Rerun Royalty : Dozens of Celebrities Who Weren't Quite Stars Appear at Convention


Their names and faces may have faded from memory, but their work endures in reruns.

They are the stars of such fondly remembered television shows and movies as "Gilligan's Island," "Mister Ed," "101 Dalmatians" and countless other Hollywood creations that flickered across screens big and small over the last 60 years. Today and Sunday, dozens of them will gather at Beverly Garland's Holiday Inn here to meet the fans who have followed their fortunes for decades.

The location couldn't be more appropriate--a hotel named for the actress who played Fred MacMurray's television wife in "My Three Sons" and the star of the 1957 science fiction film "Not of This Earth."

You won't see Sally Field or Bill Cosby, but you will meet all three Bradley sisters from "Petticoat Junction."

"You're so jaded, you see celebrities all the time," promoter Ray Courts said in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. "But by golly, when I come out, I wanna see 'em!"

Naysayers warned him that no one would pay to see actors and models in Los Angeles, but five years after the first convention, fans are still flocking to the quarterly events, drawn by the potent power of stardom, however fleeting.

Russell Johnson, who played Professor Roy Hinkley for three seasons on "Gilligan's Island," said he still enjoys meeting fans, even if they all want to know why his character couldn't repair the S.S. Minnow if he could build a radio out of a coconut.

"It's wonderful," he said. "People come at you with love."

Courts calls it the Hollywood Collectors Show and Auction, and while dealers from around the country peddle posters, photos, paperbacks and more, it's show-biz folks like Adam West, Julie Newmar, Dawn Wells and Billy Barty that draw the fans. Hundreds of them paid $5 to meet the more than 100 celebrities who attended Courts' June show, and it is this devotion that is the most flattering, the entertainers say.

"People remember all the things you've done," Garland said. "They remember things you don't even remember doing."

Guests at this weekend's show are expected to include Alan Young, Jon Provost, Elinor Donahue, Lisa Loring and Dolores Fuller.

Stumped? That's Wilbur Post from "Mister Ed," Timmy from "Lassie," "Princess" from "Father Knows Best," Wednesday Addams from "The Addams Family" and Ed Wood's co-star in the notorious transvestite epic "Glen or Glenda."

Since many no longer receive royalties for their work, shows like Courts' offers faded stars a brief return to the spotlight, if only too briefly. They're not paid for their appearances but they get free table space and can keep 100% of their earnings from their own memorabilia sales.

"I don't want celebrities to think we used them or took advantage of them," Courts said. "Most of them enjoy the exposure, to be remembered again."

Dwayne Hickman wrote a book, "Forever Dobie," to answer fans' questions about his years as television teen-ager Dobie Gillis, but admits he still likes greeting his admirers in person.

"It's fun to meet the fans, the people who enjoyed the show," he said.

For veteran stripper Francesca (Kitten) Natividad, who gave audiences an eyeful in Russ Meyer's sexploitation movies, meeting fans in the flesh is a special high, she said.

"I'm a goddess to them," she chirped.

For the fans, although many say they relish the opportunity to meet familiar faces from bygone eras, they admit that the encounters are often bittersweet.

"Sometimes I like to remember them the way they were on TV," said data processor Carrie Bloomfield, 42, who drove from San Bernardino to attend Courts' June show.

She's been collecting movie memorabilia for 10 years with her husband and says it's an enjoyable hobby, but an expensive one.

"We wouldn't be able to do this if we had children," she said.

Wayne Schulman, a Tarzana banker who collects Ann-Margret memorabilia, understands.

"I spent a fortune today," he said sheepishly at the June show.

The "Kitten With a Whip" star wasn't in attendance that day, but the 36-year-old Schulman still went home with several magazines, photos and letters devoted to his favorite star--to the tune of about $400. Why Ann-Margret?

"I remember seeing 'Bye Bye Birdie' for the first time," he said, his voice trailing off. "She entertained me."

To many stars, their enduring popularity and the popularity of shows like Courts' are evidence of a kind of immortality, they say.

"I know that my voice will never die," said Adriana Caselotti, the still-girlish voice of Walt Disney's first animated feature, 1937's "Snow White."

But as many acknowledge, it comes with a price.

"After 'Gilligan's Island,' nobody wanted me as a heavy--I was typecast--and I resented that very much," Johnson said. "But over the years I began to see how people love these characters and love this show."

Although he played a variety of roles in his career, he realizes that he will always be known for one--the brainy scientist who built a radio out of a coconut.

"This is how I'm remembered," he said. "But that's OK by me."

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