Full Maniac Chainsaw Moon II over Parsippany
Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ
October 28, 2011 at the Hilton Parsippany
Years ago, I convinced X that we should go to Chiller on a Friday night. My rationale was that people would just be getting off work by the time the show started, and the crowd would probably be light. This particular show would be my first time meeting George Romero, and I envisioned waiting 4-6 hours on line if we went on Saturday, or even Sunday. X was leery about guests not showing up because of late flights and the like, but I convinced him to give it a shot. It turned out to be the greatest decision I ever made regarding attending conventions. So when at all possible, I go on Friday. This Chiller was much the same, but an anomaly in a number of others. It would be my first Chiller without X, and it carried a vibe I’d never felt at any past Chiller. All in all it was a very good show, but it still leaves an odd taste in my mouth.
A week prior on the phone with X, I casually mentioned our upcoming trip. He had not only totally forgotten, but had made other arrangements. Over the next few days, he tried to clear things out; but in the end, Halloween weekend parties took priority over a show where X said, “I’m only going for one guest, and let’s face it, it’s Reb Brown.” This left me in a bind. I would have to take my Rav 4, vintage 1996 with 276 billion miles on it. And though I’d started working two jobs, the two months between my last (crummy) job and these left me broke. Briefly, I actually considered not going. But I’ve got a proud streak of making every Chiller since April ’04, and I really wanted to meet Michelle Bauer. Plus, I had scheduled interviews, and I don’t like cancelling appointments when people are kind enough to dedicate their time and efforts to Death Ensemble. I would find a way to make the show. There was no way in Hell I was going to miss it.
Things took a good turn the last few days leading up to the show. A windfall of money came my way from three different places, and a lot more than I had expected. A quick oil change where the attendant told me my truck was running better than it had any right to, and I was on my way. The trip wasn’t even so bad, as the usual 67 hour delay on the Cross Bronx Expressway was much shorter. I arrived to the hotel a little bit past 4 pm, and my hopes of getting a free bracelet through back channels failed, but given how well everything else went, I didn’t mind a bit.
While other people stood on line out in the cold, waiting to buy regular entry tickets for the night, I sat on a padded bench inside and watched the crowd. One observation: it’s definitely not worth it to spend extra money on early entry passes. The problem is, too many of the guests don’t respect that the fans laid down their hard earned cash to meet them before the throngs head in, and so they don’t arrive at their tables until the regular starting time. This is an insult on their part, and a rip off on the show’s, and I’ll never pay for early entry again.
An hour later, as I walked outside, who do I see walking in, but special effects makeup man Tom Savini. I’ll get back to him later. Plunking down my money, I got my bracelet and was on my way. Figuring out the layout at Chiller is always Step 1 since the show moved to Parsippany. First, I found my way toward the cluster of rooms off the side, where I hooked a right and discovered Michelle Bauer and Caroline Munro in the same room. I’d met Munro back at my very first Chiller, and didn’t have a digital camera at the time. So it was high time I got a picture with her, and have her sign my MANIAC piece already signed by William Lustig, Savini and two of the cast members. I have no idea why I was so tentative at the start of this show. I was exhausted from all the hours of work and the trip, but I think it was the lack of X’s company. After several minutes of hovering around, I decided it was time to start getting autographs.
Caroline Munro is a class act, and still a very attractive woman. She was impressed with the 8×10, and even more so when I described how I had met Lustig at a local theatre for a showing of MANIAC. She had a ton of great shots from all her movies, including the SINBAD show, but as money was limited, I only grabbed the one sig and a photo. During my wait, Savini was skulking around and stopped in on Munro to rekindle their MANIAC connection, as the guy he was with met Richard Kiel.
Still feeling a little skittish, I ogled Bauer as she met with other fans. She was giving quality time and quality hugs in the pics she was taking, so I decided to check out the other rooms. I found my friend Dominic Mancini, who was repping Ted Nicolaou and Denice Duff, both of whom I was to interview. Attendance was still light at this point; maybe the fans were distracted by Santa, who was out in the hall. I assured them it was early on Friday, but I had no idea what a bad omen this would be for business for just about every guest this weekend.
Bauer was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had meeting a guest. She’s is just as beautiful 20 years later, and we spent about 5 minutes discussing HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS and her upcoming project with David DeCoteau. I got someone to take our photo, and my face says it better than any of my words ever could. This was a sheer joy, and meeting her made the trip and the expense worth it. She’s still sexy as ever, and I hope to meet her again now that Mike Baronas is repping her.
Across the main hallway, to meet Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the one Italian Invasion guest I wanted for the show. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is my favorite Fulci film, and his role in it is sleazy awesome, as is his death. He suggested an 8×10 for me, and was a generally affable guy. And for those deviants out there, he’s got a post-penis removal shot from CANNIBAL FEROX. Gross.
Then I was off to find Pam Grier. I had gathered her prices would be through the roof, and that I would sadly end up taking a pass. But fate made the decision for me, as she was nowhere to be found. Chiller has this terrible way of not listing last minute cancellations on their site, and I’d been burned by this at their last show with Chris Sarandon. I’m not sure if this was the same case, but she wasn’t on any of the location signs in the body, so it’s a safe bet.
