For all intents and purposes, this past Flashback Weekend should have been an amazing experience. Like most annual events, the convention was canceled last year due to Covid leaving horror fans even more anxious to commune in 2021. I’d reserved my room at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont, Illinois months in advance and even took the whole week after off for vacation. I’d saved plenty of cash and had a detailed list of all the guests I wanted to meet and items I wanted to have signed. Unfortunately, not an hour after the doors opened I got word that a family member using my car for the weekend crashed it. This situation resulted in my spending the bulk of my Friday night in my room and on the phone. Saturday was my day to work with the Svengoolie crew and, with my car out of commission, I had to arrange for someone else to pick me up from the hotel on Sunday. They could only get me at 10 am a.k.a. an hour before the convention opened that day. I had little time to accomplish my goals and the singer, Meatloaf, would end up stealing half of it. In the end, After failing to reach the majority of my Flashback Weekend objectives, it’s no wonder I’ve spent the last four months trying to forget it. In fact, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when Svengoolie’s producer, Jim Roche, reached out about sharing my pictures with them that I realized they were still unloaded on my camera.
(Continued from the last post) The next morning, I headed downstairs to pick up breakfast from the hotel. Due to Covid, the Crowne Plaza restaurant was closed for dining. Instead, you’d pay for breakfast at the check-in desk (or have it charged to your room) and bring the ticket to the cooks. The food would be given in a to-go box and actually wasn’t bad. Jason naturally opted to take my car to his beloved McDonald’s but made it back in time for the Days of the Dead convention doors to open. I was armed and ready with my Friday 13th poster from Scream Factory’s Rondo Award-winning box set. Despite physical media sales “in decline,” 2020 was a banner year for boutique labels such as Scream Factory, providing some of the most amazing releases to date; with this one arguably the best. Most bonus Scream Factory posters take up a corner of my bedroom closet while this 24×36 gem gets a frame. Aside from the gorgeous artwork (the same featured on the box), it provides plenty of negative space for autographs. In other words, it’s practically begging to be signed and displayed!
So far as personality traits are concerned, there’s little doubt that C.J. Graham’s an Alpha. With a level of confidence that could give Gene Simmons a run for the money, he’d prove his formidability at the 2020 Days of the Deadconvention in Indianapolis. It was there Graham, like Alex Vincent from Child’s Play, would find himself the lone participant in a would-be reunion. Covid-19 would turn the event’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives panel into a one-man show. But despite portraying the mute character of Jason Voorhees on-screen, ‘the man behind the mask’ had plenty to talk about with his audience.
Chicago’s 2019 Days of the Dead took place at the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont; a new venue for this convention but certainly not for me. After fifteen G-FESTS and a handful of Flashback Weekends, I was well acquainted with the place as well as its monolithic manager, Don Johnston. This event took place last November; not the most ideal time for me but workable. Several months earlier, my friend Jason Schoolcraft generously purchased VIP passes for us and arranged to fly in from New England to join me. As many of you know, the man loves film and I always enjoy our pre/post-convention movie marathons. We arrived at the hotel around 3 PM that Friday and were greeted by my friends, Ron and Angela Urban. I was just introducing them to Jason when Richard Dreyfuss breezed past us. The Academy Award-winning star of JAWS and Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a bit shorter than I’d envisioned and had noticeably bad knees but there was no denying it was him.
Friday, August 2, 2019, 8:30 PM: When the Svengoolie 40th Anniversary panel ends, I rejoin Don Johnston and the crew before heading upstairs the room. Svengoolie and Jim eventually join us and the host gets to work removing his makeup so they all can leave. As it happened, Robert Englund’s panel took place right after his and the two managed to meet up in-between. They’re old friends who see each at Flashback Weekend just about every year. The challenge, of course, is finding a moment between their busy schedules to do so and this year it happened off-camera. According to Sven, Englund was very kind and shared tips on doing out-of-state conventions with him; a subject that came up during Sven’s Q&A. I must say, the idea of Svengoolie venturing outside of Chicagoland and meeting his newer fans is exciting to me. I’m always fascinated by seeing the impact he’s made on people since MeTV went national back in 2011.
For faithful viewers of MeTV’s Svengoolie, you know some of his best “On the Road” segments feature the host interviewing celebrity guests at horror cons. In this regard, 2018’s Flashback Weekend has given us a LOT to look forward to. Just after hosting the event’s annual costume contest, he and the crew made their way out to the main convention hall where the magic all began. I’d been sitting with the audience and quickly grabbed my camera and dodged other attendees to catch up. The team graciously allowed me to join them and this was always my favorite part insofar as it’s always so unpredictable. You see, pinning down convention guests for interviews is something of a crapshoot – even if you are hosting a highly rated television show on prime time Saturday nights. You just never know who’s going to be available nor who will participate if they are. Fortunately, Svengoolie had the considerable might of the hotel’s manager and friend, Don Johnston, on his side.