Gary Riley

UPDATE (01/2015): Gary Riley: Alive and Well.

I've got a question. But first, let me take you through the thought process that led to this question.

My wife and I were watching Mad About You recently (a show that one of us loves and the other of us finds mildly entertaining...figure that one out) and I recognized a woman playing a bit part in one episode as, Fabiana Udenio, the actress who played Alotta Fagina in the Austin Powers movies. As I pointed this out to my wife, who couldn't have cared less, I went on to tell her that Fabiana Udenio also played the foreign exchange student, Anna Maria, in Summer School. At this point I realized that my wife could have cared less.

In a moment of where-are-they-now curiosity, I started flipping through the other Summer School characters on IMDB. With most of the cast moving on to somewhat respecable careers in Hollywood, I was most intrigued by Gary Riley.


While you may remember Gary as Chainsaw's pal Dave in Summer School, I'm sure you recognize him from some of his other roles. For example...

He was Vern's older brother, Charlie Hogan, in Stand By Me...


He was the thief who broke into Del and Neal's hotel room in Planes, Trains and Automobiles...


He was one of the guys who convinced Growing Pains' Mike Seaver that riding a dirt bike was a good idea...


He showed up in a few episodes of Amazing Stories...


He was "Guy #1" in Back to the Future and had the pleasure of congratulating George on laying Biff out in the parking lot...


He was one of the "cool kids" on a handful of episodes of Silver Spoons...

  

These are just a few of the places where you may have seen Gary Riley...but here's my question: Is he dead?

Based on several internet resources, he died in 2007 as a result of a Queens, NY automobile accident in which he was driving under the influence and collided with another car.

But did he really?

While Gary's acting career came to a screeching halt in the late 90's, there is conflicting information found in various places around the internets. While some people report that they have met Gary at this club or that around Hollywood, others claim to have dated Gary or have a friend who has recently met him. Other even claim that they have spoken with Dean Cameron (Chainsaw himself) and learned that Gary is alive and well. (The theory is that the driver who was killed in the Queens accident was a different "Gary Riley.")

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I can't say I'm not curious. Dead or alive, Gary? Which is it?

Pogo Bal

I had a Pogo Bal. And it didn't just sit in the garage and collect dust either. I was a Pogo Bal pro. The idea behind the Pogo Bal was simple -- step on with one foot, step on with the other, squeeze the top ball between your feet, and jump.

Intended to be the 80's answer to the pogo stick, most Pogo Bal's found themselves doomed to a life rotting in the backyard grass. Not mine, boy. I remember one particular rainy day -- it may have even been the day I got my Pogo Bal -- when I spent so much time practicing that I wound up with blisters on the insides of my feet (For the record, Pogo Bal use is much eaiser with bare feet). I want to say my consecutive jump count on this day found itself well over 500.

Pogo Bal's were available in many different color combinations -- mine was orange with a yellow platform. Based on many of the pictures I have seen of Pogo Bals, I think mine may have been consistently underinflated. Either that, or put together backwards. While most pictures show the upper ball as being slightly larger than the lower, mine were the other way around. At the very least, they were equal in size.

Either way, I was a Pogo Bal champ.


[My apologies to folks running the websites where I found the images above. I've had these saved for a while and cannot, for the life of me, come up with the sites where they came from to give proper credit.]


E.T. - Read-Along Adventure

The last stop on this E.T. ride brings us to a read-along record. I don't think this is one from my childhood but rather one that I picked up cheap at a garage sale or flea market in recent years.

 

This story is read by a young Drew Barrymore in her role as Gertie. She takes readers through a very abbreviated version of the E.T. story as told from Gertie's perspective. This gets a little bit annoying at times but overall provides a pretty fun change of pace from the actual movie. Spread throughout the story are clips of dialogue from the movie itself to help fill in the gaps.

 

One other E.T. record I've stumbled upon over the years is E.T., I Love You (And Other Extra-Terrestrial Songs For Children). This found its way to me in digital form thanks to Tony from Way Out Junk.


I think Tony puts it best: "A few of these songs are pretty catchy, but for the most part it just sort of leaves you smiling and shaking your head."

E.T. - Novel & Activity Book

There are a few E.T. books on the shelf from back in the day as well. The first, I think, came from that same supermarket book rack where I picked up the three A-Team books. Published in 1982, this book was significantly above my first grade reading level -- but I didn't care. It said E.T. so I wanted it.

I'm not quite sure how I got it though. Either I had an extra $2.95 in my six-year-old budget (which is highly unlikely considering the arcade game/juke box demand of the time) or I was able to convince my parents that this book was worth three bucks just because it was something E.T. related.

 

Either way, I got it. Despite the bent cover, this book has never been read.

Then there's the E.T. Games and Activities book. This likely came from a school-sponsored book order and is much more in line with my reading and ability level of the time.

 

For $1.95, I got roughly 50 pages of E.T. entertainment. Much like the A-Team activity book, many of these puzzles could be completed by a small rock with a pencil. At the same time though, there are a handful of activities in this book that seem so tedious and detailed that even today, in my 30's, I don't want to bother taking the time to complete them.

