I’m unsure when I built my first web page. I do know that it was a simple “home page” (remember those?) hosted on the defunct Prairienet community network, which itself debuted in 1993. My guess is that I joined Prairienet soon afterward.
The first site that I created with an online audience in mind was a fan tribute to the ’80s sci-fi TV series V. You’ll still find a version of it right here on this blog. Unfortunately, as those files have been copied multiple times, their original date stamps are lost.
But my topic for today is the second site I built.
In the early-to-mid ’90s, I was seriously into action figures. Oh, you might think that I’m still into them, but not in the way I was then. I didn’t restrict myself to a couple of toy lines; I bought whatever tickled my fancy. I was a frequent contributor to the Usenet group rec.toys.action-figures, and even a member of a secret cabal of collectors who helped each other acquire more-difficult-to-find items.
I was also very much into Star Trek: The Next Generation. And my favorite character wasn’t Picard or Data or Worf. It was Dr. Beverly Crusher, as portrayed by actress Gates McFadden. I was smitten with her from the get-go. Sure, Deanna Troi was boobtastic, but it was the dancing doctor that held my attention.
And so it was that, as they say, two great tastes tasted great together. In the early days of the World Wide Web, I was amused by some of the oddly-specific fan sites that had sprung up, and wanted to create one of my own. In my head, the joke would be that it would be something insanely narrow in focus, something no one else in the entire world would devote a site to.
Thus was born Bevheads. I reasoned that anyone could make a Star Trek action figure site, but who in their right mind would build one solely for Beverly Crusher toys?
The original "Bevheads" logo.
Eventually the joke began to run away with itself. As parodies often do, it came to resemble the very thing at which it was poking fun. I went from simply photographing tiny, plastic Beverlys to customizing my own. As I cannibalized figures for my Frankensteinian creations, the name “Bevheads” acquired a second meaning. Headless bodies and bodiless heads cluttered my work space.
I gained a little notoriety for my efforts, but was bothered by those occasions on which people failed to pick up on the joke. I bristled at being featured on the now-defunct site Portal of Evil, which subjected fan pages to mean-spirited mockery. One day I got fed up and deleted my entire site. Some of the figures were sold off in a general purge of my collection, and if I still have any of the photos, they’re hidden away on a poorly-labelled CD-ROM.
Bevheads was on my mind today when my friend Dave Lartigue directed me to this: Gates McFadden’s own Tumblr feed. While it’s ostensibly about her theater company, mostly she’s…posting photos of Beverly Crusher action figures. I am gobsmacked. (My actual reply to Dave L.: “You are fucking kidding me.”)
I did some Googling around in preparation for this blog entry, hoping to find some of my old photos floating in the ether. And I had my second surprise of the day: this tribute to Bevheads, complete with an Andy Warhol-inspired photo montage of one of my headless Bevs. It made me happy to learn that somewhere out there, someone got a kick out of the enthusiasm with which I pursued my oddly-specific mania.
While the original Bevheads pictures may be forever lost–with the exception of the one I stole back from the above-mentioned tribute–I pulled out my remaining Beverlys for a little photo shoot this evening.
Here are some of the original, unaltered figures made by Playmates Toys back in the ’90s. Front row (L-R): ’40s attire (from the episode “The Big Goodbye”); “Generations” movie uniform (actually an unused costume design); two standard Bevs (without and with lab jacket); Captain Beverly Picard (from the series finale “All Good Things”); Starfleet Academy cadet. Rear: 9″ scale doll with cloth costume and rooted hair.
Some decidedly non-canonical Beverlys. These were simple custom jobs involving head-swaps and a bit of paint. From L-R: captain’s uniform; dress uniform; Original Series miniskirt.
My weirder, creepier custom jobs (L-R): “tough chick” (body from a wrestling character); “slumber party” (body from the teen soap Swans Crossing); “Jabba the Hutt’s slave” (body from Princess Leia, natch); aerobics outfit (from the episode “The Price”); Lego; “Mirror Universe.”
