Underwire: May 2022 ‘Part 2 + Parties’

My Other Job, Part 2

{Last month I described the ins and outs of signing autographs with other B-listers on the horror-fantasy convention circuit. Occasionally the glamour quotient ramps up…}

For the Aliens 30th anniversary in 2016, a con in Calgary invested an ungodly amount to pull together very nearly the entire cast, including the stars. Sigourney Weaver is a fabulously tough autograph to get, and Bill Paxton was a hard one as well. Fans who had all the rest of us several times over, on posters, on Blue-Rays, on giant plastic xenomorph models, were pouring into Canada for this rare chance to complete their collections. I heard that Sigourney’s fee for the appearance was in six figures, and also that she had committed it all to charity.

I ran into Bill Paxton having a glass of wine in LAX on the flight out and learned that he had never done a con before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Aliens had been my first film acting job and Bill had taken me under his wing. At that point his resume consisted of a double handful of thug and punk bit parts, but he was the voice of experience to me. “We’re gonna earn while we learn,” he would say, in his easy Texas drawl. The lines to meet him at the show were never-ending. When they paid him out on Sunday night after the con, it used up all the US currency they had and the rest of us had to take Canadian.

Most of us were assembled backstage for the panel discussion, including Bill, and Lance Henriksen and Michael Biehn. Those are pretty famous guys, but actors aren’t usually too impressed with other actors, so it was interesting to feel the subtle change in temperature when Sigourney Weaver arrived. True star quality is a real phenomenon. We were all pretty cool about it, but I must admit that when a star of that magnitude calls out your name and rushes to embrace you like a lost family member… It’s nice.

On the panel we tell the old anecdotes about shooting Aliens. The host will try to get something fresh out of us. “What’s the most surprising thing about working with James Cameron?” There’s nothing actually new to tell. We’ve all been wrung dry of every memory we have from that shoot. We cover with humor and camaraderie. Paul Reiser mounts an aggrieved defense of his character’s villainous behavior. Mark Rolston and Ricco Ross mock-fight about who was more ripped. Bill speaks thoughtfully about the subtlety of Michael Biehn’s performance in the male lead. Bill died unexpectedly in 2017. I remember him, toward the end of the panel, marveling at the longevity of the movie and its following. I can hear his voice in my head: “Thirty years from now they’ll have all our heads up here in jars, man, still yakkin’ away!”

I wish.

jenette goldstein