11 Random Pieces of Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher!

Excerpt from the Tigerland extras.

Once upon a time the phrase “director Joel Schumacher” was a handy punchline and/or an unpleasant flashback trigger in many geek circles. Y’know, after what happened with the one (1) film. Never mind that he amassed over three dozen other credits over the course of his career, quite a few of which were eminently watchable and in some cases even respectable. Granted, that most notorious failure derailed a beloved film franchise for several years, hobbled a zillion-dollar merchandising machine for about ten minutes, and was a ludicrous betrayal to those of us who were perhaps a bit too unyielding in our stoic allegiance to Super Serious Super-Heroes.

I let that go years ago. Sooner or later all punchlines gets tired upon incessant repetition, most grudges get pointless as time passes, and some axes don’t need any more grinding.

I was sorry to hear of Schumacher’s passing on June 15th at age 80 after a year-long battle with cancer. Cancer sucks. Much as I’d love to write a definitive summation of his career, that’s best left to professional websites who underpay collaborative teams to compile such listicles from their combined viewing experiences. The following is a personal recollection of my encounters with his works from my teenage years to two months ago. It’s not a long list, or a logically organized or comprehensive one, but it’s mine.

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Rene Auberjonois, 1940-2019

Shimerman Auberjonois!

Us with the late actor, plus his dear friend and fellow Star Trek vet Armin Shimerman.

Sunday was not a kind day for our favorites in the entertainment world. Mere hours after the passing of Caroll Spinney, the kind soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, we were further saddened to hear about the passing of actor Rene Auberjonois from lung cancer at age 79. Many a youth cackled at his small but lively role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the French chef who tries to turn Sebastian the crab into an appetizer, but he’s been around since I was a kid. His repartee with Robert Guillaume on ye olde sitcom Benson (among other fine costars including Star Trek: Voyager‘s Ethan Phillips) taught me the comedy value in sparring opposites and well-timed barbs. It probably also taught me that haughty, no-nonsense stuffed shirts had much to learn about being kinder to coworkers, so there’s that value.

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Caroll Spinney, 1933-2019

Caroll Spinney!

That time my wife met the super awesome kindhearted puppeteer himself.

Sunday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Caroll Spinney, that dear absolute giant from the original cast of TV’s Sesame Street who brought to life two of that avenue’s great yet opposite creations: the childlike Big Bird, patron saint of friendly innocents; and the ornery Oscar the Grouch, a benign symbol of our selfish dark sides. He threw himself into both roles with gusto and aplomb for decades, and left his imprint on millions of kiddos.

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Aron Eisenberg 1969-2019

Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg!

Us doing Ferengi jazz hands with Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisenberg (far right) at Starbase Indy 2014.

I didn’t hear the news till earlier today of the September 21st passing of actor Aron Eisenberg. We didn’t realize he wasn’t that much older than us. Age 50 is far, far, far, far too young. Really, all ages are far too young, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure my thoughts run more deeply than “This really, really sucks,” but we do have a few mementos for our remembrances.

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Peter Mayhew 1944-2019

Peter Mayhew!

A fond souvenir from our personal archives.

Fans grieved hard enough years ago when Chewbacca died in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, crushed by a moon. Hearing today of the death of Peter Mayhew, the man who brought George Lucas’ original Wookiee to life, was far more sorrowing. Everybody loves Chewbacca. Not even The Star Wars Holiday Special could damage him or our appreciation for the heart and muscle and loyalty he brought to the other, much shorter heroes of that faraway galaxy.

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Stan Lee 1922-2018

Stan Lee!

Stan “The Man” Lee and a brief moment with one fan among the millions he entertained, inspired, and/or taught life lessons to through super-heroes and the power of comic books.

I knew something had gone wrong with the day when two coworkers approached and interrupted met at lunch. They usually know better, but they felt it was their duty to break the news to me that the legendary Stan Lee himself had at long last passed away at age 95. In many ways I’m glad they were the messengers, as opposed to finding out by stumbling into random, cryptic retweets from strangers.

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Scott Wilson 1942-2018

Scott Wilson!

File photo from Wizard World Chicago 2015.

I’ve been offline most of today, but upon returning late Saturday night was saddened to hear of the unexpected death of actor Scott Wilson at age 76. Most folks today know him as Herschel from seasons 2-4 of The Walking Dead, the kindly farmer and sage of the ensemble, often the conscience during the toughest of times when he wasn’t dealing with critical injuries, grieving the loss of teammates and family, or suffering the cruelty of the Governor. Barely an hour before his passing, news had broken at this weekend’s New York Comic Con that he would be returning this coming season for a flashback, most likely in connection with Andrew Lincoln’s farewell episodes and hopefully not as his surprise twin brother Murschel.

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Burt Reynolds 1936-2018

Burt Reynolds!

