April 29, 2015

Con Experience: Chiller Spring 2015

This past weekend I made my biannual pilgrimage to Parsippany, NJ, for the Chiller convention. It has never been as fun as Monster Mania, but the day I spend there is always a lot of fun. This time, though, was a little different. The big change from events past is that I went on a Sunday, something I had never done before. My work schedule had changed and I now work on Saturday, so rather than take a day off I went on Sunday, and that turned out to be a great choice for me (probably not so much for the celebrity guests and vendors).

The first thing we noticed upon our arrival was the relatively short line to get in. The past number of shows have had lines that wrapped around the building and created a nightmare of elbow to elbow congestion once you got inside (if you got inside, as you can be sure there was a fire marshal monitoring everything). This time we got in with ease and could move about freely without any trouble at all. The theories for the light crowd began with it being a Sunday, moved to a not very exciting guest list (when learning that Saturday was light as well), and ended with the idea that the crowds left a sour taste and people decided not to come back. However you want to look at it, I still had a great time and there were more than enough folks that I wished to meet.

It should also be noted that the prices are still continuing to rise. This is not a good thing. The worst being the appearance of separate fees to take a photo with the guests. I can sort of understand rising autograph prices, but that should include a picture with them with my own camera. This seems to be spurred on by the arrival of pro photo op companies and the plethora of managers and agents (some of which still do a great job keeping things reasonable for the fan).

Anyway, we got inside and took a peek around the celebrity rooms and found not ,any were at their tables yet, so we took a pass around the vendor rooms to get the lay of the land. The offerings were slightly different than at past shows, but you still had the familiar offerings of toys, figures, models, posters, movies, and crafted goods. I certainly took advantage of Sunday deals (another advantage of Sunday, you can find vendors with more sales or willing to deal).

So, after a pass through the vendor room (where I picked up a sweet die cast USS Reliant) we made our way back to the rooms with the celebrity guests. The first table we stopped at was that of Robert Maillet, who has appeared in films such as 300 and Pacific Rim, as well as the television show The Strain, not to mention a former WWE wrestler known as Kuurgan. The guy is big and soft spoken. Not overly talkative, but a nice fellow who towered over my sister.

We moved down the line to where Robbi Morgan was. She was one of my most anticipated guests. She was one of the first victims in the Friday the 13th franchise. She played Annie, the counselor who never made it to the park and one of my favorite characters from that film. She was very happy to meet fans and I had fun talking with her about a visit I made to the original locations.

Our next stop was Lee Meriwether, 1955 Miss America and Catwoman from the 1966 Batman film. She also featured in a third season episode of Star Trek (The Original Series), so I was looking to have her sign my Star Trek poster. She was pleasant and gracious and still looks great. I would recommend anyone meet her.

Moving around the room we went to Mat Fraser’s table, he has risen to fame as a cast member of American Horror Story - Freakshow. Never having seen the show, I was caught offguard by his arms. That aside, the guy was pretty awesome and seemed to be having a great time. My sister talked with him about the time it took to apply his character’s tattoos, which ranged from 2.5-4.5 hours, depending on how much was seen in the scene.

We moved on to a couple more that my sister wanted to meet in Z Nation cast members Russell Hodkinson and Anastasia Baranova. They were awesome, and that is coming from someone who has yet to watch the show. I ended up having a conversation with Russell about beard oils, as he has a beard for the show, something he has never had before. With Anastasia, it was a discussion of how I am a terrible human being for now watching… yet.

Next I met Ike Eisenman, who starred in Escape to Witch Mountain. He was a nice guy, I had him sign my Star Trek poster for his role in my favorite Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan. While I unrolled the poster, he fell silent as his gaze darted around the poster, looking at all the other names I have obtained.

Right across the aisle was Linda Miller, who was making her first ever convention appearance. She was having a great time and told me that she did not know these shows even existed before. She was in the TOHO film King Kong Escapes, in which she starred with Akira Takarada (Gojira). It was one of only two film appearances, and her only substantial role.

We moved on to another room full of celebrities and met Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason. He was pretty cool, chatting about how they played up the water fear in the film more than in prior series entries. Kane Hodder will always be Jason to me, but Ken did a pretty good job.

I moved on to Michael Parks, who was looking really bad. Seriously, I felt kind of bad as he sat there looking a lit like a zombie. It was not until afterwards that I found out he was sick and recently went through a third or fourth round of chemo. I am glad he seemed happy to hear me say he was the absolute best part of Tusk and Red State.

We then moved on to another room to meet Dolly Read and Marcia McBroom of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls fame. I have to say, these two were a highlight. They were just absolutely full of life. It didn’t hurt that they loved my beard (which was a trend throughout the day). They were just having a blast and I am so glad that I decided to meet them (there were on my maybe list for a long time).

Also in attendance was Michael Gross, from Family Ties and Tremors. I was actually surprised by how friendly he was. I am not sure why, but I was not expecting it. He pulled out a small tablet and showed us a bunch of candid photos from the set of Tremors 5, in which he is starring with Jamie Kennedy. We talked briefly about the effects and how they will be primarily CGI instead of practical.

Mindy Sterling was also there, and my sister went to meet her. I did not have any interaction with her, but she also looked to be having a great time.

On our way out of this room, I caught sight of the life size replica of the Maria robot from Metropolis. Sweet.

From there we spent some time in the vendor room again. I picked up a couple of disks from a death metal act, Eye of the Destroyer. We also talked to the Gray Matter Art guys about their prints and the show special design from Quiltface Studios celebrating Chopping Mall.

After the vendors, we made our way back to one of my most anticipated guests, Dick Miller. We did not go to him right away, as we were still thinking about what we wanted to get signed and whatnot. This man has had a long and amazing career and surprisingly did not have a line. At all. He was a pleasure to meet, He was not all that talkative, but still looking good for being 86 years old!

We then went back to one of the earlier celebrity rooms so I could meet Jennifer O’Neill. I would have met her earlier, but I was disappointed to see she did not have any pictures from The Psychic at her table, so I went around the vendor room looking for something, and came up empty, so I went with a picture from Scanners. She was very nice and gracious and I am glad to get a moment to share my love for The Psychic, which she said was one of her weirdest films.

We went back to the vendor room and picked up those Chopping Mall prints and happened to run into Mr. Quiltface himself, Chris Garafalo. It was great seeing him and talking about the print and the con in general before heading back into the fray.

We took those prints and went to meet the writer/director Jim Wynorski. He was a funny guy and seemed to love meeting people who enjoy his films. he also really liked the Chopping Mall print we had.

After that, we headed to the mezzanine level, where many of the artists are. We paid a visit to Joel Robinson, who seemed to be doing all right despite the small crowds. We moved on to the rooms filled by McFarlane Toys, only to find pretty much everything on sale. I picked up an old Spawn II and Curse of Spawn figures for only $5 each.

On our way back down the hall I finally decided to stop in Ed Repka’s room. He is the man behind a lot of classic album covers like Death’s Spiritual Healing and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace. I picked up a signed Peace Sells print and a Darth Vader trading card he did.

With that, we made one more pass through the vendor rooms, picked up a couple more things, like a cool Skele-Trek Kirk figure and a diecast Star Wars Landspeeder. Once we passed through there, we headed out. Vendors were breaking down, stars were packing up and Chiller was coming to an end.

Overall, it was a very successful day. Met a lot of cool stars, ran into a bunch of friends, picked up some cool stuff and left exhausted, just the way it should.

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