The best thing that came out of 2017’s Days of the Dead Chicago was the realization that my kids were blossoming into ideal convention buddies. They arrived that Saturday when things were at their busiest and, having done many events since I started my Terror Dave tenure nine years ago, proved themselves deft in the ways of horror cons. They know how to operate a Canon SLR camera with ease, are versed in all iconic films, and the ins and outs of celebrity encounters. There were numerous times when we needed to “divide and counter” to achieve goals and their proficiency filled me with a sense of geek pride.
As mentioned in my last post, my daughter Jade (a Lord of the Rings and Stranger Things fan) met Sean Astin while my youngest son, Luke, had aspirations of his own. As with many thirteen-year-olds, Luke seldom gets enthusiastic about anything and spent most of the last Days of the Dead buried in his phone while Jason Schoolcraft and I enjoyed the event. This all changed when he learned that a cast member from his all-time favorite movie, ALIENS, was a guest. He visibly perked up while picking out a poster and preparing to meet Carrie Henn a.k.a. “Newt.”
Miss Henn was signing across from Sean Astin and Linda Blair and next to her brother, Christopher. Christopher Henn was also in ALIENS though his one scene ended up on the cutting room floor. It has, however, been restored in extended home video releases which, as a sidebar, I do recommend. The extra 17 minutes include a key scene that explains Ripley’s devotion to Newt along with so much more.
Miss Henn was very friendly and immediately reacted to Luke’s shirt. “Wow, that’s SO cool!” she said. While traveling through the Southwest, I’d picked him up an “evolution of a xenomorph” shirt at a Nevada gift shop near Area 51. It must have been the first time she’d seen this design as she quickly had her brother take a photo with his cell phone. The whole thing made Luke feel pretty special and I really appreciated them doing that.
I asked Henn what it was like working with Sigourney Weaver and if she was as motherly towards her off-screen as she was on. “Oh, definitely!” said Henn, who recounted Weaver making sure she felt safe and comfortable whenever the cameras were off…especially when in the presence of Stan Winston’s Alien queen. She also said they’ve stayed in touch and that she enjoys seeing the rest of cast during reunions.
“The funny part is, “ said Henn. “They all still see me as a little kid. Every time we’re around each other they still dote on me and go out of their way to make sure I’m comfortable. I keep saying, ‘I’m a big girl now, and can take care of myself!”
Thinking of her role in ALIENS I replied, “It seemed like you knew how to take care of yourself even back then.”
“You’re right!” she laughed.
Things became more somber when I mentioned the late Bill Paxton. “That was absolutely devastating to all of us. He was such a good friend and just a fun person to be around. People think making movies is nonstop excitement but there’s actually a lot of sitting around. Since I was a kid, they gave me plenty of coloring books, clay, and activities to keep me occupied. When Bill was there, he’d plop right down and color with me and I just loved him. He’d even make goofy things out of the clay to make me laugh.”
Henn signed an ALIENS poster for Luke which he’s hoping will be the beginning of many signatures to come.
She also offered a “Certificate of Authenticity” card for an extra fee which is something I wish more guests did.
While personalizing the poster, Henn kept stopping to chat with Luke. Then she’d look back at it somewhat confused and say, “wait…now where was I here?” It was pretty amusing. Luke raved about the experience and it solidified his devotion to the film which is exactly what you hope for when meeting your screen heroes.
Jade returned from meeting Astin and I prepared for my photo op with Jeremy Bulloch/Boba Fett. Days of the Dead Chicago had something for everyone and proves fandom can be even more satisfying when it’s a family affair.