I met Tom Savini for the first time twice during my first Horrorhound Weekend back in 2010. Although it would be my last pre-Terror Dave event, I walked in harboring lots of goals concerning the horror hosts and the celebrities that were attending. Of course the main plan was to have a great time and I was joined by my friend, Jason. I remember us being particularly excited about having the opportunity to meet some of the folks behind one of our favorite zombie films; Dawn of the Dead. Tom Savini, Ken Foree, and the godfather of zombies himself, George Romero, would all be there and we couldn’t wait.
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.
TERROR FROM BEYOND THE DAVES is pleased to introduce our very FIRST guest writer to the site, Brian Maze! While this may be his first appearance as a “writer” on the blog, he is far from a stranger. Mr. Maze is the talented artist whose “Horror Hosts pogs” have not only been a regular feature of our weekly reports, they’ve completely enhanced them. His generosity and support can not be overstated and we are VERY fortunate to count him as not only an amazing contributor but good friend as well. Brian, like both Daves, is a big fan not only of the genre but the world of horror hosting too! His Virginia locale places him in an area rich in horror host history, both past & present. Dr. Sarcofiguy, Count Gore de Vol, and Karlos Borloff’s Monster Madhouse all herald from this region. We look forward to future field report from Brian regarding those characters, as well as meeting him in person this March at Horrorhound. Today, however, it is not Horror Hosts but Zombies who prompt Brian’s contribution. So, without further adieu….
Since World War II suburban living has been on the rise, individuals wanting a slower pace than the hustle & bustle of the city moved to “the burbs” for the American Dream of the white picket fence, front lawn & the two car garage. But Suburbanites needed somewhere to shop, and a central part of “the Burbs” is the Shopping Mall, with its Anchor stores, cell phone kiosks, coffee bar, & food court. The mall plays a central part in the fabric of suburban society.
The underbelly of this society is the Zombie. Zombies are more than merely undead versions of us; they represent chaos and the breakdown of the norm. This, in turn, plays on our own fears of losing the security of our daily routines, something we often resent and take for granted. George Romero knew this all too well, when he filmed DAWN OF THE DEAD, the classic zombie film which showed us what could happen when chaos reaches our last safe haven, the shopping Mall! Filmed at the Monroeville Mall, located just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, the mall is now permanently engraved with the rotting image of the zombie.
One store in the mall, Time and Space Toys has embraced the zombie by featuring an in-store museum called “Monroeville Zombies” that is based on the history of zombies in popular culture, including television and film.
The museum contains life size replicas of such notable zombies as Tor Johnson (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE), the German Super Soldier (SHOCKWAVES), Michael Jackson (THRILLER), as well as many more.
The museum also displays movie artifacts, memorabilia, as well as an amazing DAWN OF THE DEAD scale model of the mall as depicted in the film. If you are a die-hard horror fan and are in the Pittsburgh area, Monroeville Zombies Museum is a must see.
Last March, I attended my first (but definitely not last) Horrorhound Convention. As mentioned in my previous post, Horrorhound Magazine definitely ranks as one of my favorites. Like FANGORIA, they sponsor their own conventions too - attracting some very impressive guests! For the past few years, Horrorhound has done two conventions annually; one in Indianapolis (March) and another in Cincinnati (November).
I had planned to attend the Ohio show last fall, intent on meeting Tom Savini and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. I ended up canceling these plans, telling myself that I would attend the March show, come hell or high water! I’m very happy that I did. This convention, without question, was one of the BEST.
Joining me on this trip was my old pal, Jason. Although neither of us were sure of what to expect, we did have very specific goals about what we hoped to accomplish. Jason (a musician) wanted to acquire some rare horror music – particularly the scores to some Italian, gore classics. I, on the other hand, was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a number of the horror hosts who would be attending (more on that next time).
Both of us wanted to add new reference books, along with some rare 1980′s slasher films, to our collections. We were also anxious to meet some of the featured celebrity guests. These would include George Romero, Tom Savini, David Hess, and Elvira – to name but a few. I am happy to report that we not only met, but surpassed, ALL of our objectives!
