Quantcast Chiller Spring October 27th-29th 2006 review

Mike Attends Chiller—Sacrifices Virgins to Convention Experience.

The Chiller Theater Convention isn't what it used to be. This is a good/bad thing depending on what kind of fan you are. Over the years Chiller Theater has evolved from the horror convention that set the standard to a pop culture convention spanning everything from horror and sci-fi, but now also 80's sitcoms, classic rock, and assorted variety of truly classic stars and an even more mix bag of barely z-list kitsch “celebrities”. However, as the guest lists get bigger and bigger (and better, there were some top-notch, unique guests attending) Chiller has increasingly become an overwhelming and often times frustrating experience for its patrons.

The guest list for this year was big enough when it was first announced, and guests were added seemingly by the dozens each week as the convention drew closer. This October Chiller boasted 3 top-of-the-line guests that I'd never seen at a convention: Anthony Michael Hall, Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Ruebens, and KISS member Peter Criss. I immediately had flashbacks to the October 2003 show which boasted an impressive line-up—and a three-hour plus wait just to get in the guest tent. Pre-show tickets (the ones that get you in an hour earlier) were going to be a must. In fact, advance tickets were going to be a must (always are for Chiller). So you can only imagine my dismay when I realized I'd missed the mail-order deadline for tickets. On top of that, I was going to be attending Chiller not with the experienced Icons crew, but Holly, our new intern, and her boyfriend Mike, and my boyfriend Mark. They had no idea what they were in for! And....we were going on Saturday.

Superheros in the off-season

“Fudge it, Mike! Tell them to wear cozy shoes, comfortable pants, bring food and act like you got that ticket thing under control,” I said to myself. So, as Saturday drew near I assured my convention virgins that everything was absolutely in place for a wonderful day. Of course, by this point Holly was more the wiser. “Chiller? Oooh, he's taking you to the rough one,” a friend of hers had warned.

Pre-show tickets or no show tickets!
Well, we arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (a location change for Chiller from the usual Sheraton down the road) with exactly 30 minutes to spare before pre-show began. It was pouring out and the hotel lobby was already completely mobbed with fans waiting in line to get general admission tickets. Seriously, it wasn't even really a line, I couldn't tell you where it even started, or for that matter, where any of these people thought they were going to end up. This could have been a line that ended at the toilet for all these people knew. Well, I lucked out. I lucked out big time. I found a staff member and asked where the line was for pre-show tickets. He pointed me out to a guy right behind me who was selling them out of his pocket. Ten minutes and $120 lighter, everyone on the team had their pre-show bracelets while the rest of the hoi-polloi was still looking for where the lines began. “See...”, I told my soaking wet, pale, and shivering charges: “I know these people”. Nice save!

Another 10 minutes and pre-show began. I told Holly, Mike and Mark to follow around quickly. We'd use the hour to get the layout of the show and map out our battle plan for the day. We headed into the main dealer room. Look, it's simple, bitch and moan as I may about how crowded Chiller gets, about how they pack too many guests in, whatever. There is NOTHING in my convention going experiences that EVER comes close to rivaling the Chiller Theater dealer room. There is simply no finer array of vendors of geeky delights out there.

You want a bottle of Lost-inspired “Dharma Initiative” bottled water: You got it. You've been looking for a Creature From The Black Lagoon toilet cozy? Step right over here, buddy. Rare movies? You name it someone will have it. I even saw dozens of copies of “Death Ship” C'mon...you didn't think I'd stop talking about it just because I found it 2 shows ago, did you? Really now, it's a point of pride for me, I didn't spend 4 years begging every vendor to carry “Death Ship” for nothing, right?

The diaper. You pooped in it and we came. Now you must come with us.

A million emotional scars just waiting to happen...

With my impeccable, military-style leadership abilities I immediately lost track of Holly and Mike. Mark was sticking by in case he saw anything he thought I might happen to like to buy him. Hey, buddy! That wad of cash is for “celebrity” autographs, which after regrouping we were off to find.

First on my list was Lori “Tank Girl” Petty, but we got sidelined by the amazing room that McFarlane Toys had set up. Check out the Lost toys and Spawn bust. They're awesome.

Tommy Lee Wallace and Mike C. sing the Silver Shamrock song.
I couldn't find Lori Petty, but the first star we ran into was Tommy Lee Wallace. He was Michael Myers for a moment or two in the original “Halloween” and directed “It” and “Halloween III”. I had him sign my copy of “Halloween III” ($20) and he also posed for a picture (included in autograph price). After praising “Halloween III”, I asked Wallace how he looks back on the experience. “Well, at first it was, to be honest, painful”, but went on to say that he hears from fans all the time about the film and he feels vindicated.

