Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Life With Comic Books Part # 187

A brief introduction: My name is Paul Howley, owner of the Eisner Award winning pop culture collector’s store known as “That’s Entertainment” in Worcester, Massachusetts and a second store in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Some people have called me the “luckiest man in the comic book business.” (I’m not) My stores have been around for over thirty years and it’s been a long and interesting combination of events and people that have brought these stores to this current place. It is not my intent to boast or brag about my store or my life. I just want to tell you my story. In many instances, my wife remembers things a little differently, but this is the truth as I remember it. The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 47
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17


At the end of Cassandra’s Junior year of high school we presented the first “Adam Dean Howley Memorial Performing Arts Scholarship” at Laconia Christian School. Since the fund that we had started hadn’t earned enough interest in the account to make a significant monetary scholarship, Mal and I decided to donate the money ourselves. The school had distributed applications to any students who had interest in performing arts including singing, acting, dancing, or music. The interested students were required to write a short essay explaining why they enjoyed performing. After the applications were reviewed it was determined that the scholarships would be awarded to Andrew Hare, Natalie Robinson and Ian Jameson. All three of these students had been very active in the school’s drama program. The school allowed me to present the awards at the Awards Ceremony held in the gymnasium on an evening in June. I remembered the emotional presentation given by another parent a few years earlier who had started a school scholarship in memory of the son they had lost. Now I think I understood what they were going through. I had a tough time getting through my brief presentation.

During the summer of 2001 we decided to go to Disney World again. We allowed Cassy to invite some of her friends to come with us so she invited Katie Sanborn, Micah Tulley (and his football) and Danielle LeLeivre. We had rented a beautiful five-bedroom, fully furnished home with a pool, very close to Disney World, for only $850 for the whole week. I asked our friend, Mike Verhoeks, if we could borrow his new van so we could all fit comfortably for our long trip and he allowed us to take it. The 1500 mile trip down to Florida went smoothly (as did the trip home) and the sunny weather was great, although it was hot. We all got along nicely and Mal and I enjoyed watching Cassy and her friends having fun at Disney World. Mal and I knew Cassandra was planning to go to college in Florida when she graduated from high school and we started thinking that we might possibly move to Florida too.

Once we were back home in New Hampshire, we contacted Cassandra’s classmates to remind them that we had planned a fundraising car wash to raise money for those who couldn’t afford the upcoming senior class trip cruise. I had worked out most of the details for the trip already and the cost per student was quite inexpensive but it was still important for the class to work together to pay for this trip. While most of her classmates came and worked all day washing cars, we were kind of disappointed that some of the students who needed the most financial help didn’t bother to come.

Next chapter: Cassandra begins her last year of high school.

Pictures: Cassandra and her friends in Disney World.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 186

A brief introduction:

My name is Paul Howley. Some people have called me the "luckiest man in the comic book business" but that all changed as of January 9th 2001, when our son, Adam Howley, died.

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 46
Mal Howley: age 47
Adam Howley: my son, age 21
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 17
The Monkees: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork


In late June of 2001, I learned that The Monkees were scheduled to perform at the Meadowbrook outdoor pavilion in Gilford, New Hampshire on July 20th. We lived about a mile away from Meadowbrook and it was a nice, family-run concert arena. I met with one of the owners of Meadowbrook and suggested that they advertise the concert as a fundraising event with a portion of each ticket price going to benefit The Adam Dean Howley Memorial Performing Arts Scholarship. The owner offered to donate between 50 cents and $1.00 for each ticket sold and I offered to help them promote the concert through the local media. The owner also suggested that I ask The Monkees to match the donation. I thought I had a good shot at getting them to agree to this because I had a good working-relationship with Davy Jones going back to the time he was a guest at our Worcester store.

I knew I’d be able to get some good local publicity since we lived right there in town! I was excited about the possibility of raising $8000 to $12,000 for the scholarship fund. The only “catch” was that the owner of Meadowbrook needed the approval of The Monkees so we could advertise the concert as a benefit concert. I called Davy Jones’ home (I still had his phone number from years ago) but his answering machine message told me that he was “on the road, touring with The Monkees.” I did not have any contact information for Peter Tork or Micky Dolenz but the staff at Meadowbrook told me they’d contact the management office of The Monkees to request their permission.

Meadowbrook staff left a few messages but The Monkees’ managers didn’t return the calls. This frustrated me because I knew I could help promote this concert enough to sell out every seat. I had valuable experience getting publicity for our stores and since this was for a very good charity I was sure the local and the surrounding area media would work with me on this important fundraising concert. But as the weeks flew by, it was clear that for some reason (completely out of my control) the management of Meadowbrook could not connect with the Monkees’ management.

A week before the concert performance, I asked Meadowbrook management to arrange to get me and some of my friends some back-stage passes to meet the members of The Monkees. At first, they declined. But when I explained how disappointing this failed promotion was to me, they rewarded me with the passes. My wife decided that seeing The Monkees would be too sad for her so I invited Barbara Foote, Deb Monell and her daughter Aimee, Natalie Watson, and my sister Sharon to go back-stage with me after the concert ended.

The concert was excellent! Even though I had heard that Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork weren’t really getting along very well, they did a great job of hiding their feelings. They performed nicely together. It actually looked like they were having fun! Unfortunately, less than half of the tickets were sold so the audience was only about 2500 people. When the concert ended we were brought into a fenced-in area next to the stage and we waited to meet The Monkees along with about ten other fans. Peter Tork came out first and although I had met him back in the 1980s I knew he’d never remember me. Peter walked from person to person shaking hands and thanking us all for coming to the concert. A few minutes later, Micky Dolenz came out and did the same. I had never spoken to Micky before so I was glad to have this opportunity to thank him for the many years of enjoyment he had given me. Then Barbara Foote saw Davy Jones meeting some of the other people in front of us. Barbara shouted (as she pointed to me), “Davy! Do you remember this guy?”

Now, I had told my friends about my experience from when Davy Jones had been a guest at my store back in 1993. I always told them how nice Davy was to me and to the crowd of fans who had come to see him. But I hadn’t seen Davy in person since 1993 and I looked different now (I had a beard). Davy Jones probably meets thousands of people every year and there was a good chance he wouldn’t remember me at all. If he didn’t recognize me my friends wouldn’t believe my story anymore! Davy looked at me and after a few seconds he said, “Hey Paul! How’s your store doing?” He remembered me. He’s THAT kind of guy!

UPDATE: On February 29, 2012, Davy Jones died of a heart attack at the age of 66.