No Raining Blood. In Fact, No Rain at All (or, Why I Love John Amplas)
Monster-Mania 17, Cherry Hill, NJ
March 11-13, at the Sheraton
When last I left Cherry Hill, NJ, I was headed right into the end of the world. God had struck down on the entire tri-state area with storms the likes of which no one had seen since some dude named Noah finished pairing animals. As Mike Cucinotta’s car parted the storms and the filmmaking kid in the back informed me he too loved blaxploitation, I awaited that white light at the end of the tunnel to welcome me heaven bound, where I would cherish the warm embrace of my mom. Even as we made our way onto Long Island, shattered trees and flooded roads met us at every turn. Somehow, I made it back home, and the next day, the world and my lousy job were still there.
What a difference a year makes. Though I’m still at the same lousy job, and still going to conventions (Saturday Nightmares is coming next weekend!), I couldn’t have arrived in Cherry Hill under any more varied circumstances. Having overcome the hurdles of low wages, my car’s brakes going straight to the floor the Thursday before, and a 13 hour work day that Friday, I met my dad at the mechanic’s shop, and with his car was on my way. With not a single cloud in the sky, I began my trip just as the sun was rising. Yes, the glorious sun. This year, there would be no deluges.
Taking Dad’s car has its benefits, the first of which is it has less than the 270 billion miles my truck’s engine sports. The second is, he has an awesome radio, with a plug in for my iPod. So it was Slayer almost the whole way, starting with the WORLD PAINTED BLOOD, followed by SHOW NO MERCY (any guess how I chose the category names for good old Death Ensemble?). The last leg I shared with the Rolling Stones, in Mom’s honor. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” always gets me a little teary now that she’s died, but it also makes me smile. As “Sympathy for the Devil” blared, I wound into the hotel parking lot and found a great spot.
Clearly God intended to right every wrong from last year. Well, except for the fact that it was Monster-Mania.
I found my way to my friend Nicole’s room, where it took several minutes to rouse her out of bed. With Jonathan snoring away on her other side, I crawled in for some serious cuddle time with Nicole. We live far apart, so I’ve got to get the cuddling goods when the opportunity presents itself. About 10 minutes later, my man Chadworth shot me a text saying he was in the lobby and ready to treat me to the Old Country Buffet. Those of you who read my report from last March’s MM con will remember that just about everybody I know ditched me and the OCB in favor of sleep and hangover, so Mike and I ended up going alone. Well, this year, Chad intended to right that wrong. And he was paying. Yes, the sun was shining on me, both literally and figuratively.
Chad and I got to have an interesting conversation about the convention circuit in general, and certain shows we had attended over the years. We complained about guests who oversaturate the market by being at every show, and compared stories and highlights. And I had plenty of peach covered waffles. Okay, so I was at MM, a con I’ve never really favored. But peaches. Plus waffles. Enough said.
Chad was kind enough to write and file his own convention report, about his experience as a vendor, alongside his lovely girlfriend Laurie. Give it a look. It’s a good read.
Back at the hotel (where Chad didn’t get nearly as good a parking spot as I did), some guy Nicole was dating showed up. After brief introductions, Jonathan and I hit the guest rooms. Down the middle of the first room awaited a long line of HALLOWEEN fans waiting to meet Nick Castle. This was his first appearance, and ever since his announcement I’ve pondered what he would have done if a fan said, “Oh man! You don’t have any 8x10s from MAJOR PAYNE???” Surprisingly, nobody stated anything close to that, at least in my presence. As any self-respecting horror fan I love HALLOWEEN, but I had no desire to meet the Shape in person.
The room did hold two other guests I had travelled this far to greet: Melinda Clarke, of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3, and one of my favorite horror celebs, John Amplas (Shameless plug time: don’t forget that it’s John Amplas Week on Death Ensemble!). Jonathan hopped immediately on Castle’s line. Through convention back channels, he had taken Castle and HALLOWEEN III director Tommy Lee Wallace on a tour of Philly, where they indulged in many a cheese steak. Apparently, the night before, as a nicety in return for that favor, Castle had kindly not charged Jonathan for his signature or items on his table. Though Castle has been reluctant to do shows and hasn’t beckoned to the clamors of the fans these many years, this proves he really appreciates his fans. And his cheese steak.
Amplas was his usual friendly self. He always remembers me, and was grateful that I had posted his Icons of Fright interview from last years Saturday Nightmares show here on the Death Ensemble (Shameless plug the 2nd: Saturday Nightmares is a week away! Be there or be square!). We spent some time discussing his blink-and-you-missed-it appearance as Martinez in DAWN OF THE DEAD (a Hispanic Martin? Oh, that Romero sense of humor), and I purchased the 8×10. He gave me a cool business card for his own website, with a stake and the name “Martin” on it, and we exchanged some more pleasantries before I moved on.
