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Recently, I had the distinct honor and privilege of escorting Phyllis Coates, TV's first Lois Lane, to New York to attend the New York City Collector's show held at the Manhattan Holiday Inn on May 24th and 25th.
The two day event would, in addition to Phyllis, feature Larry Storch and James Hampton from the 60s sitcom F Troup, TV icon Soupy Sales, actress Beverly Washburn, featured in many films and TV shows including Superman and the Moleman, singer, songwriter Richard Potter plus collectors, writers and filmmakers.
Never had I been on a cross country flight that passed by so quickly. Phyllis' tales of Hollywood in general and The Adventures of Superman in particular, were as fascinating as they were entertaining. She either had me laughing out loud or at times speechless with her backstage recollections. Although suffering from a touch of vertigo and later feeling the effects of an encroaching virus, Phyllis was a trouper all the way and for these two days never let a fan seeking an autograph, a photograph or sometimes just a word with her down. She was always up to the task and no matter how many times the same question was asked of her ("What was George Reeves really like?") she was gracious, charming, friendly and totally approachable. The fans loved her and not just the anticipated Baby Boomers but children, teenagers and young adults alike, so far reaching and timeless is the allure of the series and her groundbreaking performance as Lois.
For me personally, in addition to having the pleasure of getting to know her better (we had met before back in the early 90s), I very much enjoyed seeing some old friends such as Lou Koza and meeting new ones including great Superman fans Richard Potter, Bill Dillane, Sue Schnitzer and Gail McIntyre.
I think what struck me most about this once in a lifetime experience was viewing the adoration and affection so many of the attendees displayed for Phyllis. There were actually a few times that I had to glance away feeling somehow that in sitting so close to these intense declarations of admiration that I was intruding upon very private and personal messages. I cannot even begin to guess how many times fans came up to Phyllis and divulged how The Adventures of Superman and her work on the show's first season had been such an influential part of their lives and memories. And for me at least, watching and listening to all of this it became abundantly clear that in meeting this remarkable woman and actress, these folks, whether getting an autograph or sitting next to her for photographs, were somehow reaching out and touching part of the rich and important fabric and mythology of their own bygone and cherished youths. And I remember thinking at what point how right they were for was there ever anything better than racing home from school to that primitive TV with the lousy picture and watching The Adventures of Superman?
I don't think so.
For many at this event, most in fact, meeting with Phyllis Coates was a once in a lifetime thrill and more than a few left with a certain glow that I am pretty certain would not go away for days.
As for me, having the wonderful opportunity of spending four days with one of my favorite performers, well let's just say my personal glow will be around for a long time.
Bruce, I can certainly understand your reasons for your glow. Phyllis captivated her audience and as the headliner for the show, the line waiting to see her was not a disappointing one. Also let's remember, had it not been the Memorial Day weekend, typically reserved for family barbeques, boating, beaching, shopping, the attendance would have been far greater. It was obvious the NY Tri-State area was very much in appreciation to Phyllis for her trek to New York City. They would appreciate the life long opportunity it has taken to finally meet her and take a moment to express their admiration. Phyllis seemed to genuinely enjoy each and every fan expression. She signed autograph after autograph and it was obvious nearing the day's end, her writing hand was feeling the effects. But like a good trooper, she didn't want to disappoint anyone. One highlight of the show was an unexpected visit, Spider-Man. Phyllis beamed with excitement and the attention. If fact, all those episodes being saved by Superman she couldn't so much as give him a wink to show her thanks. Move over Betty Brandt, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson, Phyllis was able to sneak a kiss with Spidey. Most fans were cheering on. Others (like me) would be taken aback wondering what would Superman think? Could Phyllis finally be allowed a romance with a Superhero? "Hhmm, I don't know Lois, I just don't know."
Phyllis is one of those rare individuals to have encountered the two surface exploring Mole-Men. It would seem the Mole-Men were drawn to the attention of Lois' beauty. To their simple gaze, she was an angel who could help them understand this strange world that existed six miles above their own. This hope would turn upside down for the two when a frightened Lois would exasperate an ear-piercing scream (at least to us surface dwellers), which should have shattered every window and lamp-post in the nearby town of Silsbury. Moments later the two Mole-Men would be drawn to the innocence of a child played by then sweet and now lovely Beverly Washburn. Beverly's little girl did what simply came natural. In a brilliant contrast of writing by Mr. Whitney Ellsworth, the little girl greeted her new friends with a smile and gentle game of rolling a ball back in forth. A marked symbol of welcoming these new visitors from their subterranean home to their new world. It was terrific performance by Beverly and wonderful to see her make an appearance along side Phyllis. Other top TV / film personalities included Larry Storch, Soupy Sales and James Hampton were terrific to meet.
As always, it's a great pleasure to see the many good people you mention. Those such as Richard, Susan, Gail, Bill. I want to add Andy and his two sons and all those many others I've not the pleasure to know.
Please visit Richard Potter's George Reeves Forever web-site for many terrific images of this event. By the way, Richard had his own table at this event selling many terrific posters and CD's dedicated to George Reeves and Noel Neill. His items make excellent additions to anyone's wall of TAoS memorabilia and his song's are an inspiration from the heart. You can find the very same items at Richard's site and these are available to you at all times. All you have to do is write Richard with your friendly request.
Thank you Bruce for taking the time from your busy schedule to share your experience with Phyllis for the TAC readership. It is greatly appreciated.
And now, let us take you on a journey to meet.....
Thanks for Watching.
Lou (June 8, 2008)