeanGeneHOF90

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.

Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on
Verne Gagne, Tony Atlas and SD Jones look on

MeanGeneHOF92

You deserve recognition — finally getting it — welcome to the Hall of Fame.

MeanGeneHOF93

MeanGeneHOF94

Interviews back in the old days...
Interviews back in the old days…
... were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
… were kind of the LIFEBLOOD of the WWE
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik...
And there was a gentleman by the name of the Iron Sheik…
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly...
Randy Orton and the crowd chuckle knowingly…

MeanGeneHOF99

The Iron Sheik… who uh… you go to work and you’re entertained *crowd laughs*

MeanGeneHOF100

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.

But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik...
But here all of a sudden comes the Iron Sheik…
He opens the cage
He opens the cage
Pulls the turkey out
Pulls the turkey out
and CHOKES IT
and CHOKES IT
And slams it back down while he's cutting a promo
And slams it back down while he’s cutting a promo
THE BIRD DIES
THE BIRD DIES
Of course we couldn't use it on the air
Of course we couldn’t use it on the air
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter
Kurt Angle and the capacity crowd erupts in laughter

MeanGeneHOF109

Howard had to send uh, one of the boys back up to Groton, Connecticut to the turkey farm to get another bird.

Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures
Howard Finkel twinkles at the (mis)adventures

MeanGeneHOF111

AND SPEAKING OF BIRDS… what about that COCKAMAMIEGobbledy Gooker?!

Edge and the crowd chuckles
Edge and the crowd chuckles

MeanGeneHOF113

Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Patterson, I know it was your idea!
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh
Pat Patterson and Torrie Wilson laugh

MeanGeneHOF116

No that uh, that was quite an evening. All of a sudden we touted this big, huge EGG up to Hartford, Connecticut for the Survivor Series.

Survivor Series 1990
Survivor Series 1990

MeanGeneHOF117

And when it finally cracked open, here comes a knockoff of the San Diego Chicken… the Gobbledy Gooker.

The fans revolted and booed it out of the building
*The fans revolted and booed it out of the building*
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it...
And, of course, my friend Roddy Piper says go to it…
... put this guy over
… put this guy over
Hector, we had a lot of fun
Hector, we had a lot of fun
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
But ALL is forgotten *crowd chuckles*
Héctor Guerrero was the man in the chicken suit
Héctor Guerrero (middle) was the Gobbledy Gooker
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken shit...
Trying to make chicken salad out of chicken…

MeanGeneHOF123

Couple of guys by the name of Hillbilly Jim, Cousin Junior… OH, Uncle Elmer!

MeanGeneHOF124

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.

And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
And he proceeds to hit me over the head with a COWBELL
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd
The good Sarge chuckles along with the crowd

MeanGeneHOF127

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.

Takes it out and wipes it all over my face *crowd groans*
Takes it out and wipes it all over my face
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
Trish Stratus laughs as the crowd groans a bit
So you do pay the price
So you do pay the price

MeanGeneHOF131

Ric Flair…

*Crowd goes WOOOO!*

Ric… everybody’s talked about Ric Flair.

MeanGeneHOF132

Ric Flair I saw as a BOUNCER in a bar… not that I went to many bars

Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused
Ric Flair and Linda McMahon are amused

MeanGeneHOF134

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.

MeanGeneHOF135

MeanGeneHOF136

Finally ended up with a career in dancing… the robe, the bar.

MeanGeneHOF137

I’ve seen it coast to coast, and border to border and EVEN INTERNATIONALLY!

MeanGeneHOF138

Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts. Jake Roberts
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
*Crowd pops* Thank you. By God, he was a great one
John Cena, Mark Henry and the crowd claps approvingly
John Cena, Mark Henry and the fans clap approvingly
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
[One of the best on the mic of all time, bar none -Ed.]
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS
JAKE THE SNAKE ROBERTS

MeanGeneHOF143

We were doing a market specific, which was an interview that would only air in Cleveland, Ohio.

And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in
And I, I said, Jake Roberts, come on in

MeanGeneHOF145

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.

He said, STOP RIGHT THERE
He said, STOP RIGHT THERE

MeanGeneHOF147

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.

Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
Jerry the King Lawler laughs along with the crowd
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland.
I said, you know, my mother-in-law is from Cleveland
He says, I didn't like her mustache either
He says, I didn’t like her mustache either
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled
Crowd laughs and applauds. Dusty is tickled

MeanGeneHOF152

I take a look back at the years that we’ve been active with this Hall of Fame.

MeanGeneHOF153

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.

MeanGeneHOF154

This month I’ll be 35 years… in announcing professional wrestling… in one fashion or another.

MeanGeneHOF155

Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd... FORTY SECOND...
Last Monday I celebrated my 42nd… FORTY SECOND

MeanGeneHOF157

… wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Jeanne… *crowd pops* down there somewhere.

MeanGeneHOF158

And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
And this is a very, VERY elite fraternity that we have
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals
A great group of people, both the guys and the gals

MeanGeneHOF161

The behind-the-scenes people. They are the LIFEBLOOD of this great entertainment mecca.

MeanGeneHOF162

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 35if at all possible.

MeanGeneHOF163

MeanGeneHOF164

Superstar Billy Graham, I encourage signing up for ORGAN DONATION.

MeanGeneHOF165

MeanGeneHOF166

*Crowd cheers* Thank you. I got a couple of them here. That whiskey’s a little tough on them but…

MeanGeneHOF167

MeanGeneHOF168

… you gotta get the right one from a trainer. You know what I’m saying?

And in closing, finally I'd like to say this...
And in closing, finally I’d like to say this
If one day I'm called... UP TO THE BIG HOUSE...
If one day I’m called… UP TO THE BIG HOUSE
If I'm called, they'll have a funeral
If I’m called, they’ll have a funeral
I want you to bury me face down
I want you to BURY ME FACE DOWN
AND THEN...
AND THEN…
.... ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
…. ALL OF MY CRITICS CAN KISS MY ASS!!
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Laughter erupts as Gene receives a standing ovation
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Mean Gene Okerlund goes out in style
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Batista, AKA Drax the Destroyer, loves it
Hogan and Mean Gene embrace again
Hulk Hogan and Mean Gene embrace once again
What a night, what a career, what a legacy
What a night, what a career and what a legacy

CLOSING THOUGHTS

GeneHogan

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.

WrestleFe9

Halloween II

IconicHall16

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.

"Haddonfield" in August 2016
“Haddonfield” in August 2016

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.

We visited many of the filming locations that day
We visited many of the filming locations that day
Nearly 40 years of history!
Nearly 4 decades of history!
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Original Myers house from the 1978 film
Myers house 2016
Myers house 2016
Obligatory "That's me!" shot
Obligatory “That’s me!” shot
One of the most iconic scenes in horror cinema!
One of the most iconic scenes in horror history
It was so surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
It was SO surreal standing there. Gave me goosebumps
Michael stalked these streets nearly 40 years ago
Michael stalked these very streets nearly 40 years ago…

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?

Hall2018Poster

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.

Not exactly paradise but it'll do
Not exactly a view from paradise but it’ll do

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.

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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.

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There were lots of cool Halloween decorations lighting up the darkening streets of South Pasadena.

Nothing like an awesome Halloween display
Nothing like an awesome Halloween display

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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.

Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken
Half Firehouse half Rustic Garlic Chicken

Mmm, so good. I wish there was a Shakey’s where I live. I ate a few slices and took the rest to go.

Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)
Made for a greasy yummy midnight snack ;)

I then spent the better part of 3 hours texting a new lady friend before crashing for the evening…

Friday, October 12. Let's get the show on the road!
Friday, October 12. Let’s get the show on the road :D
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
Halloween promotion was off the charts in LA!
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
My new friend next to me said Artse. I only saw ARSE
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
The house from Nightmare on Elm Street
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy
Sean Clark was our tour guide. Super cool guy

Here we are getting ready to pass by the now defunct All American Burger from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). Good times.

