Monday, April 28, 2008

The horror, the horror

Two years ago, Sean and Curtis completed making their first horror movie, Death Valley. A couple of weeks ago, a film distribution company expressed interest in distributing it. The boys learned that the company was going to have a booth at Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors and decided it might be a good idea to meet the film distributors; they asked Norman and me, both horror fans, if we wanted to go with them, and we both jumped at the chance to get out of the Burbank-Pasadena corridor -- all four of us have been coping with a nasty cold for days, and an afternoon spent out and about, actually doing something, sounded like fun. At this point, however, I must ask you, what kind of moron goes to a horror convention and forgets her camera? Me, that's who. So, sorry folks, no visual aids.

The Weekend of Horrors was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The only time I've been to the L.A. Convention Center has been for Book Expo America, or BEA, the bookselling world's annual convention. It's a huge extravaganza that takes up the entire convention center; you can't possibly see all of it in one day, and your feet are killing you by the time you leave at night. I had hopes that Fangoria had pulled together this sort of show, but alas, the main event was held in a single hall, with panel discussions and screenings somewhere else nearby. Several other conventions were going on in adjoining halls, including Adult Con, a show for fans of porn.

We got there at around 11:15, shortly after the doors opened. I had worn my "Haddonfield Hackers" baseball jersey in the spirit of the event, but I quickly realized, yet again, what an amateur I am when it comes to horror: I lack the piercings, tattoos, colored-and-spiked hair, and wardrobe to make any kind of a statement. Many of the surgically-enhanced goth gals making their rounds of the floor appeared to have wandered over from the porn convention next door. I suppose they're all used to spending their days dressed and decorated like queens of an underworld ball, but my main thought, when I saw their various tall, pointy, and/or heavy-looking footwear, was, "Ouch!" 40EE breasts don't faze me, but uncomfortable shoes make me wince.

Sean and Curtis almost immediately found the movie distributor's booth and started chatting up the owner, so Norman and I started cruising the aisles, checking out the horror goods. There was a disappointing lack of variety in the merchandise for sale -- lots of super-cheap direct-to-DVD horror films, posters, t-shirts, and comic books, with a few gothwear and jewelry booths to spice up the mix. Everything was black, naturally, punctuated by white and splashes of red. It seems hard to believe, but the sight of so many things designed to shock, all displayed one after the other, can actually become quite monotonous.

There were a number of celebrities there, all willing to sign autographs and pose for photos -- for a price. We heard Richard "Jaws" Kiel tell some fans that one autograph was twenty bucks, but a second one could be had for only an additional ten dollars. Robert Picardo, so memorable in The Howling, sat at a table with two attractive young women; he wasn't doing a lot of business, but he seemed cheerful. Norman and I scurried by George Kosana, who played the sheriff in Night of the Living Dead, trying not to make eye contact; he seemed lonely. The star who attracted the biggest crowd was, no surprise, George A. Romero (I myself was impressed by his eyeglasses), but the celebrity sighting that most thrilled me was David Naughton, who starred in An American Werewolf in London (and, probably more famously, those Dr. Pepper commercials). Mr. Naughton has aged wonderfully, with an impressive head of salt-and-pepper hair, and my heart gave a little flip every time I saw him. He'd been stuck ignominiously in a back corner of the convention hall, but he, too, seemed sanguine. I should have brought my Werewolf poster for him to sign! Next time, baby, next time.

The people-watching was entertaining. As I said, the boys and I, being dressed more or less "normally," were kind of the oddities. One young man, dressed entirely in black, wore a military-style gas mask that covered most of his face. Norman and I speculated whether it was a necessity or a costume; we envisioned tearing it from his face to see if he'd start gasping for breath, and when I told Norman I'd pay him ten bucks to do it, he seemed game: "His life is worth less to me than that."

"All right, then, five bucks!" I said. Norman waved me off as a nuisance.

We walked by a fellow on his cell phone, asking plaintively, "Where are the strippers, Becky?" Next door at Adult Con, dummy. Norman was taken with a conventiongoer's t-shirt advertising a movie called Eroticide; he was particularly amused by the film's tagline, "Safe Sex Kills." I picked up a flyer for something and stuck it in Norman's breast pocket so that its attention-grabbing tagline, "I [heart] vagina," was showing. Norman considered it for a moment, then nodded and said, "Maybe it's time to stop being vague. Lotta good that's done me." A man at a DVD booth called to me, "Hey, lady, have some candy," holding out a bowl of Hershey's miniatures. When I declined, he whined, "Aw, come on. Everyone likes candy." We hurried away, with Norman muttering something about the last thing I should do is accept candy from strangers at a horror convention.

By then we had made a complete circuit of the convention floor. We had run into Derek and Jennifer, two of my former co-workers who are now married, and had a delightful time catching up. Sean and Curtis finished their chat with the film distributors and we made another round of the floor with them. We stopped at a booth I hadn't noticed on our first go-round, run by an outfit called The Freak Show Deluxe. There, we watched an outgoing fellow perform a human blockhead act by pounding a six-inch nail into his nostril, which he then pulled out again and gave a small lick. Wow! On that note we decided to go to lunch.

We dined at The Pantry, which I always enjoy. Their food is never quite as tasty as I expect it to be, but I like the atmosphere and the service is always fine. I had the country-fried steak dinner and finished with an order of custard. Custard! You just don't find that on the menu too often. The waitress plonked a bowl of fluorescent orange something down in front of me, said, "Here's your custard," then disappeared. It looked hideous -- it looked like macaroni and cheese without the macaroni. Seriously, it looked like a bowl of melted Velveeta. It was by far the most frightening thing I'd seen all day! I ate it all.


Caveman said...

I would be in the same boat as you guys.

People who are in nothing but black in a cramped convention hall don't seem to be all there...

...I liked Robert Picardo

Will said...

That Richard Kiel autograph is a bargain when you consider that he was in Eeegah!