New Jersey Horror Con, Iselin, NJ
September 4, 2018 at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel
A Sequel of Sorts
Going to Mad Monster Party in NC got the blood in my nostrils and suddenly I had a taste for conventions again. Fortunately, New Jersey Horror Con was only two weeks after, and there were a lot of positives going for it. I’d been to their last show and enjoyed the small con atmosphere; Dom Mancini would be there repping guests, and I hadn’t seen him in ages; one of those guests was Jeff Burr, who’d been very kind to me in NC, and I wanted to interview him; and X was on board to take the trip with me. I’m glad I went, because NJ Horror provided just the right amount of fun for a short trip on a Sunday.
The hour’s drive allowed X and me to do some catching up, as I hadn’t actually spent much time with him in Carolina (I miss those days of us traveling together on long drives and sharing a hotel room, even though X hates that I snore loudly, and I’m pretty sure he’s contemplated smothering me out with a pillow many times). The ride itself was smooth, with only one patch of traffic, and before I knew it we were there.
Squaring up our wristbands, I caught up with Dom, who’d had a crazy travel schedule between NJ and Chicago, and with a nor’easter causing multiple flight delays, he’d spent all of 17 hours in Illinois. Dom looked weary, but his generosity to me and to DE was as evident as ever, as he brought me right over to meet Andrew Divoff. I told Divoff I always think of him from ANOTHER 48 HOURS and he regaled me with stories of a bunch of guys riding wild thru the nights in the age before helmet laws. He was kind enough to sign an 8×10 from GRAVEYARD SHIFT and then told Dom he was going to seek out a fan who’d left his signed 8×10 on the table, which would also give him excuse to get some coffee. I’d have to get a photo with him later.
Dom was sitting with Kate Hodge from LEATHERFACE and her husband, between R.A. Mihailoff on the left corner and Jeff Burr to his right. He quickly arranged for me to sit and interview Jeff, who was excited to talk. We’d just hit the three minute mark when Dom came along and said Jeff had to go to a photo op. Damn, my timing was awful. So I hit the old pause button and Jeff went on his way.
This left X and me a lot of time to stand in front of John Russo’s table. We have a not exactly warm relationship with Russo, who still sells Evans City grave dirt and cancelled Image Ten checks, and was at the con to promote his new low budget zom com. Luckily, Russo got up for a screening of his flick, so X and I didn’t have to suffer him for long. We stood there chatting until R.A. came up, as he recognized us from Mad Monster (though he remembered me as Craig, and let me tell you, I am most assuredly not a Craig). R.A. thought X was a promoter at Mad Monster, as did Jeff when he returned briefly, only to go chat up someone elsewhere on the con floor. Interesting trivia: R.A. used to compete for parts with the brother of Mad Monster’s promoter.
Jeff finally returned and was jazzed to continue our interview so we got right to it. Jeff made for a great interview. He’s full of stories, has worked with scores of talented people, and has a great personality. Both his schlocky sensibilities and his vast filmmaking knowledge came out in our chat, and I got some great lessons in the perils of what it’s like to be a low budget indie guy in the studio system. Thanks to Dom and of course to Jeff Burr for such an awesome chat. Jeff also signed a bunch of stuff for me and didn’t charge me anything. If you love horror and the good people who make it, meet Jeff at a con. You won’t regret it.
While I was interviewing Jeff, X was making inroads with R.A. X has a way of endearing himself to celebs at cons, and so I was not surprised at all when I peered to my side during the interview and saw X sitting beind R.A.’s table. Mihailoff has a fascinating back story, and I hope one day X will chat him up for a better interview than the three or four minutes he graciously provided me a few years back at Mad Monster Party. I have a feeling those two in a recorded chat would be mindblowing.
After the interview, Dom and I swung back by Andrew Divoff so I could get my photo. But literally two minutes before Andrew had left for a photo op. Damn my lousy timing that day. I would have to get my photo and interview another day.
On our way out, I stopped by Adam Green’s table. He was only charging 10 bucks for a signed 8×10 and nothing extra for a photo, so why not get a great shot of Victor Crowley beheading him? Green looked more exhausted than Dom, but was pleasant enough.
With nothing else to do, X and I called it an early day around 2:30 and headed home. I had X drop me off at my dad’s house on Long Island, where I was supposed to borrow my sister’s car and go to see Kreator and Sabaton at the Paramount in Huntington. But she’d messed up her driver side front door, so that was not to be. That would lead me to make a decision I would regret less than a week later, but as the narrator said at the end of CONAN THE BARBARIAN, That is a story for another blog entry.
I suppose when I’m writing coverage on a con, I should be giving you an estimation of whether you should attend the next one. This report has not been that. But here’s my take: NJ Horror is a small con that hasn’t hit the absurdly large crowds of a Chiller or other monstrosity. You wouldn’t need three days to get things done; depending on the guest list and how much time you wanted to spend with the vendors, you may not need three hours. But that’s a good thing. NJ Horror is a show where you can spend plenty of quality time with guests, not have to worry about being crushed by hordes and run thru lines by staff. Like Mad Monster, it’s a quality small scale show which always has a nice guest list. And for me, it’s local. It’s exactly the kind of show I’ve come to enjoy after so many years off the convention trail, and I wish the folks who run it the best.
I never thought I’d say this again once I forsook cons back in 2014, but Mad Monster and NJ Horror had me feeling good about the con circuit. I’ll never again be the guy travelling all over the country every month attending cons, but I will continue to support these two shows. And that speaks volumes of the quality of experience they gave me.