Today used to be a big day for me. If that sounds confusing, I mean the twice-yearly revelation of Chiller Theatre’s opening lineup. Notice I said used to. Today’s reveal served only to disappoint me on a number of levels, and is a sad sign of the times on how the convention circuit has changed in the last 11 years.
The first annoyance was that Chiller revealed its first salvo of guests on its Facebook page. Ages ago, I attacked this strategy in a You Suck! post, and I stand by this. There are plenty of people out there who don’t have a Facebook page, and what the Hell is the sense in having a guest page on your website if you intend to abandon it in favor of your Fb? It took several hours for Chiller to reveal any guests on their website, and it’s only three of the main guests.
Oh yes, the guests. Here’s Chiller’s other problem. The guest list is mainly a glom of mainstream stars from decades ago, instead of horror stars. Yes, Michelle Bauer and Barbara Crampton and Dick Miller make the scene, but Mike Nesmith and John Schneider are the highly touted names, and they’re more the caliber of guest you’re likely to find at the show.
And while we’re on the subject of Tia Carrere, yes she has a great pair of boobs. But she’s been to Chiller before. In fact, except for Nesmith, to my knowledge every guest on the list has been to Chiller before. Chiller used to be great at giving fans variety from show to show. Sure, Tom Savini and Danielle Harris were staples, but the show always offered new faces on the scene, and almost always did so in the opening guest list. But those days are gone, so long gone in fact that my allegiance to Chiller is now gone with them.
For a long time, Chiller was my favorite convention. I’m a loyal guy—I’ve never cheated on a woman, and I stuck to Chiller when others had plenty of gripes with it. For a full ten years, I attended every Chiller. Nothing could keep me from the show. When other fans complained about long lines and high prices, I found my niche stars and got autographs and interviews, and had a great time in the bargain.
But Chiller started to evolve the last few years, and it was evolving in a direction I did not appreciate. The show was clearly shifting from a horror-based show to a mainstream celeb show, and an expensive one at that. Prices steadily rose through the roof, and the days of getting five autographs and pictures with celebs for $100 became getting two autographs and no photos. Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead replaced DAY OF THE DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD reunions. For me, the fun I had meeting Kevin McCarthy and Caroline Munro at my first show was quickly vanishing.
It hit its nadir at last April’s show. As usual, I headed with X to Parsippany, with John tagging along. But this was different; for the first time in all my years going, I didn’t have a single guest I wanted to meet. I was going strictly to try to interview Heather Langenkamp, and through an odd set of circumstances to chat with Tawny Kitaen, who gave me the highlight of the weekend when she felt up my leg. If I didn’t have a website, I wouldn’t have had anything to do at the show. And keep in mind, this was my 10th anniversary show. I was expecting great things that would jazz me and stay in my memories for the ages. I never got them.
And then, last October, the unthinkable happened: I passed on Chiller. Sure I waited right up to the last minute, I’d taken the day off and I could have gotten in free. But from the first moment I looked at the guest list, I’m pretty sure I had it in my mind that it was time to end the streak. I gave it a lot of deliberation, right up until that morning, but when it came down to it, Chiller was putting on a show that wasn’t worth it to me. And so I gave up.
And given my current attitude toward cons, I’m not sure if I’m ever headed back. A general malaise has overcome me, as what used to be a lot of fun now doesn’t jazz me at all. After the bust that was the recent Walker Stalker Con, I’ve resolved to take a year off rom cons. Maybe that will change, but unfortunately I don’t see the con circuit changing, or Chiller for that matter. Things have gone a certain unpleasant direction, and I fear they won’t ever tilt back.