No ghosts at Spec's, just Dan Aykroyd and his crystal skulls
If someone was looking for a job on Friday, a great place to find a captive audience of middle-aged white men was at Spec's in Midtown, where comedy and music legend Dan Aykroyd was signing bottles of his Crystal Head Vodka. The parking lot was full of enough Porsches and other luxury rides to put RDG's valet showcase to shame.
If the hour-and-a-half line winding throughout Spec's, out the door and around the side of the building was any indication, Aykroyd is still quite beloved in Houston. Two men said they weren't concerned with the wait, and that they'd already driven 40 minutes to get there. One fan dressed as a Blues Brother — cigar included — while almost a dozen fans at the front of the line came decked out in full Ghostbusters gear. Standing near Aykroyd, it originally looked like they were a ghostbusting entourage, and after their signatures and photos with the man himself, many hung around for the amusement of those in line, taking pictures with kids.
Chris Dorrenbacher, in full Ghostbusters gear, showed me how his hand was shaking after his first meeting with his idol. "He was so nice. I asked him what this tube was — there's been a lot of speculation in the community. Is it a pee tube? Is it something else? Is it just here to make the suit look busy? He said it's a pee tube, and we got it on video so we can settle the debate."
Dorrenbacher's outfit includes a 35-pound pack and a gun that makes noises just like the movie version. He and his half-dozen costumed friends drove in Friday morning from Dallas and were missing the Blues Brothers show to drive back in the evening, where they plan to help other Ghostbuster fan friends get their stuff together, to hopefully return in time for the Art Car Parade on Saturday, where Aykroyd will be the Grand Marshall. Then Monday they head to Austin, where Aykroyd has another personal appearance.
"I just always loved Ghostbusters, as long as I can remember," Dorrenbacher says.
Waiting in line, fans Robert Flores and Jay Swan mentioned Aykroyd's other work as their favorite. "Do you remember Neighbors?" Swan asked, and, after chastising me for my ignorance on the subject, explained, "It's a little known movie he made with Belushi early on. It's dark comedy, really funny stuff." Flores concurred on Neighbors, adding "I'm just a big fan of his music and his movies, and I thought I'd come in and tell him, you, know, how much I appreciate what he does."
Aykroyd himself wore a black buttoned-up shirt and sunglasses, signing memorabilia and posing for photographs with fans. He didn't have the overly gregarious comportment associated with comedians, but talked openly with fans, comparing notes with Dorrenbacher about the weight of the packs — "They were always heavy," Aykroyd sympathized.
Just before hitting the front of the line, fans were given a sample of the vodka they were purchasing, not that many needed it. With a bottle designed by John Alexander (whose new show at McClain Gallery opens tonight, a major reason for Aykroyd's visit) Crystal Head Vodka embodies much of Aykroyd's spiritualism, not only in the bottle design but in the distallation process, where the vodka is filtered through mystical polished crystals known as Herkimer diamonds.
"It's really smooth... you know how vodka usually has that burning aftertaste? This one doesn't," said fan and bartender Michael Geronimo.
Aykroyd fans have several more chances to see the man before the weekend is over. Crystal Head Vodka will be sponsoring the opening night cocktail soiree with Alexander at the McClain Gallery tonight, and Alexander pal Aykroyd is almost certain to drop by. Saturday before serving as Grand Marshall in the Art Car Parade and sharing a car of honor with Annise Parker, he'll drop by the Orange Show's VIPit Party at the Heritage Society.
Saturday evening Aykroyd will make an appearance as his Blues Brothers alter ego, Elwood Blues, at the Houston Heart & Soul Blues Benefit Concert at the House of Blues. Aykroyd will be joining Houston blues greats including Little Joe Washington, Texas Johnny Boy, Milton Hopkins, and Diunna Greenleafin in support of the International House of Blues Foundation.
Sounds like quite a weekend.