Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I gotta say, this year has been one of the most bizarre in terms of being absent for numerous key events in the Midwest horror calendar. Most, if not all, of the conflicts have come as a result of employment opportunities and let it never be said that I’m not grateful for the chance to work and receive financial remuneration. However, I am equally grateful that I was able to attend at least one full-fledged horror convention in the waning weeks of 2009, and that this past weekend in Cincinnati was as entertaining as I could have hoped.
Armed with decades of horror knowledge and a functioning minivan, Jon Kitley of Kitley’s Krypt has been spreading the horror gospel for years now – I feel truly blessed that there is always room in the passenger seat for this humble Fool. Having missed the excursions to both Cinema Wastelands, March’s HorrorHound in Indianapolis and October’s Flashback in our own backyard, I was revved up and rarin’ to go. (My beloved femalien was kind enough to send me off with her blessing, in spite of the fact that I had not even been back from my sojourn in West Virginia a full week yet.) Turntabling.net’s head honcho and intrepid musician/writer Joe Wallace filled out our trio and we hit the dusty five-hour trail toward the home of 5-Way Chili and Bengals fans.
We arrived, loaded in and set up, bidding hearty greetings to Aaron Crowell and Nathan Hanneman, HorrorHound’s two top dogs, as well as Matt Moore, who writes their exemplary Video Invasion column, and Horror Chick Extraordinaire Jessica Dwyer. As a rule, before the doors open to the public, the dealers wander around to catch up with long-absent friends (and to scope out the best finds before the rest of the masses shamble in). Longtime convention staple and makeup f/x legend Tom Savini stopped by to say hello (and to discuss the finer points of corn dogs), as did Family Ties dad and Tremors regular Michael Gross. Tom is currently working on his autobiography (along with a zillion other projects) and Michael reveled in his non-so-secret passion for the classic giant ant film, Them! A few aisles over, Dan Kiggins and Emil Hyde continued to spread the Landlord love while Jill Van Voorst at Lix showed off several sassy new t-shirt designs.
The guest list was composed of a fair mix of show veterans, such as Texas Chainsaw’s Gunnar Hansen and ’80s scream queen Linnea Quigley, with newcomers to the circuit. Quinn Lord, who plays the diminutive but lethal “Sam” in Trick ’r Treat, was affixing his 9-year-old scrawl to photos and posters with the flair of a pro while Near Dark’s Jenny Wright, making her first convention appearance, seemed a bit stunned by the wealth of people sporting bloody t-shirts who wanted to give her a long-overdue hug. Grindhouse’s Electra and Elise Avellan (aka the Crazy Babysitter Twins) continue to ride their 15 minutes of fame at $20 an autograph, though Rob Zombie’s Halloween starlet Scout Taylor-Compton seems to be showing signs of wear since we first saw her back at HorrorFind 2007. (Hint: Stop doing lousy remakes and sequels to lousy remakes, dear heart.)
The belle of the ball, however, was the one and only Mistress of the Dark, Elvira, who appeared (on different days) both as her curvaceous onscreen black-clad persona and the woman beneath the beehive, Cassandra Peterson. Also making a bit hit were Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Jill Whitlow and Steve Marshall, all of whom seemed genuinely pleased as punch to be spreading the love for the new DVD release of Fred Dekker’s woefully neglected Night of the Creeps. Across the hall, the Troma and Toetag teams kept company with Courtney Gains and John Franklin (has it really been 25 years since Children of the Corn came out?), as well as Hollywood veterans Corbin Bernsen and Don Calfa. (Don also stopped by our table on Friday to spin tales of intrigue on the set of Warren Beatty’s Bugsy and laud Dr. Phibes director Robert Fuest.)
Our Horror Society/Chicago buddies Mitch, Brian, Jessica, Kirsten and Coye (as well as Southern-fried author and all-around horror guru Robert Freese) kept the weekend lively, both during the show and afterwards, sharing “Big Hugs” and “Turkey High Fives” (don’t ask) with unending enthusiasm. As anyone who has attended a show firsthand knows, it’s the time after the dealer room doors close, and since HorrorHound’s Editor-in-Chief Nathan had also chosen this weekend to wed his beloved Jessica, the party was on, on, on. Hula hooping, urinal partition disasters and one broken elevator bank ensued, along with the to-be-expected parade of Technicolor yawns.
