I just returned from the FRIGHT NIGHT convention in Kentucky but wanted to wrap up this event before delving into that one. I attended the VIP party there as well but, it was so horrendous, I couldn’t make a blog out of it if I tried. Let’s just say that the one I describe below was 1,000 times better and showed that sometimes the “new kids on the block” could teach a thing or two to the older ones!
Saturday was a busy day at DAYS OF THE DEAD and, as the doors to the main convention halls closed, I tiredly dragged myself up to my room. I took a shower and, as I was organizing all the materials I’d acquired during the day, was jarred by the ringing of my cell phone. Upon answering, I soon heard the monotone voice of Illinois Public Access host, Count Gregula, asking what I was up to. After revealing that I had no plans for the evening (save zoning out in front of TV) Gregula asked the question that every horror conventioneer longs to hear, “Would you like to attend the VIP party with us?”
For those unfamiliar with fan conventions, many offer an opportunity for fans and celebrities to mingle in a social setting after convention hours. It’s not included with the standard ticket and is usually, on its own, more expensive than your weekend pass. For this reason, I had never attended one before – wanting as much cash as possible for autographs and vendors. When DAYS OF THE DEAD organizer, Adolfo Dorta, agreed to give me press passes for the event, he made it clear that the VIP party was not included.
Needless to say, the prospect of actually being able to experience a VIP party first hand immediately perked me up. I quickly dressed and zoomed down to the lobby to meet up with the Count & Countess Gregula. The party took place in the hotel lounge and many fans and celebs had already arrived.
As we waited for Adolfo to let us in, a small boy dressed as the iconic slasher, Jason, entertained us by running around and mock “slashing” random people. Everyone commented how cute it was and laughed as the little boy happily “murdered” his sister and various guests (including me at one point). Only at a horror convention could a scene like this draw smiles as opposed to a quick call to DCFS. This soon attracted the attention of the real “Jason” from the 2009 FRIDAY THE 13th remake, Derrick Mears. Mears was about as tall as the child was short and it made an interesting contrast, not to mention a great photo op.
After Adolfo arrived and let us into the lounge we could see it was already a full house. A small buffet table offered a fruit and cheese tray which was soon followed by a crate of White Castle sliders. The Midwestern delicacy (and favored food for late night partiers) was set on the main stage while everyone rushed to it like zombies to a brain.
Just as promised, the fans were able to mingle freely with their favorite stars. I noticed James Downing from MONSTERS FROM THE BASEMENT enjoying the company of WALKING DEAD’s Melissa Cowen at a nearby table and waved hello. I’d met Melissa back in October at Rock & Shock covered HERE. Over by the bar, showing off pictures of bikini clad gals on his cell phone to a friend, was Jake Busey. Busey was very friendly and didn’t mind taking a break to pose for a picture. I confessed to him that STARSHIP TROOPERS, with its gratuitous use of nudity and gore, was a guilty pleasure. He gave me warm, “Why, thank you!” while posing for a shot.
Another friendly celeb was William Katt. Like Ms Cowan, I had the privilege of also meeting Katt at Rock n Shock in Massachusetts. He was very personable and we talked about my how my younger brother, Keith, was obsessed with Katt’s GREATEST AMERICAN HERO TV show and made frequent trips to the doctor – a result of his many failed attempts at flight. Katt retained his reputation for being personable here as we discussed the fact that, had Mark Hamill turned down the role, he was the next choice in playing Luke Skywalker in STAR WARS
Other notable celebs who freely mingled with guests was NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD alumnus John Russo and Russell Streiner! I met up with Streiner the next day during an interview with Gregula and asked if he’s recite his famous line, “They’re coming to get you Barbara!” He agreed and then pointed to a pile of quarters at his table. Every time a fan asks him to recite the line they are to pay 25 cents – all in could fun. Before leaving, I had no choice but to ante up!
You assume that celebrities are just there because they have to be but I noticed this was not the case. All the celebs I observed were clearing having a lot of fun and dished out many compliments regarding how the event was set up. Everyone I asked – both celebrity and fan stated they would love to attend another convention such as this.