Things were starting to get crowded at this point, especially on the second floor where the majority of the guests were kept in small, very hot, conference rooms. We headed back downstairs and found a much calmer scene in the 2nd guest room. I was immediately able to score an autograph and picture with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” star John DeLancie (“Q”). Autograph was $20 and he gladly posed for a picture at no additional charge. This was an exciting moment for me, since “Q” is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi characters, and John was the first person I'd ever met from any “Star Trek” series or movie. I asked him why the “Q” character was never incorporated into the “Next Generation” feature films. He couldn't have put it better: “Well...they're morons!”

After breaking with the Q-Continuum, Mark and myself got on the line to meet Anthony Michael Hall. We were immediately barraged by an assistant of his imploring us to get on his personal mailing list and who wouldn't stop telling us that Anthony was really into music and was working on some hip-hop project. Ok. Thanks. Not really. We finally made our way to Anthony's table and were a little surprised to see he was asking $50 to sign your own item. Even by Chiller standards that's a bit steep. Autographed 8x10s were $25, a picture with him an additional $25. Mark put his “Edward Scissorhands” DVD away and he went for the photo, and I went for the 8x10. After this we realized the $50 price for your own item was only if you wanted just Anthony Michael Hall's name on the item. If he personalized it, that was the “standard” (grumble, grumble) $25.

We weren't getting on that line again though. I'd had enough of his assistant! We ran back upstairs where I found “Phantom of the Paradise”, “Chud II” and “Child's Play II” star Gerrit Graham. We chatted a bit about “Phantom”, which is one of my favorite films of all time and for that reason alone I ponyed up the additional $15 for a picture with him on top of the $20 for the autograph. This violates a usually strict policy of not paying an additional fee for a picture. I geeked out. Grumble again.
Next we tried to get to some of the guests that were located in yet another part of the hotel. Ok, this led to some major confusion. I really can't blame this too much on the Chiller Theater staff. For Friday they had a guest tent set up to house most of the guests attending. Unfortunately, due to high winds the tent was not able to be used on Saturday. They had to move all the guests and sort of make it up as they went along. So, the Chiller Theater programs listing where the guests were signing was pretty much useless. Hey, acts of God, you know? I mean, what are you going to do, right?

We hate the Supreme Court!
So we stumbled along and found the rest of the guests on a mezzanine level of the lobby and another ballroom. This is where I met “Three's Company” star Joyce DeWitt. I also found John Water's regular Mink Stole (does “Serial Mom” count as horror, because I think it does). See how cozy I am with Joyce? It's like we've been friends forever, but hey, I've been knockin' on her door for 28 years! Both were very gracious, both look fantastic. $20 for 8x10s with picture included.

Look who I found at the Regal Beagle!

We also ran into Paul Ehlers who played Madman Marz in the often overlooked 80's slasher “Madman”. This is the film that's most notable for starring Gaylen Ross, who though rather recognizable in this period for her work in “Dawn of the Dead” and “Creepshow”, appeared in “Madman” under the name “Alexis Dubin”. Since I'd failed to get an answer out of Gaylen a few years ago I asked Paul if he knew why she didn't use her real name. Paul said most likely because it was a non-union shoot. However, he mentioned an odd story a fan told him. Apparently Gaylen is still shying away from her appearance in “Madman”. Paul had a giant bust of Madman Marz on his table that a fan gave him. When the fan, at another convention, showed the bust to Gaylen, she became incredibly uncomfortable and refused to sign it. Wow, 25 years on, what gives Gaylen? Write us, babe, let's chat.

Ok, by this point it was getting very crowded. We broke for lunch, but when we got back to the hotel we found that the hotel was so crowded that we had to now wait, in, and pardon my language, a giant clusterfuck outside the hotel for some people to clear out. Look—Chiller guys—STOP OVERSELLING THE GODDAMN SHOW! We waited a half-hour to get back into the convention. My last stop: Finally meeting Lori Petty. I got a picture of her from Tank Girl, but, er, wasn't going to part with an additional $25 for a “photo-op” as her manager called it. That was it. It was a long, exhausting day of pushing through crowds, and waiting on lines, and my now experienced intern, and our friends were tired. I was tired too, but I was also out close to $400. Ouch! Oh, and we never found Paul Reubens! Bummer!

A few weeks later, I'm looking back on this Chiller fondly. It was great breaking a bunch of noobs into the experience, but really, they're trying to pack way too much into these conventions. I think in the future I'll be heading to Chiller to catch one or two guests and that's it. To try to get to all the great guests would have cost me hundreds more dollars and probably several more hours. – Mikec.

Mike trying to figure out where Paul Reubens is...

McFarlane Toys!!!

Don't make me go geeky. You wouldn't like me when I'm geeky...

"First Chiller, NOW the Jersey Turnpike?!"

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