My old friend Doug Mikkelson built this “Beverly Fett” for me as a birthday present. It’s noticeably more elaborate than my own customs.
And now for something completely different: a custom Deanna Troi, built from another of those Swans Crossing figures. I believe that I called her “Western Fun Troi.”
Finally, here are some of my bisected Bevs, including the one which inspired that Warhol homage. Amusingly, it was still in the same pose as when I took the original photo way back when.
I hope that you enjoyed this look into my psychosis. Why are you backing away from me?
The Thiel household has a number of unusual Christmas traditions, such as the gay snowmen that enjoy a place of honor atop our living room television. But the one with the most staying power is our annual screening of a 1967 episode of Dragnet. The plot, in which L.A. police detectives Joe Friday and Bill Gannon track down a missing Jesus statue, might be the stuff of banal, treacly TV Christmas specials. However, viewed through the deadpan filter of Jack Webb, it becomes an inadvertent comedy delight.
Or maybe it’s just us.
Earlier this year, I transferred my aging VHS copy–recorded some two decades ago from a “Nick at Nite” holiday marathon–onto a shiny DVD, and I’d planned to upload some highlights to YouTube in clear violation of their copyright protection policies (which I believe actually include the phrase “wink, wink”). However, Hulu has saved me both the trouble and the potential legal entanglement!
Our story opens on the day before Christmas, with Friday working the day watch out of Burglary Division. His partner Gannon (M*A*S*H‘s Harry Morgan) enters carrying a desktop Christmas tree that’s basically a twig with a stand. “It sure brightens the place up,” Bill declares.
“I bought it from this round-headed kid named Brown.”
He sees Friday writing out a stack of Christmas cards, and says “You oughta get married, Joe. Only system. Eileen does all this stuff for me. Mails cards, laundry, only system.” One wonders how Eileen feels about the system.
Bill hopes to get off early, as he still needs to complete his holiday shopping. (Laundry detergent?) Joe, however, has already bought his girlfriend a gift: a stationary set.
Gannon: “Joe, you never learn.”
Friday: “What’s the matter?”
Gannon: “No woman wants a stationary set. You get her something personal.”
Friday: “It’s got her initials on it.”
Gannon: “No, no, no. You want something more sentimental. Romantic.”
Friday: “What’d you get Eileen?”
Gannon: “Well, it’s different in her case.”
Friday: “What’d you get your wife?”
Gannon: “A sewing machine.”
Friday: “That’s romantic.”
Gannon: “Well, it is, in a way.”
Friday: “Why didn’t you buy her a catcher’s mitt?”
This banter–which is downright frivolous by Dragnet standards–is interrupted by a call. Father Rojas from the San Fernando Mission Church has reported that their statue of the infant Jesus has been stolen! Even though it’s in Foothill Division territory, Friday decides to meet with the father.
Father: “I’m sorry to bother you men.”
Gannon: “That’s alright, Father.”
Father: “Especially now, the holiday season.”
Friday: “We cash our checks, Father.”
I feel like this is something more of us in the service industry should say.
“Thanks for coming to fix my toilet.”
“We cash our checks.”
“This ice cream cone is tasty!”
“We cash our checks.”
Soon, Father Rojas and Joe Friday are in a full-fledged quip-off:
Friday: “How late is the church open?”
Father: “All night.”
Friday: “You leave it wide open, so any thief can walk in?”
Father: “Particularly thieves, Sergeant.”
Even Friday doesn’t have a smart-ass reply to that one.
Gannon: “Just for a check on the pawn shops, how much is the statue worth?”
Father: “In money?”
Friday : “Well, that’s the point in pawn shops, Father.”
Father: “Only a few dollars. We could get a new one, but it wouldn’t be the same. We’ve had children in the parish; they’ve grown up and married. It’s the only Jesus they know.”
Gannon: “We understand.”
Father: “And we’ve had children who died. It was the only Jesus they knew. So many of the people who come here are simple people, they wouldn’t understand, Sergeant. It would be like changing the Evening Star.”