Let me say, I have a huge bias for Amplas, and he deserves it. People such as he and Dee Wallace make shows worth attending, because they legitimately care about their fans, and want to give them a good time. They know we come out and spend hard earned money on them, and they pay us back by being warm and treating us like old friends. I’ve met some horror folk who are clearly in it for the buck and find fans to be a necessary nuisance. Amplas redeems them, and I love him for it.
On to Melinda Clarke. She is every bit as beautiful and sexy as she was back in the 1990s, and she had multiple shots from ROTLD 3. She guided me to the one that showed more of her pierced frame, and I pulled it off a pile that sat right next to her CSI pics. I love when celebs know how to cater to their vast audience and have a wide array of shots (do you hear me, Lance Henriksen? Can you please get some DAMIEN: OMEN II shots?) Even better, I got to put my arm around her waist for the photo of us together. That alone was worth the trip.
And then, things start to get really cloudy. Every time I gear up for a show the last few years, I can’t sleep for days. Insomnia on top of the long drive and the longer hours at work reduced me to an unintelligible hulk. When I tell you I had trouble putting a coherent sentence together, I’m not exaggerating. Here are some snippets of what I remember:
* Nicole having a ball sitting with Kevin Tenney, director of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS, WITCHBOARD and WITCH TRAP. She was in all glory acting as his handler. He’s a good natured guy, and was grateful for her help. I chatted him up for a bit about PINOCCHIO’S REVENGE, which I had just seen on Netflix Instant. Nicole should smile like that more often.
* The Asian girl from DEMONS, hotter than she was 25 years ago. As Dominic’s Aussie buddy sat beside her as her handler, I tried for a few minutes to hook up. She wasn’t catching on. That’s criminal.
* Everybody flipping out because Norman Reedus was leaving early Saturday morning, and there were plenty of disappointed/ disgruntled WALKING DEAD fans.
* Seeing Lloyd Kaufman and realizing I had very little to say to him, because I had no desire that day to make my own damn movie.
* A NIGHT OF THE DEMONS panel that was tedious. This is why I don’t really do panels. It’s an hour of face time I could get by going to the respective celebs’ tables, and interviewing them.
* Finally meeting R. A. Mihailoff, the only living Leatherface I had yet to encounter. What a trip that guy is. He confirmed for me that he’s terrified of flying, and we discussed how he’d motorcycled it from the West Coast to Florida, and then up to MM. I also gently chided him for not having the dueling chainsaw 8×10 that I’ve seen on Ken Foree’s table. He took it in stride, and didn’t knock me out cold. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and again, a guy who appreciates his fans. It pains me that I had intended all along to ask him for an interview—and I’m quite positive he’d have given me one –but as I was already having problems with forming sentences, I passed on asking him for one.
Just as he passed when I discovered his room was across from Nicole’s and sent her over with a bottle of alcohol and an invite to hang. He was on his way out to dinner with Kane Hodder and, surprise surprise, he doesn’t drink.
* A crowd that was far from robust. True, Castle had that huge line, as did the WALKING DEAD folk in the morning, but by mid-afternoon, attendees were few and far between. As the evening came, I could’ve walked right up to Nick Castle without any wait.
* Stella the Maneater from Manyunk. I’m just a guy from Long Island. Don’t ask me.
* Nicole telling Ricky Dean Logan that he was Englund’s favorite kill in the whole ELM STREET series. Logan confirming.
* Jill Schoelen. A bunch of 1950s sci-fi people. Doug Bradley and Kane Hodder—oh wait, those two are at every show I attend.
* And then there was Debbie Rochon. I finally decided it was time to get her autograph. She’s been in one billion horror flicks. I counted. So why did I start off with, “I love a lot of your movies, but I can’t find an 8×10 for any movie but the one on your table, and that hasn’t even been released yet?” I snubbed you, Debbie. I’m sorry.
As the night came and the pizza arrived, I couldn’t tell my right hand from my left. Literally. I went to check the time on my watch and ended up looking confusedly at my wristband. Though Nicole was worried for my safety, it was high time I headed back to the comforts of my apartment on Long Island. I said my good byes, and with SLAYER and ALICE IN CHAINS blaring at volume 11 to keep me awake, I headed out. The sky was clear, and so was the road, and the world looked as if it was at the ready to do anything but end. As for the show, this year’s MM was not too shabby. True, I only had a small number of people to meet, and they were all great, even if the headliners did nothing for me. But I got to see Nicole again, and that’s far too rare. If I remember anything from that day, it’s this thought: If the world had ended that day, I would be in her cherished company. And that’s not shabby at all.