Soon, all attention was back on the main stage as Adolfo took the microphone…
Thanking everyone for making the first official DAYS OF THE DEAD a huge success, Dorta then began giving away some great prizes for those lucky enough to be carrying a winning raffle ticket. Some of which included some unique gifts from Fable Foundry Creative Studio. We’ll be giving Fable Foundry a much closer look soon.
Freddy fans will be VERY interested in the unique, hand-crafted items coming soon from Fable Foundry!
Aside from generously donating items (that many of us would pine away for) as gifts for lucky raffle winners, the company’s founder and Creative Director, Eriq Chang, has a philosophy that we Daves have come to live by. Unable to attend the event itself, he gave Adolfo some positive words to share with guests. We’ll be sharing those when we delve into why this is a company horror fans can be proud to support so stay tuned and keep your eyes on this company!
The happy mood, ever present but enriched by the words of Mr. Chang, reached a fever pitch when Adolfo unveiled two posters which effectively answered the question we all had on our minds; will there be another DAYS OF THE DEAD? The answer was a resounding YES as not one, but TWO more DAYS OF THE DEAD conventions were revealed!
For horror fans, there are a LOT of events to choose from these days and while many of us base our choices on the celebrities featured let me say that we also would like to be treated like VIP’s. For that experience I urge everyone to consider attending DAYS OF THE DEAD! I’ve done quite a few conventions this year and can safely say that Adolfo and his amazing team will see to it that you receive the best of both worlds!
Back in 1984, the rural town of Kenosha, Wisconsin became the unlikely venue for a unique type of art show. Local resident, Dale Wamboldt, was determined to create a venue where artists such as himself (who delve in the more ominous side of creativity) could showcase their work for a public audience. A fan of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Dale was fascinated by the concept of using art to express his own darker side. Years later, he would adopt his own alter ego as a horror host, Dr. Destruction, while continuing the annual tradition of the “The Dorian Gray Art Show.”
This was my first year attending the show and I drove up with my friends, The Count & Countess Gregula, who have occasionally hosted films via Illinois Public Access. Their presence made sense as the theme of this year’s show was “Night of the Horror Hosts.” We arrived at the Rhode Opera House in downtown Kenosha and were greeted by Destruction’s sidekick, Deadgar Winters, as we entered the main show room. The theater, which opened in 1927, was beautiful and retained many of its original projectors and concession machines for public display.
Having missed the earlier crowds, there was plenty of opportunity to talk to the featured artists while enjoying their creations. First, I said hello to my friend, Dr Destruction, who quickly introduced me to his old pal, Ari Lehman. Mr. Lehman has the distinction of being the first physical incarnation of Jason Vorhees from the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. He was the young boy who jumped out of the waters of Crystal Lake to attack an unsuspecting Adrienne King at the original film’s conclusion. Ari was very personable and, like Dr Destruction, had lots of energy.
Dr. Destruction showed off some of his pieces which included some dedicated to classic Horror Hosts. This consisted of two large portraits dedicated to the “mother” and “father” of all horror hosts, Vampira and Zacherley! The one that caught my eye, however, was smaller and to the left. It was a painting of Rich Koz’s “Son of Svengoolie” (still on the air and now simply Svengoolie) whom I had grown up with.
As Dr Destruction went off to greet more of his guests, I socialized with the artists. The first was Josh Lucas, who created an amazing clock that immediately caught my eye. Josh was very friendly and talked about his devotion to the Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN films, while showing off an amazing tattoo of Michael Myers on his right shoulder. Josh is looking forward to attending the upcoming FLASHBACK WEEKEND where he hopes to finally meet Danielle Harris – who starred in films from both of the HALLOWEEN series. As for the clock, I was intent on buying one but Josh had, not surprisingly, sold out. I am hoping to catch him again at event hosted by Deadgar Winters later this month.
Sharing a booth with Josh was Rebecca Hilbert who was selling her homemade “voodoo dolls.” I ended up buying one of them myself and look forward to using it (smile).
