"Totally Rad 80s Night" in Fresno — Zabka to Air Guitar!
Regular readers of this blog are aware that I am an ardent supporter of the Fresno Grizzlies, a club which consistently “takes it to the next level” when it comes to promotions and game presentation. Take tonight’s “Totally Rad 80s Night”, for example. Whereas lesser franchises might simply don mullet wigs, play a few Culture Club songs, and call it a night, the Grizzlies have constructed an evening-long “Thirsty Thursday” extravaganza that is sure to be worth the price of admission.
Where to begin when talking about all of this? Well, that’s easy — at the end of the alphabet, because none other than Billy Zabka will be tonight’s guest of honor. For those who need their memories refreshed, Zabka is the quintessential 80s movie bully, best known as the dastardly “Johnny Lawrence” in 1984′s Karate Kid. Yesterday, I had the honor of talking with the man himself, and I now humbly present to you, the reader, a summary of my conversation with the inimitable Billy Z.
“We’re Gonna Roll Like It’s 1985!”
Zabka is nothing if not enthusiastic, as the above quote illustrates. One of the main reasons is that he has never done such a promotional appearance, and is therefore not viewing it as a cynical cash-in on a decades-old public persona.
“Sure, doing something like this is a bit of a double-edged sword,” he said. “In a way, it’s like if I had been a high school sports star, and everyone keeps talking about it. Like ‘Hey, remember when you made that shot?’ Well, yeah, I do, but that was a long time ago. But it’s gotten to the point where this is all okay again. It’s like seeing a girlfriend from 20 years ago, and realizing its alright to go out and get a cup of coffee with her.”
Having made his point through a pair of analogies, Zabka proceeded to make clear his expectations for the evening.
“We’re just going to have fun and have a good time with this. I’ll come in on a motorcycle, wearing my jacket and headband, just like this was Recida! I’m going to throw out the first pitch, so I’m getting my arm warmed up now. I’ll take part in some 80s trivia, say hi to some folks, and screen the music video.”
Yes, the music video. Zabka recently directed “Sweep the Leg” by the band No More Kings. The video, not surprisingly, includes copious Karate Kid references as well as cameo appearances by Zabka and Ralph Macchio, among others.
“When I was first approached about this, I thought ‘I’m not touching this one with a 10-foot pole,’” he recalled. “But I soon got to know the band and see the humor in what they were doing.”
Perhaps one of the reasons that Zabka can now lampoon and celebrate his 80s persona is because he has found success with his more recent projects. Most notably, his short film “Most” was nominated for an Academy Award. An Oscar, for crying out loud! That’s serious.
After requesting that I plug both the Sweep the Leg video and Most (done and done), the phone went dead. Zabka quickly called me back to say a proper goodbye, ending with the vague promise that when it comes to future nostalgia-driven projects, “there’s more where that came from”, but that he can’t talk about it just yet. Then, in a fitting end to the conversation, he filled me in on his immediate plans for the future:
“I’ve got to head back to the gym and do some push-ups on my knuckles.”
You do that, Billy Zabka. You do that.
Tonight’s going to be a fun night in Fresno. Want further proof? How about these Garbage Pail-themed Grizzlies’ player headshots?
Or this one of Justin “Hoff” Leone:
And let’s not forget that there will be a Hair Metal Air Guitar cam scanning the crowd for virtuosos of the imaginary axe. Hopefully Skid Row, Warrant, and Great White will all be featured prominently.
When it comes to tonight’s Totally Rad 80s Night Promotion, I don’t say Fresno. I say Fres-Yes!