Days of the Dead Chicago 2021 – Time to Leave the Bunker

After check-in, we all met at the adjoining Caddyshack restaurant – an establishment founded by Bill Murray’s brothers and themed after the 1980 movie of the same name. It was a bit early in the day but I felt like celebrating and indulged in a couple of drinks. Going off the restaurant’s special convention menu, I ordered “Chrissie Watkins’ Last Swim” so named after one of the weekend’s featured guests, Susan Backline, a.k.a. the first victim of JAWS. Angie opted for one of house specials, “The Pool” – a deep blue cocktail with a baby Ruth candy bar sitting at the bottom. Anyone who’s seen the movie Caddyshack will get the joke.

Jason had purchased VIP passes for last year’s Days of the Dead Indianapolis before Covid rendered them useless. Since there were no VIP perks for this event, they gave us free comp passes and told Jason he could claim the VIP’s at a future show. As soon as the convention doors opened, hoards of fans marched inside and it wasn’t long before everyone split up to fulfill their own agendas.

Jason with Frankenstein a.k.a. Phil Meenan

I noticed a line had already formed at horror host, Joe Bob Brigg‘s, booth so I decided to head over. I’ll say this about the weekend – social distancing was definitely not happening although everyone was wearing masks. The main issue with wearing masks at this event (aside from taking crummy photos with celebrity guests) is that the Crowne Plaza is notoriously HOT and I’m a natural hotbox. Consequently, I could only spend so much time in the hall before sweating bullets and getting light-headed. Thankfully, Joe Bob showed up on time, joined by his buxom assistant, Darcy the Mail Girl. There weren’t a lot of people ahead of me but one of fans wouldn’t shut up and took forever. He was from Joe Bob’s home state of Texas and decided to use this opportunity to cover the man’s entire career from syndicated columnist to his current Last Drive-in show on the Shudder streaming service. While standing there melting, it occurred to me that what this horror host needs is a Jim Roche to help keep things moving. That man has Svengoolie appearances down to a science – maintaining the flow while providing ample time for meaningful interactions.

Fans meeting Joe Bob and Darcy

I’d met Joe Bob for the first time about ten years ago at Horrorhound Weekend. At that time, I’d only seen a few of his TNT Channel MONSTERVISION shows a friend shared. Briggs is known for being one of the most film-savvy horror hosts with a proficiency in exploitation flicks. Consequently, his current show is for adults only and features uncut movies and commentary that’s no stranger to F-bombs. He also features celebrity guests such as Barbara Crampton or, more recently, Eli Roth and Jeffrey Combs. In Briggs’ prolific career, he’s known many people in the film industry which makes for illuminating stories and anecdotes as well.

Briggs’ offered all kinds of merch at his booth including T-shirts, a 45 RPM record set, action figures, posters, and the traditional 8 x 10 stills. Since I’d brought along my own item for signing (a Blu-ray insert of the 2020 movie Scare Package) it only cost me $10 for an autograph and selfie. Not bad at all! I’d already decided I wasn’t going to pay extra for selfies or photo ops because of the whole mask thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against wearing a mask and respect anyone who supported the event with a paid photo op. But for me, personally? Forget it! I saw a couple of those pro shots online and they reminded me of when I visited the Black Hills of Dakota a few years back. There was a place offering professional photos of your family and friends made to look like they were taken back in the old west. With everyone wearing masks, these photo ops looked like “Joe Bob and his gang of outlaws.” Briggs was very friendly and spoke of how much he enjoyed meeting Svengoolie (at the station behind the scenes) and that he’s hoping they can team up for an event when this pandemic is finally over.

While I was with Joe Bob Briggs, Jason was meeting Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp. We’d watched that movie the last time he was in Chicago and he really enjoyed it. Jason has always loved movies but only recently started collecting physical media. He brought along his insert from the Sleepaway Camp Blu-ray for her to sign. He raved about how nice she was which was no surprise and Rose treats her fans like gold. 

Some guests, like Rose, were willing to drop the mask for a quick photo

We both went to see Linnea Quigley to have her sign our Scream Factory ROTLD Blu-ray inserts.  We just watched her the night before in another of her iconic roles in Night of the Demons.

After we heard her tell the people in front of us how much she loved animals, Jason bedazzled her with photos of a baby sloth taken at the zoo he works at. She really seemed to enjoy them.

She signed my Return of the Living Dead Blu-ray insert which I later had Tom Matthews sign as well (more on that later).

Jason and I left the convention hall and went downstairs for the panels. This is where the Days of the Dead convention really seemed off. For the last 10 years I have only seen two guys run the panels and there’s always a big stone horse sitting on stage with them. This year the horse was gone and we had a new, fresh face running the panel – Summer Flynn from The Dolls of Horror podcast. Although change can be uncomfortable, I must say that she did a great job and brought a lot of energy. She also interacted more with the audience and got everyone fired up. Her husband took video of all the panels and posted them on YouTube channel so nobody has to miss out. The first panel we attended was with David Naughton who discussed his iconic role in An American werewolf in London

Next up with Toni Todd. I did not realize that Todd was also going to be in Jordan Peele’s upcoming Candyman remake. Ironically Jason, who works part time at a movie theater (Jason works at all the cool places), had just brought me one of the official new Candyman posters. In fact, he’d given me two and I gave one to Ron and Angie while mine was back at the apartment. Though I had originally brought my arrow Candyman box set for signing, I wondered if Angie would be willing to let me take her poster to get signed and I could swap it later with the one back home. And that story will continue in my next chapter….

~Dave

One thought on “Days of the Dead Chicago 2021 – Time to Leave the Bunker

  1. As always a great read. It was a great week even with restrictions and any fears of Covid 19. One benefit with less vendors was more room to wander around. I hope your 2nd half recalls some of the great speakers at the panels. I too found it better than before. I was worried about “less” talent the talks would be bland, I could have not been more wrong.

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