Here are a few examples of the easier puzzles -- although, I'm pretty sure it wasn't soda that E.T. was throwing back when he raided the fridge.

 

With only about a quarter of the pages in this book having any marks on them at all, I had to laugh at one of the puzzles that was "completed." Looks like I spent a lot of time on this one.




E.T. - Colorforms Play Set

After my recent post about the E.T. action figure, I kept thining about that missing Speak and Spell. A little digging and guess what I found...


That's right. I knew it was still around somewhere.

Moving on to other E.T. goodness...

Christmas of 1982 was a pretty memorable one. In first grade at the time, I was at an age where Christmas was the highlight of my kid year and Santa was still cool! On this particular Christmas morning, Santa had showed up with some gifts that got plenty of use in our house over the next few years.

Besides a Crayola Caddy for both my brother and me, not to mention his G.I. Joe HAL (Heavy Artillery Laser), you might notice my E.T. Colorforms Adventure Play Set there on the floor as well.

 

Twenty-eight years and a few Scotch Tape repairs later, here it is in all its glory...


Surprisingly, there are only a few small pieces missing from this set. After a quick glance, it looks like I'm missing a cake, a potted flower, a six pack, and a pink piece that I've yet to determine what it is.


This Colorforms set happens to be one of the larger sets that folds open to reveal extra playing surface -- in this case, the inside of the house.


Also, this is one of the few Colorforms sets where I still have the original instruction book.


Looking at the pieces themselves, I like the fact that there are several E.T. options (unlike the Dukes of Hazzard set we had which had a very limited selection when it came to the main characters from the show).


Of course, anything that remotely looks like an Atari is cool in my book as well.


But looking back, as kids across America played with their E.T. Colorforms sets, we surely used the Gertie piece quite frequently -- likely recreating the scene where she and E.T. play dress-up. Looking past her giant Colorforms head, could any of us have predicted the quiet and tactful future in store for Drew Barrymore's acting career?

 

Mr. T Stamp

Here it is.

The Mr. T stamp that has been eluding me for so long.


[Image courtesy of eBay]

As you can see, the Murdock stamp is there, too.

Unfortunately, this stamp will continue to elude me as there's no way in 1000 years I'd consider paying $100 for it. Wow.

E.T. - Action Figure & Shirts

I've been on an E.T. kick lately.

A few weeks ago, I was back home and my brother gave me a toy of mine he'd come across in a box of his own stuff. Assuming that it had been lost to the ages, I was pretty happy to see that E.T. was still around and in one piece.


This E.T. figure came with a small plastic Speak-and-Spell which I am still hoping will be found someday. In addition, a kid could extend E.T.'s neck a little with a quick flick of the thumb on E.T.'s back. I want to say this was a Christmas gift around 1982 or 1983.


[Image courtesy of eBay]

Speaking of E.T. and Christmas, I couldn't help but think of a few snapshots from the family album. As you can see, on Christmas Day of 1983, even though I was sporting my new E.T. sweatshirt, I wasn't very happy to be getting a sweater for Christmas. My brother, on the other hand, was standing to the side apparently doing his best to get me excited. Check out his sweet belt buckle.


Later in the day, at my other grandparents' house, my E.T. sweatshirt and I were clearly more interested in opening a Jabba the Hutt playset.


Over a year later in early 1985, I had grown in to my sweatshirt a little more but still wore it proudly as I played Wiffle Ball in the back yard.


I'm not sure when this next picture was taken or where the shirt came from, but apparently my mom even jumped on the E.T. bandwagon for a ride. Soda enthusiasts, check out that bottle of Diet Pepsi in the background. And for the record, the look on my mom's face was not an "I'm going to smack you" look as much as it was a "why are you taking my picture" look.


More E.T. to come as I see what else I've held on to...

More Dukes Artwork

Last week I showed some of my fine artwork created in the early 80's by my five-year-old hands. Digging through that same box, I came across three more top-notch pieces of Dukes of Hazzard artwork created by yours truly.

There's the General Lee...


...Bo and Luke...


...and another General Lee.


It looks like there's a foot coming out the front of the General Lee but I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be a headlight.

Mr. T Books

A trip to a local flea market yesterday turned up a few treasures. In addition to increasing the size of my daughter's Little People army by 12 (the original choking-hazard Little People, of course...not the new ones), I also stumbled upon a new vendor who was selling stuff right up my alley. Passing on a handful of items which I'd love to have, I walked away with five Mr. T publications from the mid-80's.

First were two story books which didn't do much for me at first -- but then I picked them up and noticed the upper corner of the covers: "12 Collector Stickers Inside."

No way were these stickers still going to be inside...

 

But surprise surprise. I couldn't believe it when I saw that a full sheet of stickers was still inside both books!

 

I continued sifting through the magazines and books that this seller had. On a bit of a Mr. T high, I pushed aside the Hardy Boys activity books that I likely would have purchased on any other day. But not today. Not when I saw these...

  

While my oldest daughter is not quite at an age where she can handle a word search or crossword puzzle, she can color with the best of 'em. Hoping that she might push Elmo and Mickey Mouse to the side, I scanned a handful of the pages to print.

We'll see if she takes a liking to pitying fools.