CANTON – With a dash of respect, sprinkling of humility and a dose of childlike amazement, David Venerose Jr., approached the autograph table Saturday afternoon at Comics, Cards and Collectables.
“I saw your movie when I was 10 years old … I was enthralled,” he gushed to Sam J. Jones, who played the role of the title character in the 1980 sci-fi cult hit film “Flash Gordon.”
Jones flashed a white-toothed smile.
Venerose, who drove in from Youngstown, is a bit older now — he’s 50. So is Jones, who’s 66, But there’s something about the memories of youth that make us feel young again, even if only for a fleeting instant.
“Forty dollars for the first item,” Jones politely announced.
“Twenty dollars for the second item.”
“And a selfie is also an item.”
Venerose bought four posters, which Jones signed for a total of $100. He threw in the selfies for free. Well worth it, said Venerose, a movie buff who bantered with Jones for several minutes about movie history, as well as the names of actors who had portrayed Gordon through the years.
Venerose suggested Jones should have his agent reach out to Elon Musk about the magnate’s SpaceX program. Seems like a good fit, Venerose said, a potential marketing gold mine.
The appearance at the comics store, at 724 Cleveland Ave. SW, was part of Jones’ “40th Anniversary Reunion World Tour.” He was in Cleveland on Friday and is to be in Columbus on Sunday.
Such appearances are good for Jones and fans, as well as store owner Tom Mattevi, who watched a steady stream of men, women and kids come through his place, many buying some of his inventory along the way.
Jones was slated to appear from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“But he said he stays until everyone who wants an autograph gets one,” Mattevi said.
Christine Marcelli, of Canton, was your typical giddy 52-year-old, when she greeted Jones. The actor, who once played Bo Derek’s husband in the movie “10,” still retains a chiseled jaw and linebacker physique. And Marcelli wore a red dress, an homage to the Dale Arden character — Gordon’s girlfriend.
Marcelli recalled playing the “Flash Gordon” movie soundtrack around the clock years ago. At the time, she didn’t even realize it was recorded by rock supergroup Queen, All she knew was she loved it.
“I tend to like all those campy sci-fi movies, too,” she added.
Her husband, Dean Xides, stayed home Saturday — but wished her well before she headed to the store. He knows she can’t help herself when it comes to opportunities such as this.
“Geeking out, he calls it,” Marcelli explained.
For the uninitiated, the Flash Gordon character was created in a 1934 newspaper comic strip. It featured the intergalactic adventures of Flash Gordon, Arden and the scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov on planet Mongo.
Flash Gordon was no relation to DC Comics character, Flash, the fastest man on the planet. In fact, Gordon was one of few comics stars who had no superpowers. He was a regular guy.
The 1980 film was a modest box office success, grossing $27 million. That ranked 23rd worldwide. It was a far cry from the $209 million raked in by “The Empire Strikes Back,” but “Flash Gordon” did pull in more than the 1980 critically-acclaimed hits “The Elephant Man” and “Raging Bull.”
Film critic Roger Ebert gave “Flash Gordon” a thumbs-up.
“At a time when ‘Star Wars’ and its spin-offs have inspired special effects men to bust a gut making their interplanetary adventures look real, ‘Flash Gordon’ is cheerfully willing to look as phony as it is,” Ebert wrote in 1980.
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