We belted KISS parody songs all the way to Indianapolis, making the trip seem MUCH quicker (though it’s a wonder I could still speak after growling like Gene Simmons for four hours). When we pulled into the parking lot of the Marriott hotel, we saw horror host, Karlos Borloff (obviously, another fan of Simmons) outside enjoying a cigarette. There was no doubt, we had come to the right place.
Tom Savini was the next celebrity we met. He was sitting at a table with an interesting statue of a zombie eating Cheerios out of George Romero’s head. I found Savini to be a bit of a cold fish during this first encounter. I’ve been a huge fan of Savini for over twenty years and was anxious to have an opportunity to meet and talk with him. I started by telling him how much I loved THE GRINDHOUSE films and how happy I was that they had made a feature film of one of its faux trailers, MACHETE. He didn’t give eye contact and responded with a deadpan, “yeah.” He was slightly more communicative when I asked him about the Blu-Ray release date for his version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990), stating that it should be at the end of this year after they add in some lost footage (cool!). Jason was gushing compliments left and right and he still barely cracked a smile. That initial meeting left me disappointed but, fortunately, the next meeting would be much better.
Our next celebrity encounter was with actor, David Hess. Hess starred in the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as well as the 1980 Italian alternative, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. He also starred in HITCH-HIKE, SWAMP THING, and the rare Italian slasher BODY COUNT.
Hess’ co-star in THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK was Italian actor, Giovanni Lombardo Radice. Despite not being a fan of horror (particularly gore) movies, Radice has the distinction of starring in some of the gruesomest films ever made. These include Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as Umberto Lenzi’s highly controversial, CANNIBAL FEROX. Hess was selling numerous photos at his table but the one that quickly caught my eye featured Radice and Hess together. It was more expensive than the other photos but was pre-signed by Radice himself. I was happy to add both autographs to my collection.
The 2010 Horrorhound Indianapolis Convention was a definite zombie paradise! On hand were plenty of representatives from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD films. There was only one in attendance from his original, 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and that was Charles Craig. Mr. Craig played the radio announcer in the horror classic (as well as a zombie extra) and was happy to pose with us using an actual microphone as a prop. He was a very nice guy and seemed genuinely surprised at the attention he received. I just felt bad that he was stuck handling money transactions while his “assistant” snoozed away!
I thought it was great that the original DAWN OF THE DEAD’s, Mike Christopher, appeared at the convention wearing his Hare Krishna zombie costume. I couldn’t believe that after 30 years he looked exactly the same as he did in that movie! We grabbed a beer off of the table (belonging to his irked assistant) and handed it to him for the shot. I hope I can meet him again so he can sign this photo! Jason returned to his booth on Sunday and we snapped a shot of him without the make up too.
On Saturday, we stood in line for about four hours to meet George Romero. It was well worth the wait. Mr. Romero is every bit as warm and ingratiating to his fans as we had heard. He signed a DAWN OF THE DEAD poster for Jason and a DAY OF DEAD one for me (I prefer DAWN to DAY also but Jason was lucky to snag his last available poster). We asked Romero if he wouldn’t mind doing an intro for our home made video. He said he would but kept flubbing the lines. It was actually pretty comical. Each time he’d mess up, he’d insist on being given another chance to get it right. So we not only received a video plug from Romero, but also plenty of bloopers!
The convention was very crowded and I heard a lot of complaints from fellow participants. I’m not sure if it was our careful planning or just blind luck, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We drove home constantly uttering the phrase, “I can’t believe we did it!” It was just an amazing experience and one we’ll never forget. Believe it or not, you’ve only heard ”half” the story. This convention also featured a special tribute to the late Maila Nurmi - Vampira. It would see the largest gathering of horror hosts from across the country. Little did I know at the time, my Svengoolie-centric world was about to bust wide open!