October 26, 2015

Con Experience: Chiller Theatre - Halloween 2015

Over the past few years there have been a few events that I truly look forward to. At the top of the list would have to be the Hudson Horror Show marathons of horror and exploitation films. However, close behind them would be the conventions, mostly Monster Mania and Chiller. This past weekend was Chiller, which I always try to hit for a day. I was successful in this goal, spending Saturday there with my sister, meeting celebrities, seeing friends, buying stuff, you know the drill. It was a day of chaos, lines, creepy folks in costumes, celebrity meeting, and more. This show isn’t for everyone, but I always manage to have a blast.

We arrived shortly before 9 in the morning, a bit earlier than usual, thanks to their recently expanded hours (which began, I believe, this past Spring). We parked in the office parking lot across the street from the Sheraton in Parsippany, NJ, and made our way to the hotel.

We made our way around the building and found the line of people waiting to get in, which included a friend who only made the trip to purchase one of Terry Cruikshank’s final creations. He was a very nice and talented man who sculpted and made dolls and figures based on horror films and pop culture (he also did sculpts for Charles Band’s Puppet Master films), he passed away a few years ago. His wife was at the convention for just a day to sell some dolls.

We walked around the back of the building and found the end of the line, which was thankfully a bit shorter and quicker moving than at past shows. Which is always a plus.

While waiting in line, I managed to drop my camera, breaking off the front cover and lens cover flaps. Fortunately, it still works perfectly fine, just have to be careful of the lens. Then I took this with my sister as we waited.

Once inside, we took a quick run through the vendor rooms, saying hi to some friends along the way before deciding that we should probably start getting in line for some autographs. We settled on the longest line of the day, Michael Rooker.

While waiting in line, I saw this young fellow dressed as Alice Cooper (his original band was in attendance). Unfortunately, I was unable to get a better shot of him.

Now, how do you find the end of a Rooker line? Look for the cheerful fellow with the sign…

As we got closer to the front of the line, we got a glimpse of the packed room known as the Living Room. There were a couple of people in there…

Also, while waiting, I caught glimpse of Joanie Laurer, better known as Chyna, talking with a fan. Possibly unrelated, but there were folks at the door with boxes of dvds, giving away copies of a movie starring Chyna and Anna Nicole Smith called Illegal Aliens to whoever got to close to them, some friends ended up with three or four copies.

Now, I did not wish to pay for a photo with Mr. Rooker (I had one with him from a few years back), but I did take a picture of him signing my Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer print by artist Christopher Ott. After signing, he looked up at me and said: “You know we lost him earlier this year.” He was referring to his co-star Tom Towles. I told him I had been fortunate to meet him and he was a very nice guy. For a second he seemed to get a touch emotional, then it was on to sign my sister’s Walking Dead poster and take a picture with her, after which he requested a big hug.

From there we took a quick pass around the rest of the room, we saw Lee Majors, Ralph Macchio, and Paul Sorvino at their tables, but the ones we were looking for, the voice cast of Beauty and the Beast were not there at the moment, so we moved onto the next room, Skyland. This room, much like the Living Room was filled with fans looking to meet the guests.

The first person we met was Madison Lintz, best known for playing Sophia on The Walking Dead way back in the second season. I had met her a few years ago, and it was striking how tall she had gotten, she must be closing on six feet tall! Here she is with my sister, and she is crouching in this photo!

We took a quick pass through the room and got in line for Barbara Crampton, who had not yet arrived. While waiting we saw a couple of Batman and Robin cosplayers, here they are taking a picture with Toni Hudson (best known for roles in Just One of the Guys and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3).

This led to my biggest starstruck moment of the day, Barbara Crampton. She has been in so many films that I am a fan of that I did not know what to say. We did talk about the prints I had for her to sign, including Chris Garafalo’s Chopping Mall print, a Japanese Reanimator (with the classy strategically placed blood splat, and a theatrical poster of You’re Next). She told me how she had left acting for a while prior to You’re Next and how it was originally this small film that got picked up and was fortunate to have been given bigger life. We also talked about We are Still Here, which I have yet to see and was based on Fulci’s House by the Cemetery. She is a wonderful person and I hope to get to meet her again. If only there wasn't that guy in the background between us...

Next up was Sybil Danning, another addition for my Rob Zombie’s Halloween poster. She was nice, although she seemed intent on selling more photos and DVDs from her table more than anything. Still, she still looks good!