When I had first entered the gallery, my eye was immediately drawn to a painting of Karoff’s FRANKENSTEIN. The creator of the piece was John Bonior who said he did it in 3 hours. I thought it was unbelievable and the artist, himself, seemed surprised. “This is my first year here and I just never thought I was good enough,” he said. I’m quite sure that anyone seeing these pictures would disagree. His work was amazing and, had I brought more cash with me, it’s likely I would have walked home with Frank. John had also painted young Michael Brody from the film JAWS in the scene where he stares in horror as a man nearby gets eaten by the famed Great White Shark. This would later prompt a discussion between John and I where John recounted a story of meeting Richard Deryfuss and his apparent feud with actor, Bill Murray. It isn’t my tale to tell but, suffice it to say, it’s the kind of story a blogger dreams of.
Also featured at the show was the works of Michael Ables and Jody Elizabeth. The couple each share a love of the macabre and this is evident through John’s prints and Jody’s amazing paintings. “Before Dorian Gray, there was nowhere artists like us could show our work,” said John.”We really appreciate ‘Dorian Gray.”
Jody’s work was not just interesting due to her dramatic renderings, but also for their “texture.” She encouraged visitors to touch her work which was often layered and 3 Dimensional. One of the most interesting pieces depicted a maniacal clown in which Jody cleverly used real ice cream cones to finish the presentation. She is also a talented jewelry maker and created a unique bracelet proudly worn by Michael.
As this was “Night of the Horror Hosts,” there were a few of those on hand as well. Marlena Midnite from Midnite Mausoleum drove up from Iowa to attend the event and stationed her own booth selling episodes of her show & “Midnite Mausoleum” swag.
The Gregulas and I had split off after arriving but met back up later. They were being very social and enjoyed talking with Dr. Destruction as well as a fellow Svengoolie fan who calls herself “Svengirlie.” I’ve noticed in the course of my Svengoolie fandom quite a few gals who routinely dress up like Sven. If I had musical talent, I think I’d create a Svengoolie tribute band and perform some of Sven’s parody songs with the Sven gals in the background. Sort of like the ones in those Robert Palmer videos back in the 1980′s. I didn’t get a chance to chat much with “Svengirlie” as she was leaving just as I’d finally met up with them, but both her and her boyfriend seemed like a lot of fun.
Ivan Cryptosis was also in attendance and we spoke a bit about the history of his character as well as his story in SCARY MONSTERS MAGAZINE which was featured in the 2009 Monster Memories issue. The writer of that piece, the late Dick Nitelinger, had also written an early story on Dr. Destruction when his show first began some ten years ago. My article on Dr Destruction (slated to appear in the summer 2011 issue) will continue where that one left off.
While there is an existing feud between The Gregulas and Ivan, they jabbed each other throughout the evening in a civil manner, thereby making a potentially uncomfortable situation rather humorous. Gregula and I also filmed some interviews and we had quite a few laughs. It’s always a lot of fun going on road trips to Kenosha with both he and his “Greg”arious wife!
By the evening’s close, I approached Dr Destruction and asked how much he was selling his “Son of Svengoolie” painting. “I’m not selling that one,” he said as my spirits began to drop. “That one belongs to you.” I couldn’t believe his generosity and eagerly took my painting back to Chicago. I had a great time at The Dorian Gray Art Show and look forward to returning next year.
“Back in the day,” classic horror hosts not only thrived on commercial television but also retained a powerful connection to their local communities. Whether attending a parade, shaking hands at a mall, or giving a birthday message “shout out” on their programs – these men & women endeared themselves to viewers in ways national celebrities could not.
Often their popularity and legacy was never fully realized until many years later when their younger fans would “grow up” and associate them with carefree times, now lost to the stressful adult world they live in today. Filled with nostalgia, these fans develop a strong devotion towards their host that can almost be considered “religious” in nature.
As a Chicago man, I understand this phenomena quite well. We middle-aged fans in the “Windy City” are fortunate to have the same host from our youth (Rich Koz/Svengoolie) still churning out weekly presentations on local, commercial television today. This is an extremely rare situation when looked at from a national perspective and has also created an interesting mindset amongst Chicago viewers.
