Finding Horrors, Terrors and Mania
Horrorfind, Gettysburg, PA
Sept 2-4, 2011 at the Wyndham Gettysburg
My apologies to my fellow Death Ensemblers for my lateness on my two convention reports. I’ve been currently planning my escape from Maryland to the Rochester area and it’s been soaking up my time. That said, I do have a few things I need to let out. You see, in the month of September I had the pleasure of attending two conventions. As noted in previous reports, I travel with my girlfriend Laurie and help out at her Knit Terrors table, which seems to be a real big hit amongst con-goers. That’s definitely given me more purpose in attending conventions, other than running around buying bootlegged copies of Sid and Marty Krofft productions.
So, imagine my joy when I found out that Horrorfind Weekend in the world renowned battlegrounds of Gettysburg, PA is on the weekend of my birthday. I got super excited in record time. After all, what better way to spend my birthday weekend than at a horror convention with my girlfriend and my friends? It can’t be beat! It’s a win-win situation. Besides, attending my first Horrorfind in 2010, I had an absolute blast, so I was expecting to even more fun now that I was staying the entire weekend.
It got even more exciting for me when my hero Rowdy Roddy Piper was announced as a guest. Actually, a funny twist of fate, I had just picked up a Roddy Piper doll on clearance at Target when Laurie texted me with the news. I almost caused an accident when reading my text at the stoplight. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But it came close.
So with Roddy Piper on the list, the chance to meet Amanda Wyss for the first time, a birthday celebration with horror royalty in the form of Kristy Jett of Fright Rags and the masterminds behind VHSPS, how can I lose?!?!
Monday before the convention, HF announced that Roddy would be unable to appear. Panic started throughout the HF fandom and people demanded answers. Even I asked questions and was rudely shouted at for asking with a famous “we’ll let you know when we let you know!”. The verbal shenanigans with HF continued until about Wednesday or Thursday before the show, when the convention finally confirmed Roddy’s appearance. I was able to be rest assured that he would be there, which made this con for me (details in a second), but I felt that maybe the staff could have handled the fans questions better.
So, Thursday came and , excited as heck, I came to the hotel. I was staying with Laurie, Kristy and Sean of VHSPS, and we partied like maniacs. We stayed in the secondary hotel for the weekend, a place which was very nice and very large. No complaints there whatsoever.
As for the con, however, more tomfoolery began on Friday morning, when we were informed that Horrorfind did not have all of our passes. This was taken care of, but it’s a situation that shouldn’t have happened. After checking in we go to our table, where we were stationed next to Horrorfind cover artist Joel Robinson(which made the weekend go by quicker.). Our table, however was pretty tight, with no room to move around at all. Maybe I’m spoiled here by Monster Mania, where we’re at a table that we have enough room to camp under. But I digress. In addition, the dealers’ room was about as large as a McDonalds dining room. Not exactly the ideal size for attendees to walk around and shop in a comfortable fashion. It was a very uncomfortable spot for those looking to score a rare piece of memorabilia.
On the other hand, there’s the guest room. For some, it’s the be all and end all reason to attend conventions. And why not? Where else can some say they can met their favorite horror stars? A huge draw to any convention will always be the guest list, and this show had a pretty impressive guests list. Roddy Piper, Amanda Wyss and Lisa Wilcox were the guests I wished to meet. But for those who didn’t care for my list, there were plenty of True Blood guests, including Sam Trammel. William Sanderson of BLADE RUNNER fame, Brian Thompson, Julian Sands, Jill Schoelen and more were in attendance as well. Convention mainstays Bill Moesely, Conrad Brooks, Ken Foree and Sid Haig also showed up. For the first time, Sid Haig was taking special photo ops in full Captain Spaulding makeup and costume. Definitely a special keepsake for those who purchased it at the hefty price of 50 bucks, but everyone said it was worth it.
No complaints about the guests whatsoever. All those that I was able to speak with seemed in high spirits and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Everybody was absolutely approachable. Even Ken Foree, who has a notrious reputation for being rather unfriendly at times, seemed to be in a good mood as we discussed his time on Keenan and Kel.