Then as we walked into the main hallway to plot our next move, I ran into some friends, including one I had never met in person! Of course, we had to commemorate the occasion! This is a big reason to have fun at these, beyond the celebrities and the merch, there are the friends.

We then made our way back into the Living Room to see if the Beauty and the Beast folks were there yet. While we did that, we saw this great Walking Dead cosplay of Carol as a Wolf and a Wolf.

Here is Robby Benson, the voice of Beast in Beauty and the Beast. He seemed nice, but was not that talkative.

Next is Richard White who voiced Gaston. He was a pretty lively guy, but we did not really chat much with him.

Here is a picture I was able to snag of Lee Majors at his table in between folks looking to meet him.

We then made our way back to the Skyland room to see if Veronica Cartwright was back at her table, fortunately she was! We talked about Alien and how they knew the chestburster was coming, but they did not know what, exactly, so they were all curious and she leaned right into a blood jet, the take you see in the movie. She was great.

My sister wanted to meet Chris Marquette, so we went to his table next. Surprisingly, he remembered meeting me at Monster Mania a year or two ago. He liked to hear mention of Joan of Arcadia, and especially about Fanboys.

As we continued our trek, we ran into our old pal Pennywise, always ready to stop for a photo.

The next person I went to meet was the first name to attract me to this Chiller’s lineup, Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Godfather of Gore. I mentioned the Vinegar Syndrome release of a few “nudie cutie” films he made. His handler was like “We don’t talk about those movies” and Lewis told of how someone had come to him and said somebody was using his name to make dirty movies back in the day, as he had a legitimate career in marketing, he said he’d sue the guy! He was very gracious and I was happy to meet the man behind Blood Feast, The Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls. and more.

Now, once you see him once, you will see Pennywise everywhere! Here he is creeping out my sister.

Also in attendance were folks involved with Frankenhooker! If you have not seen it, you should. The first person I met was James Lorinz. The guy is a blast, dressed in his doctor’s outfit and having a great time interacting with fans, suggesting a Lorinz Film Festival. He also liked to take a few photos with each of us, doing multiple poses. There is the classic smiling one:

Then he grabbed my beard, to which I gave him a stare…

Then there is the looking for a heartbeat “I think I hear some ZZ Top in there…”

Next to him is Frankenhooker herself, and former Penthouse Pet, Patty Mullen. I have met her before and she is really cool. After the photo, I mentioned that I really liked Doom Asylum, the movie she made prior to Frankenhooker. She lit up and got out a small photo of her on the set of the film and signed it to me, telling me there are not many of those photos.

The last person in this room to meet was none other than Frankenhooker director Frank Henenlotter, who also made the Basket Case trilogy, Brain Damage, and Bad Biology. I mentioned looking forward to a 35mm screening of Brain Damage he will be at this week and he said it is too bad the print is cut, apparently all the 35’s are cut. He said he would bring a DVD to show us all the stuff we missed.

What was that about Pennywise being everywhere?

The next line was the longest, timewise (Rooker had the most people). We must have been in this line for two hours. It was to get into the Lost in Space room. We had the unfortunate timing of getting in line as they were taking a break and doing the paid photo ops outside at the Lost in Space chariot. Still, once we got in, it moved pretty quick. There were a couple of really snazzy robot replicas:

The one person I wanted to meet in this room, Bill Mumy. He was Will Robinson on Lost in Space, but more notable for me was Lennier on Babylon 5, he also did an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, so I had him sign my Trek poster.

After meeting Bill Mumy, I went across the hall to the Batman room. Adam West was not there at the time, but Burt Ward was talking to some fans. I wasn’t there for them, I was there for Julie Newmar. She was sitting all regal-like at her table. Now, I do not have any photos in here, as her price was way too steep and the handlers in the room were being jerks to anyone seen with a camera, so I didn’t even try for a signing photo. She seemed nice enough, I had her sign my Star Trek poster and left.

Outside the hotel they had a roped off section with the Lost in Space Chariot and a selection of Bat-vehicles. Sure, all were replicas, but they all looked pretty darn good.

We went back inside to finish our circuit. I took a photo of a spiffy looking maggot-eye zombie model kit based on Fulci’s Zombi, and a skeleton hanging on a display.

As we left I spied this license plate, I suspect it is that of Sara Karloff, Boris’s daughter who is a regular at Chiller.

And finally, a parting shot of the hotel as we left, exhausted and broke.

Can’t wait until spring!

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