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Today's conventions. Where did it all go wrong? (Jan.05) by Robg.

"That'll be $20 dollars please."

There was a time when you only heard these words at a horror convention when it came time to pay for either a long out of print video, or perhaps a bootleg DVD or even a rare collectible or toy. But as of late, this has become the norm for almost every guest encounter. Where did it all go wrong?

Back when I was a kid, the only conventions I was aware of were the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors shows. And all of them ALWAYS took place in the big city. Manhattan. I remember being about 12 years old when I went to my first Fango convention. Going into the city at that age was always an adventure in itself. But I remember distinctly paying one set price for admission, and not paying for one single autograph from any of the guests. I'm sure you're thinking, well... who was there?

My first convention experience, I met Robert Englund (Freddy), Kane Hodder (Jason), Angus Scrimm (Phantasm's Tall Man), Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Robert Z' Dar (Maniac Cop) and a dozen other great guests. And every one of them spoke at a panel and then signed. For FREE. I was treated to the first look at Sam Raimi's new Evil Dead film (Army Of Darkness) and Batman Returns. And all for the simple admission price to get in. (Which was probably around $15 bucks or so.)

Fast forward to now. These shows for some reason haven't been able to secure a stable venue to host their conventions in New York, so we've been forced to attend cons in the New Jersey area. I remember first going to a con in Jersey a few years back & although I enjoyed it, I was kinda bummed when guests asked me for $5 bucks to sign my own item. I can completely understand if a celebrity goes thru the trouble of printing out their own exclusive 8 x 10 photos and wants to recoup costs for them and at the same time, maybe make a little bit of a profit. But I don't understand why so many people charge to sign something that we bring from home. Something that we've already paid for. Isn't this our way of supporting these people whom we respect and admire? By buying their movies, showing them to friends and in turn getting them to buy them too? And thru-out the years, it's only gotten worse. Both with huge attendence problems leading to crowd control issues and a steady increase in everyone's autograph costs. Where did it all go wrong?

The last few conventions's I attended, I spent somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 hours waiting in line to enter the celebrity tent. Now, EVERY guest charges a minimum of $20 for an autograph on either their item or one that I brought with me from home. And some have even gone as far to charge extra if you'd like to pose with them for a picture. And to top it off, everyone of these cons is in Jersey. (No offense to our Jersey friends & fans, but there's something special about having these events in the city.) Pinch me if I'm dreaming, but doesn't this bother anyone else out there?

Granted, the event organizers always say that you don't have to purchase an item to say hello to a celebrity, but I always feel that most (and not all) but most of these people truly don't have any interest in talking to me unless I'm buying something or paying for an autograph. What happened to the days when these people would speak at an open panel and then afterwards, they'd WANT to meet their fans? You know, the people that go support their movies and genuienly respect the work they do.

The most recent trend of charging extra for a picture is also a bit heartbreaking to the average fan. I always feel, 'Well, I already paid $20 bucks for my DVD sleeve to be autographed. And when else am I going to be able to meet this person? I suppose I should just pay the extra few dollars and get a picture.'

It's not that I'm in any way, shape or form trying to put down the convention curcuit. I love going to the cons. I'm a huge genre fan. (Creating this site with Mike is proof of that.) And I love meeting and talking with both fans and celebrities. But in today's day and age, money is an issue for everyone. It's difficult, especially when the admission price is now over $20 dollars. And it seems unfair to pay $20 to wait 3 hours to get into a tent to drop another hundred if you want to meet 5 people. And then wait another hour to get into the vendor's rooms to spend even more money. Where's the fun in that?

I can only guess that part of the problem is a mix between fear of ebay and maybe a small touch of greed. In today's day, you can go on ebay or a number of other internet related sites to buy autographs. (Although I don't know too many people that would want to buy a DVD that's personalized "To Robg...")

Another thing I've noticed is that a lot of my girl friends go to these conventions, just to go. And they don't really have too much interest in the guests. But when they DO meet some of the celebrities, NONE of them get charged for a picture.

My whole point of this article is to point out something that maybe some people either forgot or some people aren't even aware of. It wasn't always like this. I pray for the return of an old school Fangoria con to show people how these events SHOULD be.

Either that, or we'll just have to put together an Icons Of Fright convention. -robg.

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