THING-FEST Contaminates “Days of the Dead!”
Next to where the cast members of THE THING reunion were signing, was the amazing THING-FEST! This private collection owned by super-fan, Joe Hart, would feature the largest acquisition of props and memorabilia from the 1982 John Carpenter classic.
Though born and raised in New Jersey (a childhood friend of Kevin Smith), Hart now resides with his wife in Canada. What makes him so exceptional isn’t simply that he’s a fan who’s amassed lots of amazing goods, but that he’s one who willingly shares them with the rest of us. He does this utilizing his own time and resources and, in doing so, enhances the overall experience for everyone; something never more evident than at the Days of the Dead Indianapolis!
Hart’s a muscular guy who looks pretty imposing in person but, soon after meeting him, you’ll discover that he’s one of the nicest guys out there. Russ and I shook his hand and thanked him for bringing his collection all the way down for this event. Instead of saying “you’re welcome,” he modestly turned it all around by thanking us instead. “It’s fans like you that are keeing this alive,” he said. “It’s all about people…that’s what’s important.”
The original THING-FEST was created in 2001 by a fan named Todd Cameron who’d run it for the next seven years. Cameron had acquired some great props…even going so far as to fly out to the film’s remote shooting location to recover a broken blade from its ill-fated helicopter. Cameron had two main passions….THE THING and sharks which would eventually lead to his selling off parts of his collection in an effort to raise money and travel to Australia to aid in their conservation.
In 2008, Hart visited THING-FEST for the first time and, like many enthusiastic fans who attend genre events, made the fateful decision to do so in costume. The event was sponsored by Rue Morgue Magazine and Joe, walking in as THE THING, was VERY well-received! Hart was given a free pass and asked to pose for pictures with actor, Thomas Waites, who was guest of honor. The two have remained friends ever since.
Waites, Hart (as THE THING), and Todd Cameron (Photo from Outpost #31)
It was also on this occasion that he’d befriend Cameron, which eventually lead to Hart purchasing parts of his collection as well as inheriting THING-FEST itself, thus allowing Cameron the freedom to focus solely on his passion for sharks. Hart has since built on Cameron’s collection and was featured in Horrorhound Magazine #33 (page 58).
“It was three years after going to THING-FEST 2008 that I was in charge and hosted my own,” said Hart. “Three years equals 27,000 hours and, like Blair discovered in the movie, that’s the time it takes to fully contaminate the world. Clearly, I’d become infected that day.”
We made our way past the collection; studying every item. Despite not wanting to miss a single detail, we kept a steady pace out of respect for the other visitors. This wasn’t a problem as we’d planned on doing several visits anyway.
One of the most impressive items in Hart’s collection is an original 35 MM print of the film. Hart had contacted Universal Studios years ago attempting to garner a copy but was told,”This is an historic film and it’ll never happen.” Hart (not one to give up) bided his time and, a few years later after Universal made the decision to convert their library into a digital format, was given the opportunity to own a piece of motion picture history. Hart also boasts the film’s sizzle trailer created by Carpenter himself. This short film reel was designed to woo Universal into choosing him as the movie’s director (in which it was obviously successful) by providing a sampling of what Carpenter’s vision of the film was.
What made viewing this collection particularly awesome was the ability to look over our shoulders and see the actors right there! This also provided us with a rare opportunity…
Amongst the collectibles, THING-FEST included familiar props used in the film – including the actual tape recorder microphone used by Kurt Russell’s MacReady.
Joe also managed to acquire the microphone used by Thomas Waites’ (Windows) character in the movie and, according to him, Days of the Dead marked the first time the two had been together since filming.
Taking a chance, we asked if we could borrow it to use for an impromptu photo op with Waites who was signing at the booth right next to the THING-FEST tables. Not only did Joe agree to our bold request but also walked over to Waites on our behalf and asked if he’d be willing to pose with us. If this doesn’t illustrate what a great guy Joe is, I don’t what does!
In addition to the painting (featured and SOLD in my last Days post), Russ brought along two models he’d created as well. One of these depicted the “Norris monster” and looked fantastic! What I liked best about it was that Russ made him appear “slimey” which added a whole new dimension to it.
The other model he’d created was from a rare resin kit made by Robb Rotundi and believed to be only one of the original nineteen created. It features the infamous Palmer blood test and, for those who don’t remember (in which case you either didn’t see the movie or suffered blunt trauma to the head) this was from the scene that causes first time viewers to literally leap out of their seats! I’m not going it for your younger viewers who haven’t see it but its a pivotal part of the film where MacReady attempts to discover which members of his group really are who they say they are.