You can keep your San Diego Comic Con, with it's condescending Hollywood snobs and velvet ropes. For me, the epicenter of genre fandom will always be Chiller Theatre. And this weekend's Halloween '08 edition was particularly sweet for me, since it marked my return to the New Jersey-based horror con for the first time in seven years (coincidentally, that also happens to be how long I've had kids!)
But now, after years of patient waiting, both children are finally of an age to appreciate all the creepy delights Chiller has to offer. Plus, they get in free. And so I loaded them up in the car and made the longer-than-expected trek out to Parsippany, NJ--they used to hold it in much-closer East Rutherford, for all you Northeasterners.
I have always loved going, stretching back to my days of meeting Tom Savini and tracking down Godzilla bootlegs. But this time, I got the added bonus of vicariously enjoying the event through the incredulous eyes of the young. They got to meet folks like David Hedison, who portrayed the original Fly, so my son could show him the custom-made Fly action figure I made him. My daughter got to meet the daughter whose daddy played the Frankenstein Monster and the Mummy, Sara Karloff. And of course, we all got to meet the sadly quiet and aloof Ricou Browning, who played the Creature from the Black Lagoon--giving my daughter a chance to show off her nascent photographic ability.
Plus, I got to show them just how much cool stuff has existed in pop culture years before they were born. Thanks to Chiller, my daughter now has the complete 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and my son is the proud owner of Marvel's entire 1960s run of Iron Man cartoons. It's really amazing how you can find bootlegs of just about anything (I walked away with the complete MGM Tex Averys and Fleischer Betty Boops, for those who may be wondering).
In terms of brushes with horror celebrity, the highlight of my day was meeting the still-lovely Catriona MacColl, leading lady of Lucio Fulci's infamous trilogy of gorefests, The Gates of Hell, The Beyond and House by the Cemetery. Ms. MacColl was both charming and down-to-earth, basically encompassing the utter antithesis of Fulci's gruesomely disturbing films. As my daughter giggled, she explained to her how, while filming The Beyond, they would pour jam on the heads of the zombie extras between takes to make them look even more gross. That's about as close to a Vault of Horror Kodak moment as it gets, people.
Unfortunately, the original TV series Batmobile never showed up, but that was only a temporary damper to the festivities. After all, my son got to soak in compliments on his Spider-Man costume from some female American Gladiators, and I got to catch up with Terri Runnels, one of the former WWE Divas from my old days in the grunt 'n' groan biz.
It's all about moments that simply don't happen anywhere else: Uncomfortably ushering my children away as they blatantly gaped in awe at Beetlejuice, whom they seemed to believe was some type of gnome-like being; eavesdropping on Richard Hatch trying diplomatically to profess his love for the new Battlestar Galactica in the face of badmouthing old-school fans. The list goes on and on. Oh yeah, did I mention how I also met the incredibly tall Jim Krut, a.k.a. Dawn of the Dead's Helicopter Zombie? Punk rock!
I'm sure there are those out there who will deride my weekend geek-fest. So be it. I know there will also be those who appreciate the joy of the genre convention, made even more enjoyable by sharing it with the next generation. As the saying goes, for those who don't understand, no explanation will do; for those who do understand, no explanation is necessary.
"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue
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