The most fascinating phenomenon of this trip was the pit. The sunken in area just past the main hall is where the con places its main attractions, so it’s packed to the gills. Once you’re in, best to get all your business done before you get out; because it may be hours before you can get back, and once you do, the individual lines are maddening. That’s always been the way, but not at this Chiller. Granted, it was Friday night, but I’d already popped down there a few times, without any wait. Because of her supposed “last East Coast appearance” (yeah, right), Elvira’s line was even more massive than usual, with fans wanting to get a picture with her in full costume. But as this was a con full of oddities, mainstream actress Dominique Swain had nobody at her table during any of my visits. It was nice to see Traci Lords nearby in costume as Little Red Riding Hood (Julie McCullough of Growing Pains was also in holiday spirit as a Playboy Bunny in one of the side rooms). I was more than a little surprised to see Burt Young of AMITYVILLE HORROR 2 and ROCKY doing vigorous business, as was Valerie Perrine of SUPERMAN. Old school ruled the pit on Friday.
This trip down there, I scoped out Louise Fletcher’s table. Louise is most famous for her Oscar winning role as Nurse Ratched in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUC KOO’S NEST, but I had something else in mind. Mike Cucinotta loves EXORCIST II, and lo and behold, she had two different 8×10’s from John Boorman’s disastrous sequel. A few texts back and forth, and Mike asked me to pick one up for him. Sadly, I informed him her line was way too long—one of only three long lines in the pit –so I went to wander. Ten minutes later, I came back and found to my surprise that her line was now only a few people long. I was running low on funds, but I took a chance that with the light crowd the ATM wouldn’t be empty quite yet. So I hopped on line behind a nice Australian lady, who was griping about Lou Gossett Jr.’s insane pricing. Once we got Fletcher’s prices, I made a quirky decision: if Mike was there, I would have paid for him to get the pic with her, despite my disdain for paying for pics; I’d already decided to buy him the auto as an early Christmas present, and because he wasn’t there, I would take the pic with her and fill in for Mike. Fortunately, Louise was a gracious old lady, and her handler was good with a camera. A lot of money I didn’t intend to pay out, but worth it later in the night, when I dropped by Mike’s house and saw the sheer glory on his face when I handed him his first piece of EXORCIST II memorabilia.
And a bonus, Michael Paré was stationed next to Louise. So I briefly chatted with him about co-starring with Death Ensemble fave Brooke Lewis. He smiled when I said how complimentary she spoke of him (I didn’t mention how disappointing it was that he had no Greatest American Hero shots on his table). Another nice guy, and he still looks good.
I had gambled correctly on the ATM. What I hadn’t banked on was that, two people ahead of me, Tom Savini and his crew were hitting it up for cash. I’ve seen Savini act as a fan at plenty of cons, and I know his patterns. He moved off to the left, stood there looking around, chatting with his clan. He’d be there for a while, so I patiently got my cash, and then made my move. Showering Savini in praise, I let him know of the Savini Retrospective here on DE, to which he said, “I’d like to see that.” Pressing business card into his hand, I thanked him greatly. Sadly, he informed me the Romero remake of CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS has stalled in search of funds. Shaking hands and thanking him profusely, I left knowing my unholy mission had been accomplished.
Now it was time to get back to Ted and Denice. Interviewing is my absolute favorite part of running Death Ensemble. People are so generous with their time, and I’m always honored when they’re willing to chat and give the fans the inside stories to some of horror’s favorites. This was the most pleasant time I’d ever had interviewing. Denice and Ted are class acts both, and they gave honest reflections on their work and experiences in film. Ted was kind enough to chat for nearly a half-hour, with sporadic breaks to sign for fans. Full Moon fanatics should love Denice’s interview and Ted’s. But even if you just have a general interest in horror, you should find something of interest. I got them to sign some 8x10s for me, and bought Denice’s film VAMPIRE RESURRECTION.
Saying good-bye to Dom and my new friends Denice and Ted, I was ready to head out. It was about 20 minutes shy of closing hour. By chance, I ended up with more money than I expected. And Reb Brown was just off to the other side of the hallway. X’s words echoed in my ears, and I decided to pick him up a gift too. Reb was a nice guy, but he was overcharging at $25 for an 8×10. I informed him X was a big comic movie fan, and that I had tried to sway him into a HOWLING II autograph (Reb only had one 8×10 from that werewolf disaster, and it was a black-and-white of him and the dwarf with the holy earplugs. Memo to Reb: get better 8x10s). I also informed him Nicole would be coming on Sunday just for him. I shook hands with the beefy actor, and headed off into the night.
Though there were two lengthy traffic delays, I was blessed that there was no October snow on my trip home,. The next day, Long Island and Parsippany got blanketed, and I’d heard many fans at the show tell the celebs they were only there for the one day because of the impending storm. I never thought I would see such a light Chiller crowd, as it’s always got robust business. But so many factors go into the success of a show, and weather is one of them. I’ve spoken to a number of sources, including Nicole who was there on Sunday, and everyone told me the attendance was down. I predict a bigger crowd in April, when the weather will be better.
I’m sure after some reflection, I’ll have a much better take on this October Chiller. It will always stand out for a number of oddities, but I’ll remember the pleasantries of meeting Michelle Bauer and interviewing Ted and Denice in equal measure. Let’s see if the April show is back on track, or if more anomalies await me.