Written by: Brent R. Oliver
Day Two of the ScareFest I pretty much just sat around in rooms full of my heroes. With the recorder app on my phone going so goddamn hard it smoked. They probably aren’t great recordings, because I was in large rooms just hopefully pointing my phone’s mic in the general direction of George Romero. Who is an incredibly sweet man, by the way, as well as an adept speaker and storyteller.
So I’m going to give you the day’s recap here and then spend this week sifting through the recordings for the best bits to write about. Or I’ll turn it on and just hear a bunch of white noise with the occasional tantalizing whiff of George’s voice in the background.
As you may have guessed from two mentions in two paragraphs, the first thing that happened to me on Saturday was I got to hang out with George Romero. And by “hang out,” I mean “be near.” I was in a large space stuffed to the max with other horror nerds — some of them in costume — and George was up front at a table with the moderator.
The second thing that happened to me on Saturday was getting asked to leave. Not the convention, thankfully, just my seat. I had a press pass hung around my neck and I was pretty certain that was a golden ticket to wherever the fuck I pleased. So I plopped down in the front row and did my “I’m about to meet George Romero” dance. Thirty seconds later someone with a “Staph” badge (get it? very cute) evicted me. Turns out, there really were Golden Tickets and I didn’t have one. Nor did I have a Platinum Ticket, but I was sitting in their seats. First two rows were reserved for the Platinums, next four rows for the Goldens.
“But I’m press,” I said, holding up my pass like it was the cure for cancer.
“Yes, that’s very fancy,” the staph member told me. “Now head on back there with the rest of the poor weirdos. These seats are for the rich weirdos.”
Grumbling seemed in order so I did that while I moved my broke ass back with the commoners. Then I watched the staph member evict a couple of guys carrying a Sherpa-load of camera equipment. It looked like they’d be able to snap pics of George if he were on Mars. Which was handy, because they weren’t allowed to sit up front either, although they left with considerably less press pass waving and muttering.
They were in for further depression, though. By George’s decree, there was no photography allowed during the Q&A. We were told several times that if any of us were caught taking pictures with any of our devices, we would be tossed out.
“And spanked,” the moderator added. “Though I bet quite a few of you would enjoy it.”
“I’ll let you spank me,” I called. “Will that get me a couple pics of George?”
The moderator eyed me and said “Why is it always dudes?”
He walked away. I didn’t take any pictures of Mr. Romero.
So instead I just sat there for an hour listening to one of the giants of our genre spinning tales, recounting favorite projects, and simply being too awesome for words. He really was amazing.
After that I had about ninety minutes before the next Q&A so I walked onto the convention floor and screamed “Okay — take my money!”
Six t-shirts, a hat, and almost a new tattoo later, it was time for the Phantasm panel. Reggie Banister, A. Michael Baldwin, Kathy Lester, Bill Thornbury, and Don Coscarelli, were there to make me swoon. Angus Scrimm was also supposed to be present but he cancelled due to sickness. However, even under the weather and eighty-nine years old, he still managed to join us and participate by phone.
These people were a family. They’ve made five Phantasm movies over thirty-five years and they’re close. I could tell by the way they interacted and it warmed my heart to see such love and camaraderie from people in a film series I adore that is often overlooked and ignored.
Yes, I said five Phantasm films. The conclusion to the series, Phantasm: Ravager, is supposed to be out this year, although Don Coscarelli refused to discuss it at all. But he did it in an endearing way that made me love him even more. He’s not directing this one but he is producing it.
The next Q&A panel represented yet another of my favorites from yesteryear: Fright Night. Amanda Bearse, William Ragsdale, and Stephen Geoffreys were there live and in color. And, a special treat, director Tom Holland jumped in via Skype.
While maybe not as close as the Phantasm folks since they only made the one film together, the Fright Nighters were nonetheless a tight-knit crew. Part of that was because of something pretty unusual for a Hollywood movie: rehearsal. Tom Holland brought them all together two weeks before filming began to rehearse. They had tons of great stories, including one about making a plaster cast of Amanda’s boobs in order to create enhancements for her character Amy after she got all vamped and sexy.
But the biggest highlight of my second — and turns out, final — day of ScareFest, was the last Q&A panel titled “Men Of Horror.” Well, shit, that could mean anything or anybody. In this case, it meant Robert Mukes from House of 1000 Corpses, Ari Lehman, who played Jason Voorhees as a little boy in Friday the 13th, and Sid Haig, whom you might recognize from fucking EVERYTHING.
It was late in the day and some of the formalities fell apart. As per usual, the front six rows were reserved for the elite so I took my grumbly seat in the seventh. There were quite a few people there but almost no Platinum or Golden Ticket holders taking their prime spots. So the staph told everyone they could sit wherever they wanted.
Like grade school kids at recess we bolted, shoving, kicking, and screaming, towards the coveted seats. One large, dusty, clusterfuck later, we all slammed into the front two rows and I was face to face with Sid, who did not look good, Robert Mukes, who looked enormous, and Ari, who looked like a gay pirate gypsy. I mean, seriously. Sunglasses, a twirly mustache, black pants, black leather vest, topped with a brown leather jacket with fringe? Not the Jason Voorhees look, y’all.
I couldn’t have had more fun, though. There was no moderator on the panel, since we were all so close, so instead we just had a conversation with these guys. People yelled out questions and they just sat back and talked to us. Robert was a humble guy who came to acting later in his life. He’s grateful for the work he gets and just wants to keep doing it. Ari is a squirrelly little freak, and I mean that in the best way possible. And Sid…what can I say about Sid Haig? He’s pretty much Captain Spaulding in real life. Vulgar, coarse, hilarious, and couldn’t possibly find a fuck he cared to give. He also graced the convention with what had to be the finest line uttered: “When you’re in the high desert at night, in a silk clown suit, your nipples get fucking hard.”
My second and final night ended on that note. Though I was fully prepared to come back Sunday, two things prevented me. One, it was kids’ day at ScareFest, and that’s more terrifying than anything I’d seen so far. Two, I caught a deep, dank cold from some filthy, perverted motherfucker there. I’m not sure who it was but the smart money is on Sid.