Friday, March 16, 2012

How I Lost My Horror Convention Virginity: Thoughts on Days of the Dead Atlanta

This past weekend was an awakening for the Son of Celluloid. Ever since I was just a budding horror geek, a geeklet if you will, I had heard of a magical place where the horror geeks run free among their own kind. A place where the stars we’ve only seen on the bloody screen become real people that exist on the same plane as the fans. A place where everything you could ever want to buy is available. A place where drunken ramblings and impassioned debates about the most obscure b movies are the norm. Basically, there existed a natural habitat for me and the rest of the gorehounds; a place known as a horror convention. I had seen them advertised and seen glimpses of them on the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors video from long ago, but I had never experienced it. This weekend Days of the Dead finally brought a horror con to Atlanta (well, Peachtree City if you want to get technical about it), and let me tell you folks, it was everything I had dreamed it would be. Paradise really does exist. If you’ve never been to one of these, trust me, you have to.

I warn you, some of my recollections are pretty fuzzy, as there was a LOT of drinking going on, and I’m not going to bore you with my entire itinerary, but here are some of the highlights and random cool memories and thoughts…

-On the way to the room from checking in I ran into Amelia Kincaid from Night of the Demons and chatted with her for a few minutes. She was really cool, even though she kinda blew me off for an interview later in the weekend. That's ok, she was busy and I still love me some Angela.

-The weekend really got off to a killer start on Thursday night when First Jason, fronted by Ari Lehman, played at the pre-party. I’ve never seen someone shred like that on a keytar before. Well, it’s not actually a keytar, it’s a keyboard mounted on a giant machete. They played songs like “Jason is Watching” “Living Hell,” “Jason Never Dies,” and ended with a cool Edgar Allan Poe piece. After the show, I ended up out back getting stoned with a boy in a lake and a boy with a doll (I’ll let you figure that one out). Now THAT’S how you kick off a party!

-The weekend was all about networking and I made some great connections. I converted some new Cellmates and discovered that I already have a lot more Cellmates than I would have imagined. The filmmakers in attendance gave me some cool flicks I’ll be reviewing soon. I was also given some great items to give to you, so there will be giveaways galore coming up. I’d like to especially thank Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films. He hooked me up with some awesome DVDs and a copy of his book, Hellucination. It sounds intriguing as hell and it will be SOC’s first book review. Go check out THE UNEARTHED FILMS WEBSITE and peruse all of the cool stuff they have to offer. You won’t be disappointed.

-It seemed that every other time I stepped outside for a smoke, Laurence Harvey from Human Centipede 2 was out there too. He’s a great guy, and absolutely NOTHING like you might expect him to be. Someone else I kept running into out there was Neal and Troy from Without Your Head/In Your Head radio. I’ve been listening to both of those shows for a long time, and it was cool talking to those guys in person. Although, that footage Neal showed me was sorta disturbing…

-When I first got my press pass, the one thing I told everyone is that my main goal of the weekend was to interview Sid Haig. I’ve been going on about that for months. Well folks, I managed to do it. My first huge celebrity interview EVER was Captain Spaulding himself (no offense to anyone I've interviewed before). It was Sunday morning, we were both exhausted, hung over, and barely functioning, the lights kept going out, and people kept bumping into my camera woman, but I got my Sid Haig interview dammit. It’ll be on youtube as soon as I work out a couple of camera issues.

- I also interviewed Laurence Harvey, Mark Patton, Taaffe O’Connell, Nick Principe, and Sean Whalen. Everyone was cool as hell and very down to earth.

- I got my old, beat to hell, been-watched-god-knows-how-many-times VHS copy of Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowlorama signed by Linnea Quigley. She was very sweet. Another dream come true meeting.

- While I never support heckling at comedy shows, especially if you're hammered, Daniel (of EC3 fame) did get Rowdy Roddy Piper to say his classic line "It's always been my ass" from Immortal Combat. Yet another classic moment.

- The panels were great. I enjoyed the Scream Queens panel (What was the question?) and the Sid Haig/Bill Moseley panel (especially Sid’s story about being forced to drink blood laced with hallucinogens in a headhunter village in the Philippines), but my favorite had to be the Men Behind the Mask. These guys were funny as hell. Here’s a video of almost the entire panel. What you won’t see is at the end when I asked Tyler Mane what the craziest thing he saw backstage in WCW was. He sat for a full minute in stunned silence before turning backwards and saying “Tyler Mane isn’t here any more.” It was hilarious.