The Doyle House
The Doyle house 2018
The Doyle House 1978
The Doyle house 1978
The Wallace House 2018
The Wallace house 2018
The Wallace House 1978
The Wallace house 1978
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
Fans from all over flocked to celebrate 40 years
More Halloween promotion
More Halloween promotion
The promotion was LEGIT
Halloween is BACK, baby
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming large over LA
Love the sight of Michael Myers looming over LA

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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.

*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
*cue sudden sharp sound effect*
And here's where we see the bouncing guy
And here’s where we see the bouncing guy
Surreal standing there so many decades later
Surreal standing there so many decades later
We even visited the church from The Fog
We even visited the church from The Fog
Mrs. Elrod's house
Mrs. Elrod’s house
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
The Buccaneer from Halloween III
Shout out to Craig sitting there!
Shout out to Craig sitting there!

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 :P It was nice chatting with the locals.

Love the character this bar has
Love the character this bar has
Sean Clark takes us to the "Garbage Day" spot
Sean Clark takes us to the “Garbage Day” spot
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
From Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2
"GARBAGE DAY?!?"  *BANG*
“GARBAGE DAY?!?” *BANG*
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
The infamous cemetery scene from Halloween
Pee Wee's House!
Pee Wee’s House!
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
From Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Another one of my favorite films, this was a nice bonus
Ah, my childhood
Ah, my childhood
The line for the hedge was insane
The line for the hedge was insane
Looking at it from this angle, its pretty ridiculous :P
Looking at it from this angle, it’s pretty ridiculous :P

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.

The classic opening shot
The classic opening shot
Iconic
Iconic
The restaurant from Terminator
The restaurant from Terminator (1984)
The Night They Came Home
The Night Late Afternoon They Came Home
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HES NOT HUMAN!"
Just wish I was here at night…
"I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE'S NOT HUMAN!"
“I SHOT HIM! SIX TIMES! HE’S NOT HUMAN!”
It sure would be spooky standing there at night...
It sure would be spooky standing here at night…
Definitely not spooky in the daytime :P
It loses its effect a bit in the daytime :P
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Standing where Donald Pleasence once stood
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around...
Dr. Loomis, if only yo ass turned around…
The Strode House
The Strode House
Nice
Nice
I just had to
C’mon, you knew I just had to
Inside the Myers House!
Inside the Myers House!
The same house 40 years ago
The same house 40 years ago
What an honor
What an honor :)
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
Thank you Sean Clark for a fun tour!
All of a sudden all the houses went DARK...
Reminds me of the creepy scene the lights go out
Off to my Friday night dinner... SHAKE SHACK!
Off to my Friday night dinner… SHAKE SHACK!

I’ve heard the hype for Shake Shack for years now, and finally I had a chance to try it out for myself.

Mmmm
Mmmm. That milkshake was legit
Nothing like meat hanging out over the tray
Nothing like hot meat hanging out over the tray :D
Went to Target to see their Halloween display
Nothing warms my heart like a Halloween display
Went to Target to pick up a few items
From that fancy hoity-toity store… Target
Hello Jack Skellington!
Hello Jack Skellington!
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Love seeing the ghoulish sights of Halloween
Yo bro, didnt I kill your ass in Resident Evil?
Yo bro, thought I killed your ass in Resident Evil
Had fun driving around LA at night blasting 80s songs
Driving around LA at night blasting ’80s songs :D

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!

Act like wherever you are is the place to be
“Act like wherever you are is the place to be” -Damone

So awesome blaring this while driving around LA
So awesome to play this while driving around LA

I eventually made my way back to the hotel and ended up texting a new lady friend for 4 hours before finally crashing…

Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention
Saturday, October 13. Halloween Convention time!
Met a new friend. Heres my convention buddy, Crystal
Met a new friend. Here’s my convention buddy, Crystal

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 :P Shout out to Crystal. It was fun walking around the Convention and hanging out!

Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Tom Atkins from Halloween III was a big hit
Best part was seeing a guy propose!
Best part was seeing a guy propose to his girlfriend!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Flanked by two Boogeymen!
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
Early Saturday evening I made the long drive back
I finally made it back super late and crashed like a mofo
I-5 is so damn spooky and eerie at night

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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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!

Hey, who’s that good looking guy at 1:32?! ;)

Halloween

Nothing like counting down the days to Halloween
Nothing like counting down the days to 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

HalloweCover

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?

Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years
Michael and I have shared a bond for nearly 30 years

HALLOWEEN

October 25, 1978
October 25, 1978

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?

IconicHall16

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.

The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere...
The Boogeyman could be lurking anywhere…

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…

BoogeStairs

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.

IconicHall23

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.

"MICHAEL?"
“MICHAEL?”

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.

Every small town has that ONE house...
Every small town has that ONE house…

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.

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Halloween was full of classic scenes and masterfully crafted shots that represented John Carpenter’s finest work.

Oh hell no...
Oh hell no…

IconicHall19

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!

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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.

You weren't even safe at school...
You weren’t even safe at school…
Or your own backyard
Or your own backyard

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.

It's a lot scarier when it's completely random
It’s a lot scarier when it’s completely random
Michael's mannerisms were perfectly creepy
Michael’s mannerisms were perfectly creepy
"See anything you like?"
“See anything you like?”
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Yes he does. Choking, in particular
Somehow I doubt he's ordering pizza
Somehow I doubt he’s ordering pizza
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
The moment you realize shit is fucked up
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Get the hell out of there, Laurie!
Props to Jamie Lee Curits who played Laurie great
Props to Jamie Lee Curtis who played Laurie great
One of the best shots in the franchise
One of the best shots in the franchise
No words to describe this
Iconic
The epic finale begins
And thus, the epic finale begins
Take that, bitch!
Take that, bitch!
"You cant kill the Boogeyman!"
“You can’t kill the Boogeyman!”
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
This scene scared me so much as a kid!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
WATCH YO BACK GIRL!
GAWD DAMN!
GAWD DAMN!
Wheres Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Where’s Doctor Loomis when you need him?
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Ah, good old Donald Pleasence to the rescue
Often imitated, never duplicated
Often imitated, never duplicated

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 10 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN II

October 30, 1981
October 30, 1981

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.

Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Michael was shot six times and fell off a balcony
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and hes gone...
Mere seconds later, Loomis peers over and he’s gone…

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!
Neighbor: Who?
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!

*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*
*cue an updated frenetic Halloween theme*

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.

There was something very sinister about Halloween II
There was something very sinister about Halloween II
The various POV shots were creepy as hell
The various POV shots were creepy as hell

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.

Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
Look out, Mrs. Elrod!
What a money shot
“He is now believed to be at large… in Haddonfield”

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.

Great job, Loomis. Dick
“IS IT HIM OR NOT?!?!”

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).

HalloJLC8

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.

HalloJLC6

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.

Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael...
Hospitals are unsettling in general. Add in Michael…
And it becomes downright traumatizing!
And it becomes downright traumatizing!

Dark long hospital hallways, a lurking Boogeyman and a dreadful sense of isolation and despair made Halloween II a wonderfully atmospheric film.

Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Halloween II made me fear going to the hospital
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of it for the most part
Jamie Lee Curtis was out of sorts for the most part
Which made her more helpless
Which made her more helpless
This chase scene is almost as good as the original
This chase scene is almost as good as the original

The remixed chase theme makes my hair stand up on end…

I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
I was freaking out as a kid watching it!
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
It had multiple chase scenes, in fact
This one was pretty good in its own right
This one was pretty good in its own right
Robo Myers was scary indeed
Robo Myers was scary indeed

GlassShatter

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.

The mask isnt quite as good, though
Look at those eyes… or don’t, rather
Speaking of eyes
Speaking of eyes
Siiiick
Siiiick
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Loomis and Michael go out in a blaze of glory
Literally
Literally

CreepHosp

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

October 22, 1982
October 22, 1982

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.

Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Love this Goosebumps inspired creation!
Really wasn't a bad idea, and the masks were sick
Really wasn’t a bad idea, and the masks were sick

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.

If only it wasn't billed as Halloween III
If only it wasn’t billed as Halloween III

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

October 21, 1988
October 21, 1988

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.

Meet newcomer Danielle Harris
Meet newcomer Danielle Harris

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.

What a creeper
What a creeper

H4Shot3

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.

Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
Halloween 4 kicks off with a series of amazing shots
It completely captures the autumn season
It completely captures the autumn season
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield is
Especially in the Midwest, where Haddonfield lies
It totally sets the mood proper!
It totally sets the mood proper!
I just wish the rest of the film lived up to this
It just screams HALLOWEEN
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was amazing
Seeing the title loom over the farmland was perfect
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome
Scene with Reverend Sayer was awesome

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.

H4Shot2

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.

You can almost feel the chill in the air
You can almost feel the chill in the air

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.

It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
It was a nice comeback for the Boogeyman
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film
One of the creepiest endings ever in a horror film

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

October 13, 1989
October 13, 1989

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.

Hall5Shot12

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.

Hall5Shot8

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.

Hall5Shot

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…

Well, you know the rest
Well, you know the rest

Hallowe5

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.

Hall5Shot9

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.

Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from the original
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5
Michael unmasked from Halloween 5

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.

Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Keep your mask on, Michael, even if some hate it
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Barn scenes were pretty spooky
Loved the fog
Loved the eerie fog
Ouch
Ouch
Damn, he didnt get to see the 90s did he
Damn. He didn’t get to see the ’90s, did he
Just you and me, Michael
Just you and me, Michael
To the gawd damn bitter end
To the gawd damn bitter end
Not even they were able to save things
Not even they were able to save this film
How most fans feel about Halloween 5
How most fans feel about Halloween 5

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

September 29, 1995
September 29, 1995

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.

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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.

Still stalking after all these years
Still stalking after all these years
Never gets tired seeing him pop out of the shadows
Never gets old seeing him pop out of the shadows

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He clearly let himself go a bit, too
He clearly let himself go a bit
But his walk stalk game was still on point
But his walk stalk game was still on point
The red lighting made it even scarier
The mask looked vicious in certain shots
And looked a bit gentler in others. Fascinating
Yet looked a bit gentler in this scene…

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.

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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.

He was a vicious bastard in 6
He was a vicious bastard in 6

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.

HALLOWEEN: H20

August 5, 1998
August 5, 1998

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).

Welcome back, Jamie
Welcome back, Jamie
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
Fun fact: I drew this for an art class I took in high school
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
I wanted to give him orange hair though :P
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
Shout out to my art teacher from 2000!
The mask was weird, though
The mask was a bit weird
The random crappy CGI shots didnt help either
The random crappy CGI shots didn’t help either
Why, oh why?
Why, oh why? Is this Alien Michael Myers?!

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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.

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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.

H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
H20 also featured a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt
And a returning Nancy Stephens!
And a returning Nancy Stephens!

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Nancy played Nurse Chambers in the first two Halloween films.

It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
It was a lovely cameo that gave the film some history
Speaking of history...
Speaking of history and cameos…

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.

What a reunion. 20 years in the making
What a reunion. 20 years in the making

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I love how Laurie Strode fights back and confronts her monster. She was a real badass in this one.

And thats the end of Michael and the series
And that’s the end of Michael Myers

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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

July 12, 2002 Summer -- really?!
July 12, 2002 (Summer — really?!)

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.

Why am I in this piece of shit movie???
Why am I in this piece of shit movie???

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…

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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.

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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.

HALLOWEEN (2007)

August 31, 2007
August 31, 2007

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.

It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix
It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in the mix

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?

"Laurie, whos the Boogeyman?"
“Laurie, who’s the Boogeyman?”
Michaels mask was sick
Michael’s mask was sick
Very sinister and evil looking
Very sinister and evil looking

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)

August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009

I hated this movie. The less said, the better. I give Halloween II (2009) a 1 out of 10.

HALLOWEEN (2018)

October 19, 2018
October 19, 2018

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.

Good times with the GF
Good times with the GF

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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.

Michael's a badass, for sure
Happy 40th anniversary, Boogeyman

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.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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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.

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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.

MY PERSONAL RANKING

1. Halloween (1978)
2. Halloween: H20
3. Halloween II (1981)
4. Halloween 6 (Producer’s Cut)
5. Halloween 4
6. Halloween (2018)
7. Halloween 5
8. Halloween (2007)
9. Halloween Resurrection
10. Halloween II (2009)