Last year I said it might be a while before I tried this one again. The crowds had become to much and honestly, that round trip to and from Chicago just about killed me. Still, It had been a chance to really cross a couple names off my bucket list and finally meet Simon Bamford (The last Cenobite from Hellraiser to elude me) as well as the unprecedented opportunity to chat with Andy Robinson (From both Hellraiser AND Deep Space 9). So what got me back to this show a second year in a row? First, one of my best friends had recently set up house in Chi-town, so I had a place to stay the weekend instead of doing the trip in a single day.
But more importantly, Clive Barker was coming.
Barker hasn’t done an appearance near me since I’ve been n the convention scene. He was scheduled at Horrorfind back around 2009, but both he and Ashley Lawrence cancelled for undisclosed reasons (So did Angus Scrimm for that matter, and the show shout down the next year. I’ve heard some shady things about it in the aftermath). A few years ago he was scheduled I believe for a Horrorhound (Or was it Flashback? I don’t think it was DOTD….), but that was when the heath issues took over and he cancelled a number of shows. For him to finally make a public appearance like this was definitely enough to make me brave the six and a half hour drive.
We pulled up to the convention center as the snow gently fell around us. It wasn’t a blizzard, but that white garbage sure did pile up around us fast. I know it’s November, but I don’t remember previous outings being this wintry. It’s not that big a deal, after all, DOTD has provided that wonderful overflow parking in the covered garage next door, but panels are held outside in a heated tent and you do have to walk from the hotel into the tent to get to them. It’s kind of a punch in the face, exiting the warm pool area only to be sucker punched by Jack Frost just outside the door.
Once we arrived, my friend Mike and I grabbed our prepaid wristbands and had about fifteen minuets before the doors opened. I always forget how long the admission line at this show gets and pre-registering was the best move I had made. We had enough time to nip off back to the car and grab a camera I had forgotten, then walk past the ticket line, right into the convention and straight over to Barker’s line. Even at open it was already begining to streatch out, but I looked over at Mike and told him “It will NEVER be this short again.”. I was correct. For most of the day, the queue ran around the corner and past the ticket tables.
Barker was late. The handler explained he’d just had breakfast and was making sure that his sugar was correct (Also mentioning that he was diabetic). About twenty minuets later the line began to move. Inside we were instructed “No personalizations. No photos at the table. Do not shake hands. He’ll give you a fist bump if you like.” It’s a little more than I’m used to at these things, but we rolled with it. Getting to say I fist bumped Clive Barker sounds way more fun than I shook his hand anyhow. He’s quiet. At times he almost looked bored, but mostly I was struck with how frail he looked. Far different than the interviews I had seen and more than a man in his fifties should. Inside his room, he had filled tables and walls with original artwork, books, apparel and photos. I saw a couple volumes I didn’t have and made note to look them up later when I had more money. I pointed out the hardcover of the Scarlet Gospels, noting I had been listening to the audiobook of this on the way up. Barker greeted me and my friend, signed my poster and I told him we’d see him later for a photo. He grinned with finger guns at me.
Our next task was to search out Ashley Lawrence. This was the first time I’d seen her make her way out to the midwest ina long time and she was another one I’d never met. Getting her on my Hellraiser posters would finish them (I don’t see Claire Higgens ever making it stateside). She was set up in a bad spot in one of the halls, creating a choke point in foot traffic, while at the same time somewhat concealing her (Particularly with the brighter Teriffier booth almost across from her).
Ashley is effervescent and charming, and the woman dosen’t age. She kept telling me my hat reminded her of a friend who always wears the same kind. Our photo came out bad and she teased me with a grin “Well don’t tilt you head so weird silly!”
I was pleased. We’d managed to grab both Clive and Ash before the Hellraiser panel that we now rushed off to. I was a little shocked then, when the moderator introduced Barbie Wilde, Nicholas Vance, Simon Bamford…and no one else. While it’s always fun to visit with them, we had this last year, with the addition of Dough Bradley and Andy Robinson. Perhaps it was presumptuous, but I had anticipated hearing from Clive and Ashley at this panel as well and found myself disappointed. We probably heard a couple new stories here, but at large, it felt like much of what we had seen the year previous.
