Hibachi? Check. Now where are Moseley and the Sharpies…
Monster-Mania, Cherry Hill, NJ
March 7 at the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza
It’s not often that I’m verbally assaulted while opening the door to my own hotel room. But as this was my return to South Jersey for Monster-Mania, I shouldn’t have been surprised. That convention and I share a strange history together, and as it’s low on my list of cons, perhaps the evil spirit of the thing was on the attack. Or more likely, I just think too much. But it makes sense as I try to rationalize the two women yelling at me as I turned the handle to enter my room.
I should probably backtrack, so I don’t confuse any of us. Myself included.
My trip started with me closing my restaurant for the Thursday night and forgetting to go to the local branch of my own bank in the same parking lot. As I would be paying tolls in cash, and had maybe 8 bucks on my person, this wasn’t a stellar start. This on top of leaving my keys to the store in my car when I switched vehicles with my dad for the trip. The direct result of all this was my first ticket at the twisted, robotic lens of a red light camera, and my GPS taking me through NYC and the Holland Tunnel, when that was clearly not the best route. I couldn’t even pick Slayer or Rolling Stones tunes to guide me through the trek, which ended in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza around 2 a.m. A strange start to a strange few hours in Cherry Hill.
Nicole Fiss and her soon to be fiancé were kind enough to give me shelter, though I felt awful about intruding upon them. Brian was going to propose the next day at some point, and I felt like I was bearing down on them in the rudest fashion. But Nicole’s love for me is potent stuff, and Brian’s just about one of the nicest, down to earth guys I’ve ever met. I’m grateful they let me crash in the second bed in their room.
We awoke nice and early, with a special treat in store. Cherry Hill is home to a branch of my restaurant, and it was my pleasure to treat them both to a hibachi experience. I’d met the new manager a few months back at a corporate gig… and I’m about to go on a tangent about a beautiful, intellectual, very sexy Chinese lady form corporate if I don’t curb myself, so let the curbing begin. I made a joke nearly 10 years ago when I was on an Ambien trip about a hibachi, Bill Moseley and a Sharpie, so the joke came full circle as Nicole sat down to her first hibachi meal as my guest. There are other stories to be told behind this one, but you can always find those at www.secretstoriesofBigEvilPhilFasso.com if you want to dig.
We got back to the hotel with a few hours to spare before the con. So I donned my convention bag, recorder intact in case Dom Mancini could hook me up with any interviews from his CUJO reunion. I donned my shirt with Cujo’s mug on it, intent to be as cliché as humanly possible, and we headed down from Room 418 to the lobby, none of us knowing that my next trip to the fourth floor would be unique in my decade attending cons.
As Nicole and Brian met up with friends in the lobby, I found my way to Dom. After my last con experience sitting with his guests, Dom had feared that I’d had a terrible experience and wouldn’t ask me to sit with his people ever again. But I had assured him that a few hours for one night was a big difference from three consecutive days. We greeted one another, and Dom kindly offered to get me a weekend pass. I offered my services, and he asked if I could sit with Daniel Hugh Kelly for two hours. Fair enough, I told him, and my evening was set.
As a former English teacher, I know that every story has a turning point, and here it is for this one. I can’t recall for the life of me why I had to return to the room. Had I forgotten something? Was I looking for a quick breather from the crowd? For whatever reason, there I was at the door, inserting my keycard. I swung the door open and was under attack. Two women were yelling at me, one from the bathroom, one from the foot of a bed. The cacophony was so fierce that I couldn’t even make out their words, only that they wanted me out. I slammed the door shut, convinced I had entered the wrong room.
I looked at the number, which was still 418. Just exactly what was going on here? I used the keycard again, and stepped in. Again I was confronted, but this time I stopped to make some reason out of things. Nicole’s friend April and another friend were decorating the room for Brian to propose. I’d met April briefly back at Chiller in October, but she obviously hadn’t remembered me. As I explained who I was, April apologized profusely. I promised her it was cool, and having cleared the air, I returned to the lobby.
About 15 minutes later, I was right back in the room, with a small party of Nicole’s friends. Look, being twice divorced I have my own harsh ideas about the institution of marriage. But I love Nicole, and it was nice to see her crying as Brian got down on one knee and proposed. As he placed the ring on her finger, inside I wished her the best, knowing she deserved even better than that.
But hey, there’s a show to discuss, right? This MM experience was like no other I’d had, because I was behind the table again. And I couldn’t have been behind a better table, because Danny Kelly was a great guy. He felt probably more out of place at a horror con than I felt spending that night in Nicole and Brian’s room (Were Danny and I both in the wrong place? He had one horror flick on his résumé, and wasn’t I getting in the way of some engagement night loving?) I assured him he had every right to be a guest at the con, and gave him an insider’s view on the convention circuit.
To my right sat Danny Pintauro, the flamboyant child star and current restaurant manager, which gave us a lot to talk about between visits from guests. The only drawback to this arrangement was that I had Pintauro and CUJO director Lewis Teague between Dee Wallace and me, and Dom only got me up to her as she was just about packed up for the night. She graciously signed my POPCORN 8×10, keeping my streak alive. If she hadn’t signed something for me, I’d have been heartbroken.
In retrospect, I’m fortunate I was between these two, because the rest of this con was a dead end. I don’t want to meet Sons of Anarchy/ Sopranos starlets, I’d seen the Leatherface contingent in NC at Mad Monster Party a year ago, and Tony Todd is so oversaturated on the circuit that he has one massive set of stones charging $30 for an auto and $20 for a pic (when I got him about 8 years ago, it was $20/free for the same combo). Dom’s guy that was supposed to sit with Danny Kelly had car trouble or some such thing, which afforded me the chance to make a nice bond with Kelly, as I sat with him for the whole night. He liked me so much he didn’t want Dom to sub for me as I went to grab some autographs, and I took that as an honor.
Wait, did I say autographs? I meant, autograph. The only guest I met at this con was Virginia Madsen. Brian had printed up for me a great screenshot of her character stepping out of Candyman’s graffiti mouth, and she was charging $25/10, so I went against policy and took a picture with the very beautiful lady. I even made a joke about her not having any 8×10’s from ZOMBIE HIGH… to which she replied, “I’m sorry, I had one at the last show.” Now that’s impressive. If I didn’t have the whole CUJO mojo going, I’d have traveled all those hours for 5 minutes of con.
And therein lies my whole problem with cons of late. A decade of destruction on the circuit has left me burnt out. At this point it takes a lot to impress me. Chiller’s still a month away and has about 100 guests on its roster, and I don’t really need to meet any of them. With the constant Walking Dead contingents, insanely escalating prices and expensive photo ops, it might be a nice time for me to step away from the scene for a bit. I’ve met hundreds of celebs over the last ten years, and maybe things have become old hat. I don’t want to go to conventions just for the sake of going to conventions.
Which brings me right back to the door of Room 418. I can honestly say that getting blitzkrieged by two shrieking harpies on my way into a hotel room is unique to my convention experience, and was more than a little strange. But then, given my history with Monster-Mania, I should have known that strange things were par for the course, even if Bill Moseley wasn’t there with his Sharpies.