The most important lesson I got from Linda Blair at Chicago’s Days of the Dead is that sometimes celebrity encounters offer a learning curve. The last time we met was over seven years ago at Chicago’s Wizard Con where things didn’t go as I’d planned. Back then, I was fairly new to the convention circuit and assumed, incorrectly, that celebrity guests were all fan-driven and eager to discuss their movies. Instead, meeting Blair was like getting a crash course from the conventioneer’s “school of hard knocks” as it was evident the The Exorcist star was much more interested in discussing her canine-driven, Worldheart Foundation, rather than horror films. Since I was such a fan of her iconic role, that really disappointed me. So this year I decided to literally throw all expectations to the dogs and lead in with her foundation rather than wait for her to drag me into it. In doing so, I’d inadvertently gain a new respect for the actress along with a hard lesson about mistaking ones passion for standoffishness.
Initially, I’d no plans to see her again but the guy attending this event with me, Chris, was intent on doing so. Not wanting him to be disappointed with his first Blair experience like I’d been, I suggested a different approach. First, I had his girlfriend, Kim, text shots of their rescue dogs, Bailey and Hershey, to be kept on standby. I knew, by golly, that if I was to deal with Linda Blair again, I’d need to be every bit as prepared as Father Merrin!
One advantage of celebrity price gouging is their lines have become a lot more manageable. Blair’s wasn’t long but moved rather slowly which gave me the opportunity to “people watch” Sean Astin with his fans nearby. I checked out the 8×10 glossies he was offering; expecting to see a lot from Lord of the Rings but The Goonies and “Stranger Things” handily surpassed them. His line also moved at a snail’s pace due to him being so personable with his fans; something I ruled out as applying to this one. Blair did, however, have a great selection of stills.
When I saw the one I’d chosen back in 2010, I recalled her rolling her eyes at me after I asked her to personalize it, “Dave, you’re enough to make my head spin” (yes, folks, as you can see by this blog title, that line just never gets old for me). I’m glad I did because now she has a sign at her booth stating she’ll personalize autographs but only add “Sweet Dreams” to them.
When it was our turn, I told Chris to let me do the initial talking as he’s very personable but tends to lose focus. Like back at Horrorhound when he was so chatty with Danielle Harris he didn’t notice her signing over the face of his expensive Michael Myer’s mask when he wanted it done on the inside. Or later, at this event, when he got so caught up by the charms of Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp that he told her it was “one of the best films ever made”… to which she about laughed her ass off.
No, just like in the movie, it was better if Chris be assisted by an older, more experienced person when in the presence of Blair. So I confidently walked up to her and began the conversation with how much I admired her work with animals. Then, while she was registering that, I stepped it up further by dousing her with photos of Bailey and Hershey like proverbial Holy Water. I admit I wasn’t being very sincere but, after my bitterness from 2010, figured it was time to give this cinematic Devil her due. My smirk, however, would be short-lived.
Blair breathed a heavy sigh. “I just wish I could do more,” she said. “I keep trying to spread the word and hammer into people the importance of rescue adoptions and the responsibilities of owning pets but, since the housing crisis and so many more animals orphaned from foreclosures, it’s been an uphill battle.” I could tell the pained look on her face was genuine.
In addition to giving animals a second chance, Blair also works hard to educate communities while debunking stereotypes around villainized breeds such as Pit bulls. It wasn’t hyperbole as she then shared some of her recent victories and setbacks.
I suddenly felt ashamed. Blair comes to events such as these, year after year, in the hopes of generating enough revenue to keep the animals in her foundation fed and sheltered with more coming in than going out. Despite her annual goals, she admitted that she almost always falls short. I should have been more understanding considering I’ve always been drawn to animal causes myself. I’m active with AAZK (American Association of Zoo Keepers) and have participated in numerous fundraisers, including chairing two Elephant Trivia Nights and co-chairing “Bowling for Rhinos.” If I’d been fortunate enough to star in a cult movie back when I was thirteen, wouldn’t I try harnessing that celebrity to assist the animals I cared about too?
Blair made sure we were satisfied with the pictures her assistant took of us and, like last time, wouldn’t let you leave without a flyer. This time, however, I’d actually read it.
I’m happy I saw Blair again as it granted me a new appreciation for her; one that even transcended her role as Regan MacNeil. No, perhaps she’s not “all about the fans” as we’d like her to be but at least she’s made herself available to us.
We just have to understand that when someone’s possessed by a cause, it’s going to take a lot more than The Exorcist to purge them from it.
Coming Up…A STAR WARS Fanboy Strikes Back with Boba Fett!