The biggest draw of any fan convention lies with the celebrities they feature. I find that there are few experiences more gratifying than seeing your idols up close and having an opportunity to tell them how much you appreciate their work. You can also get a small glimpse of what they are really like as opposed to the 2-Dimensional view offered by the small & large screens.
Of course, this can be a double edged sword; Sometimes you gain a new respect for a celebrity like Ardriene King who, though not a horror fan, is happy to share her FRIDAY THE 13th memories while supplying unique genre items for fans to purchase. Other times you become disappointed, as was the case of when I met Linda Blair, who was so stand-offish I started sympathizing with the demon from THE EXORCIST.
The success of a celebrity encounter, however, is not all centered on their behavior. There are things that us fans can also do to increase the chances of having a positive experience with them as well.
1) Mentally prepare yourself that you will be standing in line. We’re an inpatient society and we tend to want, what we want, yesterday! Like it or not, waiting in line is a fact of life and even more so at a fan convention (STAR WARS CELEBRATIONS being the WORST in that regard). Wear comfortable shoes and hopefully find a buddy to chat with. It will make the time seem to go much faster while offering an opportunity to make new friends. You’ll also be less of a crab ass when you finally meet the big headliner.
At last years Horrorhound Weekend I waited 4 hours to meet George Romero. During that time I chatted with a friend, did ample “people watching,” and later enjoyed a cocktail (brought to me by the aforementioned friend). By the time I met the Godfather of Zombies I was calm and in a happy frame of mind. I’m not encouraging alcohol consumption during convention lines (I’m not discouraging it either) but am merely pointing out that the situation can be a more “social” occasion as opposed to a tedious one.
Everyone is conscious of how slow a line is moving while they’re standing in it. Unfortunately, this is quickly forgotten once you reach your quarry. Now, suddenly, you feel as if you can take all the time in the world and those poor saps behind you will just have to wait a little longer. Granted, you have earned some “one on one” time with the star. There are still, however, some things you can do to keep the encounter relatively quick while increasing its overall quality. This brings us to our next tip…
2) Have whatever it is you want signed OUT and ready to go! Some conventions limit the number of items that can be signed, or discourage photo taking with a celebrity. I find this to be unacceptable. The way I see it, if I’m willing to drop some of my hard earned, “non” celebrity money at their table (and willing to pay for each item) than I deserve a picture and having them all signed. At the same time they need to be out of their protectors and ready to be signed when the big moment arrives.
Likewise, if you’re purchasing one of the celebs own 8×10′s then choose your shot BEFORE standing in front of him/her. Most people are so transfixed watching them commune with the people in front of them that they don’t do this. Don’t use your time with a celebrity in choosing a picture, use it instead for…..
Be sure to limit that to one comment or question. This isn’t a lecture hosted by The Screen Actors Guild, this is a brief meeting between fan and star. Even if the celebrity is all alone, and with NO line, try to avoid the mindset that this is an opportunity to become their new best friend. Keep it short and sweet….not scary and stalkish!
4) Take the lens cap off! The simplest piece of advice is often the most overlooked. Get your cameras out and, more importantly, READY to go! Allow me a bit of “true confessions” as I share an embarrassing story that happened to me about 15 years ago. I accompanied a friend of mine to a small KISS convention here in Chicago. This was back before I had any monster friends and the thought of attending a horror convention would ever occur to me. My friend was (and is) a HUGE fan of the group and this event, while tiny, happened to feature one of the most elusive members of the group – Vinnie Vincent (he’s still alive but best of luck finding him today)!
It was a long line and, like waiting for Romero, we decided to have a cocktail. Unlike Romero, however, we didn’t just stop at one. By the time we made it to Vincent, we were both two shades to the wind. As my friend posed with the guitar master himself, I stood holding the camera, joyfully snapping away. As I smiled (and swayed) in my drunken splendor, I was oblivious to the fact that everyone was yelling at me to take off the damn lens cap! Before the sounds even registered, I remember noticing the mob of angry faces, many mouthing the words “dumb-ass!”
5) Don’t forget to pay! In many cases, this isn’t a free “meet & greet.” The attending celebrities are often not getting paid to do so. They are usually responsible for their own travel and room expenses and those 8×10′s they offer weren’t donated to them either.
