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Dan Aykroyd Draws 'Ghostbuster' Fans and Others To Vodka Signing

With bottles of Crystal Head Vodka in hand, hundreds of people waited in line for hours in South Whitehall for a chance to meet the actor...and get his autograph.

They came as ghostbusters -- and one as Marshmallow Man. 

They wore T-shirts emblazoned with the image of the Blues Brothers.

One woman carried a photo of her brother posing as Saturday Night Live character Fred Garvin, male prostitute.

For hours Thursday, hundreds of people stood in line at the Wine & Spirits store at Crest Plaza for the opportunity to meet actor Dan Aykroyd of "Ghostbusters" and "Blues Brothers" fame and to get his autograph on the clear, skull-shaped bottles of Crystal Head vodka.

They got his autograph on just about everything else too -- movie posters, DVDs, action figures in his likeness and even the clothes they were wearing.

Many people began arriving at the South Whitehall store about three hours before Aykroyd was scheduled to appear to promote Crystal Head Vodka, which he co-founded. At its peak, the line not only snaked inside the store but stretched outside, past a number of stores to the farther entrance to Target.

Daniel Tyson, 27, of Andreas, who was among the many people dressed as a ghostbuster, arrived in a replica of the Ghostbusters mobile. The movie theme song blared from the loudspeaker atop the car, setting the mood.

He had watched "Ghostbusters" so many times, he said, "I lost count."

Aykroyd arrived about a half-hour late, about 4:30 p.m., but to cheers as he entered through the rear of the store. Driving alone in an SUV, he had gotten lost on his ride up from the Washington, D.C., area, staff said.

He wore green shorts, dark shirt, cap and sunglasses. Store staff rolled out a cake for his birthday (he turns 59 on Friday, July 1) and the crowd broke out in a hearty rendition of "Happy Birthday." After blowing out the candles and posing for photos for the media, Aykroyd, a lefty, began the hours-long task of signing bottles and memorabilia.

First in line was Mike Lyons, a 25-year-old Baltimore firefighter, who arrived at 9:30 a.m. He had gotten on the road with his girlfriend, Megan Elliott, after finishing his overnight shift at 5 a.m. An Aykroyd fan, he had seen "Ghostbusters" countless times and wanted to meet the actor.

The movie, he said, is "something that just sticks with you as a child and sticks with you for the rest of your life."

Also there to meet Aykroyd were Charlie and Janette Markley, of Easton, who had come with their son, Chris, and friend Stacy Seidl of South Whitehall. The Markleys had purchased two bottles of Aykroyd's vodka two years earlier in Canada, but had yet to drink it.

"We're going to have to break one open," they said. 

The skull-shaped bottles that they keep on display at their home has been a conversation-starter, they said. "It'll be better with his name on it," Charlie Markley said.

For fan after fan, Aykroyd posed for photos. He made conversation, asking youngsters if they played sports, and shouted out to those in line, "Yes, all of your Fourth of July needs will be taken care of right here," and "This is Santa Claus for grownups."

Someone alerted Aykroyd that a Marshmallow Man was among those waiting. Aykroyd summoned him to the front of the line, and he posed for photos with him.

An hour later, Jack Hensley, 27, of Belmar, N.J., was back in line sans costume. He and his friend, Michael Maltese, had gotten the photo developed and now wanted it autographed, even if it meant another long wait.

Hensley, who drove two hours to reach South Whitehall, said he had been so flustered -- "That's my hero, calling me up to the front of the line" -- that he had forgotten to get his memorabilia signed the first time around.

Several people brought Aykroyd gifts, including a bag of Doritos. An art teacher gave a painting that he had done of a younger Aykroyd.

When Tyson and his friends, Matt Burkit, 26, of Emmaus and Justin Stephens, 25, of Tamaqua, finally wound their way to the autograph table, Aykroyd learned about the Ghosterbusters mobile. He asked for Tyson's contact information for possibly a third Ghostbusters' movie, if it comes to fruition.

And what about that vodka?

Aykroyd said he likes to drink his in a tumbler with ice and slowly infused with tangerine juice. 

He talked of the quality of the vodka, its origins and the skull-shaped bottle, designed by his friend, artist John Alexander.

By 5:30 p.m., the store had sold 350 bottles (Crystal Head vodka costs $49.99 for a 750 ml bottle at Pennsylvania liquor stores). But many had purchased bottles in advance, too.

With the wait still long, state store employees finally closed the line at 5:50 p.m. Aykroyd would sign autographs until 8 p.m.

Among the last in line was Lisa Jamison of East Greenville, who carried a photo of her brother, Kos, mimicking a pose of the Aykroyd character Fred Garvin. The photo was taken some two decades earlier on the beach in Ocean City, N.J. Whatever the wait, she was hoping to get it autographed.

Like the others who turned out for the promotional event, Jack Hensley was taking the long waits in stride.

"You don't know how many times he'll be around this area again," he said. 

voice of reason July 01, 2011 at 10:07 AM
Nice of Mr. Aykroyd to show up late and the employees to shut down the event early, it was advertised from 4-6, anyone should have been allowed to get in line until 6, not 5:50, especially when the signer shows up late.
Mary Ellen Alu (Editor) July 01, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Dan Aykroyd signed autographs until 8 p.m., two hours LONGER than advertised. He was very gracious to those who came.
Pamela Porter July 01, 2011 at 01:12 PM
Nice of Mr. Aykroyd to show up without a huge entourage and to sign memorabilia and other items that were not purchased that day, including the subject liquor. At most celebrity signings, it's limited to whatever they're shilling, and it has to be bought at *that* venue on *that* day. I'd say Mr Aykroyd is an OK kinda guy.
Mary Ellen Alu (Editor) July 01, 2011 at 02:04 PM
His left thumb had to be sore by the end of the day. He signed hundreds upon hundreds of items. And most people brought SEVERAL items for him to sign, and sign he did.
Carmella Obst July 01, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Great coverage of Dan Akroyd;s signing event...and the pictures tell the story even moreso----it's like you were "there" without even actually being "there". Wonderful that so many "got into the spirit" (pun intended).
Spooky Bonesworth July 15, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Will Dan be back there? If so, does anyone know when? Because I would just die happy if I got to meet him.

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