If there’s any event here in Chicago that signifies the transition from fall to winter it’s gotta be Days of the Dead. Last year I remember arriving on a clear evening only to leave later that same night amid piles of the season’s first snow while dodging salt trucks on the way home. Thankfully that didn’t repeat itself this year; just a simple thirty degree drop in temperature that’s held ever since. So far as the fans go, a tornado probably wouldn’t keep them away and this year promised something extra special. You could practically feel the exuberance on social media when it was announced that rock/horror legend, Alice Cooper, would headline their celebrity guest list. Not only would the singer/song-writer/actor be signing autographs for fans but they could also do a professional photo-op with him for an extra $55 which, in the expo world, is actually pretty darn cheap. It was a smart move as it guaranteed this convention not only see it’s “regulars” but a fair share of newbies as well.
I arrived around 3:30pm that Friday and picked up my pass before finding an open spot in the hotel lobby to sit down (something that would be non-existent the following day). The convention hadn’t officially opened yet and I was waiting for a couple of friends (Don & Bunny) who were in another location getting their VIP passes. I settled in at a table that was shared by a guy covered in tattoos sitting next to a sweet, older woman working on one of those adult coloring books. Though the contrast between the two was pretty striking, they were both exceptionally nice people. The man introduced himself as Phil Meenan and he was joined by his mother, Mary, who admitted her sole purpose for attending was to engage in her favorite activity, “people watching.” Interestingly, lots of people had been watching her son recently on Scream Factory’s “Horror Hunters” show. It’s co-hosted by multi-Rondo winner, Aaron Christensen, who was kind enough to have me as a contributer for his book, Hidden Horror a couple of years ago. The show highlights super fans with enviable horror memorabilia collections and Phillip has one on Frankenstein.
We swapped convention stories which made the time go fast while waiting for the dealer’s room to open. Although there was a line of fans waiting to go in, we calmer, seasoned conventioneers knew there was no reason to rush; the line would dissipate mere minutes after it opened. Plus it allowed us more time to join Mary with her people-watching activities and catch celebrity guests who were just arriving. This included wrestling legend, Ric Flair, who actually walked up to our table and said “Hello.”
After a while my friends and I finally met up but it was a short-lived reunion as the dealer room officially opened and we all took off running. So much for calm and seasoned!
Some people think that the day after Thanksgiving is the best day to go Christmas shopping but considering the number of genre fans in my life, I consider the first night of Days of the Dead to be Black Friday. Thanks to this event I was able to get a jumpstart on my holiday shopping for a few of my kids as well as my fellow Terror Dave. It was pretty packed and I stepped on man’s foot who turned out to be local musician and friend, John Doyle with his girlfriend, Julie Cram. Julie was dressed as the Demon nun, Valak, from The Conjuring 2. I’m a big fan of the Conjuring films and had just re-watched this one the week before. I was surprised at all the stuff I’d missed when I saw it the first time at the theater…which I guess is what happens when you go see a movie less than two hours after returning from a two week road trip.
I also ran into Jay Langley whom we featured last year with photos of his fantastic Scarebears. He always tries to create a bear that is specific to this show and eventually auctioned online for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Not surprisingly, this year’s was inspired by the event’s top guest.
When I talked to Jay he wasn’t sure if he could get Cooper to sign it or, if he did, whether or not he’d want to keep it for himself. Celebrities are given the option of taking a photo with it (so Jay can show it off) and keeping the bear or giving it back to Jay for charity. In this case Cooper happily signed the bear while granting him permission to auction it for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I believe that should be going up any day now so start that eBay search!
With Alice Cooper around, it was no surprise that there were a few people dressed as the Frankenstein monster. The coolest was from the aforementioned, Phil Meenan, who had on a vintage mask used once during Mardis gras. Definitely not something you’ll see anywhere else!
My photo ticket for Alice Cooper was 7pm and I was far from alone. A “line” was formed downstairs and snaked all over the place. It was actually pretty chaotic and no one was really sure where it ended. There was some hilarious ladies standing next to me with thick southern accents and, between the four of them, they had their a mini-bar in their purses. They weren’t going to let a long get them down as one of them declared, “Woohooo! This line is crazy and we’re gonna get drunk!” Surprisingly, they wouldn’t even have enough time to catch a buzz because after that “crazy” line started moving, it moved rather quickly.
I wore my Svengoolie shirt and as I approached him he said, “Hey, it’s Svengoolie!” He was very friendly and after words one of the ladies I’d shared the line with told me she kissed him in her photo and he told her, “Now you know my wife is in this hotel and will hurt me if she sees this!” As for me, I was content having him just point to Sven.
After that I bought a few more items in the dealer room before we all settled back at the table with Mary. She was awesome because she stayed at the same spot all night and happily watched our belongings which made conventioning a lot less cumbersome. As soon as my photo was ready for pick up I headed out to the now cold, Chicago weather. Winter was finally here, but Days of the Dead brought it in style.