(Continued) As soon as Svengoolie completed his interview with the cast of The Manson Brothers Midnight Zombie Massacre (2021) the room quickly filled up with contestants and onlookers for Flashback Weekend’s annual costume contest. It was soon evident that a lot of creative fans used their time in last year’s lockdown to make costumes as this was the largest number of contestants I’d ever seen. The line of hopefuls wrapped around the room and beyond – with no end in sight. This would be “Mayor” Don Johnston‘s turn to shine as he had the dubious task of directing everyone on and off the stage – something a bit more challenging when dealing with kids or those visually impaired by their own costumes.
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 Dead convention 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.
Prior to the event, the 2020 Days of the Dead Indianapolis convention offered some great horror reunions including Friday the 13th Part VI, Child’s Play, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween. While concern for Covid-19 would slowly whittle the first two films down to a single cast member, Halloween’s top two stars would make it to this show. Taking the stage that Saturday morning was Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode) and Tyler Mane (adult Michael Myers). Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of Zombie’s Halloween nor Halloween II when I saw them in theaters, both have grown on me over the years. At the same time, I wasn’t sure how practical attending a panel would be in lieu of social distancing. Once I walked in and saw all the audience chairs carefully placed apart from one another, I realized it wouldn’t be an issue. Note to the squeamish – there was a fair share of F-bombs dropped during this panel. I audio-recorded and transcribed everything into this blog, as is. I figure if you’ve sat through a Rob Zombie movie, then what can I possibly shock you with here? So let’s get to it…
When I submitted my 2020 vacation requests back in December, I had all kinds of fun activities in the works. In addition to taking a week off in March for a Spring road trip that would never happen, I also took a chunk of July off for fan conventions. The idea was to attend G-FEST with my sons, Days of the Dead Indianapolis with my friend Jason, and see Svengoolie at Flashback Weekend here in Chicago. Unfortunately, this would not be the year for any of us to travel or partake in large gatherings. When the world shut down in March, I still hung on to the naive hope things would be back to normal by the summer but it was not to be the case. By the time July rolled around, the only event standing was Days of the Dead. Prior to all this, my friend, Jason had purchased his plane tickets from New England while generously getting us both VIP passes. Exactly a week before the event, and with their guests dropping like flies, I persuaded him to postpone his visit for Chicago in November (assuming things are better by then). Jason successfully switched his airfare and DOTD had no problem swapping tickets. They also offered folks who did make this show “half off” on their next one. This amiability, however, would not prevent them from getting roasted on social media by many who found them irresponsible for not just postponing this show in the first place. Undeterred, DOTD would remain steadfast as long as it was legal for them to do so. In a related story, the city of Atlanta shut down there next show in August just days before this one. I’m not sure why they went through with Indianapolis amidst all the controversy but I’m guessing it had something to do with whatever arrangement they had with the Marriott. Regardless, there was no question that this would be a crippled convention; hemorrhaging vendors and guests right up until their doors opened last Friday. For my part, I decided to honor my hotel reservation, follow all safety guidelines, purchase a regular weekend pass, and go by myself. I had the luxury of self-quarantining afterward since my kids would be with their mother and I was not due back to the office until August. Furthermore, I looked forward to pampering myself in a nice hotel while taking a little break from single parenthood and having worked my ass off throughout the shutdown. I make no apologies for my attendance and, at the risk of being judged, will now share that experience.