Anne with the esteemed Mr. Reynolds, who seemed genuinely surprised to have hundreds of fans in his photo-op line.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in 2015 my wife Anne and I undertook one of our most action-packed Wizard World Chicago experiences to date. It was the year we met more actors than any other, the year I attended more comics panels than any other, and a rare year in which the two of us had to split up a few times in order to see everything on our personal to-do lists. While I attended a Friday panel starring other, younger actors of relatively recent renown, Anne sped straight for a photo op with the legendary Burt Reynolds, that unparalleled star of the silver screen and beloved macho man of our childhoods.

We were shocked to hear this afternoon about his unexpected passing at age 82. As the photo proves, Anne had the chance to meet him, but I’m sorry I missed out. Even sorrier tonight.

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Jon Schnepp 1967-2018

Schnepps + Payne!

Once again, photo courtesy of the Department of Not Sure Why We Didn’t Just Take Their Photo When We Met Them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Anne and I attended the 2016 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, whereupon…

…We also had the pleasure of meeting director Jon Schnepps and producer Holly Payne, the minds behind the recent documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”, the astonishing true story of that time Nicolas Cage, director Tim Burton, and writer Kevin Smith tried and failed to make a, uh, truly unique Superman film together. I’ve been wanting to see this for months even though I’m afraid to see it for myself.

We chatted for a minute at their table. I can’t remember a single thing about the conversation except that they were good people not that different from us. The last time I saw him in person was later that same weekend as we were wandering around the town’s “Super-Con” — the Superman Celebration’s equivalent of an exhibit hall for toy shops and comics dealers. During our lap around the building, we passed by Schnepp — no guards, no entourage, no disguise — standing at one table, rifling through their back-issue box like any ordinary average Joe who hadn’t made an actual film, accumulated Cartoon Network credits to their name, or once filmed themselves being wrestled to the ground by an unchecked, filthy rich studio exec.

After I watched writer/director/producer Schnepp’s candid, illuminating documentary about a massive failure of a Hollywood production, I eventually remarked

We rarely get complete stories as to why a given high-profile film turns out awful, let alone a tell-all about one that collapsed under its own bloated before it could harm the innocent public. Copious interviews with would-be director Tim Burton, several attempted screenwriters including but not limited to a candid and incredulous Kevin Smith, producer Jon Peters checking in from some bizarre mental plane far removed from our own, fans, pundits, and other crew members who put in hundreds of hours of labor before someone realized they were collaborating on a fiasco and had to be stopped. It’s a shame Nicolas Cage himself couldn’t chime in with his thoughts because I suspect they would’ve made Peters seem rational by comparison.

Cage’s absence notwithstanding, I had to respect the force of will it must have taken to coax such revealing cautionary tales out of the participants themselves. I never took the time to watch Schnepp’s signature work on the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse (my loss, I’m guessing), but from the strong showing in that documentary alone I’d assumed we would see more great things from him in the future.

Then came the events of the past week.

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Margot Kidder 1948-2018

Margot Kidder!

MCC file photo, June 9, 2017.

Anne and I were saddened today to hear of the passing of Margot Kidder, the definitive Lois Lane of our generation. Much has been said and will be said around the internet and in the media for days to come. We had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Kidder less than a year ago at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL. We always talk about the actors and other personalities we’d love to meet before it was too late. In this particular case, for this amazing woman, we had no idea we were cutting it so close.

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Adam West 1928-2017

Adam West and Burt Ward!

That time two Dynamic Duos met at Awesome Con Indy 2014.

Saturday morning, Anne and I were at a major event waiting to meet TV’s Dean Cain when news broke that the Adam West had passed away at 88 from leukemia. At first we didn’t believe it. Whether we’re in a small town or a big city, whether we’re among fellow geeks or ordinary folks, that’s the kind of allegation we don’t accept at face value.

“To the phones!” I half-jokingly shouted as we both clicked to our most trusted sources for confirmation. Alas, it was true. The moment was depressing yet sublimely absurd — here we are in line for Superman only to have someone tell us Batman is dead.

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5 Reasons Why Glitter Guy is No Chewbacca Mom: Our Searing Hot Take

WRTV interview!

No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “I wonder if someone will slap a chyron under me today.”

Misleading Headline Disclaimer: this is really more of an “If We Were Having Coffee…” kind of entry, but I’m finicky about my entry titles, and sometimes I can’t let go of a useless, self-deprecating joke that’s been bouncing around my head for days.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the great Carrie Fisher died unexpectedly some thirty or forty years too soon, and MCC remembered that time we met her. As if 2016 weren’t already a frontrunner for Worst Year of the Millennium before these last-minute additions, the next day brought the equally shocking news that her mother Debbie Reynolds had also died. We can’t and won’t imagine how their family is faring and can only add our prayers for the caring and guidance of others around them through this unfathomable time.

Meanwhile here in less important spheres, the week has been sad and unusual and frustrating on a lower level. If we were having coffee, I’d be apologizing for keeping a minimum safe distance because I’ve been waging war on a nasty cold that’s been digging at me since Christmas Eve and finally took me down Wednesday, turning me into a hacking, sniffling, irritating noisemaker that my coworkers kept trying to shoo out the door. I’m now typing this at the end of a much-needed sick day and…well, at least I’m alive and typing, and I was on TV Monday night, so this is me trying to tone down my complaints.