Frustrating to many “outsiders,” Chicagoans have been living in a proverbial horror host “box.” Svengoolie’s longevity, coupled with our nostalgic devotion, have caused us to become “Svengoolie-centric.” This condition is characterized by not only living under the false belief that Svengoolie is the only horror host, but that he is the inventor of many time-honored horror host traditions such as “Svensurround” (injecting comments and sound effects into the films being presented), the “man at the door” shtick (made famous by Soupy Sales) and commercial/song parodies.
Mentioning to my Svengoolie brothers and sisters that other hosts exist is guaranteed to be met with a mixture of disbelief and scorn, especially if you dare mention that you have come to appreciate their work as well. A local fan, such as myself, who dares to broaden his horizons can quickly be viewed as a modern day Benedict Arnold if not careful. Even the national “Mistress of the Dark,” Elvira, was far from achieving a hero’s welcome when her new “Movie Macabre” debuted a few weeks ago. So far as many Chicago genre fans are concerned, she can place that low-cut, black dress back into mothballs and keep it there. This is despite the fact that she not only shares the same channel as Svengoolie (at a much inferior time slot), but is also able to claim Rich Koz as one of her fans.
This “invisible fence” has successfully kept many ambitious commercial hosts from achieving syndication in Chicago’s powerful media market. It is important to note that this shield is composed of “fans” and not Svengoolie himself. Our patron host, for his part, has never said anything negative about his fellow hosts. In his unique position, however, he really doesn’t have to. So powerful is the fervor of his fan base that I believe it will retain its hold for many years after Svengoolie is (God forbid) no longer on the air. It may be a long time before any new host is accepted, no matter how talented he or she is, unless Svengoolie were to crown them himself. Even in that unlikely event, this would still be far from a guarantee.
But what of the public access hosts who dwell within this barrier? How do you attempt to build your own flock amidst the presence of an active “god” and his fanatical followers who view you as a hapless “wannabe” and interloper? On the Northern edge of Svengoolie’s vast empire, lies the quaint town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Here you can find another host, whom locals know as Dr. Destruction (Dale Wamboldt). This public access host caught my attention shortly before the Horrorhound convention last March and, upon viewing some of his work, completely fascinates me.
I can only describe his show as a sort of macabre version of the “Tonight Show,” featuring a horror host in place of a regular one. Dr Destruction sits at his desk while having an open, unscripted conversation with his guests. These individuals range from other hosts, a colorful ”sidekick,” or local personalities which may include (but are not limited to) politicians, artisans, Kenosha union workers, or even a Chicago dominatrix. He discusses a myriad of topics but his favorites deal with current events and local politics. Not being employed by a television station gives him the freedom to discuss virtually anything he wants, and Dr Destruction is a highly dogmatic individual.
I drove up to Kenosha to commune with him at the Jerry Smith Pumpkin Farm this past Saturday. It’s about 90 minutes from where I live and I made record time. This fall festival features camel/pony/hayrides, home grown pumpkins, apple cider, and face-painting.
For older fans looking to explore the more sinister side of Halloween, there is Dr. Destruction’s Haunted Forest. This attraction has been part of the festival since 1992 – eight years before Dale would begin work as a host. It’s structure was created by Destruction himself and features many classic monsters of whom he is a fan.
Tickets were to be purchased directly from Dr Destruction (in costume) who sat at the entrance, inside a replica of the old gypsy wagon from THE WOLF MAN. This was also a creation of the Wisconsin host and, as a big fan of the Universal classic, I found it utterly fantastic!
Destruction greeted me before inviting me to go through his attraction. Lots of twists and turns through a corn maze led me to encounter some of the denizens of his haunted woods. Some lucky Kenosha teens have an opportunity to make extra cash by dressing in their own costumes to haunt the visitors. Dale refers to them as his “spooks” and allows everyone an opportunity to make a contribution without being micro-managed. It’s a delicate business dealing with teenagers, but Destruction is careful to treat them like adults, while not allowing them to forget that he is always the boss.
Afterwards, he invited me into the wagon to chat. I was expecting to stay and socialize for about hour, but it would be another four hours before I’d leave. I found the experience to be highly informative, if not surreal. Dr. Destruction’s quick wit, coupled with his unerring ability to “tell it like it is,” played like a “Live” horror host presentation, with me as his only audience and the visitors his unwitting cast.
