Saturday, July 4, 2020

Great American Fourth of July

A little known tradition of mine is to sit down and watch the classic American Playhouse special The Great American Fourth of July and other Disasters on the 4th of July.  American Playhouse was an anthology series that aired in PBS for thirteen seasons from 1982 - 1996.

Based on the works of and narrated by Jean Shepherd this was originally broadcast on March 16, 1982.  Shepherd is one of my favorite authors, I own all five of his books.  You are probably most familiar with his film A Christmas Story, about Ralphie Parker and his family as he pines for a carbine action 200 shot range model Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.

I was first introduce to Jean Shepherd from this movie.  One day I noticed in the credits that the movie was based on the book "In God We Trust, All Other's Pay Cash." So of course I bought the book and absolutely loved it.  Over the years I bought his other books, and some CD's.  Shepherd was an amazing storyteller of what was life in his childhood.  Shepherd has many other stories adapted to television and movies, none of them as popular as A Christmas Story.

1976 - The Phantom of the Open Hearth
1982 - Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters
1983 - A Christmas Story
1985 - The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski
1988 - Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss
1994 - My Summer Story

All the movies are narrated by Jean Shepherd and he was involved in their production.  I have book leg versions of all except A Christmas Story and My Summer Story.   I'm pretty sure you can find them on YouTube to watch.  They are worth it, also Shepherds books are well worth your time to read. 

Until Next Time!

Thursday, July 2, 2020


Holy cow I am restless right now.  It's ten minutes of ten on Thursday night I have been restless since my wife went to bed around eight.  I asked my son if he wanted to watch a movie and he didn't want to.  That's cool, he wants to play video games with his friend. 

I watched the first episode of Warrior Nun on Netflix, not what I expected it to be.  I'm going to give the second episode a try but I didn't find it compelling or even very interesting.  Since that got over I can't decide what to watch.  Nothing seems appealing to me at the moment.   I don't really care about watching anything, or reading anything, or diving too deep into a project, and I don't want to go to bed either. 

I decided to just sit down and tap the keys on my laptop and see what words appear on the page.

I'm off the next three days because of the 4th of July holiday being celebrated on Friday the 3rd...yeah.  At work we were supposed to ramp back up to being in the office full time, but then they decided to have us continue working from home two days a week and in the office three days until the end of August.  My wife is working from home everyday until at least labor day and then they are going to reevaluate the situation and make a decision from there.

In two weeks we take our yearly vacation camping with the kids.  We are going back to Medway for the third year in a row.  We all love it there.  Sadly, because of the pandemic, we can't take the kids on a day trip to Canada this time.  However, I have found some things that we can explore in Aroostook County that we have never seen before.   It'll be nice just to be on vacation. 

Well I guess that's it, I didn't claim that I had anything important to say.

Until Next Time!

Monday, June 29, 2020

My Fandom: Signed Photos

After the Jim Davis letter came in the mail it scratched an itch that I didn't know I had.  Prior to this I never though about writing a celebrity, much likely asking for a signed photo.  The first ever signed photo that I got in the mail was from Yvonne Craig, the former Batgirl from the the 1960's Batman television series.  My favorite episodes of the series were the ones with Batgirl.

I got this photo in 1998 and hung it on my wall in the wrestling room.  To me this is just and amazing photo!  It's personalized, It's a very nice signature, I love the yellow backdrop, and she looks downright amazing in her costume!  November 18, 2006 I attended my first ever convention, Supermegafest in Framingham, Massachusetts.
please ignore my horrific facial hair
There I got to meet Ms. Craig in person and even got my picture taken with her.  I had purchased her book when it came out so I had her sign it for me.  I got several wrestling cards signed that day and even met Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira.  She was not dressed up as Elvira but I did get my picture taken with her.  I even had a brief interaction with Lando Calrissian himself Billy Dee Williams

Over the years I sent several more requests for photos, some of my favorites include Nick Castle, Joey D'Auria, and Wendy Richard.  But my all time favorite was from one of the greatest writers of all time Ray Bradbury.

