What a drive. I find myself wishing this con was closer to home because that drive was pretty brutal.
The length was comparable to the drive to Indianapolis, but the trip to Days of the Dead Chicago is harder and spends more time on toll roads and urban environments.
What first struck me was how many people were there. I had to wait in a surprisingly long line for tickets. I say surprisingly long, because I got there at noon, and the doors had opened an hour earlier. I could have bypassed the line and saved five dollars by pre-registering, but honestly, the only con I pre-register for is Cinema Wasteland because I save about 15-20 dollars and I usually spend the whole weekend there. This was a day trip. Oh well.
His handler was AWFUL. The guy interrupted with prices for different things, and answered questions for Keith and was generally intrusive, like a self-important pimp. A good handler takes money and snaps photos and is generally invisible. They are there to make sure no one takes advantage of the celebrity and more importantly to take care of the mundane business so the celeb can focus entirely on the fan (and vice versa). A pity, because I suspect that Mr. David is a far nicer person without the yo-yo hovering around his booth. This and hitting my pet peeve of charging for photo ops set a decidedly negative tone for this con immediately.
I sipped out of the vendor hall to hit the Collection panel. I had misunderstood about this though and thought it was a screening of the film. It wasn’t, although they did show both the first seven(?) minuets of the film, then talked at length about bot hit and the film that preceded it.
Let me just have a quick aside on this by the way. The guys making this movie did a remarkably smart thing as far as promotion goes. It should be so blindingly obvious that I can’t believe more people don’t do this, but whatever.They came to the con, the director and writer, brought a couple of the actors with them, showed bits of the film, then set up a table and signed posters for free. At a con where every one charges to autograph stuff, and some people even charge for photo ops, these guys not only gave away posters of their new movie, but all signed them and took photos with people for free. Let me tell you something, their strategy worked. This movie wasn’t even on my radar. Now, not only do I know about it, I can’t wait to see it. They only had their table set up for about three hours, and that was enough.
I had brought a small poster with me, because space is becoming an issue at my house. Besides, I didn’t want to be greedy, they could save those beautiful 11x17s for someone else. They were signing posters in an assembly line style and my smaller one got moved right along into the assembly line. At the end of the table, the director handed me my smaller poster and told me “Take one of the big ones too!” I was about to protest, but he kept on “Go on! If you can’t think of anything else to do with it, tape it to the roof of your car!” You know what? I love these guys. If you wanted to pinpoint a moment when my day turned around, this was it.
I dove back into the guest hall and as I passed by his table I realized I had completely forgotten that William Katt was going to be there. How did I forget this? Seeing him added to the line up after Keith David was what tipped the scales on me deciding to go! Maybe it was ll the planning or the glut of cons in the last couple of months. I don’t know.
I’ve heard things about William Katt. None of it good. I’ve heard that he charges more than other people, he tacks on fees for photo ops, I heard that he’s unfriendly or distant. I’ve probably heard more negative comments about him than I have about Tom Savini. I’m going to tell you right here and now, NONE of that was true.
He charged about average. Less than what a lot of people were. No extra fee for a photo. He was friendly and engaging. He really seemed to WANT to be there and connect with fans. He leaned across the table and grabbed my jacket, spreading it out to get a better look at my Punisher shirt then told me how much he loved it. He was shocked to discover I made it myself. We discussed the Star Wars auditions, something he seemed surprised I was aware of. I’m not sure I agree with his statement that it would have changed his life…Mark Hamil’s career didn’t fare too much better than Katts, but I would have loved to have seen him in the role. He mentioned that the Star Wars auditions were what got him his role in Carrie. He also asked what i did for a living and when I told him I was in IT he told me how much he wished I lived out near him, he’d be calling me every day! Meeting him was absolutely the high point of my day.
Off in a small room to the side of the check in counter was a darling display called “Evil Puppets”. It was tucked away so neatly I walked right past it twice before noticing it. I tentatively creeped in and wondered if they would be mad at me talking a photo. There were no signs saying I couldn’t so I snapped a few photos. I really love getting my picture taken with celebrities and this presented a unique opportunity of getting a photo op with some famous monsters without having to put up with a rude handler like the guy that was hovering over Keith David. So I grabbed a random passerby and asked if he would mind taking a couple of shots of me. I knelt down to get into a better lever in front of the Gremlins. The guy tried to focus, then stepped back a moment. I felt something brush across my shoulder. I figured, I just had leaned back too far. Probably brushed against a puppet. Then it happened again. Then something was in my hair. I turned around to find the girl who was hosting the exhibit laughing and holding the gremlin’s hand in hers. She had been poking me with it and messng with me She continued to do so as the picture was taken> You can see me trying very hard not to burst in to laughter myself.
I grabbed one more autograph on my already crowded Dawn of the Dead poster from Paul Musser who asked me “When are you guys going to get a real football team up there in Cleveland?” I explained to him that was why I followed horror and not sports.
Had to hit up the Fright Night line as well. I love reunions like this where you can get five signatures on a poster in one shot like this. Chris Sarandon’s table never had a line the entire time I was there. I totally don’t get that. He actually IS someone. He’s done tons of stuff, The Princess Bride alone makes him a real star. I was also really stoked to see William Ragsdale. I spent every Sunday for three or four years watching him on Herman’s Head. His hair is shorter now, and that’s kind of a shame, but I understand and I forgive him for it. Amanda Berse was there as well and ALWAYS had a long line. Not quite sure I get that. I realize there are a loot of people who remember her from Married with Children and if you pay attention to her career you’ll know she’s actually a talented director as well, but none of that justifies her having a bigger line than people like Keith David and Chris Sarandon. Go figure. She was hyper. Super nice but very energetic. She saw the camer and exclaimed in an almost excited voice “Come on! Let’s take a picture!” and then grabbed me and pulled me back. I don’t think I’ve ever been held that tightly by a lesbian before.
There were a couple of big surprises at this con. I saw the tail end of the “They Live” panel because I needed a break from standing in lines. It’s not one of my favorite Carpenter films but I figured there would be some “Thing” talk as well. Roddy Piper was hilarious. I had no idea he was so funny and clever. Not at all what I expected. The screening of “The Collective” was a lot of fun as well, 10 short films by 10 different directors. I have to give Days of the Dead props for decent programming. Not as much as Cinema Wasteland, but good for them for doing any at all, and quality stuff as well. The other big surprise was all the cosplay. Not just the quantity (although that WAS impressive. Tons of people in costume) but the quality. Really great costumes and fun ideas. My favorite was the dead Tinkerbelle, but there were a lot of monsters there whose makeups just took my breath away, the snake girl and the creeper especially.
This was a good con. It was really a good one. Again, I wish it were closer to home, because that’s it’s one big downfall. Chicago is an awfully long drive for one day, but horror cons for me tend to be one day events. IF this were in Ohio, PA or Indiana, somewhere in a three hour radius, I’d probably go every year. Chicago, I’m not sure it’s worth the drive to go back. Certainly not for a while, but maybe in a few years. I had a great time this year, and I hope it continues to grow even better. In the meantime, it’s back to Violent Blue for me.