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Signature moments at the Hollywood Show

Fans catch up with the likes of 'Dr. Kildare' Richard Chamberlain, Jane Russell and 'Baywatch's' Gena Lee Nolin at the memorabilia show in Burbank.

February 15, 2010|By Chris Mann

What do you tell someone who still wants to see how Joan Van Ark is holding up, chat with Dr. Kildare and Wyatt Earp or look into the, um, eyes of a bevy of still-buoyant "Baywatch" babes?

Stand in line.

That and 20 bucks buys you a Vaseline-free lens into pop culture's past at the Hollywood Show, where time is elastic, even if its famous faces and figures are not.


FOR THE RECORD:
Hollywood Show: An article in Monday's Calendar section about last weekend's Hollywood Show, where celebrities sign autographs and pose for pictures, said that former "Knots Landing" stars Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills would be appearing Thursday in an episode of the FX series "Nip/Tuck." The episode will air tonight. —

The quarterly autograph and memorabilia show -- a retro nirvana for TV Land, VH1 and Turner Classic Movies fans and celebrity signature collectors -- unites vintage Tinseltown idols and survivors with the people who made them as-seen-on-TV commodities.

And hot commodities they were again for one star-shining, moneymaking weekend Saturday and Sunday at the Burbank Marriott Airport Hotel & Convention Center.

The oddly seductive mix of luminaries, separated from their impassioned admirers only by folding tables and the lingering haze of fame, included TV legends Richard Chamberlain ("Dr. Kildare") and Hugh O'Brian ("The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp"), '50s screen goddess Jane Russell, a handful of graying Osmond brothers, 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine and child star Corey Feldman.

The event also saw a flurry of cast reunions: "The Terminator" (sans Arnold), "West Side Story," "The Bionic Woman" (the fembot-worthy '70s original) and "Knots Landing," which ran on CBS from 1979 to 1993.

Van Ark, scrupulously well-preserved and glad to "still be kicking it" at 66, said she was "anxious" about the convention's up-close-and-personal fan-star interaction, and had turned down past offers to attend such shows.

"I'm all about moving forward," she said. "But my 'Knots' buddies are my dearest friends, and that's the whole reason I'm doing this. Our 14 years on prime-time TV is a badge of honor and a big investment on the fans' part -- and ours."

"Knots" costar Donna Mills, 69, said some autograph seekers confess an appreciation for the life-in-the-'burbs CBS soap that's beyond skin-deep.

"Some people tell us the show saved their lives," she reported. "That's really surprising -- and gratifying."

Mills and Van Ark play on-the-prowl cougars on Thursday's episode of the FX plastic-surgery drama "Nip/Tuck."

Yes, these 20th century foxes are now old enough to play cougars -- or, well, parents of cougars -- if they're lucky enough to land work in an increasingly youth-obsessed, reality-TV-glutted entertainment industry.

But current casting realities matter not at this Hollywood Show. Yesteryear celebs immersed in a sea of nostalgia-inducing 8-by-10 glossies need only revel in their hard-earned former glory and wield a mean Sharpie to rake in acclaim, adulation and $20 to $25 per signature.

(Most celebs charge a similar fee for posed snapshots. Some will even team with fans -- and sometimes former cast mates -- in studio-style 8-by-10s shot by an on-site professional photographer for $39.95 to $100.)

Many collectors easily drop a Benjamin or two in a day, but some show-goers prefer to loiter and stare at the celebrity circus that once seemed so exotically inaccessible. Where else can you see Verne ("Mini-Me") Troyer, Lee ("Catwoman") Meriwether and singer-songwriter Helen ("I Am Woman") Reddy making nice with regular folk?

"Blue Lagoon" star Christopher Atkins, a well-maintained 48, stood by nonchalantly while male and female admirers thumbed throughshotsfor him to sign. And the actor wasn't shy about admitting he's done the autograph show circuit for years to help pay bills after "ducking out of the biz" to raise his two kids.

"I'm absolutely coming here to make money," said the standout, if crinkly eyed, star of 2009's VH1 reality show "Confessions of a Teen Idol."

Former "Baywatch" beauty Gena Lee Nolin, 38, used the convention to reconnect with her fan base as she prepares to launch a "mommy-based" "Extreme Makeover"-style series and self-help book on her battle with postpartum depression. But her highlight this weekend was meeting 88-year-old legend Jane Russell.

"She said, 'Oh, so you're the girl on "Baywatch." I know who you are,' " the smitten Nolin recounted with a smile. "It was surreal. She's everything you expect a Hollywood actress to be -- old school. It's the way we all wish we were."

calendar@latimes.com

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