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It's not exactly a local event.

And with today's seesaw economy, I don't expect many people to jump on a plane after reading today's column.

But still, I thought readers would find this October East Coast gathering rather interesting.

Each year, right at Halloween, there's always a huge celebrity gathering called Chiller Theatre Expo.

For 2008, it will be at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, NJ Oct. 24-26, and check out the famous names attending, all of them somehow associated with playing roles during their career in movie thrillers and/or episodes which can be classified as scary entertainment.

Burt Reynolds, 72, will attend and be reunited with his unusual actor costar from the 1972 Warner Bros. movie "Deliverance."

You guessed it.

He'll be side by side actor Billy Redden, who at the age of 16, was hand-picked from his school in Georgia by the movie's director to portray a banjo-playing "local" during the film's famous "dueling banjos" scene. His skinny body, topped by a large head and almond shaped eyes made him the natural choice to play the part of an "inbred from the back woods." Because he didn't really know how to play a banjo, he wore a special shirt which allowed a "real" banjo player to hide behind him for the scene (carefully hidden by camera angles) and slip his musician arms around Redden's waist to actually play the difficult dueling tune.

Three decades later, director Tim Burton tracked down Redden, who was still living in the same small town in Georgia, to once again return to the big screen playing a re-creation of that same banjo role in the 2003 film "Big Fish."

In interviews, he has had very few nice things to say about working with his "Deliverance" costars Reynolds and Ned Beatty.

As for some of the other names of celebrities attending this event to sign autographs and meet fans, Patty Duke is also going to show up.

One of her most famous scary moments of fame was her guest star appearance on a 1971 episode of Rod Serling's series "Night Gallery." She played a vicious gossip columnist (not so subtly based on Rona Barrett and The Los Angeles Times columnist Joyce Haber) who is haunted by a gift she is given by one of her favorite victims she attacks with her reports.

Her victim is an aging Hollywood star, played by Virginia Mayo, who leaps to her death after delivering the package to Duke's character's penthouse. The gift is a diary with pages that mysteriously fill themselves each day prophesying impending doom.

The rest of the roll call for this convention includes Robert Culp, Angie Dickinson, Linda Evans, Erik Estrada, Morgan Fairchild, Linda Hamilton, Ed Asner, Mark Goddard, Charlene Tilton, Barry Williams, John Schneider, Catherine Bach and Susan Backlinie aka that famous first naked swimming victim eaten by Jaws in the original scary shark flick.

Tickets to attend the event are $25 per day. FYI:

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or 219.852.4327.


Artist Peter Max is 71. Actor John Lithgow and feminist Patricia Ireland of NOW and singer Jeannie C. Riley ("Harper Valley P.T.A.") are 63. Talk show host Charlie Chase is 56. Singer-keyboardist Karl Wallinger of World Party is 51. Singer Jennifer Holliday is 48. Boxer Evander Holyfield is 46. TV carpenter Ty Pennington ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition") is 44. Singer-guitarist Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters is 43. Actor Jon Favreau is 42. "South Park" cocreator Trey Parker is 39. Comedian Chris Kattan ("Saturday Night Live") is 38. Singer Pras Michel of The Fugees is 36. Actor Omar Gooding ("Hangin' With Mr. Cooper") and baseball star Michael Young are 32. Country singer Cyndi Thomson is 32. Actor Benjamin Salisbury ("The Nanny") is 28.