It was a sunny afternoon when my friend, Chris Carr, and I headed out to Indianapolis for this year’s Horrorhound Weekend/Mask-Fest. We met by chance a few months earlier (about a week after I returned from New England) at one of Brookfield Zoo’s “Summer Nights” events. I’d no sooner entered their main gate when I saw a guy wearing sunglasses sitting in their information booth with his feet propped on the ledge like he owned the place. I can honestly say that up till that moment, I’d never seen anyone make volunteering look as cool as he did. He must have noticed me staring because he gave me a nod which I returned with a half-wave before going about my business. Later that night, we’d meet formally and I learned that, aside from the zoo connection, he also loved horror movies and even dressed up as Jason Voorhees for Chicago-based cons. I’d long hoped for a local buddy to do horror-related stuff with and here was the ideal person sitting right here at the zoo the entire time! We started hanging out and eventually made plans to do Days of the Dead Chicago together this November but, after I began posting my Countdown to Mask-Fest series, he wanted to see what that was all about too. It’s always neat attending these things with newbies (like Jason Schoolcraft at Days of the Dead last July) and seeing their reactions to it. This time around, however, even a Horrorhound veteran like myself would get a taste of something new via the world of costumers. Chris planned on wearing his “Jason” costume and I’d discover a whole brotherhood of costumed slashers I’d never knew existed. But more on that and Chris later…
There’s several Horrorhound Weekends that take place throughout the year but the Indianapolis/September show is the only one that features Mask-Fest. Organized by the charismatic, Eric Austin, it’s become something of a Halloween tradition for me ever since we Daves teamed up for our first one in 2011. Although our favorite holiday is more a lifestyle than mere date on the calendar, there’s no question that after the kids go back to school and the weather starts cooling down (in theory , that is, it’s over 90 degrees in Chicago as I write this) that the “spirit of Halloween” starts gearing up. For most folks, October 1st is the kick-off but, for me, it’s whatever weekend Mask-Fest falls on and for good reason; it’s a celebration of masks, make-up, and monsters that sees an entire ballroom filled with artists and their latest creature creations! It’s the one show that NEVER disappoints and, with new masks featured each year, stays consistently fresh.
We checked into our hotel and anxiously headed over to the Marriott. The ten minute walk involved crossing a busy street but I wasn’t complaining. I couldn’t find any rooms nearby until Chris signed on and performed a small miracle in getting us one. Otherwise, I’d planned on staying with my cousin (about twenty minutes away) who was willing to shuttle me in. You really don’t have the option of just driving in for the day as every establishment is on high alert for trespassing vehicles and the Marriott, itself, deploys a small army of security guards acting as border patrol. The one standing at their main entrance was a plus-sized African American man who looked like a less jovial version of Bishop T.D. Jakes. That guy stood there from dawn till dusk the entire weekend and, believe me, you didn’t want to mess with him.
Soon after we walked in Kellie Hamilton, Eric’s assistant, brought down our passes. I’d historically seen her as part of David and Laura Lady’s entourage but these past few years Hamilton has evolved into a Mask-Fest force unto herself.
I mentioned earlier that Chris liked to dress up as Jason Voorhees but he decided to spend this first evening as a civilian. One of his objectives was meeting the beautiful Danielle Harris and I’ve got to give him props for his pre-planning skills. As soon as he signed on and heard Harris would be in attendance he ordered a custom Rob Zombie Michael Myers’ mask specifically for her to sign.
The last time I saw Harris was in 2010 at the Rock n Shock convention in Massachusetts. Since then, she’s gotten married and gave birth to a son earlier this year. Domesticity has done little to hold her back as she’s kept active in the horror circuit and, before greeting us, made a point to check on her baby via her cell phone.
There was one person ahead of us in line which gave Chris a chance to look over her 8×10’s. Back in Massachusetts, she charged $20 for an autograph and photo (with your own camera) but has since doubled her fees. In fact, so far as horror conventions are concerned, it appears that 40 dollars is the new 20. This didn’t stop Chris from purchasing one of her racier shots in addition to the mask. I should also mention he had a photo op scheduled with her the next day (Saturday) and would return to have her sign that picture as well. Chris is a big Rob Zombie fan and once worked for one of the rocker’s haunts. They discussed how he was doing these days and Harris said he was well indicating they keep in touch.
Harris was signing in the main vendor’s room but, instead of us sticking around to see the rest of it, we headed straight for Mask-Fest. Unfortunately, we barely made it past the first aisle before our ears were assaulted by the hotel’s piercing fire alarm which I’m told “goes off every year.” This time, however, must have been extra special since it was the first that required everyone to evacuate the building. And let me tell you, this was a pretty painful thing to do. It was like watching one of your favorite movies and being told to take the garbage out just as you were getting to the best part. We joined scores of other disgruntled fans and vendors and made our way outside. Later we heard the whole thing started because some idiot lit up a cigarette by one of the smoke detectors.
Standing outside had its advantages as we struck up conversations with several of our fellow fans and chatted away with a group of female killer clowns while getting entertained by one of the vendors who brought along his shoulder zombie.
Finally, the “all clear” came and everyone wearing silver bracelets were to be admitted back in first. The only problem was that we were outside with the vendors and just about ALL of us had silver bracelets. When they told us to hold them up, we ended up looking like a crowd of Nazis. I must not have been the only one who noticed this as a guy standing nearby did his best Adolph Hitler impersonation and yelled, “Onvard…ve shall march onto Horrorhound!!!”
As soon as we were back inside, we went straight to the masks and where we’d left off. Along with a healthy assortment of zombies, monsters, and aliens were artisans selling their homespun creations which I prefer over the retail stuff. Needless to say, I walked out of there buying birthday gifts for my daughter as well as some Christmas gifts for my best friend. I treated myself to some cool merchandise by the Retro-gogo folks including a cool Creature from the Black Lagoon print and some of their amazing plastic wall masks that were only going for $25 at Horrorhound ($34.99 on their website).
Both the masks and the vendor’s room were chock full of great items!
I wanted to show Chris the entire layout which brought us past one of the celebrity signing areas. We were just about to exit when I saw one of the celebrities I wanted to meet with no line. It was time to meet one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s quirkiest adversaries!
Coming Up…Meeting “Drusilla” the Vampire Slayer’s Slayer.