Luckily, I avoided most of the mayhem, instead opting to spend quality time with two industry folk who are most likely not household names to the civilian quarter, nor I suspect to any but the most hardcore of fans. Writer/director J.D. Feigelson has been making the rounds this past year in anticipation of the long, long-awaited DVD release of the classic TV-movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and we were honored that he elected to join us for dinner on Saturday. It actually ended up being quite the hilarious adventure since, all day long, we had been hearing tales of the “finest BBQ in the world” served at a place that J.D. swore by, saying that he went there any time he was in Cincinnati. Well, we all pile into the Kitleymobile and head off, following JD’s directions, nearly drooling all over ourselves with hunger after a long day in the trenches… only to end by pulling into a darkened parking lot with the words “For Lease” emblazoned across the front of the vacant restaurant. We laughed heartily, dubbing this “The Night of the Dark BBQ,” then tore out in search of alternative edibles, finding them in the form of Jim Dandy’s BBQ (which unfortunately was playing host to Bad Bob’s Blue Band that night, thus quelling any opportunity for conversation). Happily, JD was kind enough to return to the hotel with us to hang out in the bar, holding court with stories of Hollywood legends that he had worked with. Without a doubt, those few hours will remain in my memory as some of my fondest convention memories. Thanks for making that happen, Dan.
After JD had finally excused himself to hit some well-deserved hay, I headed over to the hotel business office to check email (they had blocked Facebook and MySpace, which seems a little obnoxious in this day and age, but whatever). Well, I’m sitting there minding my own business when I hear a voice say, “You didn’t happen to see a boarding pass on that computer when you came in, did you?” I turned around and found myself face-to-smiling-face with Eileen Dietz, probably best known for her valiant (and uncredited) work standing in for Linda Blair in The Exorcist, performing several of the more, ahem, “mature” scenes (hello, crucifix scene), as well as the subliminal shots of the demon Pazuzu. Dietz also chillingly appeared as Linda Kasabian, member of the Manson Family, in the acclaimed TV-movie Helter Skelter. Apparently, the printer in the office had not been working, so she had gone to the front desk to retrieve her boarding pass, forgetting whether she had logged off the computer. Then, to my surprise, this woman who had been holding court all day long at her table, listening to people endlessly tell her “how The Exorcist had scared them to death, blah, blah, blah,” sat down at the other computer and we proceeded to chat about this and that for the next hour. What a treat! Eileen has several projects in the works, and I’ll tell you, I am now looking forward to them with great anticipation. So-called celebrities everywhere, let it never be forgotten that the personal touch, a brief (or in this case, not-so-brief) but genuine conversation is infinitely more profound and lasting than any number of paid-for autographed DVD covers. As a result of this weekend’s interactions, I will never forget JD and Eileen’s generosity of spirit and will be an unwavering supporter of their endeavors henceforth. My most heartfelt thanks to both of you.
While on the subject of personal touches, hats off to the good people at the Cincinnati IHOP and Bob Evans’ restaurants. I know, sounds weird, but every meal we had at these establishments was accompanied by the most attentive and accommodating service any of us had encountered in a long, long while. Seriously, waitstaff employees everywhere could take more than a few pages out of these kids’ books, and the food (at IHOP, I know!!!) was terrific. Whatever they’re doing, they need to bottle it and send it up Windy City way.
And with that, the 2009 horror convention circuit comes to an end, though there are still a couple more fright-tastic events on the Chicago horizon before The Year We Make Contact comes around the corner. Movieside will be hosting Terror in the Aisles 3 on Dec. 5, with screenings of The Blair Witch Project and Night of the Creeps, while Horror Society presents Holiday of Horrors a week later (Dec 12), featuring Christmas Evil (w/ director Lewis Jackson in person!), Silent Night, Deadly Night and more! So much to be thankful for! On that note…
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wield those carving knives with accuracy and care, and we’ll see you soon!