The big name for me was Roddy Piper. This was my third time meeting the Hot Rod, and every time he’s just as nice if not nicer than the last. Roddy has always been a hero of mine, and when I explained to him how much he reminds me of my late father, he was very touched. He gave me a big hug and a handshake, letting me know how much my kind words meant to him. Roddy always takes interest in those who come to meet him, wants to know where they come from, their love of horror or wrestling, the story behind what merchandise they bring and so on. The Hot Rod was a huge highlight for me this weekend, and I look forward to meeting him again!
As much as I considered Roddy THE name for the weekend, fans came in droves for legendary director John Waters. Of course, at this convention, meeting him came with more complications. Earlier in the week, a post had been made saying that a lottery for meeting John Waters would be instituted. At the registration line, fans would pull a ticket out of a hat and if your ticket said “JOHN WATERS YES” then you were given the right to be in line for John’s two hour appearance. If you got one that said “JOHN WATERS NO”, then…well, sorry. So, with four vendors passes, I was given the opportunity to pick 4 (even though I did take 5 “by accident”). You see our dear friend Kristy Jett is such a huge fan of John Waters, all she wanted to do to get through this already rough weekend by meeting him. So when I came back with TWO “JOHN WATERS YES” tickets, she immediately became overjoyed! And of course, Laurie got the second ticket, so I was very happy to see both of them thrilled!
All the tickets were taken and the fans who had them were done almost an hour before scheduled. So, now the rule was “anyone who wants to meet him can before 9 pm.”. This caused a lot of righteous anger from fans. First they tell us we have to take a ticket, and then they say, “Oh yeah, just go for it”? They’re messing with the fans and it’s absolutely not ok.
The rest of the weekend went by very slowly and quite frankly we packed our stuff up and headed out a little early on Sunday. And rightfully so. We had all grown tired and exhausted of this convention. While I can’t speak for the Fright Rags crew, I don’t think you’ll ever see Knit Terrors at a Horrorfind again. It was an exhausting experience filled with confusion, frustration and headaches. I can speak for Laurie when I say we were very happy to get out of there… But not before I took this photo…
Gotta end on a good note somehow, right?
Monster-Mania 20, Hunt Valley, MD
Sept 16-18, at the Marriott
So in contrast to the horrible experience we shared at Horrorfind, two weeks later Laurie and I found ourselves in Hunt Valley, MD (ironically the old stomping grounds of Horrorfind for years.) for Monster-Mania 20. I always feel home at Monster-Mania, and maybe I’m rather biased but I still feel it’s the number one show in all of horror. (Chad’s Disclaimer: Please remember that’s my theory and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the Death Ensemble website or the rest of its writers.)
Now this show was pretty darn special. Aside from being the 20th Monster-Mania, it had a guest lineup that would make diehard fans drool. The guest of honor was none other than MR. JOHN CARPENTER. Considered by many to be one of the greatest directors in the history of horror film, Mr. Carpenter has made his name scaring the crap out of us for so many years with his twisted creations including CHRISTINE, THE THING, THEY LIVE, and…well you may have heard of him, MICHAEL MYERS. This weekend was also graced with the presence of many HALLOWEEN alumni, including many of the men who played Michael Myers. Also were the stars of HALLOWEEN, including Tom “THE MAN” Atkins and total sweetheart P.J. Soles.
Also in attendance was the one and only Jefferey Combs of RE-ANIMATOR fame, Joe Turkel from THE SHINING, Michael Tough, the killer in the original PROM NIGHT, who made his first USA convention appearance. Plus Zack Galligan of GREMLINS fame, Clare Higgins from HELLRAISER, also making her first convention appearance, and fellow DE writer Nicole Fiss’ object of affection and convention vet Tony Todd, who had appeared at MM 18 in Cherry Hill the month before. 80s icon Anthony Michael Hall was a major non-horror guest, and the normal smattering of the Walking Dead and True Blood guests also graced the show. Yes sir, if you’re a diehard fan of horror, this was the show for you!
Just as I mentioned in the Horrorfind review, I spent most of my time at the vendors table selling the goods. But I was able to sneak off for a little, run around and meet some great guests. The guests were very open and very happy to be there. The general feeling and vote of “MVP of the Show” was Anthony Michael Hall who could be found in the bar after the show, gladly taking photos and chatting up with fans. After talking with him about his experience on Tales From the Crypt (I like to talk to stars about their experiences on Tales From the Crypt. It’s often eye opening and very shocking!), I got a quick photo with him!