While most of us genre fans savor and enjoy the Halloween season, Dr Destruction is hard at work at the farm, though still filming his “Crimson Theater” shows every Friday morning. “In many ways I am like a farmer,” said Dale. “I work hard all year round and don’t see the pay-off until harvest time (Halloween season).” When it comes to hard work, Dr Destruction is, hands down, one of the most productive hosts operating today. According to Dale, in the nine years he has been hosting films, almost EVERY week has been a new episode with the word “re-run” scarcely in his vocabulary.
Raised by a blue collar/union worker, Dr. Destruction not only exhibits the spirit of his father’s legacy through his own work ethic but by routinely paying homage to local Kenosha workers (devastated by the exportation of jobs during the current economic crisis) themselves. His show has featured some of these men, many recently unemployed, treating them like celebrities – allowing them a public forum to vent their frustrations while also providing much needed encouragement.
In between customers, Dr. Destruction took the time to chat with me, despite having to manage the ”spooks,” coaxing leery customers into the attraction, and attending to his own personal matters via text messages. It was chaotic, but multitasking is one thing Destruction appears to do quite well and, might I add, humorously.
Despite the laughs, there are issues plaguing the mind of Destruction this day. The local paper, which has for the last several years featured him on the cover of their weekend “Get Out” entertainment section, has decided that, in the spirit of sensationalism, they would pit him against another costumed personality who runs a local haunted attraction named “The Mayor.”
The unusual photo blends the two mens faces together so that they are literally sharing the middle eye ball. Making matters worse, the paper listed a non-existent rivalry by stating “The Mayor vs Dr Destruction.” This was a slap in the face to a man who has a devout love of classic monsters. “Everyone knows that whenever there is a title that shows ’versus” the first one listed is always the one who wins!” says Destruction.
While the paper may have inadvertently declared a “winner,” his public would no doubt disagree. Destruction’s presence in Kenosha is not reserved for Halloween and he has actively plugged local activities on his show while also overseeing many of his own. A student of art, he has worked at art fairs (most recently the “Summer of Lovecraft” featured on this blog), created some of his own amazing paintings, organized a Godzilla festival at a local Dinosaur Museum, mesmerized guests with his “Haunted Bus” attraction, while tirelessly performing with his punk band, “The Dead Leathers.”
It is hard to fathom anyone so creative having the moniker “Destruction” but Dale suggests that the name, held by him since 1980, may be indicative of his own “Jekyll & Hyde” personality. While casting the paper aside he says, “These people don’t understand that there is another side to me and it will come out.”
Ultimately it is the mind of Destruction that would temper any impending violence. Summoning his old friend, and fan of horror hosts, Ari Lehman to provide some star-powered support in lieu of the newspaper’s apparent betrayal. Dr. Destruction is not merely a man in a costume, he is exactly the same person on camera as off. He has built strong ties in the horror/music world and Lehman exemplifies the marriage of both. The actor/musician is most famous for playing the young Jason Vorhees from the original FRIDAY THE 13th. He will forever be remembered by horror fans as the young boy leaping out of the water during the film’s dramatic conclusion. This weekend, Ari Lehman will perform with his band (known as “First Jason”) at the pumpkin farm to celebrate the haunted forest – and Destruction himself.
The ironic part of this situation is that Destruction very nearly became an ACTUAL mayor, having thrown his top hat into Kenosha politics a few years back. For those who find the idea of a horror host becoming mayor far-fetched, I’d like to turn their attention to the town of Chatfield, Ohio run by a certain David Lady. Mr.Lady is not only the town’s mayor but also a horror host, accomplished mask maker, and proprietor of a Haunted Hotel once featured on HGTV.
Dale suggests that he may run again someday, hoping that this time the locals will have become more accustomed with the notion. It is important to note that, despite his political ambitions, he never once violated his public access forum by discussing it on his own show. This could have been no easy feat for a man as outspoken as Dr. Destruction.