Not so however, with the “Men behind the Mask” panel featuring Jason(s), Michael, and Art the Clown. Kane Hodder was in rare form at this one, wresting control from the moderator who just stared on in amused silence. We got fascinating stories in particular from Jim Winburn who has a long history as a stuntman and did falls in the original Halloween. David Thorton, a newcomer to the genre (fresh off his role as Art the Clown in “Terrifier”) was visibly delighted to be on stage with the others, laughing and sharing his experiences as a new movie monster. I’d actually waited to see this panel to kind of get to know David. I enjoyed Terrifier (and the 2013 anthology “All Hallows Eve” which no one seems to realize proceeded it) and think Art could be ne of the next horror icons, but it was the panel that made me want to meet Thorton. David is chipper and was fun to chat with. I’ve got experience and actual clown training, and it was interesting to compare our approaches to that kind of performance. As for the panel itself, “I was just so thrilled to be up there,” he told me.
We popped around the con, shopping, talking with people and playing with the monsters. Michael Myers in a Captain Kirk uniform was a BRILLIANT gag and he was delighted we got the joke.
“Guys like you are exactly who I do this for,” he exclaimed in satisfaction.
Moving on we grabbed a few more autographs and photos…but it’s not the same. I mentioned a few years ago the disturbing inflation creep I saw infiltrating Days of the Dead. It’s in full swing now. The handlers have become gatekeepers. They are in your face and you aren’t getting near the table without flashing some cash. $30 is the minimum for autographs (Many are more – and quite frankly, a lot of you B-listers don’t have any business charging that). Every table now charges extra to get a photo with a guest.That’s on top of the already high admission prices…
Guys, you’ve priced me out of the game.
I spent twice what I have in previous years, and it’s a drag. It’s almost stopped being fun. Between that and the overcrowding, unless there’s a bucket list guest (and that list is now pretty short), I think I’m done with Days of the Dead. It’s simply highly unlikely that I’ll be back.
A shame. It was fun while it lasted.
(Keep an eye on this blog. I think we’ll be doing a State of the Con pretty soon. Next years going to be different.)
First, right off the bat, I need to say two things; I’ve never NOT had a good time at Days of the Dead. Second, God bless the Hellraiser crew for keeping their autograph rates reasonable.
There’s something about Days that just feels more fan based, less like a cash grab. It’s always been well run and well put together. They consistently have great guests, good panels and a fun layout. I’ve been hitting Indy more often lately, its been a while since I hit Chicago. As I made the drive from Cleveland, I began to remember why. Still, in that time attendance here has grown significantly.
When I arrived, the hotel paring was full. I’ve never encountered that at Days before, but they were prepared. They waved me on, four driveways down, to a parking garage they had secured as free overflow parking. (This by the way, is an excellent example of how Days takes care of it’s attendees as opposed to say Horrorhound or Flashback. Those two shows both have the same issues with parking, and their reaction is pretty much “you’re on you own!” find some place, pay what you have to and then walk).
Inside, fans were shoulder to shoulder, the hallways jammed with people wall to wall. Moving about was difficult at best, but I managed to elbow my way into the guest room. Andrew Robinson was my first target, seated caddy corner from the rest of the Hellraiser crew. I’m a fan from not only Hellraiser, but also Star Trek and Pumpkinhead. He’s personable but definitely has a con personality.
The Hellraiser table was next, and my main target was Simon Bamford. Simon talks endlessly and goes out of his way to make you comfortable. He was enormously fun to chat with, talking about movies and the costumes that were passing by. (a big thanks to Cameron from Cincinnati who hung out in the line with me and took my photo with Simon). I’ve met the rest before but it was still fun to renew acquaintances. They were all astonished that I’d actually gotten to see the film recently on the big screen. One of my favorite moments was to see Nick the Chatterer with the people in front of me. The fan had a daughter in tow as he was getting his poster signed. She was playing with a doll on a toy scooter. The scooter broke at the table and Nick reached over to help the little girl put it back together. It was a beautiful moment.
I managed to catch both the Hellraiser panel as well as Dee Snider’s talk. I just heard Dee at Motor City Nightmares, but with new questions there was still a lot of stuff I’d never heard before. The tent they held the panels in was full, but still less crowded than the halls of the hotel. They have most definitely outgrown this venue and that’s a bit of a drag because I always prefer hotel cons to convention center shows, but at this point it was too crowded for me to be able to properly explore the vendors. I quickly added a signature to my Aliens poster and decided it was time for me to head back.
On my way out I stopped by Felissa Rose’s table just to mention to her that I had seen her recent film “Victor Crowley”, directed by Adam Green. I let her know it was enormous fun and she had given a great performance in it. Felissa’s eyes went wide as she took my hand to thank me. “That means SO much.” She turned to explain to her confused handler about how the movie had been shot in secret and one day Adam just kind of dropped it out of nowhere “Here, look what we made!” I waved goodbye with the distinct feeling I had just made her day. It certainly made mine.