- At night, the whole thing becomes a killer party. Drunken madness reigns supreme. Imagine the biggest, craziest party you’ve ever gone to. Now imagine that everyone there is a horror freak, half of them in costume. Words can’t do it justice; you just have to be there.

- The Dear God No screening was packed and raucous as expected.

- PJ Soles is a sweet lady, but she kinda looked terrified when Nicole and I charged drunkenly (yeah, that’s an understatement) at her in the hallway screaming “PJ!”

- Um, what were the Trekkie, Stormtrooper, & Darth Vader cosplayers and a Steampunk booth doing at a horror con? Eh, whatever.

- I only had 30 bucks for merchandise, but I managed to get a Hellraiser puzzle cube, a Gold Key Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery comic from 1968, a piece of the chapel from Night of the Living Dead, and a cool Bates Motel keychain. Score! My dream item: an autograph dealer had Vincent Price’s signature for $175.

- Did I mention that the stack of screeners I walked away with is absolutely sick?

- The favored past time of the weekend quickly became trading stories about your encounters with the one and only Gary Busey. That's Daniel with his Buseyness. People asked me about this story a few times at the Splatter Cinema screening of The Beyond last night, so here it is once and for all; my Gary Busey story. On Friday, while my friends were getting their pictures with Sir Psycho of Busey, I pointed to his 8x10s and this exchange took place…

Me: “You ought to have a picture of you and that bad ass truck you drove in Succubus: Hell Bent.”

GB: “ I wasn’t in that picture.”

Me: “Sure you were. Remember, you played the Sentinel and you had that truck with the skulls…

GB: “No. That wasn’t me.”

Me: “I watched it three days ago.”

GD: (Glaring with the Busey death stare) “I’ll take your word for it.”

I decided at that point that I’d leave it alone and walk away. Also, in the dealer’s room we saw a guy selling some really cool knives he had made from railroad spikes. That will be important later. Anyway, I had just gotten my Linnea autograph and was taking it up to the room. When the elevator opened, there stood Gary Busey, holding one of the railroad spike knives. After a moment of debate, I entered the elevator with a knife wielding Gary Busey. I only had two floors to go. He turned his head and looked at me and our eyes locked. Now, I’ve always wondered if the whole “crazy” thing was an act that he played up for TV. I can say with the utmost certainty that it isn’t an act. In that moment when I looked into the eyes of Busey, I saw true madness. That man is off his damn rocker. He stared at me for a long moment, knife still clutched in hand, until the door opened. I, hoping he hadn’t remembered me, said “have a nice night Mr. Busey” and walked away. He just gave the slightest nod and silently watched me exit the elevator. Then the door closed and he was gone. It was by far the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. I had to have momentarily stepped into a movie, or maybe the Twilight Zone, as that was just too perfectly random to have happened in real life. I went back to the room, took a big shot of whiskey, and considered just how close to death I may have just been.

In other words, Days of the Dead Atlanta was the time of my life. Considering this was my first horror con, I really don’t have a frame of reference, but from what the vets I talked to told me, Days of the Dead was one of the best. I enjoyed it more than DragonCon, which is the closest thing I’ve experienced. If you’ve never been to one of these, you absolutely must see it for yourself. If you’ve been doing it for years, then you know what I’m talking about. I’d like to officially thank Adolfo and the rest of the staff for putting on a great show and allowing me to cover it. I’d also like to thank Leah, my personal assistant/camera woman/brain for the weekend. That's her with Sid Haig. Without her following me around with that ever present notebook, my drunken schmoozing would have been lost in the ether and no progress would have been made. I seriously owe you. Well Cellmates, there you have it, the story of when I lost my horror con virginity; which is an apt analogy because I’ll never forget my first time and now I’m obsessed with finding a way to do it as often as possible. Next year it will be March 1-3 at the Downtown Atlanta Sheraton. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.


Cash Wampum said...

Good times SOC!! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your awesome time at a cavalcade of horror ;)

Chris Hewson said...

Great post!

Cole said...

Two of the proudest moments of my life: Terrifying a woman who was killed by Michael Myers and waking up the next morning realizing that I owe Gary Busey an apology. The Con was epic, I had a ridiculously good time hanging with you guys and I have already started my count down to next year.

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