It probably surprises many of you to learn that I've never been to a horror movie convention before. I go to gobs of comic book conventions and Dragon Con in Atlanta covers all angles of geek society but, no, I'd never gone to a straight up horror convention before so I was naturally excited to learn that Horror Hound magazine was hosting a con right here in scenic Columbus, Ohio. (Actually, until Friday morning when I was getting ready to go, I had assumed the con was downtown by the convention center, once I googled the location, I discovered the con was in my neck of Columbus and was, in fact, barely a five minute drive from my apartment.)
So over the past couple months I've excitedly watched the guest list grow on Horror Hound's website, looking forward to meeting some of the people who have made so many of the horror movies that have been part of my strange psyche for a long, long time. And the good folks at Horror Hound certainly did a good job of bringing together a lineup of people from the full spectrum of horror -- from the classics to the new blood.
My friend Paul Greer, who shares the same love of all things horror with me, came down to Columbus Friday night (the shows started Friday at 5 before settling into more traditional con hours on Saturday and Sunday.) This was a hotel con, not one in a convention center.
Of course, it wouldn't be a con without organizers being confused so Friday I saw a large line of people waiting to get in, but I'd already bought my gold pass, which got me early access. So I asked if the one big line was for people who'd already paid or people who were waiting to pay. No, they said, the line's for everyone, if you've already paid, you still need to get your wristbands. I asked about gold pass as we were supposed to get in about ten minutes from then and they assured me just to get into the regular line. So I walked to the end of the line, which was fairly signifcant, only to wait five minutes and have someone announce that gold pass members could go to the front of the line, in the exact place I'd just been standing, and register and head on in. With a laugh, that's what I did.
Paul met up with me a few minutes later and in we went. It wasn't packed at all but there was a crowd and a couple lines were starting to queue up, most notably "Halloween" star Danielle Harris and "Walking Dead/Boondock Saints" star Norman Reedus.
The con itself took some work to navigate there were a couple different rooms, a main one and then another that was around a corner in the hotel. Guests were in both rooms and some were in the hallway outside the ballrooms. There were also a few rooms scattered down another hallway where they'd tucked away some of the old horror hosts and the legendary Pam Grier.
I'm not entirely sure of the order we met people, the nice thing about having a cohort in crime is it made it easier to take pictures with the celebrities, I could get Paul's pic and then he could get mine. Oftentimes if you're waiting alone at a con you have to ask the person behind you to take your picture with the guest and hope they can work your camera. (I've been asked to take pictures a million times at cons, of course, no one ever minds helping out!)
Oftentimes, when meeting celebrities I can come up with an obscure work they did and talk about that, rather than just ask the same old questions but in many cases at this show, I didn't really have much to talk about other than the obvious things. So I opened with a joke, the guests will usually ask where you're from and a lot of people travel a good distance to go to these shows and meet people. So I started by saying 'just so you know, I drove THREE MILES to be here today,' which invariably got a laugh. Feel free to steal that if you're ever at a local con ;
We met Scout Taylor Compton was Laurie in Rob Zombie's "Halloween" movies and was nice as can be. She was also almost unrecognizable as she's sporting a really short haircut that she's dyed black. Tyler Mane, Sabretooth in the X-Men movies and Michael Meyers in Zombie's "Halloween" was next to her and he had some 11 x 17 prints of the original movie posters. So Paul and I bought those and got both of them to sign them (and would later get Danielle Harris to sign as well. Nice things to throw in our original art portfolios!) The nice thing about getting my picture taken with Mane was usually these folks are much shorter than I am but Mane towers over most everyone, including me.
I also had some important business to take care of at the show; my friend Carl is I'm fairly certain the world's biggest 'Escape From New York' fan and he sent his two posters down to be signed by the great Adrienne Barbeau. Barbeau had a decent line herself but, for me, the best part was while she was signing the posters I got to ask her what it was like working with Rodney Dangerfield in "Back To School." She sort of laughed and said Rodney wanted to try and do his entire act in every scene but the poor director had to keep reeling him in.
Somewhere in here, another friend Dave Aikins arrived for to hang out for the evening as well and, shall I say, GUSHED, when he got to meet Twin Peaks star Sherilyn Fenn.
We got a few more autographs from some pretty great people -- Lisa Wilcox who played Alice in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequels was there and, honestly, she looks better now than she did back then.
I also got to meet Tippie Hedren, star of "The Birds" who at 82 years old, still looked as glamorous as ever and was very fun to speak with. I then met Julia Adams, star of "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" and, honestly, if I were to list the most beatiful women to ever be in the movies, both those ladies would be high on that list. Both were sweet as can be.