I never expected to get a photo or anything signed by him, but I truly love this photo.

I bought this photo from a shop in York Beach, Maine and sent it to Mr. Castle.  As you can see he played the Shape or Michael Myers in the original Halloween.  He also wrote Escape from New York and directed Major Payne.

Joey D'Auria was the last person to play Bozo the Clown on WGN out of Chicago from 1984 - 2001.  Bozo the Clown debuted in a children's book in 1946 and became a television show in 1949.  Several actors portrayed Bozo the Clown over the years.  Each market had their own Bozo, for instance in Boston Frank Avruch was Bozo from 1959 - 1970 while at the same time in Chicago Bob Bell was Bozo from 1960 - 1984.  At one time in the 1970's there was as many as 50 local market Bozo the clown shows with different actor portraying the clown.

Wendy Richard starred as Mrs. Brahms in one of my all time favorite television shows.  I really need to buy the DVD or Bluray complete series.

I stopped collecting 8 x 10's years ago and I haven't written a celebrity asking for one in more than 15 years I bet as I mail out trading cards now.  However I have gotten a couple in the last few weeks.  I mailed trading cards to both Cyndi Lauper and Harrison Ford.  I got a nice 8 x 10 back from Mrs. Lauper, along with my card unsigned and from Mr. Ford two pre-print 5 x 7's with a letter saying as much as he'd like too he just doesn't have time to sign everything he is sent.  I didn't expect to get anything back at all from Harrison Ford. 

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Second Book

I've started working on the manuscript for the second edition of The Wrestling Insomniac book.  I don't know when I'll get around to publishing it, but I am taking what I learned from the first one and taking a different approach with this one.

Last time I made the manuscript to fit a paperback edition and then had to do a lot of work un-formatting to fit the specs for a kindle book.  This time I'm starting with the simple formatting of Kindle and then the far more extensive work of formatting for paperback.

My buddy Brandon gave me some great feedback on the book as well as some really good editing suggestions that I'm going to implement in this volume.  I've also though about writing a few exclusive chapters for the book with essays you won't find on my blog. 

I also have another wrestling book project in the works that I'm keeping to myself for now, but it's going to take a lot of research and I'm very excited about it!

You can find my amazon author page here: Michael J. Labbe where you can find my book The Wrestling Insomniac as well as the horror anthology where my story The Legend of Thaddeus Bilodeau was published.

Until Next Time!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day, my wife had invited her Dad, brother, and nephew over for breakfast, normally they go out to eat but with Covid-19 she decided to make breakfast herself.  We were all a lot more excited about her making breakfast than going out, my wife is an amazing cook.

She made bread on Saturday, used that bread to make french toast, cooked up bacon, sausage, home fries, and at the request of her brother corned beef hash.  It was a big ole pile of food, and I enjoyed a small portion of each.

I got a new Maine Gazetteer by Delorme as a gift, mine was old and damaged.  I know we live in the digital age, but I like having the Gazetteer with me on our travels.  We drive a lot of remove places with no cell service.  We have a New Hampshire & Vermont one as well.  I hope to teach my kids how to read a map and not to just rely on GPS to get them where they need to go.

After cleaning up the breakfast dishes we went to my wife's Aunt's house on Togus Pond for a swim, the water was gorgeous.  We planned on staying for an hour or so and spent over 4.5 hours there.  I even ran to McDonald's to get the kids lunch.  They were having fun, we were all enjoying the water, and it was so nice out with the breeze and the water was refreshing.  Canaan probably jumped off the dock fifty times.

Once we got home I mowed the lawn and weed whacked while listening to a couple podcasts, I get a lot of satisfaction out of my nice looking lawn.  The Undertaker on Corey Grave's After the Bell was very good, not long enough though.

After cleaning up I took in the final chapter of the Undertaker Last Ride documentary.  Overall I really enjoyed the five part series.  I loved the Boneyard match, but I really think he needs a proper send off in front of the fans. Maybe that will be when he goes into the Hall of Fame.

