Has-been Actor Finds Home on Convention Circuit
by the Radioactive Fanboy
(originally published in Revolution SF)
Bob Greenbloom’s name may not be known by many people. At 65, he may not even be recognized by the people who Do know him from his television work in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but that doesn’t bother him.
"After all these years, people still come up to me and say hello," said Greenbloom, who is famous in Trekdom as the first red-shirted crewman to die on Star Trek. He also went on to be tortured or killed on other television series. Throughout his long career as an actor, the affable Greenbloom has been shot by Marshal Dillon on Gunsmoke, eaten by a monster on The Outer Limits, beaten up by Bruce Lee on The Green Hornet, and pistol-whipped by Mannix. And he took it all in stride.
"Those were happy times," reflected Greenbloom from behind an autograph table at Dragon*Con.
Spread out on the table was an array of 8x5 glossy memories of his film career, which he autographs and sells for 25 bucks a pop. The old production stills and publicity shots are a tv fan’s dream. One pictures Greenbloom standing behind Emma Peel on the set of The Avengers. Another depicts Greenbloom’s arm in a shot of Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. "This and social security make up my only income," he said.
Greenbloom got on the convention circuit in 1990, at the urging of Battlestar Galactica alum Richard Hatch.
"I had gone to one of these things. I had never been to one before. And Richard was there sitting next to me, and we started talking. And he said, ‘You know what? You should do this full time.’ So I said ‘Sure, OK.’ Why not? I haven’t landed a role in years, and neither has Richard. So he initiated me. He told me how to get on guest lists, what to charge for my pictures. Everything. The guy’s a real pro. I’ve never seen anything he’s been in, but he’s a real pro."
At first Greenbloom, who resides in Tampa, Florida, concentrated his convention visits to the Southeast, regularly attending Tachycon, Chattacon, Dragon*Con, DeepSouth Con, and a few smaller cons. But now he travels all over the US, visiting such tourist spots as Paramis, New Jersey, and East Chitlin, Tennessee.
"It’s fun," he admitted. "You get to see a lot of beautiful country and meet a lot of strange people."
Among the strangest he’s met? "I’ve met so many I’ve lost count," said Greenbloom, smiling.
"There was a girl at the Dallas Fantasy Fair dressed as an overweight pixie who wanted to do a lap dance for me. Then there are the usual questions from people who remember more about my career than I do, and often mistake me for the characters I portrayed. Like the Star Trek fan who said I was stupid. He goes, ‘I know you had to go on the away team, you were ordered. But why did you have to stick your hand in there?’"
But Bob Greenbloom takes all this with a smile, a laugh, and a grain of salt. Everyone is his friend and a potential meal ticket. He has no regrets about the life he has chosen.
"It’s great," he said. "I’d tell any of today’s sci-fi actors and bit players that when their series get canceled, they should join the con circuit. You get to meet other actors, you might get a free hotel room every once in a while, and it’s easy money. All you have to do is sit around signing your name on things and speak at the occasional panel."
And this year’s Dragon*Con was a great place to do that. From where Greenbloom was sitting, it looked like the typical Saturday morning lineup on the Sci Fi Channel. Lou Ferrigno was there, as well as Nichelle Nichols, Ethan Phillips, and Robert Picardo from Star Trek and Voyager, respectively.
"Lou’s a nice guy," mused Greenbloom. "I was in an episode of The Hulk once. He threw me across the room into a brick wall. Fun times"
Greenbloom was also eager to offer his advice to other no-name actors who wanted his special kind of success.
"Stay with the big, media conventions," he said. "Conventions like Dragon*Con and a few others are more open to television stars. Also, charge a lot–but not too much–for autographs and pictures with fans. About twenty-five bucks is the max. Fans spend half their paychecks just for admission to these things, so they’re pretty tight with their money. But if they see a chance that they can sell something on Ebay, they’ll jump on it."
Greenbloom has now been coming to conventions for twelve years, and doesn’t plan to stop, unless his health gets bad.
"I’ve had to cancel a couple of engagements," Greenbloom said. "But I’m always at the next one.
I figure it’s either this, or becoming a door greeter at Wal-Mart."
Greenbloom feels bad for other actors, who toil away in mundane lives, virtually forgotten.
"I get cold chills when I think about what those Eight Is Enough kids are doing," he said.
"And I was talking to Adam West at a Batman convention one time–I played one of the Egghead’s henchmen once. Did you know that Burt Ward is the vice president of a paint company or something? What a sellout."
This comment got me thinking about other actors he had known over the years, including Adam West.
"Adam’s great," said Greenbloom, smiling. "Did you know that he can still fit into the Batsuit? He wore it when we met for dinner at a convention in Idaho; it was called TaterCon, or something. Anyway, I remember he spilled spaghetti sauce on it. When I told him it wouldn’t come out, he said, ‘Alfred will get it out.’ That’s when I excused myself to go to the bathroom and never went back. His doctors say he’ll be well enough to attend conventions in a few months."
I wanted to stay and chat longer with this titan of entertainment, but he had a lunch date with Lou Ferrigno to "compare notes." But before he left, he gave me a free autographed picture of himself being hoisted in the air by a green-skinned Lou Ferrigno. He signed it "Best, Bob Greenbloom." Lunch with the Hulk?! I stood quietly in stunned amazement, as he packed up his glossies and left.
Bob is the best, and I wish him continued success.
Bob is currently working on his autobiography, entitled, My Life Among the Stars. For more information, visit his official Website at http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Hollywood/SciFi/bobgreenbloom/index.html
The Radioactive Fanboy played Gorilla #10 in the original Planet of the Apes, and can be seen at a convention autograph table near you sandwiched between Jackson "Captain Marvel" Bostwick and the guy who played the Vulcan gong-ringer in Amok Time.