A frequent paraphrase between me and Mrs. Thielavision: “They’re a simple people; they wouldn’t understand.”
“No, really. They’re fucking stupid. It’s a wonder they know to breathe.”
The detectives promise to continue looking for the AWOL messiah, and, if possible, return it for Christmas Mass. But before they go:
Father: “It’s sad, isn’t it?”
Friday: “How’s that?”
Father: “In so short a time, men learn to steal.”
Friday: “Yes, but consider us, Father.”
Friday: “If some of ‘em didn’t, you and I would be out of work.”
The thought of continued employment comforts Father Rojas.
Hitting the pawn shops, Friday and Gannon make the acquaintance of the absurdly cantankerous Mr. Flavin, owner of Flavin’s Religious Art. (“Fifty percent European items!”) The thing about Dragnet is that I’m never quite sure when it’s trying to be funny, but the things that come out of Flavin’s mouth are so bizarre that even Joe Friday begins rolling his eyes.
Actual dialogue (paraphrased): “How’d you know my name? We never met!”
Friday asks the shopkeeper if he has a large statue of the baby Jesus, to which Flavin responds as if he’s never heard of such a thing:
Flavin: “You don’t want a large one unless it’s fer a church. That’s where you want a larger one.”
Friday: “Could we see it, please?”
Flavin: “I guess. It’s not my due to butt in, but unless you live in a big place, this’ll make your living room all a-kilter.”
Friday: “Yes, sir. Do most of the people who go to the Mission Church trade here?”
Flavin: “Good many of ‘em. Especially the kids.”
Friday: “Why kids?”
Flavin: “More religious! Check on yourself. See if kids aren’t more religious than you.”
Friday: “Might be so.”
Flavin: “That’s what’s wrong with the world!”
I’m pretty sure that no old person in the history of humanity has ever said that a resurgence of faith is the problem with the world. Especially not the owner of a religious paraphernalia store. However, Mr. Flavin is bugfuck nuts, so there’s that.
“You wouldn’t want this here Jesus! It’ll rob you blind!”
The interrogation continues:
Friday: “Do people ever come in and sell back a religious article?”
Flavin: “Like a prayer book or rosaries?”
Friday: “Yes, sir.”
Flavin: “Second hand, you mean?”
Friday: “Yes, sir.”
Flavin: “Not since I ever been around. It’s silly.”
Flavin: “People don’t have religious articles so they can get rid of ‘em. They have ‘em so they can have ‘em.”
Gannon: “But if a man had a statue and wanted to sell it, he’d come to a place like this.”
Flavin: “Sure, but he wouldn’t want to sell it.”
Friday: “He would if it was stolen.”
Flavin: “No, sir! If a man was to steal a statue, he’d be crazy or something like that. The only place he’d want to go is where crazy people are.”
Friday: “You may be right, Mr. Flavin.”
Flavin: “I don’t know what you fellas are looking for, but if it’s somebody who stole a statue, he’s crazy and you won’t find him. You won’t find him as long as you live, or in a million years!”
Friday: “That should cover it.”
Point to ponder: If crazy people are impossible to find, why do I encounter so many of them?
You too can enjoy a visit with Mr. Flavin! Click here!
Confronted by this unassailable logic, Friday and Gannon retreat. They continue to check religious stores, but “none of them were as encouraging as Mr. Flavin.”
The flatfoots return to the office to be met by one of the Mission’s altar boys, John Heffernan, played by a pre-Brady Bunch Barry Williams. When Joe tells little Greg Brady that he didn’t have to come in (“A phone call woulda worked”), the boy replies, “My father said to get on over. He said that any kid that uses phones is lazy.” My, times have changed.
“Is this about the time I stole that goat?”
Heffernan hadn’t noticed the statue being Jesus-napped, but mentions a man carrying a bundle. Friday jumps at the chance to lead the witness:
Friday: “How large a bundle?”
Heffernan: “It’s hard to say.”
Friday: “Come on, son! Was it large or small? The size of the statue?”