To finish the evening my son and I screened the 1979 classic Mad Max.  I haven't watched it in a few years and he's never seen it.  Pride's Corner Drive In is screening The Road Warrior next week, I may take him to go and see it.

For me, it was a great Father's Day as I got to spend time with my family and enjoy the weather. 

Until Next Time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

My Fandom: Sending Fan Mail

After getting my letter back from John Davis I sorta became hooked on writing my favorite celebrities to ask questions and show my appreciation for their work.  This was in the late 1990's, the very early internet days but there was a website I found, it was called Star Archive then and it's still around today called Star Tiger.

It's essentially a database of celebrity addresses either home, agent, business, or other where you can send a letter.  Over the years they've added email address, websites, twitter accounts, facebook pages, and even myspace pages when they were a thing.

A lot of information on Star Tiger is submitted by users as well.  For instance many notate that they attempted to contact a celebrity with the information provided on the page, they will submit the date they mailed their request, the date they got it back, and if it was successful or not and can even include an image of the item they had signed.  This let's people know if it's a good address or not and at times how long they can expect to wait to get a response.

Sending a celebrity fan mail can be a touchy thing depending on who you are.  There are some fans that think it's an invasion of privacy and others that don't think there is anything wrong with it.  In recent weeks I've actually seen a lot of people talking about this on social media.  Billy Gunn recently posted that someone put his address out "there" and he's received a large amount of fan mail that he is marking return to sender and wants people to stop.  Britt Baker stated that she gets a lot at the dentist office that she works at and it is also marked return to sender.  She stated send her fan mail to AEW.

Other celebrities like Colt Cabana and Tyler Breeze post an address where people can send fan mail.  If you've ever looked at my wrestling blog the majority of my collection of signed trading cards I acquired by mailing the wrestlers directly.

Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with sending a letter to someone asking for an autograph if you include a self addressed stamped return envelope and something for them to sign.  I send trading cards and in my letter thank them for their time and talk about their career, my favorite matches and moments, and ask any questions that I have.

I have mailed letters cold before, as in I found their address and just sent the letter.  However if they have a way to be contacted via email or social media or a website I will ask first.  I have about a 75% return success rate overall. 

Back when I first started I would send letters asking for a signed photo, I would mail it in a 9 x 11 envelope with a stamped return one inside.  It was about 50 cents to mail that then, it cost 55 cents to mail a standard letter now so I'm guessing it would be over a $1 today which is not cost effective.  I don't think it's right to ask a celebrity to supply you with something that they have signed, this is why I send trading cards. 

This is also when I learned about pre-prints and the infamous studio fan mail.  Studio Fan mail is a service that has been around since 1962 that celebrities use to respond to fan mail request for signed photos.  Many of these celebrities use pre-prints as in they sign a photo once and that photo with the signature is then copied so you receive a photo with a pre-printed autograph.  Some celebrities who use studio fan mail do hand sign every photo that is sent out. 

The longest I it ever took to get something back signed was a trading card from Bart Gunn aka Mike Barton, over four years.  The shortest was Dr. Tom Prichard & Terry Funk with a seven day turn around.  More often than not I just get the cards back signed, which I'm grateful for.  Sometimes they will write a quick note on a post it or scrap of paper thanking me for writing or answering a question, again I'm grateful.  Only a few times have I gotten a full letter response.   

In another post I'll share my favorite signed photo's that I got back.  You can check out part of my collection of signed cards on my wrestling blog here.

Until Next Time!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Two Day Disconnect

Happy Friday everyone!  In 29 minutes time the wife, Wesley, and I will be jumping in vanna and heading north to Medway for a couple nights of camping!  The best part, no WiFi and no cell service where we are going! 

I'm very excited to take a forced two day break from social media.  I've reduced looking at Facebook and Twitter quite a bit in the last few weeks, but I enjoy keeping in touch with people.   The weather is looking great and I can't wait to be sitting around the campfire.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and I'll be back Sunday night!

Until Next Time