You may wonder why some of the bigger stars need charge at all since they are, by many accounts, wealthy individuals. Well imagine if you’re sitting at a booth and some guy asks for your autograph. You sign the picture and, later that week, see it selling on ebay for $50. You won’t get a nickle of it, yet it’s YOUR signature! The sad fact is that many people standing in those lines are doing so more for profit than out of devotion. Charging for autographs (with larger fees asked for bigger celebrities) is a way of deterring this practice.
On Saturday morning we descended upon the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts approximately a half hour before the “Rock & Shock” convention was to begin. While observing the rather interesting looking attendees, the doors soon opened and we anxiously entered the main hall. It took some time for our eyes to adjust to the kaleidoscope of sights before us, so that we could determine which direction we should head. As mentioned during my coverage of Horrorhound, it is always a good idea to pre-plan your convention experience to ensure that you get the very most out of it. David had wisely printed out an itinerary that listed all the celebrities we wanted to meet by order of priority.
The top two celebs attending this event included the “godfather of zombies,” George Romero, as well as MACHETE himself, Danny Trejo. The line forming for Trejo was (at that time) relatively short, so we opted to start with him instead of Romero. In hindsight this may have been an error in judgment but, never the less, in mere minutes we were standing before one of 2010′s most unexpected leading males.
Danny Trejo comes off as ”tough as nails” in his various film roles and his checkered past would certainly reinforce this image. Still uneasy after my initial meeting with Trejo’s MACHETE co-star, Tom Savini, at Horrorhound, I was happy to see Trejo smiling and genuinely looking pleased while meeting with his fans.
Trejo has a long standing career of playing supporting roles in such horror classics as FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, and Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN to name but a few. After the positive response received from his faux trailer MACHETE (shown during the fantastic Tarantino/Rodriguez GRINDHOUSE films), it was time to turn “fake” into “real” and give Trejo’s character a chance at center stage.
Danny Trejo had some of the best Hollywood still photos available for signing and it was really a tough decision in choosing which one we wanted. Ultimately, we opted for a shot of him posing with PLANET TERROR’s “crazy babysitter twins” (Elise and Electra Avellan). “Ah, GOOD choice!” Trejo grinned while applying his signature. David would later send both of our signed pics directly to these real-life sisters in the hope that they will graciously sign them for us, as they’ve done for him in the past (they had better or David owes me 30 bucks!).
Just as we had observed, he was extremely friendly and seemed genuinely appreciative of all the attention being received from his fans. “You can tell that he is really enjoying all this,” David would later say. As he posed for photos, I noticed him look at what was now a HUGE line of people set to meet him and this appeared to make him very happy – and we were happy as well for not having to wait in it!
Trejo was not the only GRINDHOUSE alumni available at “Rock & Shock.” Sitting nearby was New Zealand beauty, Zoe Bell. Ms Bell was featured in Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE entry, DEATH PROOF. Fans will remember her as the daring stunt gal clinging to the hood of a car as the psychotic “Stuntman Mike” (played brilliantly by Kurt Russell) attempts to murder her along with her pals via his killer, “death proof” to no one but himself, Chevy Nova.
I asked her if she actually did her own stunts and she assured me that, in the six weeks it took to film the famous car chase scene, it was all HER. Of course this makes sense since Bell was not only playing a stunt woman in the movie but had been one in real life for years. Her work includes playing stunt doubles on TV’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” as well as for Uma Thurman’s character in Tarantino’s KILL BILL films (of which I am also a HUGE fan).
I couldn’t help but notice that my co-blogger appeared to be on “Cloud 9″ just standing in her presence (in fact, I believe he STILL is). Always wanting to make my friends happy, I decided to give something a try. As she got ready to pose for a picture with him I said, “Hey Zoe! Why don’t you give us a picture that will help make his girlfriend jealous?” With that she gave David a full embrace and helped create one of the ultimate fan photos EVER. This is a moment David will scarcely forget and I believe it is safe to say he owes me one!
When it came to be my turn for a photo I quickly gave her a heads up. “Look, I’m gay, so you don’t have to do a shot like that with me.” The saucy vixen then gave a wide smile and yelled, “Well…in that case!” She then proceeded to squeeze me so hard I thought my head would pop of my shoulders. She also kicked up her right leg and straddled me with it. Message too horny genre fans; if you want your female horror stars to give you a little extra attention, you may want to tell em’ you’re gay!
Next up: The Rob Zombie gals of HALLOWEEN!