Heffernan: “About that big! Yes, sir!”
“Then, Marcia was hit by a football…”
The search for the man with the mysterious bundle–a church regular named Claude Stroup–leads them to a hotel for down-and-out old folks called “The Golden Dream.” Stroup is absent, and the desk clerk is worried that he won’t return in time to sing in the Christmas concert with the hotel choir.
The Three Tenors eventually went to seed.
Clerk: “I hope it’s nothing serious for Claude. Fella’s troubles oughta be over.”
Clerk: “Way back. Wouldn’t count now.”
Friday: “Tell us anyway.”
Clerk: “It was something back where he used to live. He robbed somebody or something.”
Friday: “What else?”
Clerk: “That’s all. It was a long time ago, way far back. But he forgot it all, the robbing and everything.”
Friday: “No, not quite.”
Friday: “He remembered it this morning.”
Joe Friday has heard of the presumption of innocence, but holds no truck with it.
Later, back at the station, Captain Mack attempts to send Joe and Bill off to pick up a captured fugitive, but Friday is adamant about finishing his work for Father Rojas.
Captain Mack: “What is it, a ten, fifteen-dollar chalk statue?”
Friday: “Since when’s the price determine a case?”
Well, considering that the Champaign police never called me back after my Halloween decorations were stolen, I’d say that price very much determines the case. But this is Dragnet, so instead Joe Friday adroitly guilt trips the Captain into letting him continue in the search for Jesus, leading to one of the queerest looks I’ve seen in a police drama.
Click here to watch Friday play “Good Cop, Guilty Cop!”
At 4:45 pm, there’s a break in the case: Stroup has returned to the Golden Dream. As Joe puts it, “The desk clerk was right, Claude Stroup looked like a man who’d had his troubles at bargain rates.”
“How many badges do you see?”
Impatient about being unable to present his sweetheart with her personalized stationary set, Joe Friday gets cranky:
Stroup: “Honest, I didn’t do nothing against the law.”
Friday: “You haven’t been accused. We want to talk to you downtown.”
Stroup: “No, sir, I’m not goin’. I’m not goin’ anyplace. I’m not goin’ to talk to nobody.”
Friday: “You’re half wrong already.”
And so Friday and Gannon drag his happy ass halfway across town. A couple of hours pass, and Stroup still refuses to talk. Ultimately, the real reason for his reticence is revealed: earlier that day he’d gotten into a minor parking lot accident with a borrowed car. The suspicious bundle was nothing more than his spare pants for the Christmas Eve concert. Joe glumly releases him, and tells Claude to go home. Not that he offers the poor guy a ride. Or cab fare. Go home, Stroup. Get walking. Bargain rates, indeed.
With the pawn shops closed and all leads dried up, the defeated duo return to Father Rojas with the bad news. Just then, a small Mexican boy enters pulling a wagon…inside which is the baby Jesus!
Jesus makes Paquito’s nose itchy.
The father recognizes him as Paquito Mendoza, one of the locals, and translates his Spanish:
Father: “He says that all through the years, he prayed for a red wagon. This year, he prayed to the child Jesus. He promised that if he got the red wagon, the child Jesus would have the first ride in it.”
Paquito: (speaking Spanish)
Father: “He wants to know if the devil will come and take him to Hell.”
Friday: “That’s your department, Father.”
Father: (to Paquito) “El Diablo, no.”
At which point, Vic always shouts, “El Diablo! Si!” And then she hisses. That’s what we Thiels call Christmas spirit.
Paquito returns the statue to the creche, to be watched over by its chipped and worn Nativity-mates.
God in His natural habitat.
Approving Donkey approves.
“No, you see, you are simple, Paquito. You wouldn’t understand.”
All is well. The Whos down in Who-Ville will wake up on Christmas morn and never face the prospect of being hopelessly confused by a Replacement Christ. Paquito gathers his wagon and hightails it back to his life of petty larceny.
Paquito will soon learn that there are no red wagons in Hell.
