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.
Steinbeck’s famous line, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” would become my unintended theme for this year’s Indianapolis Horrorhound Weekend. Before I explain, I should confess that it’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about meeting any celebrity in the horror circuit. Don’t get me wrong, I still love doing conventions but mostly for the panel discussions, costume contests, or meeting up with my friends. This all changed when I learned that James Marsters and Juliet Landau would be headliners at this event! “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is my favorite television show of all time; something I’ve mentioned before on this site and on multiple occasions. In fact, my daughter and I just re-watched the entire series and I’m happy to report that, so far as this fan-boy’s concerned, it’s stood the test of time. Having an opportunity to finally meet the “Sid and Nancy” of vampires, “Spike” and “Drusilla,” was second only to meeting the slayer herself! I quickly purchased a photo op with both of them, together while planning what clever prop I could use for it. Unfortunately, neither would go as planned…
I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to attend a Days of the Dead convention in the Midwest, but it happened. I work with the Rhode Island Terror Dave (David Albaugh) and have been to a few east coast horror events but wasn’t very impressed with them. Needless to say, heading out west to attend one of theirs was never a priority until the other Dave (Dave Fuentes) invited me. Both Daves knew I was a huge fan of Dawn of the Dead and arranged for photo-ops with me and the cast as well as the “godfather of zombies,” himself, George Romero! This left me NO choice but to be there! After securing the time off and getting a great deal on a flight, the wait was on! Thankfully, June 30th came quickly and I was on a 5:55 am flight for a 3-day weekend of HORROR and debauchery!
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.
Friend of the Daves, Jason Schoolcraft, finishes up his two part coverage of the film SEVEN DORMS OF DEATH by interviewing film maker Richard-Marr Griffin!
Photo courtesy of Scorpio Film Releasing.
Jason: When and where did you get the bug to work in the film industry and make films?
Richard: When I was 12 years old my father bought me a Super 8 camera. I totally fell in love with making short films with friends and family members. When I was 20, I was hired by a local television station, where I spent 14 years directing, producing and editing magazine shows, talk shows, commercials. It was a tremendous way to learn all aspects of production, and get paid while doing it! In 2004 I left TV and formed my production company, Scorpio Film Releasing, with my partner Ted Marr.
For me, one of the biggest draws for this year’s Days of the Dead Chicago was the appearance of Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before (the first of which I discussed HERE) and later enjoyed her brief reboot of Elvira’s Movie Macabre on our local Chicago station WCIU; the same channel as Svengoolie before he’d go national via MeTV a few months later. That was an exciting time since they were the two hosts I’d grown up with. From age eight to fourteen, I idolized Rich Koz’s Son of Svengoolie (now simply “Svengoolie” with the blessing of his predecessor) before our local WFLD 32 station got swallowed up by the corporate FOX. It was also around that time when I discovered Elvira after renting some of her “Thriller Video” hosted films from my local mom & pop video store. I also remember making frequent road trips in my ’20s to all neighboring Illinois and Indiana Suncoast Video stores in an effort to collect all of her Midnight Madness VHS tapes. That’s one thing we collectors have lost in our modern Internet world; that good old fashioned thrill of the hunt!
Three years ago I wrote a fan piece on the 1993 alien abduction thriller, Fire in the Sky. The film was based on what was labeled a “true story” and based on the account of Travis Walton who, after disappearing for five days, claimed to have been abducted by aliens. We Daves like to keep an open mind and are fans of the film due it’s credible handling of the material and convincing performances from a stellar cast that included Robert Patrick and the late James Garner. The role of Travis Walton was played by D.B. Sweeney who was one of the featured guests at this year’s Days of the Dead Chicago. The 54 year old Sweeney has remained active in Hollywood as an actor/writer/producer and also doing voice overs for Oprah’s OWN Network. He’ll also play the Mayor of Chicago in Spike Lee’s controversial Chiraq opening in theaters this weekend.