Despite his various projects, Destruction asserts that he is more committed than ever to his show. He has expanded his viewership to Milwaukee and, during a recent visit, was inundated by fans he scarcely knew he had. For a man routinely mistaken for Svengoolie, perhaps his future lies here. He is close enough to be considered a local, yet far enough away to no longer be eclipsed under the shadow of a Chicago icon. I have no doubt that a community once home to classic hosts such as Touloose NoNeck and Dr. Cadaverino would be hungry for a new host of their own and can’t think of a better candidate than Dr. Destruction.
As the evening came to a close (a prosperous night for the Haunted Forest in lieu of the beautiful weather) the mood became somber. Destruction leans back, stares out into the now empty festival grounds and laments his own future. “I wonder sometimes where this will all lead. Like 20 years after I’m gone, what will people say about me? Will they even remember who I was?”
Not long before, a young boy seeking admittance to the Haunted Forest pointed to Dr Destruction, beamed a huge smile and said, “You’re that guy on TV!” Unbeknownst to Dr. Destruction, the child may very well have already answered his question.
Happy Friday the 13th! This is the day that horror fans, like myself, don’t bother worrying ourselves over black cats and broken mirrors. Instead we fret over which of the numerous FRIDAY THE 13th slasher movies we’ll be watching that night. For more committed fans, you can even turn it into a marathon event. On one of last year’s Friday the 13th’s, I celebrated the occasion with an old friend….appropriately named Jason.
This year, however, there is even more cause to celebrate. 2010 marks the 30th Anniversary of the original, and without question, finest of the FRIDAY THE 13th movies. Throughout the 80′s it was often imitated (and recently remade) but has never been in any danger of losing its status as one of the best films from that golden age of slashers.
Not surprisingly, it has been deemed worthy of closer examination and analysis, most recently in the latest issue of Horrorhound Magazine, as well as last year’s 2009 documentary – HIS NAME WAS JASON. Since there is little I can add to that discussion, I’m going to focus solely on one of the film’s key players instead. Adrienne King played the character “Alice” in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH installment, and briefly in Part II as well.
Celebrity guest Q&A sessions can be a mixed blessing. Some guests give great insights and behind the scene stories, while others stare at the audience like a deer in highlights. These are the celebrities that usually respond to questions with, “Gee, it was a long time ago and I really don’t remember” or worse still, “It was just a job.” If you are a celebrity reading this post, take heed; Genre fans don’t want to hear that it’s “just a job” (even if that probably was the truth) especially when they’re prepared to stand in line and drop $20+ to meet you. And don’t think your celebrity status will protect you from us “fan boys,” either. As anyone who has ever participated on a fan “forum” can tell you, they can be some of the meanest places on-line!
I am happy to say that Adrienne King scores a perfect “10″ on the celebrity guest rating scale (which I just came up with). Not only did she actually remember her role in the film, she shared great stories and was receptive to her fans. She’s even developed her own wine label called “Camp Crystal Lake Wines.” This comforts her fan base even further as it proves she has embraced, rather than hid, from her role in the film (Kevin Bacon, anyone?). After the Q&A, I went to meet her in the convention hall. I noticed right away that she took a lot of time to talk with her fans while showing genuine appreciation for the attention she was given. When I came up to her she immediately said, “Hi! I remember seeing you during my talk.” I was very flattered that she noticed me, especially since I was joined in the audience by such colorful characters as a man holding a severed head and a full-figured gal wearing a “Wonder Woman” costume.
She also gets credited for selling some great stuff at her table. Aside from being able to order her special wines – in which she promises to personally call you on the phone and “thank you,” she was also selling her hand-painted “Crystal Lake” art pieces. If that wasn’t enough of a personal touch, she also had some GREAT pictures to sign that I can safely say, wasn’t ordered from a “Hollywood” stills catalog. I was drawn to a photo that was created from a shot she, herself, took with her Polaroid during the filming of FRIDAY THE 13TH. The shot was taken in Tom Savini’s studio and shows her and the gore master holding his prop of Mrs. Vorhee’s head! This was one of her newest pictures and she admitted while signing, “I’m still not sure where to write on this one!”
If you should discover that Adrienne King is attending a convention near you, I strongly urge you to meet her. Whether it’s Friday the 13th or not, it’s guaranteed to be your lucky day!