Gannon: “I don’t understand how he got the wagon today. Don’t kids wait for Santa Claus anymore?”
Father: “It’s not from Santa Claus. The firemen fix the old toys and give them to new children. Paquito’s family, they’re poor.”
Friday: “Are they, Father?”
Off to solve the Case of the Purloined Dreidel.
And with that, we draw a close to the Dragnet Christmas special. I hope that it will become a tradition in your household as well.
I have lived a strange life, but there was no time stranger than the year-and-change that I spent in West Hollywood. It was my first time truly separated from my parents, living on my own (with one or more roommates) and seeking gainful employment. All the while, I was making fitful attempts to break into the business of show, and generally trying to figure out what in the hell I was going to do with my life.
West Hollywood was, for me, an exotic place, strange and wonderful. Its population included a significant percentage of homosexual males, which took a bit of acclimation on my part. (I think that was the start of my reevaluation of my ingrained “family values.”) More to the point, it was a place full of people who were working in the entertainment industry, or were working somewhere else until they could start working in the entertainment industry. I was constantly encountering minor-league celebrities, and even a few major ones. (I can tell you that all heads turn when Danny DeVito walks into a record store.)
For the last eight months of my stay, I worked at a “postal center,” a mail-drop that rented boxes to people who wanted to have a physical address that wasn’t their own. For an additional charge, we also provided an answering service. The upshot was that you could give the appearance of having a real office. This was especially popular with some of our skeevier clientele. (Oh, and weren’t some of our clients’ customers surprised when they walked in expecting to confront the person who had failed to deliver as promised, only to find some dope in a red t-shirt shipping packages.) We also did custom wrapping.
Linda Blair (of Exorcist fame) ran her fan club out of our place. The actress who played “Nancy’s” mom in the first Nightmare on Elm Street had a box too. I shipped stuff for Jay Ward (the creator of Bullwinkle) several times, and once for Rick Moranis.
But that was nothing, because behind the counter was our very own “celebrity,” a young man named Scott Thorson. Thorson had gained notoriety as the lover of flamboyant pianist Liberace. He subsequently sued the entertainer for palimony and received a small settlement for his trouble.
Scott started working shortly after I did. My chronology may be a bit faulty, but I’m fairly certain it was just after Liberace’s death from AIDS in February, 1987.
I really didn’t care for him. I believed that he was smarmy and full of himself. At our workplace, there was a long, wooden stairway leading to the basement, and more than once I fantasized about booting his ass down the hole.
Yet–and here is the extremely odd part–I wound up doing his taxes.
I don’t know if it was because he thought that I was smart, or cheap, or wouldn’t ask too many questions, but to my surprise he offered to pay me to fill out his 1040. Despite my dislike, I agreed. Money was money.
There was very little to it. The materials he provided showed no unusual financial activity. If there was more to the story–and given Thorson’s seedier associations, it wouldn’t have surprised me–I never knew it. I signed my name, collected my cash, and for a moment became David Thiel, Hollywood Tax Preparer. I left California a few months later. These events are unrelated.
Thorson subsequenly wrote a book, became a federal witness, got shot, and went to prison. He’s out now, and good for him. The book is being made into an HBO movie. Steven Soderbergh is directing, and Matt Damon is playing Scott.
I do not believe that Matt Damon will ask me to do his taxes. But in case he’s reading, know that I work cheap and don’t ask questions.
During the year that I lived in West Hollywood, I found myself in horrific company. My roommate Guy and his circle of friends were all monster mask mavens, their homes decorated with row upon row of bodiless heads. Our downstairs neighbors were David and Laura Lady, a couple that seemed not only made for each other but constructed in the same laboratory. David was (and is) a talented mask sculptor, and Laura was (and is) a whiz at hairwork and costuming.
I moved back to Indiana in ’87, and the Ladys returned to their ancestral Ohio a few years later. They set up haunted housekeeping in a converted hotel that served double-duty as a walk-through Halloween attraction. I visited Horror Hotel once in the ’90s, but didn’t see the Ladys again…until this past Saturday. I dropped in on the Horrorhound Weekend convention, where Dave and Laura were among the honored guests of “Mask-Fest.”
