Chart Beat chats with Cheap Trick's Robin Zander, Debbie Gibson, the Monkees' Peter Tork and other beloved entertainers at the music, movie and TV star convention
"People don't want to meet you. They want you to meet them."
At the Chiller Theatre fan convention, held April 26-28 in Parsippany, N.J., Debbie Gibson paraphrased Cher's line about the fan experience. In other words, she said, fans often don't want so much as to meet their favorite celebrities as they want to tell them how much their work has meant to them. For musicians, especially, Gibson noted, such a connection is often strong, with artists' songs serving as the soundtracks to people's lives.
Such joyous meet-and-greets filled the Sheraton Parsippany last month, with smiling fans eager to say hello to, and get autographs from, an array of actors, musicians, writers and more, many who've made their mark over multiple decades. Names on hand included movie tough guy William Forsythe, soap star Lorenzo Lamas, Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster), Barry Bostwick ("Rocky Horror Picture Show") and Priscilla Barnes (roommate Terri from "Three's Company").
Also pressing flesh was Todd Bridges, whose character Willis Jackson dated a then-teenage Janet Jackson (aka, Charlene Duprey) on "Diff'rent Strokes." "It was a lot fun. Janet's a great girl," Bridges said, while even offering the show's catchphrase, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?!" (He and Jackson still keep in touch, he said.)
This being Billboard, Chart Beat made sure to chat up the several musical acts in attendance. Check out the thoughts of five chart veterans (and two actors) below who graciously took time to share memories.
Cheap Trick's discography dates to the '70s, with the act topping the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988 with ballad "The Flame." (Ahead of its next album, band member Rick Nielsen recently topped Heritage Rock with "From Can to Can't," collaboration with Dave Grohl, Stone Sour's Corey Taylor and Scott Reeder.) "We didn't realize how long we'd be together. We thought maybe a year or two," lead singer Zander recalled. "We'll make a little money then go home, whatever. I don't know, become brain surgeons …"
" ' 'Lost in Your Eyes' is how I learned to play the piano'," Gibson says, relaying the message of a fan who shared the influence of her three-week 1989 Hot 100 No. 1. "I had someone from Japan today even say, ' 'Lost in Your Eyes' is how I learned to speak English'." Here, the singer reflects on a fun day of meeting fans for whom her late '80s hits recall a cherished time in their lives.
Tracey Gold, Jeremy Miller
Like we weren't going to talk to Carol and Ben Seaver?! The siblings from TV's "Growing Pains" (1985-92) recounted their fond memories of the series, for which a reunion is rumored, although not currently in the works, they said. (A TV movie aired in 2000.) Gold and Miller said that the series' theme song – Steve Dorff and Friends' "As Long as We Got Each Other," which reached No. 7 on Adult Contemporary in 1989 – is perhaps as memorable is the sitcom itself.
Then, we Monkee'd around with Peter Tork, who ran through a list of his various favorites that the Monkees produced (even jokingly trying to recall his favorite movie of theirs, surely a difficult task considering that they made just one). His favorite Monkee? View the video to find out. (Could it be the one in the background?)
Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1969. Since, the song has done anything but say goodbye, living on as a stadium taunt to opposing teams, among other pop culture usages. Co-writer DeCarlo recalled that the song's signature "na na, hey hey" refrain wasn't a part of the original composition. "It was written as a blues shuffle, called 'Kiss Him Goodbye.' The night we recorded it, a drum track from one of my (other) recordings was layered onto it and the chant was born that night."
Before leaving, we caught up with Ramone to discuss the Ramones' iconic influence on punk and alternative. We found out that the drummer has cooked up more than just beloved music.
Chiller Theatre occurs twice a year. Click here for early information on the next edition, taking place Oct. 25-27.