June 22, 2004
David W. Unkle
Traveling their way around hockey's Federal League, the blonde bombshell groupies known as The Sparkle Twins were "never really that far away" from Charlestown Chiefs' player Bill Charlebois in the cult classic "Slap Shot."
Now almost 30 years later, that connection still exits. The cast reunited recently both in Johnstown, Pa., (home of the quasi-fictional Charlestown Chiefs) and in Philadelphia in support of Louise Arters, who played one of the Sparkle Twins, stricken with multiple sclerosis since 1985, and now wheelchair bound.
Last season, the American Hockey League's Philadelphia Phantoms supported the concept of having Arters and her sister Janet meet at center ice with fellow cast members Paul D'Amato (Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken) and Mark Bousquet (Andre "Poodle" Lussier) for a ceremonial puck drop.
The 2003 event raised over $2,500 to help fund the future purchase of a specially equipped van, allowing Arters to once again become independent, and regain control over a once-promising life. To date, over $10,000 has been raised in support of Arters.
Following a year of numerous online auctions organized by Slap Shot fan and California businessman, Ken Blake, the Philadelphia Phantoms again signed on in support of Arters. The Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL also participated in this year's efforts with the cast of the film returning to the War Memorial Arena, many for the first time since the filming.
The Sparkle Twins were there again this year as was D'Amato. Bousquet was on the shelf this year following surgery and Allan Nicholls (Chiefs' Captain Johnny Upton) was with his wife as they were expecting the birth of the child.
Added to this year's lineup was a pair of "old goalies", Yvon Barrette and Chris Murney who portrayed Denis Lemieux and Tommy Hanrahan, respectively. Rounding out the group in Philadelphia were Jean Tetrault (Andre Bergeron), Guido Tenesi (Billy Charlebois) and Bill "Goldie" Goldthorpe (who served as the inspiration for Syracuse Bulldogs' pugilist Ogie Oglethorpe).
Joining the group for the Johnstown portion of the event were Mickey McQuillan (who portrayed reporter Dickie Dunn's young son), fictional TV reporter Jon McClintock, Gracie Head (who was always seen knitting in the stands next to Johnny Upton's wife), and the team's stick boy, Woody Espy.
Head is also the real wife of Johnstown Chiefs' assistant coach Galen Head, who was also in the film. For many in attendance, the best part of the evening was listening to the actors recall their memories from the film shoot.
"My dad was a part-owner of the Johnstown Jets, whom the fictional Charlestown Chiefs were modeled after," said McQuillan. "A couple of the guys actually lived with us, one being Ned Dowd who played Ogie Oglethorpe in the movie." He went on to add that "one summer, Ned's sister Nancy came to live with him and she later went on to write the script for the movie."
McQuillan, who grew up with nine kids in his family, was a natural for the role of Dickie Dunn's son. "When it came time to cast the part, (Dowd) came over and asked me to audition." McQuillan's younger sister however was not cast in the familiar role in the movie.
"I guess she wasn't loud enough," added Mc Quillan. The actors were also amazed at the reception they received both on the concourse and in the player's locker room.
"Who would've though that (back then) that almost 30 years later this film would have the cult status it has enjoyed," said Murney. "Look at (Johnstown and Philadelphia). We were signing autographs for almost three periods.
"Did we think that was going to happen thirty years ago — not a chance." Woody Espy captured the spirit, stating that "after 27 years, it was like we never left each other." The way they responded to a fellow cast member in need, the bond that was unknowingly created in Johnstown, Pennsylvania is still evident today.
Fans should visit Blake's Web site at Slap Shot website. In addition
to numerous photographs and stories, he has assembled a unique collection
of items available for bid in a silent auction along with information on
a planned celebrity golf tournament later this month.
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