I can never stress the importance of fan interaction with stars at conventions, a very important aspect of any show. As stated before, many fans swarm to the shows in hopes of catching a photo or autograph from their favorite star. And most times, these experiences can make or break the convention for fans. But, it seemed fans were very happy with all the guests they met. A perfect example of this was the 30 minute conversation I had the pleasure of having with Mr. Joe Turkel and Michael Tough about sports. Movies came into it so little, it was as if they didn’t even exist! We just chatted away like old friends talking about our favorite teams and players. A real great moment that I will never forget!
Many fans consider Carpenter a “movie god”. Now, I’d never compare anyone to a “god status”, but this was a very big deal and I can understand why fans were excited. Mr. Carpenter is one of the biggest and most highly regarded directors of modern horror cinema. Since 1978, he’s been coming up with creative way to scare us, and it’s always a true honor for me to meet the directors who made my nightmares happen.
I got on his dwindling line on Sunday, which is a great day because fans teeter off. I My main purpose was to show him Laurie’s Knit Terrors Michael Myers, which he enjoyed. Another fun moment for me was talking to him about wrestling, as he appeared years ago on a WWE produced DVD talking about Roddy Piper’s career in Portland in the 70s. I got to chat briefly about wrestling with him, and he seemed rather happy to discuss something other than horror movies. I quickly got a photo, shook his hand and sped off. FYI-For wrestling fans, Mr. Carpenter told me his favorite wrestlers of all time were a tag team called “The Medics”!
A very memorable Q&A session with John occurred Saturday evening. In it, a drunken fan asked what he was thinking when he made Escape from LA, to which Mr. Carpenter responded with a mighty “F$%^ YOU!”, resulting in applause and cheers from the pro-Carpenter crowd.
After having the pleasure of meeting Mr. Carpenter, I was off to see P.J. Soles, most famous for portraying characters in some of my all time favorite horror movies CARRIE and HALLOWEEN, as well as ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. Since I first saw her in that last film years ago, I’ve always had a crush PJ, and even though this is the second time meeting her, I had to spring for a better photo with her…
And somehow, Laurie still took me back home. Why, I don’t know!
Another terrific guests encounter came with Clare Higgins, who gained fame in the horror world as “Julia Cotton” in the first two HELLRAISERs. She seemed in high spirits all weekend, gladly chatting with fans wherever she went and even hinting at a return to the US for a Hellraiser 25th anniversary reunion…hmmm…
One of my other “must meets” was Mr. Jefferey Combs who I did not get a photo with. But I did bump into him on the escalator and said “Good morning Mr. Combs”. Jefferey, with a grin, looked at me with his Herbert West eyes and voice responded, “The name…is Jeff. JEFF.”. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was a huge geek out moment.
Aside the guests, partying is a big part of the Monster-Mania experience. One can be up until the wee hours partying, drinking, hanging with celebs. Heck, I even had a great, long conversation with ELM STREET 5 actor Danny Hassel in August 2010. It’s very easy for people to get swept up in the moment, having a lot of fun. Personally, since I’m not a drinker, I’m not normally up that late unless I have a great reason. This particular time though, I was up until about 4 am just hanging with friends and being very worry-free. It’s a great close bond that many in the Monster-Mania convention have with each other. The hardcore among us consider the show to be not just a convention, but a family. You can’t walk down the halls without bumping into people you know from previous conventions, the MM message board, or whatever. Having people introduce themselves as people I only knew on message boards is a very fun experience, and it’s nice when the friendships form afterwards.
It’s a real great feeling to have a close knit convention like this, and I must say I felt that Monster-Mania 20 was the best. I had a blast with my friends, vending, the stars, the atmosphere. I was also told Monster Mania 20 was the best attended event in its 20-show history, which leads me to believe that with TUESDAY KNIGHT’S first East Coast appearance and the return of the madman with the claw himself, Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund, Monster-Mania 21 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey will be bigger better and badder.
-Chad E. Young