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Carrie Fisher 1956-2016

Carrie Fisher!

Star Wars fans worldwide are reeling from the sorrowful news that Carrie Fisher, the valiant Princess Leia who could take any of us in a fight, passed away today at age 60, four days after a massive December 23rd heart attack had her in headlines and in everyone’s thoughts and prayers. The post-surgical prognosis from her family was positive at first, but…alas.

I trust I don’t need to summarize her vast and varied accomplishments at length here beyond the Star Wars universe. My wife Anne and I thought well of her comedic turn in Soapdish. When we were best friends but determinedly not-dating, When Harry Met Sally… was our New Year’s viewing tradition, with highlights including Fisher’s turn as Sally’s best friend whose bad decisions made dating look all the more resistible. It’s been a good decade or more since I read and enjoyed Postcards from the Edge, though I never saw the movie version and can’t speak to whether or not Meryl Streep did justice by her words. But every page, fictional or otherwise, reveled in the barbed candor that was a trademark of her post-Star Wars life.

Pictured above is a scene from one of our all-time favorite convention days, when Anne and I had the pleasure of basking in Fisher’s inimitable, unstoppable presence at the second annual Indiana Comic Con back in 2015. If you read only one entry on Midlife Crisis Crossover today, I recommend you skip this one and jump over to “The Alderaanian Glitter Bomber Strikes!”, our flabbergasted, in-the-moment recount of our unforgettable hours in the Carrie Fisher autograph line, featuring photos of the very special flourishes she yearned to share with every adoring fan she could, whether we were ready for it or not.

If we learned one thing from that occasion, it was the same lesson she taught Hollywood, interviewers, hucksters, and any other thoughtless interlopers who obstructed her path throughout her career: whenever that unflappable leader of the Rebel Alliance wanted things a certain way, only fools tried to tell her “no”.

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UPDATED 12/28/2016, 12:15 a.m.: Late Monday afternoon, our local ABC affiliate, WRTV Channel 6, interviewed me about our Carrie Fisher experience. Click here for their write-up and video, which originally aired on their 11 p.m. edition. It was a quick get-together, as you may be able to tell from my post-holiday-weekend no-care hair.

Memories of Brady and Book

Ron Glass!

I promised myself five months ago I wouldn’t hop on the “2016 SUCKS” bandwagon, but celebrity passings dominated this weekend’s apolitical headlines, at least two of which merit a few personal side notes.

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Cowboy Bob, 1942-2016

Cowboy Bob!

Until I was in high school, the only TV our family could afford was a 13-inch black-and-white set. This, to me, is how Cowboy Bob always looked and always will look. Except much squarer, because this image is cropped in the wrong shape.

For once the worst news of my entire day had nothing to do with deaths or Presidential election. Any Indianapolis native over the age of 30 was saddened today to hear about the passing of local TV legend Cowboy Bob, a kiddie-show host and super-friendly personality who played a major role in so many childhoods during his illustrious career on the air, along with his dog Tumbleweed and his greatest puppet, Sourdough the Singing Biscuit, who was as deformed and low-budget as you’d imagine. But he was our deformed low-budget singing biscuit puppet and Cowboy Bob made him happen.

(All the professional news sources insist his name was Bob Glaze. This information is injurious to my rare moment of nostalgia. These journalists were clearly children at the wrong time. His name was Cowboy Bob. SAY HIS NAME.)

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Our Meager Kenny Baker Story

Kenny Baker!

[Star Wars fans were saddened to learn today of the passing of Kenny Baker at age 81. His long list of credits include Labyrinth, Time Bandits, and even Amadeus, but every piece ever written about him will focus on his longtime career as the soul of R2-D2. We previously told the story of the one time Anne and I met him, in 2002 at Star Wars Celebration II here in Indianapolis. If memory serves, he was the first Star Wars actor we ever met. The following is a modified reprise for the occasion.]

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2016 Ain’t Nothing But a Number

2016!

Muhammad Ali. Prince. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Patty Duke. Garry Shandling. Nancy Reagan. Abe Vigoda. Raymond’s mom. Frank Drebin’s boss. Grizzly Adams. TV’s Schneider. The Phantasm guy.

For these names and others you’d recognize, 2016 has been a bad year. Whenever three or more well-regarded famous people die within the same year, that year’s name is mud. Everyone curses its name and declares it Worst Year Ever. Add in one or more horrifying wide-scale tragedies, and that year will never be allowed a moment of recognition for all the good it hosted. 2016 isn’t halfway over, but if it were an internet user, it would already be receiving daily death threats and getting trolled into oblivion by millions of typists blinded by fury at all the implied promises broken by that stupid backstabbing jerk Baby New Year 2016. Remember in January when Ryan Seacrest invited us all to welcome that baby with open arms and hearts and hopes? Now WE HATE THAT BABY SO MUCH. THANKS, SEACREST.

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