There was a panel discussion for the 3 actors from Rob Zombie's "Halloween" movies and, since I was a gold pass member, I got to sit in the first few rows. In fact I sat in the front row, about five feet from the guests. Like most panel discussions, it was a lot of laughs and anecdots from the making of the movies -- props not working, Mane trying to break a door with his own brute strength that wasn't a breakaway prop door, but was, in fact, one made of solid wood -- that sort of thing. Danielle Harris, who starred in a few of the previous "Halloween" movies as well as Zombie's remakes, seemed to take the bulk of the questions. All three guests were pretty fun and each showed up with a drink in hand, which isn't something you see at comic book conventions. Harris was particularly sassy and even dropped a 'that's what she said' on Mane at one point. Sorry, I forget the set up for the joke.
After the panel we walked around a bit, I talked to stars of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and met Doug Bradley, Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" movies (who had a drink in hand pretty much every time I saw him.)
As the night was winding down we noticed Danielle Harris's line was finally manageable so we slid in and met her and got autographs -- like most actresses she's tiny. We chatted about this and that -- I've always thought her death scene in "Halloween 2" was unusually moving, particularly in Zombie's movies that are often so brutal, so we talked about that.
And that was mostly Friday night. As we walked out we noticed the line for Norman Reedus was still most of the way down the hallway. Paul, Dave and I went to dinner and then Paul and I went back to watch the midnight movie "Monster Brawl" at the con. Before "Monster Brawl," a tongue-in-cheek movie that's essentially about a pro wrestling tournament between monsters, we had to watch two movie shorts made by independent producers. They were, how do I say ... garbage. On one hand I want to admire them for giving filmmaking a go, on the other hand, the works were so bad, it was tough to be too supportive. "Monster Brawl" was a hoot with Dave Foley playing a commentator who I imagine was pretty much just riffing the entire movie. The movie's complete nonsense but was good for a laugh.
Saturday morning, Paul and I went to breakfast and noticed the line for the con was not only all the way through the hotel but had snaked out into the parking lot noticeably. As I went inside I realized that wasn't the line to get into the con at all -- that was Norman Reedus's line! Reedus was a total rock star all weekend, with people waiting two or more hours to meet him. At his table, he stood up the entire time, engaged everyone with a smile and a handshake and seemed to make sure everyone left his table glad they met him.
Like I said, there was a steady crowd Friday but it wasn't packed. Saturday it was packed. As in, I'm sure fire codes were broken. You couldn't MOVE inside the hotel Saturday. Reedus's line was into the next zip code but everyone had lines, Danielle Harris's was long, Julia Adams's was long, Adrienne Barbeau's was long ... everyone had a line, even people who, at first glance, I thought would be at the show and not get a lot of attention. No one was there being that sad celebrity at a con with no fans. It was cool!
As the afternoon went on, Paul and I decided to hit a couple more panel discussions, the first featuring Julia Adams and Tippie Hedren. For some reason the con had gotten off schedule with the panels so their panel was a little shorter than it could have been, and, after hearing each lady tell their stories of the old days of Hollywood,I know I wanted it to go on a lot longer. Hedren especially had stories about Hitchcock, Sean Connery and Charlie Chaplin that she shared.
Since the con only had one meeting room they cleared the room between panel discussions, except for us gold pass members, we didn't have to budge. So basically I go to to sit down for three hours, something that rarely happens at a con. After the Adams/Hedren panel, there was a panel regarding the cult classic "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" with the star and director of that movie, who are trying to get a sequel made. And then came the Pam Grier panel, where the great Miss Grier told all sorts of stories from her long career in Hollywood. She was very funny and a very dramatic storyteller, that's for sure. But the audience ate it up.
That about wrapped up Saturday. Again, Paul and I went to dinner and then over to Dave's for a night of r and r -- talking about comicons mostly and other geekery. It's what we do.
Really, everything we needed to do was done. Since Saturday was sooo crowded, I didn't get much of a chance to dig through the dealer room (it had the usual con swag, DVD's and t-shirts and some other things) and I wanted to get another autograph from Scout Taylor Compton so I did go back this morning for a little bit. As with all Sunday mornings at cons, most of the guests were late but I did chat with Scout and walked the dealer rooms before calling it a con.
Something I realized as the weekend wore on: regardless of the theme, I just love the con experience. I always meet cool people, have made countless friends just by standing in lines and being social to the people around me, and always enjoy meeting performers and creators who have made movies and tv shows and comics and novels that are such a big part of my life experience.
And I'm a horror guy so a horror con is that much sweeter. Given the crowds, the show seemed to be a big hit, so I'm already looking forward to next year's Horror Hound Weekend in Columbus!