I’ve always enjoyed monster movies, but–Godzilla excepted–I’m not an out-and-out fanatic. While I’m fairly well-versed in the history of horror, I’ve missed quite a few of the classics. And the genre’s recent trend of “torture porn” repulses me.
So, while I can generally get by at an event like Horrorhound Weekend, it’s not quite my cup of arsenic. I was uncomfortable with the amount of misogynistic imagery and bare boobage on display, moreso as there were small children in attendance. And then there was the DVD dealer with copies of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will sitting amidst the slasher films.
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. There were plenty of old-school monsters loping amidst the Jasons and Jigsaws, as well as some very impressive costumes. The eight-foot-tall Frankenstein was himself dwarfed by a 10-foot Grim Reaper with light-up eyes and articulated skeletal fingers.
This ambulatory pumpkin patch took a well-deserved second place at Saturday night's costume contest.
There was an entire room devoted to TV horror hosts. Most of them seemed to be hobbyists taking advantage of the Internet and a large supply of “Clown White” makeup to reinvent themselves as wanna-be Svengoolies or Zacherleys, but at least a couple were making a serious run at it.
I had a surprisingly lengthy conversation with this robot.
A couple of Ghostbusters discuss what to do about Indianapolis' famed horror host Sammy Terry.
There were dozens of quasi-celebrities lining the walls, signing autographs for 20-to-30 bucks a pop. They ran the gamut from the relatively famous–Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects)–to the guy who wore the mutant mask in The Funhouse. I had a nice chat with Jeffrey Combs, with whom I had worked on a crappy, crappy* film called The Phantom Empire. (And, by “with whom I had worked,” I mean that he starred in it and I drove a shit-filled motor home as a production assistant.) I think he was amused when I showed up with a Phantom Empire DVD for him to sign.
Amongst the third Killer Klown from the left and a gaggle of cast members from Halloween III: Season of the Witch sat an honest-to-Cthulhu film legend: actress Barbara Steele. Her spike-scarred face from Black Sunday was one of the indelible images of ’60s horror.
It troubled me to see only a trickle of people paying their respects to Ms. Steele while at the next booth over Sid Haig (best known as “Captain Spaulding”** in House of 1,000 Corpses) always had about a dozen queued up. I have nothing against Haig, who has certainly paid his dues. He’s been in the industry long enough (including a star turn as the villain in the ’70s kids’ show Jason of Star Command) to have multiple generations of fans. But, come on…it’s Barbara frickin’ Steele. Attention must be paid.
Dave Lady, attired in seizure-inducing strobing goggles and gloves, gamely emceed the costume contest despite the distraction of a travelling geek show–complete with portable stripper pole–that simply refused to relinquish the stage. I was fond of the guy dressed as Robot Monster‘s Ro-Man of the Planet Ro-Man, but the contest was won by a duo who came as the bedroom scene from The Exorcist.
Unfortunately, you're not getting the full effect of Dave's light show here, as my camera flash washed out the coruscating colors.
It was great to hang out with my friends again, and I hope to do it again next year!
Please enjoy a final few random images from Horrorhound Weekend.
A despondent West Side man took a leap out of his ninth-floor window this afternoon — but was saved when he landed onto a huge pile of garbage that’s been collecting since New York’s devastating post-Christmas blizzard, officials said.
Doesn’t sound so much like the blizzard saving his life as the universe saying “fuck you, we’re not done with you yet.”
Maybe it’s just first-day-back-at-work-blues, but I’m already looking forward to 2012.
This is great stuff: an artist challenges a group of kids aged 8-18 to draw the monsters of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction. The results? Surprisingly good! (Okay, so everyone had to make a sanity roll before lunch, but that’s a small price to pay for art!)
You can see galleries of youthful interpretations of the Elder Things, Old Ones, Shoggoths and even Great Cthulhu himself at David Milano’s blog!