Tales of TMNT Guests #1

Throughout my years as a Ninja Turtle fan, one thing has always been so amazing that it’s kept me in this fandom and making memories that I’ll never forget and making new friends, whom I hope will be friends for a very long time.  These are some of my stories of meeting the people behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I grew up in Michigan, there’s not much to the state as it was known for two things cars and murder.  So the idea of meeting stars or other creative people was a pipe dream, as I always knew I’d love to be in entertainment.  It just seemed so far out of reach.  We had bits and pieces of it growing up since my dad was an art director of a local TV show called “The Ghoul”, we’d go to conventions with my dad as a guest showing how to make his props and costumes.  I was too young to realize that the people around me were famous at those events.  So I never met or tried to meet the people who put together my TV shows and movies, till Ninja Turtles entered my life.

The first person I met who worked on Ninja Turtles, was a man name Alfredo Miller.  This story brings me back to 1992, when the TMNT were on their second Tour.  By this time I’ve seen The Coming Out of Their Shells tour five times, four of which at the same location I came to see this show.  We arrived early and sat at the gate, as the seating was first come first serve.  I knew the seats I wanted, front and center.  I knew the theme park that we were in and had no interest in going around on any of the rides.  We just drove from Detroit to Chicago and all I wanted to do was wait for the show.  We were the only ones waiting at this time.

A man came out of the gate, he wore backstage passes around his neck as he saw us.  His curiosity brought him to start talking to my family.  He wanted to know if we were waiting for someone to get off of the ride near by, or if we were there for the show.  Once we told him we were there for the show, he was in shock expressing that it’ll be five hours before anyone else even starts to line up.  We told him how we drove here just for the show and saw the theme park last year and this opened our conversation as he introduced himself as Alfredo Miller, the manager of the show.  His back stage passes showed that he’s been with the show from the beginning at Radio City Music Hall.  We talked with Alfredo for hours.

Alfredo surprised me during this visit, as he got me an autograph photo from the Turtles, and I was even backstage twice to meet the Tour Turtles.  We noticed how we never saw him at the same time as the Turtles so there was this question in my head if he could of been one of the Turtles.  Once I got home I checked the Tour Book for Alfredo’s name, but there was no manger listed, I searched other areas and found him as Leonardo’s assistant.  We also noticed that the writing on the autograph given to me was that of Leonardo’s autograph it read “To Michele our #1 fan”.  Many years later I started talking with Eric Anzalone, who was Raphael back in 1992, and he confirmed that Alfredo was Leonardo and later went on to be Michaelangelo in “Turtle Tunes” and “We Wish You a Turtle Christmas”.

My next story is of someone we all have to thank for TMNT as he drew the very first one, Kevin Eastman.  Kevin is a very easy guy to meet, but back in 1992 I did not know this.  All I knew was Peter Laird and him were going to be at an event called “Turtle Con” and I had to go.  My mom being a fan, helped arranged the trip, as my full family went to Turtle Con.  I met many artists that day from Michael Dooney, Chris Allen, and Mark Bode though the ones I was most excited about was Kevin and Peter.  I even went to the panel, though my thoughts were that I was one of many fans there that weekend and they would never remember me.  It was two years before I would see Kevin again, this time was by mistake.  My mom, sister and I were passing through Northampton, MA and stopped at a camera store on main street.  The people in the store asked me if I’ve been to the Turtle Museum.

I raced down the street to the location they told me, and entered the “Words and Pictures Museum” for my first time.  To my surprise the employees told me that Kevin Eastman would be here the next day, so I got my mom to agree to staying the night.  The following day we stood in a long line entering a different side of the Museum, making new friends through the line.  Once in, Kevin looked up and said “You’re our Michigan People, aren’t you?”  He remembered me from two years earlier!    This meant so much to me, that night I got to go to a party with him as I became a member of the Museum that day.  I returned yearly for this party as it was always worth going to and Kevin is a man worth knowing.  If you wish to meet Kevin Eastman he’s easy to find and I highly recommend meeting him, just try Comic Con International.

The final story I’m going to share here is about one of the actors from the Ninja Turtle Movies.  As a child I grew up a fan of the films, though most of all I loved the making of the movies, reading the interviews watching the behind the scenes footage that would get let out.  That held me. I didn’t become fans of the actors for their work on the screen but by what they said in these stories that were released and there was three that I always dreamed of meeting.  Michelan Sisti, Leif Tilden and Ernie Reyes Jr.  Those three had the best interviews, with great details and so much passion in their work.  Their stories amazed me, though in 2007 I had no hope, not even a thought that I could meet any of them.

I just bought my tickets to Comic Con International, I wasn’t telling anyone online that I was going as it was to be a surprise since this was my first time making my way to San Diego.  Only a few close friends knew I would be there, including our editor here on Cowabunga Corner.  Phoenix was the one to break the news, a new panel was added to the list of events at Comic Con, a Henson panel and Michelan Sisti was listed as one of the guests on that panel.  The excitement in me grew, this was a chance in a life time.

I went to the convention with that one panel as my main goal.  When we got there I saw just how big this was and did not think that I would really get to talk to Michelan, until my friend, Brinatello, let me know that there was a seat front row for me.  I got up there and was surprised to see that Michelan was hooked up to computer stuff right in front of us.  I got to introduce myself, and he made faces and goofed off with us during the panel till he was brought on stage.  At the end of the panel I went to the stage asking for his autograph, at first he was being rushed to clean up so was sorry that he couldn’t at this time, though I pulled out my shirt and he said “I’ve got to sign that shirt”.

Michelan was nice enough to go in the hall with the the fans that were there.  He signed one thing and took a photo with each of us.  He went back into the panel room saying good bye.  The group then made our plans and the others left as I had to pack up my back pack, only one friend was still with me at this point, Fae.  Fae and I were just about ready to go, when Michelan came around the corner with other puppeteers.  I asked a small favor to sign something from my collection to give to another fan who was at the event, but missed out on getting his autograph.  Michelan signed a card for him, a fan many other fans know well - Tokka.  He said his good byes to catch up with the other puppeteers that he was with, though he does not know how amazing that meet up was for me.

Each of these guests that I shared a story about was at public events, far from where I live, and not easy to get close to.  Though some how I managed to talk to them, make friends and some of which I am still in touch with to this day.  Friends that I hope to never loose.  The memories of our meetings, of those first conversations, of just how friendly all of the men and women behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really are, this is one of the reasons I will keep working to keep this franchise alive.

Anyone can meet them, anyone can do the things that I’ve done.  All you need to do is believe in yourself and find the goal that you really want.  I have never stopped traveling after that 1992 trip to Chicago, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet many many more people who’ve worked on Ninja Turtles.  Though I am not rich, I live paycheck to paycheck, I am not treated any different than any other attendee by the event workers.  I just go and see what happens, sometimes it could become that which dreams are made out of.

Entertainment Earth